Leonardo DiCaprio is a character actor. Great as a youth in This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, he was almost a parody of a leading man in Titanic with his fey, boyish look and manner (which didn't stop an uncritical public from making the film a huge success). He's had a few good parts since, such as Catch Me If You Can and The Departed, but much of his work has seen his people and him making some weird or not-quite-right choices: The Quick and the Dead, Gangs of New York, Blood Diamond (with that awful fake accent), and Aviator (a very uneven performance that veered from very good to outright caricature). Now it's clear that he was terribly miscast in Clint Eastwood's new biopic J Edgar. I'm glad to see DiCaprio drifting back to character parts, but this big, showy type of character is not the way to transition into quality character roles. Character actors have the longest careers and often the most interesting titles in their resumes, and DiCaprio has had his fill of fame and has plenty of money and women, so if he's smart, he'll do the occasional leading role and stick with well-written and appropriate character parts. What is so crystal clear from just the stills and film-clips making the rounds for the pending release of J Edgar is that DiCaprio failed to capture the inner being that was J Edgar Hoover. It's all in the eyes. There is an evil queen lurking inside that head of J Edgar and DiCaprio didn't come near it. The image composite I've included shows you (and these are the best examples of DiCaprio getting sorta close I could find). Brilliant New York actor Kenneth McMillan captures the essence of J Edgar without even trying in his performance of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in David Lynch's Dune (1984). The real J Edgar Hoover was a power-mad aggressive homosexual predator who would look you over like a piece of meat. Those who encountered him in an official setting would often perceive this as a powerful person taking stock, but anyone with any gaydar knew when he was sizing up a piece of man-meat with those eyes. There are all kinds of gay men, but one particular type take on a portion of their mother's persona - often with mincing little facial gestures or physical flourishes, and Hoover was this type. Even from the still and clips it is clear DiCaprio missed it entirely. 



   The X-Men franchise has proven that Hollywood can actually respect the source material when it comes to some much-beloved Marvel comics, and I have long hoped they would never touch my favorites besides the X-Men, The Inhumans. But I've had a change of heart and think maybe it's time. They are really better as ancillary characters - they seem more mysterious. Most important is that a director who specializes in moody atmospherics be chosen to realize them onscreen - their representation on film should be surreal.

I'm not so excited about the upcoming Avengers movie, since it has none of the characters I would put in the lineup: Vision, Quicksilver, Wanda the Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, Nova and Black Panther.



Tonight's return of AMC's Walking Dead had a scene near the beginning where our intrepid band of survivors decide to leave Atlanta for the highway and a military base. Of course a radiator blows on one of the vehicles and they become trapped by a hoard of zombies walking past - that don't seem to smell them or sense their heat. Move along, nothing to eat here. Then, in an even stupider turn of events our cop hero chases after the two zombies who've flushed the innocent little girl out from under a car and the run and run through the woods and rather than just pop off two heads shots with his gun and be done with it, he hides the little girl in a hole by the creek ... an alligator den? ... a zombie corpse hole? No such luck in this series without irony or humor, the little girl escapes unharmed when it would have been so much more satisfying for smarty-pants cop to stuff her in a zombie feast-cave or have some raccoons eat her, or for the zombies to catch her and tear her apart for snacks. Aw, now it's Little Girl Lost.  And why didn't he use his gun? (and he lost his rifle chasing after her) ... so a fake speaker-stone was used to smash in the zombie extras' heads. After the commercial break we'll see if they are now lost on their own - a little side-plot, or if they merrily skip through the forest back to the road and their companions - oh, a worse plot gimmick - she's wandered off on her own and now they must search for her while avoiding zombies. Meanwhile, a screwdriver to the eye of one zombie and some other close zombie kills don't seem to get dangerous zombie splatter on anyone - or it is harmless because our characters aren't afraid of it. This is one dumb show.



Why did I think for a second that this film might be good? It is terrible in so many ways it is hard to know where to begin, other than to say that Hollywood studio system cookie-cutter movie-by-committee produces crap like this. The advance press on the film kept saying how much the filmmakers respected the original 1982 John Carpenter version ... well, if true, they never understood what made the first film so good. 

This version is entirely without suspense, features full-frontal CGI creature effects, terrible casting, a worse script, and feels like a child't connect-the-dots exercise more than a movie experience. Rather than tie this film to Carpenter's 1982 version it feels more like a companion piece to the first awful X-Files movie. In instance after instance the film tries to reference the Carpenter version and lifts bits completely but comes off entirely stale with zero feeling of continuity. They really should make a drinking game as a companion to this version, so you can pound a shot of booze every time you recognize that's from the other film [alcohol poisoning for everyone!]

In horror, what lurks in the shadows and our imaginations is much more frightening than what is seen clearly in the open. Monsters that hint at their presence (or scuttle by quickly) send your mind reeling whereas CGI creatures with insect appendages and toothy maws center-screen and well-lit, just make you want to laugh after the fifth time. Modern horror films speed the action up, now we have fast zombies and a Thing that whips around it's flower-arm and rips organs right out of victims one after another ... your liver ... and your pancreas!  Just as with the slow dumb Zombies in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, it is the relentless, unstoppable creep of evil which is frightening - not the whip-snap of a monster's fleshy tentacle. Duh.

The Gen-X / Gen-Y idiots responsible for greenlighting and ordering certain things be in this movie should be tried and convicted for bad filmmaking. Obviously some studio suits came in with their marketing charts and said the movie needed Americans, blacks and women in order to sell tickets to those moviegoers. It is my recollection of the Norwegian station from the Carpenter version it was all white, male Norwegians. A good story and a good script and the black and female audiences would still have come to see the new version without their surrogates in the film as characters. A good, scary film will draw an audience, every time. This exercise in movie-by-marketing-committee deserves to see a huge loss on this piece of crap.

The lead actress is a blank and a bore and her character - if you can call it that - is just an archetype of the brainy, no-nonsense science nerd with some looks, and is so badly written maybe it isn't the actress's fault. There is no internal logic as to why the senior and veteran members of the Norwegian team would start to follow her or listen to her, or why she suddenly is Sigourney Weaver in Aliens by the end of the film - toting a flame-thrower and treading bravely into the alien's lair. The time period is referenced once at the beginning "Winter 1982" but the hair, clothes and cultural idioms are wrong and nothing else suggests the era - nor does anything suggest the absolute remoteness, harshness and isolation of the place. There are way too many people at the base, way too much equipment, the place internally is way too spacious and the suggestion of the cold and the harsh elements is almost dispensed with it is done so poorly (especially the plastic snow on windshields). 

This is the kind of bad movie you leave the theater feeling like you got mugged.



Best portions of the soundtrack from Vangelis's Bladerunner music 



I was originally excited to see the new version of The Thing, but after seeing the trailer not so much. Once again the Gen-X/Gen-Y suits that now run studios and make the films have less sophisticated tastes and talent and are dumbing-it down. 
What made John Carpenter's The Thing a masterpiece of horror was it's slow pace and sense of remove. You felt the isolation of the people, you felt doom closing in and the unrelenting attack of the alien even if you didn't see it. 
It is the same complaint I have with modern zombie pics - they are smart, fast zombies now whereas the original zombies in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead were slow, dumb zombies and ultimately scarier ... an unrelenting force coming after you that you can outrun in the short-term but which will never stop for any reason is far more frightening ... the scariest thing in the new zombie series on AMC is that half-lady hungrily crawling around. The trailer for the new Thing shows lots of quick-cutting, fast-change special creature CGI effects, a girl (shamelessly going after the female demographic when they don't need to given the classic status of the Carpenter version), yet it supposed to take place in the Norwegian camp earlier in the story referenced at the beginning of Carpenter's film. I hope I'm wrong - the casting and production design of the film look good.



I'm shocked - shocked - that he won this year for Game of Thrones. He deserved it, sure. But these awards shows never seem to give it to the right person, rather they give an award later on for some sucky part after you've already turned in outstanding performances. I predicted he'd win next year for GoT, since his character will have a much bigger, juicier part. An award well-deserved, Peter, and for a body of consistently good work. He may be the first actor who is physically a dwarf to transcend the stature issue through his talent. People think of him, and what he can bring to a part, and then consider that he's shorter than average.



Director Duncan Jones' Moon (he's David Bowie's son) is pretty good - not great. Aesthetically it borrows from 2001, Alien and some other good sci-fi films for its story of a clone learning he's a clone from his clone. Rockwell has been one of my favorite actors since I first saw him in the terrific Lawn Dogs back in '97. It's a tour-de-force performance opportunity for Rockwell, but he underplays it a bit which makes the film all the better. There is a bit of an inside joke to the film because there are lots of shots of Rockwell's butt.



Update: Review below
The unneeded remake of Fright Night with star Colin Farrell looks to take the box office crown this weekend, and I'm thrilled because one the best actors working will finally get a great payday worthy of his talents. [update: the movie tanked at the box office due to bad marketing] He's the big name attached to the picture and will get the big chunk of coin. Colin Farrell has done superb work in every part he's ever touched and I hope he works in film for many more years to come because he elevates the material he's in. Fright Night is his first big commercial movie in a while. He's mostly chosen more interesting character parts (The Recruit, Ask the Dust, The New World) and worked with interesting directors (Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone), although he did do S.W.A.T., Minority Report, and the recent Horrible Bosses (in a goofy character turn). Farrell is a true talent. Do one of these commercial films every fourth film, buddy, and you can have plenty of money and do the type of parts you find more challenging the rest of the time. Colin Farrell box office

REVIEW:  Terrific. A perfect remake that for once stays true to the source material in content and tone. It was light and fluffy fun then and it is that now, but updated for the times. And the always entertaining Christopher-Mintz Plasse will one day get a very meaty dramatic role and get nominated for awards.



But they didn't seem to get many takers. Not too many comments and not much buzz around their gesture.
A recent article by io9 invites readers to come up with a better ending to LOST, noting that J.J. Abrams (the show's creator) is well aware of the mostly negative response to the show's ending. Now that my brain surgery is done and I have some time, I'll finish the better version in the next few weeks. Some of the story already exists here ... we deserved answers to the numbers, time-travel, and so many other questions.



I never read the books - wizards and potions and all that is not really my thing, but I did enjoy the H.P. movies as they came out - especially the 3rd one by director Alfonso Cuarón (which was more adult and sophisticated in tone and imagery). 

Warner Bros. absolutely got greedy by dividing The Deathly Hallows into 2 films: the first half felt draggy and heaped with exposition, whereas the grand finale Part II felt rushed and anticlimactic. It's great when filmmakers want to be true to the source material of much-beloved written works ... but so often they forget the adage that A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words. You can never convey the depth and nuance the written word allows, unless it is a line of dialog, all you can do is represent it visually. Sometimes you get lucky and a terrific actor conveys with one facial expression a whole chapter's worth of story. It is my sincere hope that Warner Bros. will release a combined and truncated version of Deathly Hallows as one 3 1/2 hour film ... it would work so much better.

My beef with author J.K. Rowling is the meek ending she gave the story. I guess she didn't want a bunch of crying children coming up to her asking, "Why did you kill Harry?" so she opted for a tacked-on happy future for the main characters that sets them nearly 20 years into the future. What was most perplexing is why the villain, Voldemort (played with his usual excellence by actor Ralph Fiennes), waited until his power was weakening to launch his final assault on the good magic of Hogworts and to have his final battle with Harry Potter. 

As each Horcrux holding part of Voldemort's soul and power is destroyed by Harry and the gang, Voldemort grows weaker, so by the time Voldemort faces off with Harry in the forest he's down a few, and by the final battle at the school, his horcrux tank is empty.   Lastly, whether written that way, a decision by the director (David Yates), or the actor's portrayal, when Voldemort faces off with his Goth army of evil wizards against the now seemingly-vanquished good guys amid the rubble of Hogworts, it is positively a ho-hum moment, when the full evil of the once human Tom Riddle (now Lord Voldemort) should have exploded into a gloriously vulgar display of mayhem. Someone this evil and now devoid of humanity should be cruel and vicious and a bad winner - wantonly murdering before settling down. 

Instead we get a who's who of bit players having heroic moments (including everyone's favorite character actor Alan Rickman) and über nerdboy Longbottom (or whatever his name was) gets the big dragon-slaying (er, snake) moment with the magic sword. This Warner Bros. flick was really feeling like Disney toward the end there.  And Harry and Voldemort's face-off? Voldemort goes limp in the middle of his money-shot and Harry's wand-bolt vaporizes the big bad man. 

Oh yes, the best example of how books don't often translate to film is the whole bit with Who Controls the Elder Wand? I saw who used it and got a lot of exposition through the characters about who had possessed it, lost it in battle, won it in battle, and enjoyed its allegiance ... didn't care - what I saw mattered and I saw Voldemort use it and have it run out of juice at the end. 

Too bad Rowling didn't have the courage of her initial convictions and had Harry Potter die - sacrificing himself to vanquish that evil, twisted Tom Riddle/Voldemort. 



Loving Game of Thrones on HBO - casting is near-perfect, and if you're going to steal dialog, steal it from I, Claudius by all means. Very entertaining. I'm usually a spaceships, aliens, lasers kind of guy, and don't go much for the trolls, elves and fairies, but this is much more fun than Lord of the Rings. Longer post and review to come.



Think you've seen and heard it all before? You have, and done much better. This show is a colossal bore - the worst mixture of Jericho, Red Dawn, the original V, and countless other post-apocalyptic sci-fi. It tries to lift from Independence Day, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a few Stephen King stories, but fails. The show looks cheap, for starters, and the Library Guy (Noah Wyle)  is much better in those mystical Library movies because he isn't hampered as he is here with mountains of cliches and story and scenes that go nowhere that no actor could overcome. 

Plot-wise, you see a bunch of dirty people spewing hackneyed dialog as they wander about and do stupid things and you can almost name the show or movie or story they stole this scene from, or that line of dialog - and everything just seems so obvious. TNT should dump this show and just rerun The Lost Room - that was a good show.



Christina Hendricks of Mad Men would be a perfect choice for Wonder Woman, as aintitcoolnews is reporting that the Danish director who's probably going to get the WW gig (Nicolas Winding Refn) wants her - article here ... she may be 36 but it is Wonder Woman, not Wonder Tween ... we'll see how he does with the Logan's Run remake - he's already cast the perfect actor in the role of Logan - Ryan Gossling.


X-Men First Class is terrific - more sophisticated and nuanced than I had ever hoped to expect. Wonderful script by a whole slew of people, and tight, focused direction by Brit Matthew Vaughn. Casting was superb and Kevin Bacon does his best work. January Jones steals most scenes she's in and the ever reliable James McAvoy  is perfectly cast as young Xavier. The swinging 60s element Vaughn and writers brought to the proceedings was a much-needed humorous and textural layer - evoking The Avengers television series with a wink to modern reinterpretation of the 60s a la Austin Powers. Characters I had always loathed or which bored me in the comics way back when were given new meaning and life. Bacon's Sebastian Shaw and Jones' Emma Frost to name but two. The whole Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy subplot remained, thankfully, well in the background and did not impinge upon the story of our characters. Fun to see Michael Ironside in a bit part - he and Kevin Bacon must have the most credits among living actors in Hollywood. Hated what they did with Havoc. What idiot Gen-X suit on the 20th Century lot decided they had to mess with his history and power?  Havoc is the younger brother of Cyclops, so the films will have to reconcile that somehow if they put Havoc in the current timeline X-Men series which is poised for more films according to producer Lauren Shuler Donner. They turned Havoc's way cool all-white plasma spheres into some dumb set of red-colored slicing energy discs. Havoc was always my favorite X-Man and you got none of the troubled kid energy from him in the film and the white plasma balls could have been so effectively portrayed the use of SOUND. Are there no Ben Burtt's anymore? 

Pirates of the Caribbean  On Stranger Tides was also terrific, my favorite of the film series. This one was a stand-alone story and more adult than the others. Johnny Depp held the camp perhaps too much in check this time around. Wonderful casting - Penelope Cruz is such a thankful respite from the over-earnest Keira Knightly, she nearly steals the film. Then the ingenue playing the mermaid gets her scenes and she steals the movie, then Ian McShane as Blackbeard steals the movie, and Jeffrey Rush steals just about every scene he's in (all that stealing, they are pirates after all). Fun, what a summer blockbuster should be.  The music, unfortunately, was a bore in both films. I'm noticing more and more that scores for these big films are becoming so much the same and without distinction. What happened to using culturally-identifiable instruments to evoke far off lands or surreal music to evoke surreal locales? 



Haven't been posting much ... had a little trip for a surgery (which went well). Now that my health issues are taken care of, I will finally get the LOST and BSG stories done by the end of this year. BBC America is gonna start showing BSG mini and later seasons soon.



Wonderful pilot never picked up. Terrific performance by Robert Foxworthy. Pre-dates the depth and nuance of the Cylons in BSG reboot. Possible greenlight for new series based upon Gene Roddenberry's original.



Sweet gal. Stopped by my work the other day. We didn't realize it was her until she was gone. Pretty as ever.



Sad. Sidney Lumet was one of my favorite directors - a true master filmmaker. I especially loved the atmospherics he brought to his films. For me Network was a cultural touchstone. Even at 12 years old I recognized its power and how when popular tastes trumped this film and the Oscar went to Rocky (blecchh!) instead of Network, the dumbed-down masses had won (and Reagan was elected not long after). The Offense, Network and Q & A were my favorites.



It's pretty terrible. Sucker Punch looks like just the worst piece of overwrought trash to come down the pike since Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were producing films together. Kevin Smith's films signaled the contribution Gen-X/Gen-Y have to make to modern film, and I predicted many moons ago on my now defunct I Hate Gen-X satire website that it would only get worse as the Gen-Xers and Gen-Ys took the executive positions (through nepotism mostly, of course) at film studios. X/Y have not read much, nor understand storytelling, and thus they remake and remake classic old films and campy television shows from the 50s - 80s because they don't have any original ideas and wouldn't know how to communicate them anyway, since texting is their major method of speech and they think technological devices make them cool ... OMFGROTFL. I do look forward to seeing Hanna, but I have a feeling it will feel more like Bourne Redundancy than anything approaching an actual story with fully fleshed-out characters. The trailer already has the always good Cate Blanchett shown in a bad red wig and seeming rather campy. The poster shows there truly never is anything original in Hollywood - not even poster images. The winter scenery makes me think of terrific movies that had snow, especially Black Robe.



Blackhawk Down + District 9 + Cloverfield + War of the Worlds + US Military recruiting films + faint character sketches does not a good movie make. All in all Battle Los Angeles is entertaining but if you get that feeling you've seen it all before - you have. I was never much of an Aaron Eckhart fan, but he won me over in this film, since he carries nearly the whole thing on his shoulders and does a fine acting job. Think Kurt Russell in Soldier and you get how he played the part of Staff Sgt. Nance - all clench-jawed internal suffering and heart. Handheld cameras shake us through the story of a rag-tag bunch of Marines plus others picked up along the way as they battle an alien invasion from the moment the film starts. A brief flashback lightly sketches out our caricatures, er, characters, and then we're caught up to realtime and in the fight. Mix a healthy dose of cliches with a heaping helping of implausibility and you have the plot which culminates with our hero, Staff Sgt. Nanace, doin' some real "John Wayne shit" and the tide against the alien invasion is turned and the Brain Bug, er, Command center is taken out. As far as aesthetics go, pretty lame aliens, spaceships and weapons. The CGI was fine, but nothing interesting, and ships looked way too much like District 9 junkers, and the weapons were just screwy tracer-type ballistics. The aliens looked a lot like paler versions of those from Independence Day fused with flattened Robocop uniforms. This is the sort of film SyFy Channel makes three times a year.



If only. One of my favorite actors ... my how it would have changed the franchise and given it more balls. Next Generation was always my least favorite of the various Star Trek series (original is hands-down the best, of course). Article: Other Actors Almost Cast in Star Trek



I guess ever since the Star Trek creators released the first blueprints of the Enterprise way back in the 1970s it has become de rigueur to create such supplements for popular science fiction television and films. So now the BSG team has released their big map of the 12 Colonies. They 'solved' the elephant in the living room of how you have 12 inhabitable worlds in one star system by making it a quad-star system. Ho-hum. If they had wanted to do this right, they would have hired Michael Hall of the much-too-smart-compared-to-the-show Galactica Science website - he would have come up with something truly ingenious. The whole 12 different planets thing always makes me think of this:

Unrelated: I got to meet LOST's Michael Emerson (Ben) the other night (cool guy, of course) and told him about my LOST blog (link is upper right)



This time it was the SyFy Channel's unceremonious dump of the final five episodes of Caprica. I haven't made it through all of it yet, and wound up watching eps partly out-of-order while selecting during playback (which, strangely, didn't seem to matter), but I was actually far more entertained with these eps than with the earlier shows that came down the pike (or is it Picon?).

Love the dykey chubster schoolmarm monotheism leader-lady - she would be great in an over-the-top comedy (maybe new episodes of Absolutely Fabulous if they make 'em? - she could square off against Mo Gaffney), and the Tauron tattoo-mobster subculture w
as fleshed out and made more tangible but it was still a terrible direction to waste the audience's time in the first place. The whole cop-show subplot was just a needless waste of screen time too (someone on staff is a fan of The Shield?), and the roughneck terrorist trainers were a bore.

They still hadn't
brought together the Robot/Real Zoe/monotheism/Cylon culture strands into anything approaching a satisfactory weave ... and Zoe's Rivendell manifestation was just dumb and then minutes later was penetrated anyway. And who is that other girl? Oh yeah, Esai Morales's character's daughter. Why is she still around? - she is useless, and if it is to bond he and Daniel Graystone as fathers who lost daughters, wasn't that dealt with in the beginning? It's like Nina and Michael say on Project Runway edit edit edit! So much of that junk can be thrown out.

I don't have high hopes for the new BSG entry into the Let's See How Much We Can Fuck Up the Legacy of a Good Show Sweepstakes: the prequel series being developed. To say something positive about these last Capricas, I did think the production values looked quite expensive, and I like seeing Eric Stoltz get work
(his best is Waterdance).



It's been over a year or so since I last watched the BSG miniseries, so today I enjoy it again - such rare entertainment: smart, sophisticated, refined. It shone brightly for ever so brief a time.