Thursday, September 25, 2003


Rarely have I taken such pleasure in being wrong: Lost in Translation will indeed be opening at a theater...well, maybe not near me, but close enough.

And as if to make sure this movie-related happiness is stomped into the ground and crushed before it can blossom into full-blown optimism, New Line has announced that the long-awaited Return of the King trailer will appear in theaters starting tomorrow...with Secondhand Lions. Yeah, fuck you, too.

I thought about the army
Dad said, "Son, you're fuckin' high"

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

To answer someone's question: No, I'm not reviewing Underworld. I might write up a paragraph or two for one of my end-of-month capsule reviews, should I choose to do one. But otherwise, you'll have to do with just the knowledge that I hated it with the furious intensity of a thousand suns, and that's all. Sorry.

Album of the week: Some Devil, Dave Matthews. Good stuff. Not that radical a departure from DMB stuff, but different enough. It's spectacular.

And Lost in Translation will, most likely, not open anywhere in this state, thus depriving me of yet another critically adored film. AARGH!

Gravedigger, when you dig my grave
Could you make it shallow
So that I can feel the rain?

Sunday, September 21, 2003

During a screening of Underworld....

My friend Robert: "So, why do the vampires have to be the good guys?"

Me: "Um....because Kate Beckinsale is a vampire. And she's really hot."

Robert: "Oh."

Holy crap, did I hate Underworld. I mean, I knew it was going to be bad, but...damn. The worst movie I've seen all year, and that includes Jeepers Creepers 2. And when a flying, cannibalistic homosexual rapist in a stupid hat has you beat, you suck pretty badly, don't you? But seriously, a horrible script, goofy FX, and atrocious acting all lead up to a definite Worst Picture of the Year candidate. I'm stunned White Wolf would sue: why would they want people to believe they were in any way responsible for this horrible piece of shit (though I do believe they have something of a case)?

You know what's a cool feeling? When two friends of yours have been wracking their brains on a puzzle in Silent Hill 3 for seven hours (yeah, seven hours), then you show up and solve it in ten minutes. That's a cool feeling. The not-cool part of it is that now I want to play SH3 again really bad.

If you want to destroy my sweater
Hold this thread as I walk away

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

(Essential #73)

A question: when the Reliant attacks the Enterprise, and that engineering cadet (who is Scotty's nephew according to the novelization) is mortally wounded, why the hell does Scotty bring him to the bridge? I mean, to get to the bridge from Engineering, you have to pass Sickbay. What's going on here?

Ah, Star Trek. One of my earliest movie-related memories is lying on the floor of our apartment in Canoga Park, California, pretending to be asleep while my mom watched Star Trek V. Perhaps it would have been better for my sanity if I actually had slept instead of watching a film directed by William Shatner, but I was hooked. Right there, I was instantly a Star Trek geek.

Our cultural landscape is littered with movies adapted from popular television shows -- Charlie's Angels, Scooby Doo, S.W.A.T. -- but most are disasters. The only series to truly breakthrough and suceed on the big screen was Star Trek (unless you count Maverick, which I loved but not too many others did). But it wasn't easy for Gene Roddenberry's creation: the first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was a slow, ponderous mess that was so awful that I'm surprised they greenlit a sequel.

But oh, thank Paramount they did, because Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan obliterates the bad memories of the turgid first film. Leaving behind that movie's "We are making serious science fiction" tone, director Nicholas Meyer injects Khan with the thing that made the series great in the first place: the interaction between Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nemoy), and Doctor "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley). He then throws in some great action, an outstanding villain, and one hell of a shocking climax, and ends up with what is arguably the best of the Trek films.

Classic scene:

Spock's final moments. "I have been and always will be your friend. Live long...and prosper..."

His days of galavanting across the galaxy long since passed, Kirk (now an Admiral) presides over Starfleet Academy, grading the cadets under Spock's tutilage. He projects a happy air -- "Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young," he tells McCoy -- but everyone can tell he'd rather be doing just that.

Be careful what you wish for: while scouting locations to test the experimental Genesis device -- a bomb that creates life, rather than destroying it -- Chekov (Walter Koening) and the crew of the Reliant stumble upon the shelter of Khan Singh (the gloriously over-the-top Ricardo Montalban) and his crew. A genetically-engineered superman from Earth, Khan was marooned on this barren world decades ago by Kirk (in the episode "Space Seed"), and now he wants vengeance. He implants worms (don't ask) in the brains of Chekov and Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) and takes over the Reliant, heading for his revenge and to pick up the Genesis device, which he admires for its destructive capabilites more than the creation.

The Enterprise, on a training cruise and staffed almost entirely by cadets, is somehow "the only ship in the quadrant" and must respond to the situation. In addition to meeting up with Khan, Kirk finds the creators of Genesis: Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), who happens to be a former lover; and her son, David (Merritt Butrick), who happens to be the result of that affair. There is much technobabble, phaser fights, exploding computer consoles, and angst from Shatner (this is probably his best performance...for what that's worth).

Montalban gives Khan everything he has, and the result is magnificent. He quotes Shakespeare and Moby Dick, says "I will avenge you!" when a crewman falls, and gives us dubious Klingon proverbs: "Revenge is a dish best served cold." (That's actually Spanish.) The tension and rage between he and Kirk is impressive, especially considering that not once in the film are the two in the same room together.

Random triviata:

The painting of San Francisco that serves as the background during the scene in Kirk's apartment was originally used in The Towering Inferno.

While the later films excelled with their special effects, Khan is not nearly as impressive. The budget was rather tight, and it shows -- a shot of approaching Klingon battle cruisers is footage from the first film, and the bridges of the Reliant and the Enterprise are the exact same set with different lighting. When fake heads are used in the ear worm scenes, the difference is very noticable.

But where the film fails in effects, it makes up in character. The script crackles with wonderful exchanges (Kirk: "I would not presume to debate you." Spock: "That would be wise.") and the performances are great all around. Of all the Trek films, this is the most important -- without a success here, we probably wouldn't have seen the birth of The Next Generation five years later, nor would we get any of the even-numbered films that we would love later on (the odd-numbered movies all suck). Of course, we wouldn't have had to endure Star Trek V, either...but I think the trade-off is worth it.

Oh, and another question: when Carol tries to signal Kirk, Uhura tells him the signal is "jammed at the source." But previous dialogue says that the Reliant and Khan -- who is presumably the one doing the jamming -- won't reach the station for three days. What's going on there?

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Might as well get this out of the way right now: I've never seen El Mariachi. And I've only seen about twenty minutes or so of Desperado, and I didn't like it. So I'm not entirely sure why I was looking forward to this movie as much as I was...but I bet it had something to do with Johnny Depp. Though I've always admired his work, I've never big the biggest of Depp fans until this summer, when Pirates of the Caribbean dropped and Jack Sparrow blew everyone away. So I found myself highly intrigued in his follow-up, which also happened to be the final film in Robert Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" trilogy.

And maybe my Depp focus had something to do with my opinion of the final product, but once again, this movie belongs to Johnny. Sure, his Sands (a CIA operative) is really just a supporting character, but Depp's performance is spellbinding. When he's onscreen, the movie crackles with life; when he's off, you're waiting for him to come back.

I could try to tell you the plot, but I really couldn't discern much of it myself. Sands hires the legendary El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to hit a Mexican general (Gerardo Vigil). El, as he's called ("as in the," Sands is told), already has a good reason to waste the guy: he killed his wife (Salma Hayek) and his daughter. But Sands wants El to kill him only after the general as already killed the President of Mexico (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) in an attempted coup. Somehow, another Mexican general (Willam Dafoe) ties into all of this, as does a one-eyed man (Cheech Marin), a retired FBI agent (Ruben Blades), and a little dog belonging to Mickey Rourke.

It's nearly impossible to follow, but Rodriguez keeps it moving along fairly quickly. Rodriguez is the cinematic equivalent of Trent Reznor -- he directed the film, wrote the script, operated the camera, composed the music, and edited the picture himself (or, as he terms it in the opening credits, "shot, chopped and scored"). And while it's impressive to see someone take that much control over a film (when the credit says "A Robert Rodriguez Flick," it's the truth), the film suffers a bit from that single-mindedness. Sometimes, collaboration can be a good thing; another writer, for instance, may have been able to convince him to thin out -- or at least clarify -- his narrative. Rodriguez is all alone, essentially creating this film in his garage, and it has the self-indulgent feel of someone operating without a bullshit detector.

If it sounds like I'm writing the film off, I'm not. Once Upon a Time in Mexico really is a blast. The action scenes are a lot of fun, even if I wasn't always certain why the various people were trying to kill one another, and they haven't the slightest touch of The Matrix in them anywhere, to my great relief. Banderas has a smothering intensity that perfectly embodies his character, and Mickey Rourke manages to get a lot more mileage than you'd think he could out of carrying around a little dog.

But I keep coming back to Depp. There's something about him: standing there, watching a bullfight, wearing a CIA t-shirt, Sands commands the attention of the audience. He's funny, he's dangerous, and he's probably a little bit insane...Sands, I mean, not Depp. But this character is so much fun that the rest of the movie actually suffers in comparison -- I like Willem Dafoe as much as the next guy, but he's totally forgotten about the second he leaves the frame, while Sands becomes what truly makes Mexico worth watching. Technically, I think he's supposed to be a bad guy (who can tell with this script?), but I was rooting for him all the way.

So Robert Rodriguez may have done everything on this picture short of painting the sets and acting as chauffeur, but Johnny Depp wanders onto the screen and steals it all for himself. It may be a "Robert Rodriguez Flick," but it's a Johnny Depp picture. Somebody give this man an Oscar.

Rating: ***1/2

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Johnny Depp: my new hero. Read my review of Once Upon a Time in Mexico to find out why.

It appears that one of Depp's upcoming projects is the film adaptation of Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden. This is yet more GOOD NEWS, folks.

And Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is a work of exquisite evil. I will defeat thy evil VR missions! I swear to it!

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel

Saturday, September 13, 2003

I saw a film today, oh boy

I scraped together some quarters today, headed down to Movies 12 and saw Matchstick Men. Talk about a pleasant surprise. Consider me back on the Nick Cage bandwagon after this and Adaptation. But the best part here is Alison Lohman, who is wonderful as Cage's long-lost daughter. And Ridley Scott's visual style is superb. Call it ****...only the second movie I've seen in theaters this year to reach that. Blech.

But good news: there are good movies on the horizon. Some of the ones I'm looking forward to, in order of can't-wait-edness....

The Return of the King -- Who isn't waiting for this?

Kill Bill, Vol. 1 -- So I'm a Tarantino mark. This still looks awesome.

Mystic River -- Good lord, have you seen this cast? Plus Eastwood behind the camera? I am SO there.

Intolerable Cruelty -- Yeah, the trailer doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but it's the Coens! How bad could it be? ...Don't answer that.

Cold Mountain -- Nicole Kidman, directed by Anthony Minghella. That's all I know, but that's enough for me.

Love, Actually -- Yet another great cast. Yeah, it's a romantic comedy. So what?

The Rundown -- Call me crazy, but I loved the trailer. So the Rock's filmography is less than spectacular, but it's way better than Hogan's.

The Last Samurai -- The full trailer I saw today cemented it -- this is gonna be either really good or really bad. Either way, I can't wait.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- ...hey, that opened today, didn't it? All right!

The Matrix Revolutions -- sure, Reloaded was only barely a success, but I'm still optmistic. Am I being foolish?

So hopefully, this awful summer will be nothing but a bad memory soon.

And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh

Friday, September 12, 2003

Christian Bale (American Psycho) has been signed to be the next Batman, to be directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia). This is GOOD NEWS, folks.

That is all.

That's why they call me bad company
And I won't deny
Bad company 'til the day I die

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Sublime moment: I'm sitting here at my computer. The score from Magnolia is playing on my CD player. And just at the point in the score where the heavy rain begins in the movie, thunder hits outside and the light rain picks up in intensity. Nice.

So I'm listening to the audio commentary on Stephen King's Storm of the Century (thank you, Robert), and it's really not terribly interesting. Sure, I love listening to King talk, but director Craig R. Baxley has nothing at all worth saying. And there are huge -- and I mean huge, ten or fifteen minutes -- gaps in the commentary, where it's just silence. Not cool. I'm about halfway through.

I'm in kind of a nostalgic mood. I've been reading over the records of our past Vampire games....ah, memories. And yes, I'm working on it. It's coming, okay? By the end of next week, I swear to you.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. Those who need to do.)

I've received some pleasant comments about my "Sixteenth Specimen" memoir -- thanks. I also got one "it sucked ass," but he was joking. I think.

Oh, great, it's time to get ready for work. Blech.

I know this all seems silly. I know that maybe I sound ridiculous, like maybe this is scene of the movie where the guy is trying to get ahold on the long-lost son, but this is that scene. Y'know? I think they have those scene in movies because they're true, because they really happen....Do not leave me hanging on this -- please. See...this is the scene of the movie where you help me out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Now available for your reading pleasure....

"Now, she wanted to get an "impact" shot. She orders me to bang my head on the steering wheel. I try it out once. "No, not like that -- hard." I smash my head into the steering column at full speed. "Yeah, like that." I'm once again given the order to repeat this action until told to stop. Only this time, she kills the lights in the garage and turns on the strobe. Right in my eyes. So there I am, in a very hot garage, crashing my face into the Ford logo with a strobe light flashing through my pupils and directly into my brain. Acting: gotta love it."

"Affirmations, Cloning, and Car Crashes: The Making of 'Sixteenth Specimen'" as now been uploaded. Read it. Tell me what you think. I beg of you.

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Yesterday -- well, technically this morning -- while raving about Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, I somehow forgot to mention the equally hilarious website, upon which the novel is loosely based.

So, White Wolf is suing the makers of Underworld for copyright infringment. I'd have to say I'm rooting for White Wolf here. Not because I think they have a case (I'd have to see Underworld first), but because (a) I love White Wolf games and (b) Underworld looks really, really bad.

I'm halfway through something for the writing section. Should be up tomorrow or Thursday.

And the Astros are going to give me a goddamn heart attack. Just so you know.

I pledge my grievance to the flag
Excuses, excuses....

On Saturday night, I made plans to see Dirty Pretty Things the following day. So it really came as no surprise to find myself Sunday evening watching The Italian Job (inexplicably in re-release) instead. It was okay -- I might write a review later.

Oh, so many things to write. I'm supposed to be writing something for this site right now (I'm the "lazy bum" described on the front page). I've got a non-fiction piece I want to do. I watched the ABC miniseries Stephen King's Storm of the Century last week; I liked it much more than I remembered, and planned to write a review. And yet nothing is done. Why? Well....

1) I've been trying to fix that image up there. That took far longer than I expected. But now that it's there, what do you think?

2) For some reason, I've been hooked on my PlayStation 2 again for the last few days (especially Metal Gear Solid 2 and WWE Smackdown). Don't know why.

3) I bought a book today: Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. I can't put the damn thing down. It's open next to me as I type this. I'm glancing at it during long page loads.

Not to mention that tonight, while at work, no less than three -- three -- ideas for new things to write came to me. See, I have a lot of good ideas; they just all come to me at once.

Hopefully, I'll sort this all out and have something done by the end of the week. Hopefully.

Did Mother Nature tell you,
"Boy, you come and go as you please"?
That's what she said to me

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Ten reviews, one page! This is what happens when I get lazy, folks.

Oh, and I discovered something today that I didn't know when I wrote that -- Victor Salva, writer/director of the Jeepers Creepers films, is a convicted pedophile. This explains a great deal, actually.

"What's a pederast, Walter?"
"Shut the fuck up, Donny."