Freaky Friday: No ghost..busters??

DR. PETER VENKMAN
Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole through your head. Remember that?
DR. EGON SPENGLER
That would have worked if you hadn’t stopped me.

Dr. Egon Spengler and his crew introduced ghost hunting to a wider audience and made it cool. (And I know the films are responsible for the ghosts in my stories, and at least one scene in Drawing Down the Shades was written in homage to it. ;)) Unfortunately he is now in the Otherworld. Damn…..I always hoped there’d be a Ghostbusters 3. I guess not now.

egon

However we will never forget—not to cross the streams. And I’m pretty sure, he’s going to have a hell of a time hanging out with all those ghosts! ;)

Harold Ramis, for this, and all your great, and funny films, man…you will be missed.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman–Movie Monday

Longtime readers know I’ve tried to do a movie review every once in a while. This week I’d planned to review Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. (because, you know, it’s traditional ;)) But yesterday news came in that an actor we’ve come to love has passed away. Many people may know of Philip Seymour Hoffman from the Hunger Games series, but we here at the tribal grounds first encountered him as pain in the butt reporter Freddy Lounds in the 2002 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. It was after that, with his role as Reverend Veasey in 2003′s Cold Mountain that we really fell in love with him. If you’ve never seen the movie, Veasey’s … a little less than what you’d come to expect from a preacher, but the character was the comic relief.

He was loveable, though, and made what could’ve been a very dark movie that much more endearing. He was also quite good in Capote I loved how he pulled off Capote’s squeaky voice.

Heck, he was good in every  role. Hoffman passed away yesterday, sadly. The news is all over the place but I just wanted to say here, as a fan, Mr. Hoffman, you will be missed!

Movie Monday–Where the Wild Things Are

WherethewildthingsareWhere the Wild Things Are (2009)

Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Catherine O’Hara, Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini and more…

Max is a young boy with an attitude problem, plagued by an older sister and mother (Catherine Keener) who don’t seem to have enough time for him. His fits of rage serve as a way to get their attention but end up landing him in trouble. Fed up, he runs off into the night and sails away to a seemingly deserted island.
But as Max soon finds out, this land isn’t so deserted. He finds a group of strange creatures destroying little grass huts. He’s good at that kind of thing so he lends a hand. When the creatures start to question him, he says he’s a king, who conquered Vikings, with magic and that he can help him. The creatures have apparently never seen a human before and so believe him and make him their king.

They build a friendship and a fort and things go well for a while. The group comes to love and trust Max and he feels a particular kinship for the creature Carol (James Gandolfini), whom the viewer can see a lot of Max in. They have fun, Max teaches them…
And that’s where the trouble begins. He tells Carol the sun will die one day and decides to fight a mock war, splitting the group in two. When the losers lose, well you can guess how that goes. They (especially KW–played by Lauren Ambrose) throw a fit and things go downhill.
It was a sweet story and the creatures are interesting, but … a lot of the story as filled out here, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For instance ….

One: We don’t know where this world is, is it in his head? If so, where did Max land for the night?

Two: It seems as if there are only ten or less creatures on this entire island. So it seems like the huts they’re destroying in the beginning might be their own homes. If so, why destroy them? Why do the others not step in and stop it? (ah, see this is part of the lesson of this whole little trip, isn’t it?)

Three: The creatures say they ate their last king. If that’s the case, why do they put up with KW’s nonsense? Why not just eat her and be done with it?

Fourth: These are violent creatures to begin with but they blame all their troubles on Max. I don’t see that as being the case, really. So poor Max is a bit of a scapegoat. He’s lucky they didn’t eat him.

On the whole it was an interesting movie, and I love the creatures—but what do you expect from Jim Henson’s crew? It’s very nice to see them use actual puppets for the movie rather than to just fall back on CGI.

Poor Spike Jonze, he had to take a basically less than 500 word story and turn it into a plausible two hour movie and there just isn’t enough there to pull it off. Instead, Jonze fell back on what he did best and proves he’s still a video jock by making more than half the movie into a music video. Every other scene, it seems, is taken up with music-over a shaky scene. And while I suppose it was meant to add action, it really just served to make the movie drag. He could’ve done better to delve more into Max’s realizations and—oh, I know, resolving the story. It was nice to see the character Max learn something and grow, but as with all stories that end like this, I felt a little let down. The ending left much to be desired in that Max says nothing to his mother when he returns. No, “sorry mom”, no explanation of the previous hours. But Sendak signed off on the changes so for that, I guess it’s okay. For what it is, if you like this kind of fantasy story, I’d definitely recommend Where the Wild Things Are.

It’s available in streaming video via Amazon.com, to rent and own at Netflix and Amazon.com

For more on Where the Wild Things Are see:

the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

For more on Maurice Sendak see his page at Harper Collins here and here.

The official movie site.

Where the Wild Things Are at IMDb

Movie Monday–Repo Men

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these but…I’ve been a little busy. I have been watching movies from time to time though, so there are some in the queue. Like this one….

Repo_men_09Repo Men is a near future thriller. Medical procedures have become so expensive, the sick and dying having to take out loans to pay from them. If you can’t keep up with your bills, then you’re in trouble.

Remy (played by Jude Law) is the fella you don’t want to come knocking on your door. He plays a “repo man” and it’s his job to cut you open and repossess the organs with which the medical establishment saved your life. He’s cocky and loves doing his job, despite the grief it causes. His wife Carol (played by Carice van Houten), however wishes he’d move up in the ranks, from “repossessing” to selling for the company. Things come to a head at a cook out, when Remy’s pal Jake (played by Forest Whitaker) does a job in their front yard. She insists he get out of the business. Jake loves her, but he enjoys what he does too, and can’t see himself as a salesman.

Read more behind the cut

Movie review: Beowulf

Caveat: I’m sure someone somewhere will disagree with me on this. This is just *my* feelings on this story/movie. It’s not meant to offend anyone.

***

ImageThis is the 2007 animated version. You all remember the story from high school: a king awakens a monster who wreaks havoc on his mead hall. The king sends for a hero and Beowulf comes and saves the day. Kills the monster only to anger his mother who then attacks. And they all drink a lot of mead and boast.

Despite the fact that this is the best known and in some circles beloved story of all time (right up there with the Bible), strangely enough, it is possible to at once make it easier to swallow this Medieval fish tale—and ruin it.

Okay so the story goes as above. Grendel comes, destroys the mead hall, kills a bunch of people but oddly, won’t touch the king. Ashamed, when the word gets out of this strange occurrence the king calls for a hero.  Beowulf comes, screaming and full of himself from across the sea, eyes the queen with more than a little lust, drinks a lot, tells a lot of cockamamie stories (most of)  his listeners believe, and thrusts his sword (and damn near everything else) at the camera (did I mention the directors decided to buy into the 3-D gimmick?) and screams: “I am BEOWULF! I’ll kill your monster!” a lot, like that alone means victory. :p

Then he does just that to end up ticking off Grendel’s mother (whose grief is played way over the top). Turns out, maybe sorta kinda the king left one itty bitty detail out: He’s Grendel’s father and the mother? She’s an evil harpie. The king slaps Beowulf on the shoulder with a “good luck, my boy!” and sends him off to Grendel’s cave to face the mother, be raped by her (depending on your point of view) so she can later give birth to their next foe: a dragon. (The king gets a deformed wretch, Beowulf gets a beautiful dragon—do you see where the favor lies here?) Meanwhile, in a complete wtf moment I didn’t remember, the king throws himself from the battlements.

So, Beowulf takes over the kingdom, gets the queen he’s been lusting for and all the goodies that go with being a king, except he still can’t die, which apparently he wants to. Meanwhile somewhere out there the baby dragon grows up, and finally comes after the humans. Beowulf and he do battle, Beowulf rips out his heart, and falls to his death.

It’s an heroic story for sure, but… I’ve always wondered if the Medieval audience it was intended for even dismissed it as a little over the top. Because let’s face it, Beowulf talks a good game, but I always thought he was the kind of fella who was all talk, with nothing honorable about him (he steals the king’s wife, after all).

I was never a huge fan of the story and I had an instructor that flat out ruined any chance I might ever have to love it. But my hubby’s reading it right now so we gave the movie a shot. Storyline-wise the movie lives up more or less to its namesake, from what I recall.

Here comes where the whole thing, that could’ve been done well, utterly failed. Well, two bits. They could’ve done the whole thing by putting the, arguably otherwise great cast (Anthony Hopkins, Brendon Gleeson, Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn) in period costume and shot it live action and only leave the CGI for Grendel and Mama’s harpie suit. But no. They decided to do the whole thing in 3-D. *headdesk repeatedly* Doing so caused it to feel like a video game, made all the characters look like creepy dolls, and let’s not forget the added touch of thrusting everything at the camera to play on the hot shit 3-D gimmick.

Listen, Hollyweird, 3-D died out a long time ago because it was so corny. Time and “upgrades” hasn’t made a difference. It’s still corny, and worse, like I said above, you still fail to get it right. All you end up with is a piece that feels and looks  like a video game, creepy dolls included—whose graphics will be passé and old fashioned in about two–five years. Sadly for them,Beowulf (the movie)’s  fame didn’t last that long.

And don’t get me started on Grendel. Personally, and my husband being the bigger fan of Beowulf right now said it first, Grendel is the big, fat FAIL of this movie, in our opinion (though friends of mine were more ticked by Grendel’s mother). Don’t get me wrong, Crispin Glover is good, he pulled off the motion cap as well as the other actors, (if you can call motion cap pulling off acting), but the decision—whoever’s it was, Gaiman’s or the director’s? Shame on you guys! Yes, the story was written 1200-nearly 1500 years ago (Crossely-Holland says we’re not sure which) for a barely literate audience who spoke a Middle English dialect.

But fellas, this ain’t 1300-1500 years ago!!!

I’d venture to guess that only maybe 1-5% of your audience (and I may be being generous saying that many) don’t understand Middle English. Don’t you think maybe it would’ve been a good idea, if you had to insist on making Glover wrap his tongue around the language, you could do him–and your viewers–the favor of, oh, I don’t know, captioning his speeches? For gods sake, man! He’s the most important character in the first half of the story, and no one can understand a word the poor thing mushmouths—er, grunts—er, says.

If the 2001-era movie lost an audience (and they got slew of  huge glaring FAIL reviews on this thing) that might’ve been the culprit. Yeesh! I don’t know how many ways to say this: it’s one of the things that drives me absolutely bonkers in literature and it didn’t fail to do so here, if your character needs to be understood DON’T PUT DIALECT IN HIS MOUTH!! It just doesn’t work!!!!

*puts hammer down*

Anyway, yeah. Love the actors and gods know they tried, and while  it sticks to the story from what I recall and I applaud them for that, it gets a big thumbs down for animation and gimmickery.

But I never cared for the loudmouth that is Beowulf. As Kevin Crossely-Holland says in his introduction to the translation of the poem:  “It is rude and rough… singularly cheap in construction… thin and cheap…’ And, yep, the movie isn’t much better. If you’re in the mood for creepy dolls, go for it. Otherwise you’re better off with the book.

Beowulf in print. Gutenberg Project.

Beowulf translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Beowulf translated by Francis Barton Gunmere

Beowulf on Wikipedia

Beowulf on IMDB

Monday movie–A.I. Artificial Intelligence

I meant to put this up last week, but didn’t get a chance to. Been in my writing cave.

AI artificial Intelligence movie posterAI. Artificial Intelligence is the story of a futuristic world in which the ice caps have melted and the governments have put limits on how many children a family can have. In the midst of this, a robotics company takes its first steps into making robots seem more human. To prove whether or not they’ve accomplished this feat, they chose one of their own, Henry Swinton  (played by Sam Robards), to test a new android. The poor man’s son had some sort of tragedy (which the movie never elucidates on)  and so when he shows up at home with this perfect little boy robot (played by Haley Joel Osment), his wife, Monica (played by Frances O’Connor), doesn’t know what to make of the “gift”. The boy is strange, though he looks like a real boy, he doesn’t really act like one, always in her face and oddly curious about her reactions.

Finally Monica sees no alternative and “imprints” herself on David. No longer is he just a robot, but he’s now, irrevocably her son. The poor woman is having conflicts and anxiety enough, but then the impossible happens: her real son wakes from his coma. They bring the boy home and he begins to make David’s life a living hell.

When Monica and Henry begin to suspect David might pose a threat to their son, and possibly to themselves, Monica abandons him and he ends up scooped up in a human-led sweep of robots, and thrust into a demolition circus, of sorts. Here, he meets Gigilo Joe (played by Jude Law) whose life he saves by the sheer fact that he’s with him when the crowd begins to doubt whether David is a robot. Could he be a real child?

Joe then takes David into an underworld of the robotic sex trade, on his never-ending quest to find the blue fairy. Instead, he finds the man the made him and subsequently loses his sense of self and becomes trapped at the bottom of the vast ocean that New York (and most places in the world) has become for all time.

 

In a nutshell.

 

This is one of Stanley Kubrick’s last films. I never knew it was a short story, until, literally, the other day–and by SF Grandmaster Brian Aldiss too *smacks forehead*. (My apologies to Brian Aldiss) So I took a peek at the story. It’s…well, a shell of what the movie became so how closely it sticks to Brian’s story, or how many Pinocchio references the story itself makes, I have no idea. The actors pulled off their parts nicely, but going back to its release date, my initial thoughts were… well, it was an odd little story with plenty of missed potential. Unfortunately, the movie leaned far too heavily on blatant references to Pinocchio. (Apologies, Brian). Pre-Once Upon a Time, I wasn’t a big fan of leaning on fairy tales to tell one’s story. If “originality is everything” as it was for me, back when this was first released, A.I. fell flat. The constant reminder that “THIS IS A PINOCCHIO RETELLING!” (just in case you didn’t get that from the theme) drove me absolutely nuts the first few times I saw it.

Now, some years on I’ve read Brian Aldiss’ story and I still think the movie’s heavy handed on the Pinocchio retelling “yellow warning signs!” *Laughs* Oh well… it’s an entertaining movie, either way.

It’s got some nifty extras that explain the world, the robots, and of course, we can’t forget the all-important computer graphics.

If you haven’t seen it and would like to, it’s available on DVD from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Blockbuster online, and Netflix.