Sunday, July 29, 2001

Planet of the Apes

The high point of the Summer of 2001 movie season has finally arrived. I am happy to report that Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes was worth the wait.

Remaking one of the most loved and revered science fiction films in the history of cinema would have been a daunting task, for anyone but Tim Burton. The director of such favorites as Batman, Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure has created one of the best remakes of all time.

The makeup is fabulous. The special effects are awesome. Burton's take on the Apes story is not a carbon copy of the original Planet of the Apes plot and is different enough to keep even long-time fans like me glued to the screen. Yet, Burton is completely faithful to the original idea and doesn't shake anything up too much.

If you are a fan of the original movies, you are going to find a lot to like here. In-jokes abound and there are a couple of noteworthy guest appearances. Linda Harrison (Nova in the original films) appears as a human captive. Charlton Heston (Taylor in the 1968 Planet and Beneath the Planet of the Apes), has the best homage (and uncredited) guest appearance. Did you spot him? If not, well here's a hint: he's the character that utters the apocalyptic phrase "Damn them all to Hell!" If you've seen the original Planet, you know the significance of these words. The theatre that I was in recognized him and erupted in laughter and applause when they heard this!

The other actors do a great job. Mark Wahlberg is suitably subdued. Helena Bonham Carter is wonderful, as a chimpanzee that is sympathetic to humans. Paul Giamatti (you'll remember him as Pig Virus from Howard Stern's Private Parts movie) is an ape that trades in humans and has some very funny lines. Kris Kristofferson is in half of the film, but he's great while he's there. Burton's wife Lisa Marie walks through the film just like she did in Mars Attacks.

So, all in all, a great film and worthy of the Tim Burton tradition. The bizarre ending of Planet of the Apes leaves a sequel hanging and is perfectly done. Great summer entertainment.

Planet of the Apes (like Shrek) is one of the best films so far this summer. Both take chances and succeed. We are the winners because we get to spend the Summer of 2001 in theatres marveling at creative accomplishments like these.

Visit the Planet of the Apes web site for more information.

The Thing

One of my favorite movies of all time is John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi/horror film, The Thing. There is an excellent DVD release out now that contains the widescreen version of the film plus a ton of extras. I just recently found this wonderful web site devoted to the movie. It is an all-purpose clearing house of information about the movie and the concept and contains some really cool stuff like the full text of the original John W. Campbell story "Who Goes There?" that the film was based upon. You will also find information about the original 1950's version of the film. The site was created by someone named Vampire. We have to take our hats off to this person because it is exceptional! Check it out!

DVD Profiler

I love DVDs! That's no surprise. In order to give you an idea of what my personal collection looks like (as opposed to the Wayne Public Library media collection that I order for), I set up an account with the web-based database service DVD Profiler. You can glimpse the entries at any time. You can also look at the collection entries in whatever fashion you wish...alphabetically perhaps, or maybe in order of purchase. I'm also trying to make more of an effort to post some of my wish-list items, in hopes that some of you out there in Internet land might want to trade. At any rate, click the DVD Profiler illustration off to the left to check out what I like in video. Be forewarned, I'm heavily into science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but I consider myself to be a true film connoisseur. You'll see.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

The time has finally come. The expansion set to Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo II has been released. After months of waiting, it is officially time to enjoy this wonderful effort by one of the world's best PC game producers.

In case you've been living on another planet for the last year, Diablo II is the latest game from Blizzard, the venerable producers of such masterpieces as WarCraft II, StarCraft, and the original Diablo. Diablo II takes up where the first left off, offering many more role-playing possibilities. I've spent more hours playing Diablo II during this last year than any other game. And I've enjoyed every second of it.

The original five characters of Diablo II (Barbarian, Amazon, Sorceress, Necromancer, and Paladin) have been supplemented by two new additions: the Assassin and the Druid. There have been many other improvements in the game too. Each of the new characters has a brand new ability tree to exploit. The size of your stash has been increased, so you can store more loot. New items have been introduced, including runes and jewels. Powerful new types of items can be created by players (crafted items can be made by utilizing the Horadric Cube and specific recipes). There are now character specific items. The game can now be played at a new, more detailed 800 x 600 resolution. And, an entirely new Act V has been added, which will challenge even the most experienced Diablo II fan.

It's been about a month since the D2 expansion has been released. I feel like I've been playing a new game. The improvements are wonderful. There is drama in the new act. There is also a great Wow! factor in playing the new characters. The expansion is well worth buying. Blizzard Entertainment has continued its tradition of creating quality PC games and expanding upon them to insure play longevity for the consumer.

Of course, you will need the original Diablo II in order to use the expansion set. If you don't already have D2 and have not experienced it yet, go out and buy both immediately and prepare to be amazed.

Read more about Diablo II: Lord of Destruction at Blizzard Entertainment. Then go to my Diablo II links for more information about playing the game! See you on!

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Is it live or is animation? The line between a film composed of real people and one made up entirely of computer generated actors officially begins to blur with the release of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. As you watch this fascinating movie, you can tell that what you are seeing on the screen is entirely electronically produced...but just barely. It is some of the most convincing computer animation to date.

The story is fairly pedestrian science fiction, with the earth being attacked once again by alien beings intent upon taking over. Unfortunately, this is one of the movie's major downfalls. The other is that, while the film's otherworldly look is wonderful, the characters are particularly expressionless. The faces don't transmit any emotion and don't pull us in to relate to them. You are left with a fairly bland attitude about the whole film once it is over.

Still, see this movie for the fun of it. You'll be able to say that you saw the movie that started us on the road to "live-action" feature films that have no real actors on the screen. If you think about the importance of this fact, you'll see that it could change the state of movies as we know them in the not too distant future. Will actors need stunt doubles for dangerous shots in the future? With inventive sound work, some of the best actors in film history could return in feature-length films years after dying.

For more about Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, go to the movie's web site at . See the movie during its initial weeks of release and you'll be treated to the first official trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man feature film from Sony pictures, containing the first footage of the Marvel Comics super-hero in action. It's exciting stuff.

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

Scary Movie 2

The Wayans Brothers are back, as they promised, with Scary Movie 2. If you enjoyed the first movie, you'll love this one. The humor is just as twisted and raunchy as before and the Wayans continue to spoof horror, suspense, and action films. SC2's targets include The Exorcist, What Lies Beneath, and Charlie's Angels, among others.

Marlon and Shawn Wayans are both back for more and share writing credits. Older brother Keenan Ivory Wayans again directs. Also returning are Anna Faris and Regina Hall (mysteriously returning to life without explanation from the previous film--strange). New faces include Tori Spelling and Kathleen Richardson (both from Beverly Hills: 90210 fame), Tim Curry, and one very funny Chris Elliot. Watch for guest cameos by Howard Stern Show wack pack member Beetlejuice, ex Conan O'Brien sidekick Andy Richter, and (replacing Marlon Brando at the last minute) James Woods.

I saw this movie on the day of release at the first showing and the crowd was rolling in the aisles. The movie is hilarious from beginning to end. It will probably, like the first movie, be criticised for the nature of the humor, but, caveat emptor. I loved it. I won't spoil anything for you by explaining any of the gags.

Bottom line: Very, very funny movie. See it in an audience full of fans ready to laugh their asses off.

For more information on Scary Movie 2, go to this link at Yahoo! Movies, because there doesn't seem to be an official Scary Movie 2 web site yet.