Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heroes and Villains

Entertainment Weekly, in its far-less-than-infinite wisdom, has come out with another of their polls designed to tick people off (like me) and get them writing (also like me). This one's on the Top 20 Heroes and Villains of All Time, combining movie and television characters within the same list. Some of their choices are spot-on, others just plain flat-out insane. Here are their lists. See how many you agree with.

Top 20 Heroes:

1. James Bond
2. Indiana Jones
3. Superman
4. Harry Potter
5. Ellen Ripley (the Alien movies)
6. John McClane (Die Hard)
7. Han Solo
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
9. Robin Hood
10. Spider-man
11. Mad Max
12. James T. Kirk
13. Foxy Brown
14. Will Kane (High Noon)
15. Harry Calahan
16. Jack Bauer (24)
17. Nancy Drew
18. Batman
19. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
20. Sydney Bristow (Alias)

Top 20 Villains:

1. The Wicked Witch of the West
2. Darth Vader
3. Hannibal Lecter
4. The Joker
5. Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange)
6. Mr. Burns (The Simpsons)
7. Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct)
8. Voldemort (Harry Potter and..well, everything)
9. Dracula
10. Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
11. J.R. Ewing
12. Norman Bates (Psycho)
13. Frank Booth (Blue Velvet)
14. Annie Wilkes (Misery)
15. Snow White's Evil Queen
16. Hans Gruber (Die Hard)
17. Michael Myers (Halloween)
18. Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)
19. Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction)
20. Jack Torrance (The Shining)

On the one hand, it was nice to see older characters like Robin Hood, Atticus Finch, and the Wicked Witch represented. But on the other hand... Gordon Gekko? Mr. Burns?? Nancy Drew??!!?? Are you @#$%ing kidding me? I'll add a post later with my own choices, after I give it some thought. Hmmmmm.....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Last House on the Left

Yes, I went to see The Last House on the Left. Why not? I'm the guy who sees all these movies. I might have missed stuff like The Reader and Milk, but by God, I've seen My Bloody Valentine 3D and Friday the 13th. And now I've seen this remake of the Wes Craven cult film (something in my brain just prohibits me from calling it a "classic") about revenge.

I'm not even sure it's a horror film. I guess it's closer to some of those torture porn films that have been the rage for several years now, but seem to have been petering out (except for the annual Saw Halloween gasp). I can't remember ever watching the original Last House all the way through, but I understand from folks who've been there that it's a hard one to take. Quick premise (although, if you're reading this blog, chances are excellent you already know): two teenage girls out for a fun drive are waylaid by a pack of scuzzy psychos, who proceed to rape, abuse, and kill them. The psychos are forced to hole up in a house owned by the parents of one of the girls, which even Wes Craven himself admits is one of the all-time greatest ironies in movie history. When the parents realize who they've got as guests, all hell really breaks loose.

That's the original premise. I'm going to go ahead and break my cardinal spoiler rule by telling you right here that the new movie makes one huge change to the "rape, abuse, and kill" part, a character choice that plays out in the second half of the movie. Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter play the parents, and their acting chops are several cuts above what this type of film usually employs (or deserves). I actually enjoyed their performances, as well as the performance of Sara Paxton, who plays their daughter.

This movie is really big on foreshadowing. For example, the fact that Paxton's character is a champion swimmer? Hell, you just know that'll come into play later on. Then there's the moment where Dad can't seem to fix the microwave. I won't even go there.

I'm going to give this film a 6.5 out of 10. The extra half-star is just so it'll be ranked slightly ahead of Watchmen, a movie I wanted to enjoy a lot more than I did. I guess I wasn't expecting as much out of Last House, and I wound up liking it just a bit more. How's that for irony?

Quick question: Is it possible for a microwave oven to function properly with the door open? Just curious...

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Well, I had planned on attending the Watchmen Movie Event, when that morning Dad asks me to help him put together a bookcase. I had visions of my 78 year old father, who has many strengths but building things is NOT one of them, putting this together. So that's how I spent my morning. I still haven't seen it yet.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I'm starting this blog in defiance of those anonymous folks (anonymous according to Hendo, anyway) who'd rather not talk about TV shows like 24 at club meetings because they're not genre material, or something along those lines. Hah! HAH, I say! It is to laugh, I tell you!

Because...24 has rediscovered its mojo, kids. If tonight's episode is any indication, the show has returned to the heady heights of Season 5, also known as the Year of the Ratbag President, otherwise known as the Year of You Won't Know What's Coming Next. SPOILER ALERT... 24 lost a major player tonight, and it sent the show spinning off into a frantic new direction. I think Jon Voight is going to turn out to be a megavillain on the scale of Gregory Itzin's President Logan. I can't wait to see the next episode, and I haven't been able to say that for a couple of years. (Of course, that's partially due to the Writers' Strike.)

Now I have to figure out how I'm going to watch the season finale, because I'm pretty sure it's lined up for the same night (May 18) that I'll be in DC at the Springsteen concert. I guess if anything will make me miss Jack Bauer's Season 7 finale, it'll be the Boss.


Who watches the watchmen cakes?

And of course, some ice cream to go with them.

Shoot 'em Up

A friend of mine told me the story of her and her husband watching this movie and it intrigued me enough to want to see it.

Straight out of IMDB -

Shoot 'Em Up is a 2007 action/thriller/black comedy film written and directed by Michael Davis and produced by Susan Montford, Don Murphy and Rick Benattar. It was released in September 2007.

The film follows "Mr. Smith" (Clive Owen), a drifter who appears to have an extensive military background and a fondness for carrots who wants nothing more than to be left alone.

Smith finds himself embroiled in a complex political conspiracy once he aids a pregnant woman who is going into labour while being chased by a hitman. After the woman is killed, he takes the baby and goes on the run with a lactating prostitute named Donna (Monica Bellucci).

The unlikely family is trailed by the intelligent and ruthless Hertz (Paul Giamatti) and his army of thugs. A plethora of elaborate gunfights ensue, between which Smith pieces together the real story. More gunfights and car chases and more gunfire and incredible situations, escapes, rescues and more gunfights.

*edited slightly so not to give too much away

It was incredible to say the least and amazing to say the most. I would love to learn the number of gunshots fired/bullets used. I would imagine that for at least 70 of the 86 minute movie there were guns being fired.

Oh, lots of blood, lots of wild escapes, sliding across floors as they are shooting, leaping across building, crashing thru windows, surviving 50 hoods coming to get you and almost none of them surviving. Yes, there is action, some black comedy, even some mystery as things unfold. I was even reminded of Raising Arizona for a minute or two in the way things proceeded.
I suggest, if you haven't seen it already, go, go watch it soon. But be prepared.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


John and I went to see WATCHMEN at the AMC White Marsh IMAX this afternoon, and I was disappointed that more club members didn't decide to check out the 12:30 show. Mr. Diggin was in attendance (hey, Tom!) and we talked a bit about the movie afterward. I'll let Tom share his views at the March club meeting. As for me, I was a little underwhelmed.

It certainly wasn't the technical wizardry that turned me off. The movie looks great; director Zach Snyder and his crew of FX wizards have captured exactly how the most celebrated graphic novel of all time should look on the screen. Which, I think, is the big problem.

I'm a huge fan of the original Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic; my son got me the ultimate hardcover edition for my birthday, and while I have been savoring it, he pretty much swallowed it whole, sort of a preparation for seeing the film. He loved the book, and liked the movie, but he agreed with my feelings. Snyder has basically recreated the novel; he's copied it, scene for scene, line for line, and in many cases, almost shot for shot. That kind of approach doesn't leave much room for inspiration. It really stifles the film, IMHO.

I think Snyder just plain lacks the vision. You can't say he was afraid of offending the author, because super-curmudgeon Alan Moore, who also created From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, had already blasted the filmmakers for daring to make the film. (He basically considers his works unfilmable.)

I can't help comparing Snyder to Peter Jackson. Jackson did something very similar -- he dared to adapt a genre legend, one that many folks felt was impossible -- but he breathed new life into a classic, insinuating his own imagination into The Lord of the Rings, extending scenes and deepening characters. By contrast, there's absolutely nothing in WATCHMEN that wasn't first done (better) in the graphic novel.

With one very important exception. I have to admit that Jackie Earle Haley did a fantastic job as Rorschach, the psychotic in the trenchcoat and inkblot mask. You could tell that was a real actor working under that mask -- something I hadn't seen since Hugo Weaving in V FOR VENDETTA (by coincidence, another Moore work.) Haley really buried himself in the role, and when he ripped his mask off to face Dr. Manhattan at the end, you could see the anguish of a scarred lifetime running across his face. It was an Oscar-caliber performance in an otherwise forgettable cast.

I'm really interested to hear what the rest of you thought of the film, and believe me, if you loved it, say so -- I loved the graphic novel, too. I guess I was just expecting a little more than a simple retread on the screen. I'd give WATCHMEN 6 out of 10 stars.

2 Reasons to Check Out has been around for quite a while, and as movie geek sites go, it has almost as much staying power (and a bit more variety) than However, there's something that Joblo does very well that AintitCool can't even touch, and that's its love of video clips. The site has several sidebar movie clip vaults, including "Hottie of the Day" (There ya go, Hendo my boy) and "Awful Good" (hilarious clips from bad movies), but my two favorites are "Kill of the Day" and "Money Shots."

"Kill of the Day" is exactly what it sounds like: a grisly (and often humorous) death scene from a well-known film. They're up to about 168 or so; the most recent "Kill" was the climax of "Fellowship of the Ring," in which Boromir is shafted thrice by an Uruk-hai and avenged by Aragorn with a pretty sweet beheading. Then there's "Money Shots," which is simply a classic scene from a classic modern-day film. They're up to 107. The very first one was Quint's telling of the Indianapolis story from the original "Jaws," and recent "Money Shots" have included the appearance of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from "Ghostbusters," the long bank robbery/shoot-out from "Heat," Robert DeNiro's bat-wielding talk about "baseball" from "The Untouchables," and Christopher Walken"s presentation of the watch from "Pulp Fiction." "Money Shots" is simply unbelievable; every time I click on, the scene is one of my favorites. It's like these guys at Joblo live inside my movie geek mind. You can start clicking backward through the clips and before you know it, three hours have gone by. Trust me; I've been there. If you want to gorge on the great scenes, make sure you've got a cable modem and a fast broadband download and check out Joblo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's in Your Netflix Queue?

I was curious to see what everyone else was watching on Netflix these days -- those of us who subscribe, that is. It's fun to compare movie tastes, and often surprising to find out how varied those tastes truly are. If you're sitting there wondering, "How the hell do I know what I watch on Netflix?" -- it's easy to backtrack. Just log on to their website and click your rental history. Here's what I've been watching. There are more than a few surprises, I'm sure. If you're a Blockbuster groupie instead of a Netflixer, well---that's OK, too.

HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (The classic with Claude Rains)
DEAD RECKONING (Humphrey Bogart)
COUNT DRACULA (Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom -- not that good)
M (The Fritz Lang classic, with Peter Lorre in an amazing performance)
JOHN ADAMS (HBO Miniseries)
THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (Hammer non-horror)
THE TERROR OF THE TONGS (Hammer non-horror, part 2)
COMANCHE MOON (Miniseries)
3:10 TO YUMA (1957)
NIGHT GALLERY: SEASON 1 (This show does not hold up well.)
And that's a wrap…

The Best of 2008

10. DOOMSDAY I saw Neil Marshall's third directorial effort early in the year, and I remember thinking it was a really messy batch of homages to other films, like THE ROAD WARRIOR and EXCALIBUR. But when I watched it again on DVD, I was struck by how closely it mirrored the time-honored traditions of the grindhouse cinema: violence, gore, beautiful women, and stuff that blows up real good. Marshall filmed it all at a breakneck pace, or as fast as you can film it without resorting to jerky-cam. Thank God. DOOMSDAY was the best grindhouse movie since -- well, GRINDHOUSE.
9. THE INCREDIBLE HULK A great year for comic book films begins with this re-invention of the Big Green. (I still refuse to call it a sequel.) Edward Norton, Tim Roth, William Hurt, and even Liv Tyler imbue the flick with some excellent acting chops, but there's plenty of well-orchestrated action to go around, and the set pieces are first-rate. I had a lot of fun with this movie -- it was the film that Ang Lee's movie should have been, but wasn't.
8. ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO This was my introduction to the world of director Kevin Smith. I was warned ahead of time that Smith's movies are notorious for their heavy use of profanity, and that turned out to be true -- this movie made SCARFACE sound like TOY STORY. But at its heart was a very sweet romantic comedy about a couple of old friends and housemates who discover true love by getting into amateur porn (as a means to pay the rent. No, really.) Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks make a winning couple, and their chemistry is undeniable. Bottom line -- there was only one other movie this year that made me laugh harder. (More on that in a bit.)
7. APPALOOSA Just when I think that the western genre truly is dead, along comes a guy like Ed Harris to prove me wrong. Harris and Viggo Mortensen are perfectly cast as two old friends who make a living going from town to town as enforcers, kind of "marshals for hire." Their arrival in the town of Appaloosa is met with relief; the chicken-hearted town fathers hire Ed and Viggo to give bossman Jeremy Irons the boot (or the bullet). Renee Zellweger arrives to throw a garter belt into the festivities and screw everything up. But I liked the movie anyway. Harris, as a director, knows exactly how to film a western. The film is gorgeous and consistently interesting.
6. IRON MAN During the first half of the year, it seemed that comic geeks were waiting anxiously for a certain bat-themed movie to have its premiere, so when Jon Favreau's glorious adaptation of the Marvel comic character Iron Man arrived in early May to steal some of the bat's comic geek thunder, it was something of a shock. In hindsight, we really should have seen it coming. Robert Downey Jr.'s career was on life support, but no more: I couldn't imagine anyone else playing Tony Stark with such conviction. He was that good. Favreau treated the source material with respect, but not to the point of slavishness; the story was updated for a new millennium, and it all worked. I can't wait to see what Downey and Favreau do with the sequel.
5. DOUBT Regretfully, I had missed the original stage version of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play when it was in residence at the Hippodrome last year. (I'm even more regretful now, knowing that Cherry Jones, the Tony-winning actress who brought her part to Baltimore, will be all over the new season of 24 as the first female president.) But I was drawn to the film by the cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and rising star Amy Adams. Watching Streep and Hoffman go toe-to-toe was to watch a master acting class in session. Streep plays the principal of a New York catholic school circa 1964, and Hoffman plays the parish's much-loved priest. Adams is worried that Hoffman might be a pedophile, but she has no proof -- just suspicions and some very flimsy circumstantial evidence. When she brings her fears to Streep, the stage is set for a confrontation like no other onscreen this year. It is to writer/director Shanley's credit that the ambiguity of the play has been kept intact; I couldn't imagine another film this year bringing on more arguments after watching it.
4. TROPIC THUNDER This was the funniest film of the year, no contest. It was also a comeback of sorts for Tom Cruise, a scathing satire of the movie biz, and a balls-out attack on the prima donna attitudes so common in Hollywood. I laughed a lot -- at Ben Stiller's thick-headed action hero, at Jack Black's usual comic anarchy, at Robert Downey's take on "playing black," and especially at Cruise's profane producer, pulling the strings of Stiller's Vietnam film-within-a-film from afar. The cast is packed with funny guys: Nick Nolte as the technical advisor who doesn't know as much as people think he does, Steve Grogan as the put-upon director (who exits the movie quickly and hilariously), and Danny McBride as the tech whiz who knows how to blow stuff up. This is a movie you have to watch from the very beginning to the very end -- nuff said.
3. U2 3D/SHINE A LIGHT Here's where I'm cheating a little, squeezing 11 films into a ten-film list, but I couldn't separate these two high-energy concert films. I saw the U2 film at the Maryland Science Center last winter, in IMAX and a new process called Real3D; I was immersed in the sights and sounds of a U2 concert, and at times I felt like I was truly in the middle of it. SHINE A LIGHT was Martin Scorsese's powerful documentary of the Rolling Stones' final concerts of their 2006 tour, filmed at New York's Beacon Theater. The U2 film sticks strictly to the concert and lets the IMAX and 3D effects provide the "wow." Scorsese intercuts his concert footage with some archival interviews of the Stones when they were much younger and a little more innocent. Both films breathe new life into a genre previously thought to be deader than the western.
2. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON I respect David Fincher as a director, although I still have a hard time trying to figure out FIGHT CLUB. His earlier films, especially SE7EN and ZODIAC, showed how skillful he is at illuminating obsessions onscreen. But nothing he had done before prepared me for the wonders of BENJAMIN BUTTON. The movie's epic feel is something alien (no pun intended, Undead) to Fincher's work, but he grounds his epic in a simple romance that spans decades. I think people will compare this film needlessly to FORREST GUMP, since both films were written by Eric Roth, and they both contain some striking similarities in tone and character. But Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are perfect in the lead roles, Pitt in the title role of a man who is born old, getting younger as the years pass, and Blanchett matching him as his star-crossed love. There is important CGI work here that showcases Pitt as he regresses in age, but it's not really overly showy -- it works. I enjoyed every minute of BENJAMIN BUTTON. It's the best film David Fincher has ever made.
1. THE DARK KNIGHT I thought long and hard last night about this film's place on the list in relation to BENJAMIN BUTTON. Twice before, I had felt certain that a particular film would take my no. 1 slot, only to be dethroned on the very last day of the year (MUNICH dethroned SIN CITY, and SWEENEY TODD did likewise to GRINDHOUSE.) Not this time, folks. THE DARK KNIGHT was the movie of the year for me, a peerless spectacle of action, acting, storyline, cinematography, music, and atmosphere. By now, everyone knows about the late Heath Ledger's bravura performance as the Joker, but let's not forget Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart -- the list goes on. It's not just the greatest comic book movie ever made -- it's simply the best overall film I've seen since THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It's due to be re-released in late January, around Oscar nominating season, and into IMAX theaters, to boot. I can't wait to see it again.

I can't let this year's top ten list pass without acknowledging the second best time I had at the movies in 2008 -- the night I introduced No. 1 Son to the pleasures of THE GODFATHER. We were lucky enough to see a newly-struck remastered print at the Senator, and it was one of the highlights of the year for me. For my son, too. Being a stickler for the rules, though, I decided to leave it off my list. I'm such a wuss.

HONORABLE MENTION There were a number of films that I really liked last year, but they just missed making the top ten. Special "Eleventh Place" awards go out to THE RUINS, KUNG FU PANDA, WANTED, HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, STEP BROTHERS, ROLE MODELS, and MARLEY AND ME.

THE BIG DISAPPOINTMENTS There were a few movies that I enjoyed on first look, but after thinking about it, it became clear what I enjoyed was the reputation -- the fun of seeing one of my past favorites brought back to the screen. In every case, I left feeling let down. The following films really left me feeling nostalgic for the old days: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, GET SMART, THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, SAW V, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and especially THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

THE "ALLIE" But those films mentioned in the previous paragraph still had craft. (Yes, even SAW V.) There was one film I saw last year that not only disappointed me for expecting so much more, it also was just plain bad. As in sloppy bad. Sloppy acting, sloppy story, sloppy editing, just plain dumb. I'm speaking, of course, of RIGHTEOUS KILL, the long-anticipated reunion of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. What an unmitigated piece of crapola. It's two hours of my life I wish I could have back.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why bother?

I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan, and have watched a variety of movies based on the Great Detective. Some are well done, and some are "WTH?". Oftimes I find ones where I wonder, "Why bother making it a Sherlock Holmes movie? It discards most of the source material, and you could name the detective Ormond Sacker and it would not matter one whit". I recently caught a SH movie called "Case of Evil". Ugh. Holmes is a womanizer(!), Moriarity is a drug dealer (cocaine) and Watson is the police medical examiner. It's like, the names are the same, but the story is totally unrelated to anything Holmesian.

Which leads me to ask, "Why bother?".

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rondo awards

A good friend Marty Gear sent this site to me. It is a Rondo Award time he said. I had no idea what that meant but as I looked over the ballot, I realized it is a ballot ripe for other ICSers.

I would like to suggest that for Category 18 - Best Horror Host of 2008 - you vote for my friends Gravely MacCabre and Grizelda. Friend Marty is part of their troupe so any votes are appreciated.

The ballot is one that I haven't heard of before, but would not be surprised to learn that many ICSers do know about it. Choose the best of Horror, Science fiction in all the formats - film, tv, magazine, books, conventions, even the best collectible figure. My vote is for "The Birds Barbie" seen to the right here. There is alot to view and choose from.
The list is worth looking at even if you don't vote, just for the choices and information that is there. However, if you want to vote, it is easy. Just copy the ballot, paste it into an email and make your selections. I made my selections by cutting out everything else in that catagory that I didn't want to vote for. It made it easier for me to keep track.

Nice and Loose

The blog site is pretty cool. No topics, no formats, just post your thoughts. All freeform.

Thanks for making it look good Bets.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Road trip, fanboy style!

Post # 2 Movie review from Betsy ------

Fanboys a movie for Star Wars fans. No Trekkies allowed!

I went to see Fanboys this afternoon and I give it a big thumbs up. As a Star Wars fan I was trepidious about viewing this movie. It had taken them longer then originally thought to get it out to on the screen.

The plot is fairly simple and touches most of us fans of any ICS genre movie.Fans so focused on the movie and characters that all else is pale. Fans must make a journey, cross many mountains and overcome difficulties to reach the end of the rainbow - Skywalker Ranch.

The movie had lots of little 'in' jokes that Star Wars fans got, many that non fans would get and even some that Star Trek fans might get. There was good comedy, some romance, just a small touch of drama and it all tied together well.

Without giving too much away, it's 1998 and the fanboys five are waiting for the newest Star Wars movie - coming out in just 6 months. It is revealed that one of their group is dying of cancer and as such they decide to storm the castle. Skywalker Ranch that is.

The producers filmed it, then the studio decided that the five minutes of quiet 'cancer' time when people weren't laughing, would be too much so they cut that out of the plot. Many of the actors and a lot of the fans said 'no.' A ruckus was raised because this changed the whole plot from being a noble cause of guys on a mission into just a bunch of guys causing mayhem. The studio finally decided to reinstate the plot line and it works.

Fun movie, but seriously, if you don't speak Wookie, wait to see it on netflix.