Grappling With Gone Girl

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE MOVIE AND THE BOOK!

Coming out of Gone Girl, I was of two minds — appalled pearl-clutcher and delighted crime-fiction geek. On reflection, I’m inclined to side with the pearl-clutcher in me that sees David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller as a clarion call for misogynists and men’s rights loons everywhere, but I’d still like to talk about how the movie (adapted by Flynn herself) mashes together a variety of tropes from several decades’ worth of crime-fiction lore — all for a deeply hypnotic end-result.

Continue reading “Grappling With Gone Girl”

A Look Back at Casino Royale

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

“Bond had always been a gambler.”
– from Casino Royale

Casino Royale is hands-down the best James Bond movie, and Daniel Craig is the best James Bond. Yes, Connery is still in second place, but he’s only in second place to my knowledge. I haven’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and I suspect that George Lazenby got a raw deal when he made that movie. Most critics I respect have called OHMSS a thematic and tonal sibling to Casino Royale, and that makes me think that the best James Bond all along was Lazenby, not Connery – until Craig, that is.

Continue reading “A Look Back at Casino Royale”

What a Guy Notices After Watching Back to the Future for the Eleventy-Millionth Time

You can’t get anything by me, Back to the Future!

Like most geeks of my generation, I’ve seen this classic time-travel movie countless times, and over the years, I’ve compiled a modest list of tiny details I’ve noticed and would like to expound upon. These minor details span a range of categories. In some cases, they’re simply powerful moments that have lingered with me, and in other cases, they’re rich details that I only recently noticed – and that I very well might be imagining. I’ll leave it to you to help me decide.

Continue reading “What a Guy Notices After Watching Back to the Future for the Eleventy-Millionth Time”

Artistic Precedent: Terry Gilliam and Harry Potter

Terry Gilliam was J.K. Rowling’s first choice to direct the movies based on her books. How would he have handled the material?

Near the beginning of Chris Columbus’ film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, hulking cockney giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) takes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) into Gringott’s, the wizarding world’s most secure bank, where Harry’s vast inheritance is kept. Deep inside the dungeon-like caverns of the bank, Hagrid unlocks Harry’s vault, and the camera jumps inside the vault’s door to show us the sole flash of creativity in Columbus’ lackluster movie.

When Hagrid turns the key, an elaborate, arachnid mechanism springs to life behind the door – hundreds of spindly tumblers and latches slither, creep and crawl away and apart from each other until the door swings open to reveal the horde of booty that Harry’s parents left him. I mention this image because it was the one moment in both of Columbus’ first two entries in the Potter franchise that not only gave me the heebie-jeebies, but it also made me think of Rowling’s first choice to direct the movies based on her books: Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam.

Continue reading “Artistic Precedent: Terry Gilliam and Harry Potter”

Monster Movie Absolution: Cloverfield

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’d love to meet and talk with a WWII-generation Japanese citizen who saw Gojira (aka Godzilla) for the first time in 1954.

It’s no secret that Japanese pop-culture – from Manga comics to big-robot/big-monster sci-fi – has acted as a pressure-release for the anger and anxiety built up from America’s bombing of Japan in World War II. (The great anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion explored another big theme – the conflict between eastern and western religions – but that’s another essay.)

Continue reading “Monster Movie Absolution: Cloverfield”

A Look Back at The Expendables

Here’s my review for the original Expendables, which I sort of liked.

SPOILERS AHEAD! SPOILERS AHEAD! SPOILERS AHEAD!

I don’t want to think of Sylvester Stallone as a simpleton, but he keeps forcing me to with movies like The Expendables.

Here’s the thing: I like Stallone. He strikes me as an earnest movie-maker with decent storytelling instincts. I thought Rocky Balboa was great, and I could really sense his desire to get back to the roots of the character that made him famous.

But even in Rocky Balboa, I got a sense of Stallone the simpleton. The movie’s plot hinges on a video game that pits the aging Rocky against the current heavyweight champion — and you know what? I bet that’s where Stallone got the idea. A video game. By comparison, in the leadup to the release of Rambo (the fourth in the series that began with First Blood), Stallone (if memory serves) revealed that he got the idea for the fourth Rambo from a magazine article, as well as from the Saw movies, although the horror franchise only guided Stallone’s hand in pumping up the volume of the violence he depicted. (The splatter-gore aesthetic, while less intense in The Expendables, is still with Stallone.)

Continue reading “A Look Back at The Expendables”

My Favorite Mad Scientists

In this article, originally written in conjunction with ScriptPhD.com, I pick my favorite eureka-bellowers of all time.

An astute cartoonist once observed that most so-called mad scientists are actually just mad engineers.

You can see the original comic here, but the gist is this: A mad scientist proclaims that he’s invented a death ray. A nameless troublemaker asks him if he’s testing any mad hypotheses with mad experiments and mad control groups. Good stuff. That comic served as the inspiration for this list, in which I assemble the best mad scientists from pop-culture who actually act like scientists. They conduct experiments. They record data. And they’re fucking bonkers.

Continue reading “My Favorite Mad Scientists”

A Dream Cast for The Stand

Despite all its inherent challenges, it appears that a big-screen version of Stephen King’s The Stand is still on its way. The latest news is that director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) will direct one gigantic three-hour movie. Here’s a look back at a piece of mine that originally appeared both on Geekscape and CC2K.

Before I offer my (totally preliminary) dream casting choices, let me also share my hopes for what the new film will be: I hope it’ll be The Lord of the Rings. Meaning, I hope that King’s sprawling struggle between good and evil will get the LOTR treatment in the form of three or four epic movies. It’s great material, and I think it’s worthy of that kind of production.

That said, let’s talk about the cast. I’m going to offer my first-string choices, as well as some backups if I think of any. And I am very open to suggestion and correction with any of these.

Continue reading “A Dream Cast for The Stand”