Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Don't Need Another (Season of) Heroes

After the continuous pummeling to my balls that was Heroes Season 2, I went back for more punishment with Season 3 after the folks behind Heroes 'fessed up and admitted that maybe Season 2 was a big steaming pile. They promised Season 3 would be better... they lied.

There were so many sudden shifts in direction during Season 3 that viewers were in danger of whiplash. The tone and narrative thrust didn't shift over the course of a story arc but, instead, each episode felt like a failed attempt at a "reboot" -- the kind you have to do after your computer bombs out.

Let's look back at some of the FAILS of the season:

  • Prison Camps - The season began with our faithful protagonists being easily captured, detained, and sent up in an airplane to a prison camp courtesy of Nathan Patrelli, resident dick. This may have been a good idea save for that the plane never arrived at its destination. No, it didn't break up over a remote disappearing island. Instead, it crash landed and all of the familiar characters escaped (unharmed). Was this the first transport to the camp? Does this camp still exist? Was the purpose of this plane ride just to get all of these superpowered people in one place at one time, a kind of X-Men/Con Air scenario? I can't figure out why Hiro was flown from Japan to join this plane ride -- why couldn't he have been flown straight there? And why is Hiro the only "Hero" from outside of the United States?

  • Fugitives - They've escaped! They're on the run! Not so fast! Rather than living up to the "Fugitive" chapter title of this season, the Heroes were on the lam for a few episodes before they would only occasionally be troubled by the ubiquitous forces of this season's baddie, Danko ("The Hunter"). For being fugitives, the Heroes seem pretty relaxed and move around with ease, running into the black-clad agents only when a sudden burst of danger is needed (or we take one of those aforementioned left turns). Going back to what I said about Hiro being the only non-U.S. Hero. If Danko is working under the impetus of some U.S. directed decree... maybe head up to Canada or go over to Europe?

  • Plot Holes Galore - You're chasing a kid whose power is to breathe underwater. You end your search at a pool... without looking in the water! WTF? This is one of the gazillion plot holes this season.

  • Danko - Of all the great villains... he's not one of them.

  • Sylar - He's good! He's bad! He's seeking redemption! He's looking for his Daddy! He's got a protege! He's missing for a few episodes! He can shape shift! He's a traitor to the Heroes! He's changing into his own mother! His clothes can shapeshift too! He wants to kill the President! The writers don't know what to do with him! Yup. Between he and Danko, it's fairly obvious that there are no good villains in this world of Heroes.

  • Matt Parkman - Matt's one of the most troublesome characters as he's the easiest to relate to. Normal guy finds out he's got powers, ruins his marriage, falls for some hot piece of tail after he goes on a spirit journey and suddenly can start seeing the future.... huh? We were with you at the beginning, Matt, trying to do your job with your new powers but once you left the force, found your Dad, and went to Africa, we lost you. Matt only did the Isaac Mendez thing a few times during Season 3 but they were a few times too many. His relationship with Daphne, the Speedster, was a rocky and doomed one. Apparently Matt thought that a wound to Daphne's shoulder was fatal as he didn't realize she was still alive until a few episodes after she got shot and then mysteriously died (apparently she wanted off this equally-doomed show). Matt has forgotten all of the tricks that his Daddy taught him (locking people in "mental prisons"), has a boner to screw up Danko's life, and now has a kid -- with super-powers of course. His jagged path exemplifies everything wrong with the show.

  • Save the Wig, Save the World! - What is up with Hayden Panettiere's awful wig this season? If she's wearing a different hairstyle for another project, use it. Perhaps she might alter her appearance if she's in "hiding"?

  • Save the President, Save the World! - All the politics of Season 3, especially making the President a target of Sylar's takes Heroes out of the fantasy world and into an alternate reality that just doesn't fly (pun intended).

  • Isaac Mendez's Eternal Loft - Who's paying rent on this sweet Manhattan space? After Mendez died it became Mohinder's not-so-secret lair and is still the clubhouse for various Heroes to meet. It's even got a new apocalyptic floor-painting of the Capital being destroyed. Not to worry, it only took about a half hour for this subplot to be introduced and diffused. Just as Mendez's loft keeps getting used, so do the "we must prevent this future!" plots -- even without Hiro having time-travel powers. This is more annoying (but not by much) than Ali Larter showing up as different characters.

  • Rebel - It's the kid, Micah. I was hoping we'd never see him again. Rebel only showed up to move the plot along when it was getting tedious (and that is often) before disappearing for episodes at a time.

  • Remembrance of Season One - How dare you give us an episode that takes us back into the past via Angela Petrelli that explains a few things from Season One! That was such a good season! Why must you throw that in our faces?

That's just the tip of the ice berg. Charting out the various plots and subplots -- and which managed to undo another -- would look like a schizophrenic's EEG. Like Freddy Kruger, Heroes feels like it's the son of a hundred mad men that all raped the good idea that was the first season of the show. Each episode is its own twisted spawn. Related by blood but independent of thought.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The World's Greatest Sinner -- Tonight!

If you’ve never seen THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER… you need to. It’s an absolutely amazing flick. Psychotronic and just psycho in general. It’s the brainchild of Timothy Carey – one of my favorite character actors. He wrote, directed, produced, and stars in this film about a rock & roll preacher who declares himself the one true deity.

The film’s score was written by a young Frank Zappa and the movie’s been incredibly difficult to see for decades. TCM is bringing it to cable tonight “around 2AM” and it’s a must-see.

More details at TCM

More about Timothy Carey

You won’t see anything else quite like this mind-bending film.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Recall the Yellow Cotton Dress

More fun with "MacArthur Park" happened over at WFMU.

I've been tracking down more versions of "MacArthur Park" and hope to have a few more on the way soon. Looks like I'll be doing a sequel to my earlier Torrent.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Republicans Love Teabagging?

Don't Spoil Me

In early 1994 I had the privilege of seeing an early screening of The Hudsucker Proxy. Walking in, I knew nothing about the film other than who directed it. As Norville Barnes kept showing off his "sweet little baby" -- a drawing of a circle -- I had absolutely no idea what this blueprint would turn out to be. Imagine my delight when it was revealed.

Compare this to 1991 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. If one was able to watch this film "cold" -- with no prior knowledge of what's going to happen -- then there's a significant twist at the end of the film's first act when the Terminator uses the "Come with me if you want to live" line, suddenly flipping expectations that he's not there to kill young John Connor but save him.

Seeing Terminator 2 cold was an impossibility. The hype was too big and, worse, my curiosity was too great.

In the past few years I've managed to let that curiosity go. I've ruined too many things for myself by researching films before they come out.

Sometimes, however, I don't have a choice. I want to remain blissfully ignorant to the intricacies of a film but this is in direct conflict with the way movies are marketed. Previews and commercials give far too much away. Worse, you can't look at too many pages on the Internet without seeing spoilers casually posted as if they were common knowledge.

Don't spoil me. Don't make the information so easy to come by. I want to work for it or, even better, I want to not know and just enjoy things for what they are.

I'm saying all of this as the new crop of "summer movies" loom on the horizon. The bigger and geekier a release, the most spoilers come flooding across the Internet tubes.

I don't want to know the plot of Star Trek XI, I don't need to learn who's who in the remake of "The Prisoner", I don't thirst for knowledge of how "100 Bullets" may end. Can't I just enjoy things for what they are when they happen?

I'm going back to my cave now... Put me in a blindfold and lead me to the theater when Star Trek XI comes out.

Addendum: I just remembered that Star Trek XI comes out on May 8, 2009. I'm going to be neck-deep in film festival fare at the Maryland Film Festival that weekend. Will I actually be able to keep the spoilers from my ears for an extra week before I see it? It's going to be tough but I hope so!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Springtime in Maryland

I wasn't planning on taking (m)any trips in 2009, with the hope that I might get to go on a book tour later in the year. However, Maryland has been calling me (figuratively) and I've simply got to attend this year's MDFF.

Just about all of the flicks have been announced on their website today -- looks like a fine crop of films. I'm psyched to see the following:

  • Blind Loves (dir. Juraj Lehotsky, Slovakia)
  • Mock Up on Mu (dir. Craig Baldwin)
  • Nollywood Babylon (dir. Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal, Nigeria/Canada)
  • Stingray Sam (dir. Cory McAbee)
  • World's Greatest Dad (dir. Bobcat Goldthwait)
  • Lightning Salad Moving Picture (dir. Kenneth Price)

That's just what I see at first pass. The John Waters's pick, 3-D film (always a must-see), and silent film (ditto) are yet to be announced. Looks like it's going to be a fun weekend May 7-10!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Irony Could Choke a Horse

In his weekly "Motion Captured" column, Drew McWeeny discusses the leak of 20th Century Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the subsequent review of it by a critic affiliated with Fox's media empire.

McWeeny is out for blood, calling for the firing of this critic for downloading Wolverine and writing about it. McWeeny gets on his high horse, writing, "Since [Hitflix.com] not only refused to review [Wolverine] but also to publish any reactions to it from anyone else, and since the same thing happened at Ain't It Cool and CHUD and at most of the other major geek sites, Fox is in an awkward position here. We all respected the law. We all chose to do the right thing.".

Wow. I'm amazed McWeeny can still type this drivel after patting himself on the back for so long and hard. His writing is infused with the flavor of sour grapes mixed with fear -- a bitter brew indeed. Sour grapes that someone else is getting the scoop. And fear of legal reprisal from Fox if McWeeny wrote about Wolverine. McWeeny sounds like an errant tattletale toddler screaming to Fox for the blood of this critic for getting away with what McWeeny wanted to do: "This is criminal. It's blatantly criminal, and it's the sort of behavior that would be punished if it was anyone else."

I'm amazed that McWeeny knows what "the right thing" is. Don't forget, McWeeny used to go by the name of Moriarty when he wrote for Ain't It Cool News -- a site that made its name from "scoops" just like the one McWeeny is so mad about now. The hypocrisy is astounding.

As for the film, I won't pretend that I didn't download it. I eat this kind of stuff up. I love seeing works in progress just as much as I love seeing fan edits as continuing to work with material to reshape it. The Wolverine wasn't too bad. It was far better than the last few Marvel-based movies I've seen though not perfect. It was no Iron Man, Spiderman 2, or X2 (but it was slightly better than X3).

Certainly, the rough cut of Wolverine is far from complete in its score, effects, ADR, etc. I think that the biggest difference is going to be the expansion of Ryan Reynolds's role (the same could be done for Taylor Kitsch -- I still think that Gambit is the lamest mutant ever). Reynolds shows up in the beginning of the film and appears again later (nearly unrecognizable) as Deadpool. Bumping up his screen time is going to help fill in some holes. However, there is more room for improvement.

Io9.com has a very good article, 10 Ways Wolverine Could Still Become A Decent Film. I agree whole-heartedly with the observations made by Charlie Jane Anders. Moreover, I appreciate that the writer doesn't make any bones that he saw the Wolverine rough cut or call for the head of anyone else who's seen it like some other bratty critics have done.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Feel the Pain

I never used to be a fan of this song or video but I've been having a blast playing it on Guitar Hero. Apparently the video was effective as it plays through my head as I hear this song.

Fearless of Repeating Myself -- A Cashiers du Cinemart Book on the Way!

I thought that I had made this perfectly clear but apparently not...

Coming October 2009.... Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection from Atomic Book Company.

This book collects the "best" articles from the fifteen year history of Cashiers du Cinemart magazine with sections dedicated to Quentin Tarantino, Star Wars, Black Shampoo, Unproduced screenplays, celebrity interviews, and much more. Everything has been refreshed, polished, and improved for this volume of movie mayhem.

More details are to come. Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008, Sweden)

Kåre Hedebrant stars as Oskar, a slight blond boy who's being picked on at school and has a lousy homelife with his divorced mother. He finds a friend in his new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), a strange and stinky girl who seems wise beyond her years. The two are meant for each other. They're both physically twelve years old and have a fascination with death. Oskar keeps a scrap book of murder stories from the newspaper while Eli does her best to add a few more headlines via her eternal nocturnal thirst. Yes, Eli's a vampire. But, fear not, this isn't some mushy love story. Instead, consider this film the antithesis of Twilight.

Moody and ponderous like any good film from Sweden should be, Let the Right One In is a rich film that was terrifically adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel. The author does well to tell a compelling tale while leaving in enough shadow of backstory to make the film a rich viewing experience. Once you see it, it'll stick your fangs in you and doesn't let go.