athelind: (Default)
I'm watching The Spirit. A couple of months back, when Blockbuster was closing down most of its stores, I picked up the DVD for $2.

I'm barely out of the credits, and I'm wondering if I was overcharged.

If I had a Twitter account I'd be liveblogging this.

It's very Frank Miller, in all the wrong ways, but there's not a hell of a lot of Will Eisner in here. Not script-wise, not visually.

For the love of Schwartz, we have Thugs Wearing T-Shirts With Thematic Code-Names on them.
This is, in fact, the Frank Miller version of the 1966 Batman series.

With some Warner Brothers thrown in.

Miller thinks "campy slapstick" is the same as "tongue-in-cheek whimsy", and "over-the-top stunt action" can sub for "magical realism".

I can see, in my mind's eye, a scene drawn by Eisner (or Darwyn Cooke), with the comic';s cast watching this, Ellen, Doyle, and Ebony laughing their asses off while the Spirit himself just cringes in humiliation.

The one bright spot is that this movie isn't disappointing me. It's performing to expectations.



Okay, I turned it off at the 62-minute mark. I'm not sure when I stopped actually paying attention to it.

Don't think that I'm just ragging on this as a bad adaptation. No, it's a bad movie, and there are any number of bad decisions contributing to that. For far too many of them, the only explanation that makes sense is that Miller was trying to emulate the source material and failing miserably.

I think he doesn't quite realize that Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman were different people. This is a Mad Magazine version of The Spirit.

For most of the others, it was evident that he wasn't able to resist throwing in Millerisms, or possibly attempts at self-parody.

athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Fasten your seatbelts, kids; this post starts talking about current Pop Culture, then veers into politics, philosophy, personal development, and metaprogramming.

It all started when I was doing something I normally avoid: reading comments on an internet blog. Unmoderated comment boards are usually overflowing with ill-considered, insulting, infuriating nonsense that can completely ruin an article I may have otherwise enjoyed.

In this case, however, the opposite occurred.

The io9 Blog's review of James Cameron's Avatar is the same blah-blah-blah-Mighty-Whitey-IN-SPACE critique that I've heard over and over. Nothing new here. The comments, on the other claw, are full of feedback from non-whites and non-Americans that undercut that as a being a white-Americans-are-the-center-of-the-universe interpretation that's at least as insulting, if not moreso.

I think my favorite comment thus far is this one:
All stories are about someone leaving a group or joining a group, it's just that some of these groups are a racial group. Outsider Luke Skywalker joins the rebels and becomes their number one gun. That's a heroic journey story, but if Luke was the only human and all the rest of the rebels were aliens suddenly it becomes a white guilt story? I don't buy it.


And now, Mood Whiplash. This shook some things out in my head, and I think they're worth sharing:

I've been sorting through the cognitive baggage cluttering my mind lately, and you know what? I think that "White Guilt" is a particularly toxic meme. To be more specific, there's a pervasive idea that any action that may have "White Guilt" as a motivating force is automatically invalid, or just more cultural imperialism. This is bullshit. It is an invitation to inaction.

Your Obedient Serpent, when he's not a dragon, is a middle-aged Anglo-American, raised in a middle-class suburb, who's seriously considering an opportunity to teach middle school science in a "high-need", inner-city environment. The very idea of standing in front of a classroom is a massive paradigm shift for him, and coming to this decision has involved jumping over a lot of mental hurdles.

You know what? True Confession Time: One of them was "Mighty Whitey".

"What right do you have to come swooping in with your degree and your laptop and your melanin deficiency, to try and "save" these kids? That's no different than England coking along to "civilize" India!"

Sounds really stupid when you verbalize it, doesn't it?

But people keep saying this, over and over: these stories are bad, they're unprincipled, they're just new and different ways for the privileged to lord it over everyone else. And if these stories are morally suspect, and your life-choices parallel them, why, then, those must be bad choices, right?

Once again: it sounds really stupid when you verbalize it. Stupid and arrogant. The only thing more arrogant than casting yourself as The Great Savior is to walk away from helping people because you're afraid people will think that's what you're doing.

That's part of the point: there are a lot of unexamined assumptions that mass media promulgates on an entirely sub-verbal level. It's good to examine them, it's good to scrutinize them -- but it's an iterative process. What unexamined assumptions are the critiques carrying with them?

One of the big ones, in this case, is the assumption that any real person's real life is simplistic enough to use fiction as a valid model. This isn't the first time I've fallen into that trap, and I'm sure it won't be the last -- but at least now I'm aware that trap is out there.

Or in here.


athelind: (Default)
Here it is, the Winter Solstice again. Since [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I were married on the Summer Solstice of 1997, I guess that makes this is our twelfth-and-a-half anniversary -- an eighth of a century.

Today, we had our first real date together since I moved out: lunch, followed by James Cameron's magnificent Avatar, which we both loved. I'm glad we saw it together, and I'm glad that was the movie we got together to see.

Happy Anniversary, baby. I've got you on my mind.


athelind: (Default)
Your Obedient Serpent has no idea what he's gonna do to relax in the near future, because all the things he's frittered away his spare-and-not-so-spare time on over the years actively piss him off right now.

This is, in part, because he's frittered away so much of his life on them, and in part because, well, Busman's Holiday. One of his sources of stress is his low-paying retail job, selling all those time-consuming distractions.


athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia arranged for a long weekend for her birthday, and so, on Friday, we went to see District 9, and today, we finally wended our way to downtown San Jose to see Moon.

We are two for two on Smart, Well-Done, Thought-Provoking SF movies this weekend. The previews indicate several more are on the way -- and a few smart, thoughtful non-genre flicks, as well.

I was tempted to do a blog entry castigating District 9 for being an uncredited remake of Alien Nation, Moon for being a rip-off of all those '70s SF movies, right down to the rip-off set designs, and The Time Traveler's Wife for being based on a novel and thus proving Hollywood has to steal all their ideas from someplace else -- but I don't think the target audience would get the sarcasm.

If Generation Rape-My-Childhood thinks that Hollywood can't do anything new or non-derivative, maybe they should expand their horizons beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster or the remakes of 30-minute toy commercials from the '80s.

Sure, movies like this are in the minority, but they always have been. Sturgeon's Revelation holds, and has always held. If it seems that there was a higher percentage of good movies in decades past, that's because people prefer to remember the stuff they liked -- and because TV stations and cable channels seldom run the real crud.

athelind: (Default)


...Blade Runner is set a year before my Future Gotham Campaign.


athelind: (Default)
Our top story this morning:

BRIAN BLESSED did not land the role of Volstagg the Voluminous in Kenneth Branaugh's Thor.

Reports indicate that he landed the role of ODIN, THE ALL-FATHER.

Props to [livejournal.com profile] thebitterguy for calling it more than a week ahead of time.

athelind: (Default)
It occurs to me that Your Obedient Serpent has been remiss in his duties; despite having seen Mr. Abrams' Star Trek twice, I have yet to give my loyal readers any semblance of a review.

The short review:

Hooray! I'm 10 years old again!

I'm ten years old, and Star Trek is once again new and fresh and exciting. It's full of action and adventure. It's optimistic and bright without being smug and self-satisfied. It's dangerous and exciting without being a dark, dismal, Crapsack World.

When Mr. Abrams said, over the last year or two, that he "wasn't really a Star Trek fan", he was, evidently, lying through his teeth. And I applaud him for it.

The movie is wonderous. It hits every note perfectly. The funny parts don't slow down or cheapen the genuine urgency; the shout-outs and continuity nods are quick and casual. [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia missed some that I caught, and I missed some the first time that I caught the second time around.

I got choked up at the very beginning; Quel got choked up at the end.

The cast is splendid, simultaneously hearkening to the original portrayals of the characters, yet making the roles entirely their own. Zachary Quinto manages to do this with Leonard Nimoy standing right there.

For those poor, benighted souls who have not yet seen this spectacle on the big screen, I shall politely put the remainder of this behind a spoiler cut. )

If you haven't seen it yet, go now. Boldly.


athelind: (Default)
It's confirmed: Kenneth Branagh is directing Thor. He's sufficiently entrenched that Entertainment Weekly and other media outlets have taken to calling it "Kevin Branagh's Thor", which suits me just fine.

Casting is underway. The actor who played George Kirk in the opening of Star Trek is slated to wield Mjolnir.

However, this is not the most important casting decision Branagh has to make.

Branagh, you see, has worked with BRIAN BLESSED several times.

Could anyone else really do justice to The Lion of Asgard?

athelind: (Default)
You know, in my last post, I linked to last year's tirade about Alvin and the Chipmunks. I should have gone ahead and quoted the best insight from the comments on that older post, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] circuit_four, since it really gets to the heart of the matter:

"A lot of this pop-culture purism is just people clinging to their own generation's nostalgia -- and I'm not really comfortable, myself, with how much of that nostalgia was hand-chosen for us by commercial interests."


Amen.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to order my tickets for Star Trek.
athelind: (Default)
There's a G.I. Joe movie coming out this summer.

Most of the buzz from the trailers has been positive, so far, but we're inevitably going to get a lot of bitching from the crowd who grew up on the '80s cartoon.

Considering that I had -- and still have -- a 1966-vintage Mercury Astronaut G.I. Joe, and was nearly 20 wheh your precious cartoon assaulted my fond childhood memories, there's not a whole lot I can say that is essentially different than what I said a year and a half ago when people were bitching about Alvin & The Chipmunks.


Come to think of it, I'm not really interested in your positive reactions, either.
athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty huhs. "That's weird. I can receive Roadrunner mail, but not send it.
[livejournal.com profile] pyat prefers Blade Runner mail!
[livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte says, "I've read things that you wouldn't believe. Free Diplomas burning off the shoulder of Orion. Enlarged penises glittering by the Tannhäuser Gate. All this will be lost, like spam in the rain."


Please credit [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte for this. He deserves all the blame credit.

athelind: (Default)
It's Day 3 of this cold, and Your Obedient Serpent's brain is rambling through those twisted corridors that squeeze between sinus pressure, DayQuil, and something akin to stir-craziness.

In this mental state, I happened to observe that, while I have achieved the highbrow milestone of hearing "The William Tell Overture" without thinking of The Lone Ranger, and have occasionally even listened to "Also Sprach Zarathustra" without thinking of 2001: a Space Odyssey, it was going to be a long time before I could hear Bob Dylan's classic "All Along The Watchtower" without thinking of both Battlestar Galactica and Watchmen.



Of course, the Watchmen movie and the BSG finale are still very much on my mind. When I'm in the altered states of consciousness that being sick always seems to induce, and my mind is dwelling on two vivid and engrossing works and worlds... I start to see... connections.

Especially when music is involved.

Cut for BSG *and* Watchmen Spoilers! )

Appropriately enough, I posted this on Joseph Campbell's birthday.
athelind: (Default)
Watchmen, in brief:

Both [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I really enjoyed it, demonstrating that it worked both as a movie, for someone unfamiliar with the story, and as an adaptation, for someone who's read it a dozen times or more since it came out.

There's a lot more I can say about it, but it only seems to come out in conversation. When I sit down to try and just write, I come up blank. That's why it's taken me two weeks to present even this much.

I will say that, in my estimation, Snyder made a good stab at examining the superhero movie in his own way, just as Moore and Gibbons scrutinized the superhero comic book all those years ago.

The Battlestar Galactica finale, also in brief:

Whoa.

Again, Quel and I both loved it -- and yes, we both cried. Long-standing questions were answered -- and others weren't. As far as I'm concerned, though, they picked the right questions to leave unanswered.

I also suspect that this ending may be close to the one that Glen Larson really intended for the original series.


athelind: (Default)
I'm still processing it. I'm seeing it again tomorrow, with [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia; expect a full review some time this weekend.

athelind: (Default)
Yes, I've already got advanced tickets -- for both Friday and Saturday mornings. I have tomorrow off, but [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia doesn't.

(I work in a comic store -- can I write this off my taxes as a job-related expense?)

As I may have mentioned, we're approaching this movie experimentally. I read Watchmen when it first came out, as individual, monthly issues punctuated by occasional delays (which is a slightly different experience than reading it for the first time in collected form). Quel, on the other claw, hasn't read it at all -- and since all the hype started last summer, I've been deliberately (and with her knowledge) steering her away from any of the promo material that might reveal plot points.

Our intent is to see if the movie works for both a devoted fan intimately familiar with the story, and a new viewer seeing it for the first time.

Please note that I spent 20 years hoping that this movie wouldn't be made, and insisting that a decent adaptation couldn't be made -- right up up until last summer's previews in front of The Dark Knight. Between the promo material I've seen and the feedback I've gotten from those who have been lucky enough to catch sneak previews, I am now Cautiously Optimistic.

Before I actually see the movie with my own eyes, however, I thought I'd make a few observations.

First, a prediction: at least one idiot reviewer will say something snarky about how the whole "superheroes coming back after being outlawed" is a ripoff of The Incredibles.

Now, a thesis: no matter how good a job Snyder did, the movie is not going to be "everything the graphic novel was". It can't be -- because the original was as much about the form and medium of comics as it was about the deconstruction of the superhero genre. This is, by my readings, the main thing that Mr. Moore keeps griping about.

Personally, I'll be satisfied if the most superficial level, the murder mystery/conspiracy, plays out acceptably. This is all it will take for me to classify it as Successful Entertainment.

If it actually does manage to play as an examination of the underlying premises of the superhero genre, as well, I'll be very happy indeed.

This, as an aside, is why I didn't complain about the liberties taken with the costumes (particularly Dreiberg's). If it's going to even attempt to make the same kind of metacommentary that the original did, it's going to have to address the recent spate of superhero movies, not superhero comics. To do that, it will have to use the visual vocabulary of the superhero cinema.

And yes, this includes, in some cases, latex armor that makes a mediocre physique look buff.

Look for more after I've seen the movie itself.

athelind: (Default)
You know, re-reading it at the end of the day, my last post and the corresponding comments I left in [livejournal.com profile] pseudomanitou's journal entry don't read quite as flippant and tongue-in-cheek as I intended.

In fact, I kinda sound like a dick.

My apologies to all and sundry, most especially PM himself.
athelind: (Default)
Earlier this morning, [profile] pseudomanitou listed 55 movies slated for a remake.

The comments bring up some recurring bits of folk wisdom that both amuse and annoy me.

First and foremost is the idea that Hollywood used to be chock full of original ideas, but now is just cranking out new versions of old movies -- like they've never done that before.

Second, of course, is the assumption that remakes are, by default, a Bad Thing, either because the original is an Untouchable Classic -- or, paradoxically, because the original was utter crap that doesn't deserve revisiting. In most conversations of this sort, the possibility that a remake could be an improvement is acknowledged, but only barely; PM, to his credit, grants that possibility with surprising frequency in his list.

When a remake is successful, people tend to polarize into Those Who Think The Original Was Better and Those Who Think The New Version Is Better. It's rare to see both original and remake heralded as Equally Valid Interpretations Of The Same Themes.

Let's put some perspective on this, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon is not only a remake, but was the third movie version of Hammett's story in a ten-year span.

The Al Pacino version of Scarface? Remake.

Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is a remake.

Oh, and one from the list? One that PM gripes about because it's "iconic"?

John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake.

athelind: (Default)
In an obscure comment on TV Tropes, I read a rumor that part of Fox's motivation in the Watchmen suit may be to leverage Warner into finally clearing up the DVD rights tangle on the Adam West Batman series.

If this gets resolved with "We'll let you release Watchmen if you let us release Batman on DVD", that's a win/win in my book, and Fox might actually be forgiven their trespasses on the comics community.

Bear in mind the source -- this is an unattributed wiki comment about a rumor. I'm not even sure if there are rights issues with Digital Distribution of Dozier's Dynamic Duo: the Movie based on the series has been out in several editions over the years.


athelind: (Default)
Today at work, I noticed a Star Wars action figure of a droid that came with a "data entry terminal" as an accessory. I don't remember which of the half-dozen movies this droid showed up in, but I do remember him clearly, standing in the background, tapping data into his terminal.

My first impression was that this was a classic example of Zeerust: why have a humanoid robot type data into a system, instead of just directly interfacing with the system?

Almost simultaneously, though, another thought struck me: Wow, that's one way to check the spread of viruses and malicious software.

Not quite so "quaint" from that perspective, is it?

A few other Perfectly Reasonably Explanations occurred to me later -- it's easier to establish some degree of uniformity in user interfaces than it is in underlying code, for instance. [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia's iMac, my Ubuntu box, and that Windows PC that's over there all have mice and keyboards and monitors, but I'll be damned if we can get their supposedly-compatible file-sharing protocols to talk to each other. Spread that across a Galactic Empire dealing with the patchwork remnants of a Republic, and see if you don't wanna just put a droid at a keyboard.

athelind: (Default)

Judge rules in favor of Fox's frivolous Watchmen lawsuit.



The movie won't hit the March release date, if we even see it this year.

[livejournal.com profile] jdarkwulf notes that Fux waited until the movie was far enough along to start showing "flashy, FX-laden trailers" before they filed suit -- which isn't quite true, since they filed in February, but I do agree that the waited long enough to demonstrate "bad faith" to the court.

I say we march on the Fox studios, and leave them a smoking ruin.

Or find an inside man who can hack their computer systems and leave them in a smoking ruin.

So long as a smoking ruin is involved, I'm happy.

athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia's favorite movie is the 1951 classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This Saturday, we went to see the 2008 version, starring Keanu Reeves.

Here is her review -- it's sort of our review, since it summarizes our post-cinema conversation.

I may elaborate on this further, if I get motivated -- but hers is so succinct and to the point.


athelind: (Default)
This is IMDb's top 25 all-time box office hits. Bold the ones you saw in theater, italicize the ones you saw some other way instead, and leave the unseen ones alone. Put asterisks beside ones you weren't impressed with.

  1. Titanic (1997) $600,779,824
  2. Star Wars (1977) $460,935,665
  3. Shrek 2 (2004) $436,471,036 * (Not Enough Dragon)
  4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $434,949,459 *
  5. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) $431,065,444 *
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $423,032,628
  7. Spider-Man (2002) $403,706,375
  8. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) $380,262,555 *
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) $377,019,252
  10. Spider-Man 2 (2004) $373,377,893
  11. The Passion of the Christ (2004) $370,270,943
  12. Jurassic Park (1993) $356,784,000
  13. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) $340,478,898
  14. Finding Nemo (2003) $339,714,367
  15. Spider-Man 3 (2007) $336,530,303 *
  16. Forrest Gump (1994) $329,691,196
  17. The Lion King (1994) $328,423,001
  18. Shrek the Third (2007) $320,706,665 *
  19. Transformers (2007) $318,759,914
  20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone (2001) $317,557,891
  21. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) $313,837,577
  22. Iron Man (2008) $311,708,133
  23. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) $310,675,583 *
  24. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) $309,404,152
  25. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) $309,125,40


So... I've seen 15 20 in the theaters (and of course I saw Star Wars more than once), 18 23 total, and I've been unimpressed by 7 of'em.

And to answer the inevitable comments of "Lucas really suckered you if you saw all three prequels when none of them impressed you":
  1. I'm married.
  2. To be fair, when we got all six movies in the Star Wars saga and watched them in a row, 1-6, I really enjoyed them as a whole.


Edited for bad maths.
athelind: (Default)

Dreamworks is Really Tyrell Corporation: Kung Fu Panda More China Than China



Excerpt:
Chinese animated films tend to be more educational in nature and heavy with significance, but short on entertaining detail, "Kung Fu Panda" viewers say. Local directors would not have had the imagination to make Po's father a duck. Nor would they dare to portray a panda -- a cultural icon in China -- as lazy and fat as Po when "Kung Fu Panda" begins.
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Foreigners who make cultural missteps are often accused of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.

"If you asked a Chinese to make this movie, the panda needs to be lovable but in a perfect sense," said Sun Lijun, a professor of animation at the Beijing Movie Institute, in the July 10 issue of Oriental Outlook magazine. "In the end, he would be so perfect he would be unlovable."


This intritgues me. I was wondering how the movie would play in China -- if it would be dismissed as just a big ball of stereotypes. The best-case response I foresaw was amused tolerance.

I did not expect waves of enthusiasm combined with a shocked awareness that barbarian outsiders had made a better movie about China than China could.

This is, incidentally, one of those movies that could only work because it's furry. Yes, the Cute Talking Animals genre has been overplayed in CGI -- but that doesn't mean it's anywhere near tapped.

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