The Alice in Wonderland trailer is probably the latest and best argument for why Tim Burton and Johnny Depp should call it quits and go do other movies. Johnny Depp is a talented actor and can seem to open any movie big, so long as it doesn’t have the name Tim Burton before the title. Meanwhile Alice in Wonderland was doing well on the buzz for its first bits of art, until the trailer came out dominated by Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter as a transsexual escapee from Cirque du Soleil. The Mad Hatter isn’t meant to be the star of Alice in Wonderland, and Johnny Depp has once again made a freaky acting choice that backfired. Depp’s weird acting choices can pay off, The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are the best example. But then there was Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake that most people have already forgotten, where Depp decided to model Willie Wonka on Michael Jackson. This time out he seems to have gone one better, or worse. The thing is that Tim Burton’s movies need grounding, and Depp is not the guy to ground a movie, instead he’s the guy to make it that much crazier.
Monthly Archives: July 2009
When AMC decided to remake The Prisoner, it was dubious whether the series could even exist without Patrick McGoohan and the trippy 70’s background. AMC’s Comic Con Prisoner promo demonstrates that it can exist, though the trippiness factor seems to have been cut down by a lot, in favor of a straight mano a mano drama. It’s hard to go wrong with Ian McKellen as a villain, though to his credit Ron Howard somehow managed that feat in The DaVinci Code, but it’s also hard to see the miniseries remake as anything but generic. The promo shows off the good, but it doesn’t seem to capture that vibe of paranoia, that claustrophobic sense of Kafkaesque insanity in a post-modern world where madness becomes a sane reaction to an insane world, that the original series did so chillingly well.
The viral marketing is here. The posters are up. And it’s all set to go. And yet somehow I don’t give a damn. Maybe it’s because Neil Blomkamp has been endlessly hyped as the next big thing, since Peter Jackson adopted him and along with Microsoft tried to find a studio willing to blow 150 million on a first time director. There’s no doubt he’s a decent set person and animator, but District 9’s trailers have done nothing to convince me that he can do a movie. And they’ve done nothing to convince me that I should care about the movie itself. From the shaky cam uber-reality to the rejiggered Alien Nation premise that doesn’t seem to go anywhere interesting, District 9 seems like an obsessive exercise in South Africa trying to deal with its social problems through a trite alien metaphor, rather than an interesting story. I’m sure plenty of Europeans have said the same thing about American movies, and they’re probably right. But District 9 still has no appeal for me. And I suspect it won’t do well in American markets either.
Sure Warner Brothers executives won’t be going without their yachts, at least not unless they decide to greenlight “Body of Lies 2: Now With More Lying and Extra Fat Crowe”, but the Harry Potter movies may be sinking. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince only took a week to fall out of the top spot, with the added indignity of losing to a bunch of animated hamsters. Sure a 200 some million consolation prize isn’t bad, and records have been set. But “one week and you’re outta here four eyes” isn’t what the trends were predicting. Of course Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince fell victim to Warner Brothers determination to squeeze as much juice out of the boy wizard by slicing and dicing the final movies up into so many pieces, that it would be safe to greenlight “Body of Lies 3: Crowe Gets Even Fatter”, but between the squeezed budget and the burden of being a movie version of a franchise that the author has already ended, Harry Potter isn’t doing as well as it should. This should also carry a warning to Warner Brothers’ attempt to cash in on The Hobbit by turning it into two whole movies.
The complaints are in and they’re vocal. Comic Con got too big and too crowded. The small comic book publishers are being squeezed out. The Twilight fans have taken over the place. So have the more annoying 501 and California Browncoats who aren’t even from comic book franchises. In other words like conventions before it, Comic Con just got too big for its own good. Comic book fans were happy enough when Hollywood began scooping up properties, well okay they mostly weren’t happy, but when Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy drove it to raid and pillage every single creative property on the planet, comic books got their share of the going over. And then Comic Con became another stop on the Hollywood promo tour, which brought in the TwiHards and a whole lot of other people who don’t care about the comics, but about the Hollywood stuff. The Twilight fans are getting a larger than fair share of the blame because sexism and ageism makes it easier to shut them out, as opposed to fans of the equally retarded Harry Potter books, which have a cross gender fanbase, and includes people older than 13. The bottom line is that success and watering down of a niche go hand in hand. Comic Con hasn’t just been watered down, it’s been flooded.
Ben Silverman, the golden boy who was supposed to save NBC, finally got fired. And all he had to do was destroy NBC to get fired. There were the disastrous remakes of classic shows such as Knight Rider and Bionic Woman that scored high ratings on their premieres and then sent audiences fleeing en masse from the tidal wave of the suck. These were shows that should have killed, but instead were built to bore. I could hardly get through the Bionic Woman pilot without falling asleep or wondering what the hell was going on. Knight Rider was a little better but not much. Then there were the ridiculously literally shows, Crusoe, Kings, Merlin, that had no actual audience on NBC, though they might have performed on AMC or A&E. Then of course there were the Australian sitcoms that translated to America about as well as a kangaroo running for office would. There was the unwatchable Office spinoff, that turned out not to be a spinoff, with the unwatchable Amy Poehler as the lead. And does anyone really need to mention the horrifying idea of giving Rosie her own variety show in Prime Time, an idea that would have been terrible even back when people under 60 actually watched Variety Shows? No I didn’t think so. Good luck Ben, and good night.
Google’s promised new Chromium OS would matter more, if Google Chrome actually did. So far Google hasn’t shown much ability to even move a Browser up to the 2 percent market share range. That’s barely beating Opera and nowhere in Firefox territory. And that’s an easily downloadable browser add on. What the adoption rates would be for a Linux based Google branded browser that exists mainly to push Google’s own internet apps is best left to the imagination. As with Google Chrome, the OS would be stuck competing with other Linux distros for market share, a situation that would not be to Google’s advantage. The Google name might convince some small businesses to give it a try, but that’s about it. Still Google isn’t pegging this as a desktop OS war, but a way to sell some netbooks that would be oriented around Google apps. Which is not a bad move, albeit unimaginative and a bit pointless since the netbooks market is underwhelming and cell phones would seem to be where it’s at.
Apple striking down the Google Voice app for the iPhone is an obvious blow to Google’s plans, but it’s also one more demonstration that an Apple device will always be crippled and monopolized, a treehouse with no girls or rival applications allowed. Given the power Apple has proven itself to be every bit as ruthless and monopolistic as Microsoft, without learning Microsoft’s lesson, that a monopoly only exists until it goes out of date. Apple has made its bet once again on hardware, on being able to lock in people into its devices. Google meanwhile continues to bet on web applications. To fight Google, Apple will have to cripple its own hardware, but doing that will reduce the appeal of the hardware itself. A monopoly requires that you control everything that matters, while letting other people develop the baby shaking apps. But Apple only needs to make one mistake, to shatter its monopoly. And that mistake is building too much barbed wire, when what its customers want is freedom.
And the seas wept blood, and the oceans vomited up fire, and most everyone involved in the first two Scream movies is headed right back to make Scream 4, long after the teen horror movie trend it helped resurrect died, and the teens who did see it, have their own kids already. Yes Scream 4. Sure no one went to see Scream 3, but that’s not going to stop Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson from making Scream 4 anyway. Both men saw their careers kick into high gear with Scream, only to waste that juice. Kevin Williamson at least managed to keep it together until Teaching Mrs. Tingle tore it all apart. Wes Craven didn’t even seem to bother, trying for one stab at the mainstream with a Meryl Streep movie, then giving up and just letting anyone remake his classic movies.
Meanwhile Courtney Cox and David Arquette have run out of enough things to do, to make them head right back to the project too. No word on whether Neve Campbell has so little dignity as to follow suit. At least most of the rest of cast can be thankful their characters are dead. The original Scream was a successfully funny and even scary movie. Each sequel drained away the funny and the scary, instead going lamer and lamer, and the teens that would have once watched Scream are too busy with the Saw movies.
And the shame of it is that the original Scream was actually a good movie. The first time Wes Craven came in and ran that opening reel with Drew Barrymore for us, it was obvious that he had a winner. And the reason Scream worked was that it did a good job of balancing the kind of direct horror you see these days in movies like Vacancy or The Strangers, with humor and decently rendered supporting characters, and a mystery with a twist. No monster, no retarded boy, no deformities, just bored kids with a vicious grudge and no trace of morals. The same kids who today go to Saw screenings, and terrorize random strangers on the internet who annoy them.
There can’t be a Scream 4, because it’s no longer relevant. After the first few Scream murders, it’s all too obvious that we’re already living in a Scream world.
My own opinion has always been that the SciFi mystery or the SciFi noir is overdone, a lazy shortcut to creating an original Science Fiction novel or story by patterning its plot along a detective’s investigation. KOP by Warren Hammond isn’t entirely out of that category but it tells the story well enough that you wind up ignoring the lack of the Science Fiction in KOP.
KOP is set on a kind of Latin American planet formerly run by plantation owners and now economically depressed and reduced to 20th century technology and a dependency on Offworlders and their tourist trade and economic promise. Essentially KOP is a story set in Latin America with some science fictional elements in the background that kick in a little more toward the end. This hasn’t however prevented TOR from slapping a cover on featuring two Caucasian characters standing in front of a dystopian skyscraper ity, despite the fact that the main characters are BlackHispanic and the city is basically a collection of shacks with a few more prosperous buildings in a shantytown.
The story begins with the usual murder investigation that of course leads to more and winds up unraveling a terrible secret and a conspiracy. There’s even the veteran cop nearing retirement forced to break in a new rookie partner. But what sets up KOP apart is that it does less posing and its commitment to telling a dark story of corruption and abuse of power that kills all idealism remains intact right down to the grim yet somewhat redemptive ending that asks questions about the price people are willing to pay for the greater good.
KOP isn’t a great Science Fiction novel mainly because it really isn’t a Science Fiction novel and doesn’t spend that much time pretending to be. It’s a Latin American crime novel dressed up as Science Fiction, but it still works. And in a marketplace crowded with SciFi Noir, KOP is one of the best of the bunch.