Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Court Martial, My Ass.

Apologies for geeking out on everyone, but I just thought I'd share some thoughts on a Star Trek: TOS episode. Season 1, episode 20 entitled Court Martial, to be exact. I watch so much Star Trek , and GPS does plan on attending a convention one of these days. I also happen to have an original-style Captain's shirt. What are you looking at?

Honestly, my gripes are valid for this episode. Look, I get that you have to take pretty much everything put forth in that series with a huge grain of salt. I really do. Yet and still, this shit is ridiculous. The episode is about the Enterprise encountering a particularly nasty ion storm in which a crew member was ejected out into space by Kirk. Of course, ejecting crew members into space isn't at the top of Kirk's to-do list. Why, then, as the episode title suggests, is he under court martial? Well, the controversy surrounds his decision to jettison this dude during an ion storm. You know, come to think of it, I don't even really know why he had to be let go. The storm was fucking the ship up, and I think the guy was still out in his shuttle craft. The danger eventually became too great for Kirk to risk bringing him in or something, so the guy in the shuttle craft had to be sacrificed for the good of the Enterprise.

Ok, so far (ambiguous plot withstanding) I'm with the episode. Sounds pretty cut-and-dry to me. Ah, but this is Star Trek: TOS we're talking about. Something bizarre and ridiculous has to happen. So, at this point, Kirk has to give his report to star base 11 about just what the fuck happened during the ion storm. In his report, he says he released the dude's pod AFTER he signaled red alert, and only at the last possible moment. But somehow the ship's log has Kirk releasing the pod BEFORE red alert. Big difference. But why would Kirk do that? Of course, the dude he left to space-death has hated Kirk ever since he found a fuck-up of his so many years ago. Kirk reported the fuck-up and, subsequently, the dude's career never took off like he thought it would. So...does Kirk secretly hate the guy for having such a stupid grudge on him? What do you think? OF COURSE NOT. But hey, most of the fun of these kinds of episodes comes from the "how" not the "why".

Random hot picture of Uhura. I miss the skirts.

Unfortunately, the "how" is fucking retarded. First off, Kirk is court martialed, which means he'll stand trial. Alright. But here's a kicker: the prosecution is a former flame of his. Shocking, I know. I think it's required that every Earth colony have one in the population. But my first thought was, "Wait a minute. Doesn't that present a gigantic conflict of interest?" I mean, if you're the sole prosecutor but the defendant is a lover of yours, well...I dunno. I'm not a lawyer, but I would find it pretty damn hard to give my all to convicting someone I have/had lovey-dovey feelings for. Guilty: conflict of interest, at least according to me. So that's the first problem, but far from the most frustrating.

The most frustrating comes when the trial is in session. Somehow, the prosecution procures video from the incident that clearly shows Kirk releasing the dude's pod before red alert is initiated. This poses two conundrums in my mind: 1) Since the video is obviously wrong, how can that be altered? We're going on 1960s logic here, where there was no such thing as Photoshop, let alone complex video editing software. If there was video, there was video. This goes unexplained as the truth unfolds, and it's just dumb. How can recorded video that's supposedly unalterable be totally inaccurate? 2) It's pretty clear when Kirk and his lawyer see the video being played back that they've never seen it before. Can you guess my next objection? Yes, this evidence should have been inadmissible. There's a reason you can't just submit evidence on the fly without both counsels being given time to review and prepare their case. That's cause for immediate objection, in this case, on the side of the defense, and the judge would also immediately agree and throw the evidence right out. Case closed, but not in Star Trek: TOS. Instead, both Kirk and his lawyer stare dumbstruck at the video, and then continue to say that they can't refute what the computer has logged. Umm, yes you can. "We were never given this evidence, your honor. I object to the prosecution using inadmissible evidence and ask that the court strike it from the record." Oh, well, I guess Kirk's highly sought-after lawyer hadn't come across this kind of thing before. Or he's a fucking moron. One or the other.

Here, Spock is pictured while puzzling out the mysteries of the universe. Bones is thinking "Dammit, Spock, I'm a doctor not a space-chess player."

My other, more minor objection comes at the (sort of) expense of Spock. He has to resort to giving a demonstration to the court detailing how he can beat the computer at chess five times, when the best result should be a stale-mate. So, you're telling me that in the 24th century, one would have to physically show a game of chess between the Enterprise's on-board computer and a Vulcan to demonstrate that computers can be fallible? Fuck off. That still doesn't explain how the video was altered to look like Kirk hit the button before the red alert was triggered. If the video was altered, wouldn't they be able to figure that little tid-bit out? Yes, like I said, we're dealing with a show made in the '60s which was way before any schmuck could make his own Bigfoot discovery video. Still, even armed with that knowledge, this shit is a tough sell.

I've devoted more time than I initially planned to on this shit, so I'll just end with a challenge. For all you hardcore Trekkies out there, riddle me this:

How was the video forged?

Why was Kirk's lawyer so fucking incompetent?

How did Finney, who hid himself from the Enterprise's sensors, STILL evade the sensors when he re-boarded the ship? They would know right away when he came back aboard.

FUCK YOU IF YOU THINK YOU'RE SMARTER THAN LOGIC. You're rationalizing, and Spock himself would punch you in the face.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Get ready to KICK-ASS!!!

I'm usually not so uber-geeky that I get excited over movie posters, but these have me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. If you are not familiar with the Kick-Ass property, then let's review. It's a comic book by Mark Millar (of Wanted fame) about a guy with no powers or skills that wants to be a superhero. He dons a disguise, a couple of sticks, and patrols the streets with the intention of smiting evil. Things don't initially go well for this rookie crime fighter and he is almost killed during his first outing. It's a normal world inhabited by costumed heros, villains, and an 11 year old girl that has uncanny skills with a samurai sword. The film will be brought to us in 2010 by Matthew Vaughn (04's Layer Cake) so be excited..........be very excited!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Trailer

Man, I knew this day was fast approaching, but I hadn't properly steeled myself for it. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about this trailer yet, having only watched it once. It didn't fill my heart with wonder and amazement, but it didn't turn it to stone, either. I did notice a few instances of re-enacting the game mechanics, which could be cool. I'll watch it a few more times and let it grow on/spread like a plague over me.

[adding...] Ok, I watched it again. They're trying too hard with the witty banter, the CG looks impressive, and parts of it look too much like a movie based on a game. Still, Mike Newell is directing, so score one point for the film. We'll see.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in HD

Trailer Park | MySpace Video

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scream, Scream For Your Lives! - The Tingler (1959)

William Castle was a cool dude. He directed a handful of neat little horror films - a couple of which went on to be remade (one good, one not so good) - and while he will never be confused with the man he most wanted to emulate, namely Alfred Hitchcock, he will go down in history for trying his own brand of scare tactics. For example, if you were to have seen The Tingler in theaters, you could have been one of the lucky audience members to receive an electric jolt from your chair in the hopes of scaring you even further. Did the tactic actually work? I wasn't there to find out, but it probably did work on some people. Others probably thought it was annoying. My point is that Castle was at least inventive enough to try different, out of the box things to make his movies more exciting. He also produced Rosemary's Baby. Bonus points for that. The Tingler had moments of brilliance, to be sure, but it also left something to be desired in the monster that gave the picture its title.

The Tingler centers around the "scientific" (we all know how loosely the term is thrown about in horror films) experiments of Dr. Warren Chapin, played by the great Vincent Price. There's already something going for your horror movie if Price is starring in it, and The Tingler is no exception. He doesn't play the mad scientist type like one would expect. For the most part, he's actually a pretty decent guy. There's an incident with his bitch of a wife early on, but she deserved it. That bitch. Anyways, Dr. Chapin thinks he can isolate a physical being attached to the spinal column of every human being in the throes of absolute fear. The only problem is performing an autopsy on someone who died at the height of fear, while at the same time never vocalizing it by screaming. Where would you find someone like that? Why, Dr. Chapin just happens to know a deaf mute! Great success! Now, all he has to do is scare the shit out of her until she dies. I said Dr. Chapin was a decent guy for the most part. He still obviously has maniacal tendencies, but my only point was that he doesn't play the part of the unwittingly asshole-ish scientist who neglects everyone around him. Other than his going too far for the sake of science, he's pretty normal, which is nice to see.

Here's one of the more dramatically horrific scenes in the movie. It's a cool effect, even though you can tell an obvious quality difference in the camera used for the scene.

So after succeeding in killing a deaf mute for the glory of science and reason, Dr. Chapin then goes about trying to study the Tingler that was inside her. Of course, it escapes, and madness and mayhem briefly ensue. In fact, a Tingler isn't actually seen until right around that part in the movie, which, as it turns out, was for the better. The puppet they used for the Tingler was pretty damn awful, and it was only made worse by watching the strings pull it around every time it moved. And by every time it moved, I mean every time it moved. Oh, well, I guess. You get the good effects with the bad when you watch older movies. The clip above is an example of good effects.

But for the better part of the film, it doesn't rely on the stupid stringed puppet to elicit fear. To me, at least, it was more about going too far when it's obvious what you're doing is putting people in danger. Yea, yea, we've all seen a shit-load of movies that deal with that very same subject, but I think Price's performance makes it a little better than most other films that tried the same thing. The Tingler takes a two-pronged approach when dealing with what should and shouldn't be considered ethical and moral. Dr. Chapin thinks he's only doing what's necessary, while condemning another character for going too far. It's interesting to see a man rationalize his own behavior and actions, only to then go and scold someone else for doing something roughly equivalent.

The one thing I'll say about Vincent Price, even though I loathe to say it, is that he isn't the best overly dramatic actor. When a scene requires that he go a bit over-the-top, it doesn't usually work out very well. The same goes for when he needs to do something physically demanding. I think Price is at his best when he's cool, calm and collected. He can be creepy as all hell, a total prick, or the nicest guy in the world. But just like the rest of us, he isn't perfect.

This movie was made in 1959, and I don't think LSD was something the audience could identify as easily as we could now. Still...not a very convincing acid trip.

All in all, I'm glad I own The Tingler. It handles itself well when it comes to believable characters, and the morality play it was striving to be overrides the Ed Wood-esque monstrosity it tried to pass off as the actual Tingler. Vincent Price is awesome, that neat color trick I showed you above was cool, if a little gimmicky, and the two characters the story really dealt with kept me invested. I wish Dr. Chapin's wife (that bitch) would have got more of what was coming to her, though. It happened to Price once, so why not?

We May Be Trapped - Kaidan (2007)

Not to be confused with its 1964 predecessor, Kaidan is a drama first and foremost. Its horror elements play sporadically throughout the film, and it's not about multiple ghost stories. Subsequently, it doesn't sit quietly next to the rest of director Hideo Nakata's body of work. If he tried to make it a morality play, I failed to see the practical application of its moral core (life is unfair; deal with it?). That being said, I was engrossed in the characters and setting, and the trademark Nakata eeriness reared its ugly (pretty) head less frequently as one would assume, but to similar great effect. In fact, I would argue that it does a much better job of creeping the fuck out of viewers since it takes the time to build around its central characters. I don't know about you, but I cared just enough about the main characters in Ringu and Dark Water to get the job done. But with Kaidan, I think the characters and their world took center stage. The horror elements came in due time, but only after sufficient time was spent setting up the why. The why is very important when trying to manipulate emotions. Kaidan succeeded mightily in manipulating mine.

A nameless narrator begins the film by telling of a sad and gruesome tale of murder. Soetsu Minagawa was an acupuncturist. He had two daughters which he rasied alone after his wife's passing. I guess times were hard for acupuncturists back then, because Minagawa decided to lend money with ridiculous interest rates as a side business. When I say ridiculous interest rates, I'm talking literally over 200%. I'd be pissed if I borrowed from that guy. But if I agreed to his terms, oh well, it sucks to be me. But Shinzaemon Fukai didn't see things as I would have. Fukai was a samurai who borrowed 30 yen from Minagawa at some point. Years later, Minagawa came calling to collect the debt. According to his utterly stupid interest rates, Fukai owed him 65 yen. Yes, the interest rate was that high. If Minagawa was a credit card company, he'd be above the pack. Regardless, the debt was there, plain and simple. What would any ordinary, honor-bound samurai do in that situation? Pay his debt? Hah, I say to you. Why, no, in that situation, Fukai did what any other self-respecting asshole would have done. He killed Minagawa and dumped his body in a lake. Right on: no more debt. Maybe Fukai's subsequent maddness and suicide had nothing to do with this ordeal, or maybe fate grabbed him by the balls and squeezed. Either way, the last laugh was with Minagawa (who did say he would come back and kill him).

So that whole schpeil is the backdrop for the rest of the film. Both families had children, and their fates will forever be intertwined. By intertwined, I mean horribly mangled together in a clusterfuck of sadness with spikes of joy. I'm talking face-disfiguring and murderous. Good times. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. The film really plays out like a fantastic version of a low-rent melodrama. Its like all the peliculas and soap operas were somehow serviced with a complete and utter makeover; the cast replaced with believable actors; the plot toned down in every respectable way; yet the defiant fuck-you spirit to logic remains intact. Realistic in its intentions it's not; realistic in emotional appeal, it might very well be.

The film centrally deals with the rightful immaturity of one character (the younger male), and the incredulous immaturity of another (the older female). Both characters are linked by their familial pastimes, but neither one knows it. I tend to side with one in particular, but that might just be my overriding logical nature taking hold. Still, the chick is a bitch, and I wouldn't have put up with it. Basically, the daughter of the slain loansman becomes romantically envolved with the son of the asshole samurai. As fate would have it, the daughter of the loansmen has major issues and is obsessed with the samurai's son. He loves her as well, but not to the same extent that she does. She ends up dying, and the samurai's son can't live up to his promise he made to her before she passed. Honestly, it was a shit promise from the get-go, and I wouldn't hold him to it if it were up to me. But I'm not a psycho hose beast, so what do I know?

A walk in the pouring rain out in the middle of nowhere is a great romantic getaway.

The film has its fair share of Days of our Lives moments - double-crossings from characters who aren't even in the film save for this particular plot point - but it doesn't get bogged down in the minutia of randomness that daytime television succumbs to. Its characters, while not necessarily likeable, make the story worthwhile. I really don't think the main dude deserved any of what was coming to him, but that didn't hinder my engagement with what was going on. I think that's a testament to Hideo Nakata, who manages to keep a lot of his subtle horror intact while creating a much better overall dramatic experience. The one thing I'll knock the film for is the narrator. He's only used twice in the film - once in the beginning, and once about 3/4ths of the way through. The beginning was very much suited for narration. The second time it happens, not so much. It almost takes away from what the film tried to accomplish with the narration. Almost. It didn't distract me too much from what was going on, but instead just enough to notice. Oh well; no one is perfect, unless your name is Ridley Scott.

If you're looking for a straight-up J-horror movie, then most definitely look elsewhere. But if you want to experience a lot of what the best of J-horror has to offer, while at the same time getting a great dramatic, character-driven film, then Kaidan is your ticket. Just don't fall in love with it only to move on to other projects. If you end up without a head, at the very least don't blame me.