On Screen: Transporter 3

November 12, 2008

COMPLETE THE MISSION | In theaters Nov. 26

Shoot ’em up car-chasing thrillers generally aren’t my thing, but it’s hard not to love the Jason Statham and the “Transporter” series.

The third installment comes out in a few weeks…


The Ex-Files: Longing for the Past

July 25, 2008

I WANT TO BELIEVE | But it’s just not there

Back in the days when wife Lee Ann and I used to schedule our week so that we wouldn’t miss an episode of Fox’s “The X-Files,” the payoff was predictable: about a third of the episodes were classic examples of great writing and true excellence in episodic television; about a third were worth the time invested, but not much more; and a third elicited responses like, “Well…now THAT was a bit of a rip-off…” or “that was SO weird.” The goose bumps and joyful satisfaction of the former two made up for the disappointment of the latter. When “X-Files” was good, it was simply superb. The occasional misses were tolerable.

At some point, though, about the time FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder (portrayed by David Duchovny) left the show, so did we. The consistency in writing and production fell off and the replacements for Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) were shallow and lacked chemistry with each other and with the audience. The storylines became confusing and oddly repetitive. I just gave up. I don’t remember it going off the air; I’d compare it to finding out an old girlfriend’s getting married and not registering any emotion.

Still, I cherish many of the episodes from the first five seasons, particularly the “stand-alone” shows – those which introduced an eerie problem and ended with a neatly-tied-up solution. I watch “Post-Modern Prometheus” four or five times a year and cry every time. Whenever I need a good laugh, I’ll pop in “Bad Blood” and marvel at the range of the abilities of the show’s writers, creator/producer/director Chris Carter and the talent and spark between Duchovny and Anderson.

So when I found out there was a new movie, I was pumped. No more.


That sound you hear is the air being let out. I went to tonight’s 7:45 showing in Sanford and walked away with much the same kind of feeling you get when you arrive home with your family’s take-out supper and you realize the order of one of your children is missing entirely and the grilled chicken ceasar salad you picked up for your wife is missing the grilled chicken. Everyone still gets to eat, but it wasn’t what you were planning on – and at least two people are pretty unhappy.

It’s not a case of too-high expectations. Earlier today I read the review of our own Neil Morris, and then read the Plugged In Online review (which you can see here.) Neil gave the film a “D” grade, and Plugged In Online essentially called it pornographic. Those bad reviews, combined with the secrecy surrounding the script (which in Hollywood – or in this case, Vancouver – usually means it’s a stinker) made me lower my sights quite a bit.

I would give the film a C-, and that’s generous. It wasn’t as bad as most reviewers made it out to be…it’s just that it wasn’t that good. The story isn’t compelling and the writing is spotty. Six years since the last episode aired, and this was the best that Carter and veteran producer Frank Spotnitz could come up with?

Non-fans of the show have little reason to see it. Major fans, like me, will still probably go, but they’d probably agree that it’s twice and long, and half as good, as the “average” X-Files episode from the series’ heyday.

I wanted to believe. About two-thirds of the way through, I wanted to be leaving. But I stuck it out til the end…poorly-done as it was. I don’t regret seeing it, but I’m going to have to watch “Bad Blood” or another of the classic episodes on video this weekend to get the bad taste out…

Why So Serious?

July 20, 2008

NOT ON THE BATWAGON | Give me X-Files instead

Count me as one of the people who didn’t love “The Dark Knight.” Too dark. Too much killing. Too much dialogue that I couldn’t hear because of the loud music.

Editor Billy Liggett gave it rave reviews. You can check it out on his blog, and check out our coverage of the blockbuster film in Sunday’s edition.

Both my sons, Zachary and Addison, also loved it. Zachary has written about the film, plus added his thoughts on this year’s best performances and his favorite films of all-time, on his site.


I’m waiting for Friday…and the return of the X-Files.

On Screen: “Happening,” “Love Guru”

July 5, 2008

‘GOSH, THAT WAS A HORRIBLE MOVIE’ | ‘The Happening’ – wishing it hadn’t

With my sons away at camp, my wife and daughter in Kentucky to see other family members and the grass having been mowed, I went Friday afternoon to see “The Happening,” a film I wrote about a few weeks ago here. It left such a bad taste in my mouth I went immediately to see “Love Guru” afterward, which made my movie-going experience on the afternoon 0-fer-2.

First, “The Happening”…

A Herald co-worker (“I wish it hadn’t happened,” she texted me) and my sister (“It’s not happening”) both warned me it was bad, but I wanted to give M. Night Shyamalan’s film a chance because of the success of some of his earlier work.

Life is strange, and “The Happening” made me ponder some of life’s more quirky mysteries. The appeal of Amy Winehouse…photosythesis…why “abbreviated” is such a long word. Add this one to the list: why would a studio (studios, actually), with all the executives who make such big salaries, allow a script as horrible as “The Happening” to ever be made into a movie.

Bad script, bad story, bad acting, bad directing, bad ending, bad everything. Not quite on the stink level of “The Mist,” but mystifying awful. I went into the film having read the reviews and heard how bad it was, but I was unprepared for the miserable filmmaking. Remembering the exquisiteness of the scenes of “The Sixth Sense,” it’s hard to believe how plain, and plainly bad, this film is. Not a single scene worked, and as a whole the film was an utter waste of time (for me and for the two other people seeing the 1:35 showing).

It ended just in time for me to wander over to the 3:15 showing of “Love Guru,” Mike Meyers’ latest farce. I happened to be the only person in the theater for this piece of filmmaking, and even though there were several laugh-out-loud parts, Meyers seemed intent on slipping in as much crudeness – using the same gag the basis for bad jokes over and over again – into the film.

The only redeeming part of the entire afternoon was seeing the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup at the end of “Guru” – something that hasn’t happened in real life since 1967. I know it was make-believe, but it helped me imagine that I hadn’t wasted an afternoon at the movies.

Stairway to Gilligan’s Island

June 1, 2008

Combining two of the biggest pop culture phenomena of the late 60s and early 70s…Led Zeppelin and my favorite after-school sitcom, Gilligan’s Island.

The Lost ‘Lost’ Title Sequence Pitch

May 31, 2008

Here’s one take on how the opening title sequence for the hit series “LOST” may have been pitched…

Raiders and the Lost Art

May 22, 2008











‘CRYSTAL SKULL’ HAS NO POWER | Suspended belief drains magic from film

After George Lucas described the latest installment of the “Indiana Jones” series a few weeks ago as “just a movie,” we should have guessed that the buzz created by this long-awaited sequel was nothing more than an annoying gnat.

Harsh, I know, but “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which opened in theaters today, was very irritating. The element that made the original trilogy so good – a level of believability that drew you into the film and made you forget you were inside a theater – was nowhere to be found in “Skull,” which Lucas co-wrote and produced. Instead, a twistedly convoluted storyline, over-the-top special effects and a painfully self-deprecating Harrison Ford combine to prompt you suspend belief over and over. You realize time and again you’re at a movie (and not a very good one at that) and not experiencing something special. The movie distracts you from the movie-going experience. The magic of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” has been replaced by a cartoonish thing that had me wondering whether Steven Spielberg really did direct this very mediocre piece of movie-making.

I wrote a few days ago about how much I enjoyed the three “Indy” films, especially the final installment (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Those films worked. Ford, as the adventurer and archeology professor Henry Jones Jr., was flawless. The scripts were solid and the stories told like good historical fiction, despite the fantastical elements. They were fun. “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” has a few fun parts, but the smart dialogue and engagement of the earlier films just aren’t there. Lucas and Spielberg seem to me to have tried to replace them with Twinkie filling…a sugary, protein-less concoction of computerized special effects and technology that are so unreal, so distracting, that it even made the popcorn taste bad.

You can read our own Neil Morris’ review in today’s Herald or at his website here. Editor Billy Liggett will also likely weigh in later on Friday.

No doubt the film will do well at the box office, but the Indiana Jones franchise will certainly take a hit when the numbers fall of the charts after opening weekend. It is, after all, just a movie.