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The Four Feathers is pretty amazing. You should read it.  It is the story of Harry Feversham, who leaves  the army right before his regiment gets shipped to war.  Consequently, people in his regiment send him feathers, which is the symbol of cowardice.  Harry doesn’t really like that, so he goes to the Soudan anyway to prove his friends wrong. That’s the story in a nutshell.

These camels always take naps at the most inopportune times!

My favorite thing about this novel is the exploration of fear as a theme.  Harry is afraid to go to war; but he shows repeatedly that once he is in a dangerous situation, he isn’t afraid. He is, in essence, afraid of being afraid; which is not quite the same thing.

This is a great war novel as well, but oddly enough, there aren’t a lot of war scenes. It is mostly intrigue and mystery about where Harry is, what he is doing, and how different characters change their perception of him. A.E.W. Mason was a great writer, and his 1902 novel The Four Feathers still stands up as a great adventure tale. The movie with Heath Ledger is pretty good, too. Check it out!

Touted as “one of the greatest monster movies ever made” by New York Magazine, The Host turned out to be pretty good. I was quite surprised. Usually when I find a monster movie on Netflix that isn’t a spoof, it turns out to be horrible. But oddly enough, The Host was worth watching if you don’t mind reading your movie and like monster movies.

The Calamari is mad we keep eating its children!

Basically a gigantic fish-monster is created by the government and terrorizes everyone, capturing a little girl. The girl’s family decides to hunt down the creature and get her back. Matters are made more complicated by the government, which is trying to quarantine everyone because of a new virus, which they say is hosted by the monster.

I would describe this movie as a gritty Godzilla that is a bit easier to believe. The effects are pretty decent, and except for the head doctor, most of the characters are pretty believable, too.  The most unbelievable thing in this movie is the way the government behaves; which becomes a big theme in this film.

At the end, we are left wondering just who the monster is. Is the monster the government, who created the creature, or the creature itself? The film strongly pushes for the former. All in all, however, if you like creature features, check this movie out!

How do you do a book review on the Iliad? It’s a classic, so whether or not you like it, it still remains an integral part of the literary canon (and rightly so).  Suffice to say, I wish to speak on the Robert Fagles translation of the Iliad (Penguin 1998 ed.), with very little commentary on how good or bad his translation is. I have no idea how close or far his translation is from the orignal language, nor am I sure it even matters.  All I know is that I could understand it and it seemed quite poetic, and that’s good enough for me.

I always feel slightly disappointed when I read the Iliad.  I always feel like I did a lot of reading for a minimal amount of story. I mean, we have the Trojan War going, but no real progress in the war is made by the end of the Iliad. Hector is dead, and Patroclus, but that’s about it. No other casualties that the general reader really cares about.

I think my biggest annoyance with the Iliad, however, is the death of Hector.  He is running around the walls of Troy (away from Achilles), and not one Trojan can pick up a bow and shoot at Achilles?! And no other Trojan will go out and help Hector? Hector just routed the entire Achean army! You would think they could at least make Achilles work for the kill. Maybe I read it wrong, but it always seems that Achilles and Hector are fighting it out alone in front of the gates of Troy.

The Iliad is a classic; so just be aware that if you read this, you’re reading the Iliad. It is good for what it is; but it didn’t get any better (or worse). If you’re in the mood for some poetic killing, check it out! Rage – sing the temper tantrum of Achilles!

The new (hi-fi) record by KJ-52 entitled Dangerous is a solid effort, and well worth a listen.

If you are familiar with any previous work from KJ-52, this CD is different; but not in a bad way. His tunes here are all more “groovy,” and generally would be well suited for any dance club. 7 of the 12 tracks (“It’s Goin’ Down,” “They Like Me,” “Shake ‘Em Up,” “Brand New Day,” “Superhero,” “Speed That Light,” and “Go,”) will make you want to jump around and show off your best moves.

The album also includes a song called “Facemelt,” which is a harder rock/rap combo tune (again with a dance bent) where we get strong electric guitars and rock worthy riffs.  KJ proves he can slow down the tempo and craft nicely melodic tunes, as well, as evidenced by “So Far Apart” and the title track, “Dangerous.”  He also tops himself in silliness with the odd “Do the Bill Cosby.”

Lyrically, this is a great record overall (with exceptions being “Bill Cosby” and “It’s Goin’ Down,” which are basically fun dance tunes anyway.

KJ’s line in “Brand New Day” seems to hold true for this record as well; “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be.” A solid effort with a lot of good tunes.  If you like dance/rap, or like any of KJ-52’s previous records, get it!

 

The critic's quote should be warning enough.

If a movie’s poster says “hip and happening,” it probably isn’t.  And if the movie has a year in the title, it’s a surefire warning sign to stay away.

I knew there was a problem when the first thing that happened in Dracula 2000 was a flashback to the year 1897 for a two minute montage of a boat. After the montage, we head back to the year 2000.  But the couch was comfortable, so I settled in for an hour and a half of pain.

You would think that a movie with Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Esposito, Omar Epps, Sean Patrick Thomas, Danny Masterson, Shane West, and Jeri Ryan might at least be slightly watchable.  It’s not like those actors are terrible — but they all suck in Dracula 2000.  It’s a wonder they were hired for anything after this.

True, they don’t exactly have Shakespearian dialogue to work with; they get to yell lines at Dracula like, “You’re not from that coffin! You are not from that coffin!”  But he is. And he should have stayed in it.

But even bad dialogue doesn’t matter when we can’t hear you speak.  All throughout the movie, Mary (the female lead) whispers. Literally.  Every line she says to everyone is whispered! Speak up! Apparently she’s moody. Who knows? Gerard Butler seems to have the whisper problem in this movie, too.  And then you have Simon (the male protagonist) doing the opposite – he yells his lines at everyone.  It’s an assault on the aural nerves.  Any semblance of acting dies in this movie with Christopher Plummer.

The plot isn’t exactly well done, either (which is kind of difficult to mess up — you have a book already! It’s called Dracula! Can’t you just make it in modern times? Easy!). For example, Dracula comes back from the dead and (thats right!) goes to Louisiana.  Because London wasn’t cool enough, I guess.  Too many people, too many buildings. 

Ahh, man! This movie sucks! I hope no one else watches this.

The dumbest plot issue, however, was the “backstory” of Dracula they concoct.  Apparently, Dracula is really Judas.  Right. That one.  He sucks blood now because he sucked when he betrayed Jesus…no that’s not right. He became a creature of the night because that’s the only time they accepted his 30 pieces of silver? He bites people because he bit Jesus? No.  This isn’t really working with any other piece of vampire lore.  And apparently, you kill vampires by hanging them. Got it! I knew we were all doing something wrong!

About an hour into this movie, I started thinking, “Are they still talking? Blah blah blah blah blah,” and “my critical thinking skills are starting to shut down.”

There’s a scene where Danny Masterson gets a vampire leech in his eye.  Watching this movie is like that.  Avoid.

If you like superhero movies, watch Thor. 

Anthony Hopkins as Odin

Thor is fun, full of action, and entertaining.  It’s also directed by Kenneth Brannagh (mind-bogglingly) in a departure from his well-known (and well-recieved) Shakspearian and classic fare.

Great direction by Brannagh, great acting by Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and cool superhero action scenes make this movie great; as long as the other actors don’t suck (which they didn’t) this movie was going to turn out alright. And it does. The story of Odin and his two sons make the plot (fairly) feasable and provide a sound basis for story development.

That’s not to say that the movie didn’t have its flaws.  Why is it that every superhero movie tries to look like a comic book?  The costuming looked ok when the entire background was CGI, but as soon as the gods made their way to earth, they ceased to look god-like.  It looked like they bought their outfits at Target on Halloween.  With all this CGI, can’t they at least make chainmail costumes look like actual chainmail? I think the costumes came from the same bin as Indiana Jones’ “crystal” skull.

Loki: "Our costumes are plastic!" Thor: "Yeah, but look at my awesome cape!"

I also wasn’t such a fan of Thor “falling” for Natalie Portman in the span of two days.  Or that Loki’s supposed motivation for genocide was to make his adoptive father proud, even though he seemed to hate his father for not telling him he was adopted.  Well, you know. Superhero movie.

Overall, though, a good, entertaining superhero movie that stands up well with Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Check it out.

Man up!

Somewhere, somehow, someone's going to pay.

My beard just grew 6 inches in the last hour and a half.  Commando is that testosterone fueled.  

Within the first five minutes of this movie, we learn two things: 1) the things people do aren’t going to make a lot of sense. 2) There will be action. Lots of action.

The movie starts with bad guys killing random civilians for absolutely no reason.  I guess we just need to understand that they’re bad.  check.

Then we move on to a sickeningly sweet montage of Arnold feeding a deer with his daughter, getting into a tickle fight with her, and playing in the water.  I was expecting him to wear a tutu and have tea next, but luckily, the song ended and we  get to the action.

This is where the action starts.  Awesome.  Stuff blows up, bad guys shoot millions of bullets that don’t hit anything, and the governator kills people with his bare hands. The idea of “acting” doesn’t seem to bother any of them, either.  I also wonder how one claymore mine magically makes three buildings explode.

“Where did you learn to do that?” Arnold asks the girl (there’s always a girl, after she uses a rocket launcher).

“I read the directions!” she responds.  How then, did she point the wrong end at the enemy?

But I overanalyze this too much.  Stuff blows up.  Arnold is beefy.  Bad guys die.  And you will laugh, though not because of the script’s witicisms.  It even ends with 80’s-tastic “We Fight for Love.”  Not terrible as far as 80’s “man-movies” go,  but I’d say watch Predator instead.

An ancient curse is about to be ignored!

“I will come back, you hear?  I will come back to kill!” Professor Morlant cries on his deathbed. 

But he doesn’t.  Not really.  Oh sure, he comes back from the grave.  And he does kill — just one person, though.  One person who really has nothing to do with the storyline at all.  For that matter, most of the characters are just periphery.

Bascially, Professor Morlant (Boris Karloff) has a bunch of old Egyptian statues, jewels, and the like lying about.  He is dying, and it’s supposed to bring him back from the dead.  Which it does, except he can’t stay alive unless he puts the jewel that brought him back to life in the hand of a sun god statue.  Of course, almost every other character just wants to steal the jewel for no reason other than to be rich.  The hero and heroine of the story are in line to recieve an inheritance from Morlant, but they just try to stay alive. 

This movie was bascially Frankenstein/the Mummy + Clue.  It’s not that it was that horrible (the acting was), but it was made in 1933.  And to give it some props, it had a few cool atmospheric elements:  The house was cool-looking, and the fog was well-made for a B&W film. 

No scares here, but a few laughs.  Unless you love old B&W “horror” flicks, check out something else. 

“I’ve just had some excitement,” one character says.

“Well, don’t do it again!” the heroine retorts.  My sentiments exactly.

The Rite

 Rite or Wrong? Either way, good acting.

The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins, isn’t too bad.  Though, I’m pretty sure that Anthony Hopkins could make the phone book sound pretty decent. 

Anyway, The Rite is about American seminary student Michael.  He has doubts about his faith, the existence of God, and anything supernatural.  So his professors send him off to Rome to take an exorcism course.  He meets super-exorcist Anthony Hopkins, who brings him along to a few exorcisms. 

Everything is going well ( if failed exorcisms and getting yourself on a demon’s hit list means “well”) when Anthony Hopkins lets himself go and gets possessed himself.  I hate it when that happens.  Now the new, faithless seminary student has to perform the rite of exorcism on his new buddy.  Bummer. 

Where I wouldn’t call this movie “scary,” it does have some genuinely creepy moments, and it makes you think about life, death, and the supernatural.  The acting is great, and Anthony Hopkins steals the show as usual.  The effects aren’t overused or corny, and though the lack of effects may decrease the “scare factor,” it increases the “believability vibe.”  Which is good, considering this movie is “based on a true story.” 

Overall, worth seeing.  I just hope you aren’t afraid of the dark — or prone to possession.

This is a bad sign.  For humanity.  Satan had a son, and he inadvertently was switched with yours at birth!  Well, maybe this will all work itself out.

Oops.  The son of Satan just killed your wife and unborn child.  Ok, you are a bit angry now.  Well, maybe it was an accident.  What’s this? A 666 birthmark on his head?  Gah! If only you had given him a crew cut!  And you didn’t do a background check on his new nanny…who also happens to be a demon. With a demon dog in tow.

Well, I suppose you’d better kill this kid, then.  He is the anti-Christ, after all.  You’re off to gather 7 knives from Meggido!  After a quick stop in Italy just to make sure you weren’t wrong.  What? More demon dogs?  Run!!!!

Yup.  He’s the anti-Christ.  Ok, got your knives, got your airplane ticket! This will work…if law enforcement doesn’t stop you first.

I liked this movie.  It will creep you out.  Gregory Peck does a great job, and the score is amazing.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you’re in the mood for a creepy, good scary movie without all the hack-n-slash, The (original, 1976) Omen should make your list.