2012年9月25日 星期二

The Worst Movies I've Seen Lately

There is no shortage of terrible movies out there.  Here are five I've had the misfortune of seeing within the past few weeks.

1. I Spit on Your Grave (the remake)

The original wasn't good either, but even that film seems like a masterpiece compared to this one.  The plot is weak, the acting is unconvincing, and the director seemed content to merely emulate the original movie.  If you haven't seen either this film or the original, it centers around the assault/rape of a woman who has little common sense, and even less regard for her own personal safety.  The death of one character near the end doesn't even make any sense!

2. Dhoom 2

This is a Hindi film starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.  Rohan is a globe-trotting thief and master of disguise, and Rai is the undercover cop trying to bring him down.  Of course they fall in love halfway through the movie, but the predictable corniness of this film isn't what makes it so terrible.  The really terrible part is Rohan's disguises, and the fact that the other characters are stupid enough to fall for these disguises.  Rai is stunning as always, and Rohan is a fantastic dancer, but neither beauty nor athletic prowess could save this film.

3. Doom

I bought this on DVD a few days ago.  It was in the discount bin.  Several marine-type guys go to Mars and offend several zombies.  It starts out OK, but it gets stupid really fast.  For trained soldiers, these guys sure are good at getting themselves killed.  The only thing I liked about this DVD was the fact that two of the bonus features were about the computer game.

4. Mirrors

This movie wasn't bad so much as disappointing.  I am a huge fan of Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes, so I came into this movie with fairly high expectations.  It starts out great, but doesn't seem to go anywhere from there.  By the end of the movie, it bears an unfortunate resemblance to The Exorcist.  I'm hoping Aja's next movie, Maniac, another remake starring Elijah Wood, is better.

5. Drive Angry

Can Nicholas Cage just go away please?  He's great when he's in serious movies like The Lord of War, but awful in every action film he stars in.  If any actor is actively destroying his own legacy, it's Nicholas Cage.  Does he simply accept every script that comes along?  Does he need the money that bad?  I don't know what's going on here, but someone needs to find him a better agent.  Despite a cool bad guy, this movie is really, truly dumb.

2012年9月16日 星期日

"A Feast for Crows" by George R.R. Martin

"A Feast for Crows" is the fourth novel in George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire."  The title could refer to the brothers of the Night Watch, who are rescued by King Stannis at the beginning of the book, or it could refer to actual crows, who feast on the numerous corpses that populate this novel.

If you haven't read this or any of the other five published volumes in this series, you need to go out and read them NOW.  Believe me, you will not regret it.  I am just now starting the most recently published book, "A Dance with Dragons," and I am eagerly anticipating the sequel to that one.

"A Feast for Crows" is a lot more gruesome than the other novels, and there were many violent moments in those books as well.  Only half of the characters from the previous novel, "A Storm of Swords" make an appearance, and the absent characters are to be found in "A Dance with Dragons."  Danaerys in not to be found in this one, nor is Tyrion.  Davos is mentioned in passing, but his fate remains uncertain.  Some people might find this split between two books a cause for complaint, but I found it to be a nice change from the first three novels.

Much of "A Feast for Crows" is narrated from Cersei and Jaime Lannister's points of view, and while this is slightly off-putting at first, the misfortune that befalls Cersei before the end of the novel more than justifies this approach to the story.

In "A Feast for Crows" Cersei more closely resembles the despot she so desperately wants to become.  Her estrangement from her twin brother Jaime also continues, and we learn more of what happened to Sansa and Arya Stark.  My one complaint is Samwell Tarly.  He can be - at times - a difficult character to relate to.

Fan's of Martin's "Ice and Fire" often complain over how long he takes to write his novels.  Given the complexity of what he is writing, however, I can't see how they have cause for complaint.  If you want fantasy books written faster, I direct you to the remainder of the fantasy aisle.  If you want fantasy books that challenge you, then you, like me, will be waiting patiently for the book after "A Dance with Dragons."  Books like "A Feast for Crows" don't come out so often, but they are well worth the wait.

2012年9月7日 星期五

A Justice League Movie

At this point in time, any discussion of Warner Brother's Justice League movie is pure speculation.  Yes, they do seem to be moving towards a 2015 release date, and yes, they do have a guy writing the script, but neither of these facts add up to proof that the Justice League will hit theaters any time in the near future.  Those who doubt this claim need only look into the history of this project, and also of the failed Justice League TV pilot.  The future of any DC cinematic universe is far from certain, and will depend in large part upon how the Marvel movies fare in the near future.

I, for one, would love to see a Justice League movie.  But I grew up on DC comics, and the (Barry Allen) Flash has always been one of my favorite comic book characters.  I think it would be great to see the Superfriends finally hit the big screen, even if the odds of this project succeeding are LOW.  Again, one need only investigate George Miller's failed attempt to bring the JLA to theaters.  Up until the writer's strike, even that film - which would have preceded Marvel's Avengers by several years - seemed inevitable.

And then there is the oft-mentioned Batman Vs. Superman movie, an advertisement for which can be glimpsed in the movie I Am Legend.  That movie was also much closer to actual production, and would have been a much safer bet.  It also self-destructed.

 So I wouldn't count on a Justice League movie appearing any time soon, but this isn't to say it won't happen.  Maybe the people at Warner Bros. really will get their act together, and do this thing right - and soon.  But I won't count my chickens just yet.  The Man of Steel might well tank at the box office, or the Marvel movies might suffer from our collective "superhero fatigue."  In either event a Justice League movie will be less likely.

It's fun to speculate, however.  The field is still wide open as far as this movie is concerned, and at this point no one knows if Zack Snyder's Man of Steel will even tie into this film at all.  What follow are some points to consider.

1. "Dark" or humorous?

With the unsurprising success of Chris Nolan's "Dark Knight Rises," most people are betting that this movie will be "dark" and "gritty."  This would form a nice contrast with the humorous tone of The Avengers, though it is far from certain that this "darker" take on the Justice League would work.  "Darker" implies "more realistic," and while this tone would compliment the upcoming Man of Steel, one wonders just how "gritty" you can make a movie about a Kryptonian, an Amazon princess, and a guy who dresses up like a bat.  If they go for a Nolan-style Justice League, I think they're going to have to make heroes like Superman much less powerful, and also tone down elements of their back story.  The clash between Superman and Batman alone would be a difficult obstacle to overcome.

2. What characters will be in it?

I think most people would agree that it's not the Justice League without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Other characters are debatable, though you would definitely need more than three people to make a league.

The Flash seems like a no-brainer, but then there is the question of how powerful he ought to be.  The Barry Allen Flash, at the height of his power, could both run at the speed of light and vibrate his molecules through solid objects.  If he were that powerful, could even Superman touch him?

The Green Lantern also seems likely, but given the limited success of the Green Lantern film, it will be necessary to reinvent him.  I am all for going with the John Stewart version of the character.  We need to see more actors of color in these things, and I have always found John Stewart easier to relate to.

Other characters are open to debate.  I think Aquaman could be viable, but then you'd have to explain Atlantis.  He might work if the film had an "environmental" angle to it, but then again people might confuse him with Marvel's Namor.

For that matter, the Martian Manhunter would be even more problematic, in that you'd have two aliens on the same team, and both of them super-powerful to boot.  I've also never found the Manhunter to be an interesting character, and his vulnerability to fire is just lame.

Captain Marvel might work, and might be an interesting contrast to Superman.  He could even start the movie as the villain, or at least an ambiguous presence.  Putting the "insane" Captain Marvel from DC's "52" into a Justice League movie could work wonders.  This would also be an opportunity to introduce Black Adam.

Captain Atom might work even better, especially if you were trying to make this movie more "scientific."  Captain Atom opens the door to many quantum explanations of what is going on.  Anyone who fails to see this should see the movie Watchmen.  Dr. Manhattan is a direct adaptation of Captain Atom.

Other characters?  Well the Green Arrow is out.  He would just remind people of Hawkeye from The Avengers, and the Black Canary will just remind people of Black Widow.  Cyborg might be an interesting and slightly more believable alternative, even if I'm tired of "black" superheroes getting hidden behind CGI or prostheses.  Hawkman would probably be the worst choice - it would be hard to get those wings right.

3. What will the plot look like?

If I was the world's mightiest mortal, or at least the guy writing the script, I'd avoid bogging the thing down with origin stories.  It would be exceptionally hard to tell anyone's origin story in a new and exciting way, and our suspension of disbelief will be greater if we are placed right in the thick of the action.

I would suggest a cast of characters that already know of one another's existence, with origins alluded to through dialogue.  Nothing would ruin a movie like this faster than trying to explain everything.  Marvel took five whole movies just to build up to The Avengers, and that movie wouldn't have worked half as well if The Avengers had come out before Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man II, Thor, and Captain America.  What Warner Bros. needs to do is cut to the chase, and perhaps leave some details to future movies.  This would also enhance interest in the plot, in that leaving the audience with a few questions always makes a film deeper.

As for any general plot outline, I wouldn't try that here.  I do think there are a few examples from the comics that might work well in a movie.  One is DC's Kingdom Come, in which an aging Superman emerges from retirement.  Another is Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, which also features several members of the Justice League.

A third option would be "The Flash of Two Worlds" storyline from The Flash comic books.  This is the storyline that originated the "DC multiverse" concept, and it would be a fascinating idea to explore in a film.  Each member of the Justice League might originate in a parallel universe, with different versions of the same character coexisting in the same multiverse.  I think this could be a lot of fun, and more importantly, it would differentiate the DC properties from what Marvel is doing.

Just imagine!  Not only do we get the "new" Batman, but also the Michael Keaton version!  Or the Adam West version!  Or the Brandon Routh version of Superman, alongside the Henry Cavill version!  You wouldn't even need the same actors, though that would certainly make it more fun.

4. Who will direct it?

There have been rumors to the effect that both Ben Affleck and the Wachowskis have been approached.  I think Affleck is too new to directing, and I wouldn't want anyone associated with the Daredevil fiasco directing the Justice League.

The Wachowskis, while responsible for the disastrous Speed Racer, might not be a bad choice.  They have one of the most-imitated sci-fi/action movies of all time to their credit, and they definitely know how to do this kind of movie.

5. Name actors or unknowns?

I think name actors would be a distraction.  Marvel has had great success casting relative unknowns in starring roles, and I see no reason why DC shouldn't follow suit.  Besides, a Justice League movie starring the likes of Dicaprio or Will Smith is likely to break the bank.

I still think, however, that Ryan Reynolds would have made a great Flash.  Unfortunately he has already been Green Lantern and Deadpool.  High time to drop his name from consideration.

6. The villain?

This all depends on how powerful they're going to make the Justice League.  Judging by the Man of Steel trailers, Superman can at least fly at supersonic speed, so any adversary or adversaries they face off against would have to be fairly powerful.  Darkseid is an easy, obvious choice, but he might be too similar to The Avenger's Thanos.   An interesting approach might be to have a League member start off as the adversary, with perhaps a still greater threat waiting in the wings.

This is a tough one for me, especially considering that my favorite DC villain is Superboy Prime!

7. How much do most people really want to see this film?

That, I think, is the billion-dollar question.  It all depends on how Snyder's Man of Steel does at the local multiplex.  If it upstages or even approaches the success of The Avengers, then I think the anticipation behind this one will be quite high.  It might even be that people are tired of the Marvel cinematic universe by the time Avengers 2 rolls around, and the Justice League will be a welcome alternative.

DC/Warner Bros. will just have to roll the dice on this one.  If they are seriously aiming for a 2015 release, then this movie will have to enter production before the Man of Steel hits theaters.  This would be a big gamble.  Marvel was very careful about building up the connections between its films, and DC would only have one movie on which to build something just as big - if not bigger.

2012年9月4日 星期二

"A Storm of Swords" by George R.R. Martin

"A Storm of Swords" is the third book in Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series.  At the time of writing, the first five books in this series have been published, with two more books awaiting publication.

The first book in this series, "A Game of Thrones," inspired HBO's TV adaptation.  That television series has since exhausted the material in "A Game of Thrones," and has moved on to the second book in the series, "A Clash of Kings."  I've seen bits of the TV show on YouTube, and despite some stellar performances by the cast, I can't say that I enjoyed the show half as much as the books.  The books paint pictures on a much larger canvas, and I'm sure the producers of the show were limited by budgetary constraints.

With this said, however, I must add that HBO has been relatively faithful to the source material.  Anyone who likes the TV show will love the books, and anyone who likes the books will probably find the TV show somewhat interesting.  Peter Jackson and Co. may have butchered Tolkein's novels, but Martin's creation translates so well to television that no one had to disfigure "A Game of Thrones" and its sequel.

So far, "A Storm of Swords" is the longest book in Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire," and that in itself is no mean feat.  The first two books weren't short novels, either.  The plot encompasses the land of Westeros, as well as certain eastern kingdoms visited by the heiress to the Dragon Throne.  Westeros is threatened by a wildling invasion to the north, and by the machinations of five men striving to displace the recently deceased king of Westeros, Robert Baratheon.

As with the first two books, the Starks of Winterfell are at the center of the action.  In the wake of Eddard Stark's death, Sansa is still a captive of the Lannisters, Arya still wanders through the kingdom, and the four sons of Eddard Stark face treacheries on every side.  In addition to the Starks, there are also chapters focusing on Catelyn Stark, Jaime and Tyrion Lannister, Stannis Baratheon's "Onion Knight" Ser Davos, and the above-mentioned Danaerys, heiress to the Dragon Throne.

My favorite part of this book had to be the death of two main characters, about 2/3 of the way through.  Their death came as a complete surprise to me, and was handled perfectly.  I also enjoyed Tyrion's trial at the end, and Ser Gregor's unexpected revenge.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy a more realistic approach to swords and sorcery.  In his "Song of Ice and Fire" Martin hasn't just created an interesting fantasy world, he's also created a world where the characters live, breathe, and suffer at one another's hands. It isn't a world where good triumphs over evil every time, but it is a world where humanity takes center stage.