Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men – The Last Stand

Beware lads and lasses; spoiler’s aplenty ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

I just got back from the theater and I thought I’d jot down my first perceptions of the third installment of the “X-Men” movies. Let me be honest, I didn’t have high hopes going in; Bryan Singer (the director and co-writer of X-Men and X2) was not involved whatsoever since he decided to helm the “Superman Returns” project. I also knew that this was a rush job. For some reason Fox wanted to beat “Superman Returns” to the theaters – in doing so “X-Men – The Last Stand” was made in 14 months. That’s quick and there are moments that, if you are a fan of X-Men, you will notice. That being said, Brett Ratner did very well with what he was given. It is cohesive and works as an all out action – war with the mutants – movie; which is what the film shoots for. Where X-Men – The Last Stand is weakest is in the rapid packaging of over 40 years of comic book history into a movie that treats real watershed moments as throw away scenes. Sentinels are relegated to a brief moment in the danger room, Phoenix doesn’t flame into her fiery form, and when Iceman goes into ice mode it’s over way too soon. Each of these scenes is a biggie for any self respecting fan boy. Also, Professor X is a bit of a dick when Wolverine questions his actions toward Jean Grey. Not that the good professor and Logan haven’t squared off in the past, it’s just that this time the kind nurturing Xavier has grown claws. Logan’s a bit weepy too – fortunately, he makes up for it with some decent slice and dice action.

I enjoyed it. If you enjoyed the last two movies then chances are you will like this one. “X-Men” introduced them, “X2” perfected them and “X-Men – The Last Stand” moved their story along; which is much better than I expected. Mr. Ratner had big shoes to fill and he did an admirable job.

Do yourself a favor and stay for all of the credits. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Evil Chicken’s Picks for the Summer Flicks in the year of our Lord 2006

Right off the bat let me say that this is one of my favorite times of year; the summer movie season. The big Hollywood studios roll out their latest offerings to a blockbuster hungry public. They have gambled, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars that their properties will become the next big thing in pop culture. Some win some lose; at times ‘sure things’ such as “Mission Impossible III” don’t perform up to industry expectations for their opening days and are labeled failures. This is an interesting phenomena since in its second week MI:3 was able to best “Poseidon” for the number one spot. Slow and steady still wins races. Needless to say, the big studios have much riding on the summer season. I love to see the dark horse win the race. Films that were never meant for multi-million dollar returns such as “The Blair Witch Project”, “The Sixth Sense”, “Clerks” or the “Evil Dead” series. It does my heart good to know that a cheap, smartly told story can sweep the big boys. Anyway, before you pack up the kids and significant other to hit the local multiplex here is another voice in the crowd, mine.

So, without further ado…

5/19/06, The Da Vinci Code. I’m not talking about ‘controversy’; I did that last blog – I’m talking about story. I hope that Ron Howard and company can deliver. The film premiered at Canes last night and early spin ain’t good. To see or wait for DVD? – THAT is the question!

5/26/06, X-Men – The Last Stand. I’d like this to work. It’s a well-established point that I’m a card carrying GEEK. This time out, however the X-Men have lost one of their most important members, Mr. Bryan Singer the director of X1 and X2. I hope that it’s not terminal. Early spin is mixed. Still and all, it’s X-MEN engaged in all out mutant war; translation: my ticket is already bought.

6/2/06, Nacho Libre. I love Mr. Jack Black with Tenacious D or on the big screen. He chews up every scene that he’s in. He’s energy personified. Add to the mix the writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite and what do you get? Jack Black as a Mexican Masked Wrestler. I can’t wait.

6/30/06, Superman Returns. This will be the 900-pound gorilla of summer; I’ll go even further; it will deserve it. This is the film that Bryan Singer gave up X-Men for. Singer respects the source material. He has a love for the culture and passion for the story. He was steeped in it. Me too. I remember seeing Christopher Reeve on the big screen in 1978 in “Superman – the Movie.” It was and remains to be one of the finest comic adaptations ever to grace the big screen. Mr. Brandon Roth is wearing the cape now with Mr. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. I’m there opening day – no doubt.

7/7/06, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Before this movie films about Piracy were cursed. Fortunately, Johnny Depp has removed this curse. This will be huge for Disney who produced parts 2 and 3 back to back – I expect the third out sometime around Christmas (another decent movie season). It will be fun and I’ll be there opening night with my eye-patch and earring.

7/14/06, A Scanner Darkly. This film is based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Early spin says that it is the closest adaptation of one of his tales yet. I loved “Blade Runner” (one of my favorite films) and enjoyed “Total Recall” but, if truth be known, neither are really close to Dick’s work. This one is, warts and all. Dick was heavy into drugs when he wrote this and it is reflected in the heavily pharmacological story line. It will be one for the film books; still and all I may have to wait for DVD.

7/21/06, Lady in the Water. This is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film and that’s good enough for me. I love this guy’s work. This tale stars an amazing actor named Paul Giamatti. This man consistantly delivers fine performances – bottom line. The story revolves around water nymphs and the discovery of a gateway into another world. Sign me up.

8/4/06, Apocalypto. Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair for this historical drama that takes place about 600 years ago and just before the fall of the Mayan civilization. As Gibson did in “Passion of the Christ” all of the actor’s dialogue will be speaking the timely language of their characters; in the case of “Passion of the Christ” Aramaic and Latin and for "Apoclaypto" Yucatec Maya (Thank you Wikipedia!). I’d love to see this on the big screen.

8/18/06, Clerks II. Shock of shocks I’m a geek and film geek from NJ that loves Mr. Kevin Smith. I snuck into an auditorium to hear him speak in Philadelphia back in 2003; it was worth the risk. I really enjoy this guy’s work even though the statue of Christ from “Dogma” still makes me cringe. You have to look past the fart and phallic jokes with Smith. If you do you will be pleasantly surprised to find an intelligent and thoughtful filmmaker. “Clerks II” re-introduces Dante and Randal and catches us up on what they’ve been up to all these long years. “Wolvie Berserker Style! Bickity Bam!” – I’m there.

8/25/06, Pan’s Labyrinth. Guillermo del Toro directs this tale of a 12 year year-old girl in 1944 Spain who finds an ancient labyrinth underneath her new home that is guarded by a satyr named Pan. It will be subtitled in English so I hope that it will play at a theater around me. I’d like to support it; del Toro is a unique filmmaker. Unfortunately we have short attention spans here in the United States and don’t like to read subtitles when we go to the movies. It’s a shame really, but alas; such is life at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

These films should keep me occupied but still I’m looking for the dark horse. What independent or foreign film is going to shine? What under funded studio film will run with the big boys this summer? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I like my popcorn buttered and my Rasinettes plentiful.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Chicken Code

I’ve been told that I need to have a more open mind. I was told this by a lady I work with; we were talking about the DaVinci Code and the new movie that’s about to come out. She asked, “what if Jesus’ bloodline existed today?” I said that the argument was "heretical" thinking and that the DaVinci Code is a work of fiction. As I mentioned in the opening of this, I was told that I needed to have an open mind.

To some extent she may have a point. I can be myopic and self-indulgent. Of course, on the other hand, I can see that there are going to be lot of people who will look at the DaVinci Code and immediately jump to the conclusion that it is gospel truth. It’s not; it’s classified as a work of fiction – a fiction based on fact; but fiction nonetheless. Its simple human nature to ask questions and look for the sensation of conspiracy; it’s too rich not to take a passing glance. Dan Brown, the author of “The DaVicnci Code”, in the first opening pages of the book suggests the case for “FACT:” The fiction is what follows. You know what – that’s exactly what any writer is going to do; bring the reader into the web that he is weaving. Bottom line. The more controversy the better! It sells more books, CDs, and whatever other cottage industry for marketing that can be thought up. It’s good for business. Is Opus Dei real? You betcha. How about the Knights Templar? Yup. The Priory of Sion? All real. Gentle reader, there is even a museum in France called the Louvre. Imagine that. Dan Brown is more than pleased that there is such “controversy” surrounding the films release; Pff, who wouldn’t be? He’s giggling all the way to whichever private island he decides to buy. I don’t begrudge him for that at all.

What gets me going is that there are a lot of people who are going to be convinced in some sort of five thousand year old conspiracy. Do you realize how boring it is going to be listening to this ever-evolving latest conspiracy theory? Please! I’m still getting over the Kennedy’s, 911 and Challenger. I’m not even going to mention the word “Roswell”. Don’t get me started on all the time that I had to listen to people drown on about all of this BULL PUCKY.


Read the book. See the movie. Please keep watching Oprah; I’m sure that there will be a new controversy or conspiracy after the opening weekend for this flick. Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave we enjoy sensation. We use it up until it has nothing left to give. This is why we no longer hear from the UFO nuts; it became blasé. Nobody cares. The shot clock is running on this “controversy” too.

Take it for what it is.

Signed a close-minded Evil Chicken.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Cerebral Codex

Do you enjoy becoming engrossed inside a story getting lost within the tale? I can. It’s a form of hypnotism when a writer whispers in your ear and the two of you make the images come alive. Sometimes it makes you wonder what else is contained within those magical pages. Maybe as you read a book can you see hidden messages within the text? Such puzzles could become maddening; once identified could they be solved? Where would they take you? What if someone challenged you to “Use Your Brain of Lose Your Mind”?

Does this interest you? If so then you must see this:

“Cerebral Codex,” by Brian Smith is a book that can be appreciated on several levels. The story centers on two men who have slipped into some sort of pocket universe, perhaps two doors down from our own. It documents their adventures in a strange land where they must solve puzzles in order to move forward on their quest. The pair does not know how they got to where they are or exactly where they are going – they only know that they must move on; pushing forward to unlock the next puzzle.

The second level of appreciation is the realization that this is so much more than a novel. The story is riddled with riddles – puzzles that you will see with your first reading and challenges that you will not comprehend until your tenth. “Cerebral Codex” was also realized with the help of Mr. Jeffery Dubois, he and Mr. Smith collaborated on the puzzling aspect of the novel. The encoding, the encryptions; each piece builds upon the last and the trials do not end between the pages of this book. The text points the reader to physical locations and challenges out in the real world to find hidden puzzle pieces to complete the quest. Emphasis on the word “Challenges.” At times the reader will be taken to sets of coordinates in the middle of a swamp or the heart of the Pine Barrens. For the sake of safety it would be wise to tackle such field challenges with a partner. Other books have hidden puzzles and ciphers; most notably “A Treasure’s Trove” which compelled the reader to solve the puzzles and find hidden prizes in the forests across the United States. The joy of Cerebral Codex is that the prize is and always was the quest – the journey. It brings in another dimension for the reader – it becomes its own genre; it becomes Participatory Theater.

The third level is wondering where Mr. Smith and Mr. Dubois will go next. How will they shape the story with their next effort? The shear time that this must have taken to fully realize “Cerebral Codex,” cannot be truly understood or appreciated until one reads the text. Only then will one begin to comprehend just how many mysteries that there are wrapped up in conundrums.

Are you up for the challenge? Pick up a copy of the book and your walking stick. Come to South Jersey. You will not be disappointed.