Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas comic book cartoons

Last year, I made recordings and an all-in-one DVD of three different holiday-themed comic book cartoons. I'd forgotten I had this, stumbled upon it, and popped it in during Christmas Eve festivities. Glad I did.

(And, yes, there's a theme here.)

Powerpuff Girls: Twas the Fight Before Christmas

I miss this show. Tom Kenny is an amazing voice talent. The special has Princess Morebucks, who is one of my favorite baddies to hate -- and she's a Powerpuff girl? And Santa takes Christmas away from everyone? And then he's ... had ... enough!?

Good stuff.

Justice League ("Comfort and Joy")

This was a great series, and I'd argue better than its follow-on Unlimited incarnation.

This holiday one shot (most episodes were part of 2- or 3-episode arcs) is fun, has a lot of heart, and shows some (mostly) non-combatitive vignette moments of key members of the team. Superman/Clark and Martian Manhunter/J'onn visit Smallville. Green Lantern/Jon Stewart and Hawkgirl/Shayera have a superhero version of a snowball fight (then are off to an alien bar for a decidedly different holiday tradition). The Flash/Wally West and Ultra-Humanite end up in a battle that winds up well for everyone (including some orphans).

Batman: The Animated Series ("Holiday Knights")

Perhaps my favorite all-time cartoon, this holiday one-shot was one of the last episodes of the 1990s TV series. It has three great, different stories that have Bruce Timm's trademark "I get it" take on each character. The first story has Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy kidnap Bruce Wayne and put him under their control, using his money for a huge Christmas shopping spree. In the second story, Batgirl takes on Clayface in a Gotham Department Store during the holiday shopping rush. , Finally, Batman and Robin take on the Joker, who's (understandably) trying to kill all the people at Gotham City's New Year's Eve celebration. Great, solid acting and good story throughout.

I need to add the "Christmas With The Joker" episode to this collection. That episode has Mark Hamill (The Joker) in top form. And he sings a special version of "Jingle Bells".

Monday, November 06, 2006

Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I just watched Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I have probably never laughed so hard at so many inappropriate things in one sitting.

And then sitting out in the parking lot reliving the highlights for 20 minutes. My cheeks hurt.

Don't see this film if you're easily offended. Don't see this film if you're moderately offended.

Oh, but I'm glad I did ...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights is important to the Central Texas acting scene.

The thing is shot and produced here, and a big lift for this part of the acting world. I've got a lot of friends in it.

Watch it. It's genuinely good.

It's about competition and relationships and that passion and importance that is spotlighted in high school, but exists as part of the human condition, and we probably shouldn't be covering up so much once we graduate.

Wow, NBC has Friday Night Lights, Heroes, 30 Rock, Studio 60, Twenty Good Years ... This is becoming my network ...

Friday, September 29, 2006


I am such a comic book geek, so I so want Heroes to succeed.

The pilot was pretty good. Good rough, and setting stuff up to hit the fan.

I'm hoping the tightness improves following episodes -- there were some particularly bad editing moments in first episode, and at least two scenes that seemed so contrived (dropping the ring in the garbage disposal, etc.), that I got jarred out of the moment.

And the acting is a mixed bag. Some good, some definitely showing us acting -- which I've gotten really sensitive to.

I was thinking this series was going to be an episodic version of Unbreakable, but it looks like it's actually going to be more blatant about its comic book tie-in.

I hope they don't try to ape to many past dramas, like the X-Files Smoking Man or TNT's Witchblade (though if they must ape Witchblade, let it be season 1, not season 2).

And check out the Website --Everything from watching missed episodes (full or 2-minute summary to keep you up to date), interviews, downloads, and an ongoing, online-only comic book that expands the Heroes world.

Hey, it's better comic book fare than Who Wants to be a Super Hero?, which I'm painfully working my way through (only because of Stan Lee's brilliance and entrepreneurship).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

I caught a matinee of Snakes on a Plane yesterday, and it's a rollercoster ride.

That is to say, it's got its ups and downs, highs and lows, and some of them are pretty low.

I mean, the premise is whack. And while I knew that going in, just how whack surprised me. Like how they justify the whole premise really stretched my willing suspension of disbelief. Could have been done a little better, I think, and the believability of the climix could have been improved with only two slight tweaks.

That said, this is an engaging film. Think a bigger budget, tighter acted Lake Placid (which I really liked), but stretching the bounds of reality even more than that flick. Yeah, more.

It doesn't help that as a kid I was really into zoology, and yesterday's movie-going buddy is a veterinarian. Which meant we laughed out loud at places the film makers probably didn't intend. Big scary dramatic startling moments.

But there's good stuff in the flick -- some well-done comedy and irony, and moving, well-completed heroism -- not empty sacrifice, and it had a cost. Nice to see that, and I didn't expect it.

On a side note, I am, however, disturbed by a trend in movies and video games lately. An unspoken rule that's being broken.

That rule is, "Don't endanger or do violence to children" (another version of that rule is, "Don't endanger or do violence to furred animals"; which sucks for the snakes).

They're breaking this rule more and more lately, and I'm starting to get pissed off by it (The Hills Have Eyes, Dead Rising, etc.). It's a rule. Follow it.

Of course, at least this film follow's through on the rule's corollary: "Those who do violence to children/furred animals shall die."

Hmm ... Technically, it's writers John Heffernan, David Dalessandro, Sebastian Gutierrez, and director David R. Ellis that broke these rules. Beware the snakes, boys.

Anyway, worthwhile popcorn flick -- a good ride, with some surprising and fun nuggets, and the acting's not bad.

Oh, and another of my inspirational, in-it-for-the-long-haul actors, Lin Shaye, does a good, important job in the film. She's been doing this gig for 30 years. More power to her.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Miami Vice

I caught a matinee of Miami Vice the day it opened, and I really liked it.

I like Michael Mann. Quite a bit (Heat is still one of my most-like films, and Collateral positiively surprised me). The guy does it all -- Writes, adapts to screenplays, produces, directs -- and does it all well.

The film has Mann's fingerprints all over it -- in a good way. The pacing is slow, but good slow, yet not "deliberate" slow. Maybe "focused" or "determined" slow. I don't know how to describe it, but it worked for me.

There's also some cool gritty shaky cam work that slides into steady cam in slick, fluid ways.

The film does a good job building the characters, which keeps them from being boring, and really raised the stakes for me and my investment in the film. Which also made me care more when something happened to them.

Though billed in trailers as a "sexy summer action film", Mann's use of sex is interesting and well-done -- intimate, but not gratuitous, and build believable character intimacy (again, raising the importance of the relationships).

I wonder how cool it was for Mann to do this film, given he Executive Produced the original series.

And Jamie Foxx? What has he done right? Not one, not two, not three, but freakin' four Michael Mann films -- The Kingdom (written by Mann) in 2007 and Damage Control (directed by Mann) in 2008.

Good thing Foxx had Jarhead at the same time he had Stealth, otherwise all he'd have is stuff like Collateral, Ray, Any Given Sunday ... Oh. That's right. He's talented.

Miami Vice is a good film. I recommend it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A&E Biography (Johnny Depp)

I watched the new A&E Biography on Johnny Depp.

What a fascinating guy, and successful at doing things his way.

It wasn't as good as the Inside the Actors Studio with Depp, and I could do without all the gossipy pieces that drag down what I otherwise consider to be one of A&E's best series.

But it is fascinating to watch how hard he worked to make his career move in the non-beefcake way he wanted, the off-beat choices in characters he made, his continuing partnership with Tim Burton (I would so love that), and what his friends and co-stars had to say about him.

And I find it incredibly ironic that Keira Knightley says "it's so unfair to do a two-shot" with Depp, because "he's so beautiful."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Superman Returns

I'm a comic book geek. And an Actor. And I like watching movies.

I was not going to miss seeing Superman Returns.

But I was surprised by just how geeked out I got when 70s-esque movie credits spun onto the screen, and the first time the update of his own John Williams Superman theme played during the film.

Overall, a very good film. With caveats.

Director/Producer/"Story By" guy Bryan Singer does an amazing job of fitting the film into the original films' canon, deftly sticking it between Superman II and Superman III, almost seemlessly. Almost.

Singer's good at putting heart into the super heroics, which is arguably what sets X-Men and X2 apart from X-Men: The Last Stand.

Parker Posey gave perhaps my favorite overall performance of the movie. She is so engaged with her character. As an actor, it was a lot of fun to watch.

Kate Bosworth suprised me as Lois Lane. I could not see her in the role until I saw her in the role, and she plays it well. My quibble would be she goes through some heavy physical punishment in the film with little effect, which made it unfortunately a bit laughable.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor is phenomenal and devious and creepy, without being cartoony. Just like Gene Hackman (without being Gene Hackman).

Brandon Routh does a passable Man of Steel, and an even better "doing-Christopher-Reeve-doing-Clark-Kent", which does make the former role seem a little off.

And really, though the match to the actor that did the original role is pretty amazing, it took me out of the movie at moments, and reminded me that -- for me -- Christopher Reeve is Superman.

Also, though Singer does an amazing job of fitting so much into the canon, he introduces some elements that are so huge their not showing up in Superman III would be weird. But maybe he thinks like I do that Superman Returns is the direction the franchise should have gone after the second film, rather than the, uh, Richard Pryor route (absolutely nothing against Mr. Pryor).

And, though I say Routh pulls off Superman, there is some pretty heavy-handed dialog that came across stilted, and produced a "huh?" factor that probably wasn't intened. Maybe it helps if you remember Superman is "The Last Son of Krypton." Maybe.

Overall, Superman Returns is a good flick. Didn't hit me as hard as the Spider-Man treatments, but still really enjoyable, and a solid super hero film.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Must Love Dogs

I finally got around to seeing Must Love Dogs, with Diane Lane, John Cusack, and Christopher Plummer.

I'm a big John Cusack fan, and only slightly less so of Diane Lane (and only slightly less so, Christopher Plummer).

Must Love Dogs is a good flick. Not real deep, and it's a comedic drama (or dramatic comedy), so it's not quite the grins and giggles depicted in the previews (which is fine with me). It's more Lane's movie than Cusack's, but it's got a lot of heart, does a good job showing the pain and awkwardness of post-divorce dating, and has some good relational dialog (a particularly good scene between Lane's Sarah Holan and Plummer's father (Bill) characters was unfortunately cut from the film, but is available in the DVD extended features).

I'm also incredibly encouraged by Dermot Mulroney, who works hard, often, and solidly in every film in which I've seen him (at least since Young Guns). I could do that.

The movie has a couple of hokey sentimental moments that detract from the story, but they're brief, and at least are entertaining in their own right.

Overall, a worthwhile film, if only from the top-notch caliber of talent.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Yours, Mine & Ours

I'm a Dennis Quaid fan. And I'm a Rene Russo fan. I'm not a huge fan of Yours, Mine & Ours.

I mean, the film was cute and all, but way too crammed, and by nature of having 16 kids involved, not a lot of character development, and not an ensemble piece. Plus, there are some kind of offensive stereotypes.

There are bright moments, and some clever scenes, but this is a bubble gum and popcorn movie. Fun, but ultimately flavorless. And my leave you gassy. Look, metaphors aren't really my thing.

I did like Sean Faris, and there's one almost Tom Cruise Taps freeze frame moment that surprised me.

Not a movie I'll ever likely watch again ...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission: Impossible III

I caught a matinee of Mission: Impossible III today.

Best. M:I. Ever.

Seriously. This is an incredible film. Not just summer blockbuster incredible. It's got heart.

For me, the second (John Woo) Mission: Impossible II was lacking (and I'm a Woo fan) and it was the first (Brian De Palma) Mission: Impossible that I considered the best.

Until now.

M:i:III is amazing. We're talking new levels of intense for the franchise. Not just in action (and not over-the-top-huh? intense that M:i:II was), but in emotion and relational scenes, too.

Director J.J. Abrams is able to bring some of his Lost and Alias sensibilities to the silver screen.

Feel how you want about Tom Cruise and how gorgeous you think he is (or how gorgeous you think he's not), the Oprah thing, or Scientology -- the guy is a brilliant actor. Watch Collateral and M:i:III, then sit in the dark and muse about the brilliance that is Cruise as an actor.

And I'm glad Keri (Felicity) Russell is back -- and she's good (and believable) as an IMF agent.

Michelle Monaghan? Wow. I was in love. Scenes with her and Cruise felt authentic, and at times, important.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant. We're talking Bond-villain brilliant. But not cartoony. A joy to watch. Creepy joy.

I'm a Ving Rhames fan. And he doesn't disappoint in this film.

I'm looking forward to watching Mission: Impossible III again. You should go see it. Now. Go.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Inside the Actor's Studio (Fiennes, Gandolfini, Will & Grace)

I watched a few Inside the Actors Studio back-to-back yesterday. I consider this free, high-caliber class for feeding the acting part of my soul. Here's a brief summary.

Ralph Fiennes

First up was Ralph Fiennes. Brilliant and humble, I am most struck by Fiennes statements about voice acting, sex scenes, and the importance of acting as a medium that elevates and serves a much higher purpose -- personal and corporate -- than to "merely entertain."

James Gandolfini

Next up was James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, Get Shorty, etc.).

I was struck by his anecdote of his "break out moment", where he let go and tore apart a stage in anger during a Meissner class, and the instructor's explanation of the moment.

"See," she said. "Everyone's all right, nobody's hurt. This is what people want to see. They don't want to see the guy next door -- they want to see this."

She went on to explain that being, and controlling that being, is what acting's about.

I think a lot of folks may misunderstand Meissner, and are scared that control part isn't part of the process. If it's not, it's not process, it's anarchy.

I'm really impressed with Gandolfini's honesty, work ethic, and detailed openness about his craft.

"It's just a matter of showing up every day, even when you don't feel like it, even when don't want to be there, and doing what you're supposed to do, that's part of it -- that's a valuable lesson."

I was also encouraged by Gandolfini talking about some of his tough scenes -- particularly some of the brutal scenes he's had with women. He was up front and emotional about how "that stuff really messes with you," and talked about how that generally throws him off for days. This was important to me, because high emotion and tough conflict scenes that are against type for me (especially with women) really shake me up for a few days. Glad one of the greats has the same response.

The Cast of Will and Grace

Third up was the cast of Will & Grace.

Eric McCormack (Will), Debra Messing (Grace), Megan Mullally (Karen) Sean Hayes (Jack), James Burrows (Director), David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (Creators/Executive Producers) were all on hand to talk about themselves, the show, and the process.

For me, ensemble ItAS like this are more fluff than meat, just by nature of having to fit 5 mini-interviews into the allotted time.

These are some seriously impressive folks. many with impressive pedigree, and all of the them with a track record of making stuff happen (in my book, James Burrows is one of the more impressive directors out there).

I did like getting insight from non-actors Burrows, Kohan, and Mutchnick. In particular, Mutchnick had some interesting things to say for actors, and what he wants to see in auditions, and what he doesn't want to see (do people actually try to kiss the Casting Director? I'm sure that's not high on Tracy Lilienfield's list).

Good stuff, all around ...

Spies Like Us

I caught Spies Like Us on network TV today.

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd were and are so gifted, and this flick took me back to the pop fun and cold war stress of the 80s. I was also struck by the film's subtle us of sex, which was more fun and titillating in 80s films than many of today's films -- where it's abrubt, pervasive, and less fun.

And I'm a huge fan of Bruce Davison (Ruby), one of the most prolific "non-A-list" actors. Spies Like Us, X-Men/X2, and nearly 150 others. What an amazingly talented, hard working actor. I'll take a career like his ...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lucky Number Sleven

I saw Lucky Number SLeven, which opened today.

This is a good flick, with top-tier actors and acting (Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci), this is a twisting film with fun characterization.

This is one of those films that's hard to talk about without giving stuff away. I don't read reviews of films I'm going to see before I see them, because I don't want my response to the film colored. I recognize the hypocrisy in my writing about stuff I see. I take responsibility for that. Besides, you choose whether or not you want to read my ramblings.

Anyway, though I'm a fan of all of the actors above (Stanley Tucci's career? I'll take it!), this is Hartnett's, and Liu's movie. Hartnett as a guy who lacks any worry (or any preocupations, really), and Liu as I've never seen her (and arguably with her own personality disorder) are a lot of fun to watch. Their chemistry and authenticity rock, and the editing makes several of the deeper connection moments really nice.

"That lip got you that nose."

It's not a happy film, but it's a good film.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Justice League Unlimited

OK, I have never seen Dirty Dancing. Never had a desire to. But when I flipped on the TV yesterday, there was Patrick Swayze, gyrating in what I fear was the climax of the movie.

I like Swayze. I think he's a hard-working and impressive actor. Red Dawn hit me at a particularly formative time.

This whole him dancing thing was more than a little unsettling. I lasted about 30 seconds before I had to shut it off.

To cleanse the brainpan, I watched a couple of episodes of Justice League Unlimited. I'm bummed they've sunsetted the series (along with Teen Titans), but the rumored Legion of Super-Heroes looks to be a reality, so maybe that'll scratch my itch.

Anyway, these two episodes, "The Great Brain Robbery" and "Grudge Match" are well-written, engaging, and have some substance (less so the former, more so the latter). Michael Rosenbaum continues to be great as Flash, and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) is probably one of the most diverse, hardest working, non-A-list actor's out there (looks like updates to his website stopped after 2002/3, so go to imdb.com to see his latest credits).

Oh, and the whole "Grudge Match" has got some great writing and dialog, but the final scene between Huntress and Black Canary is clever and sexy -- just what I needed to get Patrick's hips out of my head.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Curious George

I caught a matinee of Curious George the other day.

Y'know, I went saw Mike Judge speak a few weeks ago, and he was bemoaning the fact that all of these big names and big stars are doing voice over work for movies. His point was he watches an animated film for escape, and hearing a recognized voice being itself -- rather than a character -- pulls him out the movie.

Now, I'm biased, because big stars doing voice over makes it harder for me to do voice over, but aside from that, Curious George is perfect example of what Judge was talking about.

I'm a Will Ferrell fan. I'm a Drew Barrymore fan. I was not a fan of this movie.

The movie wasn't about George the monkey. It wasn't even about Ted ("The Man in the Yellow Hat"). The movie was about Will Ferrell.

I didn't go to see a Will Ferrell movie -- I went to see George.

Oh, and I freaking paid through the nose to see the film, even thought it was a matinee. I feel like Regal and Carmike and Landmark and the like are summarily killing the movie going industry...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jumping off Bridges

I saw jumping off bridges as part of SXSW this afternoon.

Hard for a bunch of reasons, not least of which it feels a bit ... off ... to offer any critique about a film that's got tough content that's based at least partially on real events.

It's a good little film. Director/Writer Kat Candler is talented and daring. Bryan Chafin fights through a tough role. Rhett Wilkins has one of the strongest performances, and Michael Emerson has a great, understated, nuanced pathos and bravery at the same time. Glen Powell Jr. took me out of the movie a few times, but I don't know if it was his performance or that he's a ringer for my cousin.

The story is compelling and important.

For a bunch of reasons it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss in this forum, it was tough content for me on a bunch of fronts, and I can't say much more about the film.

But it is worth seeing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

V for Vendetta

I went to the V for Vendetta regional premiere last night, as part of the SXSW Festival.

I was really nervous about this treatment of Alan Moore's amazing 3 episode comic book series, started in 1981 -- mainly because of what "They" did in the movie treatment of his The Leage of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Not that that film was terrible, per se, but it missed the point of Moore's deep literary writing across his TLEG series, and turned it into a less-than-compelling "me-to" action/monster flick for 2003. I mean, "Alan Moore has led the field in intelligent, politically astute (if slightly paranoid), complex adult comic-book writing since the early 1980s" (Amazon.com).

V for Vendetta, however not only didn't suck -- it was amazing.

What happens in V is that in a future London (as imagined in the early 80s) a fascist, totalitarian government reigns, and one person -- donning a Guy Fawkes mask and known only by the moniker "V" -- stands in opposition to the oppression.

What the film is about is so much more.

There will be those that will try to use it as an artistic stick with which to beat the current administration, but those doing so will be doing the material (and the administration) a disservice, and miss the bigger point. The film is not a political or activist film. It's a warning. Or a call to action (which, to me, is different than "activism" in its current incarnation).

It's a rally cry around concepts like what makes Guy Fawkes Night important. It's a warning about your accountability, my accountability, for not letting us become a totalitarian state.

In the original series, "V" is a terrorist, but one who is more about motivating and empowering people to change, rather than single handedly making that change. There is an emphasis on action in the film that's a bit disproportionate to the original series, but it may help it at the box office, and to me doesn't compromise the deeper stuff.

I enjoyed seeing the Brothers Wachowski do something with material other than The Matrix, and with something that's not a 3-film arc. And it's cool to see James McTeigue come to the forefront as a director for the first time, and deliver so solidly.

The cast and acting is phenomenal, with Natalie Portman (Evey) delivering a compelling (and I suspect emotionally demanding) performance. Stephen Rea (Finch) and Stephen Fry (Deitrich) are top-notch.

And Hugo Weaving ("V")? I'm going to go with "masterful" on this one. To pull off the twisted and complex character that is "V", and be engaging -- through a non-moving mask -- is one of the real treats of the film. Man -- Elrond, Agent Smith, and now "V"? Good for him!

The effects and editing are incredibly tight, and they actually pulled off some of the comic book signature moments perfectly -- not an easy thing to do.

There are a couple of minor glitches, but they don't detract from the whole film. There's a jarring continuity/edit problem at one particularly important dramatic moment, and there was one part of the climax I thought had a timing mismatch between two of the elements. Again, not enough to break the film.

So, to summarize -- The film didn't suck, it was really good, and is (arguably) actually important.

"Remember, remember, the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason,

why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I picked up the Clerks 10th Anniversary Edition DVD.

I'm somewhat motivated to watch/rewatch Kevin Smith's stuff after seeing him speak on Monday.

Weird -- never thought I'd think there was something "comforting" about watching "Clerks".

Almost "The Breakfast Club" comforting.

And the 3-disc DVD is a treasure trove o' goodies -- for fans of the film (or Kevin Smith's), or students of independent film.

Kill Bill VOL. 2

After rewatching Kill Bill VOL. 1 the other day, I watched Kill Bill VOL. 2 last night.

I actually hadn't yet seen VOL. 2 before last night (I've been waiting for the friends with whom to watch it, or some such excuse).

I'm surprised at how different I feel VOL. 2 is from VOL. 1. They're both amazing, diverse pieces of film work, but VOL. 2 to me felt more deliberate and poetic.

I really enjoyed "Chapter Seven: The lonely grave of Paula Schultz", and was pleasantly surprised by Michael Madsen's ("Budd") performance. There was something just beautiful and poignant about Budd's life, and Tarantino plays it in an amazingly intimate way.

And going back to my recent fixation with set dressings I mentioned in my summary of Kill Bill VOL. 1, the grave behind and to the right of Paula Schultz's tombstone, is wrapped with a series of galvanized metal gates. This was just unaccountably strking to me. There's just something sad and important and reverent about it that spun a whole backstory in my head. Dunno ...

I'm mixed on which volume I like "better" -- there's phenomenal stuff in both.

** Possible Spoilers **

I'm a bit conflicted as to the familial "resolution", and I felt like the climax was teased at the beginning of the 2nd film, so I knew what was coming from after the opening scenes. I think if it had been teased in VOL. 1, it would have been a better, "Awe, crap, that's right!" kind of moment -- and would have fit better with the whole "This is one movie" shtik.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kill Bill VOL. 1

I watched Kill Bill VOL. 1 last night with a couple of friends (one hadn't seen it before).

Uma Thurman is ... amazing. And Quentin Tarantino is just masterful.

I think my favorite chapter changes each time I watch this film.

Last time, it was "Chapter Three: The Origin of O-Ren" (I'm a big fan of I.G. Productions' stuff); this time, it's "Chapter Four: The MAN From OKINAWA".

I like so much about the chapter. I like how it's so subtly bookended by the same dialog. I like the interplay between Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) and "Bald Guy (Sushi Shop)" (Kenji Ohba) and between Hattori Hanzo and "The Bride" (Thurman). I like how Chiba dots the "i" with Japanese script-style while writing in the dust.

I like the set dressings for the sword room, which -- to me -- is one of the most brilliant set dressings I've seen. The Japanese aren't trying to be these dressed up objects of Western fetish they so often become -- they're just living. And this set dressing shows that so well. The wall of master craftman's swords. The silk makeshift curtains. The underwear hanging from a cheap, Wal-Mart-esque hanger. The translucent plastic storage containers. The TV in a corner. It just feels authentic, lived in, and non-pretentious.

Anyway, now my favorite chapter is "Chapter Four: The MAN From OKINAWA".

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Night Watch ("Nochnoi Dozor")

I caught Night Watch right after I watched Ultraviolet, and am glad I did.

I'm sure Night Watch benefitted some from my just-previous disappointment with Ultraviolet, but the film stands solidly on its own.

Where Ultraviolet was what I expected Aeon Flux to be (a throw away popcorn flick, which Flux was not), Night Watch was what I had hoped Underworld: Evolution would be (smart, stylish, complex, hinting at a huge world that exists beyond the film without hitting the audience over the head with it). By the way, Underworld: Evolution was not this.

I read that one critic described Night Watch "as a popcorn movie with a vodka chaser" -- but this is really a disservice to the film. It's much deeper than that, more twisted and stylish, and a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Just saw Ultraviolet.

OK, so part of it is unfortunate timing (who wants follow Aeon Flux and Charlize Theron with the same shtik?), but, frankly, the movie's not that good on its own.

It tries too hard to capture some of the comic series' signature moments (and pulls some of them off), but a lot of them fall terribly flat -- turns out splash panels don't translate well to film.

Mila Jovovich is fun to watch, and there is some heart and flourish worth seeing.

Now, off to see Night Watch to hopefully clear the aesthetic palate ...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Justice League Unlimited

I watched Saturday's new Justice League Unlimited last night, and it was pretty impressive -- but probably only for the moments long-time comic book fans will notice.

The tale centers around Deadman (yeah, they actually showcased Deadman -- the whole JLU framework is awesome!), and had some great, subtle vignette moments.

Like Deadman, in ghost form, trying desperately to pull boulders off of a loved one.

They're actually killing people in cartoons. None of this "Oh he's stunned" crap -- but a more believable, non-candy coated, non-gratuitous depiction.

And there's a powerful moment related to Batman and Devil Ray (wasn't he Black Manta in the old Super Friends? What, is that not PC or something?). I won't give the moment away, but if you're a Batman fan, and know what makes him tick (and ticks him off), this may be a pretty powerful moment for you.

Justice League Unlimited

Justice League Unlimited is finally back after an unnecessarily long hiatus, and last week's episode, "Flash and Substance", was a great return to what makes the series fun.

The series does a fantastic treatment of the wit and heart of the Flash character, and Michael Rosenbaum brings perfect light to the character. Flash also makes a great foil for Batman, and the writers are doing a slick job on the character development front for both.

Speaking of Rosenbaum, kudos to this guy -- he's Lex Luthor on Smallville, and the Flash on Justice League -- bad comic book guy, and good comic book guy.

That rocks, and I will be there someday ...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

OK, so I'm not really watching Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; I tried to watch Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..

It's on right now, and I'd missed this 1998 made-for-TV movie when it first premiered, and its subsequent airings since.

A caught it just as it started today, and since it seemed fortuitous, thought I'd watch the whole deal for my "absorb-all-things-comic-book" shtick, and ... I can't do it.

Sweet mercy, who let this thing air?

Don't get me wrong; despite the multiple popular media jokes around David Hasselhoff, I'm incredibly impressed with his long-standing, solid, and ongoing career. Besides, he seems like a genuinely engaging person in various interviews and guest appearances, and takes his (arguably undeserved) lumps in stride and in good humor.

But this film blows. It takes a cool Marvel staple and makes it a cartoon (in a bad way), rips off a bunch of coventions, and parlays so many performance stereotypes (like "third-wheel-nervous-guy-who-comes-through-in-clutch-time") to no effect.

And to think the first Fantastic Four movie targeted for direct-to-video was so bad they didn't let it go live. Looking at this S.H.I.E.L.D. fiasco, I so want to watch and MST3K that film other.

Here's hoping the new S.H.I.E.L.D. film off of Marvel's recent licensing deals doesn't suck even half this much.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sitdown Comedy with David Steinbert (John Lovitz)

I just watched John Lovitz on TVLand's new series Sitdown Comedy with David Steinbert.

I wondered what happend to John Lovitz, who's 2002 to 2005 was a bit quiet, but with Bailey's Billion$, The Producers, The Benchwarmers, and Southland Tales in the works, maybe he's back in the game.

He had some interesting things to say about comedy and his process, like drama being from the heart, and comedy from the head, and you still do the drama, and layer the head stuff on top. He said you as an actor should know if the comedy is funny, but the character should be oblivious. Not sure how that works, but I think I'm going to try playing with it a bit.

He also talked about writing out Woody Allen's standup routines on index cards, highlighting words for diction and comedic timing. I hadn't thought of trying that (I figure if I can pull it off believably with with Eddie Murphey's Raw, I should be golden).

Sitdown Comedy with David Steinbert (Mike Myers)

Just coincidently after watching Mike Myers on Inside the Actors Studio, I caught him on TVLand's new series Sitdown Comedy with David Steinbert.

There was some retread from ItAS, but it's Mike Myers -- so it was still brilliant and insightful.

Oh, and you should check out the website for Sitdown Comedy with David Steinbert -- you can watch full episodes online, including interviews with Larry David, Bob Newhart, Martin Short, John Lovitz, and George Lopez.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Inside the Actors Studio: Mike Myers

I re-watched Inside the Actors Studio with Mike Myers, and was, yet again, impressed and inspired.

Besides his memorable characters from his Saturday Night Live run, Myers is such a prolific writer, with big-successes like Wayne's World (and its sequel), Austin Powers (and its sequels) written in a stunningly short few weeks to few months.

Best advice I got from the interview? Two-fold:
  • Go-after-it-tenacity -- They guy makes sweeping comments like, "I'm going to be on Saturday Night Live", and makes it happen.
  • The intellect and acting -- Myers says intellect and workshop skills and things of the mind are for when you're stuck. When you're not stuck, you don't need them if you're truly in the moment ...
And So I Married an Axe Murderer is one of the most under-rated comedic flicks (with one of my favorite movie soundtracks).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Red vs. Blue

I just re-watched the first 30 episodes of Red Vs. Blue.

Turns out laughing this hard (again) is probably not what a doctor would order for a guy diagnosed with bronchitis -- but it's worth it.

If you're not familiar with the Red Vs. Blue machinima videos, go, check it out, laugh heartily (especially if you're a Halo fan).

No, I'm no way affiliated with these Austin guys. But maybe while you're on the site you can sign up for a sponsorship (only $10 per season gets you access to hi-rez videos and spencial "sponsor-only content").

Hey, and if a bunch of you do get sponsorships, they might actually make enough money to pay me to be their mouthpiece ...