5/21/08

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Yeah, I'm Old, So What?

Why It's a Geek Movie
I'm trying to work on an all-inclusive definition of the term "Geek Movie." Whatever it ends up being, it's definitely going to have within it something about imaginative stories and nostalgia. This movie definitely has both. Geeks have an uncanny ability to be more imaginative than most. Find the most creative people on the planet and they'll usually turn out to be the biggest geeks. And they would be able to go on for hours about their favorite movie or TV show that they first saw when they were a little kid. Imaginative stories and nostalgia - this is at the heart of the newest installment of the Indiana Jones legacy.

What's it About?
Henry Jones Jr. has grown older and wiser from the adventures in his younger years. Part of those adventures includes an unseen foray into World War II where he evidently fought as, at one point, a double-agent. The movie opens, however, with him in the trunk of a car. The evil Russian Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) has abducted him in order to find something that she believes is in Area 51. She brings him to an awfully familiar-looking huge storage facility filled to the brim with wooden boxes. Both Irina and the audience both find what they're looking for. Irina exits the facility with her alien corpse and during the action sequence that brings Indy out of this mess, a box breaks open revealing what the audience is looking for: the Ark of the Covenant. But don't worry, the Ark has nothing to do with the rest of the story. We're just acknowledging that it is, indeed, the same place.

When Indy is fired from the university because of possible communist ties, he meets up with a boy who says his mother told him that Indy can help him find his beloved archeologist friend who was also Indy's friend. When Indy agrees, he's thrust into a another wild adventure the likes of which not even the great Indiana Jones has ever seen before.

How to Appreciate It
Watch it.

Is it Worth It?
In short, yes. It doesn't matter what your take on movies is, when you watch an Indiana Jones movie it is pure entertainment, and this is no exception. It's probably the funniest movie out of the four, of course this time it has the other three to which to refer back in its comedy. That's not to say it's dependent on the others, but knowing the others sure helps. Aside from the comedy is the relentless action that we've come to expect from Harrison's most beloved character. (Ooo... that's tough... Indy or Han?)

The story is what has me thinking, though. If you didn't catch it from the "alien corpse" thing above, there's a lot of stuff going on that is quite new to Indiana Jones. Sure, Indy has always dealt with the supernatural. He has uncovered the Ark of the Covenant, he drank from the Holy Grail, he even almost got his heart ripped out non-surgically... But aliens? Never aliens... Time will tell if aliens were a good addition to the saga. I personally think it was handled beautifully, though. Some people may differ, but I ask them to take the movie for the movie's sake. Just because there haven't been aliens in previous Indy movies, does that make it a bad movie as a whole? Not at all. The Indiana Jones saga is all about an archeologist whipping communist butt while making hilarious, dry quips about his situation. And that's exactly what he did.

5/16/08

Prince Caspian: Random Bear FTW

If you've seen an episode of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, then you may remember seeing the Random Bear. He shows up every now and then to do something awkward and garner some nervous laughter... Well, he must have a magical wardrobe or something, because somehow he found his way into Narnia. About three quarters of the way into the movie we finally recognize him. Perhaps it would have been better if he had never spoken. But the biggest laugh of the film comes from when Random Bear says "For Aslan!" He sounds like a retarded hobo. And I don't know whether it's because now that I've recognized him for what he is I see him everywhere, but it seems like he's in absolutely every scene after that awkward moment whether he belongs or not.

Why It's a Geek Movie
Fantasy is the domain of the geek. It seems the higher the intelligence, the more apt one is to imagine those things that cannot happen. If ever there was a geekier Christian than C. S. Lewis, I don't know where to find him.

What's it About?
In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, four children find a magical land after traveling through a wardrobe and through an exciting turn of events, they become Kings and Queens of Narnia. Turns out time travels quite a bit faster in Narnia than on Earth. When the kids go back a year later, hundreds of years have passed in Narnia, a human kingdom has invaded and taken over Narnia and the rightful heir to the throne has a price on his head set by his uncle who craves the crown. It's up to Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy to reclaim Narnia for the Narnians and hand its rule over to the rightful king: Caspian.

How to Appreciate It
I never actually read this book, though I did read the first one. It seems with any book-turned-movie there are a few things to consider. They are not going to be exactly the same, that's just a given. In order to appreciate any of these kinds of movies, one has to take a tip from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He has had his story turned into a series of novels, a radio show series, a video game, a TV series and a movie and every time it's almost completely different from the first time. But Douglas doesn't mind that at all. Adams treats every incarnation of the story as a new story in itself. And this is how to appreciate any adaptation: realize that when you go into a theater, it's not to read a book, it's to watch an entirely different story on the big screen. Try to appreciate the movie for itself, and forget about whether or not it's anything like the book.

Is it Worth It?
Have you ever known someone who's accidentally wronged you and apologized profusely afterwords? Did this person also come up to you several times after you'd forgiven them and apologized some more? And then, after a while, did he start apologizing for apologizing so much? If you have, then you're starting to get the idea of the bulk of this movie. The first one was criticized as being too boring, so they tried to beef up the action in this one. And beef it up they did. Almost every single scene of the first half of the movie there was some kind of useless conflict going on. I didn't mind at first, but it started to get to the point where it was kind of silly. All things considered, though, it's still got my approval. If you can get past the profuse apologies, it's worth it in the end to laugh at the Random Bear.

5/10/08

Speed Racer: Anime in 3-D

Why It's a Geek Movie
Anime is a staple genre of geek programing third only to sci-fi and fantasy (with a plethora of crossing over between these three). The original Speed Racer TV program is a staple of the anime genre. While the popular kids were vegging out to Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear and The Flintstones, early geek anime lovers' eyes were fixed on Speed's lovable baby-face. (Wait, did that make me sound gay?)

What's it About?
Speed Racer is an altruistic racecar driver whose family has suffered a terrible tragedy with the death of Speed's older brother Rex in a terrible racing "accident." He soon discovers that this death is likely part of a plot by large sponsor corporations to control and profit from racing when he's approached by one of these slimy corporate dogs. Determined to bring racing back to a purer state and motivated by the memory of his brother, Speed enters the Grand Prix, a race that has been fixed by the corporations for years, and attempts to bring them down by winning fair and square and exposing their deceptive methods.

...Also, who the heck is Racer X?

How to Appreciate It
Let's face it: if you can't appreciate the campy style of anime, you're not likely to be able to appreciate this movie. The Wachowskis translated the tension, the energy and the campy humor of 2-D anime perfectly into a 3-D, live action model. The trick to appreciating this movie is to realize you're not watching anything like you've ever seen ever before. This is something completely new, completely revolutionary - not at all what you're used to, no matter what you've seen in the past. This is not the real world, but at the same time it's not a cartoon world. It's really more like a cartoon world, but it has depth in both spirit and dimension. Don't go into Speed Racer expecting another action movie. You get a boat load of action, but it's more family oriented and... well, cartoony. To appreciate this movie, you have to realize that that's ok!

Is it Worth It?
When you can appreciate Speed Racer for what it is, then the action draws you in, the tension draws you forward and the story draws your interest. The campy comedy is a great break in tension every now and then and it comes at perfect points. It's definitely worth it for fans of the show and definitely worth it for those who are willing to suspend their disbelief and engage their imagination.

But if you have no imagination, then it's gonna be stupid.

5/1/08

Iron Man: The Truth Is...

Why It's a Geek Movie
Well, that's pretty simple. Ever since the word "geek" was coined in the 1950's, it has been consistently applied to the kind of person who reads comic books. Of which Iron Man is one. However, there is another reason. The gadgets! Tony Stark's awesome suit is nothing without its liberal use of fancy gadgetry.

What's it About?
The plot's pretty simple, really. Tony Stark is pretty much the rock star of the weapon-making business. He's a womanizing egomaniac who lives in a multi-billion-dollar home in Malibu filled with all kinds of fancy, custom-made computerized wizardry. He's the head of Stark Industries which is the world-leader in weapons development. One day he is traveling through the desert after a well-executed weapons demonstration when he and his caravan are attacked by an unknown enemy using his own weaponry. The group forces him to recreate the weapon he had just demonstrated, but instead he creates a mechanical suit and escapes.

The ordeal changes his mind about his business and from the on out he's out to do the right thing. His goal now is to protect the world from the weapons he created. By creating the awesomest weapon of all... a red suit... that flies... and fires missiles... and... a bunch of other stuff.

There is one little twist to the plot, though... how did the group who kidnapped him come to get so many Stark Industries weapons? If you read the comic book, you probably know, but don't spoil it for the rest of the kids! The answer to this question is what leads to the ultimate showdown in the end.

But don't worry, Tony Stark doesn't let his sudden burst of altruism get to his head. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. for Stark couldn't be more perfect! His dry comedy and stone-faced delivery brings Tony's egomaniacal rock stardom to life! And even though he's doing good now, he still has that same sense of awesome.

How to Appreciate It
Iron Man is a difficult movie not to appreciate. However, there are some points at which some viewers may seem a bit alienated. Geeks will have no problems at all, but for those who aren't used to the more fantastical elements of sci-fi and super-heroism, it may behoove you suspend your disbelief for just a moment and focus on what's really going on here... This is a story about one man's struggle to overcome the highest barrier anyone could errect: himself. Tony Stark had to have a life-changing experience that almost killed him to bring him to the point where he realized where he was going wrong. All the flashy gadgets and the awesome effects are just frosting on the cake. The real story is the one that's going on inside Tony's shiny, glowing heart.

Is it Worth It?
YES! By all means, if you don't have any plans this weekend... heck, even if you do have plans, squeeze in Iron Man! I said it before, but it deserves a repeat: The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark couldn't be more perfect! Even if you're not normally an RDJ fan, you will be a Stark fan. His personality is as magnetic as the little device that keeps him alive. You will laugh at pretty much everything he says and does. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at a movie that wasn't pegged as a comedy.

And may I say, the final line of dialoge in this movie is, in context, perhaps the best line of dialog ever spoken in any blockbuster movie. If for some foolish reason you go to see any other movie this weekend, peek your head into Iron Man for the final press conference. That alone will give you a good taste for the movie.