Monthly Archive for August, 2008

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

The Black Diamond Detective Agency (8/31/08) Graphic Novel (2007 **) Written and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, based on a screenplay by C. Gabe Mitchell. I’ve read a couple of Campbell’s autobiographical books recently, so when a co-worker was selling this book I snatched it up. Unfortunately, Black Diamond was a weird read and I didn’t like it much. Campbell’s illustrations were fine, though his style didn’t lend itself to the color (specifically watercolor) treatment he used. The main problem with the book was the story, which felt structurally “broken,” somehow. I have no way of knowing if this was present in the original source material. I’m sure there is probably a story behind the story of this book.

John Williams With Special Guest Stanley Donen

John Williams With Special Guest Stanley Donen (8/30/08) Hollywood Bowl (2008 ***½) I’d never seen John Williams conducting in person, and it was a real treat. My only minor complaint was that the program seemed to be made up of bits and pieces from other programs, which resulted in some painfully obvious redundancy. However, being forced to sit through the Indiana Jones theme multiple times wasn’t exactly a hardship. I didn’t know until the night of the show that Stanley Donen was scheduled to appear. Donen, 84 on the night of the performance, is a Hollywood legend, having directed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as well as co-directing Singin’ in the Rain, arguably the greatest musical of all time. He was also responsible for Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Away and Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling in Royal Wedding.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (8/30/08) TV-SciFi (2004 ***) Directed by Alexander Witt, written by Paul W.S. Anderson, starring Milla Jovovich and Sienna Guillory. I’m going to have to put this in the “guilty pleasure” category. As I’ve mentioned previously, I played through Resident Evil IV multiple times on my Wii, though I didn’t play the game set in Raccoon City, so I don’t know how closely the movie follows the plot of that game. As a film, it was as fun as the first. Granted, I was watching an edited-for-TV version and I had to laugh at all the references to “those freaking motivators,” (lipsync-similar dialogue substituting for a more adult phrase) but I don’t think my enjoyment was diminished much. Yes, I did enjoy it and someday I will probably rent Resident Evil: Extinction.

Last Call, Vol. 1

Last Call, Vol. 1 (8/26/98) Graphic Novel (2008 **½) Written and illustrated by Vasilis Lolos. I bought this book from a co-worker for $5. I’m not sure if it was a good value or not: The book only took about twenty minutes to read cover to cover. It began with an interesting premise: Two friends out driving in a stolen car late at night end up on what may or may not be a ghost train. Have they died? That’s a question that found no answer in this volume, and therein lay the problem for me: It was hard to judge this story based on such a small snippet. Will the eventual story be told in four parts or in twelve? Please pardon my impatience (and for judging a book based on what it’s not), but I would have preferred to read a collected edition with the entire story.

Behind the Planet of the Apes

Behind the Planet of the Apes (8/25/08) TV-Biography (1998 ***) Directed by Kevin Burns and David Comtois, hosted and narrated by Roddy McDowall. According to imdb.com, McDowall died less than a month after this documentary was aired. I recently watched a couple of the “Planet of the Apes” movies and became curious about the story behind the story. This was a decent enough documentary. It provided the basic information and featured interviews with many of the surviving participants, but it didn’t really push to be anything more than what it was. The highlight may have been the behind-the-scenes footage, which included early makeup tests.

Hancock

Hancock (8/25/08) DWA Screening (2008 ***) Directed by Peter Berg, starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Hancock received mixed reviews when it came out this summer, primarily due to a story twist in the middle of the second act that took the movie in a direction completely different from its beginning. I won’t reveal the twist, but it involved Charlize Theron’s character. I liked the movie better than I’d expected, mostly because my expectations were so low. My feeling was the movie would have been better if the revelation had been handled less awkwardly. As it was, it was overly-complicated and under-motivated.

North World Book 1: The Epic of Conrad

North World Book 1: The Epic of Conrad (Part 1) (8/25/08) Graphic Novel (2008 **½) Written and illustrated by Lars Brown. According to the author’s bio, Brown was born in 1983, which makes him a mere 25 at the time of this writing. Sometimes his youth showed in his writing and some of his drawing, but North World was still a fairly decent effort for someone so young. It was a little hard for me to judge, though, since this volume feels like it represents half or a third of a larger story. The world in which the book was set was an engaging amalgam of our reality (75%) and a fantasy / D&D world (25%). It was a combination that worked better than I would have expected.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis (8/19/08) Netflix (1944 ***½) Directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien and Mary Astor. This was definitely one for the “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” box. There wasn’t much of a plot, really. Instead, the joy of this film was that it never tried to be more than what it was, a slice of life in a family, leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair. I’ve seen the film before, but it’s been years. Though it was a film about a family, Garland sparkled as the character at its center. Watching the film, it occurred to me that Meet Me in St. Louis may have actually helped pave the way for countless family-centered TV situation comedies.

The House on Telegraph Hill

The House on Telegraph Hill (8/19/08) TV-FMC (1951 ***) Directed by Robert Wise, starring Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart. Cortese played a holocaust survivor who assumed the identity of a fellow concentration camp inmate, then moved to San Francisco, where she found herself caught between her secret and a murderous plot. This film featured a number of sequences shot-on-location, which would undoubtedly be fun for anyone who’s ever lived in or near San Francisco. I enjoyed the film, but wish it hadn’t gotten so mired down in its own melodrama.

The Fab Four

The Fab Four (8/17/08) Starlight Bowl, Burbank (***½) The Fab Four is a well-known Beatles’ tribute band. I have to say they gave an amazing simulation of the well-known, beloved music from the albums. Their act featured three costumes, representing the Beatles from the Ed Sullivan, Sergeant Pepper and Let it Be eras. I would definitely see them again, given the opportunity. This was also my first time at the Starlight Bowl. My wife and I took lawn chairs and a picnic and met up with another couple. It was particularly heartwarming watching all the little kids running around and dancing their little hearts out to the Beatles’ music.