Sunday, October 31, 2010

"The Crazies" (2010)

Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Joe Anderson
Written by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright
Directed by Breck Eisner

David (Timothy Olyphant) is the sheriff of the small farming town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa.  On opening day of the high school's baseball season, a man walks onto the field carrying a shotgun.  David confronts him in front of much of the town's youth, and is forced to kill him dead.  At first, David believes the man was just drunk, but the medical examiner's tests prove otherwise.  Soon after, another man locks his wife and child in a closet and burns down the house.

As the bodies begin to pile up in the morgue, several hunters discover a downed plane in the river nearby.  Unfortunately, the river drains into some of the town's drinking water, and David starts to think that something in the plane must have gotten into the water.  Not long after, the military arrives and begins rounding up all the townspeople, testing them and separating them into fenced-off areas.  David's pregnant wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell) is separated from David for running a high body temperature.  David tries to tell the soldiers she only has a fever because she's pregnant, but they wont' listen.  David eventually meets up with his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson) and the two manage to slip away back into town to try to rescue Judy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"The Omen" (1976)

Starring Gregory Peck, David Warner and Lee Remick
Written by David Seltzer
Directed by Richard Donner

What would you do if you found out your child was actually the Anti-Christ?  Damn.

Gregory Peck stars as Robert Thorn, an American diplomat in Rome.  He is told by a priest, Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) that his newborn son has died, but that there is another child in the hospital whose mother died in childbirth.  Robert makes a deal with the priest to raise the child as his own, not even telling his own wife Katherine (Lee Remick) about the switch.

Five years later, Robert is now the American Ambassador to the United Kingdom.  Along with Katherine and son Damien, he moves to the UK to begin his new duties.  Life seems to be going well until strange things begin to happen surrounding Damien.  First, at the child's 5th birthday party, his nanny commits suicide in front of the entire gathering.  Soon after, another priest, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) informs Robert that Damien is actually the son of Satan - the Anti-Christ.  Katherine is pregnant again; Brennan tells Robert that Damien will kill the unborn child, but Robert doesn't believe him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Legion" (2010)

Starring Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid and Lucas Black
Written by Peter Schink and Scott Stewart
Directed by Scott Stewart

Every so often, a movie comes around that is just so totally absurd that you almost feel like you need to watch it again just to make sure that you weren't dreaming the first time.  "Legion" is one of those movies.

The story (heh) concerns the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) who comes to Earth and removes his wings and begins to arm himself.  He's soon set upon by two police officers, one of whom is suddenly possessed by some kind of creature, warning him against his plans.  He kills the creature and takes the police car.

Next we're introduced to a small roadside diner in the desert owned by Bob Hanson (Dennis Quaid).  At the diner that day are Percy (Charles S. Dutton), the diner's one-handed cook, Sandra Anderson (Kate Walsh) and her husband Howard (Jon Tenney) and their daughter Audrey (Willa Holland) whose car has broken down.  They're waiting for Bob's son Jeep (Lucas Black) to repair it so they can continue their journey to Scottsdale ("The worst place imaginable").  Also at the diner is Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the very pregnant young waitress and object of Jeep's affections.  Soon enough, a lost driver pulls up looking for directions and a phone: Kyle (Tyrese Gibson).

"Child's Play" (1988)

Starring Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon and Brad Dourif
Written by Don Mancini, John Lafia and Tom Holland
Directed by Tom Holland

"Child's Play" isn't really a great movie, but it does have one contribution to make to the world of film that makes the whole thing worthwhile: Chucky. 

The story, absurd though it may be, concerns a murderer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) who is pursued and shot by Police Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon).  Ray takes refuge in a toy store and performs some kind of wacky voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into a popular talking toy doll before he dies.  The ritual destroys the store, and Ray is pronounced dead.  Later, a peddler manages to find an undamaged doll and sells it to Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) for her young son's birthday. 

What neither Karen nor Andy (Alex Vincent) know is that the doll is actually the one into which Ray installed his soul.  The doll introduces itself to Alex as "Chucky," and quickly begins to assert a bad influence on the child.  Worse, Chuck wastes almost no time killing Alex's babysitter, Maggie (Dinah Manoff) by beating her in the head with a hammer and knocking her out the window. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

"I Am Legend" (2007)

Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga and Dash Mihok
Written by Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich
Directed by Francis Lawrence

I love Richard Matheson's original novel, "I Am Legend."  Not only is the whole thing fantastically written, but it has what I feel is one of the best twist endings of all time.  Matheson created a horrific and lonely tale of Robert Neville, the last man on Earth, in 1954... and there's still no truly great film adaptation of it.

It's been tried, of course.  Vincent Price starred in "The Last Man on Earth" in 1964 and Charlton Heston in "The Omega Man" in 1971, and while both of those films have their strengths and weaknesses, neither is particularly great.  Price's version has since ended up in bargain-bin video sales, while Heston's is considered something of a camp classic.

In 2007, Will Smith starred in "I Am Legend," directed by Francis Lawrence which ends up being the best of the three adaptations, but still falls pretty far short of that original novel.  "I Am Legend" is two-thirds of a great movie - but it falls apart in the final act, throwing out all the good will it had built up over the first and second acts in favor of flashy CGI effects and a shoe-horned happy ending that rings pretty hollow.

"Slither" (2006)

Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker
Written and directed by James Gunn

Well, it's Halloween time again, which means I'm going to be taking a look at some horror pictures in celebration of the season.  I'm not really much of a horror movie fan.  I certainly don't mind creature features, the occasional slasher flick... but I simply can't stand those movies where people get tortured to death.  No thanks.

Last weekend, I went to an Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie concert and there turned out to be a horror convention going on.  There, I met Alex Winter (some of you may remember him as Bill S. Preston, Esq. of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure") who I was surprised to learn was now a director of teen-friendly horror films.  He told me he was directing a remake of a 1980s film called "The Gate," which I told him I had no knowledge of and that I was not very well versed in the genre in general.  Very kindly, without any kind of condescension, he replied, "Well, the horror folks around here know it."

But there are a few horror movies that I know quite well, even love.  "Slither" is one of them.  I first saw it in 2006 during its theatrical run with a couple of good friends, and we all had a blast.  James Gunn (who did a fine job scripting Zack Snyder's 2004 "Dawn of the Dead" remake) writes and directs this deft mix of horror, comedy and sci-fi.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Driven" (2001)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Kip Pardue
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin has a strange career as a director.  For every solid movie, he's got two or three that are just pretty dang awful.  "Driven" is one of those awful ones. 

A young race car driver, Jimmy Bly (Kip Pardue) is seen as the next big thing in racing as he comes up from nowhere to challenge the reigning champion, Beau Brandenburg (Til Schweiger).  But Bly is young and inexperienced, and has trouble handling the pressure of being the big star in the spotlight.  The team's owner, Carl Henry (Burt Reynolds) decides to bring in his old friend Joe Tanto (Sylvester Stallone) to be Jimmy's partner.  Joe used to be in Jimmy's position - the hot young star, but he lost it all because he couldn't handle it and lost focus on his driving.

But Jimmy's problems are several: His brother, Demille (Robert Sean Leonard) is also his manager, who puts far too many demands on Jimmy.  He's too focused on making them both rich and famous, and Jimmy can't really handle it.  Jimmy is also developing a crush on Brandenburg's fiance, Sophia (Estella Warren).  We follow Jimmy and Joe through their ups and downs as the racing season continues, coming down to the big championship in Germany. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Revenge of the Nerds" (1984)

Starring Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards and Curtis Armstrong
Written by Jeff Buhai, Miguel Tejada-Flores and Steve Zacharias
Directed by Jeff Kanew

"Revenge of the Nerds" is one of those movies I'd seen on TV a lot while growing up.  As such, I really didn't have much of a notion that the movie is, in fact, rated R.  Rewatching it, I noticed many familiar jokes, but also a more adult level to the language and situations that I'd never noticed as a kid.  It's a lot like how I grew up thinking that "Ghostbusters" was really just a cool ghost story rather than one of the funniest comedies ever made.

Best buds and ultra-nerds Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) are heading off for their freshman year of college.  Once they arrive, they're immediately faced with a familiar situation: persecution by jocks.  The members of the football team are also in the Alpha Beta fraternity, who manage to burn down their house during a drunken party trick gone wrong.  As a result, Coach Harris (John Goodman) bullies Dean Ulich (David Wohl) into allowing the team to move into the freshman dorm, displacing the freshmen into the gym. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

'The Spectacular Spider-Man' - Season One (2008)

Starring Josh Keaton, Lacy Chabert and Ben Diskin
Developed by Greg Weisman and Victor Cook

Marvel Comics' Spider-Man has been a cartoon mainstay for a while.  After the much-loved 1990s "Spider-Man" series, he disappeared from the airwaves until 2008, after Spidey gained a massive boost in popularity from the live-action film series that was a huge blockbuster success. 

"The Spectacular Spider-Man" borrows elements from a variety of incarnations of the character.  The first season takes place not too long after teenage nerd Peter Parker (Josh Keaton) was bitten by a genetically-altered spider that somehow imbued him with superhuman abilities.  He becomes the spectacular Spider-Man, swinging around the city and stopping crimes.  Parker also gets a job as an intern at the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Dee Bradley Baker) with his friends Eddie Brock (Ben Diskin) and Gwen Stacy (Lacy Chabert).  He also tries to help his best friend Harry Osborn (James Arnold Taylor) up his grades at school.

But Spider-Man has become a major problem to the criminal element in New York City.  Mob boss "Mr. Big," aka Tombstone (Kevin Michael Richardson) concocts a plan to keep Spidey out of the way: he hires Dr. Otto Octavius (Peter MacNicol) to create an army of super-powered villains to keep Spider-Man occupied (or destroy him entirely, whichever) to allow crime to take place in the city once more. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Losers" (2010)

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Chris Evans
Written by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt
Directed by Sylvain White

Based on the comic book of the same name, "The Losers" stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Watchmen") and Zoe Saldana ("Star Trek").  Morgan plays Colonel Clay, leader of a special ops outfit sent on a search-and-destroy mission into Bolivia which goes horribly wrong when they learn that their intended target has children present.  When they try to call off the air strike, they are informed by a mysterious voice calling himself Max that the mission is on regardless of the children.  The team disobeys orders and goes into the compound to rescue the children, and place them successfully into their evac helicopter.

Unfortunately, the helicopter is quickly taken out by Max, killing all the children, and the blame is placed on Clay and his team.  They go on the run, leaving behind their friends and family, unable to return to the US.  That is, until Clay is contacted by a woman named Aisha (Saldana) who tells them where and when to find Max, and will help them get back into the US if they'll help her take him out.  Clay gathers up his team once more, including Roque (Idris Elba), Jensen (Chris Evans), Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Oscar Janeda), and they stage a hijacking of a truck they believe Max is traveling in.  Instead, they find a computer hard drive, and the team begins to suspect Aisha is screwing with them.  But against the team's protestations, Clay continues with the plan and tries to get the code that will unlock the information on the drive, hoping to use it as leverage against Max.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Forbidden Planet" (1956)

Starring Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis
Written by Cyril Hume
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox

"Forbidden Planet" is one of those sci-fi movies I've heard about for a long time but never got around to seeing, much like "The Day the Earth Stood Still."  Recently released on blu-ray, I rented it from Netflix and finally got down to seeing what the hubbub was all about.  I've known for a long time that "Forbidden Planet" heavily influenced "Star Trek," of which you should know by now I'm a huge fan.  I think I was a little unprepared for just how heavy that influence was, however.  "Star Trek" seems like a straight rip-off, to be perfectly frank.

Leslie Nielsen (!!) stars as Commander John J. Adams of the star cruiser C-57-D.  His ship is on a mission to investigate the planet Altair IV, where a research ship named Bellerophon disappeared some 20 years earlier.  Upon arriving at the planet, Adams and his crew are met by Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), the lone survivor of the Bellerophon expedition.  Adams and his first officer, Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly) and "Doc" Ostrow (Warren Stevens) meet with Dr. Morbius and discover that Morbius is not alone: he has constructed a magnificent robot named Robby, which is capable of incredible feats... and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) who has never seen a human besides her own father.

"TiMER" (2009)

Starring Emma Caulfield, Michelle Borth and John Patrick Amedori
Written and directed by Jac Schaeffer

I've made my feelings about the romantic comedy genre fairly well known.  It's one of the hardest genres of movie to make - make a bad action movie and people can still be fairly entertained.  Same goes with bad sci-fi or drama... make it bad enough, and people will still love your movie.  But a romantic comedy?  If your romantic comedy is neither romantic nor funny... you're boned.

Recently I caught part of "Darkness Falls" on TV and thought to myself, "Hrm, I wonder whatever happened to Emma Caulfield?"  Not too long after, "TiMER" showed up on Netflix's Instant Streaming service.  I don't watch a lot of romantic comedies, mostly because most of the ones I've seen simply aren't very good.  You get the occasional Ryan Reynolds gem, but for the most part, you end up with some pretty lame stuff.  But the plot description of "TiMER" and the presence of Caulfield piqued my curiosity. 

"TiMER" presents an interesting sort of alternate reality where most people have a small device implanted in their wrist which counts down until the day when they're destined to meet their one, true love.   Emma Caulfield stars as Oona, an orthodontist about to turn 30 years old.  But Oona's timer is blank... which means that either her one true love doesn't have a timer, or that she may not actually have one.  Oona lives with her sister, Steph (Michelle Borth) who doesn't seem to have much ambition in life.  While Oona is practically obsessed with finding her "one," Steph's timer has already informed her that she's several years away from finding hers, so she likes to simply have a series of one-night stands without consequences.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie" (2004)

Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Directed by Adam McKay

Okay, this is just plain weird.  "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie" is a whole movie made up entirely of deleted scenes.  Will Ferrell and Adam McKay shot so much material for "Anchorman" that they had enough left over for an entire second movie. 

In this strange, alternate version of "Anchorman," the plot follows the same sort of beats, but with entirely different circumstances.  The ongoing news story that runs through the plot is (instead of the impending birth of a new panda) a group of radical bank robbers who call themselves "The Alarm Clock."  Paul (Kevin Corrigan), Malcolm Y (Chuck D.), Kanshasha X (Maya Rudolph) and Mouse (Tara Subkoff) rob banks in order to bankroll their dreams of a social revolution in America. 

As in "Anchorman," Ron and Veronica fall for each other, but then Ron's jealousy and dislike of women in his profession come between them.  They begin to try and one-up each other, each trying to get leads on the location of "Alarm Clock," knowing that the resulting scoop will make their careers.  Ron manages to use Veronica's information to track down the Alarm Clock, but unfortunately, they get the best of him and steal his news van.  Later, determined to use a famous news anchor to read their manifesto to the world, Alarm Clock kidnaps Veronica and takes her to the San Diego Observatory to make their broadcast. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004)

Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Directed by Adam McKay

I have to admit, I avoided "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" for a long time.  A lot like what happened to me recently with "The Producers," so many people told me that it was utterly, totally hilarious that I knew that as soon as I saw it, it could never live up to that reputation.  Eventually I did see it, and I liked it quite a bit.  But since then, it's actually taken several viewings before I realized that it has actually grown on me even more.  It's combination of blunt, obvious humor and almost surreal absurdity is a winning one.

Set in 1970s San Diego, Will Ferrell stars as Ron Burgundy, the #1 nightly news anchor in town.  Along with his news team and best friends, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) he practically owns San Diego.  Their lives are filled with debauchery, drinking, sex, and all kinds of lunacy that comes with their level of celebrity.  But one day, when the station hires a female reporter, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) their world is turned upside down.  The group is immediately opposed to a female coming into what they see as a man's world, and are threatened by her even more when it turns out that Veronica is actually quite tenacious and talented.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Pan's Labyrinth" (2006)

Starring Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones and Maribel Verdu
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro

(There will be spoilers of the end of this movie.  Beware.)

Guillermo del Toro has a fabulously inventive visual mind.  His eye for fantastical creatures and settings, for creating haunting and lyrical moments in film is unparalleled in the semi-mainstream.  It's hard to call del Toro mainstream because for the most part, I'm not sure anyone really knows who he is outside of comic book fans.  Ask any Joe Schmoe on the street if they know the films of Guillermo del Toro and they'll probably give you a blank stare or maybe you'll be lucky enough that someone actually saw "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" and bothered to read the credits.

"Pan's Labyrinth" (or, perhaps as it more accurately should be titled, 'The Faun's Labyrinth') is a fairy tale-influenced period drama.  That's right.  The story concerns a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who is brought with her very pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to live in the mountains of Spain where her step-father, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez i Ayats) leads a campaign against local guerrilla fighters.   There, she discovers an ancient stone maze.  One night, a creature she takes to be a fairy leads her into the maze to the center where she encounters a faun (Doug Jones), a sort of half-human, half-goat creature who tells her that she is the reincarnation of an ancient princess, and must complete three tasks before the full moon so that she may enter a mythical realm to be reunited with her father.

"MacGruber" (2010)

Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillipe
Written by Will Forte, John Solomon and Jorma Taccone
Directed by Jorma Taccone

I have to admit that I did actually want to see "MacGruber."  I can't really explain why... I'd never really been a fan of the original 'Saturday Night Live' sketches, but there was something about the trailers that intrigued me.  But now, finally seeing it, I'm sorta glad I didn't pay all that money to go to the theatre.  "MacGruber" is okay, but nothing particularly special.  It's nice that they didn't hold back in terms of the language, this is definitely an R-rated film which is cool, but it's just not funny enough to call it anything more than a rental.

Will Forte stars as "MacGruber," supposedly an ex-Navy Seal, Army Ranger and Green Beret (and all-star college quarterback) who fakes his own death when villainous super-villain Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer) detonates a bomb at MacGruber's wedding.  Ten years later, Cunth has stolen the X-5 nuclear warhead, and Colonel Jim Faith (Powers Boothe) tracks down MacGruber at a monastery and pleads with him to return to duty, recover the warhead and save America.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Season Three (2007)

Starring Zach Eisen, Mae Whitman and Jack DeSena
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

Holy pacing problems, Batman!  While the third season of Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" features some of the most epic action and emotional storylines for its characters, it also suffers from wildly problematic issues with pace.  At times it feels the producers almost don't know what to do with themselves, putting the now rather large cast of characters through a cycle of split-ups and reunions before slamming headlong into the massive, four-part series finale.

That finale, while huge and hugely entertaining, also suffers from some writing conceit issues that reek of either laziness or desperation from the writers who suddenly found that they'd either forgotten to include some thing to raise the stakes suitably for a series finale OR realized they'd written themselves into a bit of a corner because stopping the Fire Lord would most likely mean killing him, which would be kind of a no-no both for the fact that this is a children's show and because the hero is very much against killing as a means of victory in battle.

"Carriers" (2009)

Starring Chris Pine, Lou Taylor Pucci and Piper Perabo
Written and directed by Alex and David Pastor

After a vicious illness spreads across the globe, killing nearly everyone, civilization has fallen apart.  A small group of survivors, brothers Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Brian (Chris Pine) along with Bobby (Piper Perabo) and Kate (Emily VanCamp) travel the countryside.  They're headed for an old beach resort that holds happy memories for Danny and Brian, having vacationed there as a family in the years before the virus.

To stay alive and uninfected, the group follows a strict set of rules.  They avoid contact with all others, who may be infected.  They wear surgical masks and gloves whenever possible, and everything suspect in the slightest is scrubbed with bleach.  They're paranoid to the max, stressed out and unhappy.  Brian is the apparent leader of the group, basically through being more impulsive and decisive than the others.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Season Two (2006)

Starring Zach Eisen, Mae Whitman and Jack DeSena
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

Season Two picks up just where Season One left off.  The Avatar, Aang (Zach Eisen) and his friends Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena) have defeated Admiral Zhao (Jason Isaacs).  The group sets off toward the Earth Nation to find an Earth Bending teacher for Aang.  They soon meet Toph (Jessie Flower), a blind girl who may be the world's greatest Earth Bender.  She agrees to teach Aang, and joins the group on their journey.  Eventually, they discover that a coming eclipse will render the Firebenders of the world powerless, giving Aang his best chance at defeating Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill).

Hoping to enlist the help of the Earth Nation armies, the group journies to Ba Sing Se, the Earth Nation Capital to meet with the King.  Unfortunately, they discover a massive conspiracy by Long Feng (Clancy Brown), leader of the King's personal guard, the Dai Li.  But "Team Avatar" is not alone in Ba Sing Se: banished Prince Zuko (Dante Basco) and his uncle Iroh (Mako) are also in town.  Now fugitives from the Fire Nation, they have settled as refugees and begin working in a tea shop.  At the same time, Zuko's sister, Azula (Grey DeLisle) has been tasked by Ozai to find Zuko and the Avatar.  Unlike Zuko, who is troubled, Azula is vicious and utterly without mercy. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Producers" (1968)

Starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Kenneth Mars
Written and directed by Mel Brooks

Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder star in Mel Brooks' "The Producers," about two men who try to set themselves up for failure in order to make giant amounts of money.  Mostel is Max Bialystock, a once-great producer who has fallen on hard times.  He pretends to love lonely old women in order to get money from them.  One day, he gets a visit from Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), an accountant sent to look at his books.  When Bloom discovers that Bialystock embezzled two thousand dollars from his last play, he makes the suggestion that, under the correct conditions, Bialystock could make a ton more money on a flop than a hit, since he wouldn't be required to pay back his investors.

Bialystock, of course, thinks this is the greatest idea he's ever heard.  With his ability to con pretty much anyone, and Bloom's money skills, he's sure they'll be able to come up with something.  They manage to find a play called "Springtime for Hitler," a godawful, pro-Nazi play by a former German soldier living in New York, Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars).  After they manage to secure permission to stage the play, the next step is a director, whom they find in Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewitt), a man who says he's tired of directing musicals... but that "Springtime for Hitler" could use some music.  And then, of course... it's time for casting.   They discover their Hitler practically by accident when a supposed actor shows up to the wrong audition.  Bialystock and Bloom are trying their damnedest to make "Springtime for Hitler" the worst play ever.  But will everything go according to plan?   Probably not.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Season One (2005)

Starring Zach Tyler, Mae Whitman and Jack de Sena
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

Not to be confused with a small, little-known film with a similar name, Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is a fine animated series set in a world of elemental magic torn apart by a vicious, century-long war.  I've heard a lot about this series from friends of mine who swear that it is the greatest animated series to ever grace television.  I'm not so sure about that (though my friends also agree that the show's first season is not its best) but it is a pretty excellent series.

Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack de Sena) are brother and sister, members of the southern Water Tribe.  One day, while out fishing, they discover a large iceberg.  Frozen within is a young boy, Aang (Zach Tyler) and his flying bison, Appa (Dee Bradley Baker).  Aang is what is known as an Airbender, a group of people who can control the air (just as the Water Tribe can bend water, the Earth nation the ground and the Fire nation the fire).  But in the hundred years he's been trapped in the ice, his people were wiped out by the Fire nation, who have waged war on the other tribes of the world for the last century.

Katara and Sokka discover that Aang is also the Avatar - the legendary master of all four elements who will bring balance to the world.  But Aang is young; he has yet to master Water, Earth and Fire, and is often more concerned with having fun than with his responsibilities to save the world.  After the Fire nation's banished prince, Zuko (Dante Basco) learns of the Avatar's return, he sets out to capture Aang and use him to barter his return to his kingdom.  Katara, Sokka and Aang set out for the northern Water tribe, a journey that will take them across the globe, to find a Water master to teach Aang.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993)

Starring Kevin Conroy, Dana Delaney and Mark Hamill
Written by Alan Burnett and Paul Dini
Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm

Until rather recently, "Mask of the Phantasm" was the best Batman movie.  While Tim Burton's 1989 movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson was hugely popular (and heavily influenced the animated series "Mask of the Phantasm" spins off from), there are aspects of it that hold it back.  "Mask of the Phantasm" shares a lot in common with Burton's film, exploring the origin of Batman through flashbacks and incorporating the Joker (pre-acid bath) into that origin.

The mobsters of Gotham City are being targeted by a mysterious assassin (Stacy Keach) who seems very much like the Batman.  One night, Chuckie Sol is killed and the murder is pinned on Batman (Kevin Conroy), who was investigating Sol's money laundering operations.  An ambitious city councilor, Arthur Reeves (Hart Bochner) uses this to further his campaign by calling out the Batman and promising voters to get rid of the dangerous vigilante once and for all.