We're a geek culture podcast and blog covering video games, music, food and more. We are the kinds of people who evangelize whatever we are into - it could be anything - but it's usually pretty geeky. We're casual, conversational, NSFW and hopefully interesting. We hope you enjoy it.
Last night, Jinny and I were able to check out an early screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which if you pay attention to the podcast at all, you'd know we've been obsessing over for the last year or so. No worries if you haven't seen it yet, I'll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Hype
It took me a little while to get into the Scott Pilgrim books. I was aware of them, but was turned off by the manga style. Or what I thought was manga style. Eventually my friend Wynn wore me down by explaining that I was Scott Pilgrim. I read the first book and was hooked not only by the video game and music references, but by the interactions between the characters. Brian Lee O'Malley was able to capture how people really talk to each other, and I always appreciate that when it comes to comic books. I enjoyed the world he created, full of magical realism and intense action sequences. It was a world I felt instantly familiar with.
When I heard there was going to be a movie made, I was cautiously optimistic. The cast looked decent (Kieran Culkin as Wallace felt especially apt, Jason Schwartzman as Gideon was spot-on and I have no hate for Michael Cera like most people seem to) and Edgar Wright is a director I trust. More news came out about the movie, including artists attached to the soundtrack. O'Malley listened to a lot of indie rock while creating the books and peppered references to music all throughout, so it made sense that people like Bec, Broken Social Scene and Nigel Godrich were involved.
The final book of the series was released and kind of felt lackluster to me. It felt like O'Malley was tired of the franchise and just wanted it to end, and while I was relatively satisfied it kind of felt hollow.
It's the hype that kills things. It's expectation that will lead to your disappointment in things 90% of the time. That's the problem with geek culture today, we expect everything to be mindblowingly awesome. Which is sometimes ok! You should expect quality from the things you consume, but you should also set your expectations. We have this incredibly robust vetting process for determining what deserves our attention, and hype is a big part of that. But I think the hype surrounding the Scott Pilgrim movie left me a little flat.
Here's the thing: no movie based on a book will ever, ever live up to your expectations. If you're an avid book reader (comic books and otherwise) you know that imagination is an incredibly important part of the reading process. We fill in the blanks between panels (for more on this specific topic, I recommend reading Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics) and have our own ideas of inflection and character voices cemented in our heads. No movie can ever expect to live up to the book you've personalized in your own brain. There are always going to be parts left out, or jokes that you feel should have been done better or emphasized differently. The best a movie based on a book can do is augment your initial book experience in a sensory fashion.
If I were to critique the movie on the merits of living up to the book, I'd say they did a great job. It was a fantastic adaptation. Was it a good movie? Sure. Was it the best movie of all time? Definitely no.
Scott Pilgrim vs. Comedic Timing
One of the main issues I had with the film was the pacing. Edgar Wright did a bangup job on the action sequences, making them kinetic, frantic, and incredibly similar to the atmosphere the comic books created. The fight scenes were a visual treat, like nothing I've ever seen before. The other parts of the film that used comic tropes such as onomatopoeia felt forced. Like they had to incorporate this stuff because, well, it's a comic book movie.
Punchlines and jokes in comic books are processed differently than jokes in movies, as well. Scott Pilgrim the movie was able to replicate a few of the better visual gags, as well as some of the text-based gags (such as the little labels that appear next to characters giving their names, ages and a short sample of their personality) but many of the subtler jokes get bowled over. When you're reading a comic book and you get to a punchline or a visual gag, you're able to soak in the frame. You can sit there and contemplate the joke for an eternity if you'd like. The pacing of the book sets these kinds of jokes up very very well. There is no concept of "blink and you'll miss it" in comics. In the movie, these jokes are not only delivered flatly, they're bowled over by the transition to the next scene. There's literally no way for these jokes to work properly on screen. That said, it was a valiant effort.
The comedic timing of these jokes was off, as well. The comic uses a lot of hyperbolic dialog and reactions to illustrate emotion in an exaggerated fashion. You don't really need to do this in a movie, because you're able to convey emotion a little easier. Scott Pilgrim the movie keeps these hyperbolic reactions, which feels like overacting to me. The entire time I felt like I was watching a high school stage performance of Scott Pilgrim. That's not to say the acting was bad, but the dialog felt stifled at times, and there were strange silent moments that felt forced.
Scott Pilgrim vs. Nostalgia
This is the first real movie meant for people of our generation. We get the references, and they never play coy with them. The references are all right there, down to literally using music and sound effects from Zelda games. It is intimately familiar, and for that it is unique. But for something so lovingly crafted, I felt like I needed more meaning. More emotion. The books were full of emotion. I genuinely related to Scott and felt for him as he pined for Ramona. There was very little of that chemistry in the movie. It was busy being flashy, which is understandable I suppose. The action scenes were set up wonderfully and really felt like a video game. But for all the flash, I miss the emotion.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The Comic Book Ending
The movie was written and filmed before the last book in the series came out. O'Malley was a consultant for the movie and did provide them with some direction on how the story wraps up, but the ending to the movie is completely different than the books. Which was better? It's hard to say. I can honestly say that I didn't feel enthusiastic about either ending. It ended. I am not sure how it could have ended better. The movie also changed a major reveal in the last book which I believe really could have been incorporated, and the movie would have been better for it.
Would I see it again? Probably. Would I recommend it to friends? Not as enthusiastically as I hoped to be able to recommend it. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a completely decent movie with some incredible visuals. As a companion to the book series, it does it justice. As a movie on it's own? It's a strange thing indeed.
Chroma Key (or Green Screen) is one of the most popularly known compositing techniques in our film-literate society. The concept is simple: put a pure-color in places where you want to be transparent later on. It sounds simple in theory, but can be very complex in practice. Fear not though, for it is not out of reach of the average geek! I'll show you how it's done.
There will be no spoilers in this article. It's the very core of geekery. It's the glue that holds our universe together. It's canon, and it is quite an important part of the myriad mythos we love and cherish. The way a mythos' timeline fits together, the relationships between characters, the locations they are able to explore, everything that makes a world feel fleshed-out and real lies in canon. It's also one of the things that drives us geeks mad, especially when an "official" source seems to get it wrong. But should canon really even matter to you?
For writers on a series or a movie based on a beloved franchise like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Star Trek, the franchise bible is quite important. It facilitates the writing process, helping you remain in the world you set out to tell a story in. For the end-user (reader, viewer, listener, whatever) it is what makes the world feel real. While all fiction requires you suspend disbelief to some extent, canon is the thing we can always go back to and point a finger to when something doesn't seem to make sense. If a story breaks its own rules, it feels disingenuine - like the author maybe isn't taking it as seriously as you want them to.
But then... what about Star Trek canon? The new movie is a reboot of the franchise. All new actors playing old characters meant to refresh the canon. Yet, it's also the first time in Star Trek history where I haven't heard much discussion about where this new bit fits into the canon. Perhaps that's not all bad. This weekend I was checking out the wiki page dealing with Star Trek canon and found this little nugget:
See, people can easily catch us, and say "well, wait a minute, in 'Balance of Terror', they knew that the Romulans had a cloaking device, and then in 'The Enterprise Incident', they don't know anything about cloaking devices, but they're gonna steal this one because it's obviously just been developed, so how the hell do you explain that?" We can't. There are some things we just can't explain, especially when it comes from the third season. So, yes, third season is canon up to the point of contradiction, or where it's just so bad... you know, we kind of cringe when people ask us, "well, what happened in 'Plato's Stepchildren', and 'And the Children Shall Lead', and 'Spock's Brain', and so on -- it's like, please, he wasn't even producing it at that point. But, generally, [canon is] the original series, not really the animated, the first movie to a certain extent, the rest of the films in certain aspects but not in all... I know that it's very difficult to understand. It literally is point by point. I sometimes do not know how he's going to answer a question when I go into his office, I really do not always know, and -- and I know it better probably than anybody, what it is that Gene likes and doesn't like.-- Richard Arnold, 1991
Another thing that makes canon a little confusing. Gene R. himself had a habit of decanonizing things. He didn't like the way the animated series turned out, so he proclaimed that it was not canon. He also didn't like a lot of the movies. So he didn't much consider them canon either. And - okay, I'm really going to scare you with this one - after he got TNG going, he... well... he sort of decided that some of The Original Series wasn't canon either. I had a discussion with him once, where I cited a couple things that were very clearly canon in The Original Series, and he told me he didn't think that way anymore, and that he now thought of TNG as canon wherever there was conflict between the two. He admitted it was revisionist thinking, but so be it.-- Paula Block, 2005
Star Trek's revisionist history dates back to the creator himself, who repeatedly threw things out, brought new things back in, and denounced his own creations as "non-canon". So what's the big deal? Are you annoyed when a series breaks its own canon? Or do you just suspend your disbelief a little while longer?
Ross, Ryan, Jinny and Chris come together this week to talk about all the junk they've been geeking out about. We've got GDC news and announcements, news about new Katamari games, Fable DLC and the return of The Phantom, Modern Warfare 2's trailer's effect on the developers versus the commenters, the ridiculous bullshit of OnLive Where the Wild Things Are's stunning trailer (no matter what Ross says), how to make home made corn dogs and mailbag. Yep. That's right. Corn dogs. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes!
These days the concept of a "hand-drawn" animation is quite alien. Even shows that still animate on paper eventually send everything into a computer program to be inked, colored, or composited. But there was a time when cartoons were inked, colored and composited painstakingly by hand.
As you may or may not know, I am a film student. Film is a very time-consuming, very difficult process. Even major studios take years and hire hundreds of people to make a simple two-hour movie everybody hates. Learning about it is even more daunting, and Dr. Helmig is competing for freetime I just don't have anymore.
But I'm not ending it. No! Instead I'm expanding what I do here at the Weekly Geek. The comic will update basically whenever the heck I feel like it and in between those sparse comic updates will be demos, showcases, and how-to's on video production, animation, and photography. Basically a dumping ground for all the things I learn and/or produce in film school. One week I'll show you how to animate on cell, the next I might show you how to do good green screen compositing, or I might just show you a funny video I made.
This all starts next week. Until then, I'll show you a little animation I did about a year ago. This was actually painted on cell, and shot underneath a 35mm camera.
While this movie smacks loudly of the often over-used Wes Anderson/twee/emo/Little Miss Sunshine brand of filmmaking, I am starting to really appreciate the fact that our generation has these kinds of romantic comedies instead of the shitty You've Got Mail style of the 90's. Here's Away We Go, featuring a cast made up entirely of awesome people.
Disclaimer: I am completely gay for these kinds of movies.
posted by Ryan on February 18, 2009 8:00 AM in Movies
I'll never forget my first exposure to Bruce Campbell. Over a period of months during my freshman year of high school a new friend shared out his VHS library, one tape at a time. We'd make the swap before first bell, lack of explanation intentional as the tape changed hands, and I'd spend my insomniatic weeknights engrossed in the works of Kubrick, Argento, Tarentino, Stone, and Lynch. The morning after Reservoir Dogs brought a brief discussion, mostly about the tip scene, and of course another swap. This time it was Army of Darkness.
Having already run the Monty Python gambit in grade school and just starting to feed a burgeoning enthusiasm for horror this flick satisfied deeply and remains my favorite film to this day.
Over the years I've seen Bruce Campbell's movies, read his books, and - much to the eye rolling of my friends - managed to ask the sole question during a Q and A session (following a Bubba Ho-tep viewing) that didn't elicit a good-natured yet clearly mocking response.
You could say I'm a bit of a fan, but I have some reservations with the term. Fandom exists in degrees, tangible levels distinguished not only by enthusiasm or dedication but an understanding of the etiquette of devotion. Sure I might have a drive filled with Brownlee/Ross slash (and isn't it time for another?) but you don't see me bringing that to the podcast or comment fields. Fans are, by their very nature, often embarrassing personifications of what a creator in all probability likes least about their work. Yes, we all like Invader Zim but you don't ask Mr. V to sing the doom song. Come on, folks, creators don't like book tours, conventions, or signing endless stacks of paper to be inserted in the much sought after limited editions. Buy their merch, show your support, and try to lay off the creepy.
As a horror icon Bruce Campbell gets the worst of this and, impressively, retains at least the appearance of gradual acceptance for this phenomenon as outlined in his first book (which I highly recommend, his second not so much) If Chins Could Kill as well as his documentary short Fanalysis. I've seen first-hand the unending Evil Dead 4 questions and inane requests (Will you say "Thank you very much") expertly fielded ("I might say that, if I were your little monkey.") and could only laugh when I heard of the upcoming film My Name is Bruce which just saw DVD release here in the states last week.
The film begins as only this type of thing could, a duo of Hot Topic'd youths each entrenched in their self-made set of exaggerated ideals en route to a cemetery while rehashing one liners that have no place in daily congress. What follows is a tongue-in-cheek experience tailored to the über fan's palette as a self-mocking Bruce Campbell plays a caricature of himself and is involuntarily enlisted to play the role of Ash, in real life, to save a small mining town from a supernatural evil.
What follows is a series of ultra-niche references, slapstick, and intentional camp that viewers will either love or hate. One of my favorite scenes depicts the hallowed offering of an iconic, fan-made weapon - one guess at what it is, Deadites - which naturally isn't accepted as the adoring fan intended. Are they ever?
The best thing to come away from this Stooge'esque homage is, against all odds, the positive spin that Bruce Campbell manages to put on his fandom. Sure there is a grudging acceptance of a temporary evil that has managed to last decades, like the scab from a smallpox vaccination that just won't fall off, but it came alongside the ability to direct and produce his own movie with a group of friends.
Be sure to catch the DVD special features for a behind-the-scenes look at the film's production which outlines how all exterior shots were done on Bruce's property out in Southern Oregon, not to mention 18 days of shooting plagued with troubles of a low budget ($1.5 million) indie film from rain to bees to poison oak. One of the things If Chins Could Kill did so well was divulge a lot of details on the nitty gritty of film making, which is echoed here as Bruce loads his dishwasher while explaining the benefits of not changing lenses to save filming time.
Certainly not for everyone, but My Name is Bruce will amuse those that get a fake Shemp reference or can appreciate a bunch of friends having a good time making a campy horror film.
posted by Ryan on September 22, 2008 11:57 AM in Movies
Of all the advances in technology the mail delivery of rental DVDs is among my favorites. Gone are the hours of uncomfortable shuffling between addled rows trying to rush a decision based on loose genre classification and sun-faded box covers. It's a ritual I'm glad to be rid of.
But with ease often comes... confusion. I throw movies in my online queue at the mere mention of potential awesome and am often surprised when they finally arrive, any previous reference forgotten.
One such film was Fido. As a fan of the ever-expanding zombie genre I was puzzled as to why I hadn't heard of it before. Without even glancing at the sleeve blurb I remained optimistic and fired it up.
After suffering through the unholy montage of Lions Gate trailers I was pleasantly surprised with the premise of a 1950's post-zombie-apocalypse setting in which a corporation had all but handled the still occurring threat of every dead person reanimating as a zombie. Once fitted with a device the undead perform a myriad of grunt labor tasks such as delivering milk or household chores freeing up time for those wealthy and privileged enough to have them. Every aspect of daily life is touched by the zombies' presence and potential lethality.
As with any zombie flick there's certainly an underlying commentary but this film performs on a number of levels. Everything is richly colored, heavily saturated to the point where even mundane items scream "Everything is OK!" to overshadow the gray-garbed Zomcom workers picking up the slack.
While the pastel-topia Edward Scissorhands or exaggerated Pleasantville came to mind first I'd say the RomZomCom mash-up Shaun of the Dead is a better comparison movie as Fido transcends the label of a single genre with its strong characters (one of which never speaks), quirky humor, and well timed gore.
A phrase you hear uttered by at least one voice in the crowd whenever a movie is adapted from a beloved work of fiction. Novels, comic books, video games, no matter what the source material there's always dissent. The long-time fans come out of the woodwork to frantically stake their claim as the Originals. The Ones Who Knew About It First. There's a bit of selfishness there, almost a protectiveness being displayed. Books and video games are much more of an engrossing, personal experience than film and the depiction of narrative that plays out in your head is as intimate as one can get. When a big-name director and hotshot actors get attached to the movie adaptation of a favorite, it can be jarring. Fear of mangling the source material. Fear of not giving the material the respect it deserves. And maybe a little bit of fear that the movie version will be entirely different than the version you saw in your head. That disconnect is so loathsome to fans they'd do anything to stop it. And by "anything" I mean angrily posting on message boards. And by "stop it" I mean annoy the shit out of people.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a movie adaptation. There, I said it. Breathe a sigh of relief, fellow nerds! You don't have to act elitist in the face of mainstream movie-goers anymore!
Take Watchmen as an example. This twenty-some-odd year old story has been read and re-read and obsessed over by fans. It's on the Time Magazine Top 100 Novels of all time list, which tells you something. Not "graphic novels", mind you. Novels. It's good. Really good. Incredible, in fact. I just picked up the trade paperback version and read it for the first time this week and it's already one of my absolute favorites, no hyperbole. I am intensely excited for the movie adaptation, which is being shot by the director of 300 in a similar frame-by-frame comic to film approach. Mixed feelings pervade the internets about this adaptation. Some fear it's going to be just another summer blockbuster action movie, failing to display the true gamut of emotions, the sheer gravitas of a world filled with flawed superheroes with everyday problems. Making a Watchmen movie is like, well, making a Lord of The Rings movie. There's so much that would be lost in translation. Watchmen relies heavily on its literary style, on you as the reader becoming engrossed in the words and intimately relating to the characters one by one, chapter after chapter. Even writer Alan Moore has stated he wants nothing to do with the movie, nor does he plan on watching it. What an asshole.
"Nothing is any good if other people like it." It's an indie rock and nerd mantra that I admit I often live by. But movie adaptations of excellent works are inevitable. Why not embrace that fact and treat these films as companion pieces to the greater work? Why not get upset when action figures are created or t-shirts made? Why not take it as a whole and use it to personally enrich your experience and understanding?
One of the things I love to do is to pick apart a story and relentlessly analyze tidbits of mythos. To piece together the puzzle of characters and plot and, ultimately, pick out the differences between book and film. The best fiction is able to engage everyone depending on how much you want to engage with it. From Lost to Shakespeare there's a perfect balance of highbrow and lowbrow content. You can enjoy the weirdness of the island and chat about how Kate and Sawyer are toooooootally made for each other - or you can decipher intricate codes and maps to delve deeper into the mysteries they've laid out for you. Or you can just marvel at how dreamy Sawyer is. How dreamy? SO dreamy.
Shakespeare liked to write fart jokes and add gore to fill the front rows of the Globe with commoners. The cheap seats. In the back were the intelligentsia, silently appreciating the literary tapestry unfolding between bloody sword fights and bawdy displays of machismo and lust. It's classic. It works and it is fantastic.
The fact of the matter is that as fans we want to evangelize what we believe to be truly good while still maintaining the integrity of the product. It's contradictory in a way: we want to keep these things as our own yet we still want to share our enthusiasm with the rest of the world. When it comes down to it we're all just insecure. Who cares if the whole world knows and loves a mainstream version of Middle-Earth, or a watered-down Watchmen? No matter how exposed our favorite works get, it doesn't change how we feel about them. We should learn to appreciate the fact that more people are being exposed to great works of fiction every day.
And hey, if they like the movie maybe they'll read the book.
This past weekend, Jinny and I fulfilled our collective destiny to be the last two people in Seattle to see The Dark Knight. A few factors contributed to our lateness in maintaining geek status quo by absorbing media as fast as the companies can sling it at us: we wanted to see it at IMAX and the IMAX showings at Pacific Science Center have been sold out for most of August, and we both greatly despise the current state of the theater experience. A venue has to offer us something unique to drag us away from our fancy HDTV and 5.1 surround setup at home. Where we can pause the action to go to the bathroom or get a drink. Where we can watch the movie with subtitles so we never miss a line of dialog. Where we don't have to worry about people around us talking or incessantly chewing popcorn. Ever chewing. Ever munching.
The Dark Knight? Amazing. You already knew that. Heath Ledger was incredible as the force of nature that is the Joker, Aaron Eckhart was compelling and sympathetic as Harvey Dent and Christian Bale's Bat-Lisp annoyed the crap out of me. The IMAX scenes were well-worth it: high-altitude shots of Hong Kong and Gotham, breathtaking and enormous in scope. Stadium seating and a 6 story screen meant even the most comically tall hat couldn't impede our sight. Snacks were overpriced as always but in my opinion you just can't watch a movie in the theater without Sour Patch Kids. It just doesn't happen.
This experience was special not only because of the film format or the venue, but because it was the first movie we'd seen in the theater for about half a year. The Pacific Science Center's IMAX Theater showed me that going to the movies doesn't have to be a painful experience, but there can always be improvements. This made me think: what would my ideal movie theater experience be like? I know there are some venues around that offer this stuff, but I think that the big theaters would do well to adapt some of these ideas to boost sales and not have to keep increasing ticket prices. At the very least it would bring me back on a regular basis.
Assigned seats would be nice. Being able to nab 6 seats in a row for you and your friends would save the frustration of walking into a darkened theater and trying to find a spot that would accommodate your group. Even with just two people this would be a great benefit.
A personal listening device would be neat. Being able to focus on the movie when there's people around you making random noises would be awesome. Imagine if you could have a little headphone jack in the arm rest of your seat (like in an airplane) that you could use in addition to the main sound system. You'd still get the booming bass and surround sound, just with the added benefit of being able to ignore the giant blob man next to you who is enjoying his popcorn a little too much.
Maybe I'm missing out on the social aspect of going to see a movie. Perhaps the big draw is being around other humans and sharing the experience with a large group of random strangers. I just don't see the appeal when it comes to the large-chain movie theaters. I'd much rather wait until the movie is out on DVD, where I can pop open a beer, eat dinner and be terrified of the Joker all from the comfort of my own couch.
What would you suggest to help improve the movie going experience?
Welcome to the return of The Mind Boggleth! Every Friday you will be treated to rants, screeds and tirades against society courtesy of the mad mind that is Max Brooks. No, not THAT Max Brooks. Enjoy. --Chris
I recently renewed my membership at Hollywood Video, because I just like the visceral experience of going somewhere, something I rarely do these days, what with Netflix, Youtube and the liquefied food hose I just had installed (they just pump it straight from KFC to my arterial veins, it's pretty sweet; only $60 a month for continual life support, and no need to brush my teeth anymore!). I decided that I actually prefer a video store. Hollywood Video is pretty good at getting rarer DVDs these days, and have recently installed a new "Arthouse Basement" section that amuses me to no end because I can think of exactly two things wrong with that title, but it's a gimmick that works.
They've separated "Arthouse Basement" in very small genres, such as "Foreign - European", "Foreign - Asian", "Gay and Lesbian Friendly" (also known as "Foreign - Australia"), "Animation" (changed from "cartoons" after the Otaku apparently threw a hissy fit, throwing John Kricfalusi from the top of a cathedral in the process) and "Cult Classics", which was always in Hollywood Video in the first place, just over next to "Special Interest", which is where they put the concert DVDs. All this subdivision of genre got me thinking about other, smaller, yet equally important genres that perhaps need their own space on the shelf.
CAR MOVIES: These are generally not Dramas or Comedies, they've been filed under "Action/Adventure" for decades, but I think the Car Movie is it's own genre, and the qualifier is pretty simple. If a movie's content is 75% car chases, people talking about cars, or cars killing people, it goes in "Car Movies". Naturally, this includes 90% of Steve McQueen and James Garner's repertoire, everything involving Jason Statham, and "Christine". Also, did you know that 1/10th of all Pixar movies are about cars? It's true. That's a commanding percentage.
PEOPLE IN SPACE MOVIES: I've always been torn about Sci-Fi. On the one hand, you have some really deep, philosophical, introspective movies that challenge conventional thinking ("2001: A Space Odyssey", "Logan's Run", "Gattaca", etc.), while the rest of Sci-Fi is just Star Wars inspired dreck that tries to sell you on Joseph Campbell somehow being more than a racist nerd who really liked Dairy Queen porn. "Universal Hero" my ass, Campbell. It's lazy writing and even lazier film making. Still, I think that if we remove all the "People in Space" movies from the Sci-Fi section, you maybe could separate the wheat from the chaff, theoretically. Also, while we're at it, let's move the Fantasy section further away from the Sci-Fi section, maybe across the street and into the Android's Dungeon. "Lord of the Rings" is great and all, but Fantasy is a realm reserved for genuine freaks.
On a side rant, I've given up tabletop gaming and anything fantasy related. In a world where John McCain is theLEAST DYSFUNCTIONAL AND INSANE Republican candidate possible, the need for fantasy in my life has diminished. We're living the dream, folks. This is it. Sauron has turned his eye toward the Shire, and us hobbits are about to get steamrolled.
Dueling MAGICIANS: A newcomer to the "Smaller Genre" world, the Dueling Magician movie may perhaps go down as the defining genre of the 2000s, in the same way that Blaxploitation only happened in the 70s and "Starring Seth Green" only happened in the 90s. Films such as "The Prestige", "The Illusionist", Mitchell and Webb's "Magicians" and the latest Quentin Tarantino masterpiece: "Bonzo the Clown vs. The Amazing Anzelini On The Moon". These films have built an exciting world of magic, intrigue and Doug Henning into a new standard. Scientists estimate that by 2009, nearly 30% of all films shot in Hollywood will be about dueling magicians. The other 70% will be sequels to superhero films.
VINCENT PRICE STARING OBSESSIVELY AT A PORTRAIT OF HIS DEAD WIFE: I know, it sounds like a crazily obscure genre, this genre fills up exactly 100% of Vincent Price's career. Films like "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", "Tomb of Ligeia", "The Fall of the House of Usher", "House on Haunted Hill" and "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" have brought us exactly what we, as an audience, demand: nothing but Vincent Price staring obsessively at a portrait of his dead wife. If a formula isn't broken, don't fix it. Keep hacking at it, until it is sublime perfection.
NAZI MOVIES: With all the movies about the Holocaust, it's sort of silly that a few people still believe it never happened. There has been so damn many movies about the Nazis and the Holocaust that it's become a cottage industry, or as the Germans call it, cottagenbrickdermakenzegeschelleshaft.
It is prophesied that in the End Times, a dark force will be born in the East, carried on wings of ill-advised marketing and deliberate product placement, that the Anticomedy, the one force of evil so hellaciously non-comedic, will arise. The Anticomedy, upon coming to power, will bring the Laffageddon upon us, and many millions will perish in his wrath.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Myers (not to be confused with Michael Myers, our favorite babysitter-killing sociopath in a William Shatner mask) is, undoubtedly, the Anticomedy. I can confirm this with numerology, I can verify this with Biblical texts, I can point to specific texts in the Secret Vatican Library that point to the Dark One's ineffable plan to obliterate the righteous power of comedy once and for all. That would take time, of course.
The Love Guru is a film about, well, a love guru. In a parody of Dr. Phil crossed with Deepak Chopra, Mike Myers piddles around in his THIRD bad rendition of a Peter Sellers character (Dieter, the host of Sprockets being Dr. Strangelove, Austin Powers being Sellers' turn at James Bond in Casino Royale, and the Love Guru, whose actual name I have forgotten less than 24 hours after viewing it, based on Hrundi V. Bakshi from The Party), using his trademark scatological ha-has and even a urine soaked mop fight to attempt to sell us on the idea of the Love Guru being another film franchise.
What's always confused me about Myers is why he is the one with multimillion dollar puff-piece extravaganzas and Dana Carvey, his ally in the Wayne's World movies, seemingly completely incapable of getting anything made. Sure, The Master of Disguise was a bad movie, but not nearly as bad as The Love Guru, both of which are plotless sketch comedies thinly packed around a broadly based costumed character. Pistachio Disguisey at least gave us the cultural meme "TURTLE, TURTLE, TURTLE." To make it even more insulting, Myers steals practically wholesale the same gimmick, premise and follow-through as Sasha Cohen's brilliant Borat, only without any sense of satire or gravitas that Borat actually brought to the table.
Borat was a broad comic character, yes. The conceit that he was interviewing Americans about American foibles, especially during a time of war and bad political policies, actually made Borat a very timely, very powerful character. Mike Myers, as Guru Pitka, is neither based in a satirical reality nor fantastic enough to be cinematic. Even Austin Powers, a character that was tired 3/4s of the way through the first movie, at least had a plot to keep us busy.
The Love Guru also stars Justin Timberlake as a character named Jacque "Le Coq". Yes. Oh, and the "funny" names only get more obvious. A classic Kids in the Hall sketch, featuring Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley as themselves in a writer's meeting, touches on the rules of "funny" names, ruling that just putting two words together and hoping they sound funny and then attaching a "Mister" ahead of it is rarely funny.
Again, one character is named "Dick Pants".
Oy. Fucking. Vey.
Ultimately, this is one of the classic unfunny comedies, up there with Dan Ackroyd's career killer, Nothing But Trouble. It's tasteless, it's baseless, it's just lame.
Final Judgement: ONLY THE EXORCIST CAN SAVE US NOW.
Well, it's safe to say that the power of animated character is not only made incredibly apparent but thrown right into the face of those who fear it most, as Wall•E takes the metaphorical ball and metaphorically runs with it. Despite positive reviews from just about everybody, a few hold outs are doing what the Internet does best (factionalizing ad infinitum) and the conserva-prigs at Free Republic are hilariously fuming at the film. Whatever it takes to keep the headlines off this douche, right guys?
It looks like Republicans are hating this movie, just because Fred Willard's character drops the "Stay the course" line. Why, yes. Yes it is anti-Republican. It shows us exactly what the world would look like 800 years after a third Bush presidency. The earth will be full of garbage and devoid of human life, and the rare few who somehow manage to escape will be fantastically wealthy and their society will be built on the remnants of whatever and whoever they stepped over to get there.
They didn't complain one bit when Grade-A Crank Brad Bird's looney Randroid screed, The Incredibles, told their audience that some people are born "special" and are therefore criminally suppressed by the rest of society, who should be thankful just to have them around. Republicans LOVED that one, because it reinforced their deep seated paradigm notion that there are, indeed, certain people deserving of much more than others. Brad Bird, you're a cock. Choke somebody on you.
Fat people are now, apparently, a political base of their own, now. I guess I should start getting my membership card pretty shortly, I could use that 10% off at KFC and the Enema Bag Emporium. Being a man who could stand to lose weight, but not a man whose weight has lost him the ability to stand, I have not yet lost touch with the reality of satire. The ultimate animated "Americans are fat" movie, The Triplets of Belleville, to which Pixar owes a great deal in the comedic style and pacing of Wall•E, was never given a broad release by Sony because the fat "lobby" was so offended by it. The "Fat Lobby" sounds like a really smelly place.
But then, of course, fat people are more than welcome to head over to Kung Fu Panda, a film tailor made to their purposes. I believe they just wheel in the Happy Meals by the cart now. It's got everything that Wall•E doesn't... a happy-go-lucky (yet insipid) main character, dozens of well known (yet insipid) A-list voice actors, and more pop (yet insipid) cultural references than you can shake your enormous, enormous booty at. Let them have it, I guess. It's all there, and by the truckload.
If I seem to be commenting frequently on the H.G. Wells characters, the Morlocks and the Eloi, Wall•E seems to reinforce my suspicions that the distinction is happening faster than we think. The film doesn't answer everything, and that's really great. A truly good film won't prechew thought for you like the food the Hoverchair family in this film has to slurp down.
All is not so bleak, I suppose. The truth is that Pixar is a proven quality, and not a single one of their films has ever lost a dime. Parents will bring their kids to Wall•E, young adults will go to Wall•E, post-ironic hipsters such as myself will go to Wall•E. If, perchance, it makes people think about the ramifications of a McCain presidency, so much the better.
Pop quiz! Is this A: A promo poster for a Robocop CGI remake coming in 2010 or B: A promo poster for a Robocop CGI remake coming in 2010 as seen in the original Robocop? Considering the original Robocop was set in "an indeterminate future time" either option is possible.
As our escapist futuristic fantasies finally catch up with us, we seem to be looking at retro-future-nostalgia for comfort. The future is pretty weird, you guys.
Every once in a while, Woot has a Photoshop contest that really brings out the funny. This week the subject was "an especially inappropriate franchise (an old TV show, comic book, classic novel, ancient myth, cartoon, movie, etc.)" Here's my favorite (and the winner!)
I can't even begin to think how someone thought this was a good idea. Online gaming sites run by cleverly nicknamed computer systems with poorly drawn anime avatars made to seek out terrorists who are good at video games? Attractive hackers? If you think this War Games sequel looks like it's direct to DVD, you'd be correct.
All I'm saying is I hope Matthew Broderick has a musical number at the end.
Perhaps there are others amongst you, dear readers, who felt the familiar, icy grip of The Fear when, upon watching Sin City you saw Frank Miller's name listed as a "director". Perhaps, like me, you may have shuddered at the thought of the horror that would be wrought by giving this man such a lofty title and, perhaps, you too felt ill when it was announced that he would be "directing" the film adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit.
It is unsurprising that Miller would choose The Spirit for his first solo project; after all he has a history of gallantly and self- righteously attaching himself to comics's old guard, like a vampire, riding their accomplishments and championing their causes as if they were his own and I'm sure it's been difficult now that Jack Kirby is gone.
The Spirit, then, is a gift from the gods. Here is an opportunity to take the work of one of the medium's greatest contributors and, due to the average movie-goers ignorance, shamelessly co-opt it. Congratulations Mr. Miller, they may never name an award after you, laud you for expanding the breath of what comics could accomplish, or stand in awe of your storytelling abilities, but fuck 'em right? Judging from these posters it is better to have made Sin Spirit instead. That's a legacy you can be proud of.
posted by Ross on March 28, 2008 8:16 AM in Movies
Kings of Power 4 Billion % is hard to explain. Imagine if you took every 16-bit shmup you've ever seen, multiply the insanity by a thousand and then set it to an amazing soundtrack and you just about have it. However, no pedestrian explanation can capture the pure awesomeness of Paul Robertson's animated achievement, it's something that must be seen. You can download the video from a number of sources found here.
posted by Ross on March 12, 2008 8:37 AM in Movies
Few people may have associated Patrick Stewart with anything other than Star Trek: The Next Generation and his various stage roles previous to his recurring role on American Dad but the man who once claimed in an interview to be a huge fan of Beavis and Butthead is an equally impressive comedic actor as well. Here he guest stars in an episode of Ricky Gervais's Extras describing a film treatment he's done in which he controls the world with his mind and women's clothes magically fall off.
Back in 2004, four women and one Dungeon Master got together and made a live action show of their role playing exploits. Each woman acted out her character's actions and battle scenes with hilariously bad green screen effects. Inexplicably, Dungeon Majesty is now available on DVD, though the entire series is also available on Youtube.
It seems like the "format wars" are all but over these days, with studios dropping HD-DVD exclusivity in favor of Sony's Blu-ray format. Another blow has been dealt to HD-DVD with Trans World Entertainment, owners of F.Y.E, giving Blu-ray content more catalog room in their stores. F.Y.E. plans to continue carrying HD-DVD content, and hey, some retailers back in the 70's carried BetaMax and VHS, and BetaMax is still going stro...oh wait.
But while HD-DVD might be on the ropes they aren't down for the count just yet. F.Y.E. isn't going Blu-ray exclusive, planning to maintain a catalog of "key new releases" and offering to special order HD-DVD content they don't carry in store. Still, this fight is all but over, and PS3's Blu-ray players are starting to look mighty attractive.
posted by Mack on December 21, 2007 8:34 PM in Movies
The first episode of the MST3k-alike project Cinematic Titanic Goes on sale tonight. Cinematic Titanic, if you recall, is a collaboration between the original MST3k cast members Joel Hodgson (Joel), Trace Beaulieu (Crow/Dr. Forrester), J Elvis Weinstein (Tom Servo/Dr. Erhardt/Gypsy), as well as later MST3k writer/performers Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) and Frank Conniff (TV's Frank). For their first venture they're taking on The Oozing Brain, a cinematic turkey that looks so bad it could even give Manos a run for its money.
Amélie is one of my badge movies. One of those movies you whip out in conversation when someone asks "what's your favorite?" I freely admit that I cry at the end of this movie every time I watch it, not from sadness but from sheer uplifting joy. Besides the stunning cinematography, beautiful acting and womanly charms of Audrey Tautou, the soundtrack is one of my absolute favorite film soundtracks of all time. Yann Tiersen is an amazing composer, and as of late I have been listening to his various works. It's the perfect ambient music for working to, but my favorite setting for listening to Yann is a rainy Saturday morning with a cup of tea and my RSS reader in front of me. Here's A Quai, from the Amélie score. Enjoy!
The Wizard has a special place in the hearts of (most of) the staff here at The Weekly Geek. It's a big, horrible, unabashed Nintendo commercial and yet we loves it so. The main love theme or whatever from the movie was by a little Australian new wave band that really didn't do anything else of note. Not that I'd really call being on on the soundtrack of The Wizard "of note". In any case, it's wonderfully 80s and gets stuck in your head for days upon days upon days. Now that it's stuck in my head again, allow me to do the same for you.
I highly enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and most everyone likes at least the first one. One of the great things about the movie was the fantastic original score. The main theme prevalent throughout the whole of the score fits in so nicely no matter how composer Klaus Badelt arranged it. If you have a chance, listen to all the songs on the soundtrack. But the He's a Pirate track focuses solely on that main theme. And it's so good. Y'know how they say that things that have neat mathematical properties tend to be extra aesthetically pleasing in media such as art and music? Well this is the first song I have ever consciously noticed that seems to fit in both 4/4 and 3/3 time. Go ahead, listen to it and count off. 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. And then 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 3. It works. It's crazy but it works.
I don't tend to venture to Harry Jay Knowles' domain of cheeto-stained finger people known as Ain't It Cool News, as their exclamation points and gigantic brown fonts make my degree in Computer Art shrivel up in the case. Occasionally they have actual "cool" news (when usually it just "ain't") - such as this recent report that the actor chosen to voice the robotic car KITT in the Knight Rider movie is none other than Will Arnett, GOB Bluth from Arrested Development.
While I have very little interest in sitting through what will most likely be a 2 hour David Hasselhoff cameo, this is a pretty cool choice. Will has an incredibly distinctive voice, I just hope he doesn't try to do a cheesy British accent. Speaking of, couldn't they just have hired Mr. Feeny? He's still alive, yeah?
Watch it while you still can! Heath Ledger seems to do an amazing job as the Joker, believe it or not. Really looking forward to this movie as I absolutely loved Batman Begins. What do you geeks think?
Probably one of my favorite music videos ever, Zach Condon from Beirut serenades a group of synchronized gypsies with a small mandolin-like instrument called a "fluke" and his most excellent moustache. Enjoy Elephant Gun from the Lon Gisland EP.
Some spy pictures have been taken at the set of the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, and they're fairly good quality, without any watermarking. In them, you can see Zachary Quinto in his full green-blooded Vulcan persona, looking for all the world like Leonard Nimoy's illegitimate son. I knew he was a good pick, at least physically, from the beginning, and this just confirms it. Go check out the site that snagged the photos.
posted by Mack on November 11, 2007 9:23 AM in Movies
Welcome to the first installment of what I hope will be a weekly feature here on The Weekly Geek, Sci-Fi Sundays. This week, I’m going to be talking about the 1951 George Pal film When Worlds Collide.
When Worlds Collide opens, oddly, with a short reading from the Bible. The sermon today is apparently about Noah, which is what pastors usually talk about when they’ve got nothing really interesting to preach on. Following the sermon, we’re treated to a narration that informs us that “there are more stars in the sky than humans on Earth.” Gee thanks, narrator, I never would have known that.
posted by Mike on November 9, 2007 12:23 PM in Movies
I may be the only person on the planet never to hear of this, but I guess there's a Korean anime called Doggy Poo. The premise, according to the movie's website, is as follows:
Once upon a time, a little doggy poo lived on the side of a road. He felt all alone in the world. He believed that nobody needed him for anything, and that he had no purpose in life. If only Doggy Poo had a reason for being, then he wouldn't give up on his dream to be useful to the world.
One day, Doggy Poo meets a lovely dandelion sprout. Will she explain his purpose in life? Will she help make his dream come true?
I guess this is labeled a "cult classic" by Netflix.com, where you can watch it on demand. If any of you have heard of this before and haven't told me, I owe you a swift punch in the gut for withholding this amazing piece of art from me. I haven't laughed this hard at a website in a while. I'll part with my favorite character description from the site. Thanks for the tip, Madam L.!
Mother Hen: The hen meets and rejects Doggy Poo as a suitable meal for her baby chicks.
I'll say it so no one else has to, The Weekly Geek crew is extremely lucky. Not only do we get to see Battlestar Galactica: Razor in advance, we get to see it on the big screen. Now there are those of us at Chez Geek that would rather horde such a treasure, possibly lording it over those less fortunate than us. However, thanks to the near messianic altruism of Chris (not to mention the snub nosed pistol currently shoved up against the back of my head) we're spreading the love to you.
Click this here link to register to see Battlestar Galactica: Razor in the theater on November 12th. The film is playing in Redmond, Seattle, and Auburn so anyone not local or unwilling to fly in is out of luck, and while I may hate you, Chris' love is everlasting.
The Geektomites will be at the 10 p.m. Seattle showing for those of you that would like to join us. Look for the sentient spaghetti string Chris or the obnoxiously blue coiffed Q for both fun and excitement cinematic in nature.
I don't know if any of you are interested in the new Star Trek movie that's due out around Christmas of next year, but some of the recent casting decisions are giving it promise. Not to mention that J.J. Abrams is the guy in charge of the whole shebang. I've never seen Lost, but I know lots of you Geekkateers really like it. Plus, from past interviews and such, JJ seems like he's interested in making a film that honors the Trek legacy, rather than just cashing in on a known franchise.
Uhura and Chekov have also been filled, but not by anyone that I'm familiar with. And just recently, Scotty and Sulu have been announced, and I'm kinda excited by it.
Simon Pegg, whom you may know as Shaun of the Dead has been officially confirmed to play Montgomery "Scotty" Scott. While John Cho (Harold of "and Kumar" fame) has been placed in the role of Hiraku Sulu. The call for Pegg to be Scotty really kinda came out of nowhere, but I think he should do a good job. Hell, he basically was a Scotty-type character in Mission: Impossible 3.
Oh, and our favorite gay deep-voiced Asian superhero daddy, George Takei, has given his support to Cho for the role of Sulu, unconcerned that Cho is Korean rather than Japanese.
So all that leaves us with is casting for Kirk and Bones. Chris Pine and Mike Vogel have both been rumored for James Tiberius Kirk. And the latest on Dr. McCoy is that Karl Urban is the favored choice. But none of this has been confirmed.
Also, I suppose they might be looking for a Nurse Chapel, but no word on that situation at all.
You have heard the Wilhelm scream even if you don't know what it is. It was originally recorded for a movie titled "Distant Drums" in 1951, and brought back to cinema by Skywalker Sound for Star Wars. Since then, it's been used over and over again as a nod to the movies of yesteryear. Maybe it's also because it's a cheap stock sound effect. Some intrepid YouTube user has cut a bunch of instances of the Wilhelm scream into an easy to digest video for your perusal.
The Princess Bride is easily one of the most influential movies of my childhood. I wore out 2 tapes before I grew out of watching the damn thing on repeat and could produce quotes from the movie on demand, if I were inclined to giving into ridiculous demands. I'm sure that many of you have a similar story and share my affinity for The Princess Bride. I'm equally sure that very few if any of you ever wondered "Why haven't they made a video game out of this?". Donning a bath towel and recklessly swinging a broom handle in imitation of Westley had always been enough, get me liquored up enough and I'm likely to put on a repeat performance of my childhood imaginings. In short, I don't want to play a Princess Bride game, but I also didn't want a new Transformers movie and we all know how well that worked out.
In spite of my misgivings and caterwauling Worldwide Biggies, a small company few of us at The Geek have heard of, is bringing a Princess Bride game to the table. A teaser for the game will be released on "The Princess Bride 20th Anniversary DVD," which I'm sure you're all anxiously anticipating with nail biting impatience, and the full game can be expected in the spring as a download. Apparently Worldwide Biggies thinks this has real potential to tap the casual gaming market, specifically women.
Before you start writing angry letters for me to ignore, I'm equally confused by the classification of women as casual gamers. Most of the women I know are twice the gamer I'll ever be (and take pleasure in reminding me of my inadequacy) and would be just as disgusted at a Princess Bride game as I am. Now if Worldwide Biggies meant "doltish mouth breathing morons" in their classification of "casual gamer" (an easy enough typo, the keys are right next to each other) then I'm apt to agree that this game will indeed appeal to casual gamers.
I just have one request, can we please stop with the casual rape of my childhood? I only have so many happy memories left.
Editor's note: you can also download Princess Bride on iTunes as of today! --Chris
One of my favorite directors, Wes Anderson (he of The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore fame) has announced he is going to be releasing a short film that leads up to his new movie The Darjeeling Limited titled Hotel Chevalier. It's slated to be released at Apple Stores across the country, and for free on iTunes.
While his movies may be a bit formulaic, it's a good formulaic in my opinion. Also one of the TUAW commenters is fueling a mini rumor fire by saying that Natalie Portman has a small nude scene. Win!
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