Monthly Archives: February 2010

‘Lost’ post of the week: too many familiar faces!

It’s very possible that my renewed Lost obsession could mean a post every week about the newest episodes and my thoughts. Hope that’s ok, apparently there’s only, like, 12 more of these things before it’s all over, so I guess it could be worse.

This week, I mull over Lost’s seemingly never ending parade of popular actors in supporting roles and how it’s starting to become a problem.

Now, between Matthew “Party of Five” Fox and Dominic “that one hobbit” Monaghan, it’s not like a bunch of nobody’s were running this cast, but over the years it has been the supporting characters who’ve popped up and been portrayed by various well known actors that’s stuck more in my head.

It was a practice that certainly happened enough in the earlier seasons, but lately it seems every little minor character is a “I know that guy/girl!” moment for me. And frankly it’s getting out of hand! I mean, we’re in the middle of a tense meeting, a new group of people is introduced, whether they’re the people on the boat, or the others in the temple. And I’m missing all the action because my brain’s too busy going, ” What’s that guy/girl from? I know them. What are they in?” Until I have a breakthrough or break down and check IMDB. Here’s a list of the most “Oh oh oh” inspiring casting choices on the show thus far.

Michelle Rodriguez as Ana Lucia Cortez

“oh oh oh” it’s that girl who always plays the tough chick/ bitch roles. Let’s see… Girl Fight, Resident Evil, S.W.A.T., Avatar anyone? I’m scared of her.

Clancy Brown as Kelvin Inman

“oh oh oh” it’s that guy from Shawshank Redemption. Yes, Clancy Brown, who also starred in the under appreciated Carnivale, and the completely unappreciated Pet Cemetery 2. Yikes. But he’s good.

Nathan Fillion as Kevin Callis

“oh oh oh”  it’s Captain Mal from Firefly, everyone’s favorite canceled-too-soon cult sci-fi western. He’s also been in the decent Slither, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Whedon loves this guy) and two guys, a girl, and a pizza place? Really? Hmm. Yea, I guess so. Weird. When’s the last time you thought about that show?

Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert

“oh oh oh ” it’ the mayor from the Dark Knight. That’s cool, that’s cool. He was also Batmanuel in that live action The Tick tv show. But we’ll forgive him this time. Everyone’s done something they’re not too proud of.

Rob McElhenney as Aldo

Why the Fuck is Mac from It’s Always Sunny on Lost? Seriously? Why? It makes no sense! It’s fucking Mac, I can’t watch him on anything, especially this shit, without thinking of the dick towel! I don’t want to think about the dick towel on Lost! That’s what It’s Always Sunny is for. Just when I forgot he was on this show, they bring him back on this last week’s episode! Why? So he can get shot? Anyone could’ve done that!

Jon Gries as Roger Linus

“oh oh oh” it’s Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. Maybe the funniest/saddest part of that movie, Gries here plays another pathetic loser in Ben Linus’ father. Typecasting? Gries would probably say no, but I don’t know…

Doug Hutchison as Horace Goodspeed

“oh oh oh” it’s my favorite monster  from the entire X-Files series! This guy played the liver eating, body squeezing, hibernating every thirty years beast, in the flat out creepiest two episodes of the show. I fucking love Eugene Victor Tooms, so happy to see this guy get work.

Jeremy Davies as Daniel Faraday and Ken Leung as Mile Straume

“oh oh oh” yea, these two are familiar. Davies was the little stuttering guy in Twister and Saving Private Ryan, and Leung was in a couple of Brett Ratner movies, Rush Hour and X-Men 3. Hmm. Can’t say those resumes are too impressive. At least they’re good in this! I really like(ed) both of these characters. I want to know more about Miles, he’s got the most interesting personal story going on just with that whole talking to the dead power. C’mon Lost! More Miles!

Jeff Fahey as Frank Lapidus

“oh oh oh” it’s the Lawnmower Man you guys! Remember that movie with the terrible computer graphics about a simpleton who gets turned into some kind of super computer villain? It sucked!

Hiroyuki Sanada as Dogen and John Hawkes as Lennon

“oh oh oh” I know these two. Give me a sec. Umm. Yea. Sanada I know from the excellent and criminally under recognized Sunshine. He’s the Captain in it and he’s great. Hawkes is recognizable to any fan of Deadwood as Sol Star. I like him, always have. He’s really terrific in Me and You and Everyone We Know. But, really Lost. Naming him “Lennon” with that hair, glasses, and overall far east hippie vibe? Where’s Yoko? Hell, where’s Ringo? The metaphors are running thin is all I’m saying.

Mark Pellegrino as Jacob

“oh oh oh” man these are starting to get tough. Um, ok. This guy dunks the Dude in the toilet while the other guy pisses on the rug in the Big Lebowski. That rug really tied the room together, man.

You see how my brain works? I forgot half the plot of Lost in my time watching it, but I know that the guy who plays Phil the Dharma security guard was in  David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive and the guy who plays George Minowski  from the boat played that really racist character in the Short Circuit movies.

Why does my head fill up with the useless stuff while all the important stuff just floats away? Why am I cursed with this trivial mind? When will Lost make any goddamn sense? Why did they waste one of their final few episodes on Kate’s story and Jack asking, “What’s in the pill? What’s in the pill? I don’t even trust myself!” Get on with it!

That is all.

-Charlie

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Minimal Movie Art

Lately, all Hollywood seems interested in is re-imagining stuff. Taking long established franchises and beloved property, these geniuses are out to remake the world in their own image, in their own eyes. Now, while this is exactly the reason that I hate movies sometimes, it’s also the reason I love movie posters.

Specifically, with a re-imagining of popular movie posters as minimalist design concepts, the recent wave of new minimal looking art is my new favorite Google search obsession. Here is a smattering of my favorite minimalist movie and TV show posters. Heavy on the design, light on the clutter, these zen like images are both simple and superb. Let’s start.

Well, my fascination for this began some years ago with Oakland artist Jason Munn, the man behind the Small Stakes. He began some years ago drafting up hand made silk screened posters for concerts and bands. They’re simple, but memorable pieces.

The prints all encompass the three main reasons I love this style.

1. A pattern that is pleasing and simple

2. A measured precision and emotional resonance

3. A clever idea, design, or illustration

But, the reason I’m writing this is because of the influx of minimalist designs of movie posters, TV shows and the like. Here are my favorites.

These are from artist Ibraheem Youssef, who has given all of Tarantino’s films the minimalist treatment.

Artist Jamie Bolton takes the Back to the Future Trilogy and depicts it in graphic purity. Amazing.

Artist Olly Moss does a bunch of different design work, here’s a sampling from his “Eight Movies in Black and Red” series.

Now, for  some TV representations, we turn to master minimalist Albert Exergian. He may be the most pure of the minimal designer, with works that often incorporate only 2 to 4 colors and little to no lines. Here are some of my favorite shows depicted by Exergian.

Well, I think that’s enough pictures for now. I just love how in-elaborate and yet creative these all are. Are there others I missed? Let me know.

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Hungover with Peter Hyams: The Relic

So starts a new venture, where I attempt to fight off the pains of last night’s drinking with a film from director Peter Hyams. Today’s feature is the 1997 monster schlock, the Relic.

You know this movie's going to suck, they released it in January!

You see, when I’m hungover from tossing back a bottle of (for some reason last night) white wine, I want to watch a movie. But I don’t want to be bothered with great cinema, or interesting cinema, or even coherent cinema. The best sure fire cure for the shakes and aches is some Grade D movie making from the most surefire hack on the planet, Peter Hyams. The man has made a career of underwhelming, under performing, unintentionally hilarious dramas and sci fi. This time around he adapts, with the help of no less than four credited screenwriters, a very good horror novel from the two man writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

I actually read the Relic about 12 years ago, and even as a kid I thought it was pretty silly. The novel held up as well as any minor Stephen King story would (i.e. the Mist, Dreamcatcher) but I can’t say I remember a goddamn thing from the book at this point apart from the most basic plot elements.

Now, the real reason why this movie is perfect for hangovers is that, first and most importantly, it’s dark. And I don’t mean it’s  “a harrowing journey into the nether regions of man’s soul” dark. I mean it’s so poorly lit, so carelessly shot, so dimly staged that half the movie takes place in almost complete darkness. It’s great. I don’t even have to keep my eyes open for most of this thing, I won’t be missing much at all.

Our story begins in the Amazon presumably, as some smarmy looking photographer is snapping shots of this tribe in a ritual of some sort. Hyams uses all the stereotypes here to get the message across, as we see this white man being given and accepting a soup made with these particular leaves. He sucks it down without a thought and promptly hallucinates. You can always spot the Nat Geo rookies.

Cut to a ship, docked but leaving. That photographer is on the ship looking for something in a crate that’s destined for the Chicago Natural History Museum. He doesn’t find it, but we can assume he travels with the ship to America. Though how the ship is then found in Lake Michigan with the crew dead, when it took off from South America, MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL.

Cut to Chicago, where the museum has just received some crates containing the same leaves and a relic. Well, I guess it’s the relic from the movie title, as it’s the only one featured in this movie. And guess what? The relic is of this ancient monster believed to be the spawn of Satan himself. Here Hyams takes the term foreshadowing and turns it into overshadowing, with all the film making 101 tricks he’s probably kept in his “ideas” notebook.

Enter our resident hottie scientist, played by Penelope ‘where is she now?’ Ann Miller, doesn’t go for all the hokey son of the devil kind of nonsense. She argues with her higher ups about the dangers of using superstition as science just to attract crowds to their desperately underfunded museum..which in the very next shot is holding a new exhibition cleverly entitled “Superstition.” The very next shot.

Speaking of which, Chicago’s Natural History Museum is literally overtaken by children running, not walking, to see all the sciencey crap. This includes one of the lamest sidetracks in movie history, as two kids sneak into the museum while playing hooky, only to stay the entire day and get locked in overnight. We get the idea that these two are goners for about 8 seconds before they’re found, alive and well. Completely pointless scene.

But you know who does get it? The black guy. That’s right, Hyams wastes little time getting to the dope smoking black security guard who gets hauled out of the bathroom stall he’s toking up in and gets ripped apart by an unseen beast.

I hope you like decapitations, cause this is the first of about two dozen in this flick. Seems the beast rips open the head and eats the hypothalamus, to get at certain hormones it needs to survive and also evolve. Though how an evolutionary biologist like Miller could call this creature’s continual mutation “evolution” is  infuriatingly stupid. And yes, there is more, much more, banal science sounding babble in this movie than any fictional piece of work is allowed to ramble through. DNA this, fungus that. We don’t get what you’re saying! You know why I’m not a scientist? Because I don’t care about that shit. No one is interested in the little microscopic discoveries. Just get get to the fucking monster ripping off some heads!

is...is that a fu manchu?

Tom Sizemore shows up to investigate, has a thing for Miller, threatens to shut the museum down, which of course would cancel the big gala opening of the exhibit, which they can’t afford to not have, blah blah blah. Basically the movie really exists to set us up for the movable feast of tuxedos and gowns in the final act. And thankfully it’s a gloriously cheap and absurd farce of mid-nineties CG and long awaited come uppings. All the stuffed shirts freaking out and running headlong into plate glass displays and tumbling, downright rolling down the museum steps was one of the funniest mass hysteria moments ever put to film. And this clip of the SWAT team members is easily of the most uproariously inane sequences in history.

And now I have to again enforce how sparsely lit this whole movie is. The vaults of priceless artifacts are traversed under one blinking fluorescent bulb. The tunnels(?) underneath the museum are pitch black. Half this movie is literally two flashlights dancing around in a dizzying array of “what’s that?” and “who’s there?” moments that invariably turn out to be red herrings and trick scares. I swear, every Hyams movie has an obligatory cat jumping out at you scene. Not one new idea or technique is used here.

After a while, I realize that the Relic is not an ideal hangover movie. It’s got a lot of gooey body fluid type moments, a lot of flashing lights and yelling. It’s also got one freaky looking monster, like the Predator crossed with a lion. A twist I saw coming a mile away, novel or no novel. An ending confrontation that makes Alien 3 look subdued, and basically just a bunch of stupid characters doing stupid things.

After almost two hours, my headache is still pounding, my eyes are still stinging, my stomach is still turning back flips. The Relic did not work. I guess next time I’ll have to try a different Hyam’s cure. Maybe Outland? Maybe End of Days? Hopefully not Timecop. Probably Stay Tuned.  Oh man, on second thought? Please not Stay Tuned.

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All caught up and still ‘Lost’

A few years back, I was an addicted Lost fan like the rest of the country. I followed the survivors of Oceanic 815 with fevered dedication and wild speculation. Then, after a dismal and infuriating third season, I left the camp for good. Or so I thought.

Now like the island itself, Lost has lured me back and overtaken my better judgment to become a renewed obsession. All it took was for the show to take my advice and finally end, or at least promise to end. Once I saw a finish line, I knew that I had to see it through. Having already covered half of this episodic insanity, I couldn’t not stay away.

So for the past week, it’s been nothing but Lost season 4 and 5, and now the premiere of the 6th and final run. I admit, I’m surprised the show would actually end, God knows it could keep going at least another three years or so, like the X-files before it. Kudos to Lost for not drawing it out any further.

But, at this point there are still more unanswered questions and new characters than we can possibly keep track of or even comprehend. And things just keep getting more mysterious. Seasons 4 and 5 largely covered the story of Ben and Charles Widmore, the two powerful mean at odds with each other. It also traced a history of the Dharma Initiative and John Locke’s road to bringing back the Oceanic Six. All well and good, but we’ve yet to be told the whole story- about this and many other  plot lines and characters. It’s so confusing, with the jumps in time, the flash forwards, back and forth. Someone needs to put this mess in order, chronologically if nothing else.

So this next rant is a quick roundup of my understanding with more hypothesis and conjecture than any kind of real info. I’m just going on what I’ve gotten so far. I’m probably way off, but let me take a stab at it.

A brief history of the island:

So this island is obviously a place outside of normal boundaries of space and time. The fact that it can move through both indicates that it exists outside of each, independent of them.

There was an ancient civilization, something akin to the Aztecs or Eygptians that lived and built monuments on the island. These monuments include the temple and the giant statue. I presume this civilization knew of the spring that supposedly heals and allows for longevity, since the temple is built around it.

On the island lived Jacob and another man. They were there before the Spanish ship that wrecked hundreds of years ago. These two men seem to be higher powers, fallen angels or semi-gods of some sort with a certain level of omnipotence and zen like serenity. They live together on the island, though the other man wants Jacob dead. But he must find a loophole. This leads me to think that they are bound by rules. Bound by the island itself or a power even higher than they themselves at least.

The others we have been following so long are most likely originally from that Spanish ship, at least the ones guarding the temple. They probably took it from the original inhabitants or found it abandoned. They know of Jacob, so it’s safe to say he contacted them, and they have been following his lead ever since.  Whether or not the others that Ben lead were in cooperation with the temple group or not is unclear.The others have also been regularly taking in new members, like Ben himself. They live on the island and combat any other outsiders who stumble upon it, either fighting or kidnapping and indoctrinating them into their own society.

Now, fifty years back, someone else found the island, and began the Dharma Initiative. Whoever they are, they knew of the island’s power, but viewed it in a scientific (or modern if you will) viewpoint, rather than the mystical (or ancient) view the others take. The conflict between the Dharma people and the others results in both the incident, now replaced by Juliet detonating the bomb, and the slaughter of the entire Dharma team. The others take up residence in the  Dharma houses, but their act has put them at odds with the island. No babies are born, and it’s the island’s doing.

See how long I’ve gone on… and I haven’t even mentioned the crash (or not) of Oceanic 815, the event that started it all. I haven’t mentioned that some escape the island, only to be called back. That all these people experience displacement in time. That some of them join the Dharma team in the past and live among them.

What about how Jacob is killed by Ben under orders from the other man, having taken on a dead John Locke’s form, thus finding his loophole. That the other man is in fact the smoke monster, and that he wants to “go home.” That there’s freakin’ polar bears and hatches, a second airplane crash and an underwater alternative. I haven’t even gotten into any of that and already I’m spent.

Lost is, if nothing else and without a doubt, the most exhausting show on television. It takes you down and drags you out like no other. Having been involved in a five day marathon bender of the last 30 plus episodes, I can tell you that the show still holds tremendous power over me, and even though it’s all stopped making too much sense, I still want to know what they’re going to pull next week. I still want to know. Then I want to go back to real life and never speak of it again. Seriously. Never.

-Charlie

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Classic Movie Review: Runaway

You know what’s great about 1980’s sci-fi films? When they’re great, they’re really great. When they’re terrible, they’re really terrible. Such is Runaway. A “futuristic” look at robots who malfunction and the police squad dedicated to taking them out.

As far as futuristic visions go, Terminator this ain’t. Hell, it’s not even A.I. material. The robots featured are standard household appliances and office copiers that move around and speak, and then go batshit insane and kill everything that moves. Somehow I’m already seeing problems  here.

Our hero is Sgt. Jack Ramsay, played by Magnum P.I.’s Tom Selleck. Unfortunately, Selleck puts in zero of his usual humor and charm to his character, so instead of a fun filled adventure, we get monotonous scene after scene after scene of 1)robot goes crazy 2)Selleck comes in with a flashlight 3)robot kills stupid TV camera man who didn’t listen to Selleck 4)Selleck shoots the bot and saves the baby. Repeat.

There’s an evil madman chip programmer, basically a nerd with a grudge, who is sabotaging these robots and it’s up to Selleck and his new leggy partner to stop him. All the usual action scenes are played out with a classic 80’s soundtrack and things go exactly as we expect them to. Only, you know, crappier.

Right off the bat there is a failure of basic logic in this movie. Take Selleck’s own robot for starters. He calls it Lois. First of all, you do NOT name your robot. This thing looks like a stereo cabinet with arms for God’s sake. Why are you holding a conversation with it?

It cooks and cleans, and follows his son around, but all it does is boil pasta noodles and  tattles on the kid like some kind of C-3PO nanny. What good is this thing really? You even have to give it a daily menu before it cooks your food and shit. Waste of time.

So now, how again did these robots even become so popular? I tell you, the first time a Roomba Vacuum kills a kid, those things are off the market. When we have to assign cops to robot disposal, it’s gone too far. If you tell me, hey this robot will boil water, but sometimes they lose it and cut your family up, well-I’ll boil my own water thank you very much.

Also, why the hell is there an entire police squad dedicated to this? Complete with offices, chain-mail body armor,  helicopters and the full nines, it’s a total mis-use of public funds when presumably there are still actual human beings out there committing crimes. But then again, these shitty robots malfunction so much, daily it would seem, that I suppose it’s become needed.

And why are the cops called Runaways? I understand that’s the term for the robots once they go rogue, but the cops? Shouldn’t they have a useful acronym or something? And, just so you know, these robots don’t actually run away. They go nutso and kill. Very different things here, people.

Remember kids, the quickest way to disgruntle a robot is menial labor.

Basically this is just about the laziest sci-fi film that Michael Crichton could have come up with. Oh, yea. I forgot. Michael “Jurassic Park”  Crichton wrote and directed this thing. He had done another admittedly decent robot flick, Westworld, in the 70’s. But this time around, he goes for more of a evil dishwasher kind of feel.

Aaahh! Kill it! Kill it! Get a shoe!

Here is a prime example of laziness. At one point, Selleck’s at a construction site. Humans and robots working side by side, but there’s a sign that reads “Warning. Robots not equipped with human sensors.” Well, somebody ought to fucking equip them then, don’t you think? What kind of a world do we live in where robots are given welding tools and cement mixers but no sensors to detect humans around them? Are you kidding me?

The foreman even boasts the benefits of the robots, all while one of his own “stacking bots” has gone nuts and is dumping 50 lb. bags of concrete off the 14th floor. It doesn’t make any sense, and just having signs around contradicting everything the characters are saying is lousy.

There’s just so many potentially good ideas put to waste and so many movie cliches that go wrong, it’s staggering. Let’s look at how Runaway approaches standard movie character development and plot.

There’s some mystery over Selleck at the beginning, why is he on the robot squad? What happened? But, where some films might have held that drama and waited more than, oh, five minutes to reveal a back story, Runaway gives it up in the second scene. And where some movies would have let the female romantic interest progress a little with the lead before a surprise twist, Runaway just flat out spills, literally, its secrets in Kristie Alley’s introduction scene. Some movies have cool futuristic guns and weapons, but Runaway is more of a cartoonish speeding bullet more appropriate for Yosemite Sam. The police chief is an asshole, the partner is a cop in a miniskirt, the villain is all “you think I’m stupid?”

Such a lazy movie. But the worst really are the robots. In a time when a Mac was still called “Machintosh” it’s easy to think that the futuristic devices seem a little dated. But that isn’t the whole story. No. They ,ostly just LAZY.

When a robot being examined is equipped with an arson explosive, puny little fireworks come out. When Selleck puts down a robot, he does it with a laser pointer.

The assassin bots are little erect-a-set spiders hobbling along before striking. The bad guy (a pretty good Gene Simmons pulling a Mick Jagger in Freejack before Mick Jagger), boasts that the spiders are filled with poison, but they just stand there. Just. Stand. There. Selleck takes three or four of ’em out single handed.

At one point, a robot gets a gun, although it’s only about a foot and a half tall. How did it get a gun? Did you leave it on the floor? Don’t leave your gun within reaching distance of the unstable machine.

The best is the predictable climax. Right from the get go, we’re told over and over about Selleck’s fear of heights. Literally, every other scene has a reference to it. As in, “aren’t you afraid of heights, Tom Selleck?” To which Selleck will reply, “Yes. Yes I am afraid of heights.” And on and on.

So what’s the climax? Atop that same construction site from earlier, a showdown with Selleck having to face his fear in order to rescue his son. Yea, they got his son too. Come alone they tell him. But that look in his partner’s eye is telling me she’s going to follow and save him. And then, the robots fail to kill Selleck, but pounce on the bad guy two minutes later. And when it’s all wrapped up, our supposedly dead foe pulls one of those surprise “he’s actually alive still!” But where a regular movie would have had a final conflict or surprise partner kills him angle a la Die Hard, Runaway is content to let the bad guy just scream and then promptly die again. No fuss, no muss. No fun.

Tom Selleck keeps his cool around the arachnid android.

Gene Simmons? Not so much.

You know, here I thought I was going into a fun silly little sci-fi flick with Mr. Baseball in it, but this? This is ridiculous. It’s easy to see why this film never escaped 1984, and why I never heard of it till now. If you like cheesy action,  big hair and manly mustaches, Runaway might interest you. For everyone else, there’s Blade Runner.

-Charlie

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