science meets entertainment

This article caught my eye in USA Today this morning – partly because my educational background is in science, and partly because in the print version of the article, there are side-by-side photographs of Spock from Star Trek and Temperance Brennan from Bones.  Um, okay, interesting juxtaposition.

The article is about the increasing emphasis on accurate portrayals of science and scientists in the media – it mentions Doctor Manhattan’s quantum physics in Watchmen, the antimatter bomb in Angels and Demons, etc.  It’s an interesting read, but in annoyed me a bit because it seems to be dissing Spock, my favorite-ever fictional character.  Someone is quoted as saying, “The scientists you see today are not Mr. Spock, they’re human, and that’s a real change.  Even if they’re depicted as über-geeks, they are still interesting people you’d probably like.”  Excuse me?  Are you implying that Spock is not an interesting person I’d probably like?  What universe’s version of Star Trek have you been watching?

what makes star trek, star trek?

According to this article from TrekMovie.com, the writers of the new Star Trek movie have promised that we will see all of the following in the film at some point.

  • McCoy saying “Damnit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a [whatever]!”
  • Scotty having an “I’m giving it all I’ve got, Cap’n!” moment
  • Kirk cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test
  • A bitch fight (okay, the phrase they used was “insult fight”) between Spock and McCoy

This list pretty much proves to me that these guys do “get” Star Trek.  I’m so excited to see this movie.  Quinto’s Spock and Urban’s McCoy in a TOS-style battle of the wits!  That’s going to be a joy to watch.

that thing you do!

Last night I watched the movie That Thing You Do with some friends.  I’d never seen it before – so cute!  It’s so squeaky-clean you could brush your teeth with it, but I mean that in a good way.  Every now and then it’s refreshing to see a movie with no profanity, no sex (well, there was some subtext with Jimmy but nothing explicitly stated), and no nasty antagonist.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of a fictional one-hit wonder band in the 1960’s – there are a lot of parallels with the Beatles, and I will admit that near the beginning of the movie when the main character was playing his drumset in a goofy manner I squealed, “he’s Ringo!”  Tom Hanks directed it and appears in a supporting role as the band’s manager.  All in all, it’s a great choice when you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie.

top ten trailer recuts

Of all the entertaining crack to be found on YouTube, some of my favorites are fan-made versions of movie trailers.  Here are ten of the best ones.  Don’t start watching one while drinking soda unless you want it to come spurting out of your nose!

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movie preview

There are several movies coming later this year that I’m reeeeeeaaallly looking forward to… and some that, to my own surprise, I’m kinda not.

  • Star Trek, May 8: I have been following the development of this baby ever since its existence was first announced a couple years ago.  I’ve been there as the casting of each major character was announced, as the first teaser images and grainy photos from the set emerged, as the fandom nearly wanked itself to death over and over.  I mourned with everyone else when its release date was moved from Christmas back to May.  And now, in less than two months, it’s finally going to be here.  Be still my heart.
  • Sherlock Holmes, December 25: after the pure enjoyment that was Iron Man, I think I’d be willing to sit through almost anything starring Robert Downey Jr., but it was actually the casting of Jude Law as Dr. Watson that really got my psyched for this movie.  Too often Watson is portrayed in adaptations as a bumbling old fool.  But actually, the Watson of the original stories is ex-military, a bit of a ladies’ man, and (though he of course lacks Holmes’s scientific training and brilliant analytical mind) no idiot.  And to those complaining about the idea of an “action movie” version of Holmes, please remember that in the original stories, Holmes could box and fence.  I’m so excited for this film.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, July 17: this is actually the one that falls under the “meh” category.  I’ve been to midnight showings of the last two Harry Potter movies, but at this point, I’m so over the film franchise.  I will always love the book series (my friends and I still regularly reference it in everyday conversation) but now that it’s over I’m realizing that for me, the movies were only ever a way to tide myself over until the next book release.  And while Dan Rad is amazing and it’ll be fun to see what else he does with his career, he’s getting a bit old to play Harry.  Sorry, Warner Brothers.

watchmen: my review

[A note on spoilers: if you’re familiar with the graphic novel, this shouldn’t be terribly spoilery for you, because I don’t go into detail about any big plot changes.  If you’re not familiar with the graphic novel and wish to remain 100% spoiler-free regarding who lives and who dies and who sleeps with whom, proceed with caution, but really, go read the freaking novel.]

Wow.

The way I put it to my friends upon leaving the theater was, I think that was the best possible movie that could have been made based on the material.  The graphic novel was described as “unfilmable” for a reason, and this gutsy attempt at defying that pronouncement wins my thumbs up.

That said, I respect negative reviews like CNN’s, where the reviewer clearly understands the significance of the graphic novel but has a critique of the way it was adapted for the screen; what I cannot stand are reviews like USA Today’s, which dismisses Watchmen as a smidge better than Catwoman but not as good as the Spider-Man movies.  If you approach Watchmen as just another comic book movie, you’re missing the point.  It’s not a comic book movie.  It’s an indictment of human nature, that just happens to involve a group of people who dress up in costumes and fight crime.

The alteration to Adrian Veidt’s plan worked well and didn’t bother me at all.  What bugged me were some of the much smaller changes – those moments of “but that’s not what Rorschach did to the kidnapper.”  One small change I did like was having Dan witness Rorschach’s death and be affected by it.  In the novel he was too busy boinking Laurie to care, and Rorschach deserves someone to mourn him.  After repeatedly dismissing New York as a city of whores and politicians, not worth saving, he’s the only one who can’t live with the compromise of letting Veidt get away with killing them all for the sake of a beautiful lie.

When NYC was being destroyed, I was waiting for the obligatory shot of the Twin Towers disintegrating, and it didn’t come.  What a master stroke by Zac Snyder: instead, the camera pans across the desolation, and the Twin Towers are the only recognizable buildings left standing.  It’s a “wow” moment.

Music selections – awesome or distracting?  Some of the song choices were a bit jarring, but I think that sense of dissonance was intentional, to put a subtly different spin on what would otherwise have been completely serious scenes.  We’re meant to consider whether this is all, after all, a big joke, as the Comedian claimed.  The one time it seemed over the top was the use of Ride of the Valkyries over Dr. Manhattan’s intervention in Vietnam.  That was just too much.

Overall, seeing the story brought to the screen deepened my appreciation and enjoyment of the graphic novel.  Sometimes seeing a shot in motion instead of as a still comic panel, or hearing a line spoken aloud instead of reading it as dialogue in a bubble, makes you pick up on things you hadn’t realized were there.  The movie has inevitable flaws and will always be one of those films that a lot of people just don’t get; I don’t think it has a chance in hell of being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, as interesting a choice as that would be.  But the important thing is, here it is the next day and I still can’t stop thinking about this movie, going over and over it in my head, and I can’t wait to see it again.  Bravo.

i watched the watchmen last night

[Note: a proper review will be up sometime later today or tonight, but for now, this is just my experience of seeing the movie.]

There are some movies that need to be experienced at midnight, in a theater full of geeks.  Watchmen is one of those movies.  If you’re a geek and you didn’t have your butt in a movie theater chair at 12:00 AM this morning, you missed out.

We arrived at the theater about an hour and a half early, picked up our tickets, and then headed over to the comic book store next door, which was staying open late to cater to all the Watchmen fans.  I was mildly disappointed that they were sold out of the Star Trek prequel comics, but it was fun just looking around and chatting with the guys that worked there.  Roomie and I were the only girls in the store.

Finally we went back to the theater to buy some snacks and stake out our seats.  I was actually really disappointed with the lack of people in costume – there was just one guy who came as Dr. Manhattan, with this really odd-looking blue bald cap.  So even though I’d brought my camera I didn’t end up taking any photos.  We kept running into people we knew, though.  The local geek community was out in force.

Finally it was trailer time… yay!  Can you guess which one I was super super excited about?  It was fun to hear everyone in the theater calling out their judgements of the movies being advertised.  Angels and Demons?  “Lame!”  Knowing, that Nicholas Cage movie?  “Lame!”  Star Trek?  “Not lame!” someone shouted.  Glad to hear my baby getting that vote of approval from the crowd.  I actually like this Star Trek trailer a lot better than the first one – you can see it here.

And then the screen turned that distinctive Watchmen yellow.

Almost three hours later, the lights came up and we all made our way back out through the lobby to the car, listening to all the animated conversations about this bit and that bit.  One of my friends wondered if we should wait, just in case there was a surprise scene after the credits.  No, I told him.  That was the end.  You can’t add an extra scene to Watchmen.

It was 4 AM by the time I got to bed, but it was totally worth it.  And so far, I haven’t been stricken with boils or turned into a toad, so maybe Alan Moore didn’t put a curse on everyone who went to see the movie (as we’d halfway feared).  Life is good.  And I’m already trying to figure out when I’ll have time to see it a second time.