Sunday, August 31, 2008

In The Industry

Today has been a rather stressful day at work, hence the frequent need to escape in the form of sweet poetry and all other sorts of fun-filled blogging practices.

My frustration in poetry form...

May find it necessary
To pack a sharp shiv

Speaking of shivs...

Inmates have even
Sharpened the ends of pork chop
Bones to make weapons.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walker for VP

KAREN: Gosh, I don't think that I've ever been stressed out. Why would I be? I've got practically no responsibilities, my job's a breeze and I've got a KILLER rack. Good morning.

I usually don't blog about politics, but this was too funny to pass up. Some people have already begun to recognize the similarity between Sarah Palin and Karen Walker.

KAREN: Yeah. Well, now my drink's talkin'...and it's sayin', "Drink me. I make life more fun. Everybody from a high school kid to a bum on the street knows that."

I miss that show.

Optical Illusions

I love me some optical illusions. These are by artist, Octavio Ocampo.

There is a great collection of optical illusions here.

Have your mind blown.

The White Van

For my job, I often am required to book shuttle service for large groups and one of the companies I was recommended by a colleague of mine was Seattle Shuttle. I very much trust the gentleman who suggested I use their services, although after increasingly odd interactions with their staff members and their use of large, unmarked vans makes me slightly apprehensive about calling them too often.

For example, while waiting for a pick-up a few weeks ago, one of the drivers-an incessant talker with deep set eyes and a greasy, brown ponytail-casually mentioned to me that he would like to murder the person who invented text messaging with a long-range rifle. He he he...

"Yeah...alright, sir...I'll just step over here."

I thought the circumstances merited a haiku.

Seattle Shuttle
Your generic white vans come
to kidnap my guests.

Work Haiku

Lilies-syrup sweet
Scent-recall the months I worked
A funeral home.

Double espresso!
How are you? The steaming wand
Screamed over your name.

As you and your friend
Ponder your poison at length,
My patience dwindles.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Misuse of Spandex

...or When Bad Costumes Happen to Otherwise Attractive Superheroes

I have seen only a handful of episodes of Smallville and I have heard that the writing is not very strong, although someone or a sizeable group of someones must find it appealing enough to keep it going for an 8th season!

The CW just released a couple of promotional images for the upcoming season. Justin Hartley as Green Arrow-formerly Aquaman-and Alan Ritchson as Aquaman.

I will paraphrase an article from an old issue of Details-the one with Hayden Christensen on the cover-that I read while waiting for my hair appointment:

All superhero costumes, whether they be for a male or female, are essentially tinted bodies.

These costumes don't even give us that satisfaction.

UPDATE: I loved this comment at i09 on an article about Darkseid's rumored appearance on the next season of Smallville.

The more I've heard about Smallville over the succeeding years, the more it reminded me of how easily Star Trek Voyager took creepy, fearsome antagonists like the Borg and made them as ineffectual as a sitcom next-door neighbor who pops in to grab a snack from your kitchen, cracks wise, then disappears.

A Country Didn't Like The Dark Knight

I realize that in continuing my discussions on The Dark Knight in such a manner might seem like I have a personal vendetta against the movie, but my intentions with this ongoing discourse are of a more speculative nature. It is somewhat of a quest for a reevaluation of the film while trying to figure out just what has made the movie so irresistible for audiences...

Except for audiences in Japan! And yes, I will openly admit that I say those words in a slightly "so there!" tone.

Apparently, The Dark Knight has not done incredibly well there, pulling in just under $9 million in the three weekes it has been in theatres in that country.

Slash Film provides a possible reason for the underperformance abroad:

The story is very pessimistic. It has a dark and gloomy texture that Japanese movie fans do not find appealing in a ‘comic hero’ film… Japanese movie fans expect such films to be fun and action packed, for the hero to be attractive, for the villain to be loud and outrageous, and for the movie itself to be easy to understand and light.

Indeed, I did not feel titular character in The Dark Knight to embody the notion of the "comic" nor a "hero."

Although, Christian Bale is definitely attractive (see: American Psycho if you have any doubts), so there's one big check-mark going for it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stop Doing Tina!

Kristen Chenoweth, Glinda in the original production of Wicked and with supporting roles in several films, sings a song about an intervention for a meth addict.

I was with my friend Keith the other day and we came across the show that this spoofs on his Tivo. We started watching it and it was a bit too much.

Kristen lightens the tone a bit.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Century Top 10

Box Office Mojo, one of, if not the most reputable source of box office statistics, has a chart of the All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation-although "All Time" sounds like a rather grandiose title considering the modern film has been around less than a hundred years.

It sounds like they've been tracking movie attendance since the "Dawn of Time" or something.

Here are the top ten entries with adjusted gross sums:

1. Gone with the Wind (1939) MGM $1,430,476,000
2. Star Wars (1977) Fox $1,261,086,700
3. The Sound of Music (1965) Fox $1,008,300,900
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Universal $1,004,328,700
5. The Ten Commandments (1956) Paramount $927,480,000
6. Titanic Paramount $908,688,900 $600,788,188 1997
7. Jaws Universal (1975) $906,798,000
8. Doctor Zhivago MGM (1965) $878,879,000
9. The Exorcist (1973) WB $782,826,200
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Disney $771,720,000

I feel slightly odd that I have not even seen Doctor Zhivago or The Exorcist, although I have not had an overwhelming desire to see either film. Jaws, I have not seen in ages-have I even seen it all the way through? I am pleased that the original Star Wars still beats Titanic by a fairly wide margin, despite Titanic having a hire unadjusted gross. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs coming to movie theatres must have been quite the cultural event back in the day as it was the first full length animated feature. Prior to 1937, audiences saw news reels and several shorts if they ever did go to the cinema.

It is also interesting to note that in the past decade we haven't seen anything really come close to the Top 10. Titanic was the only film in over twenty years to break into the fold. And before that, the latest entry was for a film that came out in 1982.

I read recently that it may not even be possible for a film to break into this upper echelon anymore, due to the stratification of audiences through different media as well as a completely different movie culture altogether. When Titanic came out, for example, it was the movie for several months, even the year, whereas this summer, for example, saw the release of many major films, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones for starters.

The kind of attention that one movie can garner in the 21st century is hindered by a saturated visual culture landscape.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Visions of Warcraft

I used to play the first Warcraft game back in 1997. Back then, the world of Warcraft was fairly, based on the same platform as many other popular games in the mid to late 90s such as Command & Conquer. The player built forts and bases, spawned soldiers, waged mini-battles from an all-seeing perspective. World of Warcraft completely changed that basic gaming structure to something far more dynamic.

Engineers at Blizzard really did create a world and though I have not played the "new" incarnation of Warcraft, being the geek that I am, I would say I am fairly well entrenched in the kind of social circles where players of the game are common. I even had the game installed on my computer for a good period of time when my roommate and our mutual friend would have WOWnights that involved them playing in my roommate's room and mine respectively, yelling across the apartment as they sought after powerful artifacts, completed missions and walked around the digital world created for them in the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

Naturally, there has been talk of making a cinematic adaptation of the game for some time. In 2006 Legendary Pictures-Batman Begins, 300 and Superman Returns-announced that they would bring World of Warcraft to the screen in 2009. With 2009 just around the corner, it doesn't look like that will happen at this point. the A trailer for the newest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, however, does give us a taste for what a live action World of Warcraft movie would be like.

If an eventual WOW movie does look like this, I will definitely be there. What I love about this kind of storytelling is that it is rooted in pure fantasy. Even the environments are lavish, outlandish. Colors are richer, magic is a given. Other fantasy films have come close but are still for the most part, highly mainstream features and rarely have as bold of styling I think true fantasy media necessitates.

In other online-role-playing-game news, I just discovered the web series, The Guild, which explores the clash of the online and real life with always comedic results. The series is penned by Felicia Day, newly in the spotlight after her role as Penny in Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. In fact, some of the humor in The Guild is reminiscent of that on Dr. Horrible. Felicia Day also runs a blog on her own site.

I give you the first episode of The Guild:

I watched all ten episodes of the first season of The Guild-which is available on DVD-with a friend of mine who is going to start to play World of Warcraft. I suppose that in making him watch the show I was poking a little fun at him for playing but I feel that I can do so only because I have plenty of geeky obsessions of my own (see: model lightsaber above my television).

He's going to be a Paladin.

A Gnome Paladin.

Keep an eye out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

After The Fall(s)

I knew this would happen, when my experience watching Buffy and Angel for the first time would come to a bittersweet end. Fortunately, it only makes me want to go back and watch it all again.

Even though I came to Buffy late in the game, I was excited not only because I had finally become witness to one of our generations greatest television shows or because I had found a thrilling new venue for exploring my academic pursuits, but because I still had 143 more episodes left after “Welcome to the Hellmouth” over seven entire seasons to watch. “The Chosen Collection” was there next to my television or its individual folios were strewn about my desk by my computer just waiting to be watched and re-watched. When Buffy came to an end for me in early 2008, I was on a high and there was little time between the time I finished Buffy and when I began watching Angel.

Slayage Conference 3 came as I was nearing the end of Angel’s third season. Despite the numerous exclamations directed at me of “What?! You haven’t seen all of Angel?” and Nikki Stafford’s oft-voiced exuberance over the glorious manner in which Angel bowed out to television audiences at the end of its fifth and final season, I was still happy to hold on to the fact that I had not finished it, always looking forward to the fact that I knew I could still return to a world that was familiar and unfamiliar all at once-where anything could happen and it would still manage to surprise me, even four or five years after the show originally aired.

A few weeks ago, I finally finished Angel.

What next? I had already begun collecting the fantastic Season 8 of Buffy-how ‘bout that reveal at the end of Issue 16?-and however pleased I was at the way the television series of Angel ended, I knew I would inevitably check out Angel: After The Fall which is essentially Angel: Season Six. In fact, I figured I would be in need of an Angel-fix that I actually purchased the bound edition of After The Fall’s first story arc in a hardcover which collects the first five issues before I even finished the last few episodes so I would have it at my fingertips when the screen went dark. Does anyone else think that Angel looks a hell-of-a-lot like Nathan Fillion in this illustration? The association is interesting taking into account Nathan Fillion auditioned for the role of Angel on Buffy, but was told he was too old.

It happens with vacations, it happens with movies, it happens with television shows-sooner or later, these things come to an end and we are forced not to forget what we have experienced but reminisce fondly about them and reestablish them within a new context in our lives. Instead of watching a show faithfully week to week, we have marathons and in the case of Buffy, sing-a-longs, we have our friends watch these works of art, we write about them, we instruct by them. We use these cultural products in new ways and we re-experience them which can be just as enjoyable. I may have finished watching Buffy and Angel as an initial pass-through, but now I can experience them upon again in a different way.

Thankfully, Whedon and Co.—IDW Publishing, Dark Horse, the writers, illustrators and inkers of the comics-are a benevolent people who will allow me the pleasure of continuing my foray into the Buffyverse and I don’t quite have to go through a painful lamenting process since I finished the shows.

Yesterday's purchases at Zanadu, the comic book store downtown, are evidence that the world I cherish is still in motion. A well-spent $20 bill garnered me Angel: After The Fall, issues 7 through 11. And a sidenote: while I understand the monetary motivation to have variant covers with comic books, it is still immensely frustrating, but I think I picked the pretty ones.

On a shelf in my humble apartment, looked over by a mean statuette of Darth Vader, “The Chosen Collection” stands beside the collector's set of Angel and Firefly: The Complete Series in a kind of holy trio, a Joss Whedon shrine of sorts. Above that the first sixteen and counting issues Buffy Season 8 and the first eleven of Angel: After The Fall.

If my shelf or the sales numbers serve any amount of proof, I don’t think there will ever come a time when we live in a Buffyless world.

Buffy lives...again.

Thank Whedon (and yourselves) for that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer Top 10

Box Office Summer Top 10 (or Relishing in My List Obsession)

1. The Dark Knight: $477M
2. Iron Man: $317M
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: $315M
4. Hancock: $225M
5. Wall-E: $214M
6. Sex and the City: $152M
8. Prince Caspian: $141M
9. The Incredible Hulk: $134M
10. Wanted: $133M

My Personal Top 10 List 2008

1. Wall-E
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
4. The Three Little Pigs
5. Iron Man
6. The Island of Lost Souls
7. The Dark Knight
8. Savage Grace
9. Bottle Shock
10. Breakfast with Scot

My Top 10: In Short

1. Wall-E
An awe-inspiring, sweeping, groundbreaking, moving and virtually silent movie with an incredible lovable robot. Read my review on Wall-E here.

2. There Will Be Blood
Though a 2007 film, I saw this in January of this year. A fantastic film, with an epic scale and powerful statements about greed, possession and obsession.

3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
It is always a thrill to see a filmmakers unabashed imagination brought to life. A colorful, comical, beautiful adventure movie.

4. The Three Little Pigs
The Canadians once again prove to be the masters of the ensemble film. Les Trois Petits Cochons is a hilarious movie about three brothers whose lives, at first, could not seem more different, then the coma of their mother brings them together as flashbacks of recent events play out for the audience in bawdy and often politically incorrect fashion.

5. Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr.'s inspired casting combined with smart writing sets a new standard for comic book adaptations. A fun afternoon at the movies.

6. The Island of Lost Souls
This movie-unsurprisingly-just got picked up for an American remake. Why must Hollywood remake anything that is not in their own language but is a perfectly good piece of art to begin with? Anyway, this is a must see movie with amazing special effects, an extraordinarily effective villain, original plot and the highest budget for a Dutch film ever.

7. The Dark Knight
For all the hype, The Dark Knight did not match, much less surpass, my expectations. A well-filmed, realistic, morality tale? More or less. Oscar-winning, best-movie-ever, amazing comic-book adaptation? Not so much. Still, an enjoyable, unique vision of Batman's world. See my review here.

8. Savage Grace
Not the easiest movie to watch, by any means, but worth watching nonetheless. Julianne Moore and co. indulge in some good ol' fashioned Oedipal complexity against pretty, vintage backdrops and a strangely emotional and engaging narrative.

9. Bottle Shock
A crowd pleaser, this movie served as the closing night feature at the Seattle International Film Festival in June. Alan Rickman often steals the show in this film filled with witty dialogue, sun-drenched landscapes, and Eliza Dushku. My account of SIFF's Opening Night festivites.

10. Breakfast with Scot
Another well-written Canadian comedy/drama. A couple is forced to reexamine their own identity as gay men as the flamboyant nephew of Alan Shenkman's character comes to live in their home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Welcome to my Blogroll

I present to you the five most recent additions to my Blogroll. Take a moment to meander through some of my new favorites, from poetry to pants to pop to pornstars.

In Between Words
A former "silent reader" of my blog, Jessica, a dear friend from high school and creative writing enthusiast, writes a poem-a-day on a variety of topics including faith, childhood and nature.

My New Plaid Pants
The majority of the content in this blog focuses on film and does so in a wonderfully indulgent fashion, including loads of pictures of attractive actors, lengthy posts on guilty-pleasure-movies, and a healthy dose of shameless obsession. Don't miss the "Movies in 150 Words or Less" posts.

Notes from the PopMaster
I like to compare my friend Kevin's status as Musicologist to mine as self-proclaimed Buffyologist. Most recently, Kevin completed a thesis on gender-identity and music. Congratulations, Kevin!

Slash Film
Regularly updated, / Film is an oft-linked alternative film blog with reviews, pop culture commentary, comedic images and videos, film advertisement campaigns, etc.

Filthy Never Looked So Good
The new spin-off of Francois Sagat's first blog includes images of Sagat's commercial photo shoots, a slideshow and an eclectic playlist-Justice, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, The Presets-which pointed me to a great instrumental track entitled "Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula" as performed by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food Haiku

I was drinking coffee at my apartment the other day and of all things, it inspired me to write some haiku-all of which, for whatever reason, ended up being about food, perhaps evidence of my lament concerning the ever-rising cost of food in this country.

The curls of the cream
In my coffee twist and turn
Somehow sinister.

Sometimes I subsist
On just grilled cheese sandwhiches
And tomato soup.

When someone makes me
A hot breakfast, my heart warms
More than my stomach.

Speaking of cream-curls, last year around this time, my coworkers and I spent a surprising amount of time taking pictures of cream falling and swirling into iced tea.

I'm quite fine with being so easily amused in this fashion.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Serenity Sequel

Yesterday on the MTV Movies Blog, the following article was published concerning the relentless rumors of a possible sequel to the 2005 hit-that-should-have-been-more-of-a-hit, Serenity.

Will There Ever Be a ‘Serenity’ Sequel? Joss Whedon Puts the Rumors To Bed

Every so often, rumors of a “Serenity” sequel pop up, and no matter how many times Joss Whedon says, “No, it’s not happening,” the rumors persist. Are they based on any behind-the-scenes maneuvers? Or if they’re not based on any reality in this ‘verse, why do they persist?

“The rumors are there because people really wish it would happen,” Whedon said.

Not just the fans — the cast, too, are partly responsible (Alan Tudyk, we’re looking at you). Why, just a few weeks ago at Comic-Con, while promoting “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” Summer Glau couldn’t contain herself. “Oh, I would love to go back and do another ‘Serenity’ movie,” she gushed. Um, I was asking about the comics — as in, any unfinished business with River you’d like to see in the Serenity comics?

“It’s just that I miss everyone,” she explained. “That experience for me was the best acting experience of my life. I had never really worked before, and we were truly like a family. It was an amazing and fun time for all of us. I feel so blessed that we got to do the film at all.” But, she added, “I feel at peace with it,” so if there weren’t another movie, she’d be OK.

Good, because it’s an “improbable fantasy,” Whedon said. Then again, “so was making ‘Serenity’ [given the cancellation of 'Firefly'], and so is half my career, which is why I never write it off.”

Like Summer, “I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Whedon said, “because I love those people so much.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the rumors are not being circulated “by anyone who owns a studio,” and “nobody’s knocking on our door.”

“There’s been no movement,” he said. “Those rumors are just rumors, and I don’t think they’re going to stop, no matter how many times I say, ‘No, it’s not happening.’ Because somebody will say, ‘He said yes. His eyes said yes. His nose said yes. There was a yes-iness about him.’ Because people want it.”

Blogger's Note: I had to highlight that phrase. It is not only such a "Whedonism" but what the statement also carries with it is a very particular notion about human perception. People will see what they will if they want something enough. I just love Whedon's directness about ambiguity here, because it's so true! I will find a way to use that in conversation someday.

Do you want another “Serenity”? If you had $50 million, would you bankroll it? Why or why not?

Published by Jennifer Vineyard on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm.

I'm not sure fronting the cost of a movie would be the first thing on my list if I had $50 million lying around, but I can hardly think of a creative mind or filmmaker than Joss Whedon who I would trust to come through. I also think that there are plenty of more stories to tell in other universes still rumbling about in Whedon's head, so I might even be up for something different, rather than a sequel to Serenity, despite how great the film is. And it looks like we'll still be able to count on the Can't Stop the Serenity screenings every year in cities around the country which benefit Whedon's preferred charity organization, Equality Now.

Plus, as we have seen with Buffy Season 8 and Angel: After the Fall, there is plenty of room in the comics arena for the stories of these characters to be continued. Already there have been several Serenity comic book series that bridged the gap between the show, Firefly, and the film. Whedon has also said that the written and colored page will also allow for Shepherd Book's story to be fleshed out, which is something many fans have been desiring since his questionable abilities and ambiguous background were first suggested in the show.

Would enough people read Serenity comics that were prequels to the story we've seen on screen? Should the writers of the comic focus on what came after the film?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Joyce: Honey, a-are you sure you're a Vampire Slayer?...I-I mean, have you tried not being a Slayer?

-"Becoming, Part Two" 2.22

This afternoon I watched the trailer for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer with Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund and Trevor Matthews. It looks like a fun flick and it is sure to please, in particular, the generation of fans that grew up during the glory days of horror films.

The trailer can be found here at the film's official site or it can also be viewed over at the Apple movie trailer website.

The Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer synopsis:
After witnessing the brutal murder of his family, Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) is left with an unquenchable fury that he is constantly fighting to control. Now working as a local plumber and struggling in a relationship with his girlfriend Eve (Rachel Skarsten), Jack’s life has become a downward spiral. One night, Jack attempts to fix Professor Crowley’s (Robert Englund) old, rusted pipes, but unknowingly awakens an ancient evil. Lured by this demonic power, Professor Crowley discovers a monstrous black heart that quickly forces its way inside of him. Possessed by the heart now beating in his chest, the Professor starts a slow, gruesome transformation. It is at this moment that Jack realizes he can’t run from his past, and quickly discovers the true purpose of his inner rage.

Obviously there is more than a little "textual poaching" going on here. I'm sure that the nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the title won't be the only one. I could see a similar Buffy poster with the titular character of Jack Brooks wielding the Slayer Scythe. Could that be a minor appropriation as well? The movie is probably not looking to reinvent the horror genre, by any means, but rather bring it back to the basics-no CGI as far as I can tell for example. The style of the movie is clearly invoking the low-budget, dark-humor and tone of many 80s horror flicks-to which I was introduced with a heavy hand by my last roommate several years ago-especially Sam Raimi's fantastically fun gorefests, Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), with Jack Brooks taking on the role of Slayer here as reluctantly as Bruce Campbell's "Ash" Williams assumes his role in fighting the forces of evil. Although, don't forget about one of my all time favorite camp-horror films, Dead Alive-as it is known in the U.S-directed by none other than a pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson. It also appears that the content and tonality of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer runs along the lines of contemporary films such as Black Sheep, Slither (starring Nathan Fillion) and Evil Aliens-all of which are worth checking out for the dark-comedy/horror enthusiast.

Speaking of the Evil Dead series of films, did anyone who has been following the continuation of Angel's storyline in Angel: After the Fall notice that as Angel is performing a healing spell, he is blatantly reading from the Necronomicon-the powerful "Book of the Dead" prominently featured in the Evil Dead trilogy-in several panels of After the Fall Issue 4? Such a great reference!

It has been often rumored that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell would reunite for a sequel or possible remake of The Evil Dead and it looks like that the latter may still be in the works according to the page on IMDb.

I hope that Jack Brooks: The Monster Slayer gets a wide release and opens in Seattle, at least at one of the many fine Landmark Theatres we have here, soon.

I'm always up for a little slayage.

How Does This Happen?

Will someone please tell me how and why this exists?

Wasn't the first Scorpion King supposed to be a prequel? Is this, then, a pre-prequel?

And how bland of a subtitle is "Rise of A Warrior"?

I think Dwayne Johnson (aka the actor-formerly-known-as-wrestler-The-Rock) turning down a return to this role is one of the best career decisions he will ever make.

Will the direct-to-dvd mediocrity never end?

Mandalorian Dance

Even despite all the negative reviews of the upcoming, Star Wars: The Clone Wars-the two "wars" is kind of redundant, no?-it is refreshing to see new, original and creative content come out of that universe.

Take a look at "Boba Fett does Flashdance"-a glorious melding of two iconic 80s creations.

For the moment, my ache for good Star Wars is suddenly sated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Someone Didn't Like The Dark Knight

I know.

I understand that such a such a revelation may be shocking for some readers. It does not come as a shock for me, however, and I do know a few individuals, including those with whom I went to The Dark Knight one Tuesday morning last month at Cinerama, that found themselves disappointed with the way the film played out as the credits began to role.

I should first say that in making my critique of the film, I do not aim to argue that I genuinely disliked the film. That would be a false assumption of my review. I would say that among all the reviews of the film, many of them appropriately laud the positive aspects of the film. The film's realism, make-up, special effects, Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker have all been covered extensively, but for all The Dark Knight did well, there were more than a few aspects that to me, were mishandled.

"Welcome To A World Without Rules" says the tag-line on the poster-what about the rules of film-making?

My issues are varied in nature, thus I begin at no particular point.

Many of the problems I had with The Dark Knight had to do with some editing choices or oversights that, to me seemed rather blatant and continued to surface as the movie went on.  Not having the original text here at my disposal, my comments might seem somewhat vague, but I still feel strongly in regards thereto.  Firstly, there seemed to be an extraordinary amount of repetitive dialogue in the film.  This could have to do with the fact that the writers and director wanted the film's "message" to be hardhitting and for a mainstream audience, perhaps a bit of repetition is even necessary.  Despite this, I found myself thinking to myself, "Didn't your character say that exact same thing in the last scene?  Didn't someone use that same wordage about Batman/good/evil/The Joker/(fill in the blank) previously?"  Upon an eventual repeat viewing, I should be able to sort out why these choices were made or how these moments might have been avoided.

Along with repetitive dialogue, there were a number of "how-or-why-did-your-character-get-to-that-physical-space" and "what-happened-with-your-character-after-that-one-scene" moments and queries that, for me were unavoidable.  There were a lot of story-lines going on in The Dark Knight so I can certainly see the challenge in keeping track of characters and where they are at in the confines of Gotham at any given point in the narrative, but it's a necessary challenge to meet!  The biggest example of this is the bizarre treatment of the narrative surrounding The Joker's party-raid in Bruce Wayne's penthouse.  After Rachel Dawes falls off the roof with Batman in tow, tumbling-and somehow surviving a long fall-onto a vehicle on the street below, what happens to The Joker?  Does he simply leave the party with a smile, taking with him his henchmen, shotgun, and madness?  "Oh shoot, that darn Batman, well, I guess I'll just head on out.  Enjoy the rest of your party, guys."  While there are certainly instances in films where we can assume something happened between the filmed elements on screen, there was so much-maybe too much-happening in The Dark Knight that the audience cannot possibly be responsible for filling in every little inconsistency or gap in the plot.

Production Design
For however comical or *ahem* "colorful" previous installments of the Batman franchise were (see: the unnatural neon purple and green hues of Batman & Robin-don't forget the nipples on the batsuit), there was still an overarching sense of the world the filmmakers were trying to achieve, albeit a rather silly one in that latter installment.  Gotham City, throughout it's various incarnations up to this point, Batman Begins included, and especially the Gotham of Tim Burton's Batman films, felt explicitly like Gotham City.  It was dark, gritty, expansive, a city of all cities, gothic even!  In The Dark Knight I did not get a sense of cohesive production design.  I found the streets, buildings and sets of this latest film to be generally lackluster and surely not as evocative of a massive, gothic metropolis.  I spent much of the film thinking to myself, Oh, that's Chicago, that's Chicago too, that's L.A., that looks like New York.  It was not that I did not adhere to the believability of the environment the producers created-the unaltered locations did give it a sense of realism, but it discouraged my belief in Gotham itself.
I enjoyed Batman Begins.  I also have a certain affinity for the previous Batman films and I am able to enjoy them despite the cheese or maybe I enjoy them because of their extreme comic-bookishness.  I don't think that earlier Batman movies are really as bad as some fans might make them out to be.  They're like pop-music to an extent; they lack depth but they sure have a way of filling the dance-floor.  I did appreciate the direction of Christopher Nolan in the way he shifted the tone of Batman to one more serious and ultimately believable, however, with The Dark Knight, my fear is that Nolan has taken this tone a bit too far, taking Batman completely out of a comic book context.  The Dark Knight is quite the "talky" film, filled with political intrigue and inner-city war games.  It is very much a product of our culture now and the success of other urban-strife films such as The Departed.  The Dark Knight is a cop drama...with Batman.

I felt that Nolan, in his ongoing vision of realism, has placed Batman in a world that is even different than the first movie, veritably shifting the genre of this new Batman series.  In doing so, in reducing the mystery, intrigue of the character and turning Batman into a glorified crime-fighter with gadgets-whose own comic book would be rather dry, I think-Nolan has severely limited his ability to explore Batman's world.  Come to think of it, was this movie really about Batman?  Evidence for this is the burgeoning question regarding who the villain in the inevitable next film will be.  Many of Batman's villains would be far too rooted in the comic book realm to survive a transition or translation, rather, into Nolan's Gotham.  To this I might also add the way in which Two-Face felt a bit tacked-on in The Dark Knight.  Some of Batman's most iconic villains would simply not work.  A bald guy shooting ice-rays out of a freeze-gun?  A genetically altered, plant-loving female whose power is a sweet pheromone?  Concerning the repercussions of Nolan's Batman, there is an interesting speculative article over at JoBlo about the odds for the villain of another Batman film.

These creative decisions considered, I think I had more fun watching the rich imagination of Guillermo del Toro at work this summer while watching Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  The Dark Knight was good, I do not deny that, but it was not entirely what I expected, nor desired. I left The Dark Knight, wanted more of, well, the Dark Knight.

Even before I saw the movie, I knew that The Dark Knight should not have garnered the prized top spot on the IMDb chart in their Top 250 List. The number rating of the movie, 9.2 as of the time of this posting, for me, is comprised of hype, mystery and intrigue surrounding Heath Ledger's death, and the expectation that this movie would, without a doubt, not only live up to the first one, but far surpass it in quality. It is the numerical value for the voice of the fans, wanting the film to be the best film ever.

I believe that while it will be some time before the hype surrounding the film dies down, more people, fans included, will be able to look on The Dark Knight with an honest, open opinion, unfettered from circumstance and relentless media buzz-Heath Ledger and the only recently closed investigation of his demise, the allegations regarding Christian Bale's outburst with his mother and sister, Morgan Freeman's car accident, the ever-ascending dollar amount of the film's gross, the death of a stuntman in one of the action sequences during filming, and the list goes on.

Since I have been mulling these issues about in my mind, I was happy to find a convincing and astute reading of the film today-that happened to come down on the negative side of the film. A blogger who happened to fall across my radar has successfully articulated some tough points regarding the thematic content of the film in particular.

His extensive survey of the film can be found here.  

I've gone through said article and picked out some of the most poignant comments.

"A pompous parable ostensibly examining the elemental/existential battle between good and evil which ends up being a paean to the vicious pleasures of violence."

"...I don't buy the main conceit of the film: that there actually is an invisible line separating good violence from bad violence."

"...the real tipping point into my "violent" loathing of this film came from its reliance on a lazy racial shorthand."

"...this film wasn't the sophisticated ethical meditation that its accumulation of overwrought moral monologues might suggest..."

Link to this review courtesy of The Dark Knight courtesy of Film Experience.

The Joker: I took Gotham's white knight, and brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. Y'see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little...push.

For me, I see the Joker's perception of the downfall of Harvey Dent as somewhat of a parallel to fandom. The origin of the word "fan" after all, comes from the latin word, fanaticus. For all that we claim to fight back against the grit and grime that is within many of the productions of mainstream Hollywood, there is so much of it we still embrace. Why would Hollywood seek to produce more daring, thought-provoking, stimulating content if so many people continue to be blinded by the stage-lights? It is because Hollywood is so good with the "lights" that movies like The Mummy: Tomb of The Dragon Emperor are allowed to be made, sequels like the hyper-mediocre, caricature-of-a-movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull exist and movies like The Dark Knight, while not at all a bad movie, can so rapidly ascend to the top of the charts, without substantial, discerning criticism.  I do not regret paying my eight or nine dollars to see the movie.  I am glad I saw it at the amazing Cinerama-despite those rickety seats.  I am glad I saw it with friends.  When I went to see the biggest movie of the summer, I sought ample justification for The Dark Knight's alleged greatness.  I did not find it.  

Hollywood has a big track record when it comes to turning the fan into a radical media devotee. Like the Joker said, "All it takes is a little...push." I think it is time someone made a little push back.

Also, while we're traipsing about Gotham City in the new era of Batman, here are a few more recent investigations into the Batman legacy and franchise that are worth a read:

How to Become Batman
A Canadian scientist and lifelong Batman aficionado has examined the Dark Knight's skills and figured out how regular people could transform themselves into real-life Batmen. Link courtesy of: io9: Strung Out on Science Fiction.

Joss Whedon's Batman
Whedon talks about his previous plans to reboot the Batman franchise before Christopher Nolan came on to the project.

Essential Batman
A list of the seven classic Batman comics from all over the last century that helped shaped Nolan's Batman.

*This post marks my 50th blog entry!*

Buffy Lives Petition

The alternate cover for the "special" 20th issue of Buffy Season 8 has hit the interwebs and while it does not necessarily have the charm or warmth of the Rockwellian Jo Chen cover I previously posted, it does do a great job of portraying the cast in the fully animated style-Cordelia especially looks a lot like her live-action counterpart.

The 20th issue of Season 8 will be partially drawn in this animated style and will take place in the alternate "monks-changed-my-memory" timeline, thus the inclusion of a younger Dawn in the front.

All the excitement, with the "leaked" pilot presentation, issue #20 and Season 8 in general, has prompted a big resurgence in fan action to resurrect the animated series in some form or another. Fan interest has spawned a Facebook group and an online petition. The fan-made logo of the "Buffy Lives in 2-D" petition is below:

The Clone Wars

It's not that I had high hopes for this movie. It's just that I wanted to be surprised...pleasantly, but I guess even that was taking my expectations too far.

And the reviews start trickling in:

UPDATE: As I was writing this post, two absolutely scathing reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, one that appeared yesterday and one that was posted earlier this morning have mysteriously disappeared from Ain't It Cool News. The links are no longer there. Looks like Mr. Lucas doesn't want anyone to know about the quality of this half-assed project before it opens. Curiously, there are also no advance reviews of The Clone Wars on Rotten Tomatoes.

I am torn-but not to the point where it is too painful, simply to the point where I am immensely frustrated. I know I won't be at the theatre on Friday, August 15th when this movie-and by movie in this case, I mean three episodes of the upcoming show strung together-comes out, but I still don't know whether I will be there...ever. I want to think that this can be good...somehow, but the animation and childish humor combined with the fact that no one cares what happens to these characters in this film or series because the repercussions of their actions already echo throughout the four live action movies that follow this time period. We know this new Jedi side-chick, Ashoka, can't survive past the lifetime of this CGI animated series on Cartoon Network. We know her life was never that important because we never hear about her again. We know who wins every duel. We know who wins the war.

And this movie-my judgement pending, although these reviews support this claim-is further evidence that we know the creative genius of George Lucas is fading or he has contented himself with sub-mediocrity and has decided that the money will still roll in if he takes a lackadaisical approach to Star Wars.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Some Kind of Holiday II

And while I'm at it, all with the posting of pictures of movie stars in their underwear, I might as well mention that Tuesday, August 5th 2008 was the 6th Annual National Underwear Day in the great U.S. of A. For my Canadian readers, I know, it is sad that such a glorious holiday only takes place in our country. Trust me, I wish we had had "BC Day" on Monday and "Boxing Day" too.

A nice tribute to the scantily clad talent that has heated up our silver screens provides a few celebratory moments-albeit now belated-for National Underwear Day is over at My New Plaid Pants.

While I can't say that I did anything particularly exciting on Tuesday to celebrate this momentous occasion, I did buy a pair of underwear in Vancouver, BC over the weekend, and I would say that I'm a fan of underwear in general during the rest of the year. Tuesday was also exciting in that however difficult it always is to return to normal life after vacation, I received a respectable raise at work, had an amazing summer-y dish prepared by a friend of mine-pasta, tuna, onion, basil, bell peppers and all-around deliciousness-and hung out with a good friend with whom I watched two episodes of Angel-"Lineage" and "Destiny" from Season 5.

So, all in all, I had a fantastic National Underwear Day! How about you? And by the way, speaking of stars in their underwear-Angel in the shower in "Life of the Party" Season 5, Episode 5 and Xander in the Season 2 episode of Buffy, "Go Fish." Yes, please.

Sauntom of Qolace

I still have not seen all the James Bond movies. My dad was a fan of them growing up and he and I watched many of them together-especially the Sean Connery ones as he was always the favorite around our house. The Bond Babes, though, were not my mother's favorite parts of the films, thus there was a lot of fast-forwarding going on, however tame the scenes might have been for a late 20th century audience. I am pretty sure I have seen all the Bond films that have come out since I was born, certainly all the mostly-unfortunate Pierce Brosnan movies-and concerning his take on Bond, I always felt he came across as a rather heartless, brick wall of a character. I very much enjoyed Casino Royale, when I saw that at the Cinerama here in downtown Seattle with my dad once again. Daniel Craig's rippled physique and the watch-me-coming-out-of-the-ocean-in-my-hot-shorts-in-slow-motion scene didn't hurt my perception of the movie in the least-hence my guiltness inclusion of Mr. Craig's picture here. I'm also a sucker for dynamic, innovative credit sequences and the visuals associated with the opening of Casino Royale accompanied by a great theme song hit the spot for me.

A recent post over at Ain't It Cool News joked that the video below was the new "leaked" theme song for Quantum of Solace set to come out in theatres later this year on-naturally-the 7th of November. In actuality, the official song is being written and performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White.

Even though it might be somewhat of a convoluted title, I think Quantum of Solace has a nice, slick ring to it nonetheless and the recent trailer that came out for the movie is a great one. I still don't see why all the comparisons are made to the Bourne movies-I think Bond is still distinct character and property-and in Bond's current incarnation, he's much more of a pleasure to look at than Matt Damon.

Vancouver Pride & Guilty Pleasure #343

Over the weekend of August 1st-3rd, I went to the 30th annual Vancouver Pride, which was an absolute blast. The logo for this year's pride-just to the left here-has a lot going on in it and there is a very thorough and intriguing description written for it on the official website for the Vancouver Pride Society.

Just after we arrived in Vancouver on Friday, around 2:30PM, I met up with a dear friend from high school for coffee, a friend that I had not seen in three years since we both visited our alma mater in 2005. My friends and I stayed in a chic hotel room in Yaletown and had an all around great time-except for the spending-ridiculous-money-on-cover-and-drinks over the three days that we were there and a less-than-stellar dining experience at Glowbal Grill & Satay Bar, a trendy, urban restaurant just a few minutes away from our hotel by foot. Overall, Luke and I had a wonderful time together along with our fellow roommates-we had a nice breakfast together at a local diner/bar on Saturday morning, took more than a few cute pictures together, danced, drank, hung out with some of his fantastic friends and went on a spectacular cruise in the waters surrounding Vancouver on Sunday evening.

This is the view from the boat coming back into downtown Vancouver at sunset:

So. Amazingly. Beautiful.

The weather was perfect for Sunday's festivities, although my skin continues to attest to the cloudless sky that was had that day. The parade was 100 times better than Seattle's-just a whole lot more effort and care put into everything surrounding it. People were nice. Good friends were made. And to top it all off, the party cruise was just a perfect way to end a wonderful weekend, especially with an extra special guy.

On Saturday afternoon, Luke and I sat down for some less-than-potent-but-quite-tasty bellinis at Moxie's Classic Grill on Davie Street just a few blocks up from our hotel. After a bit, two of his friends joined us there and while munching on a literal platter of nachos this song came on and while I assumed it was Rihanna, I had never heard it before. Luke's friend said it was a new favorite-Rihanna's new single-"Disturbia." And it has quickly become my own guilty pleasure, #343 on the 2008 list. Check it out.

"...Put on your break lights/
Were in the city of wonder..."
Definitely made me want to dance right there in the restaurant. Thinking back on it, I don't think anyone would have minded all that much, all things considered!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Baldy & Villainy

The blog, Film Experience, just posted a piece on the evolution of the bald figure in cinema. I think it is interesting that so many iconic characters who are depicted as evil are also bald. The article also brings up the notion of Joss Whedon-and although the writer does not use this phrase-as a “textual poacher” taking ideas, images and influences from a wide variety of sources, an idea that I have played with extensively over the last year, the subject of my Senior Thesis.

Film Experience on "Ways...To Craft Your Timeless Villain".

It might also be fruitful to trace some of the world’s most recognizable actors and figure out in what circumstances they played characters that were without their hair. Serial killers (see: Natural Born Killers), Neo-Nazis (see: American History X, The Believer), Psychopaths and monsters like Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, who, like many of the examples presented in the Film Experience article, wears the signature mobster hat we see in The Untouchables, on Judge Doom, and on Slugworth, have all been represented as bald at one time or another and frequently at that. Then again, Ghandi was bald too. Oh, and speaking of Freddy Krueger, has anyone noticed how much Der Kindestod-the villain only visible by children in the Buffy season two episode, "Killed By Death"-looks like Freddy Krueger? And, by the way, the Kindestod, is mostly bald.

I can see how one’s perception of a bald person might take on a negative quality. Being bald is one step closer to looking like a death-head—a skull has no hair. That association is further aided by the idea that bald heads can be covered in some fashion and when that cover is lifted, having not been exposed to the sun, it can be pale like one in death. Still, baldness often accompanies a representation of man at his most basic state. Many infants are born without hair, suggesting a sense of malleability, purity, a canvas on which any character can be painted. A blank slate upon which any identity can be inscribed-like in the case of the workers in George Lucas’ 1971 student film-that he later went on to make a special edition of-THX 1138. They are numbered bodies for all intents and purposes, no true meaning outside of their duties. Perhaps we fear the anonymity baldness allows for. We fear the unknown of the tabula rasa of sorts that is thereby emblazoned across these characters’ collective crania.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Talented Kid

An acoustic rendition of one of my preferred songs from Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, "My Eyes/On The Rise."

And the lyrics so you can have your own sing-a-long in your bedroom in your underwear tonight:

My Eyes

Any dolt with half a brain
Can see that humankind has gone insane
To the point where I don’t know if I’ll upset the status quo
If I throw poison in the watermain.

Listen close to everybody’s heart
And hear that breaking sound
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
And crashing to the ground

I cannot believe my eyes
How the world’s filled with filth and lies
but it’s plain to see evil inside of me
is on the rise.

Look around
We’re living with the lost and found
Just when you feel you’ve almost drowned
You find yourself on solid ground

And you believe there’s good in everybody’s heart
Keep it safe and sound
With hope you can do your part
To turn a life around

I cannot believe my eyes
Is the world finally growing wise
Because it seems to me some kind of harmony
Is on the rise

Horrible: Anyone with half a brain
Penny: Take it slow

H: Could spend their whole life howling in pain
P: He looks at me and seems to know

H: Because the dark is everywhere and
P: The things that I’m afraid to show

H: Penny doesn’t seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain
P: and suddenly I feel this glow

H: Listen close to everybody’s heart
P: And I believe there’s good in everybody’s heart

H: and hear that breaking sound
P: keep it safe and sound

H: Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
P: With hope you can do your part

H: And crashing to the ground
P: To turn a life around

H: I cannot believe my eyes how the world’s filled with filth and lies
P:I cannot believe my eyes how the world’s finally growing wise

H: But it’s plain to see evil inside of me is on the rise
P: And it’s plain to see rapture inside of me is on the rise

Who else is looking forward to the soundtrack?

Mom, Dad & Monday

Today's day off is brought to you by a ginormous six-egg omelette (The Southwestern Exposure) and a bottomless cup of coffee from Beth's Cafe-a veritable Seattle landmark I had never actually visited-at 1:00 in the afternoon with the parents, a trip downtown with the five bizillion tourists there-concentrated on Pike Place Market-and a quick stop in Zanadu-which probably amused my parents and where I continued to reveal my utter geekiness by asking the long-haired guy working there where the hardcover Runaways collections were and on which shelf lived the collection of Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men and by purchasing these two beauties:

Oh, and that's probably the longest run-on sentence I've written in a while. Kudos me.

"Did it bite you?"

How awesome is this? Or rather how great could this have been had it been picked up by a studio?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Animated Series

Apparently, this is a pilot presentation that was distributed to several networks about four years ago. Lack of general enthusiasm for the show and not enough follow through by the Powers That Be led to the show simply falling through the cracks. A few scripts are still out there for the series, even one by Jane Espenson.

One keen eye over on the boards at Whedonesque suggested that perhaps this was an intentional leak by aforementioned Powers to coincide with the release of Buffy Season 8 Issue #20 that features cover art by Jo Chen in a beautiful homage to the familial, soft-edged, warm images of Norman Rockwell. The issue will also be completely drawn in the tooned-up Buffy style. I'd love to think that the reference to the animated-Buffy-that-never-existed might be some kind of way to drum up interest and support once again for the series. That would definitely be a good incentive to get up early on Saturdays again.

Read more about the development of the animated series here.