Saturday, May 26, 2007

It was 30 years

So, Star Wars turned 30 this past friday and at our house we made an attempt to celebrate WITHOUT flying out to Celebration IV. Airfares are atrocious these days, ya know.

We sat down and watched Episode IV on VHS. I have a copy of the first release, sans the "A New Hope" chapter title, but it is packed away somewhere unknown. That would have been the REAL deal, but alas, it was not to be.

We had milk with blue food coloring to mimic the meal Luke shares with his aunt and uncle on their Tatooine farm. With the blue milk, we had star-shaped cupcakes. Luckily no 'star-cake wars' broke out as yellow cake and chocolate icing can make quite a mess.

Watching the 'almost original' version, I found that I actually missed the cleaner, more polished Special Edition on DVD. Despite some of it's drawbacks such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba, sequences like the Death Star battle are much improved.

But, I remember fondly seeing Star Wars thirteen times the summer it was released. We sat through it twice the first time. It changed so much for so many. Film has never been the same and my children and I share a cross-generational metaphor for the battle of good against evil and a treatise on failure and redemption.

Thanks George, you have forever altered our culture by giving us all a fairy tale for our times.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

You know what bites?

Writing an entire post thinking the new Blogger feature that saves your draft automatically is working and finding out it DOESN'T work on AOL's browswer...That's WHAT!


Hopefully, I'll work up the enthusiasm to rewrite the post I just lost.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spider-Ham, Spider-Ham...

(Spider-Man 3 spoilers abound, so read at your own peril.)

I REALLY love Sam Raimi's Spiderman movies. Well, I love two of them anyway.

Saturday afternoon, the family and I headed off the see the latest installment in the hit Spider-franchise: Spider-Man 3. Many aspects of the film were amazing and a lot of it was dead on, but there were a few nagging elements that left me scratching my head. I often bemoan fanboy ravings about a lot of moives, but the issues with this movie go beyond the usual 'they did the costume wrong!' comments. These are storytelling problems that transcend genre and strike at the heart of tight movie making.

As I said, a lot was right with the movie. Most of the special effects and action scenes were spectacular. The Sandman effects were great. Venom looked good and Topher Grace brought an energy to his Eddie Brock that that was noteworthy, but made Toby McGuire seem as if he was weary of the role of Peter Parker. The same was true of Bryce Howard's Gwen and Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. I had harbored doubts about the choice of Howard to play the ORIGINAL (in comics) girlfriend of Peter Parker, but I was amazed at how she projected the same appealing quality of the comics character from over three decades ago. Her look was distinctive and avoided a Gwen that had a sort of 'common supermodel' look. In the end, though, she made Mary Jane look as though Kirstin Dunst hadn't had enough sleep. Harry Osborn was played well and his action scenes were well done also. Sadly not all was right in the Big Apple.

My first problem with this outing is the fact that there is simply TOO MUCH injected into this film. It could easily have been two movies or even three. It's even possible it might have worked better if some of the more erroneous elements had been excised and more exposition and key connecting scenes had been added. Some of these are minor points, but not seeing the symbiote that becomes the black costume move from Pete's motor scooter up to his apartment made me think I had slept-walked a bathroom break and missed a scene. This happened several times and everytime it made me stop watching the movie and think about what was going on. I don't ever recall being reminded I was in a theater so many times during a movie.

Spider-Man 3 really consists of four stories. All four stories (Mary Jane, Harry, Sandman, and Venom) are all interesting and viable. Sadly, there isn't enough screen time to tell them all in a full rich manner as had been done in the first two Spider-films. Instead of expanding on these elements, we are are treated to Peter Parker doing a John Travolta act, a Pulp Fiction-esque dance number with Harry and Mary Jane, AND not one, but TWO songs from Mary Jane. Also, as funny as I find Bruce Campbell, the running champaigne joke seemed over played and did not fit the movie.

I also didn't care for the alteration of Spider-Man's origin to include Flint Marko. I understand why it was done as it allowed Peter to actually forgive his uncle's killer since the ORIGINAL killer was dead. Indeed, I liked the moral of the story that this presented, but it just added extra baggage to a movie that is already a contrivance caravan. The Venom-Meteor just happens to fall near Pete and Mary Jane's make out spot. Flint Marko just happens run onto a particle testing facility. Spiderman just happens to be in the bell tower of the church Eddie Brock visits to pray for Peter Parker's death. I realize that these types of synchronistic occurances are the mainstay of comics, but the inclusion of so many in one film and at such a rapid fire pace was jarring and took a franchise that was accurate if not transcendant of its source material and made it into simply a comic book movie.

I'm not sure what happened with this one. The film seems to have fallen victim to the same thinking that plagued many of the Batman films i.e. cramming as much into the project as possible in order to create buzz and sell a broader array of merchandise. Now, don't get me wrong, this was still one of the best superhero movies to date. Sadly it wasn't one of the best Spider-Man movies. I was hoping for much more, but it is after all, just a movie.