Saturday, July 03, 2004

Right, real quick:

Did manage to get out to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban today. As good an installment in its series as Spider-Man 2 was in its series yesterday. Perhaps my favorite Harry Potter movie to date. I mean, I like the first two, but the kids really come into their own as actors in this one. And this is the first one that doesn't really feel like it takes place on a soundstage.

Saw Holes (the movie) on Starz yesterday. It's been playing forever on cable, seems like, but this was my first chance to watch it start to finish in widescreen high definition (which is why I bought the stupid TV set and pay extra for the HD cable in the first place). Another great family movie, in a way that a movie can be enjoyed by the whole family without being stupid, or something that parents won't want to watch, but won't be afraid to let their kids see. I still want to read the book--the plan had been to read the book first--but now, I won't be able to without seeing the movie in my head. (Same problem I have reading the new Harry Potter books, now that the roles have been cast for me.)

Watched The Medallion on HBO HD tonight. I want to believe that what made it to the US was excerpted from a longer, better movie that made more sense, but I'm sure even an uncut version wouldn't have been that great. Had to be better than this, though, which was worse than The Tuxedo. (Actually, I kind of like The Tuxedo, but more because it sets its sights low and doesn't try to hard.) This one was just... frustrating. On the other hand, the comedy Brit sidekick was actually pretty funny. They probably cut most of his stuff out... (And when is Johnny English coming to DVD? Or have I not been paying attention?) And why doesn't Claire Forlani work more?

(Just checked for Johnny English on DVD. Apparently, I have not been paying attention...)

Currently reading The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer, the author of the Artemis Fowl books. This one is different, science fiction instead of fantasy, and much darker and more serious. And I think I like it better. About halfway through so far, and I want to try to finish it before the weekend is over.

Day off tomorrow because of the holiday...

Friday, July 02, 2004

Texas Bigfoot Research Center

This is kind of nifty, just to show that there's still mystery and wonder in the world...

If I had known about this site, I probably would have included this link with the Spider-Man 2 entry...
Okay, so one of the reasons I had stopped posting here for a while was I was just tired of venting my spleen about the American political scene. I'd read about something that would provoke a reaction, I'd write the reaction here, and I'd end up feeling so worked up and stressed out, I ultimately decided I needed a break. Not that there's not any more to write about, God knows, but once you start, it's impossible to stop (if you're carrying a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail). So for my own sanity, I'm going to just be talking about movies and TV and books and stuff for a while. (For those who are interested, keep reading the news, read alternative sources like The Center for American Progress, make up your own mind, and get out and vote this November. That is all.)

Of course, this blog-related apoliticism won't keep me from posting a funny anti-Bush joke when someone sends me one. Like this:

A lobbyist, on his way home from work in Washington, D.C., came to a
dead halt in traffic and thought to himself, "Wow, this seems worse than

He noticed a police officer walking between the lines of stopped cars,
so he rolled down his window and asked, "Officer, what's the hold-up?"

The officer replied, "The President is depressed, so he stopped his
motorcade and is threatening to douse himself with gasoline and set
himself on fire. He says no one believes his stories about why we went
to war in Iraq, or the connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, or that
his tax cuts will help anyone except his wealthy friends; the press
called him on the lie about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger, and
now Campbell Brown is threatening to sue him for a sexual innuendo he
made at a recent press conference. So we're taking up a collection for

The lobbyist asks, "How much have you got so far?"

The officer replies, "About 14 gallons, but a lot of folks are still
I saw Spider-Man 2 today. Lately, going to see a movie has become a big deal. Getting me out of the house to do anything isn't easy on the best of days. Then, you figure I've got to drive through 100+ degree heat, braving Las Vegas traffic, and it all becomes more of a nightmare that I care to deal with, and the end result better be real worth it. (How hot is it here? I know what the temperature is at this very second, but I have my air conditioner set to keep the house cooled to a comfortable 85 degrees.)

Spider-Man 2 is worth it. No squirming in my seat, looking at my watch wishing I had a glow-in-the-dark dial, no thinking along the lines of, "Geez, this was a mistake; I don't really want to be sitting here watching Lord of the Rings Part 3 after all." (That's my touchstone, the one I go back to every time I think about going to see a movie in the theaters; am I going to have as uncomfortable a time as I did at Return of the King? This is why I'm much more willing to wait for video than I used to be.) I even had a kid next to me, playing with the velcro fasteners on his shoes, chewing his freaking strawberry-flavored red vines with his lip-smacking mouth wide open, and it didn't ruin the experience for me. That's how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I'm entertaining the thought of going to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the theater tomorrow.

The movie itself is a nice continuation from the first one. I'd read in interviews that their intent was to essentially produce the next issue of a Spider-Man comic on film, and that's what this is. Subplots from the first movie carry over, but the main story is all new. It feels like a genuine continuation, as opposed to the relatively unconnected adventures of the Batman or Superman movies. (Or even the X-Men ones, considering that they've got to tell the stories of about four hundred characters, so there's not really room for a lot of continuing character arcs.)

I try to steer clear of "which one is better" games, but if pressed, I think I'd have to say that Alfred Molina's more restrained performance as Doctor Octopus made this movie a little more enjoyable for me than Willem Dafoe's "Look at me, I'm playing a SUPERVILLAIN!" Green Goblin in the first one. (Those interested in digging through this blog's archives will probably find I was complimentary about his performance at the time, but I can't be bothered to look to see what I said back then. Repeated viewings of the movie on video and cable have taken some of the sheen off.) I like the effects better in this one, too; only once did I really feel like I was watching a video game. But that's only to be expected as technology develops.

An important positive that this one shares with its predecessor is tone: they both unembarrassedly embrace the source material and tell a story that feels like a Spider-Man comic book, only in live action on the big screen. The emotion is a little heightened, a little melodramatic, but it works, because it's a world where it's acceptable that a guy in a spider-suit who shoots webs and sticks to walls can fight a guy with four giant metal arms. The actors make it all seem human and real, as far as it goes, but as much as they deserve credit for taking it all seriously, they also deserve credit for not underplaying it to the point where it just doesn't work. It's a fine line, but they tread it nicely. And the box office would seem to indicate that audiences are willing to come along for the ride.

One quick comment, which is something of a spoiler, so I put it here at the end, after some space....

Is there anyone who doesn't see Spider-Man without his mask in this movie?