Monday, August 25, 2008

We've Moved...Welcome to GEEK MONKEY!

The furniture's been packed up, the keys have been turned over, and the floors have all been swept, and as I walked out the door I realized I was really going to miss this place.

But after 3+ years, I wanted to try and take things to another level in both my writing and presence out here on the old Interwebs, and part of the strategy to do that involves a new coat of paint and spending some actual dollars on the site.

So, welcome to GEEK MONKEY (http://www.geekmonkeyonline.com):

GEEK MONKEY is essentially my three blogs rolled up into one convenient website. It's still new and I'm sure there are things that will be changing, but my main priority was to make it as comfortable as possible for those of you that (thank you 1,000,000 times over!) follow this site. The biggest kick of doing this was meeting so many supportive people who not only commented on what I wrote, but who write blogs that inspire me on an almost daily basis.

So if you've followed this blog, thank you. If you've linked to this blog, thank you x2. I hope you come along to the new site (which I may have mentioned one or twice is called GEEK MONKEY and can be found at http://www.geekmonkeyonline.com) and comment, discuss, and most of all continuing writing yourselves - this is a great community and I'm proud to be a part of it.

In closing, a little something from one of my favorite writers. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Walt Whitman (loud applause):
Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at,
What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass,
What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed,
And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.

My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps,
I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Monster Squad (1987)

If there was a perfect age to see THE MONSTER SQUAD, I was it. In 1987 I was 13 years old and fascinated by the old Universal monster movies. Why it took so long to do a movie that features all the classics - Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster and the Creature from the Black Lagoon - in one big smash-up a la ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is beyond me, but do it they did, and in grand style in Fred Drekker's homage to the horror films of the 30's and 40's, comedy like Abbott and Costello and The Little Rascals and to being a kid whose life is all about the monsters.

Watching it again 20 years later I'm amazed at how well it holds up. There's so much to love, little moments that directly recall the old Universal films, nostalgic 80's minutia, great special effects and monsters thanks to Stan "JURASSIC PARK" Winston and kick-ass dialog thanks to first time writer Shane Black, who might be a little better known now for writing a small independent film called LETHAL WEAPON. Maybe you've seen it?

Get all the World Famous Monsters together and you don't really need much of a plot, but THE MONSTER SQUAD has a doozy. 100 years after being foiled in Transylvania Dracula summons all the monsters together to obtain a sacred crystal that will bring about the end of the world. And since no grown-ups believe monsters exist, it's up to a band of young kids who call themselves the Monster Squad to save their beloved town and the rest of the world. There's really not much more to it: the structure is just sturdy enough to hold together all the great set pieces that Drekker cooks up for his cast.

So many great things to talk about. The dialog is vintage Black: where else would you get kids talking like Sean and Patrick, grumbling about a visit to the Principal's office:

PATRICK: Yeah, he was patting my shoulder and touching me and stuff.
SEAN: Yeah, he was totally homo-ing out.
PATRICK: I smell like the 40's.


The last time I heard anyone talk like that it was 1987.

There are a lot of great moments that echo the older films. The opening set piece in Transylvania begins with armadillos creeping around the castle floors, just like Todd Browning's DRACULA did. The scene with the girl tossing flowers in the pond in FRANKENSTEIN is also echoed, albeit with a much different conclusion here.

There are some great visual jokes, including the "There's a monster in my closet" gag that works great here because of both the boy's total sincerity and the father's hysterical attempts to placate him. I remember my own father soothing me and checking under my bed to make sure that Frankenstein's Monster wasn't under there to get. The Dad in THE MONSTER SQUAD isn't so thorough:

But in the end the movie rest firmly on two sets of shoulders - the Squad and the Monsters. In the Squad we have a dynamic group of kids that begin as stereotypes and quickly evolve into a cohesive unit that is equal parts funny, brave, and cool in a way that only an 80's movie can make you. Sean's the Leader, Patrick's the Best Friend, Horace is the Loser, Eugene's the Kid, Phoebe's the requisite Girl, and Rudy? Rudy's the Cool One, the one who you immediately know is cool because he in leather.

Sure, he's also in penny loafers and rides a bike with a banana seat, but in '87 that made you the Shit, my friends. And even though Sean is the leader of the group, Rudy gets all the best stuff by breaking the conventions of what his role typically entails and stepping up time and again. Sure, at first he's only joining the club to spy on the girl next door, but he winds up killing two vampires and the Wolf Man. Rudy rocks, my friends, loafers and all.

The monsters fare equally well. Even though he had to be careful not to step on Universal's toes, Drekker and Black make sure everything you always knew about the monsters are represented. Stakes through the heart, silver bullets, turning into a bat - all accounted for. But they also get the smaller things right, such as the Wolf man's ultimate wish to be stopped, Frankenstein's Monster basic good nature, and the Count's ability to use dynamite and drive a stick shift.

Yeah. This isn't your father's MONSTER SQUAD. It's your MONSTER SQUAD, the one you always wanted when you were 13 years old, and still had a small piece of your hear that believed that somewhere, someplace, those monsters were out there, and you knew you had to be ready, just in case. Watching it again all those same fun feelings came back, and I can't wait until my son is old enough so he can be prepared, too.

Never know when you might have to kick Wolf Man in the nards.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Shining (1980)

Being Film #12 in Hail Horror 2008

Can anyone frame a shot like Stanley Kubrick could?  I thought about this as I watched THE SHINING again, mesmerized at how deliberate, how measured each shot is, not one second shorter or longer than it needs to be.  And I think a large part of the reason THE SHINING is still as terrifying as it is has as much to do with this pacing, and Kubrick's ability to move you along with the scenes at exactly the speed he wants you to, as it does with Jack Nicholson's maniacal performance as Jack Torrance.

More of a distillation of the famous Stephen King novel than a direct adaptation, THE SHINING tells the story of Jack Torrance, who has been hired to be the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, an enormous resort that closes for half the year due to the deep snows of Colorado.  Jack, a recovering alcoholic with anger issues, brings his wife Wendy and their young son Danny with him as company while he attempts to gather his thoughts around a novel he's attempting to write.  Danny is touched with "the shining," a kind of mental power that allows his to hear the thoughts of others, and manifests itself in the imaginary person of Tony, the little boy who lives in Danny's mouth and warns him of the evil that lurks in the hotel, and eventually in his father as well.

The camera in THE SHINING is as much as character as anyone actor in the film, moving very purposefully through each scene, sometimes following characters, sometimes leading them, and sometimes simply observing them, always moving in the same slow, steady pace.  It also acts as our guide through the story, often moving beyond the action to alight on some sign, some action that foreshadows a later event.  Married with the ominous score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, the movie takes on an almost dreamlike quality, pulsing and moving like a thing alive.

But when it does move quickly, it does so with a clinical precision, as when the image of the two little girls (disturbing just when they're standing there) intercuts with their mutilated bodies, their blood splattered over the walls:


Kubrick downplays many of the mystical elements of the novel in favor of watching the downward spiral of Nicholson's sanity.  And who wouldn't?  Even close to 30 years later it's still a frightening presence to behold.  In the beginning of the film we see Jack Torrance, hat in hand and obedient as a penitent sinner as he interviews for the caretaker position.  It's only through the side story of Danny's fainting spell, as the doctor questions Wendy Torrance (Shelly Duvall in an outstanding role) that we learn of Jack's drinking, and his temper that broke Danny's arm almost six months prior.  So Jack's state of mind is completely set up by the time we get to the Overlook, and the slow erosion of what's left of jack's mind is punctuated by the hollow echoes of a tennis ball as he hurls it across a large, empty room.  The "writing room" where Jack spends most of his time looms over everything like a death shroud, and shows us the isolation that pervades THE SHINING as much if not more so than the location shots of the hotel in the middle of the blizzard:


Danny's presence in the film tells us that the ghosts and spirits that haunt the Overlook hotel are definitely real, and as frightening as those scenes are, Kubrick time and time again brings the real horror back to the Torrances.  As Jack is driven deeper and deeper into the evil of the hotel, his lashings out at his wife become more and more startling, and he seeks solace with Lloyd, the ghostly bartender who refuses to accept Jack's money for the drinks.  "Your money's no good here, sir.  Orders from the House."

And speaking of the house, the art direction is a wonder to behold.  From the bright reds and greens of the more haunted areas, brought alive by Jack's presence, to the vivid carpet that Danny plays on and rides on, every color and light is tweaked to provide a maximum amount of unease.

Everything comes to a head in the closing half hour as Jack takes axe in hand to "correct" his wife and son.  Watching it again I'm amazed at how effective Shelly Duvall is during Nicholson's "I'm not gonna hurt you" speech.  Her utter confusion at what's going on, the horror and terror at the situation is right there in her saucer eyes, and her constant ending of everything she says with a question, something Nicholson picks up on in his mockery of her.  Later Kubrick relentlessly picks up the pace as Jack pursues Danny into the cold and dark garden maze.  The final scene of Jack frozen in the snow, his spirit now joining the rest of the "residents" of the Overlook Hotel, is just another in a series of lonely, isolated shots - people isolated from each other and from themselves.

Cold, disturbing in its images and shocking in its sudden bursts of rage, THE SHINING is a prime example of horror in its most unsettling forms: the dread of being truly cut off from the world, the unnamed fears of a child, and the terrible insanity of a broken mind.

The Bank Job (2008)

Sometimes all I want out of my screwdriver is the ability to screw.

Enjoy the veiled sex joke and come back when you're ready to be a little more serious. Thanks.

Seriously, I don't need built in levels, attachments, rubberized grips and tempered steel shafts (man, this is getting a bit too much). I mean, that's all nice and everything, but ultimately all I really care about is, can the damn thing screw and unscrew?

The same goes for genre movies, and part of the refreshing thing about THE BANK JOB is it eschews flashy camera moves and unrealistic color palettes to focus on the hard mechanics of a heist movie. This isn't a Guy Ritchie flick, although Ritchie regular Jason Statham does star. What you see is what you get from director Roger Donaldson - a plot-driven heist film that tells the story it wants to tell and then gets the hell out of there.

The story is built around the true-life robbery of Lloyd's Bank on Baker Street, London in 1971, where millions in money, jewels and documents were stolen and never recovered. In real life, the British authorities issued something called a "D-Notice" which essentially classified the case, where it remains to this day. THE BANK JOB takes this bit of British history and weaves in a story about corruption at Scotland Yard, blackmail concerning a member of the Royal Family, and a nasty bit involving murderer and drug dealer who fancies himself the new Malcolm X.

Sound a little complicated? Not really. Besides some nonsensical jumping back and forth in time in the opening moments THE BANK JOB runs in a very linear fashion. Donaldson doesn't play the 70's time frame for laughs or nostalgia, instead keeping things relatively muted while grounding his characters in a way that would work in any time frame. Statham does a solid job despite being saddled with the silly name of Terry Leather, a small time crook trying to go straight. When the opportunity to pull off the heist presents itself, his motivation is to get out of debt and provide a better life for his wife and two daughters, something we wouldn't expect from a typical Statham vehicle.

And what of the hesit itself? While not as memorable as classics like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE or THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, it works because the film doesn't let you forget that these guys are small time amateurs. So they screw up. A lot. part of the charm lies in the quirks and character flourishes each supporting member brings to the crew. Dave, who in his spare time does a little porn for one of the main villains in the movie orders fish and chips to be delivered to their hideout/cover. Terry employs Eddie, his employee from the car dealership as a lookout, and between the two of them names and more sensitive information is constantly spilled out over walkie-talkies. There's too much noise with the drill (they're tunneling underground to reach the bank vault). All of this leads to their eventual discovery, and the fun isn't in the robbery as much as it is in how this inept crew deal with (or not) what happens next.

THE BANK JOB falters a bit toward the end when, after placing so much emphasis on their small time status Statham suddenly becomes a master manipulator, moving all the pieces into position to ensure his and his friends' escape. The temptation to use Statham's physical prowess was also too great; he easily beats the tar out of two people in the film's climax, which opposes an earlier scene where he stands helpless while some thugs smash the car windows at his dealership. But these are small, forgivable things for a film that sets out to do one thing and sticks to the plan. I don't know if I'm ready to put THE BANK JOB down as a modern crime classic, but it's a solid movie that delivers on it's promise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Stockpile Syndrome: Pursuing Goals at 24fps

Bear witness to my shameful admission: I have a serious problem with stockpiling. Movies, music, books...my house is a virtual Barnes and Noble for the Missus and I. Always afraid a moment will come when I won't have something to do, I frantically collect everything I have even the slightest interest in, fearful that if I don't get it now, it will dissipate into the ether forever, and my soul will be the poorer for it.

DVDs, with their succulent cover art and ever-expanding set of additional features are the biggest bullies in the bunch, which is particularly odd because movies have the least excuse for stockpiling. It's a law of the physical universe to be no further than 3.2 miles from the nearest Blockbuster Video, I've been a member of Netflix for almost eight years, and films are readily available in the local branch of the library (legally) and online (somewhat less legally). And yet my stack of unwatched DVDs climbs on, reaching new heights of intimidation and shame while ever-beckoning my son to come a little closer to its teetering verticality (huh?) so that it may crush him under its massive weight.

I tried watching a movie a night to whittle down the numbers, but every Tuesday brings new reasons to feed the beast. Every review or recommendation must be pursued so that I can comment on it before the novelty wears off. Every film book offers a new director, a new film to be devoured, digested, and ultimately excreted in conversation or commetary online. Recently I've taken to throwing out the plastic cases and storing most of my DVDs in leather binders, and even that's starting to take up too much space, as well as making the physical pile of discs, well, angry...

But I can't help it. It's a vicious circle I willingly subject myself to. If there is a perfect adjective to describe my fixation it's "adore." I adore movies. The more I see, the more I want to see. And it's not enough to see and walk away - I want to understand, to know why certain scenes move me the way they do, what a particular lighting choice or a framing device means in both the scope of the story and the larger themes at work. When I read something by people like (but not limited to) Roger Ebert, Jim Emerson, Pauline Kael, Harry, Moriarty and the cads over at Ain't It Cool, Keith Uhlich, Matt Zoller Seitz and the incredible group of writers over at The House Next Door or Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, the intelligence and style is tremendous but overshadowed by their abundant and obvious love for movies of all kinds - the obscure independent foreign feature to the latest summer blockbuster. It's this giddy joy and exuberance that thrills me more than anything else, because I know it's a feeling shared by all of us who, whether under cover of darkness or loud and proud wear the hat of the movie lover, the geek, the (dare I say) cineaste.

I harbor no illusions concerning my own writing about movies. Like everything I've written on the web it's a striving to express, as cogently and accurately as possible, my thoughts and feelings on the subject at hand. After a couple years I'm still finding my voice, taking tentative steps toward fresh perspectives and ideas, and slowly piecing together an identity that complements what I want to say. A lot of the reviews on this site are okay, a very few are, in my mind, more than good. There's more than a couple that are complete shit. You and I will in all liklihood disagree on which are which. And that's totally fine.

So I'm going to try and keep the Beast at a reasonable size by watching, and writing, whenever I can. And whether it's a classic from Criterion, a low-budget horror flick, or the latest hit at your local theater I'll endeavor to bring something worthy of the film and of myself to each review or article. I'm pretty notorious for throwing posts up with little to no editing, only to go back a day or two later to refine and correct, and I guarantee that'll be the case here. There's a great article by Evan Derrick over at Movie Zeal entitled "10 Ways to Become a Better Film Critic" and the ideas he illustrates are things I'm trying to incorporate more into my own writing.

But none of that really matters if this all exists in a vacuum. So any feedback, agreements or disagreements, ideas, questions, anything is greatly appreciated. In the meantime I'm making a bigger effort to be a presence at some of the better known sites, and am looking forward to continuing to be inspired by movies and the people who write about them.

And if the preceding paragraph wasn't enough if a Hollywood Ending for you, may I present THE SEARCHERS.

The Stockpile Syndrome: Pursuing Goals at 24fps

Bear witness to my shameful admission: I have a serious problem with stockpiling. Movies, music, books...my house is a virtual Barnes and Noble for the Missus and I. Always afraid a moment will come when I won't have something to do, I frantically collect everything I have even the slightest interest in, fearful that if I don't get it now, it will dissipate into the ether forever, and my soul will be the poorer for it.

DVDs, with their succulent cover art and ever-expanding set of additional features are the biggest bullies in the bunch, which is particularly odd because movies have the least excuse for stockpiling. It's a law of the physical universe to be no further than 3.2 miles from the nearest Blockbuster Video, I've been a member of Netflix for almost eight years, and films are readily available in the local branch of the library (legally) and online (somewhat less legally). And yet my stack of unwatched DVDs climbs on, reaching new heights of intimidation and shame while ever-beckoning my son to come a little closer to its teetering verticality (huh?) so that it may crush him under its massive weight.

I tried watching a movie a night to whittle down the numbers, but every Tuesday brings new reasons to feed the beast. Every review or recommendation must be pursued so that I can comment on it before the novelty wears off. Every film book offers a new director, a new film to be devoured, digested, and ultimately excreted in conversation or commetary online. Recently I've taken to throwing out the plastic cases and storing most of my DVDs in leather binders, and even that's starting to take up too much space, as well as making the physical pile of discs, well, angry...

But I can't help it. It's a vicious circle I willingly subject myself to. If there is a perfect adjective to describe my fixation it's "adore." I adore movies. The more I see, the more I want to see. And it's not enough to see and walk away - I want to understand, to know why certain scenes move me the way they do, what a particular lighting choice or a framing device means in both the scope of the story and the larger themes at work. When I read something by people like (but not limited to) Roger Ebert, Jim Emerson, Pauline Kael, Harry, Moriarty and the cads over at Ain't It Cool, Keith Uhlich, Matt Zoller Seitz and the incredible group of writers over at The House Next Door or Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, the intelligence and style is tremendous but overshadowed by their abundant and obvious love for movies of all kinds - the obscure independent foreign feature to the latest summer blockbuster. It's this giddy joy and exuberance that thrills me more than anything else, because I know it's a feeling shared by all of us who, whether under cover of darkness or loud and proud wear the hat of the movie lover, the geek, the (dare I say) cineaste.

I harbor no illusions concerning my own writing about movies. Like everything I've written on the web it's a striving to express, as cogently and accurately as possible, my thoughts and feelings on the subject at hand. After a couple years I'm still finding my voice, taking tentative steps toward fresh perspectives and ideas, and slowly piecing together an identity that complements what I want to say. A lot of the reviews on this site are okay, a very few are, in my mind, more than good. There's more than a couple that are complete shit. You and I will in all liklihood disagree on which are which. And that's totally fine.

So I'm going to try and keep the Beast at a reasonable size by watching, and writing, whenever I can. And whether it's a classic from Criterion, a low-budget horror flick, or the latest hit at your local theater I'll endeavor to bring something worthy of the film and of myself to each review or article. I'm pretty notorious for throwing posts up with little to no editing, only to go back a day or two later to refine and correct, and I guarantee that'll be the case here. There's a great article by Evan Derrick over at Movie Zeal entitled "10 Ways to Become a Better Film Critic" and the ideas he illustrates are things I'm trying to incorporate more into my own writing.

But none of that really matters if this all exists in a vacuum. So any feedback, agreements or disagreements, ideas, questions, anything is greatly appreciated. In the meantime I'm making a bigger effort to be a presence at some of the better known sites, and am looking forward to continuing to be inspired by movies and the people who write about them.

And if the preceding paragraph wasn't enough if a Hollywood Ending for you, may I present THE SEARCHERS.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)


Being Film #10 in Hail Horror 2008

This is a review from the drunken heart of a geek, written just after the Witching Hour with loud music playing in his headphones.  And as such it should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.  I originally saw BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA in the theater with a number of college friends, including my girlfriend at the time.  The experience was significant because our impatience with what Francis Ford Coppola was trying to accomplish with the movie led us to revile and actively disparage it at the time, and also, on a more personal note, led to what my now wife refers to as, "the worst date you ever took me on."

Luckily that date turned into many more (and, ultimately, marriage), and luckily I grew up a little (okay - a lot) and took the time to watch and learn a lot more about film than I knew before, which helped immensely when I revisted the film via the recently re-issued DVD, which has been remastered and contains audio commentary by Coppola.  Seeing again with older, more experienced eyes, I'm now able to see DRACULA for the wonderful, beautiful mess that it is.

Understand, it's not perfect by a long shot.  The script is bloated and some of the performances, particularly Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, just don't work for the grand, theatrical style Coppola's going for, which is a shame because if anything can be said for the film it's that Coppola directs the Unholy Hell out of it, working in homages to dozens of films and directors, including F.W. Maurnau and his immortal NOSFERATU (reviewed here), Jean Cocteau and his telling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING and even SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES.  In addition, he automatically gets bonus points for including one of my favorite performers, Tom Waits, as the insect-obsessed Renfield:


I won't bother to re-cap the plot of either the film or the famous novel it's based on - there are liberties to be sure, but the story is essentially the same as every adaptation has used over the years.  The big difference in this version is the love story used as both a new lens to view the legend of the vampire as well as a framing device for the film.  Much of Gary Oldman's excellent portrayal of the Count is based on his eternal love for his dead wife, who killed herself after wrongly hearing of his death at war.  When he sees what he believes to be her reincarnation in Ryder's Mina Murray, the horror and melodrama are all colored by his longing to be reunited with his lost love.

Oldman is gleefully devious as the title character, giving a very broad performance meant to distance itself from previous incarnations of Dracula, particularly Bela Lugosi's immortal version.  Using various guises (bat, wolf, rats, mist) Oldman runs through the entire gamut of vampire lore.  But my favorite is still his aged, slightly effeminate Count of Transylvania, though the credit is as much costume designer Eiko Ishioka's as it is Oldman's.


But the real star of the film is Coppola, and this is really the last film (excepting the recent YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH) where he pulls out all the stops and slams his vision onto the piece.  Partnering with his son Roman Coppola (a gifted filmmaker in his own right; see CQ), who handles second unit directing as well as the amazing effects, everything is shot with an eye to the past, even as the future constantly makes its presence felt.  Almost all of the effects are done in camera: matte paintings, double exposures, pixellated cameras - Coppola makes DRACULA sing with the love and attention of hundreds of films that came before it.  Everything is filmed on sound stages, the acting (especially Oldman and Anthony Hopkins as a mad, devilish Van Helsing) is purposefully broad, as if it's being projected from the stage.  The visuals are sumptuously Gothic (if that makes sense), and the gore and violence, when it comes, is shocking.

BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA is a film where you're rewarded with multiple viewings.  If at all possible ditch the old discount DVD or VHS and seek out the newly remastered 2-disc set.  You get an amazing commentary by Coppola, where he details many aspects of the film from pre-production to the fights with the studio, as well as four new documentaries detailing every aspect of the film's visuals and performance stylings.  There are few filmmakers who can really carry a commentary: Scorsese comes to mind, but Coppola's frank assessment of the production is a wonderful companion piece to this movie, a luscious platter of love and blood.

Dark Knights and Watchmen

This Thursday. July 31st, 2008...

That's the day the Missus and I were able to get someone to watch Jack so we could go out to see THE DARK KNIGHT. Calling it the most anticipated movie of 2008 is a vast understatement for both of us. Our geek hearts are ready to burst with the excitement. Although this may also be in part due to getting another evening out to act like adults (albeit adults who love comic book movies).

In the meantime, I've been reading plenty of Batman graphic novels to gear up for the film. Just finished the deluxe edition of The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, and the image below should clue you in to what I'm re-reading now:

Speaking of Alan Moore, supposedly attached to THE DARK KNIGHT is the long-awaited (and long feared) trailer to arguably the best graphic novel (superhero, anyway) of all time. Watchmen is one of those books that doesn't just elevate the genre, but transcends it. There's a reason this book made Time Magazine's 100 Best English Novels of the 20th Century, and if you're at all a fan of how comics are shaped and plotted now, you have books like this to thank. Along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns it literally changed the landscape of how mainstream comics worked.

Check out the WATCHMEN trailer by clicking on the image, and have a nice day!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is Why I Love Roger Ebert

If you only know Roger Ebert as (forgive me) the "fat guy who gives movies "thumbs up or thumbs down"" then you really don't know Roger Ebert at all. Before the television show, before the "thumbs" there was and still is a giant of the written word, a master of film criticism and an unabashed lover of the movies. His Great Movie series of essays have broadened my film palette to include such luminaries as Jean-Pierre Mellville and Yasujiro Ozo, the "UP" series by Michael Apted, and the wonder of films like PEEPING TOM and PARIS, TEXAS. For years he's run his Overlooked Film Festival (now known as Ebertfest), which features both new and old films deserving of more recognition, and has famously taught films by dissecting them one shot at a time.

More recently he's been plagued by cancer and additional injuries that, while taking away his voice and a large portion of his mobility, hasn't deterred his passion for movies in the slightest. He's still covering at least 3-4 films a week for the Chicago Sun Times, and now he has a blog.

That's right, folks. Roger Ebert has joined the Internet community.

I bring all this up because in his most recent entry Ebert has written a beautiful tribute to the power a particular film has to define our life, and how over time our viewing of the film changes without a single frame being altered.

For Ebert this film is LA DOCLE VITA. Read it. It sums up everything I've ever felt about how a film can encapsulate a life, and is perhaps the best expalantion for the millions of us who go by the name "cinephile," "film-geek," or a couple dozen others that spring to mind.

And if nothing else, you'll get a hysterical anecdote about the filming of the famous Trevi Fountain scene.

This is Why I Love Roger Ebert

If you only know Roger Ebert as (forgive me) the "fat guy who gives movies "thumbs up or thumbs down"" then you really don't know Roger Ebert at all. Before the television show, before the "thumbs" there was and still is a giant of the written word, a master of film criticism and an unabashed lover of the movies. His Great Movie series of essays have broadened my film palette to include such luminaries as Jean-Pierre Mellville and Yasujiro Ozo, the "UP" series by Michael Apted, and the wonder of films like PEEPING TOM and PARIS, TEXAS. For years he's run his Overlooked Film Festival (now known as Ebertfest), which features both new and old films deserving of more recognition, and has famously taught films by dissecting them one shot at a time.

More recently he's been plagued by cancer and additional injuries that, while taking away his voice and a large portion of his mobility, hasn't deterred his passion for movies in the slightest. He's still covering at least 3-4 films a week for the Chicago Sun Times, and now he has a blog.

That's right, folks. Roger Ebert has joined the Internet community.

I bring all this up because in his most recent entry Ebert has written a beautiful tribute to the power a particular film has to define our life, and how over time our viewing of the film changes without a single frame being altered.

For Ebert this film is LA DOCLE VITA. Read it. It sums up everything I've ever felt about how a film can encapsulate a life, and is perhaps the best expalantion for the millions of us who go by the name "cinephile," "film-geek," or a couple dozen others that spring to mind.

And if nothing else, you'll get a hysterical anecdote about the filming of the famous Trevi Fountain scene.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Whe(don)!

  1. Because the world needs more Nathan Fillion...
  2. Because Neil Patrick Harris continues to prove that you can, in fact, be known for more than Doogie Howser...
  3. Because I just watched a podcast with Felicia Day and all I can say is she is every geek's dream girl (except mine, of course...I already have the Missus whom I should note despises SEX AND THE CITY and counts THE DARK KNIGHT as her most anticipated movie of 2008)...
  4. Because Joss Whedon made Firefly, dammit, and he made it with Nathan Fillion, and he wrote the best X-Men comic to come out in well over a decade, and there was that whole Buffy thing you may have heard about....
And now that I have (almost) exhausted my ellipses use for the day, I humbly present to you...



You will laugh, you will cry, you will see signing cowboys.

Whe(don)!

  1. Because the world needs more Nathan Fillion...
  2. Because Neil Patrick Harris continues to prove that you can, in fact, be known for more than Doogie Howser...
  3. Because I just watched a podcast with Felicia Day and all I can say is she is every geek's dream girl (except mine, of course...I already have the Missus whom I should note despises SEX AND THE CITY and counts THE DARK KNIGHT as her most anticipated movie of 2008)...
  4. Because Joss Whedon made Firefly, dammit, and he made it with Nathan Fillion, and he wrote the best X-Men comic to come out in well over a decade, and there was that whole Buffy thing you may have heard about....
And now that I have (almost) exhausted my ellipses use for the day, I humbly present to you...



You will laugh, you will cry, you will see signing cowboys.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wanted (2008)

Going in it was impossible to think the minds behind the new action movie WANTED were going to remain completely faithful to the subversive graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Although the basic theme is retained (break the shackles of your conformist lifestyle to, well, kill a bunch of people), the mechanics by which the film attempts to bring the message home is wrapped in the folds of a MATRIX retread that, despite having a few inspired moments, feels like a case of "been there, done that."

James McAvoy continues to impress as an actor who can take on a broad range of roles. In WANTED he plays the nebbishy Wesley Gibson, a henpecked cubicle slave who has to swallow copious amounts of anti-anxiety medication to deal with his everyday life of a cheating, obnoxious girlfriend, the best friend she's cheating with, and the boss who emphasizes every slander with a click of her red stapler (shades of OFFICE SPACE here). He's soon picked up in a drug store by Angelina Jolie as the aptly named Fox, who tells him that's he the son of a hyper-powered assassin he never knew, and only he has the ability to track down his father's killer. She brings him to a textile mill run by Morgan Freeman, who explains that yes, it is a textile mill, and they are The Fraternity, an order of assassins existing for centuries, whose mission is to kill select people in order to save hundreds, perhaps thousands more.

Oh, and they get their assassination orders from an enormous loom called the Loom of Fate.

This is a pivotal point of the movie. Because although there are earlier moments where WANTED begins to lose some traction, this is the point of no return. If you can get past the fact that everything is determined by a machine that makes sweaters, then this movie is right up your alley. If you look over at the person sitting next to you with a "WTF!?" expression on your face, well, all I can say is join the club.

The rest of WANTED plays about as you'd expect - the obligatory training sequence, the chase for the killer, the revelation that the killer isn't actually the killer - the double-crosses and set pieces are telegraphed a mile away. Which is a shame because director Timur Bekmambetov, who previously helmed the visually stunning NIGHT WATCH and DAY WATCH has some great moments. The opening sequence is reminiscent of the style of his earlier films, and that personal touch appears sporadically throughout the film, helped by the obvious fun both McAvoy and Jolie are having in their roles.

Unfortunately, there's simply too much that falls flat. Morgan Freeman is once again cast playing someone with exactly the same manner so many other of his characters have exhibited over the years. And in a impressively cheap move we get a GOOD SON moment near the film's climax where Freeman's character screams out an expletive that yanks you full force out of the moment with how falsely it rings. Terence Stamp is completely wasted in a role that solely exists to get Wesley from one place to another. Common is used as scowling window dressing and that's it. The only character that gets any love is Konstantin Khabensky, who starred in both WATCH movies and here is cast as the only assassin with any type of personality, which means of course he's killed.

WANTED is a perfectly run-of-the-mill action movie that really serves no other purpose except to fill a void in a studio's summer schedule. Which is too bad because with a lot of script work and perhaps a little more free reign for Bekmambetov the message WANTED tries to impart to the audience might have had a little more impact. As it is writing up this review is causing me to like the film less and less.

Best leave it go, then. Do the same.

Wanted (2008)

Going in it was impossible to think the minds behind the new action movie WANTED were going to remain completely faithful to the subversive graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Although the basic theme is retained (break the shackles of your conformist lifestyle to, well, kill a bunch of people), the mechanics by which the film attempts to bring the message home is wrapped in the folds of a MATRIX retread that, despite having a few inspired moments, feels like a case of "been there, done that."

James McAvoy continues to impress as an actor who can take on a broad range of roles. In WANTED he plays the nebbishy Wesley Gibson, a henpecked cubicle slave who has to swallow copious amounts of anti-anxiety medication to deal with his everyday life of a cheating, obnoxious girlfriend, the best friend she's cheating with, and the boss who emphasizes every slander with a click of her red stapler (shades of OFFICE SPACE here). He's soon picked up in a drug store by Angelina Jolie as the aptly named Fox, who tells him that's he the son of a hyper-powered assassin he never knew, and only he has the ability to track down his father's killer. She brings him to a textile mill run by Morgan Freeman, who explains that yes, it is a textile mill, and they are The Fraternity, an order of assassins existing for centuries, whose mission is to kill select people in order to save hundreds, perhaps thousands more.

Oh, and they get their assassination orders from an enormous loom called the Loom of Fate.

This is a pivotal point of the movie. Because although there are earlier moments where WANTED begins to lose some traction, this is the point of no return. If you can get past the fact that everything is determined by a machine that makes sweaters, then this movie is right up your alley. If you look over at the person sitting next to you with a "WTF!?" expression on your face, well, all I can say is join the club.

The rest of WANTED plays about as you'd expect - the obligatory training sequence, the chase for the killer, the revelation that the killer isn't actually the killer - the double-crosses and set pieces are telegraphed a mile away. Which is a shame because director Timur Bekmambetov, who previously helmed the visually stunning NIGHT WATCH and DAY WATCH has some great moments. The opening sequence is reminiscent of the style of his earlier films, and that personal touch appears sporadically throughout the film, helped by the obvious fun both McAvoy and Jolie are having in their roles.

Unfortunately, there's simply too much that falls flat. Morgan Freeman is once again cast playing someone with exactly the same manner so many other of his characters have exhibited over the years. And in a impressively cheap move we get a GOOD SON moment near the film's climax where Freeman's character screams out an expletive that yanks you full force out of the moment with how falsely it rings. Terence Stamp is completely wasted in a role that solely exists to get Wesley from one place to another. Common is used as scowling window dressing and that's it. The only character that gets any love is Konstantin Khabensky, who starred in both WATCH movies and here is cast as the only assassin with any type of personality, which means of course he's killed.

WANTED is a perfectly run-of-the-mill action movie that really serves no other purpose except to fill a void in a studio's summer schedule. Which is too bad because with a lot of script work and perhaps a little more free reign for Bekmambetov the message WANTED tries to impart to the audience might have had a little more impact. As it is writing up this review is causing me to like the film less and less.

Best leave it go, then. Do the same.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

[Rec] (2007)

Chances are you haven't seen [REC] for a number of reasons. 1) It's a Spanish film, and multiplexes don't reserve a lot of space for foreign films. 2) It's currently being remade (surprise surprise) as an American feature this Fall called QUARANTINE, meaning the studios are holding it off for domestic release so as not to spoil the wonder. 3) It's another POV film a la BLAIR WITCH that seems to be having a revival this year with CLOVERFIELD (reviewed here) and George Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD (reviewed next).

If you are at all interested in this type of film, don't wait for the American remake. There are plenty of ways for the enterprising person to find this movie on the Web. See [REC]. It's a damn fine scary piece of entertainment where the chosen method of presentation doesn't distract but rather serves to propel the story along.

Ángela (played by cute-as-a-button Manuela Valasco) is a young late night news journalist of the early morning variety (does that even make sense) on a puff piece, following a group of firemen during a typical night shift. We see her gathering interviews and sequences, wishing something would happen so they can go out and get something more exciting than dinner in the communal dining hall and quick pickup games on the basketball court. She gets her wish when they receive a call to assist a woman trapped in her apartment. The other tenants are huddled in the lobby, gossiping and generally acting like you'd expect a group of neighbors to act. The firemen knock, get no answer and break down the door. An elderly woman sway on unsteady feet at the end of a dark hallway. They (and we, via the camera) move in to assist.

And that's when she bites into the neck of the nearest person. Ouch! Panic takes over, and everyone runs for the exit, only to find it being sealed and guarded by the military. Double ouch!

From here on in you know exactly where this film is going, but the cliches and obvious nods to 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER and Romero's DEAD films work because [REC] is filmed with an enthusiasm and sense of fun that refuses to degenerate into cheap laughs or awkward moments, but instead keeps the movie desperate and on pace. Co-directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, there's a sharp focus on motivation for keeping the camera on (far more successful than we'll see in DIARY OF THE DEAD) and for action instead of explanation. There are plenty of jump moments to keep you from getting complacent, and although the final explanation for what's happening is vague (is it a government virus / demonic possession / zombies?), you're given enough pieces to work out your own satisfactory conclusion. The acting is okay, and we're talking no- as compared to low-budget, but that's part of the charm. [REC] doesn't attempt to offer homilies or observations on society, it serves to scare us, and keep us on the edge of our seat for 75 minutes.

It succeeds, and I can't wait to see how the American version mangles a yet another good idea that worked perfectly fine the first time.

[Rec] (2007)

Chances are you haven't seen [REC] for a number of reasons. 1) It's a Spanish film, and multiplexes don't reserve a lot of space for foreign films. 2) It's currently being remade (surprise surprise) as an American feature this Fall called QUARANTINE, meaning the studios are holding it off for domestic release so as not to spoil the wonder. 3) It's another POV film a la BLAIR WITCH that seems to be having a revival this year with CLOVERFIELD (reviewed here) and George Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD (reviewed next).

If you are at all interested in this type of film, don't wait for the American remake. There are plenty of ways for the enterprising person to find this movie on the Web. See [REC]. It's a damn fine scary piece of entertainment where the chosen method of presentation doesn't distract but rather serves to propel the story along.

Ángela (played by cute-as-a-button Manuela Valasco) is a young late night news journalist of the early morning variety (does that even make sense) on a puff piece, following a group of firemen during a typical night shift. We see her gathering interviews and sequences, wishing something would happen so they can go out and get something more exciting than dinner in the communal dining hall and quick pickup games on the basketball court. She gets her wish when they receive a call to assist a woman trapped in her apartment. The other tenants are huddled in the lobby, gossiping and generally acting like you'd expect a group of neighbors to act. The firemen knock, get no answer and break down the door. An elderly woman sway on unsteady feet at the end of a dark hallway. They (and we, via the camera) move in to assist.

And that's when she bites into the neck of the nearest person. Ouch! Panic takes over, and everyone runs for the exit, only to find it being sealed and guarded by the military. Double ouch!

From here on in you know exactly where this film is going, but the cliches and obvious nods to 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER and Romero's DEAD films work because [REC] is filmed with an enthusiasm and sense of fun that refuses to degenerate into cheap laughs or awkward moments, but instead keeps the movie desperate and on pace. Co-directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, there's a sharp focus on motivation for keeping the camera on (far more successful than we'll see in DIARY OF THE DEAD) and for action instead of explanation. There are plenty of jump moments to keep you from getting complacent, and although the final explanation for what's happening is vague (is it a government virus / demonic possession / zombies?), you're given enough pieces to work out your own satisfactory conclusion. The acting is okay, and we're talking no- as compared to low-budget, but that's part of the charm. [REC] doesn't attempt to offer homilies or observations on society, it serves to scare us, and keep us on the edge of our seat for 75 minutes.

It succeeds, and I can't wait to see how the American version mangles a yet another good idea that worked perfectly fine the first time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Iron Man (2008)

We were weeks late coming to the party and completely unable to get away from the hype in the media, but it didn't matter. Because when the Missus and I finally took our seats and saw IRON MAN, it was like I hadn't read a single review, hadn't seen a single commercial or trailer. Combining the big bang of summer spectacle with snappy dialog and terrific acting, IRON MAN manages to somehow be all things to all people: a fanboy's delight, a delicious serving of eye candy for the ladies, and most importantly (especially after the dearth of quality last year) a truly good summer film.

The Internet's strewn with hundreds of professional and amateur reviews, analysis, and theories as to what makes IRON MAN so great, and the vast majority seem to settle on two major points: the casting and performance of Robert Downey jr. and the inspired choice of Jon Favreau for the director's chair. Downey jr. brings a sense of his own history to the project as Tony Stark, the billionaire genius weapons manufacturer who is violently abducted by terrorists and forced to build a new super missile he was developing for the Army. Forced to confront the fact that his decisions in life have not only brought this situation upon himself, but that the very destruction going on in the world is made possible by his "contributions" to society, Stark's decision to become a superhero feels for the first time in a "superhero" movie earned. I love BATMAN BEGINS, and I love Christian Bale's performance, but where I think IRON MAN wins out (barely) is its ability to have you completely understand Stark's motivations and drive to turn from one life to another. Much of this success is attributable to Downey jr.'s performance - you get all the quirks, humor, and physicality that he's embodied in his best performances (CHAPLIN, KISS KISS BANG BANG, LESS THAN ZERO) but behind that lies the experiences of the first act of the movie, and the revelations that drive him to do what he now must do.

The rest of the cast succeeds in much the same way - instead of A-list celebrities you get consummate actors who can dive into their roles. After being slightly surprised at how high Terence Howard's voice was, his support role as Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes doesn't try to steal scenes or play a bigger part than it needs to - it's the very definition of support, and plays well for an inevitably larger role in the sequel. Jeff Bridges is always great - he gets my vote for best fictional President (in THE CONTENDER). His is another functional part, and he plays it with relish, never quite going over the line. You have no doubt as to where his path will eventually go, but when it does it still manages to surprise and bring some substance rather than typical scenery chewing. And color me crazy, but this has been the best thing I've seen Gwenneth Paltrow do in forever. The chemistry between Pepper Potts and Tony is ridiculously palpable, and their banter and relationship feels like it's been going on for years. The choices made as to what's seen on screen and what's implied work wonderfully, and you hav to feel that had this been handled by lesser hands, we would have had a much less believeable romance.

So let's talk about those hands. Despite having his biggest directing success with Wil Ferrel and ELF, my fondest image of Favreau's directing work is the robot attack in the underrated ZATHURA. In that one sequence all doubts and issues about how he could handle a film like this should have been put aside. He's got the character cred from movies like SWINGERS and MADE, and has consistently gone on record about preferring to go practical over CGI as much as possible so long as it serves the film. It's these choices that make the effects in IRON MAN so great, and also what make those effects and sequences blend so nicely with the character-driven moments.

And when he does pull out all the stops and let the action do the talking, it's breath taking. The scenes of Tony Stark perfecting his MKII suit are hilarious until the moment the suit stands ready and visible for the first time, and everyone on the audience gasps. It's incredible, and one of my favorite moments in the movie. But it still pales to the first time we see the suit with its familiar paint job. Iron Man lands in the middle of a village where the people are in the process of being victimized by the very terrorists who originally abducted Tony. Iron Man's landing, and subsequent rising up for the fist time as a hero is one of the best comic book movie images since Christopher Reeve flew onto the scene in that red cape.

This appears to be the Summer of the Superhero (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THE DARK KNIGHT, HELLBOY II and WANTED all come out in the next few months), and the first time Marvel has taken the reins on its properties. IRON MAN proves to be a pretty high benchmark for the others to reach - let's hope they get there.

Iron Man (2008)

We were weeks late coming to the party and completely unable to get away from the hype in the media, but it didn't matter. Because when the Missus and I finally took our seats and saw IRON MAN, it was like I hadn't read a single review, hadn't seen a single commercial or trailer. Combining the big bang of summer spectacle with snappy dialog and terrific acting, IRON MAN manages to somehow be all things to all people: a fanboy's delight, a delicious serving of eye candy for the ladies, and most importantly (especially after the dearth of quality last year) a truly good summer film.

The Internet's strewn with hundreds of professional and amateur reviews, analysis, and theories as to what makes IRON MAN so great, and the vast majority seem to settle on two major points: the casting and performance of Robert Downey jr. and the inspired choice of Jon Favreau for the director's chair. Downey jr. brings a sense of his own history to the project as Tony Stark, the billionaire genius weapons manufacturer who is violently abducted by terrorists and forced to build a new super missile he was developing for the Army. Forced to confront the fact that his decisions in life have not only brought this situation upon himself, but that the very destruction going on in the world is made possible by his "contributions" to society, Stark's decision to become a superhero feels for the first time in a "superhero" movie earned. I love BATMAN BEGINS, and I love Christian Bale's performance, but where I think IRON MAN wins out (barely) is its ability to have you completely understand Stark's motivations and drive to turn from one life to another. Much of this success is attributable to Downey jr.'s performance - you get all the quirks, humor, and physicality that he's embodied in his best performances (CHAPLIN, KISS KISS BANG BANG, LESS THAN ZERO) but behind that lies the experiences of the first act of the movie, and the revelations that drive him to do what he now must do.

The rest of the cast succeeds in much the same way - instead of A-list celebrities you get consummate actors who can dive into their roles. After being slightly surprised at how high Terence Howard's voice was, his support role as Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes doesn't try to steal scenes or play a bigger part than it needs to - it's the very definition of support, and plays well for an inevitably larger role in the sequel. Jeff Bridges is always great - he gets my vote for best fictional President (in THE CONTENDER). His is another functional part, and he plays it with relish, never quite going over the line. You have no doubt as to where his path will eventually go, but when it does it still manages to surprise and bring some substance rather than typical scenery chewing. And color me crazy, but this has been the best thing I've seen Gwenneth Paltrow do in forever. The chemistry between Pepper Potts and Tony is ridiculously palpable, and their banter and relationship feels like it's been going on for years. The choices made as to what's seen on screen and what's implied work wonderfully, and you hav to feel that had this been handled by lesser hands, we would have had a much less believeable romance.

So let's talk about those hands. Despite having his biggest directing success with Wil Ferrel and ELF, my fondest image of Favreau's directing work is the robot attack in the underrated ZATHURA. In that one sequence all doubts and issues about how he could handle a film like this should have been put aside. He's got the character cred from movies like SWINGERS and MADE, and has consistently gone on record about preferring to go practical over CGI as much as possible so long as it serves the film. It's these choices that make the effects in IRON MAN so great, and also what make those effects and sequences blend so nicely with the character-driven moments.

And when he does pull out all the stops and let the action do the talking, it's breath taking. The scenes of Tony Stark perfecting his MKII suit are hilarious until the moment the suit stands ready and visible for the first time, and everyone on the audience gasps. It's incredible, and one of my favorite moments in the movie. But it still pales to the first time we see the suit with its familiar paint job. Iron Man lands in the middle of a village where the people are in the process of being victimized by the very terrorists who originally abducted Tony. Iron Man's landing, and subsequent rising up for the fist time as a hero is one of the best comic book movie images since Christopher Reeve flew onto the scene in that red cape.

This appears to be the Summer of the Superhero (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THE DARK KNIGHT, HELLBOY II and WANTED all come out in the next few months), and the first time Marvel has taken the reins on its properties. IRON MAN proves to be a pretty high benchmark for the others to reach - let's hope they get there.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Scalzi's New Sci-Fi Classics

He's a man of many hats. Besides being a great writer and pioneering blogger, John Scalzi is also now a weekly columnist for American Movie Classics' SciFi Scanner, a site dedicated to "science fiction movies, news, and discussion." His most recent column discusses the results of the American Film Institute's Top 10 Science Fiction Movies, noting that the choices stop after 1991.

Were there any great science fiction films after 1991? Scalzi thinks so, and has decided to make a Top 10 List comprised of films after '91. The catch? He'll list five of his - the rest are up to you.

Here's the link to his original post. My additions to the list are below:
  1. DARK CITY - Between this and THE CROW, Alex Proyas has done more for black leather outfits than a million S&M shops. Intelligent, great effects, and beautifully shot with the wackiest Kiefer Sutherland performance not captured by police video.
  2. PRIMER - Yeah, it doesn't really scream "Excitement" but the strength of PRIMER lies in its ability to treat time travel in a unique fashion and not simply use it as a crutch to keep a plot from crumbling.
  3. MINORITY REPORT - It's between this and BLADE RUNNER for Best Film Made of of a PKD story. Not as in "closest adaptation" but as "this is a great film that happens to have come from a PKD story." Does anyone do ideas and action combined better than Steven Spielberg?
  4. THE FOUNTAIN - One of the most visually stunning films to come out in the past 10 years. A wonderful love story stretched across time, I include this because visually it's something we hadn't seen in a long time.
  5. CITY OF LOST CHILDREN - It's a fairy tale stuck inside a rusty coating of steam punk SF. It's got Ron Perlman. It's got evil Siamese twins. It's got the cutest, most precocious kids you'll find outside of the Little Rascals. It's French. I adore this movie.

I left out superhero movies from my list, just because I feel like that's a genre unto itself (and I shudder for actually using "unto" in a sentence). So even though I love Scalzi's list, I'd replace THE INCREDIBLES (which WOULD make my top 5 superhero movies of all time) and replace it with Brad Bird's IRON GIANT. Best 1950's SF movie to be made after the 1950's.

Other films that could have easily made the list? SERENITY (though I prefer the show to the movie), CONTACT (thanks for the reminder, Jason), and as a lot of others mentioned in their comments, GALAXY QUEST. I can forgive Tim Allen a hundred SANTA CLAUS sequels on the basis of this movie.

Anyone got anything to add? Disagree? Access Scalzi's article and fire away.