Posted by midiguru on March 29, 2010
Some of the movies I get from Netflix are unsuspected gems, but some of them are just silly. I like fantasy adventures, so I took a chance on a couple of for-TV movies from TNT. The series title is The Librarian.
Basically, they’re cheap knockoffs of Indiana Jones, with bits of supernatural spice thrown in. They’re aimed at 8th-grade viewers. What saves them, if anything does, is that you’re not supposed to take them seriously.
The first clue is that the supporting cast includes Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin. Newhart is sort of a cross between George Burns as God and Charlie in Charlie’s Angels. He’s the stay-at-home mastermind who sends the librarian out on dangerous quests.
The main reason this cheese is worth mentioning at all is a wonderful moment in the first movie. Something dangerous and mystifying has happened to the librarian, and he picks up the phone and calls his boss — Newhart. So then we get a profile shot of Newhart picking up the handset of an ornate, old-fashioned phone, and everyone who knows Newhart is bound to be thinking, “Oh, the phone bit.” And then … they don’t do the phone bit. I loved that.
Also, Newhart, who is at least 80 and looks it, gets to do a kung fu combat scene in which he knocks bad guys down and emerges unscathed. That was kind of fun too. And of course the way Jane Curtin can look deeply skeptical and disgusted without saying a word. Without the talents of those two venerable comedians, the Librarian movies would be worse than dreadful. As it is — I don’t mind stupid, if it’s fun.
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Posted by midiguru on April 7, 2009
Browsing in Netflix, I spotted a miniseries called Tin Man, a re-imagining of, you guessed it, The Wizard of Oz. It’s nothing whatever like Gregory Maguire’s wonderful novel Wicked — but both of them prove that, against all odds, Frank Baum’s goofy story has entered the realm of Living Myth, right alongside Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, and Frankenstein.
A case could be made that major creative works like these ought to move into the public domain a lot sooner. We’d have more stories like this to ooh and ahh over. But that’s a debate for another time.
Tin Man is pretty good. Not great — the special FX are TV quality, not movie quality, and the acting ditto (though Richard Dreyfuss turns in a great performance as Mystic Man.) There are way too many group hugs in the third and final segment of the story, and the plot makes about as much sense as the plot of the average fantasy or sci-fi movie, which is to say, no sense at all. But the action and complications keep the story moving, and the visual design is good.
Above all, if you know the source material (and who doesn’t?), you’ll appreciate the tricky changes wrought on it. All of the essential elements are in place — a tornado, a little dog, a hot-air balloon, a bunch of short people, a goofy guy with floppy limbs and no brain, Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 31, 2009
Watched Stardust tonight. It’s a charming movie. I haven’t read the novel, but I’ll make a point of seeking it out; I’m a Neil Gaiman fan already, so I was pretty sure the movie would be good. Aside from one really annoying plot complication near the end — the old Romeo & Juliet message-that-goes-astray trick — the story was amusing and effective.
Earlier in the evening, I spent an hour and a half playing Blue Lacuna, a new interactive fiction by Aaron Reed. It’s far above average — a fine piece of IF. Strong writing, a vivid sense of place and mystery, and an innovative user interface.
In 90 minutes with Blue Lacuna, the story went precisely nowhere. I met one old man who’s charmingly loony and quite talkative, but he’s doing nothing, just hanging around on the beach. The big action-filled moment was when I got Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by midiguru on March 12, 2009
Rented Ridley Scott’s Legend from Netflix this week. Watched the first eight or nine minutes of it. Ejected it.
Met four or five characters — two pure evil, three pure good. None of them even remotely real or believable. Huge TechniColor forest complete with rabbits and butterflies.
The whole thing seems to have sprung to life off of a cereal box. It isn’t even a good cartoon. (It isn’t a cartoon. Live action. Tom Cruise.)
Dang. I wanted to watch a movie tonight. But since I don’t want to be cleaning vomit off of the rug, I think I’d better skip this one.
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Posted by midiguru on February 7, 2009
Prowling around Netflix, I stumbled on a blurb for Mirrormask. Written by Neil Gaiman, so I knew I had to see it.
Wow! Jaw-droppingly good. So good I watched it Friday night, and then again Saturday night. Visually stunning, conceptually stunning, and a solid story to boot. Also fine acting and superior music.
If you like modern fantasy, this movie will blow your socks off and curl your toes.
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