Friday, May 29, 2009

James Cameron TONIGHT!

Tonight we're heading to the SOLD OUT screening of "Aliens" and "The Abyss", plus a special Q&A with Director James Cameron!!! Can't wait, and we're certainly going to get there WAY early! It's general seating, and we definitely want to get up close enough to see him properly without blowing out our vision when the movies roll.

One of my all time favorite moments in "Aliens": Ripley has successfully rescued Newt, but upon reaching the top of the platform to board the transport, they find that Bishop and the ship are gone.

"Goddamn you, Bishop!!!", Ripley yells in frustration.

As the countdown to destruction continues, Ripley finds that there is no escape as she backs towards the platforms railing with Newt in her arms. There's no way out, no way down...none. It's a moment of pure and utter desperation. A sound behind them...Ripley turns to see the Queen Mother has followed them up the lift and is staring them straight in the face.

"Close your eyes, baby", Ripley says to Newt.

Suddenly the drop ship rises up from below the platform, Bishop at the controls....and James Horner's unforgettable track slams in!!! The first time I saw that opening week we all SCREAMED AND CHEERED!!!

Ripley and Newt board the ship, Bishop takes off and clears the site, along with Horner's track pounding out the final seconds! Suddenly the reactor goes critical and explodes in a bright nuclear cloud. To this day, watching that scene and hearing that track of music still raises the hair on my arm with excitement!

"Alien": 30 years later

When "Alien" came out on May 25, 1979, another classic sci-fi film would make it's everlasting mark on movie history. However I was a little too scared to go see this in theater! Finally, when it came to HBO, I sat down in my parents living room and watched it with all the lights on and the sound turned down just a bit.

You might call me a kill joy. I prefer the term control freak.

After that initial baptism, and during many viewings later, I felt free to watch it as originally intended. This past Tuesday, in commemoration of the 30th Anniversary, I sat down in my home theater and screened it on the big screen with the volume up and, of course, the lights out.

This was Sigourney Weaver's big screen debut in a lead role. Her career would only flourish after that, as well as returning to the role of Ellen Ripley once again in James Cameron's follow up "Aliens"...O.K. and those two other "Alien" movies I don't really acknowledge!

"Alien", director Ridley Scott's second film at the time, would go on to inspire a generation of filmmakers, imitators, and parodies. Here is the original trailer for the movie, and I remember it scared the shit out of me! well as just about everyone else.

And here is John Hurt's wonderful parody of his role (and iconic moment) from "Alien" in the movie "Spaceballs". "Oh no, not again!".

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Terminator Salvation" review: A good action movie that will not disappoint, especially for fans of Cameron's originals!

...And yes, it's better than "T3" by a long shot!

The first thing I did when I left the theater after seeing "Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines" was to start flushing it out of my head! Yes, there were some good action set pieces here and there. But on the whole the movie was somewhat of a re-hash of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Yet overly comedic, redundant, and ill-conceived. While I never considered "T3" to be part of the overall story, I yearned for the next film to move things forward into the future war that had been hinted at previously. In fact I felt "T3" should have gone there, and having another Terminator come back in time was just overdone at that point.

Now comes "Terminator Salvation" which promised to throw us head first into the post Judgment Day world of a now grownup John Connor as he becomes the leader of The Resistance. Early previews I saw at Comic-Con last year looked great, and I was impressed with Director McG's passion and reverence for James Cameron's story. He talked the 'purist Cameron fan' talk and that's exactly what I needed. More clips and story tidbits continued to gain my excitement which eventually led to the first full-on trailer. This new chapter looked like it was going to get the story back on track and try to forget the misstep of "Terminator 3". And I'm happy to say for the most part the movie delivers! Action, character, story, visual effects, and gritty atmosphere that drew you in to a kind of non-stop fight for survival.

There are some SPOILERS ahead, so beware!

Christian Bale's John Connor is a bit gruff and hardened. But what else would you expect from someone whose time has come to step up to the plate and be everything he knew he had to be since age 10. Some reviewers have found his portrayal to be a little cold and without enough emotion. While I did feel he needed a little more depth of emotion, overall I disagree with most critics and found him to be driven and fairly intense.

Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright is probably more the central character of the movie than John Connor, and certainly has more on his plate to examine than Bale's future war hero. Although both find a common goal and share equal time half way through the film which is to locate and save Kyle Reese whose been taken prisoner by the machines. Connor, of course, knows the importance of saving Reese and must form an untrusting alliance with Marcus to literally save his very existence.

Here I found the real gem of the movie. Anton Yelchin's performance as Kyle Reese is incredibly spot-on! It's almost like the filmmakers went back in time, picked up Michael Biehn as a teenager, and put him in this movie. I really loved how he channeled those intense nuances of Biehn as Reese, as well as fleshing out this survivalist boy who would ultimately become the father of the future. I found myself wanting Yelchin on screen more but was very satisfied with the time he had, which was quite a bit.

Kate Connor, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is the one holdover character that began with "Terminator 3". I have nothing against the actress, and she does a good enough job of portraying John Connor's wife. But I was glad she sort of just sat in the background throughout most of the movie. I suppose the writers felt they had to include her because of the continuity "T3" had written. But ultimately she's of no real consequence and I was never bothered by that fact.

I would have preferred the timeline of Judgment Day being on August 29, 1997 to remain the same in "Terminator Salvation", but unfortunately that's another thing that "T3" messed up! So the year of the opening scene is not until 2003. Minor thing, not crazy about it, but moving on.

There were times when the connection between John Connor and why we needed Marcus as a cyborg in this movie were a little unclear. It's certainly a redemption thing for Marcus; he was a murderer who'll now help to save the future of mankind. But the fact that he was the test prototype to what the combat Terminators would become, and having him point the way for Connor as an affective tool in going after Skynet, should have had a bit more recognition and resonance.

The effects are absolutely top notch!! Most notably Marcus' exposed half skin / half metal body. Shots of his head showing portions of a metal skull protruding were astoundingly seemless. Completely on par with the work done for Harvey Dent's Two Face in "The Dark Knight". Plus, a certain cameo later in the film digitally blends the face of one and the body of another. This is something that had to be completely on the mark to work...and work it does, beautifully!! On the practical effects side, Stan Winston's Terminator endoskeletons, as always, are incredible. His team added more working detail without changing the iconic structure of the T-800's, while inventing other new and uniquely designed killing machines that populate this world. And I was glad to see the movie dedicated to him at the end.

Danny Elfman's score is affective and well done. He even incorporates hints of the "Terminator" theme now and again. Although I yearned for the sounds of Brad Fiedel's music throughout.

Iconic lines, and even a song from the Cameron films are presented with wonderful acknowledgment to the fans, and not handed out like some rotten fruit. I found myself smiling broadly and saying 'YES!!!' at these great tidbits. Another appropriate and well placed touch is Linda Hamilton's voice as Sarah Connor, heard on recorded cassettes John listens to for guidance. The Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo everyone's talking about is incredibly satisfying and got a huge cheer from the audience at the midnight show. Again, presented with a real appreciation for what the fans wanted. There's even an injury sustained during the climactic fight that pointed directly to "Terminator 2". Just great, great stuff!!!

One location that I especially appreciated was the gas station where Marcus and Reese come across the Harvester. For those of you who may not know, this is intended to be the same gas station Sarah Connor rolls into and has that Polaroid taken at from "The Terminator". Even though it looks a bit different and the filming location was manufactured to replicate the original, some years later. That curved road leading up in the background as the camera dollies down is a dead giveaway. Kudos to McG for adding another fan nod, this time to an iconic place that could have been just anywhere in "Salvation".

On the down side, there were a few scenes where the dialogue could have been better. A couple of things seemed to be a stretch as far as credibility in motivation, especially involving Moon Bloodgood's character. Also, molten steel should melt a Terminator like it did in "T2". Here, one is completely doused in it and gets up again. That's a major glitch in continuity. In general, because I was enjoying the movie at that point, I was able to gloss over these misfires a bit.

Here's an overview spoiler of the ending. But if you've seen the publicity stills of John Connor amongst the assembly line of Terminators you'll have a good idea where he is and where this leads. I'm not giving away exactly what happens there.

The story does not have a finality to it. Some might argue that if we're going to the location where the climax occurs in the film, then ultimately all of the story lines foretold in the other movies should have been wrapped up. Actually getting into what seemed like THE Skynet complex should have been the true end of the story. I felt that a bit as well, but maybe it'll seem clearer on a second viewing. However, what occurs is only a stepping stone in the war. As far as where the story lands as we fade to black, I knew going into this that the original intention was to produce a trilogy. That made it work. I am absolutely looking forward to the next chapter, especially to see the combat bond grow between John Connor and Kyle Reese.

"The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" still stand as the best, and I don't think that will ever change. But like I said before, this more than makes up for "Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines", even though the same writers of that movie are on board for the new one.

Is "Terminator Salvation" a perfect movie? No. Does it completely connect to James Cameron's original movies? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Is that important to everyone? Probably not. But being the Cameron fan I am I found enough of a link, plus story, character, and overall blown out cool action and adventure to definitely enjoy this movie!

MINI back home

Yesterday the dealership told me that two new replacement front tires were in fact needed. However due to my financial situation at the moment, I opted out for just the immediate future. I was told the worn tire on the left driver's side would be safe until I came back later.

So all I had done was the regularly scheduled maintenance visit which was covered by the warranty. Now she runs beautifully and has her pep restored.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MINI service appointment

My MINI is in the shop today getting a regularly scheduled service. However a few days back I started noticing the stearing pull to the left, wearing down the edge of the driver's side front tire a bit. I'll probably have to buy two new front tires. Standing by for the final analysis from the dealership.

"Terminator Salvation" tonight at midnight!

This is it, tonight's the night. Several reviews have been pretty good, although others have been so-so. I'm feeling fairly positive today as I get a few things done around the apartment while listen to the soundtracks from "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgement Day".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mini Cooper 50th Anniversary

On May 9, 1959, fifty years ago, the very first MINI rolled off the assembly line...and a 1960's mod phenomenon was born!

But decades beyond that time, the MINI is still going strong. Style, sportiness, and just all around cool factor has drawn many to the little car that came about because of England's fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez Crisis. And today it still tracks as the most fuel efficient care to date.

Every year there is a MINI pilgrimage from London to Brighton that attracts hundreds of MINI car owners who make the trek. Here is an article about this year's event, which especially commemorated the half century milestone. Happy Birthday, MINI!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Terminator Salvation" reviews...OH, NOW!

O.K. we finally have a couple of reviews for the new movie! Variety liked it (YAY!) and The Hollywood Reporter seems to mostly like it with a few exceptions.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Terminator Salvation" early reviews...

...Yeah like, where are they?! I'm starting to get a little nervous. The movie opens in four days. Hello?

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" screening

Attended an AFI screening of "T2" at The Arclight. I was actually going to watch it in my home theater this week before "Terminator Salavation" opens. But hey, to go and see it with the fans on the big, big movie screen...very cool!

The only thing that wasn't cool was a couple of twenty-somethings in the back who chuckled when, near the end, Schwarzenegger says, "I know now why you cry...but it is something I can never do". Half under my breathe and half out loud I said, "that's not funny!". Must have been some of those guys who love the new "Star Trek" and those bad 'ol "Star Wars" prequels! Faaaah!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Further "Star Trek" observation

Was reading something online and had a thought jolt out of my head suddenly.

In the movie, Nero (Eric Bana) has the "red matter" that can collapse the supernova before it destroys Romulus and he's thrown back in time 130 years. So why doesn't he just collapse the star 130 years early, so Romulus is safe? Or even take all the knowledge he has from the future to make Romulus stronger than it ever was. There were so many other options for him to better the situation than sit and wait 25 years for Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to appear (who was clearly trying to help) just to make him suffer. What a waste.

Director McG at The Apple Store in Santa Monica...and I missed it!

Just read late last night that "Terminator Salvation" director McG was scheduled to appear at The Apple Store in Santa Monica to talk about the upcoming movie. Saw this at around 10:30pm on Guess when he was going to be there? 7PM THAT NIGHT! SHIT!

Untimately it's fine because I had a chance to see him at both Comic-Con last year and WonderCon this past February. I'm sure it would have been a mob scene at Apple, but still would've been cool to be a part of it.

"Terminator Salvation" opens one week from tonight at midnight. I'm ready, BRING IT ON!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Star Trek" review: Didn't think it sucked, but didn't think it was great either

In reverse of what I usually do, I wrote this for first and then posted it here. Better make a sandwich because it's pretty long!

I just don't understand why every critic in America is going nuts over this movie!

"Star Trek" has certainly been one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and for many reasons. On one hand you have the true fans. For some it's the original series, others the continuing adventures of the original crew of the Enterprise from TOS through the movies, and still others, the complete run of the franchise encompassing "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", "Voyager", and "Enterprise".

On the other hand you have people who are perhaps coming to the table for the very fist time. Maybe they watched some episodes from any one of the television series, movies, or even were just aware of the concept of "Star Trek" but never felt the urge to get into it. It might have been because it was before their time or they found it to be too slow or talky.

Despite comments I've made during the past couple of months about how this movie was going to suck, I want to take on this reboot using these two vastly different viewpoints. I say this because I came to this movie as a "Star Trek" fan (not a 'Trekkie', which I consider the extreme fan) and as a passionate moviegoer. In other words, I watched this movie unfold by also being able to disconnect my fan expectations and view J.J. Abrams story and vision as solely one of this summers anticipated blockbusters. Which is kind of the way I went into the first "Transformers" when it came out. I was never a fan of the toys or animated series, but I found the movie to be filled with cool action and amazing scenes of giant robots kicking the shit out of each other...and that's exactly what I wanted from that movie. Considering the fact that Michael Bay has never had dimensional characters or great story in any of his movies, I knew I'd get exactly what I set out to enjoy: action, action, action!

However, with the new "Star Trek" I was finding it very hard to enjoy the movie on either level; both fan and moviegoer. As a backup to how the film would be perceived minus the true fan aspect, my girlfriend has never been a "Trek" fan and was mainly seeing this with me on the sole merit of being one of this summer's big movies we wanted to see. So she was clear of the baggage that some people might say I brought too much of with me into the theater.

Keep in mind that there are SPOILERS AHEAD.

First and foremost I have to say "Star Trek" was way too fast and furious for me to really care about any of the characters. The constantly moving camera work was WAY overdone and became a real annoyance throughout. FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, LOCK THE CAMERA DOWN ONCE IN A WHILE! Even shakiness during some serious scenes seemed inappropriate. I'm reading a book...quick dolly in on me! I'm about to go to the bathroom....drop zoom onto my face! I'm sitting here thinking about my dog....push the camera in and spin around me landing on my face and then shooting away to my girlfriend about to make eggs!!! STOP IT, I'M GETTING A HEADACHE!!!

The whole concept of this being in an alternate reality was clever at times, but I think that was one of the things that took me out of caring about the characters. These just didn't feel like the same people who would become the iconic crew. Even though in a way they were. The time travel aspect was definitely fascinating though.

A lot of the sets were just out-of-control tricked out! My thoughts about the bridge in photos months before the actually movie came out remained the same for me as I watched it in motion. Too bright, way too detailed, and at times, very indefinable. Speaking from the "Trek" fans point of view, I didn't like that there is a large 16x9 window at the front of the bridge. It's always been a view screen! Even with a zillion graphics flitting across it, it's still a view screen.

I flat out thought engineering was a joke! What, are we in A BREWERY?! Give me a break! Concrete and valves? Did we just run out of time and shoot in the basement of the studio? But wait, there's a computer terminal where Scotty works. Oh, I see the high tech future now. I'd like to order the Enterprise Lager or the Unemotional Spock Stout please! That comment came from my girlfriend at the end of the movie, BTW.


Chris Pine did a better job than being a little wooden, as some of the reviews I've read state. Thought he carried the lead nicely, and I appreciated brief nods here and there to Shatner's original when he said "Bones" near the end. I didn't think he was amazing though. Speaking of "Bones", the nickname is common among ship's doctors in the Navy and has been for decades. THAT's why he's called "Bones". Why they had to come up with a reason for Kirk calling McCoy that is kind of pointless.

The whole Kobayashi Maru test scene with Kirk was way over the top.

Fan's view point: Kirk should have been a little cocky for sure, but more intent on appearing to masterfully beat the simulation instead of swinging around in his chair, eating an apple, and being so blatantly unconcerned with the outcome. How does he get a personal commendation for original thinking out of this, as he states in "Wrath Of Khan"? Here, Starfleet wanted to boot his ass out! To anyone with half a brain he seemed like he was blatantly cheating and even a five-year-old kid would have nailed him right away. Just seemed dumb the way they portrayed it.

Zachary Quinto does a very good job of taking over the role of Spock. I don't think anyone else could have played him so in tune, not only with the character's iconic persona, but in his resemblance and connection to Leonard Nimoy. Simon Pegg was definitely funny and I kind of wanted to see more of him. Anton Yelchin's Chekov was a little over the top with his accent but it didn't bother me that much. Perhaps the best performance of the movie goes to Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy. He really nails DeForest Kelley in so many ways AND makes it his own without over tweaking. He was probably the most enjoyable element I found in the entire movie.

One thing I was pretty annoyed with was how the original "Star Trek" phrases and nods were really just tacked on in just about every scene. Spock saying 'fascinating' and McCoy grunting 'you green blooded hobgoblin' just came across as lip service to the fans. Kind of like 'here's your little treat to chew on, happy now?'. The green academy girl Kirk beds was a similar 'here ya go, Trek nerds' scene. Even Leonard Nimoy saying 'I have been and always shall be your friend' seemed like one of the biggest rotten carrots thrown out to the fans, and it was delivered like an empty promise that this was really "Star Trek". Nothing against Nimoy.

That had my head shaking, but didn't compare to the space sky diving scene! GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!!! So when are we going to burn up in the atmosphere?! I was shaking my head so much I was waiting for it to come off my shoulders and roll onto the theater floor! That completely topped my reaction to the alien spacecraft rising up in "Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Title Is Too Long And Out Of Control"!

Spock and Uhura having a 'thing' really did nothing for me or the story. Maybe to add more to Spock's emotional side? I was annoyed at it from a fan's point of view, and found it kind of flat from the general moviegoer's seat.

The first ten or twelve minutes of the film that everyone is saying 'grabbed them by the throat and never let go' was good, but didn't have me at the edge of my seat, heart pounding with anticipation. I'd probably have to say the one clip I thought was well done was when an explosion rocks one of the decks and a crewmember is blown out into space. As you follow that person outside the hull, all sound is removed and we ONLY SEE the battle. That was an effective moment. There's no sound in space, but of course if we didn't have sound out there in the movies, these space actions and battles wouldn't be as potent. When Kirk's mother and father start talking about what they're going to name they're newborn, it kind of seems like the clock ticking off the last ten seconds before the Kelvin hits Nero's ship stops. Oh wait, did I leave the gas on? Hold off on to that impact thing for a moment.

The effects in general were very well done, and at times eye popping. When the Enterprise comes out of warp at Vulcan, the way it traverses the debris field of wrecked or destroyed ships is awesome. Although initially when the Enterprise, as well as the rest of the fleet go into warp it's too loud and too annoyingly abrupt. In general it seems like whenever they do something like this in a movie it always has to top what's come the point of being ridiculously blown out. This could have been done better. But then again it's what young audiences want in movies today. Big! Loud! Slam! Crash!...Hey man, is that Dolby Digital?! WELL TURN IT UP, MAN! Used effectively it's amazing. Used just for the sake of the 'pow', it's nothing but noise. But this is just a side note from my review.

The story was pretty basic, although very rushed. Like I said at the beginning, you're never given time to connect with anyone. Even Eric Bana seemed more like a Next Generation movie villain (that's not a compliment) than anything even remotely touching Ricardo Montalban's Khan, still the best of the best. I say this because so many people are comparing Nero with Khan. Sorry, didn't see it at all. I just didn't feel threatened by him. But for what Bana was given, I think he did a good job with it. BTW, was his ship big enough? Kind of like these guys who have big loud muscle cars to compensate for their supposed small dicks. A one could make that connection here; not so tough, but my gi-normous ship makes me seem a lot more dangerous.

Six billion people die when Vulcan is destroyed. I think we should have felt that much, much more than anyone in the film certainly did. This is part of the emotional resonance that was missing from the entire film; BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, EXPLOSION, EXPLOSION, EXPLOSION, FIRE EVERYTHING!!!....Can I have a little heart and soul with my rock and roll please?!

The new design of the Enterprise is probably cool for someone coming into this fresh. I had some issues with it, especially the overly pregnant engines. This is a minor thing, I know, when it comes to the overall film. In fact more faithful Trekkies will probably decry a lot of things in this movie on a pickiune scale. I respect that, but didn't feel as many abrasions when it came to canon. But they did step over the line quite a bit here and there in my book.

Rebecca, whose not a Trek fan but is a HUGE movie and sci-fi fan, found the movie to be O.K. but nothing overly special. She agreed that emotion was lost on the abundance of blown out action. She was a true gauge for me outside of those I've read reviews from previously. If you're a twenty-something and you've never seen "Star Trek" you're probably going to think this movie is the second coming. Good for you, glad you enjoyed it so much and can't wait for the sequel. For me this was just a one-off that didn't really connect to the established universe of the franchise. But then again I really lost interest in the movies when they moved on to the Next Generation cast.

Another observation by Rebecca (and I agreed with her): did it seem like the ending was lifted from the original "Star Wars"? The Throne Room scene? Kirk gets a medal, everyone applauds...he should have winked at Spock. Then they all turn around and Chewbacca growls because he helped and didn't even get a medal! And even before that, Nero's humongous ship destroys entire planets. the Death Star maybe? That J.J. Abrams...he's such a "Star Wars" fan.

As a Trek fan I was really expecting this movie to be fantastic. When I first heard about this project I thought to myself what an incredible fine line the filmmakers are going to have to tread to get this movie right, to follow what is canon. Kind of like Zack Snyder when making "Watchmen", and I thought he did an incredible job with that! Plus, I'm a fan of the graphic novel. Key elements when making a new movie from a revered book, property, comic, etc.; respect for the material while turning it up a notch and giving people something new. Zack Snyder, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer have been these directors. J.J. Abrams could have gone to the next level, brought a really exciting "Star Trek" story WITH emotion and WITHOUT insane amounts of pimp-outed action, sets, characters, and it could have worked nicely. Turning it up to 11 or 12 would have been great. He turned it up to 30! I think my eyes and ears are bleeding now, thank you.

As a movie I wanted to see from purely a movie fan's perspective, and I too am a HUGE movie fan, "Star Trek" seemed kind of average, relying on a lot of elements we've seen before and to no greater use here. Like I said, it wasn't bad, it was just kind of...there. As a "Star Trek" movie, and the level of character depth, story, and emotion, this doesn't hold a candle to "The Wrath Of Khan"...period.

"The Road Warrior" screening last Saturday

We went to a screening of "The Road Warrior" at The Egyptian Theatre over the weekend. Yes it was a 70MM print, but boy was it faded! The opening credits came on and I thought to myself, 'the background was never this color red before'. Unfortunately that red stayed for the entire film. Didn't take away from our viewing pleasure, just showed how old the print was. As usual, had a great audience.

Friday, May 8, 2009

No work this week

A full week has passed and I continue to be out of work. Still in the process of completing my updated reels and resumes. The reel overhaul has become a trial and error process. Although recently I came up with a design I am really, really happy with. It's kind of a reflection of and echoes the green preview card you see before trailers.

So here we are, it's May. This is when the phone starts ringing and I even have to turn down a project or two because I've booked into one already. I'm just waiting for the giant "Abyss" wave of work to come over the horizon and flood me into a very profitable summer.

"Star Trek" opens today...

...Sunday night we'll see what this thing is all about.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dom DeLuise dies at 75

One of THE funnymen I grew up with has passed away, and I was shocked to hear the news yesterday. Dom DeLuise starred in many films throughtout his career. But the ones that will always come to mind first for me are "Blazing Saddles", "Silent Movie", "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother", "Cannonball Run", and as the voice of Pizza The Hutt in "Spaceballs". Plus later in life, he went on to write a series of cookbooks, as well as several children's books.

In memory of Dom, I watched Gene Wilder's directorial debut film, "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother", in which Deluise played an Italian blackmailer and wannabe opera singer. My God, everyone looked so young in the movie...Gene, Madeline Kahn, and Dom, who was actually much slimmer then. "Smarter Brother" was released around Christmas 1975 and marked the first time I saw Dom DeLuise in a feature film. I'd seem him in several television appearances, but this was the beginning of my appreciation for him on the big screen, which would continue throughout the 70's.

Read his obituary in the LA Times by clicking his photo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My MINI: 2nd Anniversary

Two years ago today, and after a six week wait for building, testing, and shipment to The States from Great Britain, I travelled to Bob Smith MINI to pick up my pride and joy. To mark the anniversary, I treated her to not only a regular wash, but a fine polish as well. Here she is after her bath and preaning. Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" review

I'm writing this here because it's just too big to fit on the right sidebar.

O.K. so maybe the 2009 summer movie season didn't start with a bang. There were some pretty fair expectations for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" coming off of the first trailer screened at Comic-Con last year. The leaked version of the movie about a month ago didn't seem to hurt people's anticipation, and there were certainly more than enough fans, who dared to grab the illegal download. saying it was at least better than "X3: The Last Stand". Fair enough. Unfortunately I came away from Thursday night's midnight show feeling a bit let down.

First off I want to say the movie was not terrible nor did it 'suck', a word I tend to use sparingly. The last time I said a movie really sucked was after I saw "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle". But on the other hand "Wolverine" was not better than "X3".

A short list of major points: It was kind of slow in parts, you don't really care about the romance Logan has with his Canadian girlfriend, and the special effects, in a few spots, seemed straight out of a video game. Or at the very least, a mid-budget Sci-Fi Channel show. You can see that the studio is trying to build another X-Men 'team' franchise by adding so many other prominent mutants to the story. Having just Wolverine opposing one main villain or mutant probably would not have been enough. However, some of the other mutants who were being hailed as major players in this movie have minimal screen time. Ryan Reynolds' character, Deadpool, who I really enjoyed and wanted to see more of, is only on screen for four minutes. Gambit, one of the big draws and drool factors for hardcore fans, was only in the movie for eight minutes. I admit that I really didn't have a stake in either Deadpool or Gambit, so the changes they made to how these characters were portrayed or their ultimate fates dealt with, did not bother me.

The opening montage sets up that our two main opponents, Logan and Victor, are brothers, and that they have incredible healing powers. But the filmmakers rely on your knowledge (a bit too much) of Wolverine's abilities from the "X-Men" movies to explain the 'how' but not the 'why'.

I thought Hugh Jackman did a great job with what he was given. But the full potential of where the character of Logan came from, how he transformed into Wolverine, and what direction he ended up in by the climax, was certainly far from realized in any real depth or emotion. For example during a few brief flashbacks, "X2" drove home Logan's shocked reaction to the adamantium steel bonding process. In "Wolverine" it's kind of like, 'O.K., we did that, now what's next?'. Again, more emotion needed please. Danny Huston's William Stryker, masterfully portrayed by Brian Cox in "X2", also needed a bit more drive and resonance as to why he was experimenting and manipulating these mutants. I was glad at least that they mildly addressed his son Jason. But I also really wanted to see more of that relationship fleshed out, which would have brought Styrker's distaste for all mutants to more of a boiling point.

There is humor here and there that's genuinely funny, but Wolverine's dry wit and brashness are not quite as sharp as in "X-Men" and "X2". Plus a great cameo near the end of the film (no spoilers!) had me and the rest of the audience applauding with joy. However, along with the overblown and somewhat hurried climax (once again, better effects needed) I expected a payoff in real world history because of the location it takes place in. But the payoff seemed to be missing. It was also interesting to note that just about all of the action scenes ended up in the trailer.

Overall, the movie needed to be faster paced and with the heart and soul that propelled the first two X-Men movies beyond just being comic book heroes overcoming the bad guys. So maybe what I'm ultimately saying is I wish Bryan Singer had a hand in this production. On a side note, I really do hope they give him a chance to get all 'Wrath Of Khan' on the follow up to "Superman Returns". But I think the studio has other plans. Let's hope Warner Bros. gives that franchise the punch, as well as the emotional bite, that "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" needed more of.