Movie Review: Moneyball

I must admit, I had my misgivings about the prospects of a movie based upon Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball. After all, Moneyball is a book about how Billy Beane took the Oakland Athletics to unheard of success on one of the most meager payrolls in the major leagues using a (then) unconventional view of baseball based upon discovering and exploiting inefficiencies in the market for players. How can that be turned into a movie?

And yet, they did. And it’s a great movie.

Mind you, part of it is my own nostalgia and romance for the game. I was a budding fan of baseball during this era of Athletics baseball. I watched Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. I cheered Chavez, Tejada and both Giambis. I was amazed by Koch and Bradford. I grew to love and appreciate the beauty of the game. I enjoyed the story of each season as it unwound. The glorious victories. The agonizing defeats. I still love this part of the game.

But it was more than just the on field game. I started reading. I got exposed to the works of Bill James and sabermetrics. Here was a guy who tried to systematically understand the game, and why it was the way it was. To really be able to say something definitive about the players, and how to evaluate them. The approach appealed to me, and gave me insights that I didn’t have before. It helped explain why the Athletics did what they did.

And I began to appreciate the business game. How clever, low payroll teams could still compete against big market teams like the Yankees.

But how could you make a movie that conveys all these things on screen?

Well, the Moneyball story is a fascinating story. And Aaron Sorkin has done an amazing job of adapting it to the screen. Brad Pitt does a great job portraying Billy Beane. And in the end, I was blown away at how powerful the movie was.

I know part of it is my own love for my adopted home team. It’s awesome to see angles of the Oakland Coliseum up on the big screen. It’s not like Fenway, which seemingly appears in every movie of baseball. The Coliseum isn’t an immaculate temple to baseball. It isn’t even that historic. But it’s where I remember seeing some amazing baseball, and where I grew to appreciate and love the game. And as I watched it in a theater in Emeryville (an Oakland suburb), I could tell that some of the audience members (a suprisingly large number) felt it too.

When people asked me what the greatest baseball movie was, I always used to say Bull Durham. That’s still a great movie, but Moneyball may in fact be greater. Greater because it’s a true story, about the real game. If you have any love of the game, watch it. If you don’t have any love of the game, give it a try.

Movie Review: This Is It (2009)

Tonight’s movie screening at work was Michael Jackson’s This is It, essentially a concert movie starring the recently deceased King of Pop, Michael Jackson as he prepared for his first tour in a decade. Unfortunately the preparations for this tour were for naught when he died (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) on June 25th, 2009.

Jackson was controversial figure: his odd obsessions, fascination with plastic surgery, allegations of sexual abuse, his family, his marriage, his children, and even his death were all played out in the media. But whatever you think of these controversies, he definitely was an enormous talent who had a profound effect on the world of popular music, video, and dance.

This is It is basically a collection of footage from rehearsals in preparation for Jackson’s final tour. There is no attempt to vilify him, nor especially to venerate him, except perhaps in recognition of his extraordinary (even unique) talent. And there is plenty of talent evident in this footage. It’s very well done, and very well edited, and gives us a glimpse into the tour that wasn’t.

If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy it.

This Is It 2009

Short Movie Review: Twilight

Okay, it was Carmen’s turn to pick. I wanted to go see The Day The Earth Stood Still, but I usually pick movies, and Carmen has been wanting to see Twilight since it opened, and I can (usually) deny her nothing, so Twilight is what we saw.

It’s complete drek.

It’s not that it’s badly made. Technically, it displays a certain competence. The performances are reasonable. The problem is that the plot is basically what you would get if you let a fourteen year old virgin write a love story about vampires. It’s just hideous. Painful. Even the sixteen year old girls in the front row broke out laughing at some of the “dramatic” moments.

It’s trying to be all psychological. Loner girl meets loner guy who acts like he hates her. But he likes her. But he can’t be with her. Because he can’t resist her (she’s just too darned snackable). Gee, do you think they are trying to draw a parallel between the vampire’s thirst and the teen desire to have sex? Betcha nobody caught on amidst all the clever innuendo.

Watching this movie was like watching fifteen year old pop stars sing about love and relationships. I suppose if your teen daughters wanted to go see it, you could do worse: it’s only rated PG-13, and frankly is about the most tepid movie I’ve seen. There is barely any kissing, much less any violence. They won’t learn much bad by watching this.

Movie Review: Bolt, in 3D

Tonight I took my wife, son and future daughter-in-law out to see Bolt, Disney’s newest animated feature. For extra bonus points, we went to go see it in 3D (yep, with the Real D glasses and everything).

I am somewhat skeptical about the long term viability of 3D. People seem to be highly variable in their reaction to the 3D experience: some people seem to find it hard to perceive any 3D at all, others seem to get headaches with even the most mild experience. I’ve rated my own reaction to be somewhat in between: I’m not immune to the eye strain, but I usually can tolerate it for a reasonable amount of time.

So, here’s the good news: Bolt looks great! And it’s a pretty nice family story too! Bolt is a cute young dog who is adopted by Penny. What Bolt doesn’t know is that he’s a TV star: he thinks he’s a super hero protecting Penny from the evil Doctor Calico. When Penny is kidnapped in the cliffhanger episode for the season, Bolt inadvertently escapes, and embarks on a quest to save Penny from the Doctor’s evil clutches.

The story is cute, the characters are cute, the jokes are funny, the look is amazing, there are some great action sequences (especially the first one): all in all, I think it’s a pretty fun movie, and my family agreed. The audience in the theater I was in liked it a lot too: I heard laughter at frequent intervals, and spontaneous applause at the end of the film. See it in 2D if you must (or can’t stomach 3D), but see it! It’s just darned fun.

Obligatory disclaimer: I do work for Pixar Animation Studios, a division of Disney. I suppose if the film does well, it could have some positive affect on my salary, but I have a feeling you’d have more of an effect if you bought me coffee.

Addendum: Here’s a clip from Youtube.

Renaissance (2006)

Renaissance, un film de Christian Volckman

During lunch today, we had a preview screening of the new French sci-fi film Renaissance (2006), I posted this review on imdb.com:

I highly recommend this film. Set in the Bladerunner-esquire future of2054 Paris, it is in most respect a classic film noir script: lady in peril, sister trying to find her, honest cop fighting everyone. Luckily, it avoids being stereotypical, and combines a pretty good storyline with interesting, innovative visuals. The film might remind you of Sin City in look, but it has an even sharper, even more graphic novel look that I found really compelling. Each frame, each sequence seems like it could have been pulled from the desk of a skilled graphic designer. In terms of story and artwork, you can find nods going back to the nineteen forties (or even earlier with the classic views of the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Couer) and movies like Casablanca, as well as looking toward a grim future where our destines are ruled by corporations. Make any excuse you need to see this film.

Here is the official website, mostly in French which is too rapid for my old brain to decipher in realtime, but it includes some “making of” footage that demonstrates the motion capture process they used on the film. I’ll have to dig into it more to see how they did it.

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

Well, it’s Saturday again, and once again Carmen and I trundled off to the movie theater. In spite of our misgivings about the state of movies lately, fueled no doubt by the bitter pill that was the steaming pile known as Ultraviolet, it was with some general hopefulness and enthusiasm that I approached the subject of today’s excursion: V for Vendetta. The few comments I had heard of the movie were generally positive, and checking with Yahoo! Movies, I found that critics ranked it as a B, with users being slightly more favorable and scoring it as a B+. Thus, I was predisposed to consider the possibility that it might be good, which can sometimes be rather dangerous when a movie fails to live up to expectation. But on to the movie…

It’s the not-too-distant future, where terrorism and disease have fueled an atmosphere accross the world. In Great Britain, chaos has been averted by the rise of totalitarian state, headed by Supreme Chancellor Adam Sutler (played admirably by John Hurt) who employs ruthless thugs who black-bag dissidents and other undesirables (homosexuals seem high on his list) and generally spends a great deal of time shouting nastiness at his various lackies. The media is completely controlled by the government, and people live in fear.

Natalie Portman plays Evey, a young woman employed at the British Television Network, who is caught on the street after curfew, and would have had a very unpleasant evening of it, were it not for the intervention of V (played by Hugo Weaving, you know, Elrond from the Lord of the Rings, or Agent Smith from the Matrix), a mysterious dark stranger in a Guy Fawkes costume armed with very many daggers.

Don’t remember who that is? Well, my recollections are a bit fuzzy as well. Check out the Wikipedia entry on him. The short version: he was involved in a plot to blow up Parlaiment and the King, got caught and was executed. Among cynical Britons, it is claimed that he was the only person to enter Parlaiment with good intentions.

I don’t think I’ll go into the plot in two much greater detail. It’s actually a fairly grim vision of the future, and one that is played more on the realistic side, with some grim imagery recalling concentration camps and rallies of leather booted stormtroopers. While V himself possesses some super-hero like attributes, people get hurt in this universe. People die in this universe. And anger and hatred seem very real.

If you are looking for something light and fanciful, where the good guys always win, where the innocent are preserved against harm by unlikely rescues, and where good and evil are clearly delineated, you’ve come to the wrong movie. This movie is trying to show us a future to which we all could be headed, driven by fear of a world we no longer understand. It’s not classic superhero stuff.

And at one level, I think it succeeded. It’s not just classic comic book superhero fluff. With that mission accomplished, I’m forced to ask whether it succeeds at the higher level, the level of ideas. Is it thought provoking? Does the story lead you anywhere that perhaps you wouldn’t normally stray?

Unfortunately, I think it’s rather less successful at this level. The characters, while admirably played by the principle actors, remain somewhat nebulous and hidden from our understanding. This is perhaps excuseable with respect to V, but much less so with respect to Evey. We really don’t get any kind of understanding of where she comes from, where she’s going, and what she’s thinking as time goes along. The story must ultimately be about these two characters, and I just didn’t feel there was very much meat to feed the hungry viewer.

That being said, I’ll still give it a solid B rating. The story is unusual, the look of the film quite good, it’s not the normal superhero fare, and I did enjoy the film overall. You won’t ache for more when the light comes up, but you probably won’t be disappointed either.

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Addendum: This movie is based upon the 1982 graphic novel of the same name by British writer Alan Moore.  From this wikipedia entry:

Moore stated in an interview:

the central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn’t want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think, and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history.

Perhaps considering this intention of the author, the film might be viewed as a bit more successful.  Ultimately, we are left to consider what we think.  Is V a monster or a hero?  Can anyone really be both?

Movie Review: Ultraviolet

Yesterday I took Carmen to go see the latest film in the genre of “hot chicks with weapons”: Ultraviolet starring Milla Jovovich and directed and written (as it were) by Kurt Wimmer. Ms. Jovovich has done an excellent job in previous fun movies like Resident Evil and The Fifth Element (both high on my “guilty pleasures” list) but sadly, Ultraviolet will not be joining this list: it’s mostly terrible.

And I’m not talking “could have been better” terrible. I’m talking “in the league with Club Dread or Evil Alien Conquerors” bad. The kind of bad that makes you regret even spending matinee money to go see it. The kind of bad that makes you wish you had that ninety minutes of your life back so you could do something better with it, like, as Carmen put it, a root canal.

Warning: spoilers ahead. Well, they would be spoilers except that to spoil something it needed to be fresh in the first place…

The first sign that there could be something wrong is the opening monologue: usually when a film employs this absurd plot device, it is because they can’t think of something more clever to do to get you into the plot, so they take the weakest of all possible setups: they simply tell you what’s going on. Bleh.

The voiceover of Ms. Jovovich tells us “I was born into a world you may not understand.” Indeed. By the end of the movie, you aren’t going to understand it either.

The voiceover tells us that blah blah blah, scientists, blah blah blah, genetic engineering, blah blah blah, got out of the lab, blah blah blah, infected are rounded up, blah blah, blah, infected fighting back.

I was born into a world you may not understand.

Truer words were never spoken.

Probably 1% of the entire movie dedicated to just dumping the plot on us without anything actually happening. What a waste.

A few words about the look and the effects: this is another one of an increasing number of films which does away with actual sets. Much of the film is (quite obviously) shot with green screens and with computer graphics. Some of it works pretty well, but a lot of it does not. In particular, I found the long, anti-gravity, motorcycle chase seen to be really uneven. Parts of it look more like an animatic than final footage, there were some staggeringly bad compositing, and the action (due to all the warped, oddly placed view angles) was hard to follow and track.

Some of the best effect bits are of course given away in the trailer. By the time Violet goes to attack the army of soldiers, we’ve all been tipped that she’s a hologram. What you haven’t been tipped to is the muddled action which follows. The hologram is not used to create confusion, allowing Violet to wreak havoc against a vast array of foes in true kick-ass fashion, instead, the action just halts there, and we cut away to a boring scene with Violet and Six on a rooftop, talking and… well… I won’t “spoil” it. But let’s just say “tension created, and tension wasted”.

Oh, did I mention Six? Played by Cameron Bright and looking like a young doughy Wil Weaton, this is the kid that Violet (who early in the movie threatens to exterminate the human race) decides to protect because he is “just a child”. As Bender would say, “Does Not Compute!”. Blah blah blah, the kid has antigens, blah blah blah, could wipe out the genetically engineered Hemophage Vampires.

Oh, yeah, didn’t I mention the whole “vampire thing”? Don’t worry, they don’t bother saying anything about vampires either, until about 60% of the way through the movie.

What’s truly terrible though is the final stretch to the final confrontation with Daxus, played by Nick Chinlund. Obviously, to break into Daxus’ fortress of solitude, Violet must defeat hundreds of bad guys. But by this time, the director has obviously exhausted his entire repetoire of fight choreography, and realizes that it would all be boring for us to watch Violet kill another dozen score of generic foot soldiers, so we are treated to a couple of transition scenes that show violet enter a room full of soldiers, we cut away, and then violet emerges from a room full of bodies.

Sigh.

All in all, one of the most disappointing movies of recent memory. I give it about a 3 out of 10. See it if you must, but you’ve been warned.

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The Evil Dead (1981)

Well, Carmen and I haven’t gotten out to see many first run movies lately, but tonight Pixar’s Monday Film series stumbed on an old favorite: Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981). Back when this film was made, Raimi was a mere 21 years old. In some ways, this shows: the movie has a fairly slim plot involving five young people heading off to the woods to relax on a brief vacation, only to find that the house they are staying at was once the retreat of a professor delving into the occult. When they play back some recordings of his they find in the basement, demons are summoned, and mayhem commences.

The movie stars a very young Bruce Campbell in one of his first roles, and begins a long association with Sam Raimi. As I said, it’s a pretty thin plot, but what sets it apart is Raimi’s visual style. It features buckets of blood and gore, demon possession, dismemberment, shredding flesh, a girl is molested by trees and vines, and general strange crap like you’ve never seen. I remember seeing this as a teenager, and have seen it at least once since on DVD, but it was great to see it in a real theater on 35mm film stock once again. The print was great, and despite showing a bunch of badly composited full moons over footage of a dilapidated mountain cabin, it holds up pretty well. It shows remarkable creativity in its use of lighting, cameras, fog, and camera position to give a strange, creepy feel to what could have been a merely pedestrian movie experience.

Raimi has made better films (such as one of my personal favorites) but it’s great to see this early work from a popular director. If IMDB is correct, Raimi has begun production on a revisit to this story, and it will be interesting to see what a budget and twenty five years of directorial experience will bring to the show.

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Bonus Movie Review: Old Hope vs. New Hope

Greedo, Bounty HunterTonight, I had the pleasure of being able to watch a copy of the original video disc release of Star Wars: A New Hope. You know, the one where Han Solo gets the drop on Greedo by firing first? I recently watched the Special Edition too, and I must admit, there is really nothing that the Special Edition changes added that improved the movie in the slightest. Yes, it looks better, sharper cleaner. But all the added visuals in Mos Eisley, the silly added scene with Jabba, letting Greedo draw (and stupidly miss) Solo: not a single on of these changes do other than distract you by overdoing the original ideas. They come across as just showing off. “We did this because we’re ILM and we can.”

Sometimes, the original really is the best.

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Movie Review: Hoodwinked

Last night we had a screening of Hoodwinked, the new animated feature by director Cory Edwards and co-directed by Todd Edwards. It’s a retelling of the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood, and features the vocal talents of Glenn Close as Granny, Ann Hathaway as Red, James Belushi as the Woodsman, veteran voice over master Patrick Warburton as the Wolf, David Ogden Stiers as Flippers, a suave investigating frog, and Andy Dick as Boingo the rabbit. The plotline is a fractured fairly tale: the story you know isn’t the real story…

I’ll get the negatives out of the way right off the bat, because I’m not really sure how to be nice about this. In terms of visual effects and art design, this movie is not exactly going to knock your socks off. The characters have a very wooden look to them: the characters have an extremely limited range of facial motion and the animation on the whole appears rather stiff. The net result of this is that the entire movie reminds you of some of the old stop-motion Rankin-Bass features you’d see around christmas. The lighting overall is, well, as near as I can tell, there was no lighting. It really bothered me for the first ten or fifteen minutes, especially when I realized that the highlight in Red’s eyes was actually painted on, and stuck to her eye as she looked around. Bleh. There was a couple of times when Granny was center stage and you could literally see some strange polygonal effects around her mouth. Double bleh. And you should never have a roller coaster like scene without motion blur. Yuck.

Oh, and the music? Mostly terrible, although the villain’s song (mercifully, the last in the movie) was somewhat better, and didn’t seem contrived.

Okay, it’s not the prettiest movie, what’s to like?

HoodwinkedThe vocal performances were on the whole quite good, although I couldn’t really understand what accent Jim Belushi was trying for. Stiers does an amazing job as Flippers, I never would have recognized him as the urbane frog if he hadn’t been listed in the credits. Andy Dick and Glenn close also do well, as does rapper Xzibit as Chief Grizzly.

The story is actually pretty good. Early in the movie I thought it was going to be dreadful, but I think that may have been more of a reaction to the problems I had with the visual look of the film, and that’s probably something that’s fairly unique to people like me who work in the industry. Once I sort of got around that, I began to find quite a bit to like about the story, and by the end, I thought it was actually pretty fun. If you spent $10 to see it, you might feel a bit cheated, but if you got in on a cheap matinee, I would think you might be pretty allright with that.

I stuck around at the end to watch the credits, and it’s pretty clear that they didn’t spend the kind of money that studios like Pixar and PDI spend: their credits are remarkably short. For them to release a movie like this at all and get a national distribution deal is a credit to them.

Overall, I’m going to give the movie a B-, but I’m probably being mean because I stare at computer generated images all day long. Read some user reviews on Yahoo! or whatever if you’d like to get a glimpse at a more well-rounded view. It’s rated PG: some very young children at our screening found the growling wolf pretty intense, they did not like him at all but I suspect most kids over the age of eight will be fine.

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King Kong

Last night was the first opportunity that Carmen and I felt we could spare the three hours necessary to view Peter Jackson’s latest blockbuster film, his remake of the classic 1933 film King Kong.    It’s a colossal film, much in the same visual style of Jackson’s earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy, with many big, sweeping vistas, extended action sequences and a fair amount of just just showing off.

It’s a good film, mind you, but it is just a bit much at times.   It’s not actually boring, but you can see that there are entire scenes, entire plotlines, entire subtexts that really aren’t very central to the story.  We’d expect that in Lord of the Rings, where the plotlines and subtexts are really part of the joy of the story, but they aren’t really necessary in King Kong, and actually seem a bit like showboating: “I’m Peter Jackson, and I’m adding an hour of footage just because I’m Peter Jackson“.

By way of example, consider the roles of Hayes and Jimmy (played by actors Evan Parke and Jamie Bell).  They are crew members on the boat, and Jackson spends a fair amount of time creating a level of backstory for these characters, yet in the end, there is no real payoff: the role that the characters play is entirely incidental to even the secondary plotlines of the film.

Then, consider the extended “brontosaurus and raptor stampede”.  The only thing that really accomplishes is we get to see a lot of extras (in the Star Trek universe, all these guys would have red shirts) get trampled by CG dinosaurs, while the major characters somehow karate kick their way to safety.

The spider pit is a bit over the top as well, and again only serves to thin the heard of red shirts.   If any of these scenes were incompetently done, they’d really detract from the movie, but even though they are well done, I think as a whole the movie feels a bit self-concious and over the top.

I also thought that there were some continuity problems: the natives initially are protrayed as brutal savages, and yet somehow after the initial encounter, they are nowhere to be seen.   Other, more minor discountinuities seemed to jar me at 20 minute intervals.

Still, overall I’d rank it about a B+.   It delivers a lot of what you expect, even if it is a bit slow out of the gate, it keeps you interested and excited.  Naomi Watts does a great job as Ann Darrow, and while I think that Jack Black was reaching a bit beyond his grasp, he did a credible job as movie producer Carl Denham.  Adrien Brody takes what is essentially a pretty minor role as Jack Driscoll, Denham’s screenwriter, but looks great on screen, and gives a good performance with minor motivation.

It’s kind of gruesome in spots, you might wish to consider carefully whether to take younger kids.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Went to see this last night with my wife Carmen, and all I can say is wow. Really well done. We both enjoyed it, although I thought that the pacing was initially a bit slow. Comparisons with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings are inevitable, and I must say: I found the effects to be of the highest quality, very consistent and I found Narnia’s battles to be even better than those in the Return of the King. The four child actors all did very credible jobs, with (I think) the girls outshining the boys. The movie can be a bit intense (it is rated PG) with some loud scary battle sequences that seemed to upset some of the younger and more sensitive children in the audience, but they calmed down in the more uplifting moments and were clapping.

Scanning the list of user reviews on Yahoo! I’m left with two major impressions of negative comments on this movie:

  1. One group claims that anyone who thinks this is better than Harry Potter is crazy. Well, it was better than Harry Potter in virtually every way.
  2. Another small minority thinks that it’s important to bring up the idea that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books are just thinly veiled metaphors for Christianity. While such accusations are in some sense true, get over it, and enjoy a very nicely done movie.

I suspect we’ll see some Oscar nods for effects, for costume and art design, and maybe even some surprise nods in other categories.

Chicken Little

This weekend’s movie was the new Disney animated film Chicken Little, starring the vocal talents of Zach Braff. Young Chicken Little is, well, a little chicken who panics the town with the claim that a piece of the sky fell and hit him on the head. Now the entire town views him with contempt and disdain, except for a few friends: Runt, a huge overweight piglet, Fish out of Water (who wears a diving helmet so he can interact with the air breathers) and Abby Mallard (aka Ugly Duckling) his female geek friend. Chicken Little is trying to regain the respect of his father and the town.

If I have a generic complaint about this film, it’s that it’s tiresomely familiar to the point of being stereotyped. Do we really need to have another film about the town nerd who tries out for the high school sports team to gain the approval of his father who is trying to raise a child by himself? Do we need to have the overweight comic relief, the homely girl with the heart of gold? It’s not a bad film, I just don’t think that it shows a great deal of imagination as far as plot line goes. It’s basically a cartoon version of Lucas, and somebody already went to the trouble of making that movie once.

The film also features a number of musical interludes which I thought were basically a distraction. When done cleverly (like in Shrek) music can be a fun, energizing way to advance the plot of the movie. In this case, they seemed entirely contrived.

On the other hand, the film looks great, has a bright, imaginative design with lots of cute vibrant characters and backgrounds. The animation is clever and well done. I thought that plot did pick up in the second half of the film, and the resolution (while predictable) was reasonably satisfying. I went in after hearing mostly mediocre reviews, and I came out feeling more positive than I thought I would. I’d give it about a 7.5 out of 10. It was fun if not amazing. Kids will probably like it more.

Halloween Screening

Well, to avoid pigging out on tons of candy that we bought “for the kids”, we decided to spend Halloween doing something else (apologies to the kiddies). It turns out that Pixar had a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the classic Steven King story starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. I hadn’t seen this film since it first came out back in 1980, and didn’t remember as liking it a whole bunch when I did. But I must say, as forty-something adult, I can easily recognize that it’s one of the great horror films of all time. Jack is simply electric onscreen, and while Shelley Duvall plays one of those annoyingly weak sobbing females, her facial expressions are great as well. A few more impressions:

  1. 25 year old color film stock goes very red, but it retains detail.
  2. Oh, and it has lots of scratches, dust, and general nastiness.
  3. The sound design for the Shining is brilliant. Quiet and understated, it emphasizes the remote and loneliness of the lodge.
  4. Did I mention that Jack is really, really creepy?

A great movie for Halloween.

Doom (2005)

Last night there was not that much going on, Tivo showed nothing really worth watching, the baseball season is over, and Carmen and I needed something to do. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Why, the movies of course! And yesterday’s movie was the movie version of the video game Doom starring The Rock, and directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak.

There is a long history of video games drawing plots from movies, and strangely enough, vice versa as well. After all, who could forget Super Mario Bros. or the science fiction classic Wing Commander? No one. No matter how hard they tried.

Doom joins them in the pantheon of strictly mediocre action movies loosely inspired by video games. A military rapid response team is sent through “The Ark” (a mysterious alien transporter that uses Jello® technology) to the Oluvai research center on Mars, where, somewhat predictably, scientists have been playing God, chromosome 24, mutation, disembowelment, you get the idea.

It’s not bad. It’s got a few clever bits, a few nods to the classic video game, but the original video game made a much bigger impression than this utterly forgettable movie. It didn’t leave me with the feeling that somebody looted $9 out of my wallet, maybe only $3.50, so see it in a matinee if you have to.

As a counterpoint: my wife mysteriously loved it, and thought it was the equal to the years earlier (and IMO, truly great) science fiction fare, Serenity. I can only shake my head and wonder if she’s taking too much cold medicine.

I give it a 6/10.