Saturday, July 09, 2005

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe

Again, I have to say this was a great adventure story. The only problems I had with this was the glaring Christian themes and the the pacing of the writing.

I revile the "Son of Adam" nonsense and the way Aslan was distorted into a Christ figure. The Son of, Daughter of, stuff doesn't mesh with the wonderful concept of clustered universes accessible through a wooded glen with ponds. And how is Jadis a member of the same race of inhumans as Lilith?

Anyway, the pacing also seemed a bit hurried. All of the sudden Aslan says Peter is to be the Great King. And what happened to the Kings and Queens from Magician's Nephew? I suppose that Lewis is maybe not as meticulous in his detail as Tolkien. But those things bothered me anyway.

Despite them I thought it was a great fairy tale with a good message. The children were easy to relate to, especially their little rivalries. Some of the English daliances we were forced to go through were a bit much, but also a clever slice of life... if you happen to enjoy tea... a lot.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Life and Death

Today is the last time my dog will supp with our family. Tomorrow at 6pm she will take her last breath when her life is humanely ended. Her short battle with cancer has left her face bloody and deformed. She now stinks of rotting flesh and blood constantly stains her golden fur.

In her youth she was a beautiful dog. Most dogs are. She followed my father home as a pup, and we decided to keep her providing for no other owner stepping forward. She was a constant companion and a great friend to our second dog who would come later.

At times she was playful and mischevious. Several of my toys, including a Ghostbuster figurine of Winston, was chewed up. Winston had no leg after his encounter with my dog. For this dog, however, her standard state of being was noble and quiet. She usually sat nearby, keeping watch over her pack.

She was always very patient with the puppy we got later. She never snapped, never growled, and always accepted the puppy as a sixth member of our clan.

Moving to Oregon was a difficult trial for both of them. Driving 1,000 miles in a kennel carrier is not a dog's idea of a good time. But ultimately the move was good for them. Though they weren't keen on Oregon's icy winters, they like their human partners, fell in love with the lush and fertile Beaver state with its temperate seasons.

The Fourth of July was always the hardest for both of them. Particularly the elder. Fireworks scared the crap out of her. She can't hear them, now. On this July the 4th I doubt she will be much of a problem. It is fitting that she will survive this one last holiday in quiet defiance of that which previously scared her.

Of dogs it can be said that a person can have no better companion. I will not jump to replace this dog or my other. They have a special place in my life that will not be soon filled. I know one day another pup will follow me home and change my life forever. Until that day I am reminded of many fond memories, and I will enjoy these last few moments and make them special for my old friends.

Thank you for a great time, Goldie.

B. 1 April, 1989; D. 5 July, 2005.

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Magician's Nephew

I hear C.S. Lewis didn't start out as religiously minded as he was later in his life. J. R. R. Tolkien gave him that. Never the less, this was a totally obvious influence in the first book (chronologically) in the Narnia epic.

Lewis and Tolkien both have that grandfatherly tone in their writing. They both emphasize awe and mystery in their works. That's part of why they are attractive. This story is no exception. Engrossing and comical, it tells the tale of the very birth of Narnia, and casts a lesson upon Earth as well.

The Christian motifs are everywhere. Adam and Eve are referenced by name, and the main character even visits a sort of Garden of Eden. Though Diggory is smart enough not to eat the apple of life, the implications of that original story are built into this as well.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Review: War of the Worlds

Crazy assed Tom Cruise plays a deadbeat Dad turned galactic action hero in this film. Spielberg does a great job of rehashing the 1953 film based very loosely on H. G. Wells book.

I haven't read the book yet.

Anyway, the film is pretty good. Very gruesome, it follows on a human level the events circling around the invasion of the Earth by extraterrestrials bent on our annihilation. The effects were scary, because they looked so real. People in the audience with me were constantly screaming and gasping at the terrible destruction.

That being said, I really have to question some of that. I loved the human nature of the story, but I couldn't help but feel that I wanted to know what was going on at the global level. I'm glad the story didn't have the daring pipe chomping professor of exobiology and astrophysics from the other version or Godzilla movies or whatever, like was parodied in Mars Attacks. And though I liked the close in perspective, I have to say I was pretty disgusted with the very easy and convenient end to the film.

We know, in our limited exploration of space, that decontamination and care to guard against alien microbes is very very important. Did these guys just not realize that? I guess they had never encountered other life besides Earth's brood of microbes and monkeys.

This aspect of the film opened up some plot holes. Such as, how their spaceships stopped working because they were sick. Also, I couldn't help but wonder why Daddy didn't tell the kids to shut the hell up. "It's the friggin' end of the world. We'll get you therapy later."

Also, I was dismayed to see that these were virtually the same aliens from Independence Day. Physically they were very close-- especially their heads. I guess those rascals were at it again. Payback's a bitch though. They should make a movie where we send all the crying shit pants babies from the theaters and restaurants of the world to their planet to wipe them out with all the germs the kids spew everywhere.

Just once I'd like to see some aliens come in peace. Well... besides in Close Encounters. Or Star Trek - First Contact.

Do they all have to say "Resistance is Futile"?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Review: Batman Begins

I have to say, I am a big fan of Batman and all of his related characters. I was pleased with Tim Burton's films, ecstatic with Bruce Timm's animated series, and pretty damn disappointed with Joel Schumaker's sequels.

Fans of the Batman know that the strength of the franchise as a storytelling device lie in its darkness and its complexity. The problem I had with the Schumaker films is that they were so damned campy. Many people had problems with this, as one liners took the place of thoughtful commentaries on human behavior.

The Animated Series has succeeded where other incarnations have failed, presenting Batman as a determined and tortured soul on a quest. The Animated Series also was able to incorporate Batman's cadre of sidekicks (Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, Huntress, etc.) in a way that did not steal depth from the story or compromise it in any way.

Enter Batman Begins, which I really have to say was terribly impressive. Chris Nolan dealt with the trappings of Batman's story pretty handily. There are a lot of semantics to set up in the legend. The Batcave, the Batmobile, etc. are all pretty corny ideas that he, like Timm, was able to pull off in a stylish and thoughtful way.

The casting for this Batman film was also incredible. While I am not totally sold on Christian Bale as Batman, the others are incredible. Gary Oldman is perfect as James Gordon, and so is Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth. But for me, the best casting of all was Liam Neeson.

Neeson was perfect as Ra's Al Ghul. He captured the calm complexity of the man as well as the madness of his cause. Ra's Al Ghul is more dangerous than any other in Batman's gallery of rogues because he believes he is working for the best interest of the planet.

I felt that the backstory for Ra's was very clever and was a great adaptation of the comic and animated universes, but I still prefer the serial format version better.

Cheers to this film. It has great writing, great effects, a solid story. I look forward very much to the sequels, and to seeing the Joker and Two Face. I know many fans are praying Mark Hamill get the role, I would enjoy seeing that. While I can't say that I would like to see Robin or Superman in this incarnation of Batman, I know Nolan would handle it well.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Review: Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

This film, which completes the Star Wars prequel trilogy is a lot better than Episodes I or II. That being said, I wasn't as impressed as some of my fanboy compatriots. I felt that some of the lagging plot elements that plagued the first and second films stayed with this one.

I felt that if the audience didn't have the original films as a primer, wouldn't have given two craps about the characters or the outcome. Also we wouldn't have totally understood what was going on. What makes this even worse is that there was an enormous amount of terrible and useless backstory in Episode I and partially in Episode II, and it didn't seem to serve any purpose.

I really feel that Qui Gon Jinn and all of that could have been totally omitted from Episode I and this would have only been stronger. Furthermore, by the end, I really REALLY hated Anakin Skywalker and wished someone would just kill him. He was always annoying, arrogant, and headstrong. From watching Episode IV, Obi Wan describes him as noble and as a longtime friend. Despite what the Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor Obi Wans both say, we only see Anakin and Obi Wan as having an antagonized relationship that was only more and more strained as time went on.

A friend accuses Natalie Portman of phoning in her lines for this film. I don't entirely agree, but I will say that she did the best she could with the terrible writing she was given.

***

Film making criticism aside, I was very much struck with something that I thought about after seeing Episode I. After that, a lot of Star Wars fanboys who I know began to make oblique references to this as a messianic tale. Though there was some pretty obvious messianic references in the film (referring to Anakin as the "chosen one"), I have to say that the films, especially Episode III, smacked of Christian dogma because of their views on life rather than figurehead.

In Episode III, Anakin is taunted with the prospect of death. Despite all his amazing powers he is unable to stop the deaths of his loved ones. The story ultimately gives him a choice between two distinct and very Christian ideas behind eternal life. He can side with darkness and achieve eternal life through unnatural means by utilizing dark magicks, or he can choose the path of righteousness and achieve eternal life (after death). In the end we know what choice he makes and how much it costs him. In Episode VI, we see that he even gets his very Christian deathbed conversion, and goes on to have a happy afterlife.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Review: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is based on the novel series by Douglas Adams. The film is like a bone the movie companies threw the fans of the enigmatic series. I understand from people who have actually read the books and seen the film that various elements are incorporated from several books. Unfortunately this leaves the entire film feeling disjointed. There are some cool spots, but otherwise I was dreadfully disappointed.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Corporation

I've always found this quote to be a very prophetic and thoughtful approach to profit motive and modern corporate America:

"When the corporation becomes enthroned an era of corruption in high places will follow. And the money power will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed."

- Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States