Weird, Wrinkled and Wordy

June 19, 2009

For the Love of Vampires

Filed under: Movies,Television,vampires,Vancouver,Writing — spacepug @ 9:26 am

I have a thing for vampires.

spikeIt started at a young age…I had a poster of “The Count” from Sesame Street on my bedroom wall.  When I learned my numbers, my first vampire love was forgotten.  In my early teens I saw the Frank Langella version of  Dracula and first understood why people found vampires sexy.  But it was reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula in university that truly captivated me.  I started reading the literary classic late one Friday afternoon, and stayed up all night and well into the next morning to finish it.  I was too afraid to put it down and too intrigued to stop reading.

I was a big fan of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series, both identifying with the strong heroine, and of course, developing a giant crush on Spike, the blond punk vamp who initially tries to be bad but somehow ends up doing good despite himself, before finally resigning himself to fight on the right side.  Most recently, the series “True Blood” and the terrific novels by Charlaine Harris they are based, have captured my interest.

The Vampire tradition is so rich that continues to inspire the most creative people working in film, TV and literature.  It gets re-invented with each generation.

What’s all this rambling a precursor for?  My new venture.

http://www.meetup.com/BeforeDawn

Vancouver Vampire Aficionados now have a group to call their own.

May 27, 2009

Terminator Salvation: What Might Have Been

Filed under: Movies,science fiction — spacepug @ 1:14 pm

Terminator Salvation seemed to be a good movie, with exciting visuals and action sequences, but the script showed definite signs of major alterations having been done.  It has been widely reported that Christian Bale only agreed to take the role of John Connor once his part in this movie was greatly expanded.  Personally, I think the film without John Connor would have been much better, and I’m going to give some concrete examples below, so beware spoilers.

The key lies in the most compelling characters in the film, Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright.

TerminatorBaleThis film failed to show John Connor actually leading people.  He made a few poignant comments over the radio, but we never saw him in charge of a mission.  His comrades appeared to show deference, but those in command didn’t even respect him.  Why wouldn’t they if he has all of the knowledge passed on by his mother?  Why wasn’t John Connor in charge of the first mission in the desert?  The only explanation I can think of is because the scene was written for Kyle Reese.  Think of how much better a set-up it would have been if this young, resourceful kid had been the only survivor of that mission.

Why was John Connor surprised by the appearance of a humanoid terminator?  The difference between a humanoid machine and one with a heart didn’t justify his reaction.  And since he’s been listening to his mother’s tapes, he should have known what to expect.  So why the surprise?  Perhaps because the scene was written for Kyle Reese.  Imagine if Kyle had come face to face with the true identity of the man who he’d fought beside, and who he obviously looked up to since he copied his phrase about pointing a gun.

Why was the believability stretched so thin during the end sequence in Skynet?  John Connor clearly could not withstand the temperatures of molten metal that close to him.  No amount of good shooting (of which there wasn’t much) would make him a match for the T-800.  The final sequence seems to have been  written for Marcus alone.  A suicide mission into Skynet in order to purge his demons and save Kyle, who had been so devastated to learn he was a machine.  And a classic Terminator on Terminator showdown, where the man accepts the machine within in order to save the day.

My theory is that the original script likely only included John Connor as a voice on the radio that no one met until the end.  I doubt if I will ever see the unaltered script, so I will never know if I’m right.  Just because I spent so much time afterwards  pondering what a better story it might have been doesn’t mean I got extra value for my money.

3 out of 5 stars.

April 7, 2009

We’re in Control Now

Filed under: Movies,science fiction,Television — spacepug @ 9:05 am

You can definitely tell it is my generation that is now moving into positions of power in the entertainment industry.

supernaturalJust watched the most recent episode of Supernatural, called “The Monster at the End of This Book.”   Of course, that was the title of one of my favourite books from childhood, a Sesame Street book in which the very loveable and very blue Grover desperately tries to stop the reader from turning the pages because he is so afraid of what waits for him at the end, only to find out it is himself.  The Winchester boys may be a tad younger than myself, but clearly the creative team was reading the same books I did.  It was a clever nod for a show that does “clever” particularly well.   This show is firing on all cylinders and now with BSG gone, it is likely to be my fave as it winds down to a big finish at the end of Season Five.

And of course, one of the true masterpieces of literature from my childhood was Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  Spike Jonze is making it into a live action movie due out this October, and the trailer is now online, as well as some promotional pictures that tell me the people who made this cherish the source as much as I did.

Can’t wait to see where it goes from here…

September 17, 2008

For the Love of Pugs

Filed under: LIFE,Pugs — spacepug @ 2:39 pm

With a blog name like spacepug you would expect that I am a pug owner.  I don’t own a dog, simply because my urban living situation doesn’t allow it.  I grew up in a house full of dogs, since my mother was a purebred dog breeder.  It was a wonderful experience to watch puppies be born, learn to walk and find homes, but the more time I spent around dog shows and dog breeders, the more jaded I got.

A recent story on the BBC brings that back…it seems someone has finally spoken out about how many of the breed standards cause the selection of aesthetic traits that may compromise the health of the dogs.    Some breeds are selectively engineered for such large skulls and shoulders that the puppies cannot be born naturally, but only by caesarean section.  Other breeds have skulls too small for their brains, or spines so elongated they are vulnerable to injury.   Years of selective breeding can produce beautiful animals, but the cost of unnatural selection seems to be disease.  My mother had to abandon her own breed line after two decades due to recurrent hip problems that could not be corrected even by new blood.

Pugs are one of the problem breeds.   We love them for their bulging eyes and the snorting sounds they make, but these traits make them prone to vision and respiratory problems.  If you want one, you have to know that going in.

The BBC story states that “Scientists at Imperial College, London, recently found that pugs in the UK are so inbred that although there are 10,000 of them, it is the equivalent of just 50 distinct individuals.”

If we love our pets, why do we do this to them?

July 10, 2008

“True Blood” ought to be delicious

Filed under: science fiction,Television,vampires — spacepug @ 2:33 pm

I’ve been a fan of the vampire genre since I first cracked open Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, Dracula, in university. Actually, I may have to go back further than that since The Count was my favourite character on Sesame Street. The vampire genre has been with us for a long time and has been tackled from many different angles with many different variations. But no one writes great vampire lit like Charlaine Harris.

I’ll take every chance I get to rave about her Southern Vampire novels and now HBO is making that task so much more fun.

HBO has launched the advertising campaign for True Blood, a television series based on Harris’ work. Anna Paquin will star as Sookie Stackhouse, a beautiful waitress with a unique gift and poor taste in men. Set in a time when Undead Americans have come out of the closet thanks to the development of a synthetic blood substitute, the novels mix adventure, romance and humour into an intoxicating brew. Need another reason to check it out? The show is run by Alan Ball, the man who brought us Six Feet Under.

The viral marketing campaign for new show, which begins September 7th, has taken off, with a variety of websites now running ads for TruBlood, the vampires’ new drink of choice. Gotta love a tag line like “Friends don’t let friends drink friends.”

May 27, 2008

Lucky Strike

Filed under: LIFE,Travel — spacepug @ 7:51 pm

Plane hit by lightning in JapanI’m wondering if I should buy a lottery ticket.

I read a fact online that every plane in service will be struck by lightning once per year. I’ve flown a fair amount in my time, but my most recent trip was the first time I’ve been on a plane that was struck by lightning in the air. We were ascending out of Vancouver at about 24,000ft when it hit. I was reading a book and didn’t see the flash, but I certainly heard and felt the impact even though the plane did not physically move. It felt like something had happened to the bottom of the plane and my first thought was that the landing gear had malfunctioned or we’d lost some poor guy’s luggage.

My second assessment was that the plane still had power and the engines were still on, so I cautiously went back to my book. About a minute and a half later, the pilot came on and informed us that the aircraft had been hit by lightning but that all systems had been checked and the flight would proceed as planned across the country. As he put it, the Boeing 737 was designed to take just such a hit. And, he added, since the strike hit his side of the cockpit, he figured he got the worst of it.

It was all too much for one passenger, who was quite overcome and had to be given oxygen and TLC for the remainder of the flight. I’ve got to hand it to the Westjet crew, they did a very good job of caring for that person and the rest of us still got our normal beverage service.

If I’m ever going to be within 10 feet of a lightning strike again, I hope I’m in an aircraft.

I just hope I haven’t used up all my luck….a lottery win would be nice!

April 24, 2008

The Essence of Indiana Jones

Filed under: Movies — spacepug @ 2:28 pm

I’ve been trying to figure out how to put into words why I’m looking forward to seeing the next Indiana Jones movie SO MUCH. And then I read this excerpt from an upcoming Men’s Journal interview by Allison Glock. The journalist spoke with a number of people about Harrison Ford.

“This is how I met Harrison Ford,” recounts 21-year-old actor Shia LaBeouf, who also stars in the new Indy installment. “I was rehearsing on this huge bike at some air force base with the stunt team. At some point in the film Harrison and I were going to have to ride this thing, and that was a big deal, an insurance issue. So I’m learning how to handle it, and I hear this tic tic tic tic tic, and I look up in the sky and spot this helicopter coming in, like on a movie. And inside the helicopter I see this one man, all by himself. Usually you ride with someone else when you fly, you know, in case **** happens. But not Harrison. And he lands the helicopter, pops open the door, gets out, stretches his back a little, waves to the crew, walks around to open the other door, pulls out his whip, and cracks it.”

Quiet, capable, tough…and with a perfectly balanced sense of humour. Note that part of his answer to Entertainment Weekly about why he likes doing his own stunt work was that he likes “rolling around on the floor with sweaty men.” Now can’t you just imagine the twinkle in his eye as he waits to see if the reporter will DARE to smirk at that one?

April 23, 2008

Is it Summer Yet?

Filed under: Movies — spacepug @ 2:05 pm

Besides the unwelcome blast of winter we got over the weekend, there is another compelling reason to wish that summer would get here faster….it’s going to be one terrific movie season. At least, I’m anticipating it will be. I expected to spend a lot of money at the cinema last summer and my interest fizzled in almost all those prospects pretty quickly. But this summer has more than a few solid bets, and here are the ones at the top of my list:

Hellboy's BackIron Man – (May 2) I haven’t read the comic book, but I’m eager to see what Robert Downey Jr can do with a role like this one.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – (May 22) Indy’s back and we’ve all missed him.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army – (July 11) Ron Perlman was terrific in the title role the first time around and he’s back in fine form. Here’s a link to the official site.

Batman: The Dark Knight – (July 18 ) Another case of perfect casting. Christian Bale found something unique and compelling in the role that so many others have tried before him.

X Files: I Want to Believe – (July 25) I have high hopes that Chris Carter and the crew can recapture the magic from the early days of the series.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – (Aug 1) Brendan Fraser + Jet Li +Abominable Snowmen have me looking forward to this one. Director Rob Cohen’s openness (his blog here) gives me great hope for a franchise I fell in love with.

I’m a sucker for popcorn movies with compelling heroes and/or villains. I hope this summer ends up being as fun as it looks like from this side. Anticipation is a wonderful thing.

March 5, 2008

March Mini Movie Reviews

Filed under: Movies — spacepug @ 1:40 pm

My movie reviewing days may be behind me, but I haven’t stopped having opinions on what I see. Here are a few recent selections:

There Will Be Blood – A grim but likely realistic portrait of the life of an oil prospector in Texas at the turn of the last century. This film is all about Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance. Some have criticized his acting as technical rather than organic, but the point is moot. It is a brilliant performance and well deserving of the Oscar.

The Other Boleyn Girl – A film about passion that somehow fails to arouse it in the viewer. The stars are all pretty, but the performances are simply adequate. Natalie Portman is the best of the bunch as the doomed Anne. The editing varied from clever to horribly disruptive. Historically simplified, but at least they didn’t cop out on the ending. Worth a rental but don’t pay full price.

3:10 to Yuma – Christian Bale continues to prove his versatility, this time as a father willing to take a horrible risk to improve his family’s lot in life. The tension with Russell Crowe is enjoyable, but you get the impression even Crowe knows he’s outclassed here. Consistently well acted. Kudos to the sound effects team for some exciting moments.

War of the Worlds (2005) – The characters exist separately from the plot and therefore do not develop in any way. At least one person disappears for a third of the movie only to reappear with no explanation. The central conflict of the story is resolved in a voice-over at the end, which is unforgivable. Cool special effects cannot save this stinker. Steven Spielberg should have known better.

If you like mini movie reviews, you will like 353review.com I’m not as talented with haiku as Leeny is, but:

flicks reviewed
brief, with great wit
inventive

February 26, 2008

The Perils of Terminator Time Travel

Filed under: Television — spacepug @ 4:30 pm

Sarah Connor ChroniclesOne of the ideas I liked best about the first Terminator movie is that Sarah Connor was up against the inevitable, yet she fought anyway. We feared the seemingly unstoppable machine would find her and kill her, and even if she didn’t die, her world would be destroyed in a nuclear conflagration and her son would lead humanity in a brutal and likely futile struggle to overthrow the machines. That’s nihilism. But that doesn’t work for TV.

So, in the new series, the writers threw out the past. They brought allies for Sarah and John back in time to stand with them. They jumped the principals ahead seven years to cover the unfortunate cancer death of Sarah prior to T3. They gave the heroes better odds.

And unfortunately, by ridding themselves of the sense of impending doom that permeated the first two movies (must admit to never seeing the third) they’ve left themselves with a TV show that just doesn’t feel right. There is plenty of action, but even when the butt-kicking isn’t being dished out by the unnaturally cool Cameron (Summer Glau), it seems lifeless. If Sarah Connor now has time to cook pancakes and insist on eating meals at the table, I’m just not as interested. No matter what “Terminator of the Week” shows up, they’ll deal with it. And John will still have time to do his homework before bed.

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