Confession: I am of the opinion that Quentin Tarantino is overrated. He is a poor director and an overly self-indulgent screenwriter with a flare for...moreConfession: I am of the opinion that Quentin Tarantino is overrated. He is a poor director and an overly self-indulgent screenwriter with a flare for dialogue. This doesn't mean that I hate his films or his screenplays, yet when I've offered this confession to Tarantino lovers in the past, they tend to assume that I do. I've enjoyed most of the Tarantino movies I've seen, but I don't understand the adoration of his work.
In fact, I think the two best Tarantino movies are those made by other (dare I say "real") directors. Tony Scott's True Romance was excellent. A film that benefited greatly from Scott's slick style and Hollywood sensibility. It is Oliver Stone's version of Natural Born Killers, however, that is the very best of Tarantino's stories on film.
Tarantino's tale spent way too much time "telling" us the story of Mickey and Mallory rather than showing us their story, and to do that he made Wayne Gale -- the douchebag Geraldo Rivera stand-in -- the star of the show. Moreover, Tarantino's telling falls squarely on the "nature" side of the nature vs. nurture debate, which undermines his stated determination to critique America's media culture.
Stone saw the flaws and addressed them in his adaptation of the story. He made the tale about Mickey and Mallory, putting them front and center, recasting Wayne Gale as the supporting character he needed to be, and those changes allowed Stone to make the story about "nurture" (making the title appropriately ironic) which also ensured that the story could become an actual critique of America's media culture. And Stone did all this with a fractured, hyperactive style that presaged the coming of the internet. He dragged amazing performances out of unlikely actors like Juliette Lewis and Rodney Dangerfield, added some impressive scenes on the nature (or nurture) of evil, and experimented with his craft in ways that Tarantino would eventually mimic in Kill Bill. And Stone did all of this without Tarantino's blessing, pissing off the young filmmaker so much that he wanted his name removed from the film.
To be fair, I've not yet seen Inglourious Basterds, so perhaps Tarantino has worked himself into being as good a writer/director as he thinks he is, and I'd love for Django Unchained to kick some serious ass, but for now I'd much rather spend my time with Tarantino movies Tarantino didn't direct. (less)
The original Planet of the Apes novel is a seriously clunky story. It is bookended by a kooky couple in space who find a message in a bottle (view spo...moreThe original Planet of the Apes novel is a seriously clunky story. It is bookended by a kooky couple in space who find a message in a bottle (view spoiler)[psst ... they turn out to be Chimps (hide spoiler)], Ulysse Mérou stands in as a more pedantic Taylor who gets to knock up Nova before they with their child, and the Ape society is more developed, which makes it less effective in creating that Planet of the Apes vibe.
If it weren't for the movie with its killer Rod Serling script and the awesomeness of Charlton Heston (when he was the coolest Sci-Fi actor around), and all the sequels and TV shows and reboots that have followed, the original Planet of the Apes novel wouldn't deserve much in terms of goodreads stars. But all those movies did follow Pierre Boulle's book, and my unquenchable nostalgia for all things Ape will always elevate this in my estimation. That's just the kind of geek I am.
My Planet of the Apes loving credentials:
• own the box set of the original film series. • own Reality Bites just because of Ben Stiller's Planet of the Apes figures. • owned Planet of the Apes toys as a kid. • actively hunt down movie-tie-ins and any other Planet of the Apes books I can find. • have crappy old VHS tapes with about half of the TV episodes on them. • quote Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell on a regular basis, seamlessly. • played Planet of the Apes with my friend Dwayne instead of playing at Soldiers, and now I get to do it with my son and daughter. • I teach the film version of Planet of the Apes regularly, and I've even mixed it up a bit with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. • tried to convince Erika to name Milos, Taylor Cornelius • AND I named my dog Zira.
I'm probably forgetting some stuff, but that's a good list to start. I may add to my geek credentials as I remember them.
And check out the geek credentials on Terence if you get a chance. Just look at his icon for the love of Caesar!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am mostly delusional but not completely delusional. I knew this book was going to be crap when I picked it up at that shack-like used book shop a co...moreI am mostly delusional but not completely delusional. I knew this book was going to be crap when I picked it up at that shack-like used book shop a couple of years ago, but my boy and I love Indy, and I thought it would be a fun book for him to read as his reading skills increased. I stand by that even after reading it; it's a decent movie-tie-in for a seven year old boy.
There're lots of sun and time faded photos from the Temple of Doom (and who doesn't love movie stills?), and hackosaurus Les Martin doesn't offer anything fancy. It's all sort of "this happened, then this happened, and now this is happening but that just happened, and then this happened and now it's over." Perfect for a seven year old boy.
And there is even a cool scene that I've never heard any reference to in any other version of Temple of Doom, wherein Indy is already under the Black Sleep of Kali, and he comes back to Pankot Palace to put Willie to sleep, reassure Captain Blumbart (of Her Majesty's Cavalry) that everything is fine, and spend a little play time with Chatter Lal and the Maharajah. It was probably a scene that Spielberg trimmed from the screenplay (a wise decision), but it was a lot of fun to read here, and it actually tightened things up a little plotwise.
Regardless, this book is pretty sucky. Martin removes all references to "Fortune and Glory" as an Indy motivator -- which is one of my favourite parts of Temple of Doom -- and then he removes the "nocturnal activities" seduction sequence between Willie and Indy. Okay ... fair enough ... this book is for children, so if you have to take out the double entendres, be my guest, but couldn't you also remove, say, the whole Mola Ram ripping a heart out of a guy's chest thing? God forbid a child hears that Willie and Indy might want to sleep together, but by all means let that same child bask in the horror of beating hearts being held aloft. The fucking hypocrisy is what gets me.
Oh well, this was fun for me regardless. A nice thing to do while my computer boots up every morning. It's Milos' book now, and if he misses the full fun of Willie and Indy flirting, he can watch it as soon as he's finished reading.
Cause, after all, who doesn't love watching Kate Capshaw booby snatching the pillar statue?(less)
It's a solid comic yarn with a charmingly antithetical leading...moreI am a man who loves good comic books, and Mike Mignola's Hellboy is exactly that. Good.
It's a solid comic yarn with a charmingly antithetical leading man, fitting pencils, beautiful colour and noirish scripting (helped on by John Byrne in this early volume).
Mike Mignola loves a great action sequence, and Hellboy's big ol' "Right Hand of Doom" and terrible aim with "The Good Samaritan" -- the oversized revolver the eponymous leading man received as a gift from the Torch of Liberty -- ensure that melee style action and battle are at the heart of the pulpy jewel that is Hellboy.
But if you're looking for literary or thematic depth, if you want some philosophy or politics with your graphics, Hellboy isn't for you. It is clever and fun, but not much else. The villains are Nazis and Black Wizards (like Rasputin) and Demons, which doesn't leave much room for ethical debate. The heroes are not complicated, although Mignola tries to pretend they are (consider Professor Bruttenholm's miraculous child rearing skills, which allow him to nurture the demon out of Anung Un Rama. Fun and clever, once again, but too silly to be truly complicated). And the relationships between the main characters are boringly familiar archetypes.
I don't say any of this as criticism, however. I think Mignola's dedication to pulpy goodness is admirable. I don't want all my graphic novels to be Watchmen or Sandman. Just like I don't want all my novels to be Moby Dick or Sound and the Fury.
When I want some fun, some synapse relaxation, I am more than happy to pick up Hellboy and chill. It's the summer blockbuster of the comic book world (its film manifestations, moreover, are damn fine cinematic popcorn fare ), and there is something to be said for plain old entertainment -- no matter the form.
Plus, if you're looking for a quick fix without diving into the story proper, this edition offers two mini-adventure Easter eggs, written and penciled as intros to the Hellboy character. A junkyard dog turns into Anubis, a floating Nazi head and a talking Gorilla scientist torture a beautiful woman, and Hellboy saves the day -- quick and dirty like.
If Hellboy is demon hero-lite, these mini-adventures are demon hero-fat free. And heart smart Hellboy is the perfect way to fill any random couple of minutes where you're hankering for a comic book break.(less)
0. No? 1. Have you ever clamped clothes pins on your genitals? 2. Do acid flashbacks accompany thoughts of the Gibb brothers? 3. Have you ever uttered "Zoinks" without intentionally referencing Saturday Morning Cartoons? 4. Have you ever fantasized about making love to someone in mouse ears? 5. Do you prefer your comedians tripped out on amphetamines? 6. Is your personal contact with sweatshops a weekend “Rollback” the prices excursion to Wal-Mart™? 7. Do you get all angsty when you hear the promo words “Who will be voted out tonight?” 8. Are you a fan of books that are “too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts”? 9. Gouda? 10. Do you see things in a Rorschach test? 11. Have you ever, either in this life or the next, made love to a mime after it mimed its way through a death match with Jewish hitmen? 12. Do you see the connection between “it” and “is”? 13. Pink banana hammocks? 14. Do you hide your reading problem from friends and family? 15. Satan Donuts? 16. Does bowling in and around seminal fluid turn you off? 17. Have you ever ridden a Zamboni (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more)? 18. Do you have a conscience? 19. Are you a superfreak?
If you answered yes to some of these questions Death By Zamboni is for you. Of course, if you answered no to some of these questions Death By Zamboni is for you. If you answered maybe to any of these same questions then Death By Zamboni is also for you -- maybe. But if you answered yes to some of these questions Death By Zamboni isn’t for you because you’re a half wit who probably can’t follow anything more challenging than a really challenging thing. And if you answered no or maybe to some of these questions then you should be ashamed of yourself, but you probably aren’t, so maybe you should just give your money to David David anyway because he’s earned it by being far cooler than you. Whatever...Death By Zamboni deserves to be read. Can you handle it? Are you man enough to handle it? Do you know what it takes to read Death By Zamboni? It takes brass balls to read Death By Zamboni. Now sway your hips. Do you hear that clickety clack? Death By Zamboni really is for you. (less)
I ate dinner at an historical park once, and when I think of that meal I always remember being pleased with the place setting and the table linens. Th...moreI ate dinner at an historical park once, and when I think of that meal I always remember being pleased with the place setting and the table linens. The table cloth was crisp and white, the silverware was highly polished, but I can't remember the feel of the fabric or the design of the forks and spoons and knife. What little I remember accumulates into nice. It was all nice.
Nice but mostly forgettable.
And that's all I'm left with when I think of Brookner's Booker Prize winning Hotel Du Lac. It was nice. I remember a likable woman moving amongst mostly likable folk in Geneva. I enjoyed the niceness of the experience, and then it was forgotten.
Hotel Du Lac was nice. I'll never read it again, though, because nice doesn't keep me coming back.
Something that has won a prestigious literary award should leave us with more than a feeling of niceness. But that's all Hotel Du Lac has to offer.
Nice. Just nice. Only nice.
But then maybe it wasn't nice at all. Maybe it was the antithesis of nice. But if it was, and if there was an element of the not nice that I missed...well, Brookner didn't do a very good job then did she? I shouldn't be remembering nice all these years later, should I? I think not. Now isn't that nice?(less)
Once again, I've destroyed my love for a book (although I do still like it). I first read The Last Temptation of Christ in '88, just before Martin Sco...moreOnce again, I've destroyed my love for a book (although I do still like it). I first read The Last Temptation of Christ in '88, just before Martin Scorsese turned it into a movie, and I remember being blown away. Unfortunately, my literary concerns were different back then; the me who read The Last Temptation of Christ over the last couple of weeks doesn't match the me who read it twenty-two years ago.
I care more about consistency today. I care more about character, theme and message. And beautiful prose...it just doesn't dazzle me like it used to.
What I always loved about The Last Temptation of Christ was the way Nikos Kazantzakis gave us a mortal Jesus who struggled with his role as the Son of God. I loved that he was tempted by Lucifer and truly felt that temptation. I loved that he was so weak that he needed Judas, his friend and his strength, to betray him so he could be crucified and die for man's sins.
But that wasn't Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ -- that was Scorsese's. Kazantzakis' Jesus was bereft of free will. Sure Lucifer's temptations preyed on Jesus' mind, but the power of God's coercion mooted Lucifer's attempts to corrupt Jesus. Moreover, Jesus' weakness and Judas' strength were irrelevant. God's hand fated their outcomes, and what I thought was the transcendent power of men choosing divine sacrifices was nothing more than foreordained game play. They were God's pawns in a one-sided game that couldn't be lost, so the sacrifice that had made me love the novel for two decades was no sacrifice at all.
I wish it were otherwise. I wish I still loved Kazantzakis' version of The Last Temptation of Christ, and that his sensual prose -- wonderfully translated by P.A. Bien -- could overcome the annoying contradictions between Christ's words/thoughts and his actions. I wish the Jesus of the novel was the Jesus of the movie. But my wishes are and will remain unfulfilled.(less)
I am not sure I can see why Peter Pan is such a beloved "classic." J.M. Barrie's story of the boy who wouldn't grow up just didn't reach me. And I rea...moreI am not sure I can see why Peter Pan is such a beloved "classic." J.M. Barrie's story of the boy who wouldn't grow up just didn't reach me. And I read it aloud to 4 year old boy-girl twins.
Oh, they enjoyed it, and I may have bred a love for the story in them that will last (which could be exactly why the story has endured -- parental readings), but no matter how much they liked Peter Pan I could not see the appeal.
Wendy drove me crazy; Peter grew increasingly annoying; Hook bored me stiff; there was too much violence; Barrie's narrative interjections grew to be too intrusive; and I generally felt a distinct lack of fun. About the only thing I liked about the book, besides it ending, was Tinkerbell. Her snooty fairy arrogance always made me smile.
I know I will incur the wrath of many when I say this, but I actually prefer the Disney version. Walt brought some real joy to the story, and while I will never read Peter Pan again, I will watch the movie. Probably tomorrow.
If there wasn't a successful play of Pan I would put the longevity of Barrie's story on the head of Disney. Too bad I can't, but then he's been blamed for enough over the years, hasn't he?(less)
Once upon a time, there was a young man who believed that books were always better than movies. Everyone whose opinion he respected told him it was so...moreOnce upon a time, there was a young man who believed that books were always better than movies. Everyone whose opinion he respected told him it was so, and he believed it must be. And for a time he saw nothing to shake this belief. He read Dickens and saw filmed versions and knew it was so. He read Dumas and no version of Musketeers could shake his conviction. Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, and Scarlet Pimpernel all bore this out. But the young man discovered that it wasn't just the classics for which this held true. He read the popular books of his day, the mysteries and science fictions and fantasies, and those were always better than the movie.
But the inevitable happened. One day his notions were challenged in the most devastating way. A man, wild with isolated madness, chopped a door down, poked his head through the cracks and declared his frightening presence. It was an iconic moment. A new idol to replace the idol he'd worshipped, but he didn't know it yet. The young man went out to read the book that gave birth to that image, knowing that the book MUST be better than the film. He turned the pages with excitement, and it began as he expected it would. Tension built, suspense drove him on, the characters seemed fuller and richer, but that began to slip away. Where was the thematic depth? Where was the powerful iconography? Where was the terror? It was gone, and with it his notions.
Suddenly there was a film that was better than the book. By a long distance. And it was happening everywhere around him. On screen Replicants beat their written counterparts. Russian poets in frozen manors moved him in ways the translated words couldn't. Christs made love to Magdalenes and it made him weep for joy.
The truth was other. Rare though it remained, movies could be better than their sources. He would never again be the snob he'd been. He would embrace those films that trumped their books, and proclaim it to the world. (less)
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in...moreThis review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.
Holy shit! Now that I've read Fight Club, I can safely say that [David Fincher's movie] is one of the best film adaptations ever produced. It is a damn good book: hyperactive, disjointed, potent. Mixed in the tough Hemingway meets MTV inspired prose is a lot of powerful thought -- thought that fits our times, thought about anarchy, disaffection, the pain wrought on us by consumer society, what it is to be a man.
I am Joe's humble ego bowing before a brilliant pen.
Dissention in the ranks of Durden’s Fight Club was the only surprise from film to novel – the mechanic and his place of power leading this dissention. Oh ... the fights were much more brutal [in the book] too.
Actually, there was something else that was different about the violence on the page; the killing, when it happened, happened to innocents, many who did not want to die. The books is more Nietzschian than the film, and I’m not sure that is a good thing. Pitt and Norton were perfect as Tyler Durden, and David Fincher’s direction may actually be better than Palahniuk’s writing. I’ll have to see the movie again to know. No matter which is better, though, I love the story.
[Today, I can safely say that the movie is superior. Fincher is a genius at improving over his source material.](less)