Friday, December 21, 2007

Analyzing Star Wars: Darth Vader

When you think about a character like Darth Vader, what do you think about? Do you picture the mechanized face of ultimate evil within a galaxy far, far away? Do you see, in your mind, perhaps the ultimate badass?

I wouldn't be surprised if you do. I mean, Darth Vader might have been one of the toughest, meanest, and cold hearted bastards ever committed to film.

Well, in one film anyways.

Darth Vader was introduced in 1977 as the ultimate villain in Star Wars. Since then, there were 5 more films and each sought to weaken him. In The Empire Strikes Back he gets down on his knee and says

"What is thy bidding, my master?"
This is an act of complete submission. Not only is he not as powerful as his Master, the Emperor, he admits and accepts it!

Then, in Return of the Jedi, we see Vader completely preoccupied with his son. Not only that, but we see what's behind the mask, a frail old man!

From there, Lucas decides to make him even less evil by redeeming him! Allowing Vader to destroy the emperor and save his son. In the course of three films Darth Vader goes from being the most evil creature in the galaxy to being just another misunderstood man who only needed the love of his son. What a bunch of crap!

Then, we sit through three more movies showing us how Vader became Vader. And, if there's one thing that will always destroy an illusion, it's to show how the illusion was created. The night isn't scary when you know the sun will come back up in the morning, and the wizard isn't as imposing when you pull back the curtain. We all know this. So, Vader becomes Anakin. And, Anakin is just a confused young man who was unable to control himself. He made some bad choices. He doesn't deserve our derision, he shouldn't be feared because he's different.He's Frankenstein's monster, and he just wants to be loved.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monster Movie Poster Mondays

We pause here, yet again on Monday, to look at the kind of posters that no one bothers to make anymore. A shame, really. I mean, these posters are great pieces of art! Compare this weeks poster for Destroy All Monsters from 1968 to...well, any current poster.

What would you rather have, not necessarily on your wall, but on the wall at the old cineplex? This draws your eye to it. This stands out. Admittedly, I should have chosen a different one since I'm in New York this week. I could have taken the American Godzilla poster, but it's a pretty boring poster, isn't it?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Let's ask Google

Did you know that I'm currently inching my way towards 400 posts? What began nearly two years ago as a humble project to stave off boredom has become...a humble project to stave off boredom, BUT a project that people actually kind of read.

People tend to end up here via one of 2 ways, most often. Either by coming here from Final Girl ((I love the film club) and I thank all of you for that) or via Google. So, I thought I might try to stumble down that path that we all eventually succumb to (usually in lieu of something good to talk about) to take a look at some of the Google searches that have brought people to my humble site.

7 dollar popcorn

Thank you. Yes, someone actually came here because they may have actually wanted to.

we should have got the 1 dollar popcorn

I agree. However, we're nearly 7 times better.

what happened to mila?

I've been trying to figure that out myself. She used to be a halfway decent actress. She's made some bad choices as of late though.

mermaid vs werewolf

I'm telling you, someone should make that movie. I'd see it.

movies with chalk of destiny in it

The only one I can think of is Day Watch. It's good stuff. Check it out.

how to back-up movie flight of living dead dvd ?

According to the MPAA, you are more than welcome to buy a second copy to enjoy should you have a problem with your original.

gary oldman switch phones

Why? Is there a problem with the one he has now? Are you trying to sell him an iPhone?

very polite guy gary oldman

He sure is. He doesn't even mind if you try to sell him an iPhone.

le singe est sur la branche

I swear to you, people get here that way. Yes, the monkey is on the branch. I get it.

palpatine was scared but luke was

Luke was what? Luke was a fucking Jedi. That's why Palpatine was scared!

why doesn't vader know about luke and leia

No one told him. He wasn't exactly invited to the shower you know.

is luke stronger than vader

Yes. Vader is a pussy.

does vader hate emperor

Yes. Vader is actually very emo.

kate beckinsale talks about wearing latex in underworld

Really? I may have to try that google search myself...

secure house against velociraptors

Install round doorknobs. They can figure out the handles.

amelia heinle looks like denise richards

Doesn't she? It's kind of creepy.

what if they don't think you kiss good

It's probably because you spend too much time searching Google for things like this.

That felt good. Cathartic. I think we really helped some people today. And remember kids, if you have any questions YOU'D like to see answered here someday, just search google and end up here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Machine Girl

Ok, I know everyone else posted about this earlier in the week (I would have as well if I hadn't had other things I wanted to post. Damn me for planning ahead!), so, I'm sure it's old news to you by now. For those of you who haven't seen it yet...enjoy!

Yakuza, Ninjas, Human Tempura, Finger Sushi, Flying Guillotine, and the Drill Bra! It just looks brilliantly bizarre.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Great Movie Gadgets Part 1: Octopus 2: River of Fear

I have a feeling that I could mine Octopus 2: River of Fear for blogging gold for DAYS. I won't subject you to such an awful fate. However, I do want to take the opportunity to demonstrate how not to create props for your movie.

Here we see our intrepid heroes, Nick and Rachel, analyzing some octo-goo on a, presumably, generic cotton swab with they're amazing Octo-Finder 2000 from RonCo.

The Octo-Matic 8000

Let's look at two things here, as highlighted below.

In the red square, you see that the Oct-O-Mizer 4000 is using regular film canisters as it's analization ports. Put the goo in the film container, and the chemical composition is displayed on the screen, highlighted in blue. So, lets take a closer look at our analysis output.

Well, according to the goo, it's June 27th. That's right the Oct-B-Gone 9000's display screen is nothing more than a digital calendar! A calender that they show to you as our inexplicable heroes read off the supposed chemical composition of the octo-goo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That was Mark Heap? From Spaced? Really?

I was really, really looking forward to seeing Stardust. I'm sure I've mentioned, in the past, being a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's work. I have all of his novels. I've even read them! I have 3 DIFFERENT copies of Stardust. Hell, I actually even have 3 Sandman tattoos. So, it's not an understatement to say that I have enjoyed his stories.

Which, of course, makes it difficult to watch a film adaptation without comparing it to the source material. It's the same as watching a remake of a beloved film. You don't really want to fault it for not being the original, but it's not the same story.

In the case of Stardust, the changes don't hurt the story too much. There are a few things that I really wish had been left in from the book though. For example, when the star falls to Earth, or more specifically, Stormhold, we are told immediately that the star is a person.
In this case, Claire Danes, or Yvaine. In the book, it's a mystery, for at least a few pages, that this is the case. And, from what I can recall, when Tristan finds her, we (as the readers) do not know what she is. We learn with him. This would not have been a bad change if not for the scene following her fall to Earth and preceding Tristan's discovery. In this scene, we see Michelle Pfiefer as a witch who wants the star in order to remain young. And, she eats a part of the heart of the last star that fell to Earth.

It's a subtle difference, really. I think, though, that it makes a difference in how you view the characters. This shows you, right away, that the witches are horrible. There is no question about it. It's like letting you know that a stop sign is red by hitting you in the face with it though. Had a little mystery existed as to the nature of the star, we could have learned that the witches were evil a little slower, and then let it build and develop over the course of the story. Unfortunately, director Matthew Vaughn decided to go a bit over the top with it. It's fine, and it works, it just could have worked better.

Then there was Captain Shakespeare, as played by Roberto De Niro. The EFFEMINATE Captain Shakespeare. This is a character that is largely not in the book. There is a somewhat similar character, in that he also has a flying ship, but Capt Shakespeare is new. And a bit odd. I could never tell if it was really funny or really disturbing to watch him prance around in a dress, give Tristan a makeover, and try to hide it all from his crew. It was decidedly strange, however.

The other big difference is the ending, which I won't go into to much detail about. It's not that the ending is changed, it's that the events leading to it have. I understand that the decision was made in order to make the ending more cinematic, but it's still kind of sad. If only because I love the ending from the book. Not every movie needs a climactic battle at the end.

Despite some minor changes though, it stays very true to the story. It has the same sort of feel as the novel did. And that's the hard thing to capture in any adaptation. The casting was spot on, and having Ian McKellan to narrate the story was a great choice. 8 bolts of lightning in a tube out of 10.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monster Movie Poster Mondays

Monster Movie Poster Mondays has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It's a good way to start off the week I think.

This weeks poster is Godzilla vs The Thing.

This would be Godzilla's 4th movie and would be the first collaboration with Mothra. A partnership that would benefit both through at least 10 movies. The poster itself is somewhat reminiscent of the poster for The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Though, really, monster movie posters of the time tended to follow a somewhat similar formula.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

In response to The Rec Show

Ray, over at The Rec Show posted about why he hates the Speed Racer trailer. I decided to write a response to him in the comments there, and then I decided that I would post it here as well.

You know, when I was a kid, I absolutely LOVED the Popeye movie. I haven't seen it in years, and maybe I wouldn't like it now, that's certainly possible. But, as a young dreamrot, I adored it. Any time we could, my brother and I would watch that movie. And, while I don't know that I've seen the live action Flintstones and I certainly have no interest in Transformers, I know I'm not the intended audience. You said it yourself "so that no reasonably intelligent adult could stomach it". That's the point. These movies aren't intended to be viewed primarily by adults. They're intended for children. And I know plenty of kids who liked The Flintstones, Transformers, and one that you left off the list here, Scooby-Doo.

"Kids are not stupid, and especially not today. They are savvier and more technologically-competent than any other generation before them. They know live action when they see it, and expect the same real-world physics and logic to apply to live action when they watch it; however, their minds relax those standards when watching a cartoon."

This may be true, but it's not about real world physics. Movies have always defied the rules of the real world. Whether it's the Original Trilogy, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, horror movies, action movies, anything. The rules of the real world don't apply. Movies are not about reality. Movies are entirely about suspension of disbelief. It's escapism. Why a movie like Star Wars or The Matrix works is that it brings you into it's own reality where it's own laws matter. You escape your own life where a car accident is fatal and enter a world where young men can move objects with their mind so long as they receive instruction from little green men.

For Speed Racer to be successful, the Wachowskis must make us believe in this world of theirs. A world where these sort of crazy physics are possible. They did that with The Matrix. For all of the flaws, they're story related. No one complains that the action was too unrealistic. They succeeded in creating a world in which the viewer buys into that reality. THAT is successful movie making.

The key is going to be making an enjoyable movie. If they can do that, they'll win this battle. If the movie is engaging and entertaining, you will be able to forget that you're watching something that could never happen and get sucked into a story that takes you out of your boring life and into a world where the impossible happens.

Think about your favorite movie, then ask yourself "Could this really happen?" No, most often it could not. But remember the next time you watch it that for two hours, you're willing to accept a world in which it can.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Movie Trailers Rule!

So, here we are on a quiet Friday morning. Snow has been falling here. It's raining in LA from what I was told when I got a phone call at 8am. And the blogophone is lighting up with the release of the Speed Racer trailer. So, I'm going to go ahead and jump onto that band wagon as well.

I used to watch the cartoon with my brother, back in the early nineties when MTV was showing it. Admittedly, it looks very slick and cgi-oriented, but when you're trying to do something as crazy as a live action anime adaptation, I find that the more bizarre you make it, the better it works.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Monster Movie Poster Madness

A while back, I ended up with a bunch of graphics on my computer for different Godzilla movies. And, I keep stumbling across them whenever I forget what's in that folder. Now, at this point, I don't remember where they came from or why I have them. My guess is that aliens put them there. It's only a guess though.

So, I've decided that I will share them with you. Over the course of however long it takes, or until I get bored with it, I will post some of my favorite Godzilla posters. I may even find myself some other Monster Movie Posters if I enjoy this.

So, without further ado, here is our first Monster Movie Poster. Let the Madness begin.

Why this one? Well, Megalon is a badass. I mean, he has drills for hands! What's more badass than that? Chainsaws? That's the level of badassery that you're dealing with.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Face the thing that should not be

Let's talk octopi. What do we know about them? Well, they have eight legs, they squirt ink when scared, they are thrown onto the ice at Red Wings hockey games, and (if I recall correctly from my meat eating days) are kind of bland and chewy, kind of like the EasyMac that I'm having for lunch today.

None of these topics, however, are addressed in Octopus 2: River of Fear. Why would they be? None of them make for an entertaining movie. What does make for an entertaining movie is a combination of every cop cliche you can think of and then a healthy dose of massive cephalopod. It's like a recipe for an entertaining movie. Take 1 part buddy mystery, 1 part giant monster, and a pinch of love interest and you have yourself a movie.

The truth of the matter is that Octopus 2 reminded me a LOT of Shark Attack 3. In a good way. The big difference being that Shark Attack 3 was a bit wittier and made some attempt to explain the presence of the prehistoric beast. Octopus 2 makes no effort to explain anything. The presence of Chthulu is simply a given. He exists. That all there is to it. There is little effort put into explaining the why of the situation. Hell, there's not much effort put into much of the problem. In fact, at one point, our heroic police officer, and his contractually obligated love interest, the mayor's aide, resort to using perhaps the most mind boggling device to locate the octopus' electronic calendar with a couple of film cannisters attached to it. What's amazing about this is that is it so clearly a calender.

This is not the movie you're going to want to watch for the writing...or the effects...or the actors. No. In fact, I'm not sure WHY you would want to watch this, I'm only sure that you do. One of my friends told me that this is one of the 'five worst movies' she'd ever seen. I disagreed, arguing that she should probably watch more movies with me. However, it cannot be argued that this is a good movie. No, not by any means. What it is, is a movie with a giant monster attacking New York for no reason. And, to be honest, I'm okay with that. 6 massive tentacles ripping through the hull of your facility...however that works...out of 10.

Monday, December 03, 2007

FGFC: A day late and a dollar short...well, almost

It seems like just yesterday that we gathered here to discuss the last Film Club entry; Eyes of a Stranger. What's that you say? It seems that way because I've barely posted since then? Hmm...touché. Fair enough. My week of posting everyday followed by my subsequent time away can be explained. You see, my dog ate it. I was abducted by aliens? Still not buying it? Ok, fine. I travel a lot for work and haven't had time. That's the truth of the matter. Well, mostly. I did go to Georgia for Thanksgiving just because I wanted to. Ah, but the traveling wears on the body and I returned to find myself exhausted and then sick.

Yes, sick. So sick that I did not have a chance to watch The Hand over the weekend like I'd planned. What's that? If I were sick all weekend wouldn't watching The Hand have been the perfect choice since I was lying on my couch the whole time anyway? Sure, had I remembered some time prior to 11pm Sunday night. And besides, I had done so many shots of the Quil over the weekend that it probably wouldn't have been worth it.

My plan had then become to watch and review The Hand after work. My body had a different plan though. I felt like hell when I woke up and stayed home from work. A shame, I know. So, I find myself here, Monday afternoon, still sick but not in a Quil induced daze. Therefore it is NOW that I've decided to watch the movie while drinking some tea and chowing on some soup.

Michael Caine plays John Lansdale, a comic artist. His wife kinda maybe wants to leave him to go to New York. And during a heated discussion in their car, he loses his hand in a freak accident. As his hand was not found at the time, it could not be reattached, meaning that from here on out, all of his friends would refer to him as Stumpy, Ole One Hand and John Missing Hand-dale behind his back. This is, naturally, never mentioned on screen.

Losing his hand forces John to re-access his career options. And by re-access I mean he got shit canned. These things happen. I mean no one is going to hire a comic artist who can't draw, right? Wrong-o, buddy. A college in California that may or may not be cooking the books certainly will. So, off to California John goes leaving his wife and child behind.

It was at this point that maintenance paid me a visit. One of my wall outlets got broke due to the wind last night (long boring story) so I had to turn the movie off for a while. We resume the action in California where John's wife has decided that having some time apart might be nice. As a result, John manages to cheat on his wife with one of his students and fine an obscene drawing. The kind he used to draw with his right hand (dun dun dun) only, you know, more obscene.

Stumpy thinks he's blacking out and doing the drawings. Meanwhile, the girls he's shacking up with is going to LA with another instructor for xmas. This of course makes John SUPER happy. Like, totally. So totally happy that he goes and gets drunk and stays in a motel rather than going home where she is supposed to be meeting him. Anyways, it's all okay because John's wife has been sleeping with another man. So that justifies everything, right? Of course.

Of course, none of this explains the titular hand. Somehow it's either on the loose, killing people and drawing obscenities or it's all in John's head and he's blacking out and drawing obscenities himself. Oliver Stone (yes THAT Oliver Stone) does a good job of implying that the titular hand could be a being on it's own, or it could be a product of John's subconscious. It's the ambiguity that really sells the story. Does the hand have a will of it's own? Does John control the hand? Is John acting out these murderous impulses himself while his mind believes it's a separate entity doing it? These are the mysteries we are left with.

Which, I think is a good thing. Think about it, had it been confirmed that the titular hand had a will of it's own, there would need to be some sort of reason for it. The big 'HOW?'. Now, had they shown that it's certainly all in his mind, you'd feel cheated. Kind of like the ending of High Tension. It's cheating. It's like saying it's all a dream. However, by leaving it as an unanswered question, it's up to the viewer to decide how to approach it. It's really the only way to legitimately end the movie without pissing people off.

If I were to, someday, hypothetically, rank Michael Caine's performances, I imagine that this would be up near the top with Jaws: The Revenge (I know, I'm the only person you know who liked it. Whatever). And speaking of ranking, I'm going to count to 8 out of 10 healthy fingers on BOTH of my healthy hands.