hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I did not expect that I would come out of it with the two most interesting characters being Hulk and Black Widow. Black Widow got a lot of action and important stuff to do, but for me the most interesting thing was that the character worked 1) *as a spy* and 2) as a person with believable human reactions. I think there were points where Johansson played it a little too remote, but I liked her performance quite well overall, and I was amazed at how much I liked the friendship between Black Widow and Hawkeye. (It really hit the Modesty-Blaise-and-Willie-Garvin button, which series I have only lately read all the way through and OH MY GOD is it ever awesome.)

And Hulk -- Mild spoilers. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Saw the nifty horror flick ORPHAN, and now it's on my list of potential Yuletide requests. Except I'd want a ludicrous sequel/crossover, with Esther teaming up with Oskar and Eli from LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (given their settings, of course, Oskar has grown up while Eli has not), and the whole evil team-up being targeted by Hit-Girl from KICK-ASS.

...look, I didn't say it'd make sense, I just said I'd like to *read* it.
hradzka: SF writer H. Beam Piper. (H. Beam Piper)
Acclaimed SF writer John Scalzi has written and will be publishing a remix/reboot of H. Beam Piper's acclaimed, beloved, Hugo-nominated SF novel LITTLE FUZZY. I am, as y'all know, JUST SLIGHTLY IN THE TANK for H. Beam Piper, and so roughly half the people I know dropped me a line about this and asked for my reaction.

My initial reaction to this news is visible at 2:37 (video).

I'm slightly calmer now. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (cassidy)
Watched BALL OF FIRE (1941), a movie interesting mainly because it serves as the first version of one of my favorite movies, A SONG IS BORN (1947). It's a really good flick, though A SONG IS BORN is better. The differences and similarities are a little weird. In both movies, a nightclub singer on the run from the cops hides out with a bunch of professors working on an encyclopedia, and a romantic plot ensues. But in A SONG IS BORN, the encyclopedia is one of music, and the professors are motivated to go out in the world when they discover they've missed the jazz revolution; in BALL OF FIRE, it's a regular encyclopedia, and their English professor is horrified to discover his entry on slang has been jossed by reality.

What's really interesting is that while A SONG IS BORN works from (obviously) a slightly modified script and has a different cast, it shares the same director (Howard Hawks), the same director of photography (Gregg Toland), and the same set decorator (Julia Heron). This means that a lot of the scenes don't just play out in very similar ways; they *look* very much the same; they were shot six years apart, but the professors' home looks so much like the same set that it's mind-blowing. Where there are differences, they're usually improvements -- you can tell that the filmmakers thought about what they'd done, kept what worked, and changed or fixed the stuff that bugged them, or they thought they could do better, or just needed minor adaptation. The only film experience I've had that came close is watching the Spanish-language version of DRACULA, which was filmed at the same time as the Browning-directed Bela Lugosi flick and used the same sets, shooting at night, when Browning's cast and crew were off work. That was weird -- same costumes, same sets, but in some cases radically different directing and acting choices. There was more unity on A SONG IS BORN/BALL OF FIRE, understandably, but it's an interesting thing to see.

Side note: a couple of cast members were in both flicks. Mary Field, often typecast in spinster or nosy roles, played the spinster Miss Totten in both films. And Will Lee played "Benny the Creep" in BALL OF FIRE, and appeared uncredited as a nightclub waiter in A SONG IS BORN. He, of course, went on to greater things (video).
hradzka: (catwoman and holly)
HEY GUYS! Did I forget to tell you that there is a Japanese musical revue of CASABLANCA with an all-female cast?

What? I did? Stupid me.

You must remember this...

Gorgeous Japanese women. Singing. Mostly in male drag. Some with moustaches. (One, dear God, in more or less blackface, because she's playing Sam and Japan is another planet.) Cigarettes and bottles of booze and really nice suits. You know which one is Victor Laszlo because she has a huge scar over one eye. Minimalist sets so there is little or nothing to distract you from the insanely hot Japanese women wearing men's suits and getting their Bogart and Rains on. Several of you are already ignoring me and have clicked on the cut because you are wondering if the reason I know all this is that I have seen a trailer and have thoughtfully embedded it for you.

The answer to your question is, Oh, my, yes. )

Is it available on DVD? Yes, it is. Do I own it? I do not. Are there English subtitles? I doubt it. Is it compatible with your DVD player? Probably not. Are you ordering it anyway? Yes, you are.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
Folks on my flist are really interested in diversity activism (see the recent fan-casting of Ken Watanabe as Magneto and Andre Braugher as Professor X), so I figured you guys might be interested in the trailer for PUMZI, a Kenyan science fiction flick that's playing at Sundance.

If nothing else, it's beautiful. )

A lot of films have done similar stuff before, so I don't expect PUMZI to be wildly innovative as science fiction -- WALL-E, in particular, covered similar ground most recently, and the "anti-dream medication" gimmick is as subtle as a sledgehammer (and can be boring, as it was in EQUILIBRIUM, a dull flick wholly redeemed by its awesome gunfights) -- but it's got an very cool feel to it, and based on the trailer it's well-executed and gorgeously shot. The costuming, in particular, combines an African vibe with echoes of THX-1138, and the production design is very nice. I think it's produced by one of the guys who produced the short film that served as the basis for DISTRICT 9, so maybe they'll put a few new bells and whistles on somewhere.

I have to confess, though, that right after "Huh!" and "Pretty!" and "Looks interesting," my reaction was *"Holy cow, will this ever hit my flist's ticky-boxes."* 1) Female protagonist! 2) Of color! 3) Who gets dismissed by authority and goes forth on her own quest! So I'm posting it here for y'all.

I don't know if PUMZI combined with DISTRICT 9 means that we're going to be seeing a wave of African SF, but it would be cool to see African filmmakers get some spotlight time.

ETA: [personal profile] rydra_wong found a WIRED article about writer/director Wanuri Kahiu and her film. Lots of interesting stuff; movies shoot in Kenya all the time, so it has experienced crews, but its indigenous film industry is kind of in a position like Australia back in the day. Except sort of mirror-image, because while Australia had internal distribution but no moviemakers they do have moviemakers but no distribution system whatsoever. Kahiu picked up some grants from various organizations, including Focus Features, which is how she met ALIVE IN JOBURG's Simon Hansen. They provided advice and funding and left her alone to make the movie, because she's an experienced filmmaker who knows what she's doing -- her feature FROM A WHISPER won five African Academy Movie Awards. She hopes to get backing to expand PUMZI, which is a short, to feature length.

Here's another pic, which gives you an idea of the aesthetic. )
hradzka: (pointy teeth)
There are two movies currently playing that try to create a real and believable alien world. One of them succeeds remarkably well, not only providing a physical but a cultural deviation from the world we know wherein the movie's scenario consists of an intriguing story told incorporating believable extrapolation from a fantastic premise, with the result that the story and the main characters, while removed from our everyday experience, are believable and grounded.

And then there's AVATAR.

The flick I'm hyping is DAYBREAKERS. )
hradzka: (doc savage)

I'm in the rarity: I didn't much like it. Jude Law was a great Watson, and Downey was quite good as Sherlock Holmes (in particular, he nailed the way Holmes goes into a dreamy state making his deductions, which pleased me no end because no other adaptation has really done much with that, which is one of my favorite Holmes tics), but the case wasn't worthy of the characters and I wasn't wild about Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. The sets were too huge, too sprawling, too lush; they didn't work to draw me into the story (as did AVATAR's CGstravaganza), but pushed me out of it (as did PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN III's final swordfight, during a ship battle, inside a giant whirlpool) -- the story wasn't gripping enough, so it felt like the money was being spent in an effort to make up for it.

It was just... meh. I get the feeling that I'd have liked it if I were a slasher, because pretty much every scene had Holmes and Watson exchanging innuendoes, but while in recent years I am increasingly inclined to wonder if Doyle were hinting at Holmes being secretly gay and drawn to an oblivious Watson, I don't share the "It's Better If They're Fucking" worldview. I think the characters are awesome! I am there to watch them being awesome! This was... just okay.

I did really like the little filmmaking tricks to show Holmes's process of thought, and the going back to show what was going on in previous scenes, and Holmes's first pursuit of Irene Adler was *great.* But it was all too uneven for me, and even the heights failed to rise to what I'd hoped for.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)

FROM: David Hines
TO: the interstellar corporation from AVATAR
RE: your stupidity

Hey, guys --

Lemme see if I've got this straight. (VERY VERY MILD AVATAR SPOILERS -- basically trailer stuff )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is a hell of an interesting movie. It's definitely a major evolution for Disney animation, and not just because the main character, Tiana, is Disney's first black princess. There are several points where you will find yourself thinking, "Huh, that's really not what I expected out of a Disney movie." There are some bits and characters that don't quite work, and others that are really glorious; it looks absolutely beautiful, and it has a feeling of experimentation that is nice to see, if it's not always successful. Disney is playing with its format and trying to do some new stuff, and that's always interesting to watch.

Some things I found especially striking -- cut for length, not spoilers: )
hradzka: (cameron undone)
I recently watched A BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, which is a pretty nifty movie. It falls into a class of films that I don't think has ever been described as a genre: "a guy comes to town and finds a mystery." THE THIRD MAN is another classic example. The nice thing about the genre is that it's not as limiting as (say) the DIE HARD imitators; DIE HARD is a perfect movie, but UNDER SIEGE and PASSENGER 57 and all these other flicks don't depart very much from the DIE HARD formula. Whereas in "a guy comes to town and finds a mystery," the nature of the mystery and the town's reaction to his investigating it can vary considerably.

One thing that was really interesting about the movie is a bit that comes out of nowhere, but is absolute genius: in a climactic scene, Spencer Tracy does a glorious MacGyver bit to save his bacon. It put me in mind of Geoffrey Household's novel ROGUE MALE, which is not a famous blockbuster movie for reasons that escape me (it's been filmed twice, once by Fritz Lang and once for TV with Peter O'Toole; have to look for those). ROGUE MALE is about a prominent Englishman on a hunting trip who, on a whim, just to see if it can be done, tries to aim his rifle at a dictator who is not explicitly stated to be Adolf Hitler. (Household tips his hand very little; he does everything he can to make you think it could just as easily be Stalin.) Caught by the secret police, he is tortured and dumped in an attempt to make his death look accidental, because they don't want an international incident, and the hero is prominent enough that Questions Would Be Asked. But the hero survives and goes on the run, with the bad guys chasing him. It is, I think, the greatest fugitive thriller of all time; the tension never lets up. And there is one part where the hero, in a tight spot, does a completely amazing and horrifyingly brilliant MacGyverism that I wouldn't dream of spoiling for you but will make you go, "Fuck yeah!"

Got me thinking: what are some other works with great MacGyverisms? Not MacGyver's own, I mean.
hradzka: (snoop)
THE MALTESE FALCON is one of my favorite books (though not, I think, my favorite Hammet; that'd be RED HARVEST, which I *really* want to see filmed with period setting but cast black so Don Cheadle can play the Continental Op), but only today did I get around to watching the film. That's the classic version, with Bogard and Astor and Lorre and Greenstreet -- Hollywood had filmed it several times before, but they quit after they got it right. There's a lesson in that.

(Side note: I don't know *how* I'd forgotten that the screenplay and direction were by John Huston. It gives remarkable reverberance to Polanski and Towne's CHINATOWN, because when Jack Nicholson's private eye Jake Gittes is sitting across a table grilling Huston's character, he's *grilling the guy who adapted and directed THE MALTESE FALCON.*)

Anyway, the thing that struck me, watching the film, is that the character I wound up feeling the most for was not in a million years the character I'd expected to.

Spoilers for a story originally written in 1929. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I didn't know it going in, but coming out I'm not surprised to learn that JMS had a hand in writing NINJA ASSASSIN -- the combined love of backstory and the speechifying should have given it away. The flick is fun in parts, but it suffers from an awkward screenplay, dull cinematography, and often very poor direction. Nor is the cast all that great; bad guy Sho Kusugi is always great to see, but Naomie Harris, who plays the female lead, is likeable but doesn't do anything interesting with her part, and Rain, who plays the male lead (an eponymous ninja who, curiously, is also an assassin), is just okay. There are some cool bits using visual effects to make ninjas literally dissolve into and out of shadows, but director James McTeigue overplays it; when it works, you think, "Holy crap, was somebody there the whole time and I just missed him?" When it doesn't, it looks like a bad visual effect. McTeigue also does badly with the action scenes, which are after all a good chunk of the point of a flick called NINJA ASSASSIN; there are some moments and even scenes (ninja fight in traffic! ninja fight in traffic!) that work wonderfully, but for the most part these aren't effective in whole sequences, but in the rare individual shots in which McTeigue 1) pulls the camera back to let you see what's happening, and 2) holds the shot through enough action that a sense of excitement builds. A lot of the time it's cut-cut-cut-cut-cut, to the point that I felt bad for the talented stunt team and for Rain, who reportedly trained an insane amount to do martial arts that the audience doesn't get a good chance to see.

The film also suffers badly from the lack of a clear viewpoint character and reasons for characters to do stuff, and also for the fact that it takes forty-five minutes before anything fucking happens. Examples below the cut for spoilers. )
hradzka: (savannah and catherine)
Caught Miyazaki's PONYO last night. It has a slower start than you'd expect -- it's much slower to get going than PRINCESS MONONOKE or SPIRITED AWAY -- but when it gets going it just keeps going from one wonder to the next.

Miyazaki's writing is absolutely fascinating to me, not just because he's brilliant but because he couldn't be any more the antithesis of the kind of writer I am. I'm a structure freak, and I'm big on construction and rhythm. So when I watch movies or TV shows or read stories, I usually see the writer's process at work. I see what the story is doing, where it's going, and what tricks the writer is using to get it there. I learn stuff, too -- "Oh, neat! I can use that!" I absolutely cannot do that with Miyazaki. Watching PONYO, I had no idea where it was going or what he was going to do next.

Writing about children is a difficult thing, and writers who try it fall into one of two groups. (very mild spoilers) )
hradzka: (spidey and mj)
My Twitter review of GI JOE was, "Every time you think GI JOE cannot get any more gloriously stupid and ridiculous, you are quickly proven wrong. Note: not a bad thing."

It's not my GI JOE, but it's a perfectly enjoyable Big Dumb Stupid Movie. The internationalization of the team wasn't handled badly, and while I've found Marlon Wayans really annoying in the past I found him surprisingly likeable as Rip-Cord. The only thing I found a little sad was that the obligatory love stories had Rip-Cord pairing up with Scarlett and the Baroness with Duke; like any good GI JOE fan raised on the Hamaverse, my bulletproof OTPs are Scarlett/Snake-Eyes and Destro/Baroness. So I kept seeing these little Snake-Eyes/Scarlett moments: aww, in the plane he totally put his hand on her shoulder! And they put their arms around each other while getting out of the underwater base!

Is this what it's like to be a slash fan?

Anyway, now I kind of want the fic where my OTPs are all retired and wind up running into each other during family holidays. Scarlett and Snakes' son meets Destro and the Baroness's daughter on a train and they get a flirtation going and then they find out about each others' parents, which is an intriguing surprise to the girl as her parents just never got around to mentioning that whole "international terrorism" period to her. And because their kids get along and they're all at the same resort or whatever the parents keep running into each other and have to make nice, and then fight crime.

Also, I want the parents making awkward conversation over tea while tiptoeing carefully around the fact that Scarlett uses a cane now and suffers from aphasia and chronic pain because, oh yeah, THE BARONESS SHOT HER IN THE HEAD.

(I figure that S&S's kid goes by "Terry O'Hara." He uses Scarlett's real last name because his father *refuses* to use his own real name any more, feels it's cursed, and he's not going to pass it on to a kid if he has anything to say about it. Inasmuch as Snakes says anything. Scarlett responded to this by naming the boy after Snake-Eyes's late twin sister. I AM SUCH A FANGIRL.)
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
So Hollywood is remaking everything these days, and as you'd expect they're only remaking the good movies (like ROBOCOP) rather than the movies that should have been better (like ROBOCOP 2). One wishes they'd take a cue from history: THE MALTESE FALCON was remade several times, and when Hollywood got it right they stopped. But they're at it again. There's only one good thing about the fact that Hollywood is remaking THE STEPFATHER, and that is that the original is finally being released in the US on DVD.

For those who don't know it: THE STEPFATHER is a masterpiece of a thriller. Jill Shoelen plays a a teenaged girl who has an uneasy relationship with her stepfather. What she doesn't know, but the audience does, is that she has every right to be uneasy. Because in the first scene, we saw Terry O'Quinn get washed up, dress, and walk out the door right past the murdered bodies of the family he just hacked to pieces. O'Quinn is a serial killer who is fixated on family. He finds a family, becomes part of it, lives there until something upsets his balance, and then he slaughters everyone and starts over. Wonderfully nightmarish premise, and the screenplay is by none other than grand master Donald E. Westlake, so you know it's note-perfect.

The remake has made two major errors. First, they changed the sex of the kid. Instead of a teenage daughter, it's a teenage son. And his hot girlfriend, because of course for the young roles they cast pretty plastic people. This immediately poses a problem. The original, like many horror films, was rooted in the hero's social and physical vulnerability. It absolutely depends on power imbalance. (This is one reason that hero-protagonists of horror movies are so often small women facing male threats.) If you want a male protagonist in a power-imbalance story that involves a physical threat, you have to stress his vulnerability; he has to be an unassuming, unthreatening, even meek figure. You want somebody like DJ Qualls. But they cast Pretty Plastic Boy, and that ruins the dynamic right there. Jill Schoelen runs from Terry O'Quinn; Pretty Plastic Boy looks like he can kick Dylan Walsh's ass.

That's the second error: they cast Dylan Walsh as the bad guy. Yeah, NIP/TUCK's Dylan Walsh. In the role originated by Terry O'Quinn. Let's be clear: O'Quinn is a magnificent actor. His face is marvelously expressive. He can go from warm and friendly to terrifying in an instant, and back; he can use his features to terrific effect, or keep his face neutral and play it through the eyes.

Dylan Walsh's face, by contrast, pretty much has only one expression, and this is it.

He's a puddin' face. You can't be scared of a puddin' face.

If I were you, I'd avoid the remake of THE STEPFATHER. Don't even watch the trailer, because the morons blow one of the eeriest, most magnificent moments in the film -- not that it plays that way, of course, because it's Dylan Walsh, but. Wait for the DVD of the Terry O'Quinn/Jill Shoelen version to come out, and watch that.
hradzka: (mel gibson)
Gratuitous icon post! A SOUTH PARK quote from their "Imaginationland" episode. And, um, Mel Gibson being crazy. He's a paranoid, bipolar, Jew-hating loon, but by God is he a brilliant filmmaker. I watched APOCALYPTO again last week; like BRAVEHEART, you do not look to it for anything vaguely approaching historical accuracy, but it's a truly magnificent action flick, with gorgeous cinematography and performances.

(Gibson and his co-screenwriter have a commentary on the movie which isn't great, but has some interesting features; Gibson points out local villagers who were cast in various small roles, and mentions their occupations.)

Looking back, the LETHAL WEAPON movies are a remarkable exercise in scene chemistry. Some actors just work off each other amazingly well for some reason. Gibson and Danny Glover are a case in point. I have no idea what their interaction is like in real life, but you couldn't find guys more opposite if you tried. Gibson's an extremely religious paleoconservative who's in church when he's not falling out of rehab or cheating on his (soon to be ex-)wife with everyone from Russian models to whores of every description, while Danny Glover is pretty much a communist who's never met a leftist dictator he didn't cuddle up to.

I kind of want to see them have an argument a conversation about acting and filmmaking, actually.
hradzka: (cameron screw you)
I felt like catching a movie yesterday afternoon. The new STAR TREK, which has eaten fandom alive, did not set me afire (in part, I think, because I'm developing a serious allergy to young'n'pretty), but I was pondering seeing it again, just to see if there was something I missed.

Then I said, "Nah," and went to see TERMINATOR SALVATION.

This was an error in judgment.

Cut for spoilers. )
hradzka: (cameron screw you)
The new STAR TREK flick was okay, but it didn't send me.


(Best performance: Karl Urban as McCoy.)
hradzka: (han)
[personal profile] liviapenn is fangirling MIAMI VICE of late, which made me think about other properties that would have had big-ass fandoms if, you know, modern online media fandom had been around then.

You know what *totally* missed out on having a huge fandom? LETHAL WEAPON.

Here is how little fic there is: the Pit of Voles has featured a grand total of sixteen LETHAL WEAPON fics in the last *eight years.* And that's remarkable, because it is basically fancandy. Guys love it for the buddy stuff and the action, but there is angst galore in Riggs and there are tons of scenes with the guys expressing their love for one another. Like the bit in LETHAL WEAPON 2 where drug-running South African diplomats put a bomb on Murtaugh's toilet, and he sits there all night so his legs go numb and he won't be able to jump into the bathtub and pull the protective stuff down over him, so Riggs has to stay and help him, and all the bomb squad guys go out and it's just them and they have a bonding session and then Riggs pulls him into the bathtub and they basically hug as the toilet explodes, and honestly, doesn't that sound like fanfic already? And then there's the bit in LETHAL WEAPON 3 where Murtaugh is drunk and Riggs is begging him not to retire because what will Riggs do if Roger Murtaugh isn't there any more, because Riggs is in Murtaugh's *life,* he's so incompetent at housekeeping that Murtaugh's wife Trish has basically adopted him and does his laundry and finds stuff when he loses it, and Riggs is basically in tears.

(There would be Murtaugh/Riggs slash out the wazoo, but I would really love to see Trish genfic. There's a great Trish/Riggs scene in LETHAL WEAPON 2, where she's found a gold pen he lost in the laundry, and the pen is significant to him because it's closely tied to the night his wife was killed in a car crash.)

In case you haven't noticed, I freakin' love the LETHAL WEAPON movies.

It'd be a great Yuletide fandom, actually. And -- *checks yuletide archive* -- it has never been one! Hmm. I'm going to put the Yuletide tag on this, so when the time rolls around I can check and see what fandoms I thought might be good.


hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)

November 2014



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The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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