Sunny Jhanna

Bienvenidos a Sunny Jhanna, el sitio oficial de Las crónicas de Dae y Ruled by Spiders. ¡Gracias por visitarnos y regresad pronto!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paquidérmico

Aquí tenéis un dibujillo rápido que hice el otro día en clase durante el famoso Cartooning Club que patrocino. Alguien dijo que dibujáramos un elefante, y me puse manos a la obra sin perder un segundo. El resultado, bastante cachondo, acompaña estas líneas. Como anécdota, diré que hice el dibujo de pie, mientras caminaba de un lado a otro mirando lo que hacían mis niñas, así que, dado lo que me moví, el dibujo no quedó mal del todo. Espero que os guste!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Loony Bin

I really enjoyed Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese's fourth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie was very slow paced, true, but it was never boring and it never seemed to drag on at all. The story was interesting, dark and creepy, and an aura of eeriness surrounded the wards, the island, the lighthouse, and everything else. As it's usually the case, DiCaprio's performance was excellent, and Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow do a great job in their supporting roles.

The only negative factor in this equation was that I was fairly sure how things were going to turn out just by watching the preview. For better or worse, I have seen a lot of movies, and I saw this twist coming even before I stepped into the theater. That was definitely disappointing, but by no means invalidated the film. However, I wish things had been different. Still, Shutter Island was very enjoyable, and I recommend it to everyone who is in the mood for a creepy psychological mystery. You could certainly do much worse than this!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reading List: February

Well, I think I managed to read more this month than I did in January. Still a far cry from what I was used to, though, but it's all good, since I couldn't be happier. This is all the goodness I read in February:

Madman, vol. 1
A friend gave me the first Madman trade because he absolutely loves it and he thought I should give it a try. I had stayed away from Mike Allred's creation because I didn't find the artwork appealing, and this book helped broaden my horizons. I'm still no fan of his pencils, but the stories were weird and whimsy and enjoyable, and I had a good time reading them.

The Duchess of Whimsy
I already told you how awesome the artwork by Peter de Sève is!

Flawed Dogs
This book by Berkeley Breathed is clearly geared for a very young audience, and it didn't really do much for me. The illustrations were pretty cool, but, other than that, the story left me indifferent.

Chew
This first trade of Image's great series by John Layman and Rob Guillory is fantastic, as I already told you.

Catch Me If You Can
The book that inspired the movie, Catch Me If You Can is written by its protagonist, Frank W. Abagnale (with Stan Redding), who recounts his glamourous life as a paperhanger, and how his boldness and charisma allowed him to travel everywhere in the world seducing the ladies. A million times more compelling than Spielberg's version, this book is a terrific read!

Grandville
A fun story written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot, this "scientific- romance- thriller" starring anthropomorphic animals was as bit as entertaining as the 11 O'Clock Comics guys said it was.

And that's it for February. Stay tuned for more rock'n'roll…
I mean, book reviews.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Horse of the Genius

Here you have a cartoonish depiction of my visit to the High Museum in Atlanta. My girlfriend and I went there to see the Da Vinci: Hand of the Genius exhibit, and we both loved it. We already knew Da Vinci was a genius (and that he had at least one hand), but seeing his original artwork neatly displayed took my breath away. To be able to see the same pages Leonardo touched and worked on, his horse studies, his writing, his, in one word, originals, made the trip well worth it. Great highbrow entertainment!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Steal My Thunder

I was looking forward to seeing The Lightning Thief because the series of books by Rick Riordan is lots of fun. I had already been warned that Craig Titley, the screenwriter, had taken quite a departure from the source material, so I was ready for that. Besides, ever since I read William Goldman's formidable Which Lie Did I Tell?, the way in which I view adaptations of novels has changed, and I knew that, regardless of the differences between book and movie, I would be able to judge the film on its merits alone.

The movie version of TLT, directed by Chris Columbus, is true to the spirit of the book, and that's really all I demand in an adapted screenplay nowadays. Titley captured the essence of the story and the characters, and his script hits most of the beats the story requires as it unfolds. Obviously, there are changes, things he left out and things he made up from scratch, but since I'm not comparing the book and the movie, I won't comment on those. The only relevant thing to this discussion is that I enjoyed the story almost as much as I did when I first read it, because it is a cool story and an interesting mixture of Greek mythology and modern-day teenage adventure.

Unfortunately, the story and the characters, as they are taken from the book, are the only good thing about the movie. The dialogue is okay, but nothing to write home about, and the script panders to the audience and pretty much patronizes you as if you were stupid and needed a lot of exposition. The script is, in one word, a dumbed-down version of the novel, and that I didn't like, not because it's dumber than the book (a comparison), but because it's plain dumb, clunky, and hits you in the head overexplaining everything. Now, you could argue the film's target audience is young people, but so is the book, so the "let's try to make everything as simple as possible" argument doesn't really hold water. The moviemakers thought I was dumb, and they went out of their way to help me follow along. I didn't appreciate that.

Still, the movie was entertaining, and I did like the story and the characters, so I don't regret going to see it. However, I sincerely hope the second film in the series improves on this first entry.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

Already thirty-one years into my life, and I had never read Lewis Carroll's two masterpieces, Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. Fortunately, Finn5fel saw to this, and last summer gave them to me as a present in an impeccable edition.

I know I'm discovering anything new to the world here, but both AIW and TTLG present to the reader worlds as delightful as they are imaginary, filled with fantastical creatures that one can't help but fall in love with. Both Wonderland and the Looking-Glass land thrive with life, although it's not the kind of life one could assume to expect. Their impossible characters seem more real than the protagonists of many more non fantasy novels, as they are completely coherent with themselves, in a bizarre sort of way.

Carroll's prose is fluid and to the point, and even though both stories are episodically centered, as is the custom within children's literature, not even once the books fail to catch the reader's attention, however old he/she might be. Both books are filled up to the edge with songs, poetry, riddles, and the highest count of english language puns ever. Furthermore, a second reading uncovers the author's hidden satire about the inherent stupidity of the customs and demeanors of the adult world, as we, through the eyes of the innocent Alice, watch the improbable citizens of both fantasy worlds give so much importance to their surreal behavior.

In sum, a highly recommendable reading, both for young and old. I just can't wait to see what Tim Burton has done with the franchise.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Crazy Canines

Here's a quick sketch I did of Bentley, one of my girlfriend's dogs. Bentley is a big sheep dog who is as goofy as he is playful. She loved the picture, but I'm sure I can do better than this, so I might go back to the drawing board for a second round. Stay tuned for more canine goodness!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Elemental querido Watson

Después de muchos intentos por fin conseguí ver Sherlock Holmes, así que pasaremos a la crítica.

Los decorados, vestuarios, recreación de la época y efectos especiales son realmente buenos. Lo mismo podría decirse de los actores: son muy buenos, pero el amigo Ritchie es incapaz de sacarles partido. La relación de amor/odio entre Watson y Holmes que intenta mostrar sólo consigue cansar, ya que es muy forzada.


La historia no está mal, pero en ningún momento consigues seguir por dónde van los protagonistas, ni si están avanzando en su investigación. Sólo al final te explica cómo ha llegado Holmes a todas sus conclusiones, pero completamente fuera de la historia. Creo que hace tiempo que una película no me parecia más larga de lo que le toca, y eso sí que es grave.


Para mí el director es el único culpable de convertir un buen proyecto en una simple película de fin de semana.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spanish Scares

I finally got to watch The Orphanage, and while it was not what I was expecting, I enjoyed it, which is good because I actually bought it without having seen it first. The pace of the movie is really slow (it reminded me of another Spanish spooky movie, The Others), but I was never bored or restless. I thought the acting was good (competent, at least), and the ending caught me by surprise and left me a bit puzzled. (It's a good thing my girlfriend was there to explain it to me!) The scene with Geraldine Chaplin might have been my favorite in the movie, seeing as it was psychological horror of the creepiest variety, but there were several other very effective scenes that balanced eeriness and tension rather well. All in all, watching this film was a pleasant experience, and I recommend you check it out!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hairy

I liked The Wolfman, but I find it's quickly fading from my memory. I thought the acting was good, with Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving portraying their characters convincingly and with ease. (I wish Weaving's Scotland Yard inspector had had a bigger role, though.) The story was nothing to write home about, but I really liked the costumes and the locations. I have realized I am a big fan of Victorian-era tales (those hats! Those coats!), and this movie was gorgeous to look at, even at its bloodiest, most violent parts. The make up, on the other hand, I didn't care much for. Obviously, the werewolf was a throwback to what this creature looked like in the old werewolf movies, and maybe that's why I found him not very convincing and a little fake. I wish it had been designed differently, but I understand he looked the way he did for a reason.

To sum it up, I had a good time at the movies, but I doubt I will ever buy this film on DVD. An interesting Valentine's weekend choice, that's for sure.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chuck It Out


Ya va siendo hora de hablar de una de las series televisivas que, por méritos propios, aspira a entrar directamente en mi Top Ten de series preferidas de la historia.

Chuck es la historia de un fracasado. Ex-estudiante de Stanford, tras su expulsión de esta entidad académica, nuestro protagonista se retrae a una vida insatisfactoria y a un trabajo que de ningún modo encaja con sus anteriores expectativas. Sin autoestima propia, para él no existe el modo de salir de ese mundo. Hasta que de pronto uno de sus ex-compañeros de la universidad, ahora agente de la CIA, le envía un email que da un vuelco a su vida… a la vez que descarga un superordenador en su cerebro.

Ése es el punto de partida de Chuck, tan sencillo de explicar como difícil de tragar a simple vista. Pero no hay que dejarse engañar por las apariencias. Chuck, de la que ahora mismo se está emitiendo su tercera temporada, es una serie sólida que no defrauda en ningún momento. Sus más que decentes guiones marcan el ritmo de una historia hilarante, que resulta igual de interesante independientemente del universo de la vida del protagonista que se esté tratando en cada momento: su trabajo como reparador informático en unos grandes almacenes o sus misiones con la CIA.

Zachary Levi interpreta al torpe y adorable Chuck, y lo hace con tal solvencia y desparpajo que resulta imposible no dejarse llevar por este personaje que acaba superado por un mundo que le viene demasiado grande. A su alrededor, más de media docena de personajes regulares, tan excelentes como el propio protagonista, le dan la contrapartida. Su mejor amigo Morgan (Joshua Gomez), su hermana Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) y su novio Devon (Ryan McPartlin), o sus indescriptibles compañeros de trabajo Jeff (Scott Krinsky) y Lester (Vik Sahay), marcan el día a día de la vida real de Chuck, mientras que su faceta de espía, que irrumpe con fuerza en su vida, viene de la mano de la bella y la bestia: los agentes especiales Sarah Walker (interpretada por la extraordinaria Yvonne Strahovsky), y John Casey (un excelente Adam Baldwin en otro de sus papeles de culto).

No hace falta ser un friki para disfrutar de esta serie, pero está claro que sus creadores y guionistas lo son, y se nota. Resulta imposible enumerar todas las referencias y homenajes a otros productos televisivos o cinematográficos, especialmente de la década de los ochenta. Porque son muchas.

Pero la cosa no acaba ahí: interesantes cameos en cada episodio, innumerables artistas invitados, una banda sonora que mezcla excelentes temas tanto clásicos como modernos, unos títulos de crédito diseñados con mimo, una trama que no teme avanzar, o las escenas de acción quizá más imaginativas del medio son otros de los fuertes de esta serie, Chuck, a la que en ya más de dos temporadas sólo he sido capaz de encontrarle un par de pegas. La primera, la excesiva previsibilidad de su trama principal, al menos durante sus dos primeros años. La segunda, algo de lo que por otro lado pecan el noventa por ciento de los productos de la parrilla (te miro a ti, House), que cuando parece que la serie va a dar un paso adelante y reinventarse, como pasó al final de su segunda temporada, todo tarda exactamente dos episodios en volver a estar como al principio. Entiendo que es arriesgado cambiar el status quo de algo que funciona, con ese tema de las audiencias respirando en el cogote de los productores, pero eso no puede ser excusa. Joss Whedon, por ejemplo, nunca tuvo miedo de reinventar Buffy o Angel en cada una de sus temporadas, y todos sabemos lo bien que le salió la jugada.

Hablando de lo cual, el hueco dejado por estas series fue en su momento demasiado grande para mí, y hasta ahora había estado buscando algún otro producto televisivo que consiguiera rellenarlo. Chuck, sin duda, lo hace con creces.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hypnotized

My friends at Netflix sent me The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, a movie I had been interested in watching even before I started watching Woody Allen movies, and I think it's one of my two favorites out of the five I've seen so far. I loved the dialogue because it was witty and funny. It had that screwball comedy feel to it that made it fast and sharp and hilarious, and it was great to see every single exchange Woody Allen had with the different women in the cast. In addition to the dialogue, the story was very entertaining, and Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, and Dan Aykroyd were terrific in their respective roles. I liked it so much, that I think I might be getting it on DVD if I ever find it on sale somewhere, because I could certainly watch it multiple times for the dialogue alone. Definitely worth watching!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tasty

The 11 O'Clock Comics crew proved to be right yet again. Heeding their rave reviews of Image's new series Chew, I bought the first trade, Taster's Choice, which collects the first five issues of this book written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory. And I loved it.

The story is original, dark, twisted, funny, offbeat, surprising, and very well-written, with interesting characters and even more interesting situations. Tony Chu (notice the clever play on words), the main character, is a cibopath, which means he knows things about the stuff he eats. For instance, if he eats an apple, he can tell what tree it came from, what pesticides were used, and who harvested it. If he eats some bacon, he can experience the agony of the poor pig being slaughtered. Also, Tony Chu is a cop, so I bet you can imagine how he goes about finding clues to solve his cases. And this is only scraping the surface of the story, but I won't spoil anything else for you.

The artwork is amazing, very stylized, and completely recognizable as Guillory's own. It doesn't look like anything you've seen before, and it looks great. Chu and Savoy (his partner) showcase Guillory's sense of character design, seeing as they are fully realized characters with their own mannerisms and body language. Also, Guillory's skills as a storyteller and sequential artist are nothing to scoff at, and I found myself in awe of his page and panel layouts. Plus, he also inks and colors the book, and it is just beautiful, beautiful stuff.

As you well know, I believe that the recipe fo the perfect comic book calls for great story and great artwork, and Chew definitely has an abundance of both ingredients. This is not a limited series, so the story doesn't really end on the last page of this volume, but it is such a delicious meal that I am positive Layman and Guillory will cook up an equally mouth-watering dish as a follow up to their entrée. Therefore, if you haven't tasted it already, bite a morsel off this appetizing book, enjoy it, and digest it with pleasure. I bet by the end of this meal you'll be begging for seconds!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Whimsy Duchess

If you like great artwork, make sure you check out The Duchess of Whimsy, a children's book written by Randall de Sève and illustrated by her husband, Peter de Sève. I bought the book exclusively for his illustrations, and I was not disappointed at all. I wish the book had been longer, because de Sève is a master illustrator. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finished the book I ordered A Sketchy Past, which is a much bigger book collecting his work. I haven't gotten it yet, but I am sure it's going to be all sorts of awesome. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

La decisión de Anne

El jueves pasado decidimos entrar a ver la Decisión de Anne. No tenía ni idea de qué trataba esta lacrimógena película, ya que fue decisión de último momento. Aunque es una buena película y los actores lo hacen realmente bien, en el caso de Cameron Díaz me resultó toda una sorpresa verla en un papel del tipo Madre Coraje. Sofia Vassilieva borda el papel de enferma de cáncer en cada una de sus etapas, y Alec Baldwin hace su típico papel de abogado, uno de sus únicos dos registros en mi opinión (éste y el de malo maloso, aunque tampoco es que haya mucha diferencia).

La trama es sencilla y un poco previsible. Anne quiere la indepencia médica de sus padres ya que la concibieron para intentar curar a su hermana mayor enferma de cáncer, y está cansada de que le hagan todo tipo de estragos para conseguirlo. Para lograr tal fin, Anne contrata a un abogado y denuncia a sus padres.

La historia se desarrolla a base de intercalar flashbacks en la acción, durante la que vemos la durísima vida que han llevado los distintos miembros de la familia y cómo afrontan cada uno el empeoramiento de la salud de uno de sus miembros.

Pese a que es una buena película, no vuelvo a meterme a ver una peli dramática como esta en mi vida. Al cine hay que ir a pasarlo bien; a entretenerse, no a sufrir. Pero si os gustan este tipo de películas, ésta cumple las expectativas, así que vosotros mismos.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Creepy Puppets

Of course I was going to think Dead Silence was creepy. It's about ventriloquist puppets that kill people! (Sort of.) I remember when I saw the preview for the first time, and I thought it looked super creepy because, like lots of other people, I have this thing about ventriloquist puppets and how diabolical they look. But I was brave, and I watched the DVD, which was entertaining and spooky. As my girlfriend noted, it was interesting to see how little the movie relied on special effects, yet it still managed to be eerie and unsettling. Other than that, there really wasn't much else to it, except for a surprisingly low number of casualties, and a nice surprise at the end. Therefore, while Dead Silence is no masterpiece, I enjoyed it and found it entertaining. Plus, it didn't give me nightmares, which is always good.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Through the Music Glass

Check out the video for Don't Come Around Here No More, by Tom Petty & the Heart-
breakers. I like the song, but the video is out of this world. And before you ask, the girl is Wish Foley. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nominations

Check out the complete Oscar nomination list. Avatar is leading with 9 nominations, and my top movie of 2009, Inglourious Basterds, follows with 8. I enjoyed Avatar tremendously, but I think Tarantino's film is far superior to James Cameron's epic fantasy. Needless to say, that fact will not change, regardless of what movie wins on March 7th, but I would love to see Tarantino's amazing movie recognized in every single category it's been nominated for. It won't happen, but it would be great, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Comeuppance

I don't know why, but there is something incredibly satisfying about baddies getting their comeuppance, and perhaps that's why I enjoyed Edge of Darkness so much. Well, that, and that I usually like revenge stories, which is exactly what this is. EOD is Mel Gibson pissed, Mel Gibson going after the people who killed his daughter, Mel Gibson with nothing to lose and a whole world of hurt to unleash on those responsible for this horrifying crime. Therefore, the movie was a lot of fun.

Actually, there wasn't as much action as I thought there would be, and Gibson's Massachusetts accent felt a little forced and phony, but those were minor things that didn't prevent me from having a blast at The Rave. Also, the hour and forty-eight minutes EOD clocks in at felt longer than that, yet I was never bored, restless, or dissatisfied with the story. All this means EOD is far from perfect, but I had a great time watching it and I enjoyed it for what it was: a grim story of death and revenge and what happens to those who think themselves above the law. Well, those people will have to guess again.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Go Blue!

Check out our cheerleaders! Aren't they awesome? They performed their routine in school after winning the National Championship last month. This is exactly what Bring It On, that underappreciated classic, portrayed with such exquisite detail. Enjoy!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Votadme!

(Check the second paragraph for the English version of this post)

Hola a todos! Mi hermana y yo estamos participando en un concurso de comics, y los ganadores se elegirán mediante votación popular, así que me encantaría que nos votarais a ver si ganamos un premio. Si sois tan amables y estáis dispuestos a ayudarnos a ganas una cantidad para nada desdeñable, visitad http://www.tucamon.es/, registraos como usuarios, buscad el grupo Creacomic, y votad por "Cultura de comunicaciones", escrito, dibujado y coloreado por "Cleopatra", alias tras el que ya os podéis imaginar quiénes se esconden. Por si acaso os cuesta encontrarlo, es el último de la lista, ya que fuimos los primeros en colgarlo en la página. Gracias de antemano por vuestra apreciadísima ayuda!

And now in English--
My sister and I have entered a comic book contest, and we need your help. The winner will be chosen by the people who visit http://www.tucamon.es/ and vote for their favorite work, so I would love it if you could swing by the website and voted for "Cultura de comunicaciones" by Cleopatra, the pseudonim my sis and I are using. If you think you can spare a few minutes to do this, please go to the aforementioned page, sign up (I know it sucks, but you can't vote if you're not a member), join the group "Creacomic", and vote for us. I can't promise we'll share our riches with you, but you'll make us very happy. Plus, if you believe in karma, your kindness will somehow be rewarded!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Hell Is Other Robots

This documentary put an end to my movie marathon, and it was a peculiar ending indeed. Hell House records the lengths a certain church goes to in order to scare people into believing. To this end, the luminaries of this church put together a haunted house for Halloween that, instead of having ghosts and skeletons and the occasional chainsaw-tottering maniac, shows real "horrors" such as abortions, homosexuality, and rave parties. After the lavish production, the attendees are offered a chance to go and pray and join the church so that everyone can have a happy ending and avoid the torments that would most certainly await them in hell. All very uplifting, tolerant, and unbiased, goes without saying.

It also goes without saying I had a blast making fun of these very scary people who would rather spend lots of time, money, and energy in scaring people with beliefs different than their own, instead of putting that time, money, and energy to better use. A few ideas that come to mind are, I don't know: feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, sending kids to school, buying books and school supplies for those who cannot afford them, working with the local community kitchen. And that's without actually thinking about it for more than two seconds.

So yeah: a very interesting documentary that will make you shiver and shake your head in disbelief. I wonder what Bill Maher would think of these people...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Pulp Horror

I hadn't seen Creepshow in about twenty-five years, and I was eagerly anticipating the time when I would watch it again. I only had about three mental snapshots of different parts of the movie, and I wasn't even sure those pictures belonged in this film, but they did. Afraid that I would be disappointed, though, I tried not to get too excited about it, reminding myself that it was an old movie that was going to be terribly dated. But I needn't worry: every single one of the five stories in this collection was great fun to watch, and Creepshow definitely placed second (out of four) in last weekend's movie marathon.

For those of you who have forgotten, Creepshow was written by Stephen King and directed by the legendary George A. Romero, a team-up made in heaven… or perhaps hell. One way or the other, the movie made me smile like an idiot, and if I enjoyed the first story, Father's Day, I liked the second one (The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, in which Stephen King is priceless as a yokel who finds himself in the center of a meteorite crash) even more. In an unexpected serious role, Leslie Nielsen was great in Something to Tide You Over, and The Crate proved to be the source of one of the aforementioned three mental snapshots. (The first one being Stephen King running around in his garden, and the second one a certain character buried in the sand.) Finally, They're Creeping up on You amped up the gross-out factor and closed the horror anthology in a satisfying manner.

Needless to say, I have Creepshow 2 lined up and ready to be watched, but those scares will have to wait until next week. It's going to be fun!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Who Wants to be a

Slumdog Millionaire was the second movie in the DVD marathon I found myself enjoying while snowed in last weekend, and it was by far the best of the lot. Actually, it doesn't need to be compared to any of the other movies I watched to ascertain its greatness. I don't usually find myself attracted to what I call "Oscar bait," so I hadn't really made any efforts to watch the celebrated movie by Danny Boyle. However, I must say I'm happy my girlfriend brought it home, because SM turned out to be a blast.

By now, you all have probably seen it already, and so I am curious to know what you thought about the film. I really liked its narrative flow, and how every question led to a passage in the life of Jamal, showing that he would have been the only one able to answer all those questions right. The love story was also moving, even though Jamal's puppy-dog devotion (as my friend Glen called it) could be a bit sad and overpowering at times. Finally, the sibling dynamic was also great fun to watch, and you went from loving Salim to hating him every other scene.

Besides compelling characters and terrific acting, SM also boasts good direction, a solid script, and a very cool soundtrack, so I guess it's no wonder it captivated audiences everywhere, and I must urge you to watch it if you haven't done so already. A great movie!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Shake It, Baby!

Nothing like being snowed in to have a movie marathon on DVD. The first of the four movies I had the pleasure of watching was The Strangers, which wasn't all that great, truth be told. The tension achieved throughout the movie was probably the best part, but other than that, the movie left me indifferent. The couple trapped in the house does more than their fair share of idiotic things, and it is kind of hard to feel for their plight when you can't stop thinking they deserve what happens to them. The fact we don't see the killers' faces was a neat idea because it made it all more terrifying. However, nothing more terrifying than the camerawork, which was atrociously awful. The director of photography is one of those guys who thinks that making the camera move and shake and tremble during dialogue scenes adds to the tension and the idea that there is something off, that there is danger lurking in the shadows, but nothing could be further from the truth. This only looks amateurish, tries the audience's patience, and accomplishes nothing but to take you right out of the story. You are not prying into a private conversation; instead, you are reminded there is a camera crew shooting the exchange for your viewing pleasure, and the artifice of fiction becomes inescapable. Why would you want to yank your audience right out of the world you are creating, especially when the events are supposed to be based on a true story and you are striving to make the scenario look plausible and as close to real as possible? Don't they realize this trick achieves the exact opposite effect? This only makes a movie that wasn't all that great to begin with look even worse, so watch it at your peril.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Master Merchant

Something's recently gotten into me --a merchant spirit I didn't know I had in me. This feeling could also be called the "let's get rid of stuff I don't need and make some money instead" syndrome, something pretty new to me, as I tend to keep everything I buy. Well, maybe not anymore.

Last week, I went to McKay's and sold a few CDs I didn't care for and hadn't really listened to in years, and if that was surprising (and believe me, it was), what I did next was even more shocking: I got rid of some DVD sets. Crazy, right? Truth be told, I had already sold the first season of Nip/Tuck last year, and even though I thought that was an isolated phenomenon, I was wrong. The horrendous first season of Hex followed suit not too long ago, but my thirst for selling DVDs couldn't be quenched. Only thus can I explain why I sold the first seasons of BattleStar Galactica and Veronica Mars, which I had bought and enjoyed very much. However, I bought those two a long time ago, and while I kept telling myself I would go back and buy the remaining seasons, it never quite happened. This, combined with the certain knowledge I wouldn't be watching any of the episodes I already had again, helped me make a decision which wasn't all that painful to begin with.

What might come as more of a shock is what I sold next: Firefly. I know everybody thinks it's so good and all that, and while I think it could have been a terrific series, the first (and, thanks to Fox, only) season was --just okay. So I sold it. And, much to my honest surprise, that wasn't the last Joss Whedon show to go. Can you guess what I'm going to tell you next? I sold Buffy.

Actually, I only owned seasons five, six, and seven, and even though I kept telling myself I would get around to buying the first four one of these days, it never happened. Even when the first four seasons went on sale at Walmart for fourteen bucks each, I didn't buy them. Even though the price has stayed the same for about two years, I still haven't felt like buying them. And when you take into account that those seasons are by far the best ones, and I still wasn't buying them, well, it got me thinking. And then it got me selling.

Isn't there anything sacred?, you might ask. Well, of course there is. I would never sell Angel. I would never part with The X-Files. Scrubs and Futurama will always have a place on my shelf. But hey, is that eight seasons of Smallville I see over there? Hmmm...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sloppy

I enjoyed The Chase because it was a fun story with cool characters. The Van Dorn Detective Agency operating in 1906 makes for a very interesting setting, and I would like to see more adventures starring their star detective, Isaac Bell. In The Chase, Bell is sent to stop the Butcher Bandit, an outlaw who robs banks and murders every single witness in his spare time. Nobody knows who he is or what he looks like, so Bell has his work cut out for him. The story keeps building momentum and, except for the whole earthquake deal, it never loses steam. It is a fun rollercoaster of a read that leaves you satisfied and wanting for more. That's good.

What's not good is Clive Cussler's writing skills. I had never read anything by him before, so I don't know if his previous books are as sloppily written as this one, but man could this guy use an editor. You could say I'm picky, and maybe you're right, but Stephen King would positively die if he saw all the unnecessary adverbs Mr. Cussler loves to use and overuse. In addition to that, his not exactly elegant prose and some jarring dialogue detract from what could have been a really excellent book, but that's not the worst offense. The worst part is Cussler's uncanny ability to forget his characters' names and call them something else. Two examples:

One of the main characters is a detective called Curtis. Well, halfway through the book, Curtis becomes Carter in a particular scene, and I almost lost my sanity trying to figure out who this Carter was and where Curtis had gone. A few pages later, Curtis became Curtis again, so I thought "Oh, well." But then, later in the book, Curtis becomes Carter for the second time, only to revert to his previous name a couple of paragraphs later. How can you mess up like that? Did he not re-read his manuscript? And what about the editor? It is not as if there is another character named Carter and the author mixes up both names. There is no character named Carter at all, and I therefore find this mistake very aggravating.

The second example comes toward the end of the book. A young boy named Stuart brings a message for Horace Bronson, and Isaac Bell rewards him with twenty dollars, fifteen more than the boy was expecting. But when Bell gives him the money, it's Warren's eyes who are big with disbelief, not Stuart's. Who the hell is Warren? As it turns out, he is but another mistake of Mr. Cussler, because he is unquestionably referring to Stuart. How do you go from Stuart to Warren? And, even worse, how do you make that mistake in the space of five lines? It is not as if Stuart showed up early in the book, and then, when he reappeared two hundred pages later the author had forgotten his name. No. Stuart shows up in one paragraph, and he turns into Warren on the next!

And yet, despite these unfortunate lapses, The Chase was a lot of fun, so at least I got that much out the book. However, I keep wondering if this is something he does in all his books. If you know anything about this, please let me know!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Poor Alice

I thought my love for all things Alice knew no limits, but I have just been proved wrong. I started watching the 1985 made-for-TV Alice in Wonderland, and I could only stomach half of it. Natalie Gregory, the girl who plays Alice, is either wearing a horrible wig or she got the worst dye job I've seen in my life. Either way, she looks unnatural, which, added to her not-exactly-amazing acting skills, makes the movie hard to watch. But that's not the worst thing by a long stretch. I would point out the cheap effects and the even cheaper costumes (and I mean, really), and I would still fall short of its glorious awfulness. The worst part by far was the horrendous singing, which was pointless, uninspired, and ubiquitous. I mean, the lyrics didn't even rhyme!

However, at the same time I found about this movie I discovered a version of Through the Looking Glass starring Kate Beckinsale as Alice, so, if nothing else, this movie helped me find this potential masterpiece. Regardless of how it turns out, I doubt it will be more embarrassing to watch than this one.