The Clone Returns to the Homeland

I came across this film on io9 earlier today, and it really caught my eye: The Clone Returns to the Homeland. It’s a Japanese film that has been rated fairly highly and compared to Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris“, which is supposed to be one of the best SciFi films out there. I have yet to see it, but I’m a fan of the remake. (A lot of people really didn’t like it for some reason – I thought it was brilliant).


The story follows Kohei Takanara, a Japanese astronaut, who is killed in an accident in space. His wife expects compensation, and receives a clone of her late husband in his place, with all of his memories implanted. Unfortunately, the memories haven’t settled right, and the clone is fixated on his twin brother’s death. From the trailer and plot descriptions that I’ve been able to find, this one looks like a very good film, on all levels.

Unfortunately, being a Japanese film, it’ll take a while to actually reach the US, and will most likely be hard to find. Plus, I don’t speak Japanese. That being said, I’ll be interested in watching it whenever I can find it.Here’s the film’s official site.


The Dark Knight

I saw a screening last night with a couple of 501st friends, and all I can say is that I was completely blown away by the movie. It held such an intensity, darkness and brilliance that I’m not at all reluctant to say that it’s possibly my favorite comic book movie to date. As a friend of mine mentioned, nobody is going to care about a drunk in a tin-can after this one.

Plot details are everywhere, so I don’t think that I will have to say what the film is about. What really makes the story here is it’s intense plot that is very twisted and packed with subplots and characters. It’s a little overwhelming, and I think that it’s the one drawback to the film, because point A at the beginning is nearly forgotten from point q way at the end. That being said, it’s an amazing ride between those points, and it’s nice to see a film that doesn’t pander down to an audience, but takes them along for a wild ride.

Everyone is singing the late Heath Ledger’s performance as nothing short of brilliant, and I’m inclined to agree. Ledger’s Joker is a far cry from Nicholson’s performance, fitting the style of the new franchise – dark, gritty and completely without social inhibitions of right and wrong. He is, essentially, the perfect counterpoint to Bale’s Batman. One is a source of justice, the other is one of chaos and anarchy. As Alfred, played by the great Sir. Michael Cane says, some men just want to see the world burn, and that is what Ledger’s joker is all about.

The usual suspects, Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are in top form as they were in Batman Begins, and are joined by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who makes a far better Rachel Dawes, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays Harvey Dent, who pulls out a brilliant performance as Gotham’s new DA and later as the villian Two Face. There’s even a short appearance from Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow, which was a nice touch, and Heroes’ Eric Roberts as a crime lord was also a cool appearance. I also spotted William Fichtner from Prison Break in the beginning, which was cool.

What the Dark Knight shows the world is that comic book films are not necessarily something solely for a younger audience. This film is dark and bloody, intelligent and borders on something like a horror film at times. It’s a far cry from other batman movies such as Batman and Robin or the Fantastic Four. Like Iron Man, which came out earlier this summer, it wraps real world relevance with the fantastic.

Additionally, the movie delves much more into superhero mythos than most films or comics that I’ve read, really exploring the nature to which good and evil interact, as well as the intentions and consequenses of those actions. The Joker is a force for anarchy, but to what extent has be been brought into being by the mere existance of Gotham’s Dark Knight? Caine’s character tells Bruce Wayne that this is somewhat the result of his existance:

Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

This is mirrored (no pun intended) by the introduction of Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent in the form of Aaron Eckhart. The DA of Gotham is a force for good, but essentially becomes enamored of the idea that there is two sides to everything, and this is shown a lot in the movie, especially after half of his face is burned off. It goes to show that the best of the best can have two sides, and that the good can become the worst type of evil. The Joker is essentially a catalyst, and knows it – he tells Batman that he’s out there to give Gotham a better class of criminal. Two Face represents a more organized, type of evil, and I wonder if this, as well as the villification of Batman at the end, foreshadows some of what might come up in the next Batman film, which would be interesting.

The film is downright brilliant, and hopefully, I’ll be able to catch it in theaters again at some point.

Just to add…

… to all of my geeking out this week, the Watchmen trailer was just released last night, take a look:


Holy crap that looks fantastic!

Aaaaaandd, the trailer for Season 3 of Heroes:



Top Ten Lists

The SciFi Channel did a poll to gauge the best things to read and watch, and compiled three top ten lists.

Top 10 Films to Watch
1. Blade Runner
2. The Matrix
3. The Terminator
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5. Jurassic Park
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
7. The Day After Tomorrow
8. The Day the Earth Stood Still
9. Children of Men
10. Armageddon

Anyone find it interesting that the top four movies involves technology running amok, taking over the world and killing off humanity? Blade Runner has synthetic humans, The Matrix concerns the enslavement of the human race for battery power, the Terminator involves time travel and robots killing everyone and 2001 has the famous Hal, who is out to protect the mission, even though it means the people will be killed.
Even frther, Jurassic Park has the same technology going haywire, while Children of Men involves the collapse of society because of an infertility epidemic.
I’m not sure why Armageddon and Day After Tomorrow is on the list. Given that this list was designed to look at saving the world, I guess it’s understandable, but for a top ten list? Really?
It’s interesting to see that tales of robotic revolution top the list in this day in age when people can’t seem to part with their mobile phones, iPods, laptops, internet or television. I suspect that if all of those items were to go out all of a sudden, just stop working, society would have quite a bit of turmoil, much as we see in #9, Children of Men. I know I would have a difficult time with some things, because I talk to a lot of people all over the place and the internet and my phone are such good facilitators of that.
It’s also interesting to see that there really aren’t a whole lot of environmental films, such as The Day After Tomorrow, given how much media buzz the words Global Warming brings nowadays. And of course, Aliens hardly makes this list at all, with only The Day After Tomorrow making the cut, which really is the only one that deals with flesh and blood aliens. 2001 touches on the concept, but not to the same degree.

Moving on to the television list…

Top 10 Television Series to Watch
1. Firefly
2. Battlestar Galactica (2004)
3. The X-Files
4. Heroes
5. Stargate: SG-1
6. Doctor Who
7. Star Trek: The Next Generation
8. Babylon 5
9. Star Trek
10. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

There’s more variety here, and I’m once again interested to see that there’s a good number of shows that don’t involve aliens – Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Heroes – All human based dramas. There’s a lot more variety here, which is pretty nice. I’m a little surprised that Eureka didn’t make the list, given the environmental aspects of the show. Dr. Who has been getting into some of the environmental aspects of Global Warming and climate change, as has Stargate a couple times.

Top 10 Books to Read
1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
4. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
5. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
6. The Stand by Stephen King
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Finally, with the books, it looks as if government control and things like that really are still one of the foremost popular ideas and genres in Science Fiction – 1984, Dune, Fahrenheit 451, A Brave New World, and even the Andromeda Strain fall under those catagories. These are some pretty good picks – I’d say that they’re missing Foundation and Ringworld. I don’t know anything about The Stand, but it’s a solid list.

Sigh, More Fanboys Drama

Sometimes, I think that the internet is a wonderful tool. Other times, it seems to really bring people out of the woodwork. Not since the release of the new Battlestar Galactica have I seen so much pent-up drama and somewhat misguided angst over a film.

For those of you who don’t know, the upcoming movie Fanboys is about a small group of fans who go out to Skywalker Ranch to steal a print of the upcoming Phantom Menace. In version A, they steal the movie to show a dying friend, aka the Cancer Subplot. Version B, no mention of cancer, the guys just steal the movie because they want to see it first. There’s been a bit of teetering about which version would be released, and it’s seeming like Version B will be released to theaters.

Okay. Take a breath. I was looking forwards to the Version A, because it does have that heart and moral point that would set this film apart from other comedies that are out there. Granted, there’s nothing in the trailer that shows the Version A, and the trailer alone is pretty funny, so I think that regardless, we’re going to get a pretty funny, if somewhat more mindless movie, which is fine – I go to a comedy to laugh, not necessarily for a profoundly interesting story.

Now, where the 501st comes in. They were in the movie – The Dunes Sea Garrison was part of the film, and they supplied some props for the film. This is pretty cool, to get some troopers on the big screen. We also got reined into this when someone started bandying our name around when they started a web-based protest against the film, the Stop Darth Weinstein movement. Or myspace.

We sent them off an e-mail about their use of our name and logo, because as a legion, we don’t have a stance on the film yet. And while members have a range of opinions, using our name in that way paints our whole group in a bad light, something that we really don’t want.

To me, the SDW group is really overreacting and injecting a whole lot more drama into a situation that really doesn’t warrant it. While it’s a little redundant to say “It’s just a movie”, we are all movie fans here, and Star Wars is something that a lot of us have gotten emotionally attached to. Fanboys, a film that hasn’t even been released yet, isn’t something to get attached to.

I’m going to address some points from their blog;

The thing that people have to remember is that this is a movie – it’s a product that’s designed to bring in more money than it cost to make. End of story. Weinstein’s is in the business to make money, and then continue to make more movies. It’s senseless to boycott a movie that they’re going to try and open up to a larger audience, which seems to be the case there. The original film was a Star Wars fan film, and the current director was a Star Wars fan, but this film wasn’t made simply because a couple of Star Wars fans got together and into the same room.

“Last summer, the director, Kyle Newman, screened his rough cut of Fanboys for the fans at the Star Wars Celebrations in both Los Angeles and London. It received several standing ovations at both screenings. The creators of this website are fans just like you, and were at those screenings. We witnessed the audience reaction ourselves! Everyone in attendance absolutely loved the movie! Fanboys is like Stand By Me for Star Wars fans. It is the ultimate Star Wars fan film!”

Of course is recieved a standing ovation, you idiot. You’re at a Star Wars convention – you’re going to have an audience there that’s going to absolutely love anything that has any remote connection to Star Wars. I’m sure people there loved it, and there would have been a wonderful vibe in the room – however – that’s just one part of the target audience that the film’s intended to go to.

“The head of the Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein, seems to think he’ll make more money if he rips the heart out of the movie and turns it into another mindless comedy. And he thinks fans like us won’t mind if he recuts FANBOYS so that it portrays Star Wars fans as idiotic criminals who would break into George Lucas’s offices just because they’re hopeless dorks.”

I’m sure that they will make more money this way. The sad reality of American entertainment is that it’s incredibly watered down. Go watch something from the UK when it comes to comedy and just see how weak some of our things are. The thing is, people here buy it. It doesn’t really matter what Star Wars fans think , really. As a group, we’re subject to all sorts of stereotypes, and this sort of protest, written out the way that it is, doesn’t help things at all. Yes, I mind that a bunch of Star Wars fans are going to be portrayed in a humorous situation because they’re geeks, but it’s nothing new, and a movie isn’t going to change that at all.

“Now that the film is finished, the Weinstein Company, the studio who controls the film, is trying to change the plot of the entire movie SO THAT IT RIDICULES STAR WARS FANS!

For some reason, Harvey “Darth” Weinstein thinks FANBOYS it will make more money of it mocks its target audience.”

I think that was sort of going to come across in the first place – you can’t have comedy without people to laugh at, and it’s going to be the guys on the screen. And, as I said before, we’re not the target audience. The broad 18-24 through late 30s crowd is probably the main target demographic, and they sure ain’t all star wars fans. And if it’s a bigger audience, it’ll make more money.

Group’s been sending out e-mails to people involved with the film, and received this one back allegedly from the director:

” I can hook you up with the facts on this one.
My only advice is don’t judge something til you have seen it. Have you seen the cancer version of this movie? I have. It is unreleaseable. It would be irresponsible to release it. The cancer is used as a convenient subplot and is actually offensive to anybody who knows anything about or has gone through cancer. Trust me. You are fighting for something that you would not be proud of. Cancer is trivialized, marginalized and reduced to the worst kind of contrivance. That is what you are fighting to see. And you will see it. At least on the dvd. And you will cringe at the bad, manipulative melodrama that goes against the true spirit of the piece.The non cancer version is true, joyful and and in no way
condescending to star wars fans. But again. You should see it. And perhaps you will. If you stop ranting about things you have not seen. You honestly remind me of the religious right condemning movies and books they haven’t seen or read, and have only been fed inflammatory facts about….usually from people with an agenda. Your precious Star Wars homage movie has been made, and has been preserved……you will see. And then you should apologize to Darth Weinstein……”

I somewhat doubt that this is actually from the director. However, it does have a couple of good points – The new version hasn’t really been seen by anyone. The Cancer one was, and it got good reviews all around. If they can eliminate the cancer plot with just a couple of re-shoots, I highly doubt that the quality of the film will be impacted that much.

Now, I’m not thrilled that Steven Brill was handed the film – from what little I’ve seen of Without A Paddle, it’s certainly lower common denominator comedy, but keep in mind that he was only brought in for the re-shoots – this isn’t something that’s likely to change the entire film from it’s original screenplay – remember, they did some re shoots, but they didn’t reshoot the entire film. This leads me to believe that we’ve got much of the original still intact.

The group’s also getting a lot of press, which is just fueling them up a bit more. Weinsteins has countered:

“We are thrilled to see all this great interest and excitement for ‘Fanboys.’ While a potential conflict like this has not occurred since Luke last walked into that bar in Tatoonie, everyone can be assured that there has been no stir in the force and the film stays on target.”

Okay, a bit mindless there, but this is generating a lot of press for the movie. The group’s claiming that 500 websites list their story. That’s going to bring more people out to the film to see what all the fuss is about. Any news is good news.

A nice thing is that a good chunk of people in the Star Wars community is concerned with the film’s status. According to a poll, 75% of respondents said that they knew about the drama and were concerned. A further 2 % said that they knew about the drama, but weren’t concerned. The remaining 23% didn’t know and didn’t care.


“What do these poll results tell us (and Darth Weinstein)? Several things.

77% of the fans have been following the production of FANBOYS. The majority of the fans are interested enough in the movie to follow what’s going on with it. Star Wars fans CARE about this movie and about how they will be portrayed in it, Darth Weinstein!

And 75% of them are “pretty concerned” with the current state of the film. A whopping 2% are “not too worried.”

Someone with enough intelligence to wrap their head around these confusing numbers might get the distinct feeling that…


1 – Internet polls aren’t really that reliable. This star wars one targets only people who vist the main page, and doesn’t list the number of people who responded. Again, it’s not targeting the entire target audience, just the built-in audience. They’re annoying their built-in audience, but not alienating them. If they hired Paris Hilton, they’re be alienating their built-in audience.

“Fine, Darth Weinstein. You have officially incurred the wrath of the Rebel Alliance. Our new goal is to make sure your next release (SUPERHERO MOVIE) grosses exactly $0 on its opening weekend. On the day it opens, there will be a crowd of Star Wars fans outside every theater, urging people to go see “Run Fatboy Run” instead. That movie stars Simon Pegg – and he’s an actual Star Wars fan. Like all of us.”

This is after the Weinstein Page changed text to reflect the new version. Please, I’m sure they’re quaking in their boots. There’s no way that these guys are going to have any substantial impact on the film (although I am hoping that nobody will see it – it’s going to get slammed critically, and will probably earn a good spot on the top 10 for a week), because it’s a known formulaic comedy. It might be crap, but two protests in the US are hardly going to slow anything down.

“The Weinstein Company has ignored the vocal outcry from Star Wars fans around the globe, all demanding that they release the original version of Fanboys.

They have ignored the results of the Official Star Wars website poll which shows that 78% of the fans are following the production of Fanboys, and that an overwhelming 94% of those fans disapprove of the changes they’re making to the film!

They have ignored our pledge to boycott all Weinstein Company/Dimension films, even though our intentions have been reported in the New York Post, the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, and on thousands of websites.”

Um, it was 76%, and it’s a 97% margin of respondants who are concerned. Let’s learn to use a calculator and read the polls correctly, shall we? Again, a poll like that pulls in a small number of people out of the target demographic – it can’t be construed as reliable by any stretch of the imagination. And they might have ignored the poll, so what? Honestly, this movement and your pledge aren’t really that worrisome – if anything, they’ll generate more interest in the film, which in turn means more people going to see it. You have just under 500 friends on myspace, which, at let’s say $7 a ticket = $3500 in lost revenue. Let’s count the 115 people on the facebook group as different people, and that brings up to a lost $4305. Maybe a couple hundred more in lost ticket sales to people who join on with protests. A drop in the ocean when it comes to what films take in nowadays.

Honestly, I’m just annoyed that these guys were trying to use the good name of the 501st to galvanize things. It just annoys me to no end. It seems to me that there’s a lot more productive ways to go about this.

I’m looking forwards to this film, a bit less so than before the news of the recuts, but I’m still going to see it. It’s not good to see what was a very promising and interesting cut of the film taken out, but for a film like this, it’s not really worth getting all worked up about.

The Saturn Awards

The Acadamy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films just released their nominations for the 34th annual Saturn Awards, one of the big heavyweight awards in the genre. Here’s the nominations. I’ve bolded the ones that I think should win.

Best Science Fiction Film

Cloverfield – Runner Up – Visually interesting, although the story is nothing new.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I Am Legend

This film was really stunning – it was extremely well thought out and concieved, and it’s got what’s probably Will Smith’s best performance to date.

The Last Mimzy
Sunshine – Runner Up – Very interesting, trippy film.

Best Fantasy Film

The Golden Compass
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Spider-Man 3


This film just rocked. It was funny, well acted and one of the better fantasy films that I’ve seen in a long time.

Best Horror Film

30 Days of Night
Ghost Rider
The Mist
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Didn’t see any of these.

Best Action / Adventure / Thriller Film

3:10 to Yuma

I have to go with this film, because it’s spectacularly acted, has a fantastic cast and amazing story. Hands down one of the best films of 2007.

The Bourne Ultimatum – Runner Up.
Live Free or Die Hard
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Actor

Gerard Butler (“300”)
John Cusack (“1408”)
Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”)
Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Eastern Promises”)
Will Smith (“I Am Legend”)

This is probably Will Smith’s best acting job that I’ve ever seen him do. He deserves this one.

Best Actress

Amy Adams (“Enchanted”)
Ashley Judd (“Bug”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
Naomi Watts (“Eastern Promises”)
Belen Rueda (“The Orphanage”)
Carice van Houten (“Black Book”)

Haven’t seen any of these.

Best Supporting Actor

Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”)
Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”)

Ben Foster’s portrayal of a somewhat insane sidekick to Russell Crowe here was just an amazing job.

James Franco (“Spider-Man 3”)
Justin Long (“Live Free or Die Hard”)
Alan Rickman (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
David Wenham (“300”)

Best Supporting Actress

Lizzy Caplan (“Cloverfield”)
Marcia Gay Harden (“The Mist”)
Lena Headey (“300”)
Rose McGowan (“Grindhouse” – “Planet Terror”)
Michelle Pfeiffer (“Stardust”)
Imelda Staunton (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)

Best Performance by a Younger Actor

Alex Etel (“The Water Horse”)
Freddie Highmore (“August Rush”)
Josh Hutcherson (“Bridge to Terabithia”)
Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Dakota Blue Richards (“The Golden Compass”)

Even though the movie wasn’t the best, Richards did a wonderful job as Lyra

Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (“The Last Mimzy”)

Best Direction

Tim Burton (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
Frank Darabont (“The Mist”)
Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)
Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man 3”)
Zack Snyder (“300”)
David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)

Best Writing

Roger Avary, Neil Gaiman (“Beowulf”)
Brad Bird (“Ratatouille”)
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”)
Michael Goldenberg (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Michael Gordon, Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad (“300”)
John Logan (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)

Haven’t seen, but No Country for Old Men will probably take this one.

Best Music

Tyler Bates (“300”)
Jonny Greenwood (“There Will Be Blood”)
Nicholas Hooper (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Mark Mancina (“August Rush”)
Alan Menken (“Enchanted”)
John Powell (“The Bourne Ultimatum”)

Eh, none of these are really all that great. I’d pick Bourne, but that’s because I have that one.

Best Costume

Colleen Atwood (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
Ruth Myers (“The Golden Compass”)
Penny Rose (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”)
Sammy Sheldon (“Stardust”)
Jany Temime (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Michael Wilkinson (“300”)

Best Make-Up

Howard Berger,
Greg Nicotero,
Jake Garber – (“Grindhouse” – “Planet Terror”)
Nick Dudman,
Amanda Knight – (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Davina Lamont – (“30 Days of Night”)
Ve Neill,
Martin Samuel – (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”)
Peter Owen,
Ivana Primorac – (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”)
Shaun Smith,
Mark Rappaport – (“300”)

Best Special Effects

Tim Burke,
John Richardson,
Paul Franklin,
Greg Butler – (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”)
Scott Farrar,
Scott Benza,
Russell Earl,
John Frazier – (“Transformers”)
Michael Fink,
Bill Westenhofer,
Ben Morris,
Trevor Wood – (“The Golden Compass”)
John Knoll,
Hal Hickel,
Charles Gibson,
John Frazier – (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”)
Scott Stokdyk,
Peter Nofz,
Spencer Cook,
John R. Frazier – (“Spider-Man 3”)
Chris Watts,
Grant Freckelton,
Derek Wentworth,
Daniel Leduc – (“300”)

Best International Film

Black Book
Day Watch
Eastern Promises
Goya’s Ghosts
The Orphanage

Best Animated Film

Meet the Robinsons
Shrek the Third
The Simpsons Movie
Surf’s Up


Best Network Television Series

Pushing Daisies

Best new show. Period. If you’re not watching this, you should be.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Best Syndicated / Cable Television Series

Battlestar Galactica

Still the best SciFi Show out there.

Stargate SG-1
The Closer
Kyle XY
Saving Grace

Best Presentation on Television

Battlestar Galactica: Razor
The Company
The Family Guy: “Blue Harvest”
Masters of Science Fiction
Shrek the Halls
Tin Man

Either Razor or Blue Harvest. Can’t tell which.

Best International Series

Doctor Who
Meadowlands (aka Cape Wrath)
Life On Mars

Life on Mars, hands down. Brilliant drama.

Robin Hood

Best Actor on Television

Matt Dallas (Kyle XY)
Matthew Fox (Lost)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Kevin McKidd (Journeyman)
Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies)

Best Actress on Television

Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Lena Headey (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer)
Holly Hunter (Saving Grace)
Evangeline Lily (Lost)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Best Supporting Actor on Television

Michael Emerson (Lost)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
Josh Holloway (Lost)
Erik King (Dexter)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)
Masi Oka (Heroes)

Best Supporting Actress on Television

Jaime Alexander (Kyle XY)
Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter)
Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

Firefly loyalty here – Summer’s doing a good job though.

Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost)
Jaime Murray (Dexter)
Hayden Panettiere (Heroes)


Best DVD Release

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (remix)
The Man From Earth
The Nines
White Noise 2

Best Special Edition DVD Release

Big (Extended Edition)
Blade Runner (5 Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (30th Anniversary – Blu Ray)
Death Proof (Grindhouse Presentation: Extended & Unrated)
Pan’s Labyrinth (Platinum Series)
Troy: Director’s Cut (Ultimate Collector’s Edition)

Best Classic Film DVD Release

The Dark Crystal
Flash Gordon
The Monster Squad
Witchfinder General

Best Collection on DVD

The Godzilla Collection
The Mario Bava Collection (Vol. 1 & 2)
The Sergio Leone Anthology
The Sonny Chiba Collection
Stanley Kubrick (Warner Home Video Directors Series)
Vincent Price (MGM Scream Legends Collection)

Best Television Series on DVD

Eureka (Season 1)
Heroes (Season 1)

Really, really good DVD Set.

Hustle (Complete Seasons 2 and 3)
Lost (The Complete Third Season)
MI:5 (Volumes 4 & 5)
Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series

Best Retro Television Series on DVD

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Volume 1: The Early Years)
Count Dracula (BBC Mini-series 1977)
Land of the Giants (The Full Series)
Mission Impossible (The Second and Third Seasons)
Twin Peaks (The Definitive Gold Box Edition)
The Wild Wild West (The Second and Third Seasons)


All Hell Breaks Loose

I just got back from seeing the film Cloverfield, which came out on the 18th of January. I have a couple of mixed feelings about it, but overall, I think that it was an absolutely facinating film, one that I feel will really change the way that films are made.
The story, in case you haven’t seen the film or haven’t heard anything about it, is almost non-existent, all filmed from the point of view of Hud, the best friend of Rob, who’s about to leave for Japan to become the Vice President of something. We start off with some clips of Robert and Beth, from something that was taped over about a month before. We then go to a party, where we’re introduced to various people, some of whom are caught up in what happens next. There’s a huge tremor, the lights go out and panic everywhere. People go up to the roof to see what happened and while up there, there’s an explosion, and more panic. The rest of the movie documents a small group of four as they try and escape from the city. As they run, we get glimpses of the monster as it destroys buildings and drops smaller creatures that attack people. Rob gets a phone call from a girl, which drives much of the film from there as he and the other three people tag along as they try and get to her. A couple people are picked off. Rob’s brother Jason is killed when the Brooklyn Bridge is destroyed by the monster, and one of the girls is bitten by a smaller creature and explodes shortly after they reach a makeshift Army base. Another gets onto a helicopter and escapes, and so on. Overall, there’s not much to the story here, but really, a story isn’t needed. Rather, we just see part of the story, but only from this one point of view, and the characters make us aware of this as they document what happens.
This movie is a product of the post 9-11 and YouTube world, where anything can be documented on a camera phone or a digital camcorder, which translates into a lot of footage of the world around us. While I was watching this, I was really reminded of a bit of combat footage that some soldier caught in Fallujah, Iraq. This film keeps much of the same intensity and single-minded focus that really just gives us one piece of what is a larger event that the main characters are caught up in.
The approach is brilliant, and I can’t think of a more simple and interesting way to come up with a story such as this. All we see are the four main characters, as they literally run for their lives. This is a monster movie that’s not about the monster, but about these mid-twenties kids who are witness to this incredible event. There’s no explanation, no scientist that drones about how this came from who-knows-where, and there isn’t much that we do learn. The group runs into an army group, and from what we hear from them is that they’re just as in the dark as we are, except that they know that victims who’ve been bitten are not good (messy explosion, and probable contamination, hence the Hazmat suits), and that they have permission to shoot it. Hud, our camera man, speculates that it’s from the ocean, or a government experiment. (Look at the end of the film, when there’s part of a taped over section with Roger and Beth, in the corner of the ocean, you see something fall from the sky and into the ocean. Hm…) But overall, it doesn’t really matter where this thing came from. There’s the big version that’s destroying buildings and playing baseball with the statue of liberty, and there’s smaller things that seem to fall off of it that move much faster and attack people nearby. There’s no time for explanation here. Just running and more running. Hud, at some point, realizes that documenting what happens here will possibly make their ordeal worth something. This comes right from this generation, with the ability to film something. The footage that we get is remarkably like homemade films from soldiers in Iraq in the middle of battle, with much of the intensity here. The events are preserved, and technology, both in capture and then distribution, have made this a practical thing for a huge group of people.
Given the events of 9-11, with the images of dust-covered survivors and rubble strewn streets, this film is a direct product in theme and style. It’s not too unbelievable that there would be (and probably are) a number of films shot by regular people about the events of 9-11. This is that same logic to much more fantastic proportions.
With these two things put together, there’s a highly successful, out of the box film here that is really something to watch. While not terribly original by any stretch of the imagination (Monster attacks city; panic ensues – this has been done to death. No pun intended.), it’s a fresh look at the genre. The monster, when we do see it, is interesting, frightening and not really like anything seen before. What really makes this film work is the unknown – we don’t see the monster that often, and we don’t know much else about it. I think that over explanation here would have rendered much of this film useless.
Already, the film has done spectacularly well at the box office – it made #1 at the box office by a large margin, and remained there for a little while, all the while this film was made for a fairly low budget. As of the time of this writing, there’s already talk of a second movie (I’d hesitate to call it a sequel). This could be done really easily – there were several other people that we come across in the film who are also holding cameras. At the beginning of this film, there’s an official looking seal that states that the footage is one of many recovered from the city after the event (Designated as Cloverfield), so further films aren’t an improbability here. The only issue would be making sure that any future effort isn’t simply a rehash of this movie – a group of kids merely running away from the monster. Future films, while retaining similar filming styles, should incorporate completely different people and catch different views of the event. I can see a video from some of the military personnel filling this void, or from medical or rescue personnel. A collection of films, all with different viewpoints of the Cloverfield event, would together tell the entire story. It’s an interesting possibility, and one where I think is just begging to happen. Sequels here don’t need to coincide too much with the first film, nor do they need to be wholly consistent with characters or events, just overlapping at a couple of points here and there.

Charlie Wilson's War

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I finally got to watch the latest film from Participant Productions, Charlie Wilson’s War. While the company has had a fairly good track record with political movies, such as Syriana or Good Night and Good Luck, this movie represents a downturn in quality, which is unfortunate, as I had some high hopes for this film.

I don’t know too much about the background history here – I only have one book on Afghanistan, which I’ve been looking over a little to check some of the events. From what I have read, however, this film is largely self-contained in a historical vacuum, something that’s never good when trying to get a historical concept across. The movie presents a fairly simple, straightforward story of how a congressman from Texas helped push the Soviet military out of Afghanistan.

The first half of the film does accomplish this to a fairly good extent while building the character of Charlie Wilson. We see how he’s a womanizer and one who loves his alcohol, and that he seems to be fairly lost in what he really wants in life, until he sees a news report from CBS news about the Afghani fighters. After a trip to Pakistan, Charlie Wilson finds his cause in life, to arm and equip the resistance fighters in the country to repel the Soviet military. At this point, he meets up with a rough CIA agent named Gust, who’s in charge of the region, along with ‘three other guys’. It’s determined that Wilson is at the proper point in the government to funnel a lot of money into the cause.

This first part works fairly well. One of the things that I was really looking forwards to about this movie was the fact that Aaron Sorkin was the screenwriter here. I’ve recently become enamored of his work with the West Wing, and was hoping for something along the same lines, just with even bigger faces. This comes across at times with his dialog, but for large sections of the film, I never got the sense that this was even touched by Aaron Sorkin.

Historically, there are issues here. From what I’ve read, there was a lot more money going into the country. They do get other things right, such as where they got the weapons, from Israel and Egypt. Even some of the international relations regarding Pakistan are addressed. However here, we just get lip service to what is really an extremely complicated issue that’s been boiled down for a movie-going public. Additionally, I suspect that there were a number of details that were sensationalized at various points, and I don’t know if this comes from the book or from the film.

This first half of the film is where the interesting material stops. Once the story is set up with all of the various parts, (even despite a side story about Congressman Wilson being investigated for illegal drug use, which was completely unnecessary), the film goes to exposition, and largely done through stock footage from either newsreels or wartime footage, showing the successes of the Afghan forces against the superior Soviet tanks and helicopters. There’s a paradigm in writing that says show, don’t tell, which seems to have been the model here. Where it works in most places, it utterly fails here. We see what looks like extremely poor, video-game quality footage of what the Soviets are up to, as if we need to be reminded that they’re the bad guys, and then later on image after image of the helicopters blowing up. Not only would this have been a bit better if the production crew had re-created those moments, this throws the pacing of the film out the window, jumping what seems to be months or even years between shots. The footage is poor and pulls the viewer right out of the film. Historical details aren’t followed here either. On screen, there were only three helicopters, while in reality, on September 25th, 1986, when eight Hind gun ships were blown out of the sky, and was the first time that the Soviets suffered extreme losses at the hands of US armed rebels, with the new Stinger missiles, some of which are probably still in use today.

This leads to the main message of the film, which is brought to the audience’s attention right at the end, when it’s announced that the Soviet military has pulled out of Afghanistan and when people are trying to decide what to do with the country now. While a billion dollars were pumped into the effort (at least in the movie), they weren’t willing to spend anything on schools or infrastructure. Furthermore, at the end of the film, we learn that fanatics have taken control of the capital, which would become the Taliban. Essentially, the film has pointed out that much of the problems were essentially created because the US didn’t finish the job over there, which seems to have been a very common talking point over the past couple of years with the Iraq war.

This, to me, is a very clumsy attempt at political criticism, especially following two films that have done this very thing. Syriana, which followed the complex chain of politics, corruption, foreign oil and Islamic radicalism, did an absolutely fantastic job at weaving these issues into a complex, yet accessible story by looking at all of the storylines. This probably could have been done fairly well with Charlie Wilson’s War, if one were to look at this film in more than just the vacuum that it’s in as it is. Good Night and Good Luck, which was released the same year, also contained a lot of political commentary, government vs. free speech and the influence that governmental officials have in times of worry. While this took place in the 1950s, this film also contained a number of real-world parallels.

Charlie Wilson’s War could have been the most relevant movie in this genre. The attempt at political commentary is too overt and clumsy, while the filming and acting distracted further. (Julia Roberts did a fairly poor job here, while Tom Hanks was a bit better. Philip Seymour Hoffman was easily the best actor of the three.) But to my eyes, the film seems to be extremely revisionism and reactionary, by pointing the finger at earlier politicians for blame, rather than examining this in the context of the entire chain of events. I highly doubt that fundamentalists attacked the United States because the US helped rid them of the Soviet military while not providing anything for services and rebuilding afterwards. No, this was just one piece of what’s turned out to be a long chain of events in US-Middle East relations. The United States backing Israel, our actions during the first Iraq war and Saudi Arabia and more have contributed to this mess. I suspect that had these events not occurred, we still would have many of the same problems today. This is why history cannot be presented in a vacuum.

Movies of the Year

I think that two of the best movies that I saw this year were two that were released last year, to limited theaters, while being released gradually to the rest of the world – Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men. Both were astounding. Pan‘s Labyrinth is a highly original fantasy film, dark, and deep. The second is Children of Men, which is more towards the Science Fiction realm, which is another excellently done film. Both were done by mexican filmmakers, and along with a third film, Babel, the three directors considered their three films a sort of trilogy. Hopefully, they can replicate their success in the future.

Of the 2007 films, I thought that this was a bit of a lackluster year, especially for Science Fiction and fantasy films.

An early favorite was the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale, which was a huges step up from the other Bond movies that I’ve seen. More energetic and more in the lines of the recent Bourne movies.

Hot Fuzz was another huge favorite of mine. I was a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, which is one of my favorite comedies of all time, and this was from the same people, and while pretty different, was just as good. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

300 was a guilty pleasure that I saw when that came out. Historically inaccurate, overblown and rediculous, but a really fun movie to watch.

This summer, my favorite was The Bourne Ultimatum, the recent film in that series, and hopefully the last. This film is just as good as the first two, a rarity in series, where all of the films as as good as the others. This one brings some of the best action scenes in the series, and really tied back to the first movie, and the second, while finishing off things nicely.

The best documentary that I saw this year was In The Shadows of the Moon, which chronicled the Apollo program in brief detail. I can’t wait to get this when it hits DVD in February.

There were a bunch of really good comedies released this year – Superbad made me laugh my ass off the entire way through. Balls of Fury was also quite funny, although not quite as funny as the trailers, but still good. Hot Fuzz, of course, was another really good one.

I Am Legend was another really good movie that I made it out to see. That surprised me a little – it’s not really a zombie film, more of a character film. It’s not often that a film can be carried by just one person, and Will Smith pulled this one off nicely.

Another one that just came across was Stardust, which just came out on DVD. It’s very funny, original, witty, and possibly the best fantasy movies that I saw all year.

A couple of disappointments for me was the Golden Compass, which really surprised me, because it was something that I was really anticipating. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it didn’t really live up to expectations like I’d hoped.
Balls of Fury was another bit of a letdown, after the fantastic trailers that were released for it. It was certainly a hilarious movie, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.
Spiderman 3 was a huge disapointment for me, especially after the first two movies being some of my favorites. The Peter Parker emo dance scene just made it go downhill for me.

There were a bunch of movies that I wanted to see that I never got around to seeing – Gone Baby Gone, No Country for Old Men, Waitress, Zodiac, Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Sunshine, Death at a Funeral and the Darjeeling Limited. They all had interesting premises, actors that I liked or just looked good.

I’ll be interested to see what 2008 brings along. There’s a new Star Trek movie coming, which looks to be interesting. There’s the second Batman movie coming, which looks to be fantastic from the trailers that I’ve seen. Iron Man is coming out in March, which looks like a step up for comic book movies. Cloverfield, Fanboys, Jumper, Indiana Jones, Prince Caspian, Wall-E, Valkyrie, and Hellboy.

My Top 10 Moments in Star Wars 2007

This has been popping up on various blogs…

10- – Clone Wars Teaser Trailer
This looks to be leaps and bounds better than the cartoons that were released earlier. I’ll reserve judgment until I hear more, but there’s potential here…

9 – Blue Harvest – The Family Guy Special
I saw the early trailer for this and almost died – Family Guy as Star Wars? Stewie as Dark Vader? Absolutely fantastic.

8- Robot Chicken Star Wars Special
Even better than the Family Guy version, this threw me on my ass laughing so hard.

7 – R2 D2 Mail Boxes & Postage Stamps
None of these made it to Vermont that I could tell, but these were really cool to see pictures of all over the place.

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6 – Death of Mara Jade
While this year was pretty lackluster for books, the Legacy series has been interesting, and this seems to have been one of the major milestones with the characters – rarely is such a well known character killed off.

5 – 501st Podcast
The 501st started with a podcast updating on events and happenings in the Legion. I’m addicted.

4 – Fanboys Trailer
A movie about fans of a movie. This one looks just amazingly funny, especially around when the guys come across a Star Trek convention and oh yeah, Kristen Bell in Slave Leia garb.

3 – Republic Commando: True Colors
Easily the best Star Wars book of the year. Karen Traviss is back, and with an even deeper view of the Clones. And, there’s one more to go.

2 – Tournament of Roses Parade 2007
200 Canon-accurate storm troopers and officers all marching in step. Oh dear god, I wish I had been there to see that.

1 – 30th Anniversary
Stars Wars has turned 30. And still going strong.