Thursday, May 10, 2007

Small Press Idol Highlights

First off, I want to apologize for my long absence away from this blog. I've been busy. Really really busy.

I'm competing in Small Press Idol, a competition set up by Dimestore Production. If you want to see the next Who's Who in indie comic book, this would be the place to do it in.

There's far, far, far too many good projects to even consider mentioning without doing an injustice to the many, many, many other great ones than span the 60-some comic book entries this year. Round 2, which focuses entirely on character designs, promises to shake things up this year. Namely, when Round 2 closes in three days time, over half of the entries on the wrong side of the line will be eliminated.

Since this is a review site, I can suppose I can at least review what I've learned so far. First off, ninjas are cool, but I have to give it up for Easter bunnies with freakishly large heads. Similarly, you know what's worse than zombies? Commie zombies! I've also learned the afterlife appears a very strange place, but even stranger, it turns out, are MMORPG's. I've discovered the Retriever isn't just cool breed of dogs.

And lastly, I've found out marketing is really really hard. After all, what do you think I'm doing right now? If nothing above is excited, or if you need something else to float your twist geek boat, check out a bevy of original urban legends on my project Pierced. Read it. Vote for it.

Which brings me to my last vote . . . I mean note. Just remember to register for the site in order to post replies, and yes, notes . . . errr . . . votes.

Vote Idol. Vote Pierced. Just vote!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Exorcism of Emily Rose, 2005

I'm still getting caught up in my reviews of the many crappy horror movies i watched back around Halloween. You might think that my completing the first draft of this review and posting it so long after the viewing would dilute my ability to effectively present the good and bad points of the film, but to that I say, let me jab you in the eye with a stick, and then you take a few months off before describing the experience. I think you'll do just fine, and I assure youI haven't forgotten the sharp poke this film gave me.

1973’s The Exorcist gets better with every crappy demonic possession movie that follows it. Seriously, demonic possession is up there with shark attacks for the thing that has been done so well that only genius or a fool would try to top what has gone before, and Hollywood, we know, is a place where geniuses are few and far between.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is particularly miserable because it is ‘based’ upon a true story, and after you click over to Wikipedia and learn a little about the basis for this horrible film, you will be sickened even further by how the screenwriters have distorted the events. At the very core, this film is about irrational suffering. Undeniably, Emily Rose has issues. Some suspect the devil, others less dramatic causes, such as epilepsy, and when she dies, the issue becomes what could have been done do save her? There is genuine conflict and horror here, because the idea of a defenseless teenage girl being locked in her bedroom in an isolated farm house and subjected to medieval rituals to alleviate her medical condition is scary and disturbing, and that’s what actually happened to the real-life Emily Rose, but the filmmakers chose instead to construct a bizarre, lopsided, clumsy fiction that fails to frighten, inform or even entertain.

The movie piles it on thick that there is a curse or something going on. Laura Linney, as the defense attorney for the priest who decided that exorcism was better for Emily than, say, medication, has to put up with a lot of spooky shit in her day-to-day while working the case. A witness is hit by a car right in front of her, which didn’t happen in real life, and if it had, would she go back into the courtroom ten minutes later? By the end of the trial, everyone agrees to disagree and no hard time is handed out. That didn’t happen, either, and if it did, the judge who made such a ruling would have been disbarred.

And it’s not scary. All that twisting, exaggeration, CGI and bullshit, and the movie’s not even scary. It’s disturbing at times, certainly, but you don’t need to base something on a true story to go for the gross-out, and just because a movie has a gross-out doesn’t mean it can’t also be entertaining. Look at the original Exorcist, for crying out loud.

Me vs. Roger Ebert: Roger was surprisingly taken with this film. He gave it 3 stars and wrote several paragraphs about the ideological distinctions between the church, the courts, the faithful and the skeptic. I guess I might have let me cynicism carry me away after learning that 90% of ‘the true story’ was changed to make the film better, and it was still awful.

Monday, February 12, 2007

RE: King Kong vs. Crabby Reviewer

I think I'll take the Kong over the crab. There is no doubt that this is a LOOOONG movie, but I saw it in the theater and again just last night on DVD and it managed to hold my interest both times. Now I can imagine that not being the case for everyone and I'm sure they could have released a perfectly entertaining version with a much shorter runtime, but I have to take issue with the rest of the complaint. This story is a tragedy and a damn good one at that.

Personally, I don't think the focus is on how much we should hate the bad guys, but rather on how beautiful and moving the love story is at the center. This lonely creature is the king of his own environment but he's also the last of his kind. After a string of insignificant affairs with various sacrificial maidens over the years, the big guy finally meets one beauty who he can really connect with. Sure this romance is doomed from the start and we all know it, but isn't that the case with all the best love stories? That's what makes the few truly happy moments they have together that much more powerful. In the end when the cruel world finally takes it's inevitable toll, the satisfaction comes from knowing that those few peaceful moments between the T-Rex attacks, the mortar fire, and the biplanes were absolutely the best part of our hero's life. Yes, we're sad when he dies but we're also happy that he finally had love and beauty in his life before it was over. He would have lived longer back on Skull Island but that would have just prolonged the pain of his isolation and he still would eventually have ended up as just one more pile of bones bleaching in the sun.

So you can have your happy endings with the cat making it out of the burning building, but I'll take King Kong, Old Yeller, Casablanca, Romeo & Juliet, and all the other great tragic stories where the hero dies, the dog gets shot, and the woman goes off with the wrong guy. These are the stories that really make you feel both the joy and pain of life and make you realize the whole point is to enjoy what you have while it lasts. In the big picture, nothing, neither the good stuff nor the bad, lasts very long. Well, except for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I thought those movies would never end ;^}

Sunday, February 11, 2007

King Kong vs. Crabby Reviewer

I should point out, I wasn't crabby before I watched King Kong.

I am, of course, referring to Peter Jackson's epic. By epic, I mean really, really long. I mean, at his present inflation rate, by the time he gets around to making the Hobbit, it'll actually be viewed in real time.

But I disgress. I'm here to be severely irked by King Kong.

FIRST, A WARNING: Have you seen King Kong? Go watch it first. Any version, I don't care. This is not a review in which I'm going to hold back the spoilers or warn about them, because it's sort of silly. It'd be like going Spoiler Alert! If you dont' want to know how the movie Titanic ends, don't keep reading!!! "Okay, so the boat sinks..." - Consider yourself warned.

My first problem was the length. I'm all for long movies. I adore them. I can happily sit through the Lord of the Rings extended editions, even those run for astonishing amounts of time. I happily sat through Gods & Generals, and that was absolutely un-ending.

But King Kong was just long, for the sake of being long. I realize that Peter Jackson's an immense King Kong fan, but even if I hadn't previously known this, the movie would have given it away. It goes on and on, as he's happily spending time with King Kong. The beginning is slow, and interesting, except that when they reach the island and begin their adventures there, it makes the beginning feel like it belongs in a different movie. The middle, when they reach the island, is interesting to an extent. I hate to sound like a geek who got bored watching big dinosaur fight scenes got silly after awhile. I need a plot to be advancing in my fight scenes, not just a series of interesting looking "THat's so cool!" style fights, happening one after another.

In fact, there's easily more than an hour of the movie that could have been chopped out without making it any worse for the wear. And I'm not an editor, I'm a writer. For that matter, I'm the sort of writer who can always find interesting things to add if I can spot things that need cutting, the editors on the film should have too.

King Kong himself is gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. And from the moment you begin to glimpse the mighty ape's personality, you fall in love with him. And therein lies something of the problem with the film.

That is, the ending.

The problem becomes, you are so sympathetic with King Kong and his love for Ann, you're taking his side against everyone else in the film. Which isn't hard to do. Jack Black's character is a money-grubbing bastard, who is neither written to be liked, nor is he liked. Jack Black himself does a fine job, but you're supposed to hate the character. And you do.

The problem, therefore, is that you hate all of those who are arrayed against King Kong...which, by the end of the movie, is everyone. You loathe Karl, you loathe the audience who came to cheer at Kong, defeated and in chains. You loathe the movie star who takes credit for taming the beast, you loathe the everyday citizens of New York for being loud and frightening Kong.

It's a rule of movies (that aren't horror). If attention of any specificity is shown to an animal (usually a cat, or a dog) then that animal must come through the crisis okay. Otherwise, the audience won't forgive you. The house can collapse and kill people, but your heroes must make it out with their loved ones...and the dog, if the dog's been paid attention to.

Kong falls into that category.

And then the end of the movie is him being betrayed, captured, laughed at, shot at, running scared, beaten, broken, and finally...dead. You're cheering when Kong swipes a bi-plane and smashes the wing to pieces. But ultimately, the planes win. Kong dies.

In horror movies, if you had scenes that focused on the dog and then the bad guy put a screwdriver through the dog's head, then the audience instantly wants the bad guy to die, and die badly.

In King Kong, the bad guy who does the equivalent of this is all of humanity, and most every single person of the cast so far, those who didn't die or just go away toward the end. The only sympathetic characters at all are Ann (acted beautifully by Naomi Watts) and Joe Driscoll (acted quietly by Adrian Brody). Everyone else, you loathe and you hate. Particularly in the moments when Kong is lying dead in the street, and men with cameras are climbing for good shots. You hate 'em all.

And that's what the movie leaves you with, ultimately. It's not entirely Peter Jackson's fault, the story is the story after all. Jackson's problems were other things, were lack of editing and letting his love for the story spill a little too strongly onto the screen instead of letting it give everything a finely honed edge, like it did with The Lord of the Rings.

I was genuinely sad when Kong fell, and then mad. The movie ended, and I was hurt and mad. Endings don't have to be happy, by any means, but they do have to be satisfactory in some manner, and Kong's ending wasn't. There were moments I enjoyed, but I could have gotten them out of the King Kong video game (which was also well done.)

If I had seen it in theaters, instead of on HBO, I would have lamented the loss of my money as well as my time. Some movies and TV shows you wish you hadn't seen, because of how they make you feel. Deep down, you're glad you experienced that, glad you got to feel that, even as you hate it. King Kong wasn't like that. It the cat and the hero NOT coming out of the burning building, and then the movie ends.

Feel free to disagree, though. Could just be me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Theories on Smallville’s 33.1

While not anywhere as cryptic (or good) as Lost or Heroes, Smallville offers its own vexing brand of mystery in the form of the enigmatic 33.1, a project spearheaded by Lex Luthor involving the meteors and their respective freaks. Recently, I had a thought the project could run to the very heart of the Superman mythos.

33 is the generally accepted age when Jesus Christ died. Though I’m not sure Smallville will ever touch upon it, the Superman mythos are rife with Biblical, specifically Christ-like, metaphors. Some of the best writers have called Superman a failed Christ figure, and if you don’t believe me, just check out Superman Returns for many allusions to Superman’s Messiah-like identity.

But 33.1 is Lex’s project. Much like the portrayal of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Superman – especially in Smallville­ – is a reluctant savior at best. He never asked for this burden – but Lex Luthor certainly did. In the latest Justice episode he touts his reasoning for the project as a safeguard for freedom and democracy, and before that, he even tests Lana’s loyalty regarding a (faux) alien energy source to use as a weapon against alien invaders.

It is the cruelest and most satirical irony that Lex Luthor himself is barred from the heroism of his most consistent adversary. In the latest pages of 52, Lex himself is exempt from the Everyman program which gives ordinary superpowers because of a strange physiological dysfunction. But I believe if Lex Luthor ever did become a superhero, he would be the first to give his life and fulfill his Messianic complex/self-fulfilled prophecy.

In short, Smallville is at its best when it is not about Lex Luthor’s meteoric rise to villainy, but instead, Lex’s own slow fall from grace. And 33.1 might just be the key to both Lex’s own fragmented Messiah image as well as the answer to fallen Smallville fans such as myself.