Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Who will host the Academy Awards?

Billy Crystal and Chris Rock have both said they won't be hosting the Academy Awards show this time around.

Just to put everyone at ease over this matter, I have yet to decline to host the show.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not all Bin Ladens are hairy, child-raping lunatics

Happy New Year to all Osama bin Laden fans!

Osama bin Laden's niece bares much in GQ spread for Jan. 2006 issue
'My values are like yours,’ she says, distancing herself from al-Qaida leader

NEW YORK - Osama bin Laden’s niece, in an interview with GQ magazine in which she appears scantily clad, says she has nothing in common with the al-Qaida leader and simply wants acceptance by Americans.

“Everyone relates me to that man, and I have nothing to do with him,” Wafah Dufour, the daughter of bin Laden’s half brother, Yeslam Binladin, says in the January edition of the magazine, referring to the al-Qaida leader.

“I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody’s judging me and rejecting me,” said the California-born Dufour, a musician and law school graduate who lives in New York. “Come on, where’s the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced, because my values are like yours. And I’m here. I’m not hiding.”

Dufour, who adopted her mother’s maiden name after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that have been blamed on bin Laden, appears in several provocative photos in the magazine.

The pictures are likely to be considered obscene by conservative Muslims in and outside of Saudi Arabia where women are required to be veiled.
Asked if she would like to perform her music in the Middle East, Dufour says her mother, Carmen Dufour, would be too afraid that “someone would want to kill me.”

“Listen, I would love to raise consciousness. Maybe women could hear the songs and realize that I’m doing my dream and hopefully they can, too,” she said.

Yeslam and Osama are among 54 children of the late Saudi construction magnate Mohammed bin Laden and his 22 wives. The extended family includes several hundred people.

Binladin, who received Swiss citizenship in 2001, has condemned his half brother “for his acts and his convictions.” He intentionally spells his name differently from his half brother.

In the interview, Dufour says she would not date a fundamentalist Muslim and that she cried hysterically when she witnessed the attacks on New York while staying with her mother in Geneva.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

'Eiger Sanction' author dead at 74

Author Rodney William Whitaker died in the UK on Wednesday 14 December of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 74.

The writer is most well-known under the pseudonym Trevanian and his novels include "The Eiger Sanction" (which was made into a film starring Clint Eastwood), "The Loo Sanction," "The Summer of Katya" and "Shibumi".

According to the "Los Angeles Times", Whitaker is survived by his wife, Diane Brandon Whitaker; two sons, Lance and Christian; and two daughters, Alexandra and Tomasin.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Richard Pryor dead at 65

LOS ANGELES - Richard Pryor startled audiences with his foul-mouthed routines, but his universal and frequently personal insights propelled him into one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

The pioneering comedian, whose audacious style influenced generations of standup artists, died Saturday of a heart attack at age 65, said his business manager, Karen Finch. He had been ill for years with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system.

"By expressing his heart, anger and joy, Richard Pryor took comedy to its highest form," Steve Martin said.

A series of hit comedies and concert films in the '70s and '80s helped make Pryor one of Hollywood's highest paid stars, and he was one of the first black performers with enough leverage to cut his own deals. In 1983, he signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures.

His films included "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak," "Which Way Is Up?" and "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip."

Monday, December 5, 2005

Jack Colvin dead at 71

LOS ANGELES - Actor Jack Colvin, best known for his role as tabloid reporter Jack McGee in the 1970s television series "The Incredible Hulk," has died. He was 71.

Colvin died Thursday in North Hollywood of complications following a stroke, said his longtime friend, actress Maaren Edvard, an instructor and administrator at Michael Chekhov Studio USA West, which was founded by Colvin.

"Jack was, in every sense of the word, a consummate artist," Edvard said. "He wrote, painted and read philosophy, but he always came back to acting."

Colvin appeared in numerous TV shows, including "The Rat Patrol," "Kojak," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Rockford Files," "Cagney and Lacey" and "Murder, She Wrote." He also had minor roles in several films, including "Scorpio" and "Rooster Cogburn."

He had a long history as a stage actor when he was approached about the "Hulk" role in 1977. The series, based on the Marvel Comics character, aired on CBS until 1982.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

'Aeon Flux' is better than the marketing campaign makes it seem

Aeon Flux (2005)
Starring: Charlize Theron and Marton Csokas
Director: Karyn Kusama
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

The Monican rebels start wanting freedom from Chairman Trevor Goodchild's (Csokas) rigid system of government in the utopian citystate of Bregna, but when they send their best agent Aeon Flux (Theron) on a mission to assassinate him, she learns that there is something far more sinister lurking behind the walls of Goodchild's citadel than anyone had imagined. Ignoring the orders of her superiors, she instead launches a quest to uncover the dark secrets of Goodhild and even her own existence. She soon finds herself forced to rethink everything she thought was true, and she eventually must ally with the she believed to be her greatest enemy, Goodchild, if she is to survive.

The previews and television ads for "Aeon Flux" are misleading. They make the film appear like a clone of "The Matrix" or perhaps even "Demoltion Man," with a bit of stereotypical Hollywood revenge story thrown in. I say this is a sign that the studio is mismarketing this flick, as they made me think this was yet another example of movie makers buying a property and "improving" upon it by dumping everything that made it cool, so I almost didn't go see it.

In truth, "Aeon Flux" is a faithful adaptation of the animated series it is based on, with enough back story and additional elements added to make it sensible and worthwhile viewing if you walk in cold with no knowledge of the original series. It's got the same over-the-top stunts and action of the animated series, plus an often-times surrealistic atmosphere.

The bizarre technology of the far-future Bregnan society and the rebels that battle against it is perhaps embodied even better in the live action film than the original series. While some of the costumes made me shake my head a bit (shades of bad "Star Trek: The Next Generation" copies in some cases), the look and feel of the "Aeon Flux" world from the cartoon was also brought over faithfully, with the gorgeous Relicary, the private homes of Bregnan citizens, the food and drink that is consumed, and the towering spires around Goodchild's citadel being particularly well-done.

The oddness and often dreamlike sense that runs through everything in the "Aeon Flux" world works both for and against the movie,just like it did in the animated series. I thought "Aeon Flux" was at its best when it was presented as short films; when MTV expanded the episodes into a half-hour format, most of them were more belabored than intriguing. That same sensation started to set in for me about an hour into the film... but it only lasted for a little bit, because the filmmakers then started building toward the climax and they got my attention again.

The acting is hard to comment on in the film, because the characters in it behave as they do in the original series--almost serenely calm even while trying to kill each other. No one that appeared on screen did a particularly bad job, and I thought that both Theron and Csokas were excellent at conveying emotions despite the required restraint of the characters.

All in all, I think this is a good and interesting movie. Not a great one, but I also don't think it's as bad as I am certain critics and movie-goers are going to claim it is.

The real problem with "Aeon Flux" is in the marketing, because it sets up expectations that this movie doesn't deliver. Instead, the marketeers should have played up the conspiracy, dark secrets, and "what is the meaning of life, duty, and freedom" angles that are contained in the film, instead of focusing on a hackneyed "she was the government's top assassin... until they betrayed her!" plot element that in truth isn't even really present in the film. I think this movie, sadly, is going to bomb in the theatres, but it will truly be discovered by audiences when it appears on DVD.

For a brief summary of the original Aeon Flux (and stats for the "Big Eyes, Small Mouth" RPG), "blank">visit this page at my website.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Jackson will be at home in Persian Gulf

Well... it looks like Michael Jackson is going to feel right at home in the Persian Gulf. He won't even have to hide his Jew-hating theories and opinions. He might even be able to incorporate them into a concert tour.


Tape of Michael Jackson's anti-semitic rant released

Pop superstar Michael Jackson must apologize for allegedly making a series of anti-Semitic comments on a voicemail message, the US Anti-Defamation League (ADL) demanded on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a tape purportedly featuring Jackson leaving a message for his former advisor Dieter Wiesner two years ago was aired on TV show Good Morning America. On it, the man - alleged to be Jackson - says, "They (Jews) suck. They're like leeches... I'm so tired of it... they start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars and everything. End up penniless. It is conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose."

In response, ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement: "Michael Jackson has an anti-Semitic streak and hasn't learned from his past mistakes. It seems every time he has a problem in his life, he blames it on Jews."

In his 1996 song "They Don't Care About Us," Jackson sang, "Jew me, sue me," and "kick me, kike me". At the time, the singer apologized, explaining the lyrics had been intended as anti-racist.

The controversial tape was released by Wiesner's lawyer Howard King. On Monday Wiesner filed a $64 million lawsuit against Jackson, claiming fraud and breach of contract. Jackson had no comment yesterday, according to his spokeswoman Raymone K. Bain, writes the New York Daily News.

One has to wonder. What stripe of stupid does a public figure have to be in order to leave this sort of stuff on an answering machine? Perhaps someone who believes the crap about the eeeevil international Jewish conspiracy is true?

Maybe Jackson isn't just a pervert... maybe he's a delusional pervert.

(Note: I think the ADL is being a bit hysterical and pointless in this matter. What good does demanding an apology from a crazy pervert hiding out in the Middle East do? If anything, it'll make him a bigger hero among the troglodytes down there.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's the hottest joint in town!

Second stripping-related fire article in a month. I'm sensing a trend...

Safety test burns club to ground 
A strip club owner burned his club to the ground while trying to prove it was fire-proof to health and safety inspectors. 
Benedict Frank, owner of the Cabaret Club in Kienberg, Switzerland, started the blaze to show how fire-proof it was when he was visited by safety inspectors. 
They had questioned whether his decorations were in accordance with fire safety rules, and he used his lighter to set fire to the paper ornaments in a bid to prove there was nothing to worry about. 
But the fire quickly took off and spread throughout the club and the neighbouring restaurant - burning both establishments to the ground.
According to local police no one was hurt in the fire, but the damage amounts to more than £300,000.

Friday, November 18, 2005

No such thing as a criminal mastermind?

You're a con man. You make your living bilking people and moving on. What aside from abject idiocy would make you go on a nationally televised game show?


Conman caught - on reality TV

A Russian fraudster has been jailed after one of his victims spotted him on a reality TV show.

Alexei Adeev, 26, was jailed for four and a half years after a woman he had cheated out of £1,100 in a property scam spotted him on the Russian reality show House-2: Build Your Love.

The woman, not named for privacy reasons, said Adeev, who in the past served a jail sentence for car theft and bribing an official, had fled with the money after she gave it to him as a deposit for a house in Smolensk.

Adeev's jail sentence comes just months after Russian MPs called for the reality show to be banned and its hosts put on trial for organised prostitution and pimping.

They said the show, which aims to pair off contestants by the end of the series, was doing serious damage to the morals of Russia's youth.

They said the show's rules encouraged participants to have sex live on air and pointed out that one of the show's participants, Yelena Berkova, had a past career as a porn star.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hottest strip act ever!

I see the tragedy of the two burn victims in this story, but I'm still snickering.

Oh... and I feel for the poor stripper, too.


Fire eater set stripper's boobs alight

A fire eater has been given a suspended jail sentence for setting a stripper's boobs on fire.

Dancer Maria Leeb, 27, was tied to a pole wearing just her g-string while her fire-eating partner blew flames at her.

But the hot new act in a lap-dancing club in Augsburg, Germany, came to a painful end when her naked breasts went up in flames.

Flame thrower Marc Miszler, 22, was handed a 10 month suspended jail sentence for grievous bodily harm by the Augsburg County Court.

"I shouted at him that he was getting too close, but he didn't stop. The oil and glitter that I rubbed on my body must have caught on fire and all I could see were flames," said Ms Leeb.

She suffered burns across her breasts and was treated at a local hospital.

Mostapha Akkad and family murdered

Every so often, I come across some Hollywood jackass who is all upset about how the human rights of terrorists aren't being respected by the US and other governments.

Where was the concern for Rima Akkad's human rights when the sick fuck blew himself up at the center of the ballroom where the wedding party was taking place?

From the AP...

'Halloween' Producer Akkad Dies in Jordan
By SHAFIKA MATTAR (Associated Press Writer)

From Associated Press
November 11, 2005 10:36 AM EST

AMMAN, Jordan - Moustapha Akkad, the Syrian-born filmmaker and producer of the "Halloween" horror movie franchise, died Friday from wounds sustained in the triple hotel bombings in Jordan. He was 75. His daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, 34, also was killed.

Akkad, who lived in Los Angeles, was in Jordan with his daughter to attend a wedding. He died in the Jordanian hospital where he was being treated.

The two were at the wedding celebration at the Radisson SAS Wednesday night when suicide bombers struck it, the Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn in downtown Amman, killing at least 59 people including the three attackers. Rima Akkad Monla, who lives in Beirut, Lebanon, was killed immediately.

Born in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in July 1930, the eldest of eight siblings, Akkad gained fame as a director and producer in the Arab world and West. After finishing his secondary studies in Syria, he left for America in 1950 to study film making, according to his sister.

He was best known for producing all eight "Halloween" films, starting with the 1979 "Halloween" directed by John Carpenter and starring then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis. That movie - and the ones that followed - sparked the teen-slasher-horror genre that led to franchises including "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street."

Akkad also produced and directed "The Message" (1976), a film about Islam's prophet, Mohammed, and "Lion of the Desert" (1981), which tells the story of a Muslim rebel who fought against the Italy's World War II conquest of Libya. Both starred Anthony Quinn.

"The Message" was declared sacrilegious by a group of black American Muslims, who took hostages in three Washington, D.C. locations when the movie opened in the United States in March 1977, demanding it not be shown in America.

Akkad said he was baffled by the reaction to the movie, which he said cost $17 million to make. It also was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score.

"I did the film because it is a personal thing for me. ... Being a Muslim myself who lived in the West, I felt that it was my obligation, my duty to tell the truth about Islam.

"It (Islam) is a religion that has a 700 million following, yet it's so little known about, which surprised me. I thought I should tell the story that will bring this (history) to the West," he added.

Akkad said he turned to the horror genre because it was hard to raise money for religious-themed movies, according to a 1998 New York Times report.

A woman who answered the telephone at Akkad's Los Angeles home early Friday said she was too upset to talk. A telephone message left at the Los Angeles-area home of Akkad's ex-wife, Patricia, was not immediately returned. She left for Lebanon late Thursday.

The couple's daughter, Rima, grew up in Los Angeles an avid polo player who graduated from the University of Southern California in 1995 with a degree in international relations.

She pursued a master's degree in Middle East studies at the American University in Beirut, where she met her husband Ziad Monla, 35. Her husband's family owns the Monla Hospital in Tripoli, Lebanon. The couple, married for six years, has two sons, ages 2 and 4.

"Rima is a totally American girl," Patricia Akkad, 64, said Thursday in a phone interview from Los Angeles. "Here's an American who was over there and innocently killed for no reason."

She said her daughter loved living in Beirut.

"We all know the problems in the Middle East, and you never think it's going to touch you," she said.

Akkad's sister called for an end to terrorist attacks on civilians.

"I feel sad and the world feels sorrow with us. This kind of incident rarely happens, but it has happened with Moustapha Akkad," Leila Akkad told AP in a telephone interview. "These attacks are chaotic and do not differentiate an enemy from a friend. A solution must be found to this problem."

With the death of his daughter, Rima, Akkad is survived by three sons, Tarek, Malek and Zeido.

Funeral services for Rima Akkad Monla were scheduled for Friday in Tripoli. Services for Akkad were scheduled Sunday in his hometown of Aleppo, his sister.


Associated Press writers Shafika Mattar in Amman, Jordan, and Ian Gregor in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Inferior remake of an excellent animated series

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku: Dash! - Vol. 1 (1998)
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Fourteen-year-old Ryonoske has a problem: His raging hormones have him lusting for the orphaned amnesiac girl--nicknamed Nuku-Nuku--that his father has brought in as a house-keeper. Unfortunately, she is completely oblivious to his desire for her... and in fact any of the designs that men and others have on her. Because Nuku-Nuku is secretly a hi-tech battledroid that Ryonoske's father has stoken from the arms-manufacturer that his wife works for! To make matters more complicated, his wife is put in charge of finding and recovering the missing battledroid.

I loved the original six-episode "All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku-Nuku" series--I thought it was hilarious, with characters that were sweet and likable... even the bad guys! It's a great series for both adults and kids. "Dash!" is a sad, distorted shadow of that original series.

"All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku: Dash!" is a remake of the original series that features the same characters, but their posiitons in the story have changed, some of their motivations have changed, and Nuku-Nuku has been completely reinvented. Yeah, she's still a robot with a partial cat-brain, but she's also a superhero, complete with transformation and the ability to fire ill-defined explosive beams from her hands.

Everything about "Dash" is either inferior or tacky when compared to the original series. All sweetness has been removed from the series, with the transformation of Ryunoske from a boy from a broken home who wants to see his parents reunite, to a horny 14-year-old who is lusting after Nuku-Nuku. Nuku-Nuku herself is little more than an empty-headed, "perfect woman" whose role barely extends beyond providing jiggling boobs and fight scenes. (Worse, much of the boob jiggling is provided through footage that is recycled at least once every episode.) To add insult to injury, the animation quality is inferior to the original series as well.

As much as I loved the original "Nuku-Nuku," I dislike this remake. Like the "Tenchi" series degraded from the original to be worse with each successive remake, so it seems is the "Nuku-Nuku" property. While the "Tenchi" remakes at least managed to keep their heart--remaining tales of family and friendship--"Nuku-Nuku" was stripped of everything that made it good right out of the remake's starting gate. The creators giving Nuku-Nuku a boob job and a dye-job were just surface reflections of the way the remake abandoned everything that made the initial series worth watching.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Lloyd Bochner dead at 81

Television actor Lloyd Bochner has died at the age of 81. The Canadian actor, who played Cecil Colby in the epic US soap saga "Dynasty", lost his battle with cancer and passed away at his home in Santa Monica on Saturday, October 30, 2005.

Bochner was also known for his roles in the "Mission: Impossible" television series, "Columbo" and the original "Battlestar Galactica."

Monday, October 24, 2005

Michael Jackson to go where he can
fondle whatever he wants (so long as he's behind the palace wall)

I feel sorry for the kids who will be sating Michael Jackson's need for young boys, but I'm glad to see that there won't be anymore mockeries made of the American legal system that involves him and his twisted ways.

(Yeah, he was found "Not Guilty," but he was found Not Guilty on all counts, including ones that he was undoubtely guilty of, such as administering alcohol to a minor. That Not Guilty verdict was laughable.)

From the AP... the tale of Jackson going to a place where he can perverted without fear of ever having to answer for his activities.

Jackson To Make Bahrain His Permanent Home

Superstar Michael Jackson has fallen in love with Bahrain after spending the summer in the Middle Eastern nation and now plans to make it his permanent home.

The King of Pop flew to Bahrain shortly after being acquitted of child molestation in a Santa Maria, California court and spent time there as a guest of the crown prince Sheik Salman Ibn Hamed Khalifa. And, after months of speculation suggesting Jackson is planning to sell his Neverland home in California, and make Bahrain his official headquarters, attorney Thomas Mesereau confirms his client is making a life-changing move.

He says, "He's moving on in life. He's living permanently in Bahrain. He has friends there who have been very loyal and helpful to him in a difficult period of his life."

Mesereau, who represented Jackson in his child molestation trial, insists the Middle East has been a tonic for the King of Pop. He adds, "He looks really well."

"Non-flipped" manga are BAD translations

Over the past few years, I've been saving a great deal of money on English-language reprints of Japanese comics (or "manga" as marketing departments and geeky fans tell us they should be called).

I haven't been saving the money because of cheaper prices, I've been saving that money because of badly done translations. In other words, there are plently of manga I'd be buying if the English-language publishers could be bothered to do decent translations. As it is, I'm not parting with my cash.

English is meant to be read left to right. I really, truly don't care that Japanese is read right to left, and the cheap-ass, non-flipped translations don't impress me. These shoddy efforts tick me off even more that the laziness reflected in the way many publishers aren't even bothering to translate (and in some cases not even bothering to footnote) the sound effects, which sometimes are sometimes necessary to fully get what is happening in a sceneIt might give hardcore geeks a warm and fuzzy feeling as they delude themselves into thinking that they are reading the comics as "they were intended" while all they're doing is helping the bottom line of the importers. If they really wanted to read the comics as they were intended, they would learn to read Japanese. (To her credit, the daughter of a co-worker is actually doing just that.)

I swallowed my disgust and annoyance to buy "Kindiachi Mysteries" (and I'm sure there will be others) but I would have enjoyed them alot more if Tokyo Pop could have been bothered to do a decent translation of them.

Dark Horse and Studio Proteus used to do top-notch translations. They would mirror ('flip" the artwork, except in cases where the panel needed to say in its original format, and then they would translate the sound effects and retouch the art. Now, Dark Horse has jumped on the cost-cutting, bad translation bandwagon. The "Oh, My Goddess!" series will now longer be presented in accordance with how English-language books are supposed to be read.

I think this is a tremendous shame. I think it's an even bigger shame that comic book readers are willing to let themselves get ripped off because they've bought into the myth that "manga" is more than Japanese for "comics."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Famous people deserve to get beat up because they're famous?

This past weekend, a pro-football player from Seattle's team, the Seahawks, was beaten and then kicked when he was down to the point that he ended up in the hospital in a coma. He was attacked outside a bar in Seattle's Party Central, Pioneer Square.

Driving around today, I heard an jackass radio talk-host say what essentially boiled down to the opinion that Hamlin deserved to get beat nearly to death, because a multi-millionaire celebrity like him shouldn't be out partying on a Sunday night.

Where the HELL was that host coming from?! Hamlin has just as much a right to go out with his girlfriend as I have to go out with mine, and as much right as you have to go out with your friends and loved ones. Just because someone is well-known or rich doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to lead their lives unmolested by human vermin.

Now, if Hamlin instigated the fight, maybe it's a slightly different issue. But there is security camera video tape of the assholes he was fighting stomping on him after he was down. That removes it from any realm of "it was his fault." And the attackers shouldn't get ANY sort of break just because Hamlin's famous.

(BTW, I never watch football, and I have no idea who Hamlin is other than what I've heard in the news.[And when I first heard it, I thought it was Colorado talkshow host Ken Hamblin who had been beat up in Pioneer Square! I was just appalled by that host's attitude.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Flying the unfriendly skies...

Red Eye (2005)
Starring: Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy
Director: Wes Craven
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Early in 2005, I raved about Wes Craven's "Cursed." Now, he's provided another great flick, but one where he's abandoned what has become his signature toungue-in-cheek horror efforts. With "Red Eye", Craven instead provides us with a thriller that stands up to comparison with some of Alfred Hitchcock's best efforts.

The majority of the film tales place in the cramped confines of a red-eye flight from Texas to Florida, as hotel manager Lisa (McAdams) is heading back home. She ends up seated to a charming young named Jackson (Murphy). It turns out that the meeting was anything but chance--Jackson has been watching Lisa for weeks, and he is about to force her to make a cell-call to make her assistant switch the room of a US government official staying at her hotel so assassins can kill him. Lisa is given a choice: Cooperate or have her own father be the murder victim.

"Red Eye" doesn't break any new ground, but it does what it does extremely well. The tension never lets up from the moment Jackson's true nature is first revealed, and the excellent performances by McAdams and Murphy are so engaging that the viewer's attention is never allowed to wander for a second.

If you love thrillers of the Hitchcockian variety, "Red Eye" is a must-see. It also proves that Wes Craven can still direct films aside from goofy, self-referential horror flicks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Fabulous anime fantasy series

Mask of Zeguy (1997)
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

"Mask of Zeguy" was originally made as a two-part animated series, although here it is contained on one disc. It features a solid storyline about Miki, a teenaged dscendent of a powerful priestess who is is drawn into the World of the Clouds, a magical realm where she becomes embroiled in a battle to save both it and Earth.

This is a low-priced DVD, with good animations quality, interesting ideas, and plenty of action and twists and turns within a story that should appeal to both girls and boys.

One of the things that I found most appealing was the design of the World in the Clouds... it was a fascinating "what if Leonardo DaVinchi's more offbeat creations actually worked"/magic steam-punk kind of place.

The only caveat to "Mask of Zeguy" is that its storyline assumes alot of knowledge of Japanese history and classic poetry. Some of the figures that Miki meets are well-known Japanese historical/mythical figures, and some of the villians' plans are likewise probably only fully understood with some grounding in Japanese culture. That said, I don't think I have much more knowledge of Japanese history and culture than most Americans, and I enjoyed "Mask of Zeguy," so I'm sure others will, too.

On a note that isn't related so much to the cartoon as it is to its marketing, "Mask of Zeguy" was originally released in the U.S. as simply "Zeguy" (back in 1997). That title makes alot more sense than that given to the current edition--"Zeguy" is a Japanese word that translates, roughly, into "Wow!" or "Amazing!" There is no character in the show named Zeguy, nor is there any "Mask of Wow" anywhere in the program. It looks to me like someone in the marketing department decided the title needed to be punched up, and that he was making his decisions based solely on promo art for the product.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

God is a television critic?

I hope Mrs. Fiorillo will take her new lease on life and decide to skip EVERY Oprah broadcast for the rest of her life. If there's anything worse than a reality series, it's anything featuring Oprah.

From the AP...

Skipping 'Oprah' May Have Saved Woman

October 05, 2005 8:12 PM EDT

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Angelique Fiorillo says the boulder that crashed through one wall of her second-story apartment and out another might have struck her if she'd been in her usual spot watching "Oprah."

Fiorillo said she was in a neighbor's apartment when the table-size rock thundered down Red Mountain Tuesday afternoon.

"We're like, 'Oh my God, what is that?'" she said.

Her husband was at work. Her two cats, Odin and Loki, took cover under a bedroom dresser and were unhurt.

Rain had apparently loosened the mountainside and unleashed a slide that sent the boulder bouncing down the mountainside, glancing off tree branches and then crashing through a corner of Fiorillo's apartment. It landed on the grass lawn outside, leaving a trail of debris indoors and out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

'Explorer Woman Ray' is two-parter
that starts strong, but fades fast

In this two-part direct-to-video animated series, a pair of twin sisters join up with adventuring archelologist Ray. In the process, they avenge dead parents and keep a powerful, ancient South American treasure from falling into the hands of those who would use it for evil.

The first half of this hour-long (the first episode) tape is pretty entertaining. It's got good animation, nice Indiana Jones-like adventuring, and a nice conflict between Ray and her overbearing, blondhaired arch-nemesis. The second half (the second episode), unfortunately, shows a sharp drop in animation quality. There's more action and drama than in the first half, but the bad animation weighs it down, and it manages to pull the whole package down from what could have been a Six Rating to a Four.

(From the Inappropriate Thought Department: I keep wanting to pronounce the name of the busty lead character in a fashion with the old racist jokes involving "flied lice." :) )

Thursday, May 5, 2005

'Three Amigos' is a true comedy classic

Three Amigos! (1986)
Starring: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Patrice Martinez, Alfonso Arau, and Tony Plano
Director: John Landis
Steve's Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When three fading stars of the silent picture era (Martin, Chase, and Short) receive a request to travel to a Mexican village in the personas of their most famous characters--western heroes "The Three Amigos"--they jump at the chance. Little do they know that the villagers don't think they're hiring three worn-out hams, but that they believe they're hiring gun-toting heroes that will drive away El Gaupo (Arau) and his gang of banditos who have been terrorizing them.

"Three Amigos!" is a fun romp, with plenty of physical comedy, fun dialogue, and characters that are funny because they are either too natty or simply stupid. The movie occasionally strays a little bit too far into utter silliness, but it is overall well-crafted with some great gags. The plot--shleps who are thrust into positions of great responsibility and danger due to a mistake, rise to become the heroes they were mistaken for--is a well-worn one, but it has rarely been done so well as in "Three Amigos!"

Out of the three stars, it is obvious even here that Martin is the most talented... and almost 20 years later, he's the only who isn't a has-been like the character he portrays in the film. Martin is extremely funny both when doing physical comedy and delivering funny lines. Martin is given a run for his money by Arau and Plano, who are hilarious as the lead bandits, who outshine stars Chase and Short with their comedic exchanges.

"Three Amigos!" is a comedy classic despite its few flaws, so I recommend it highly.

(And happy Cinco de Mayo!)

Saturday, February 5, 2005

'Hide and Seek' can remain undiscovered

Hide and Seek (2005)
Starring: Robert DeNiro and Dakota Fanning
Director: John Polson
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Robert DeNiro plays a psychiatrist whose wife commits suicide one night, apparently completely out of the blue. His young daughter (Fanning) is deeply traumatized by the event, so the widower relocates her and himself to an isolated country house so they can both get a fresh start. Soon after they arrive, the daughter's behavior becomes increasingly irratic. Things grow ever worse when she picks up an invisible friend named Charlie... and things get really and Charlie starts doing destructive and violent things.

I've written that capsule summary before, for a different movie. For several different movies, in fact. And most of the times I've written that summary, it's been for a movie that started out promising but fell apart in the end.

And, boy, does "Hide and Seek" fall apart at the end. It starts strong, it builds, it looks like it might make it... and then in the final act it simply collapses.

"Hide and Seek" is another entry in the ongoing pagent of thrillers with twist-endings that I'm sure the writers and directors think are oh-so-clever, but which really are oh-so-stupid and oh-so-predictable. In the case of "Hide and Seek," the twist-ending which is supposed to be oh-so-clever falls completely flat because a) it could only occur in a world where EVERYONE has the intelligence of fruit flies, b) it drags on and on and on and on, and c) unless the secret of the twist-ending was already a staple of life in the family's household before the death of the wife [which the movie implies that it was not], the character played by Fanning is old enough that she would have had a different approach to dealing with her father and Charlie than she does in the movie (but that circles back to the 'characters are dumb as fruit-flies' problem).

"Hide and Seek" is another thriller with supernatural overtones that would have been much, much better if the filmmakers had recognized that just because you think you're clever doesn't mean you are. It could certainly have benefitted from another draft or two by someone who can actually tell a decent twist-ending story. As it is, a campfire story like "The Hook" is more satisfying.

(I will give Dakota Fanning high marks for being a creepy little kid. She does a great job, and she's worth a full Tomato. Deniro, unfortunately, overacts something fierce.)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

'Golden Age Sandman' is comics history,
but it still disappointed

Golden Age Sandman Archives, Vol. 1 (DC Comics, 2004)
Writer: Gardner Fox, Ogden Whitney,
Artists: Bert Christman, Creig Flessel,
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

From the first time I saw him in an issue of "Justice League of America" (during one of those way cool crossovers between Earth One and Earth Two that were an annual tradition in that title), I had all sorts of ideas for the Golden Age Sandman. There was just something about his look I liked. I wanted to see more of him, and I made up my own stories. I even submitted a couple story proposals to DC Comics in the early 1990s, but they were rejected.

When the Sandman was revived in "Sandman Mystery Theater", I followed the title until the very end. I was disappointed that it didn't have the feel of the old-time movies from the 1930s and 1940s, but it was decent enough. I also didn't quite like the way Wesley Dodds was portrayed, but mostly because he didn't fit with how I'd imagined he should be.

But, the Sandman still remained a visual favorite of mine, so when I saw that DC had released the earliest tales as part of their Archive Edition series, I had to get it.

Unfortunately, the Golden Age Sandman is still better in my imagination than he's ever been in print.

The tales presented in this hardbound book are interesting historical artifacts as far as the development of the comic book medium goes, but they really are not all that good. They have the choppiness of a newspaper strip that was a frequent weakness of early comics, and they feature artwork which is only slightly better than the norm of the day. Worse, the recycling and swiping of panels that artists did to keep their deadlines is embarrassingly evident in several stories.

All that said, the stories are better than a lot of those found in comics from the early 1940s, and the reprinted covers are very cool.

I don't regret buying the book, but it's hard for me to recommend to others unless you're a Big Time Fan of early Golden Age comics. AS much as I remain enamoured by the look of the Golden Age Sandman, this material simply doesn't warrant the upscale format it's presented in... nor the $50 price tag.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pauly Shore is dead, but funnier than ever

Pauly Shore is Dead (2003)
Starring: Pauly Shore, Todd Bridges, and a host of other known faces
Director: Pauly Shore
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

With his career beyond hope of salvage, comedian Pauly Shore decides to fake his own death since, as his guardian angel--Sam Kinison--tells him, "it's better to be a dead genius than a live idiot." And, sure enough, once he is believed dead, Pauley goes from entertainment industry pariah to highly praised genius who everyone suddenly misses.

"Pauly Shore is Dead" is a comedic and bitter look at the fickleness of the public and the entertainment industry and a commentary on how quickly fortunes turn for those in the spotlight. Written, directed, produced, and starring Shore as himself, it is a venomous toward just about everyone, including Pauly Shore's own fans, who are represented by a family of shack-dwelling retards.

The film's biggest weakness is that it suffers from a voice problem. In many parts of the film, it's clear that we are watching performers doing comedy--even self-mocking comedy. At other times, the film takes on a documentary feel, like "This is Spinal Tap" or "Drop Dead Gorgeous." This lack of focus keeps viewers from getting involved with the simple story of the film, so while it's hard not to feel sympathetic toward someone who only wants to be liked, there isn't enough cohesion for the viewer to get involved with Pauly until the film's almost over. (And, having had a brief taste of fame myself, I can perhaps relate to where Shore is coming from than most people... and even *I* was not feeling particularly interested for most of the film.)

I get a sense that maybe Shore has a future as a filmmaker. I think he'd do well trying his hand at a true faux documentary (like "Best of Show" or "A Mighty Wind" or the two aforementioned films). "Pauly Shore is Dead" was at its best when it had that sort of feel to it, and it was at its weakest when it strayed into obviously staged bits (even if one of the funniest moments in the film was of that category... when Pauly meets Rico Suave who has been reduced to selling oranges on a highway overpass).