Monthly Archive for November, 2007

Mean Girls

Mean Girls (11/25/07) DVD (2004 ***) Directed by Mark Waters, screenplay by Tina Fey. Remember back when Lindsay Lohan wasn’t just a substance-abusing joke? Obviously as a man in my early 40’s I was not the primary demographic for this movie. My main interest in seeing it when I first did was Fey’s writing, which was sharp and entertaining throughout. Sadly, the story was weak and a little confusing, and in the end I wasn’t sure which characters I was supposed to care about.

Thanksgiving in Omaha

“C” is for Corpse

“C” is for Corpse (11/14/07) Novel (1996 ***) Written by Sue Grafton. Kinsey Millhone is back once more, and this time it’s… well, personal. This was a good book, nearly as strong as the two that proceeded it. I noticed that with her third outing Grafton’s hallmark descriptive passages were more tightly integrated into the flow of the story. My only complaints: (a) the B-story (about a sweet-talking con-artist who pulls the wool over Kinsey’s landlord) was completely unrelated physically and thematically to the main story; and (b) the conclusion, while certainly exciting, was a bit predictable. In particular, the hiding place for the murder weapon, while unique, was telegraphed well in advance. I guess what I’m saying is that, as a reader, when all was said and done, not everything added up for me.

#$@&! The Official Lloyd Llewellyn Collection

#$@&! The Official Lloyd Llewellyn Collection (11/13/07) Graphic Novel (1995 ***) Written and illustrated by Daniel Clowes. As the title implied, this was a collection of short Lloyd Llewellyn stories that appeared in 8-Ball, Clowes’ anthology comic. Llewellyn was an early creation of Clowes, and I got the impression that Clowes outgrew him at some point. There was still something fun and retro about these stories, which were produced in the mid to late 1980’s. They were a funky mishmash of hard-boiled noir and sci-fi. The stories themselves seemed to drift, though; it was clear that even then Clowes was experimenting with different ways to tell stories. He later went on to greater renown for Ghost World and An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove.

The Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited (11/12/07) DWA Screening (2007 ***¼) Directed by Wes Anderson. Anderson directed The Royal Tannenbaums, one of my favorite movies. The Darjeeling Limited wasn’t nearly as good as that film, but it was better by a far sight than The Life Aquatic. Anderson certainly has a well-defined style of filmmaking, and this film was visually engaging to watch. Even more than the film’s quirky visual imagery, what I liked best about Darjeeling was watching Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman as three very quirky brothers. I have a pet theory that Anderson’s ultimate goal as a director is to make the modern equivalent of Harold and Maude. Maybe he’ll even get there some day. Darjeeling certainly had some moments, and it very nearly left an impression, but ultimately, in trying to describe what concrete value it has to offer to its audience I’m drawing a blank. For what it’s worth, I left the theater feeling better than I entered, and maybe that’s enough.

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (11/11/07) Graphic Novel (2006 **) Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Gene Ha. I’ve enjoyed the Top Ten books in the past. The concept of a “Hill Street Blues” police procedural set in a city of super-heroes with a police force staffed by super-heroes is a lot of fun. This prequel, set shortly after WWII was decidedly less satisfying than the earlier books for a variety of reasons: (1) Instead of exploiting an ensemble cast, its story-arc focused on only a few characters; (2) the homosexual awakening of 16-year-old Jetlad was awkwardly handled, overblown and generally given too much “screen time”; and (3) the dramatic climax involved two separate and unrelated conflicts (the vampire siege and Sky Sharks’ air assault), which only served to dilute each other.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (3D)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (3D) (11/11/07) Downtown Disney AMC (1993 ***) Directed by Henry Selick. I’d been looking forward to seeing this film in 3-D since last year when it was first released. The 3-D effect was achieved using (as I understand it) a very time-consuming technical post-process. In all honesty, it was a disappointment for me. I found the 3-D effect to be distracting, and it certainly didn’t add anything to the story.

Batman: Under the Hood, Vol. 1

Batman: Under the Hood, Vol. 1 (11/10/07) Graphic Novel (2005 ***) Written by Judd Winick. Who is the Red Hood, the new villain in town? Unfortunately I knew the “surprise” answer to that long before reading the book. For the most part I enjoyed it, and I especially liked watching Batman interview Green Arrow and Superman, asking them what it was like to come back from the dead. If that wasn’t a big hint, I don’t know what is.

The Hoax

The Hoax (11/10/07) Netflix (2006 **) Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on the book by Clifford Irving. Richard Gere played Irving, the man behind the fictionalized Autobiography of Howard Hughes. His character was set up right off the bat to be sympathetic, but then proceeded to do so many despicable things that he really wound up coming across as an unlikable jerk. I frequently felt I was watching a dumbed-down version of a far more intelligent movie. The performances were good enough, so I’m willing to place much of the blame with William Wheeler’s screenplay. Hallstrom, a director I’ve liked since My Life as a Dog, didn’t seem to be playing his “A” game here, and his directing choices frequently lacked subtlety.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 (AKA Biohazard 4) (11/4/07) Video Game (2005 ***½) Directed by Kuniomi Matsuhita and Shinji Mikami. A video game review? What kind of topsy-turvy alternate reality have we stumbled into? A couple months back my wife was at an event with her co-workers in a bowling alley and I found myself playing a coin-op zombie killing game. I liked how it felt. A lot. And so, for my 43rd birthday my wife bought me Resident Evil IV for the Wii so I could satisfy my zombie-killing bloodlust. The last time I played a comparable game was about ten years ago when I played the first Tomb Raider. Even though I’ve worked on video game projects in the past, I have never been a “gamer.” I really enjoyed the hell out Resident Evil IV, though. I was impressed not only by the graphics but also by the multiple gameplay aspects. The only weak area for me was the story, which I accepted from the beginning as just a framing device to allow for the creature-killing action. The “translated” dialogue was at times pretty awful, but I didn’t really expect anything better. According to the stats at the end of the game, it took me nearly fifty hours to play all the way through. I must admit I used online walk-throughs when the puzzles got a bit tricky. Having completed the game, I’ve unlocked a few more options, including a separate mini adventure, as well as being able to take my accumulated weaponry through the game with me. If you’re looking for pulse-raising zombie-killing action like I was, this is a wonderful game.