Tag Archives: Fantasy

John Carter – Just Seen It Movie Review

John Carter is a civil war veteran who awakes to find himself on another planet. But he soon finds out the inhabitants are bracing for war. After saving her life, her falls in love with a princess while trying to stop a deadly conflict.

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton.
Written by Andrew Stanton and Mark Andrews.
Produced by Lindsey Collins, Jim Morris and Colin Wilson.
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy Action Thriller.

TELEVISION & MOVIES: 2009 Portal Awards Filled With Surprises!

series4-donna-noble

Airlock Alpha.com [formerly SyFyPortal.com] announced the winners of its fan-voted Portal Awards [formerly the SyFy Portal Genre Awards] this week. Favorites like Battlestar Galactica, Lost and The Dark Knight received few awards – though some popular movies and long-running series did take up the slack.

The biggest upsets were Doctor Who’s Catherine Tate beating out Galactica’s Mary McDonnell and Star Trek taking Best Movie over The Dark Knight. The complete list of winners follows after the jump.

Continue reading TELEVISION & MOVIES: 2009 Portal Awards Filled With Surprises!

MOVIE REVIEW: Coraline – Still Your Best Bet at the Movies!

When it was announced that Henry Selick was developing Nail Gaiman’s wonderful novel Coraline for film, it was probably not something that registered with most moviegoers. If they recognized the name at all, it was most likely from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – even Burton claims that all he contributed was the basic plot, lead character and a few hasty sketches. Selick did all the heavy lifting.

coraline

Coraline is a completely different story. Selick developed the film, both writing the screenplay and directing the film. Here, Selick’s genius becomes clear. He adds a character – the odd little boy named Wybie [voiced by Robert Bailey Jr.] – to add to the stakes, and provide a contrasting character for Coraline [Dakota Fanning]. He also makes a few other tweaks that give the film even more depth than that usually given by stop motion animation. Then he adds really excellent 3-D – not as a gimmick, though there are places where an action does pop toward the audience – but as a means of making Coraline’s unique world just that little bit more unsettling.

The story of Coraline is one of misunderstandings: Coraline’s parents [John Hodgman, Teri Hatcher] seem disconnected from her, disinterested – though they are really trying to make a deadline on a freelance job, producing a catalogue for a client; when Coraline finds her other parents, she really thinks they are genuinely interested in her – though she is merely a diversion for them [especially her Other Mother]; Coraline doesn’t understand Wybie, either, thinking him a pest when he’s really a very lonely boy who has no idea about how to make friends.

Her adventures in both worlds involve other minor players who contribute to the mood: Miss pink [Dawn French] and Miss Forcible [Jennifer Saunders] who appear to have been very naughty in their professional careers, and Mr. Bobinski [Ian McShane], who is an aging Russian acrobat who is trying to train mice as circus performers. These characters give the film world a little extra bite and reality.

Then there’s the cat [Keith David], who is the same in both worlds but can talk in the Other World. Gaiman does a smart-ass cat to perfection and Selick captures him just as well in the film [and doesn’t a good fantasy require a smart-ass cat?].

After taking in the boring for 113 minutes/exciting for 5 minutes so-called thriller, The International, it’s my firm recommendation that Coraline is the best film available for the smart movie buff this weekend, acing out the engaging Confessions of a Shopaholic by a nose.

Final Grade: A

TELEVISION: Lost: You’re Gonna Love Jughead!

Well, sir… Lost [ABC, Wednesdays, 9/8C] is continuing on its roll!

Richard & Daniel

Among other things, we learn that Locke [Terry O’Quinn] was born in March of 1956 – and that ties into Charles Widmore [Alan Dale] in a supremely unexpected manner. It also figures in explaining why Locke was visited by Richard Alpert [Nestor Carbonell] as a child. The more you learn about this show – the more answers you get – the more questions arise.

Take Faraday’s mother… please! If you can find her… And just wait until you meet a certain member of Desmond’s family! And speaking of Faraday [Jeremy Davies], he gets to make a definitive statement – though not about the physics of the island [though he also gets to do some actual science stuff, too].

Latin. The dead language plays a role here, too. A small but pivotal part.

Locke’s tracking skills get a workout [see 1956]. We learn more about Faraday’s past [he seems like he’s come a long way from then, but with this show you never know]. Miles [Ken Leung] gets to use his special talent, though it doesn’t seem to help much. As for Charlotte [Rebecca Mader], I refer you back to her nosebleed in the season premiere. We even get a scene that suggests that Charles Widmore actually does care about his daughter, Penny [Sonya Walger]. Then there’s Charlie…

After screening three episodes of Lost, Season Five, I have to say that the pieces of the Cuse/Lindelof mosaic really are falling into place. As the season moves inexorably, but nimbly, towards its conclusion, you can kinda see the outlines within the Big Picture falling into place. Because You Left, The Lie and now, Jughead are all extremely well put together episodes. The scripts have been tight, well-paced and feature that odd mix of character and mythology that differentiates Lost from everything else on television. The direction has been, if anything, even crisper than in the past – these eps haven’t played like the three hours they’ve taken up in our schedules.

Finally, the cast of Lost continues to make us believe in these characters – all of whom are lost in one way or another and seeking to find themselves. It’s really only because of the well-developed characters that we can believe in the mythology of the show. If we didn’t care about Locke, we wouldn’t have been so worried when he faced the Smoke Monster in Season One. If we didn’t care about Faraday and Charlotte [and isn’t amazing how quickly we’ve taken to them?], we wouldn’t be worried about that nosebleed.

As long as the characters remain relatable, and the pace of the revelations [answers should soon begin to outnumber questions, judging by this week’s ep], then the show will continue to hold sway over those of us who still watch [whether in real time, or online, or whatever]. Judging by what I’ve seen so far, there’s a lot of fun/drama/weirdness to come.

I can’t wait!

Final Grade: A

TELEVISION: Preview: ‘Lost’ in Time & Space

I’ve just seen the two-hour premiere of season five of Lost [ABC Wednesdays, 8/7C, beginning on Jan. 21st]. You think it was strange and wild and exhilarating before? Just wait until you see what’s next!

Lost, Season 5 

Although my agreement with ABC is that I can’t give away plot points, I can, perhaps, give clues. I can tell you that Vincent’s back – and that Sawyer plays a more prominent role. I can tell you that things have changed between Benjamin Linus [Michael Emerson] and Sayid [Naveen Andrews]; that Hurley [Jorge Garcia] has reached his limit on lying – and that Sayid’s life may depend on him; I can tell you that a potential legal problem may change Kate’s [Evangeline Lilly] and Aaron’s lives, and that Charlotte [Rebecca Mader] may not be well. And speaking of Hurley, remember Dave? And Charlie’s enigmatic appearance at the mental institution [“I’m dead. And I’m here”]? I can safely say that Hurley sees dead people.

There are lots more clues that I could give you in that vein, but when the events to which they allude happen, all that’ll happen is that some answers will be given [like why Hurley finally reaches his limit with The Lie] and more will be asked [like what’s happening to the people who were left on the island]. Even the titles of the two parts of this season’s premiere have titles [Because You Left & The Lie] that are carefully gauged to give hints that spawn unexpected answers and set the stage for more [and possibly bigger] questions. As is always the case with Lost, context is everything.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof co-wrote Because You Left and Stephen Williams’s direction keeps up a pace that matches that of last season’s three-hour finale. Revelations are given in quick bursts and emotional moments in almost a state suspension – but no scene lasts for more a few moments. The Lie, written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and directed by Jack Bender, keeps up that pace, for the most part but lingers a bit more over the key emotional sequences, giving them more heft as the give and take of answers and questions mounts.

I have to say that I enjoyed the season five premiere episodes as much as the three-part season four finale. Everyone we care about gets a choice moment or two and the plot forges onward. The rollercoaster ride that is Lost is definitely maintaining the quality level it regained last season.

Final Grade: A+

TELEVISION: And The New Doctor Is… Matt Smith?

The BBC today announced the identity of the eleventh actor to carry on as Doctor Who’s title character, The Doctor. Their choice, made public by Who Executive Producer Piers Wenger, is the twenty-six year old Matt Smith.

**THIS IMAGE IS UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL 18:10 HOURS SATURDAY 3RD JANUARY 2009**  Picture Shows: MATT SMITH - the eleventh DOCTOR WHO

Smith has appeared in the two Sally Lockhart mysteries The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, which starred former Who companion Billy Piper in the title role. He got the role of The Doctor because, as Wenger puts it, “It was abundantly clear that he had that ‘Doctor-ness’ about him. You are either the Doctor or you are not.”

Smith begins shooting for the next season of Doctor Who later this spring. The final special being shot with David Tennant is expected to air in early 2010 – to be followed later in the year by Smith’s debut in the role.

TELEVISION: The Best and Worst of 2008!

Dexter

There was an overwhelming amount of great TV, this year [and, as you’ll see not too much later, an almost equally overwhelming amount of excessively bad TV]. Given the truly amazing amount of quality to be found between the networks and the various cable outlets, I’ve decided to list my favorite fifteen shows of the year.

Continue reading TELEVISION: The Best and Worst of 2008!

MOVIE REVIEW: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Youth, Apparently, Is Not Wasted on the Young!

One of the strangest – and yet most normal – films of the year is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Even you’ve not been paying attention to pop culture for the last six months, it would hard not to have heard about the movie about the guy who ages backwards while living forwards. Directed by David Fincher [Fight Club, Zodiac], Button stars Brad Pitt as the titular button – a man who is born an eighty-five year old baby whose every breath rasps and rails as if it might be his last and grows physically younger with each passing day. Whether this odd journey through life is supposed to mean something specific, in terms of metaphor, will no doubt be the subject of much debate.

Button 02

For Benjamin, though, life is the same puzzle as it is for the rest of, though he views it from a unique perspective. When he first sees Daisy [Elle Fanning], they are seven – but he is, physically, seventy-eight. This makes their relationship, which would otherwise be completely normal, something else entirely. Even so, his first love, first drink, first sex, first affair [and so forth], all happen in pretty much the conventional order – only Benjamin’s de-aging is different.

Perhaps the point of the movie is that “normal” is strictly a point-of-view, not a definitive quantity; maybe, it’s a tone poem on the idea of youth being wasted on the young; it’s even possible to see the film as an argument for the idea that the beginning and ending of life are the same thing seen from different perspectives – and what happens in the middle will be much the same no matter which way we progress, physically.

When Benjamin and Daisy [now played by a luminous Cate Blanchett] finally come together in the middle of their lives – when they both look their age – they do the expected things, like move in together and have a child. Benjamin’s de-aging means that he will appear to be teenager when his daughter hits puberty, which leads to his having to deal with being unable to be a father to his child – again, an ordinary thing that happens to many men but here because of a unique reason.

In the context of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the importance of the ordinary… the normal… is brought home in a new way. Pitt’s performance [including the CG grafting of his face onto older and younger actors’ bodies] is perfect because Benjamin is, in spite of his unique manner of aging, an ordinary man whose life is except for brief moments, pretty ordinary. The film winds up showing us that even the ordinary is wondrous. That’s a pretty heady achievement.

Final Grade: A+

MOVIE REVIEW: Bedtime Stories – The Kinder, Gentler Adam Sandler Kinda Works!

Adam Sandler in a Disney movie… what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, as it happens. Well, nothing major. Adam Shankman [Hairspray] directs Bedtime Stories and – except for the usual Rob Schneider cameo [which sucks the life out of the film for a few moments] – gets a solid performance out of Sandler as handyman Skeeter Bronson, who works in a towering hotel that sits on property where his father [Jonathan Pryce, who also narrates] once had a charming little hotel. The terms of the sale to future hotel magnate Barry Nottingham [Richard Griffiths] included a verbal promise that Skeeter would one day run the new hotel [and verbal promises are worth the paper they’re printed on].

bedtime_stories

In the kind of sequences of events that exist in a whimsical tale such as this, the hotel is run by an obsequious twit – here called Kendall [Guy Pearce] and his simpering second in command, Aspen [Lucy Lawless] – and the hotelier’s plans for an even bigger hotel are situated on a piece of land upon which sits a school. That school is where Skeeter’s eco-warrior sister, Wendy [Courteney Cox] is vice-principal – not to mention the school attended by his niece and nephew – and where a pretty teacher named Jill [Keri Russell] works. Because of the plans for the hotel, Wendy has to look for work out of state and asks Skeeter to help Jill look after the kids.

When Kendall’s plans for a unique approach for the new hotel turn out to be in use elsewhere, Nottingham gives Skeeter a shot at running the new hotel. All he has to do is come up with a better theme than Kendall. Meanwhile, Skeeter’s bedtime stories for Patrick [Jonathan Morgan Heit] and Bobbi [Laura Ann Kesling] start coming true – though it takes him a while to figure out that it’s the kids’ improvised additions to his stories that are coming to pass.

So, can Skeeter be a good uncle, beat Kendall, and win the fair maid [Jill, of course]? And can he do it without relying overmuch on Sandler’s usual brand of humor. Almost. The humor is kinder, gentler and G-Rated, but the genuine whimsy of the fantasy is, for the most part, winning and well done. Sandler gets to use some of the chops first unearthed by Paul Thomas Anderson in Punch Drunk Love, and the rest of the cast seems to be having a pretty good time.

The effects vary in effectiveness, but by having one story element come true through what looks like a real life coincidence, Shankman gives the more far-fetched bits more punch – and makes Skeeter more relatable. The pacing occasionally falters [and grinds to a sudden halt during Schneider’s two scenes], but overall, Bedtime Stories is a fun diversion that will be enjoyed in theater and mostly forgotten by the time you get to your car.

Final Grade: B-