Monday, December 19, 2005
I just finished reading Dark Lord: the Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno. It's supposed to be the story of what happens to Vader immediately following the events of Revenge of the Sith.
So you'd have thought the book would have introduced Vader somewhere before page 50. Or that at least half the book would have involved him.
No such luck.
Rediculously, most of the book deals with a few Jedi we've never heard of before who somehow managed to escape Order 66. And, of course, one survives past the end of the story (can you say "setup for a future series of novels that will take place between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars, boys and girls?")
Skip this one. Your own imagination is probably much better.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Well, it took half a century, and it probably never would have been done if not for the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise, but The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has finally made it to the silver screen. It's being touted in many promotional circles as "a cross between The Passion of the Christ and Lord of the Rings."
Let me start by saying that as a child, this was my favorite book of all time. I was very impressed by how close the movie was to the actual book. Of course the action is jazzed up to get audience members' pulses going, and they've actually gave Susan a bit of character. (Let's face it, she really doesn't serve any purpose to the plot.) The characters were portrayed exactly as they should be. Hell, they even pulled off the "Father Christmas" shtick without getting corny. They were able to translate a children's book from the fifties to the big screen with flying colors. So, all in all, there was a lot of substance.
The problem is, especially in a fantasy movie, you also need a little bit of style.
I've never seen the Passion of the Christ, and I'm not going to get into the whole Aslan is Jesus thing, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who does not know the plot.
But this ain't no Lord of the Rings.
To be fair, there weren't any furry, fuzzy or hairy things in LOTR. Fur and hair is very hard and time consuming to do in CGI. Especially dynamic, flowing hair, hair that is blown in the breeze. Not only does every little hair have its own physics, but each hair effects the physics of every hair around it in a domino effect. Hair has a translucent/ shining/reflective quality to it. I have to admit that I was not even impressed with some of the shots in the over-hyped King-Kong trailer, because the sheen of Kong's hair is a dead giveaway that he is CGI.
Now, TLTW&TW is full of furry, hairy creatures, including two beavers that are far too cartoony (though miles better than the six-foot tall people in beaver suits in the the 90's BBC version,) and of course, there's Aslan, the titular Lion Himself. Every shot of Aslan, though I am sure they are top of the line, screams CGI.
And while that is forgivable, there are many other shots (the witch's sled zooming across the snow) that are obviously CGI or just badly composed. Even the lovely Jennifer caught a few shots that were obviously blue screened. On top of it all, many of the monster masks are obviously latex and fake.
Personally, I'd rather have substance over style any day, but suspension of disbelief is essential in a fantasy film. And if every ten minutes you're snapped out of it and realize that you're just watching a movie because the special effects are badly done, it takes away from the overall experience.
And one more thing. Although unicorns are mentioned in TLTW&TW, and the final book in the series features a unicorn, there is no mention of Peter riding a unicorn. Why is this worth mentioning? Well, obviously, someone at Disney just thought, "Hey, it's a kid's fantasy movie; let's have the lead boy ride into battle on a unicorn!" Sadly, I can only assume that no one in the making of the movie knows what unicorns are for. Unless, of course, it was done under the religious influence of the Walden Media group, wanting to assure moviegoers that all of the citizens of Narnia- especially those four kids- are virgins. Or else that unicorn would have ripped their hearts out.
So I would heartily recommend the movie to anyone and everyone who likes fantasy, or is a fan of the series. It's very well done, and dramatically perfect. Just be prepared to occasionally smirk. And watch out for those unicorns.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
1) Am I the only one who finds the tip cups that are appearing at cash registers everywhere obnoxious? Servers get paid less because they receive tips, and I don't mind tipping people who perform a service for me, (like when the building people have to fix something in the apartment) but sorry- cashiers are just doing their jobs!
2) Last night Joe asked me out of the blue if he'll go to heaven when he's dead
"Sure," I replied.
Next, he wanted to know if you eat in heaven. I told only if he wanted to, because he won't have a body- it'll be down here on earth.
"But will my eyes be open?" he asked.
I told him no, but it didn't matter because there wouldn't be anything to look at inside of the coffin anyway. This sent him into screaming fits of terror. He grabbed at me, screaming that he didn't want to die. If he didn't have a body, how would he hug me in heaven?
I calmed him down and asked if he ever dreamed that he was in school.
I then asked him where his ears and eyes were when he was dreaming?
"Here in bed…"
"But you can see and hear in your dreams, even though your eyes and ears are here in bed, right?"
"Well, it's like that."
I explained that his body was a spacesuit to hold his soul. When you're born, your soul comes down from heaven to go inside of your spacesuit. When you're suit doesn't work anymore, you die. So it's very very important to take care of your spacesuit, to eat right, exercise, and not to drink to excess or do drugs, because that will mess up your spacesuit.
"Why did I come down from heaven to be in a spacesuit?" was, of course, the next question.
I told him that God was everywhere- including inside of him. God was here, in his spacesuit, so his job was to fill his life with joy, so God could feel the joy along with him.
Again, I have no idea where this conversation came from. However, this morning I received a phone call from