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The Time Traveler’s Wife: Alternate Worlds in a Film and Novel.

Always keep in mind a film’s intended audience. If you are not in the intended audience for a film, don’t be surprised if the movie disappoints you.

I’m not in the intended audience for this film. I’m not a chick, and I’m not into chick flicks. However, I read the book by Audrey Niffenegger a couple of years ago, so I decided I’d step into a theater and go see the film based on the novel.

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The ‘Verse Lives On: Browncoats ‘Redemption’

We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.~ Captain Mal Reynolds From the first note of music to hit our ears, Firefly and Serenity brought a breath of fresh air to the realm of science-fiction and fantasy media. And, like many of the science-fiction television shows, Firefly was cut far too short, leaving so […]

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Ten Fantasy Movie Moments that Mess with Us

They made you laugh, they made you cry, they still give you nightmares you’d never admit to: for better or for worse, some fantasy movies get under your skin. Below, ten fantasy movie moments that were tragic, horrific, or comic (sorry, Keanu).

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Wuxia Novels and Chinese Swords and Sorcery Films

Misunderstandings and non-communication serve as the main engines for many of the plots. You’ll finding yourself screaming, “Why don’t you say something?!” more than one. Honorable silence in the face of accusations will keep digging the characters into deeper holes.

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Watching Beyond Angels and Demons

Let’s face it: with most fantasy movies, conspiracies are thin on the ground. We have a clearly delineated battle between good and evil; the good guys brandish righteous weapons, the bad guys chew scenery. Sci-fi, of course, is crawling with conspiracies, but not everybody wants to sit through three hours of Tom Cruise playing with […]

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What’s a Fan Film Got in Its Pocketses?: The Hunt For Gollum

Two years in the making, the forty minute film was shot for just $4,500. Actors, crew, prop makers, FX designers, makeup artists — upwards of one hundred and fifty fans — worked weeknights, weekends, and holidays without pay. Post production teams, across the globe, finished this labor of love through emails and online conferences. Their efforts have paid off.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine — The Greatest Story Never Told?

After the disappointment that was X-Men: The Last Stand, I held no high hopes that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was going to be a great movie. So I went into it with a few specific expectations:

  1. I wanted to see a lot of Hugh Jackman shirtless or clad in a tank top at best through most of the film. I also expected him to spend a lot of it sexily sweaty and basically justify the money spent on this film by his sheer hotness.
  2. I wanted to see Liev Schreiber in much the same way. And, if at all possible, I wanted him to stand very close to Hugh a lot so their combined hotness could make up for the any deficiencies in plot.
  3. I wanted Gambit to be awesome (and hot) since he was always one of my favorite X-Men and I hated that he didn’t end up in the previous three movies.

And that’s it. I had no expectations of a good plot, interesting characters, or any kind of depth. If you go into X-Men Origins with a similar mindset, you’re not likely to be disappointed. I wasn’t.

I got plenty of bare-chested, sexy sweaty Hugh Jackman (and bonus naked Hugh in a field) and Liev did oblige me by increasing the hot quotient on screen as much as the script allowed. Gambit didn’t quite make it to awesome status, but he did manage “pretty cool”.

Even though I can say pretty definitively that X-Men Origins was better than X-Men 3, possibly even better than X2, it still fell short in many areas, including the origin story itself. When we learn the tragic circumstances of Logan’s childhood in the first five minutes of the movie, it all happens too fast. Sure, we want to get to the good stuff (Hugh without a shirt!), but would it have hurt them to give maybe fifteen minutes of screen time to that opening scene? There was a whole comic series devoted to it, after all. I will say that when I read the graphic novel I felt the story wasn’t very compelling. But compared to the movie, it’s a masterpiece.

Following from this, we’re treated to a montage of Jimmy (aka Logan, aka Hugh) and Victor (aka Jimmy’s brother aka Liev aka Sabretooth?) testosteroning their way through various wars. Both brothers have fancy claws and healing powers and a propensity toward being kinda animalistic. But, of course, Logan is noble and restrained and Victor gives in to wanton excess.

If you weren’t aware that Victor was meant to be the bad guy in this film, you sure knew it when you saw him drag some (I assume) Vietnamese woman into a hut to (I assume) rape her and then kill an American soldier who attempts to stop him. I was actually impressed by how the credit Logan n’ Victor montage so effectively painted their stereotypes in a short amount of time. It saved us from anything like characterization.

Next up we meet a “special team” of people put together by Col. William Stryker – a sort of proto-X-Men but without the charm. I have to admit that when I saw Dominic Monaghan, will.i.am, and Ryan Reynolds in the credits I knew I was in for something “special”. Dom was tragically underused, will.i.am tragically overused, but Ryan hit the Goldilocks zone with some impressive early sword work and swagger followed by an offscreen “death”.

The real point of all this is to set up the eternal struggle between Logan and Victor which stems from the epic revelations during the credit montage – Victor has to prove his superiority by going to extremes of violence while Logan struggles with the blood on his hands and his familial obligations to a crazy man. Watch as Logan makes more and more sad, confused, and appalled facial expressions as the “special team” goes in with weapons and actually uses them on people. Watch as Logan cannot take it anymore, walks away from the bloodthirsty team and his brother, then settles in the Canadian Rockies with a raven-haired beauty. Watch as Victor shows up a few years later to just ruin it all!

Unfortunately, what we lost due to the exciting credit montage was any sense of why Logan and Victor stayed with each other for so long in the first place. The whole “we’re brothers and we have to stick together” bit only works in the short-term. If we’re going to be emotionally invested in their brotherhood, their ying-yang struggle, their rivalry, and emotional punch of their parting, the audience needs more than a montage and pithy dialogue to cement it.

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Sleep Dealer Is Wide Awake

At the beginning of Sleep Dealer, Memo Cruz is a young man growing up in a remote Mexican village called Santa Ana. He spends his evenings wiring together his own radio antennae, while the rest of his family eats beans and corn grown on their little traditional farm. The village is “dry, dusty, and disconnected,” the restless Memo complains to his father—problems made worse by a huge dam blocking the local river, built so that villagers must pay an armed robotic sentry to fill their leather canteens with water.

It’s no surprise that Memo wants out. He sits in his shed hacking into phone calls to hear people talk about “nodes”—neural hookup jacks familiar from cyberpunk fiction—and the many jobs you can get once you have them. But soon the military detects his spying and takes him for an insurgent.

The next day, Memo and his brother are watching a live reality show about a rookie drone pilot, his face hidden behind a bug-eyed mask dripping with cables. “Hey, that looks like Santa Ana,” Memo’s brother says as they watch a robotic plane jet over a desert landscape. Five minutes later, their shed is destroyed and their father has been killed.

Sleep Dealer’s action spirals outward from this initial injustice, bringing Memo to the unfriendly border city of Tijuana, where he gets his arms stuck full of nodes in a scene memorable for its combination of tenderness and violence. Then he finds himself one of those jobs he’d wanted, in a factory where the conveyor belts move only information as workers like sinister mimes manipulate nonexistent objects, glowing blue cables protruding from their arms and backs.

The objects of their work do exist, of course, just in some other place: Los Angeles or New York or Mumbai, where the robots they control pound rivets on a skyscraper or feed children in a posh condominium. As one factory owner says, it’s “All the work, without the workers,” a chillingly believable extrapolation of what anti-immigrant hysteria could mean when combined with advanced telepresence technology.

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No Objectivity: Top Ten Miscastings in Fantasy Movies

Casting makes a movie. Sometimes, casting makes a movie fall apart. Whether the producers owed a college friend a favor, the actor lost the bet, or ill-fated stars aligned, a lot of movies end up with an albatross of an actor who ruined the whole party for everyone. Below are ten of the worst, wildest, and weirdest miscastings in recent fantasy history, ranked by level of damage done.


10. Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige

The Prestige was a dark, twisting story of revenge. Christopher Nolan beautifully adapted the air of dark and gritty magic from the novel. Unfortunately, he must have been busy on script revisions when Scarlett Johansson was cast as Olivia Wenscombe, the fetching assistant who becomes the key link between Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale’s warring magicians. While she’s not as offensive here as she has been in…almost everything else she’s done, it’s hard to convince us you’re the apex of a love triangle if you look like the only thing you’re assisting is the laudanum trade.

Suggested replacement: Christina Hendricks. She’s got the turn-of-the-century hourglass that looks good on a corset, and could have brought a welcome intelligence to the role.

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A Million Little Pixels

This holiday season, after more than two years of dabbling in last generation game consoles, my wife and I bought an Xbox 360. Now, this is in no way to promote or dissuade you from buying any particular system. I’m discovering they are all bad news. They say that admitting to a substance addiction is the first step in dealing with it. This is the story of our journey into addiction.