Archive for the 'Movie' Category

31
Oct
10

The NeverEnding Story, Part IV: The Review of The NeverEnding Story, Part I

NOTE: The short title of this post is “The NeverEnding Story, Part IV” as in the sequel to the three movies.  Hence “The NeverEnding Story, Part IV” subtitled “The Review of  The NeverEnding Story, Part I” is a review of the original “The NeverEnding Story” movie.  However, due to licensing whatnots, you can, at best, consider this as a parody of a parody of a review of a parody of the movie that was not conceptualized as a parody when first viewed but was reviewed with the movie as a parody in mind.   Thank you.

———-

Prior to Transformers The Movie and G. I. Joe The Movie (1986 and 1987, respectively,) I was very much influenced by another movie called  The NeverEnding Story (1984) during the course of  my childhood.  Despite the fact that I was not aware of the movie’s existence until 10 years or so after it was initially screened in the theatres, the movie was and will always be timeless for me.  I recently rented a DVD version of the movie from the local library due to closures of all video/DVD rental establishments in the lower 48 states.  (I have yet to succumb to subscribing to anything with the word “net” in it.)

First of all, before popping in the DVD, I wanted to make sure that I was to prepared for a huge disappointment at how the movie has aged.  It was an 80’s movie after all.  If The NeverEnding Story had been a non-special-effects movie like The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I might have thought differently.  However, there was the case of Back to the Future series which somehow endured the test of time even in this age of computer graphics and robot actors/actresses, i.e. R. Megan Fox.

So, my pathetic adventure started with the title screen with the ever grandiose and magnificent prelude of a theme song appropriately titled The Never Ending Story.  The NeverEnding Story, from my memory, had been one of few movies that actually have the theme song played at the beginning of the movie where the actual title of the movie is sung in the lyrics.  Forget what I just wrote, I just remembered Flash Gordon.  You remember that one?  The one that sounds like Queen’s Bicycle.  Anyhow, back to the subject at hand.

Engorged with a feminine voice drowning in a sea of synthesized staccato of acid gumdrops, the movie opens and displays its title over a thick flow of twilight haze, obviously left over from the writers and editors trying to figure out how to best enjoy the drugs still left over from the 70s.

Speaking of engorged, this is Morla.  Morla is a character in the movie that takes the form of a turtle that is more or less a large hill.  The screenshot here shows Morla speaking to the main character Atreyu holding unto a tree branch directly in front of Morla.  He is hardly visible but that’s not important.

Did I mention that this movie is actually rated PG?

That’s nothing to be excited about, I guess.  Above shows Atreyu and a random gnome checking something out with the “telescope” of some sort.

Nothing to be excited about, right?!?!?!

If you click on the image and you can see that those are 2 pairs of exposed nipples and breateses.  Yes, this movie was still rated PG!

After watching this scene, I felt rage bigger than the Statue of Liberty.  At least, HERS was covered.

After doing some research, I realized that this movie was actually based on a German novel from GERMANY written in GERMAN with the title of Die unendliche Geschichte. BUT!!! BUT!!! This is a review of a movie and not the next segment of my ongoing series of “What is Wrong with These Foreigners!?”

Going back to possible disappointments, I was utterly shocked at how well the special effects held out.  I expected Styrofoam rocks and badly sync’d puppetry but instead I was greeted with Styrofoam rocks that sounded like real rocks and puppets that far surpass Jar Jar Binks.  For an 80s movie, the special effects and especially sound effects were superb.  The NeverEnding Story is a classic example of solid cohesion between classic puppetry, green-screen, painted scenery, and forced perspective.  I’m surprised that I didn’t notice a single instance of stop motion animation.

Aside from mere visual and aural aspects, the movie did contain a very important moral message.  Without really spoiling a 25 year old movie and to put it as succinctly as possible, the movie sums up what is still true to this day, that one must always keep imagination and hope alive.

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04
Jan
10

It’s his way or the Norway

As the movie Avatar recently reminded us, there is little more inspiring than a super, super badass.  Colonel Miles Quaritch enjoys wielding guns, scowling, piloting giant robots, and not repairing his awesome scars with wimpy plastic surgery.  He looks like this:

Colonel Miles Quaritch: The Action Figure

Actual Photo

No doubt any movie would benefit from having such a character as part of its dramatis personae.  I think we can all agree that The Curious Case of Colonel Quaritch would have been both a critical and commercial success.

However, Quaritch pales in comparison to a real-life badass, a man whose very name inspires simultaneous shudders of ecstasy and terror: Knut Haugland.

Action figure available soon.

Unfortunately, we lost Haugland this past Christmas at the age of 92.  Even more unfortunately, I didn’t even know the man existed until today, when his obituary appeared in the New York Times (login required).  While reporter William Grimes already did a fine job tabulating Haugland’s impressive list of accomplishments, it’s clear that he also failed to imbue his article with an appropriate amount of flabbergastedness (or is it flabbergastronomy?).  After all, this is a guy who had enough real-life adventures for two Colonel Quariches, and with the assistance of neither CGI nor battlemechs.  I hope Grimes won’t mind me correcting his oversight.

1. Resistance Training

First of all, Haugland was a bona-fide, badass, undercover WWII commando.  While eking out an ordinary living as a worker at a radio factory in Nazi-occupied Norway, he secretly used his communications expertise to not only support but to help lead the resistance.  Although he had already fought the Nazis in a more traditional military setting, which I assume was also full of crazy badassery, I skip ahead to this period mainly because of the following events.  To quote the obituary (emphasis mine):

“Twice he was captured and escaped, once by back-flipping over a snow bank and running off into the woods before his guards could use their weapons.”

I repeat, he escaped the Nazis by doing a fucking back flip.  And in the very next sentence:

“A third time, surrounded by the Gestapo at a maternity hospital in Oslo where he had set up a transmitter in a chimney, he shot his way to freedom with a pistol.”

Shot his way to freedom out of a maternity hospital? I don’t know about you, but I’m picturing something exactly like this in every way:

More famously, he took part in an event known as The Norwegian Heavy Water Sabotage, which involved a) paradropping into enemy territory, b) surviving in an isolated cabin for four months, without supplies, during the harsh Norwegian winter, c) MacGyvering a radio out of a car battery and fishing rods, and d) being a part of the team that blew up a Nazi hydro plant.  Apparently, people back the also thought this was pretty hardcore, as it was made into a 1965 movie, with the enticing tagline “COME FROZEN HELL OR HIGH ADVENTURE.”  I’ll take high adventure, please.

2. The Wrath of Kon-Tiki

After the war was over, one would think that even a badass like Haugland would have every reason to seek early retirement, light a nice fire in the hearth, pour a glass of scotch, put his feet up, and never take them down again.  However, this is not the story of an ordinary badass; let’s not forget that this unassuming Norwegian radioman was a super badass.  His next outing, only two years after the end of the war, was a little jaunt known as the Kon-Tiki Expedition.

I really wish more people these days had heard of the Kon-Tiki.  Basically, six crazy Scandinavians built a raft out of balsa wood and sailed it over four thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, because they could.  All right, to be more accurate, they made the voyage to prove that it could be done, on the theory that ancient South Americans might have been the original colonizers of the islands of the South Pacific.

The Kon Tiki

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

The voyage took more than three months, included at least one spectacular rescue of a man overboard, and ended in a shipwreck that left the crew stranded on a remote island until they were rescued by a tribe of friendly natives.  Let me emphasize, as I did for Haugland’s wartime exploits, that this all happened in REAL LIFE.  Naturally, this adventure also became a movie – a documentary this time – that went on to win an Oscar.

***

So how does a Norwegian man with the nebbishy profession of radio expert and the dorky-sounding name Knut Haugland end up having so many adventures that they were fodder for two movies?  Obviously, my thesis holds: the man is a serious bad dude.  I can scarcely imagine what he would have accomplished if he had been, instead, a master of archery named John Rambo.

THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED BY NINJAS. ARE YOU A BAD ENOUGH DUDE TO RESCUE THE PRESIDENT?

Knut Haugland’s answer would definitely be “Ja.”

It’s clear that the world lost a great man last month, one whose sense of humility I haven’t even touched on, and whose fearless, brazen spirit I could never do justice.

I suggest we honor him in a way everyone can appreciate: a special-effects laden trilogy in which Haugland’s character discovers he can travel through time.  You take it from here, James Cameron.

23
Oct
09

Blanka Potter and the Rainforest Sojourn

It’s been weeks, and I’m still unwilling to leave the safety of my jungle retreat.  Every time I try to walk more than a quarter mile, my legs start to hurt, so I turn back.  And why not – this place has everything I need.  Except ice packs for my legs.  Maybe I can rig something up with strips of tree bark, freshly chilled by the night dews.  Yes… chilled bark.  I’ll make a note of it.

I spent most of the last week constructing a banana-leaf latticework to fence in the clearing, securing the panels with strips of leather.  The leather I found in a surprisingly large space beneath one of the nearby forest giants, which I suspect is a fig tree; at least, the area around and under its spidery roots is littered with green, sticky lumps, sweating droplets of sap that ooze out and then congeal before they’re fully formed.  I stepped on one by mistake and it burst like an outraged balloon.

It gets worse.  Ant swarms large enough to ballroom dance with roam the area, carrying fruit away by the bushel.  There are so many wasps and mosquitoes around that it’s like the tree has attracted its own atmosphere: 78% buzzing wings, 20% chitin, 2% instant madness.

I’ve given the tree what I feel is an appropriate name: the Deathly Hollow.  Yeah, that seems catchy.  Because, you know, there’s a creepy hollow space underneath.

The tree, approximately. Any resemblance to a tree from the Harry Potter franchise is wholly deliberate.

The tree, approximately. Any resemblance to a tree from the Harry Potter franchise is wholly coincidental. I mean, deliberate.

Only the promise of something useful, something man-made gave me reason to approach at all – a sparkle in the shadows.  In the a pile of tiny bones tucked beneath the roots (no doubt this place was the ancient den of some undersized predator), I found both my useful leather scraps, and the source of the sparkle: a belt buckle.  It’s the damndest thing to find in the middle of the jungle.  I cached it in an unused hammock along with the rest of my things.  Maybe I’ll look at it later; no need to spoil the surprise.  The only thing I have in large quantities, after all, is time.  As long as you don’t count the vast informational wastelands of the Internet.

***

My blog-writing colleague (or, as I prefer to call him, my blolleague) earlier made comments about leaving me locked out the office during his absence.  I have to assume he is speaking in metaphors, as the only triumphant return I can make right now is wholly electronic.  Freedom of information notwithstanding, I am a prisoner here, with nature herself as my jailer.  That is, until I recover my strength and find my way back to civilization.

Perhaps I’ll find a clue to my quest on the official Harry Potter™ website, featuring tons of cool games, message boards to discuss the raddest new Potter trends, and also instructions on how to perform real wizardry – everything from transforming a glass of water into a Gin and Tonic (alcoholus anonamus!) to, later that evening, magically fooling a sobriety test (breathalyzer malfunctiono!).  Visit today, Uncomma commands you!

***

J.K. Rowling and/or Warner Brothers: please send all money to Uncomma, c/o Jungle Clearing, Unexplored Interior, Borneo.  Make out checks to Blanka Hsudler, not Tom Huxter, who apparently has no interest in being reimbursed for his myriad pop culture references.

12
Oct
09

Sequel Opportunity

Part 2 of my comments on the Fallacy of the Author are coming soon.  Meanwhile:

***

In recent years, Broadway seems to have largely converted to a religion originally popularized by the Hollywood elite.  No, not the one you’re thinking of.

As you drive through the streets of Los Angeles every morning, you can hear its zen-like mantra being chanted, drone-like, by hundreds of executives over their morning meal of the blood of interns and screenwriting hopefuls.

ESTABLISHED FRANCHISE, EASY MONEY.  ESTABLISHED FRANCHISE, EASY MONEY.

The same force that impels nearly every summer blockbuster to be either a sequel, superhero movie, or adaptation of yet another young-adult book about vampires has slowly but surely crept into the brains of the (theoretically) more artistically-minded backers of musical theater.

There’s Spamalot and the Producers, each based on a popular decades-old film comedy, and Young Frankenstein, which builds upon the formula by adapting another movie from the already screen-to-stage success Mel Brooks.

There’s Hairspray, based on a movie and later adapted into one, reminiscent of the moment in 30 Rock where Jenna Maroney receives an award for her role in Mystic Pizza, the “best performance in a movie based on a musical based on a movie.”

Let’s not forget Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins… uh… The Rescuers Down Under?  Well, I’m sure that’s coming in the next year or two.  Might be a good time to invest in mouse suits.

And of course, there’s Shrek.  I heard a radio ad for this show recently, featuring a likeably generic theatrical version of Smashmouth’s “I’m a Believer.” “I’m a Believer” was originally made a hit by the Monkees  in 1966, who at that point neither played their instruments nor wrote their own music (the song is by Neil Diamond).  When the theme you choose to represent yourself is a rewrite of a cover of a song by a band who was created specifically for a TV show… well, enough said.

***

So, yeah.  Half of Broadway (and my understanding is that we’re mostly talking about the successful half) is made up of recycled material.

But what compelled me to write about this trend is someone who took the mantra of “Established Franchise” a step further.

This Guy.

Andrew Lloyd Webber at work.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is the man behind The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Cats (as well as Starlight Express, which is, depressingly, not the only musical performed mostly on roller skates).  So far, so good.  But he is also the man behind the recently announced Love Never Dies, which is a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.  Ten years after the events of the first musical, the Phantom finds himself inhabiting that most mysterious of places: Cooooney Island.  OOoooOOoooOOO!

If Las Vegas is a well-groomed, smooth-talking Hollywood mobster, and Atlantic City is the squinting, spitting real deal, then Coney Island is like the old Russian guy who lives upstairs from both of them and runs a Pinochle game for quarters out of his bedroom.  Nestled at the south end of Brooklyn, New York, it’s a faded boardwalk, a grimy beach, many, many rides that go around in circles, and, on weekends, a crowd of locals too fat to know humility.

To be fair, Coney Island is actually a pretty scary place, something I’ll explain in a future article.  This will help give you an idea of what I mean, though.

Classic literature comes alive!

Which circle of Hell is the one where your head is attached to a demon's tongue? I'm going to guess... seventh?

***

For some reason, the idea of a sequel to a musical rubs me the wrong way.  I’m no musical theater aficionado, and even when I am I much prefer the upbeat silliness of Singing in the Rain or a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to the often too-serious tone of Webber’s work.  However, it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that Phantom’s lavish production values, its pop flair, and its operatic ambitions helped define a whole era of musical theater.  Trying to drag this icon of decades past into the new, Shrek-friendly Broadway environment seems akin to forcing Neil Armstrong to pilot the Star Tours ride at Disneyland.

What I think doesn’t matter, of course.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens, and these days there’s only one way to measure success.  At least Webber knows the game, commenting that “if it does a third as well as the old Phantom I’ll still be very happy.”  I’m sure he will, given that Phantom’s lifetime take is something on the order of $3 billion.

Hell, maybe in a few years I’ll come around and write Opera Phantom 3: Revenge of the Fallen.

***

Next time on Uncomma: More literary theory.  Thrilling!

23
Aug
09

District 9 aka Peter Jackson’s King Kong 2: La Revue

My partner still has not returned from his trip into the jungles of Borneo so I will venture into the realm of the film industry yet again.  This time, I will quickly review a movie that I have actually watched in its entirety.  Please beg my partner to return as cinema is not my forte.

District9Random

I prepared myself prior to my free viewing of District 9.  In my wallet, I had stashed a coupon redeemable for a movie ticket at a local theatre.  In my head, I had prepped myself up with the rage that can only be filled with the expectation of yet another bad movie.  I kept thinking about Shia Labeof and badly rendered CGI animations in all movies made post-1990.  Even now I rage at the god-awful CGI work done for Clerks.  It makes me want to puke.

However, rage aside, I kept moving forward in queue.  As the end of the queue drew near, I felt a jolt of profound ecstasy.  I could see a gigantic poster of 2012 behind the ticket clerk.  I was thrilled.  I cannot wait to see 2012.  I love movies about the apocalypse or any movies that feature post-apocalyptic world.  Already, I knew I was going to hate and rage on District 9.

*enters theatre, buys a medium soda that was 25 cents cheaper than a large and 25 cents more expansive than a small, takes seat, watches movie, takes one bathroom break, finishes soda, finishes watching movie, takes second bathroom break, walks to car, drives home*

As I was saying, prior to watching District 9, I was prepared to rage at yet another badly done movie about aliens and explosions and explosions.  I was utterly distraught and rendered useless once I realized that the movie was … actually a good movie.  However, I will not disappoint the readers of this regular column.  I, your humble servant and writer feel the need to satiate your desire for me to punish the fiends that created this cinematic masterpiece and I take up my sword (or keyboard) in doing this AWEsome deed.

First of all, District 9 was the most horrendous piece of sparkling trash I have ever seen in my life.  It was like dropping Pop Rocks into my eyes and then hurling myself over the Golden Gate Bridge while I have military-trained snipers shooting at me when it was raining fire and brimstone.  I felt like Alex from A Clockwork Orange during his “rehabilitation.”  I felt like Two Face McGee from the Dark Knight when his face exploded.  I felt like Elaine in The Graduate when Ben took her to a strip club.  I felt like Anakin in Star Wars episodio tre when Obi-the traitor-wan betrays him and cuts him into pieces.  I felt enraged.

If you may, I, your humbler servant writer, shall list some of the issues I had with the movie.

1) The movie had aliens – movies with aliens will always suck.

2) The movie was made by Peter Jackson – Peter Jackson sucks.

3) For some odd reason, I had thought that this movie was based on a video game.  It is not.  Ergo it sucked.

4) Relationship between humans and aliens resembled way too close to reality (hint: the movie is set in South Africa) especially since it almost looked to be didactic to me.  It sucked.

5) ETC – I could name a thousand more but I shall stop here.

Your humble writer refuses to believe that I have actually seen this aberration.  I have nearly erased this fact from memory and thus can no longer recall any of the scenes of the movie.

Seriously though, if I wanted to see a movie with an interesting plot that carries through to the end while characters are fully developed and mixed with great sound/visual effects/cinematography/etc paired with on-par acting, I would live in France eating French fries and possibly doing a French kiss while drinking French wine and join the French Resistance against the Vichy government or maybe read a  bit of Sartre, call myself Guy-Jean, then throw myself over a bridge.  So, it saddens me that I was forced to watch this movie while not having to do any of the mentioned absurdities.

That was about it for District 9: the Review.  This is Jefe Tomas.  If I still do not hear from my partner from Borneo I will have to send out a search party.  If you happened to be named Henry Stanley, please drop me a line.  I have a job for you.

10
Aug
09

GI Joe: a real American hero, and succumbing to reality.

Last week, GI Joe hit it big in the box office.  Beating out real contenders such as Julie & Julia, a cooking movie about the legendary Julia Child, G-Force, a movie about talking rats, and the new Harry Potter which was in its 4th week.  Of course, grossing over $56 million over the weekend is no small feat, especially for the Goliath of a brand called GI Joe.  YO JOE!

The biggest question, however, remains.  Should I, your humble writer, go see such pinnacle of cinematic mastery?  Or should I just write about it without knowing the full truth?

At the moment, I chose the latter… for now..

Although, I cannot see how you can mess up a brand with a movie when it has strong definitive characters and a good storyline.  For instance, GI Joe has the typical good versus evil theme.  Such theme was utilized in Star Wars, Harry Potter, Gigli, etc.  Also, GI Joe has numerous round characters in its brand as protagonists and antagonists.  We have: Duke, the closet homosexual; Cobra Commander, a man with a drape on his head and also the enemy leader; Scarlett Lady Jane, your prototypical female protagonist support character; the Baroness, your prototypical female antagonist part-time femme fatale; and of course, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, the ninjas because you can’t have an armed conflict without ninjas.

From what I know of the movie, all the characters I listed made appearances, making the movie a guaranteed success.  The obvious applause by critics domestic and abroad proves once again that movies based on toy brands will most certainly succeed.  It is without question that women in their 30s are now desperately awaiting for the Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony live-action movie adaptations.  Bring your kids to the back draft of nostalgia.  Watch GI Joe.  I know I won’t but I know that’s a burden I must carry with me until I do get to see the movie.  For now, I will huddle down in the cave and pray for the storm to pass.  As they say in the InterWeb, “the ninjas are coming.”

Stay tuned for more on movie-related postings.  Knowing is half the battle.  GI JOE!  YO JOE!