In a deleted scene of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Faramir (played by David Wenham) looks at a dead Easterling (Eastern mercenaries hired by the villain Sauron) and muses to a fellow warrior, “The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours. Do you wonder what his name is? Where he came from? If he was really evil at heart? What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, if he would not rather have stayed there, in peace?”

In 300, David Wenham plays a badass Spartan who suffers from no such crises of conscience. In the world of 300, the only good Easterner is a dead Easterner.

300 can be best described as a mixture of Braveheart and Gladiator. The essence of 300 seems to be contained in a statement by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler): “The world will know that few stood against many.” And that’s pretty much the long and short of it—a small number of troops fights a larger number of troops. Curtain.

Gears of War

Like many gamers, I first encountered the first-person shooter genre with Doom. As an adolescent who grew up playing Predator in the backyard, I was immediately mesmerized by its blend of science fiction, monsters, and blowing the crap out of stuff with badass weaponry.

I followed up Doom with many of the other great FPS games?Quake, Quake II, and Star Wars: Dark Forces. And of course, the big shooter during my college years was Goldeneye, and my roommate and I played a lot of Perfect Dark.

A skirmish between security and the paparazzi at TomKat’s wedding.


Veronica Mars – “Spit and Eggs”

I’m only about a week behind on this, but the first story arc of the third season of Veronica Mars wrapped up last week, ending the story of the Hearst College rapist in a twist was a bit too much like Scream.

For those who have never heard of Veronica Mars, it’s probably my favorite show on television right now (yes, even more than Battlestar Galactica, which is a better show but not quite as fun). The show stars Kristen Bell as the eponymous hero, who in the first season of the show is a junior in college attempting to solve the murder of her best friend while dealing with her new status as a social outcast among the rich jerks of her southern California high school. Her gumshoe tendencies come from her private investigator father, Keith, played to perfection by Enrico Colantoni (Elliot the photographer from Just Shoot Me).

It’s now the third season and Veronica is a freshman at the fictional Hearst College, meaning we’ve got a at least four seasons before Veronica Mars becomes just another show about a private investigator. The writers have taken the intriguing approach of skipping one major story arc in favour of three smaller arcs over the course of the season. I suspect this was at least partially to make the show more accessible to new viewers, with three separate jumping-on points at the beginning of each arc. The show’s on break right now and returns in January, so if you’re one of those people who’s able to watch a show without going back and watching the earlier seasons on DVD (sadly, I’m not), then this would be a great time to hop on the Veronica bandwagon.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

So I finally watched Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. It was interesting to watch Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead after having recently watched all of Romero’s films, as well as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…. I enjoyed the latter, though I admit it didn’t really feel like a zombie film, and the same could be said for Dawn of the Dead ’04. Other than the fact that the “Infected” of 28 Days Later… can be killed like any human while the zombies of Dawn have to have their brain destroyed, there’s hardly any difference between the portrayal of the monsters—they’re fast-moving, violent, cannibalistic savages.

Spaced Invaders

Ah, good. After my brief bout of insanity reviewing a good movie yesterday, I’ll return to reviewing films most people haven’t heard of.

Today’s gem is the 1990 children’s flick Spaced Invaders. I haven’t the foggiest notion when I first saw this—it might have been at the theater, but I think it was probably on HBO or something, since I distinctly remember my father cracking up while watching it at home. The film is a comedy about five Martians who accidentally crash-land in a small town on Halloween night. Chaos—and hilarity!—ensues.

Captain Bipto

The aliens, led by the Napoleonic Captain Bipto, include the mad scientist Dr. Ziplock (har har), the Jack Nicholson imitator Blaznee, the hyperactive Giggywig, and Pez, whom I don’t remember anything about. The Martians crashed after overhearing a broadcast of Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio show and thinking the Martian fleet was attacking Earth.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

For the most part, I prefer to review films that aren’t necessarily considered classics (by any stretch of the imagination). Some are “cult” classics, a la Evil Dead II, but few of them would be deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress. There are a few reasons I tend to avoid reviewing “good” films, but the main one is that I just don’t feel qualified. I don’t have a film degree; I really haven’t even seen all that many movies. I only recently saw The Godfather for the first time. I’ve never seen a John Wayne movie, and so forth. I do believe there should be some modicum of respectability to the profession of critiquing works of art.

Dude, grunge is so fifteen years ago.

On the other hand, there’s a difference between analyzing the themes of a film for an art journal and assessing how entertaining it is for a general audience, and on that level, I feel I can make a few comments about Dawn of the Dead. Of course, Dawn of the Dead is not exactly Citizen Kane or Requiem for a Dream, but it still has a better critical reputation than most of the stuff I review on the site. So think of this less as a “review,” and more just general ruminations on a topic.

The Monster Squad

I can’t recall whether I saw The Monster Squad (1987) in the theater, but something makes me think I did. Even as a kid I thought of it then as a sort of store brand Goonies, albeit a very fun, entertaining, and surprisingly violent one. Except for the infamous “Wolf Man’s got nards” line, I more or less forgot about the film until I saw it in 2004 while visiting a friend (thanks, Scott—always the classy host!).

That Gillman suit rocks.

The Monster Squad is basically a kid’s horror film featuring what are traditionally thought of as the Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Gillman (a.k.a. the Creature from the Black Lagoon). However, unlike other monster mashes like the recent Van Helsing, The Monster Squad wasn’t a Universal film; Universal only owns the trademarks to the character names (meaning you can’t call your movie just “Dracula”). In the case of Dracula and the Monster, the novels are long out of copyright; while the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Gillman are just generic monsters (though I do think they’re on shaky ground with the Gillman, given how much he resembles the Black Lagoon creature).

Evil Dead: Regeneration

As I’ve discussed before, I became a fan of the Evil Dead films around age fifteen, when the films were so obscure, my parents had to buy used tapes from a Canadian video store to get me the films for Christmas. By the time I got to college, the films had already gone from cult to legendary status, and by the time I’d graduated from college, there were not only a half-dozen different special DVD editions of the three films, but action figures, comics, and a video game.

Anyone seen my sleeve?

To be fair, there was actually a video game even before Evil Dead II; there was a 1984 Evil Dead game made for the Commodore 64. But the first post-ED boom game was Evil Dead: Hail to the King, released for the Playstation in 2000. It was a survival horror game a la Resident Evil, which probably wasn’t the best genre for a game based on Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness. The game tanked, despite a decent ad campaign featuring Evil Dead star Bruce “Ash” Campbell. The next attempt, for the Playstation2 and Xbox in 2003, was a rip-off of the game State of Emergency, and the game was little more than running around killing monsters.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

From the 1930s through the 1950s, Universal Studios had a run of horror film hits featuring what we now think of as the classic Universal Monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. As immensely popular as these films were (and still are), Universal has yet to really try and capitalize on them via remakes. Sure, there’s The Mummy, which wasn’t bad (though The Mummy Returns was); and then there was the travesty that was Van Helsing. But if we can get an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink remake of King Kong, why not Frankenstein or Dracula?

Michael Douglas in a rare shower scene.

You might point to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Bram Stoker’s Dracula in answer. Neither of these films was released by Universal, who own the trademark on the titles (for film purposes) but not, obviously, the copyright to the stories. The reason the author’s names were added to the titles of those films was to differentiate them from the Universal trademarks. More importantly, the plots of the Universal films are modified (often significantly) from the storylines of the novels. The Bride of Frankenstein is quite different from Shelley’s novel, yet it’s a classic in its own right.

Deep Rising

NOTE: Again, this was one of the first reviews I wrote for this thing, and I forgot to get screencaps. Please forgive me.

About two-thirds of the way through Deep Rising, I turned to DG and, referring to the role of protagonist Treat Williams, said, “I think Kurt Russell would have been good in this.” In fact, the role seemed so much like Russell’s roles in movies like The Thing, Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China that I went looking on the Web to see whether Russell had been offered the role and if John Carpenter had ever been attached to direct. I found no evidence for either theory, though apparently Harrison Ford was offered the Williams role (and presumably said, “Wait, is this a rip-off of Aliens or Speed 2? Either way, not interested”). The film was directed by Stephen Sommers, who handled the enjoyable Mummy, the slightly less enjoyable Mummy Returns, and the not-so-enjoyable Van Helsing.

A stupid CGI monster-thing. Evs.


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