Archive for October, 2009

DVD Review: Four Film Favorites: Draculas

October 30, 2009

Photobucket

This is the actual Dracula… but it isn’t my Dracula:

Photobucket

And this is not my Dracula:

Photobucket

Not this one:

Photobucket

Or this one:

Photobucket

And I don’t really think this is anyone’s Dracula:

Photobucket

When I apply the ownership of “my” to it, I’m talking about when you close your eyes and think “Dracula,” the image that pops into your head is “your” Dracula. For me, THIS is my Dracula:

Photobucket

That, my friends, is Christopher Lee. (Pausing for the appropriate oohs and ahs.) Christopher Lee starred in seven of the nine films in the Dracula series from Hammer Films, from the late ’50’s to the early 70’s.

One of my greatest memories of childhood is my father and I, each Saturday afternoon, watching old horror films on The Channel 20 (WXON) Saturday Afternoon Thriller and Sir Graves Ghastly on channel 2 (WJBK). And, of those old films, my favorites were the Dracula movies.

And, among those Dracula movies, the Hammer films rose to the top. At the time, I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk about the production values, or the acting… I would have just said they were better. Despite my age, and my ability to analyze the films and explain what draws me to them, I find myself falling back into my childhood feelings about them – they are just better.

They weren’t slow and plodding, they didn’t look like they were filmed in someone’s basement with cardboard props, and Dracula was what he was supposed to be – a monster. Evil and nasty, and not terribly talkative.

(All due respect, and I say this as a fan of both Angel and Forever Knight, but I miss when vampires weren’t all sensitive and brooding.)

I really enjoyed these movies, but hadn’t seen them in years. Oh, there have been a few releases for home entertainment over the years, but nothing great or even complete (due to rights issues, I believe).

Then, a few weeks ago, I was told about a DVD set that was out from Warner Bros. called, “4 Film Favorites: Draculas.” This is a two disc set, containing four of the Christopher Lee/Hammer Films Dracula movies – Horror of Dracula, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Dracula A.D. 1972. The price for this assembled bit of cinema greatness? Around ten bucks.

Photobucket

I was immediately doubtful. First, I’m not a fan of double sided discs when it comes to movies. They seem really susceptible to scratching and damage. Second, squeezing four films onto two discs usually mean low quality. Third, what could I really expect for $10.00?

But, fan of the films that I am, I went ahead and bought the collection.

And I’m so glad I did.

What you get is a pretty straightforward, no frills kinda deal with these. You essentially get the movie and its trailer for each film. That about does it in the area of “extras” on these discs. What makes this set worth more than the cost though is the quality of the films themselves.

Remember how I mentioned there have been various releases of these films in the past? Generally, those releases were crummy, lifted from less than stellar prints of the originals. This set, though, is sharp and crisp, not plagued with saturation problems or muffled sound like previous releases. And, the original trailers? They are pretty cool.

I would love to have a complete set of the nine Hammer Films Dracula movies, but I’m happy that four of the best of these films are collected here. (Maybe someday, the rights issues will be cleaned up and we’ll see an entire set!)

(Just in case you were interested, that set would include: Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Scars of Dracula, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.)

I’m not going to go into each of the movies right now, for two reasons. One, tacking on four movie reviews to this is far more work than I want to do right now (yeah, I’m lazy, but I may review the movies separately at a later time), and, Two, it is four movies for ten bucks! Even if they were horrible, that’s only $2.50 a film. I’m sure you’ve spent more on a bad film sometime in the last decade!

But, these aren’t bad. They are pretty awesome. Admittedly, I’m biased, and I’m sure nostalgia is playing a big part, but even so, I would not hesitate recommending this set to someone that wants to see some really great Dracula movies.

And, with that, my good readers, Vampire Week here at The Steve Austin Book Club draws to a close.  Thanks for joining us, Happy Halloween, and we’ll see you next week!

Advertisements

Forever Knight

October 29, 2009

Photobucket

As we continue our Vampire Week celebration here at The Steve Austin Book Club, today we are going to take a look at the rise and fall of a TV show that EG dearly loved – Forever Knight.

Photobucket

He was brought across in 1228 – preyed on humans for their blood. Now, he wants to be mortal again … to repay society for his sins … To emerge from his world of darkness … from his endless Forever Knight.

Starting in 1992, each episode of Forever Knight opened with those words. A nice, succinct way to let folks know what the show was about. But, for the beginning of this show, we really need to look earlier… not 1228, but 1989.

From Jessie’s Girl to Coffin…

And, here is where I show my age. One Saturday night, as I was flipping through the channels, I came across a television movie on CBS. It was a vampire movie (which hooked me) called Nick Knight. In this movie, Rick Springfield (attempting to escape soap operas) played Nick Knight, L.A. cop and vampire.

Photobucket

After centuries of giving into his vampire ways, Nick was trying to cure himself. Helping in this effort was Dr. Jack Brittington (Robert Harper), forensic pathologist and the only one who knew what Nick truly was.

Photobucket

He was advising Nick to live as a human in order to become human – eating real food, no longer drinking blood, and exposing himself UV light via tanning beds. Nick was also seeking out some magical goblets that could cure him.

When some homeless are found drained of blood, Nick is partnered with Detective Don Schanke (John Kapelos) to investigate.  (Note to readers:  That character’s last name is pronounced “Skanky.”  I know, right?  Awesome.)

Photobucket

Through the investigation, Nick comes to believe that Lacroix (Michael Nader), the vampire that sired him, is responsible.

Photobucket

I won’t spoil the movie any further. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. And, though it was supposed to launch a TV series, that never happened.

Well, not quite never…

The Schanke Years

Photobucket

In 1992, CBS was desperate for some sort of late night programming to go against the Tonight Show and Nightline. After going through a bunch of hosted, Tonight Show-esque programs (one of which starred Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak), CBS decided to switch gears. The result? Crimetime After Primetime.

Crimetime After Primetime was a schedule of different hour long crime shows that aired, each airing once a week. The only one worth mentioning (at least, in my opinion) was Forever Knight.

Forever Knight was Nick Knight revamped (totally didn’t realize the pun, but I’m leaving it, so there!). Of all of the cast, the only actor to return from the original pilot movie was John Kapelos as Detective Don Schanke.

Photobucket

Nick Knight, now played by Geraint Wyn Davies, was now a Toronto cop and vampire. The basic idea of him seeking a cure and redemption continued in this series.

Photobucket

Dr. Jack Brittington became Dr. Natalie Lambert (Catherine Disher).

Photobucket

The role of Lecroix was taken over by Nigel Bennett.

Photobucket

And, the role of Janette (another vampire that appeared in the first pilot that I didn’t mention) changed from Cec Verrell…

Photobucket

…to Deborah Duchene.

Photobucket

Though production values were lower on the series than for the original pilot, across the board, I thought the level of acting went up.

Almost immediately, the show garnered a devoted fan base. Unfortunately, CBS was soon to drop the entire Crimetime After Primetime format, after securing David Letterman for their late night programming.

The voice of the fans was heard, though, and Forever Knight was continued in syndication.

Photobucket

The show’s popularity continued to grow in syndication through the end of the second season.

And, then, the writer’s saw Interview with the Vampire.

The Sun Rises (and we all know what happens to vampires when that happens)

Photobucket

With the third season, major changes came. It was announced that John Kapelos would not be returning to the series (no more Schanke… *sigh*).

Photobucket

It was also announced that Deborah Duchene’s role of Janette, vampire confidant of Nick, was also being eliminated.

Lisa Ryder, as Detective Tracey Vetter, came in as Nick’s partner.

Photobucket

Along with her, came a new, Lestat/Louis-esque vampire named Vachon (Ben Bass).

Photobucket

More and more, the focus of the show shifted toward the new characters, and the storylines seemed to be drawing from the same well as the well-known Anne Rice Vampire novels.

And, perhaps for the best, after three seasons and a radical change in the direction of the show, Forever Knight ended.

I do miss the show, but not what it was becoming. If the show had maintained the quality level that it had in the first two seasons, I would miss it more, but I’m pretty sure if it had continued the way it was headed, I would’ve dropped it.

Still, it is a good idea, and maybe, given the prevalence of vampires in primetime and movie theaters, we’ll see the concept revived yet again.

I miss Schanke.

Movie Time: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

October 27, 2009

Photobucket

Photobucket

Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
Directed by Paul Weitz
Starring John C. Reilly, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia

Photobucket

Darren and Steve are best friends. They are also opposites in almost every way. Darren is the good kid, works hard in school, makes good grades, etc. Steve is the teenage punk from a troubled home that is apt to get into trouble. After finding a flyer for a traveling circus of freaks, the two decide to attend… and both of their lives are transformed.

Photobucket

During the show, Steve recognizes the magician to be a vampire from one of the many books he has on the subject. Darren, on the other hand, is far more interested in the unique spider that works with the magician/vampire.

Photobucket

When the show is broken up by local citizens and police, Darren and Steve are separated. Darren finds himself outside the dressing room of the magician/vampire, and decides he wants to see the spider again. Inside he finds the spider, but hears someone coming down the hall and grabs the spider and sneaks into the closet.

The magician/vampire and a friend step into the room and shortly thereafter… and so does Steve. Steve confronts the magician/vampire, and tells him he wants to be made a vampire, that he has nothing else to live for. The vampire sends him away.

When he gets the chance, Darren makes a run for it, and goes home, with the spider.

The next day, Darren takes the spider with him to school and meets up with Steve. The spider, accidentally freed from its cage, bites Steve, leaving him near death.

Darren makes his way back to the theater where they saw the show, hoping that the vampire can help Steve. The vampire makes a deal to help Steve, in exchange for Darren becoming his assistant… and a half-vampire.

Photobucket

Thus begins Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. This movie is an obvious foundation for other films planned for a series based on the Cirque Du Freak books, which is both good and bad. Good, in that it is trying to establish a world and we are introduced to a lot of characters so that we get a feel for that world. Bad, in that many of those characters are given little time to truly establish themselves.

But, if the film does spawn the sequels, that will be forgiven, perhaps even lauded as we don’t have to deal with the problems of introducing so many characters with each subsequent installment.

The real basis of the story, though, is the rivalry between two sets of bloodsuckers – the Vampires and the Vampanese. Vampires, in this setting, are the “good” guys – they still drink blood, but they only sedate their victims, they don’t kill them. The Vampanese, on the other hand, are violent and bloodthirsty, and power hungry. There has been a long tentative peace treaty between the two groups, but it is now threatened.

I’ll admit that I knew nothing about this film going in. I had seen one commercial for it, and decided to see it just because of the planned theme for this week. And, though the film had a lot of faults, I was pleasantly surprised overall.

This isn’t really a vampire film, though. There are “sorta” vampires in it, but it is almost… vampires sifted through Tim Burton’s brain and then highlighted with Harry Potter-ness… if that makes any sense. The film is more of a quirky fantasy than anything in the realm of horror. Because of that, a lot of people will be immediately turned off of the film. Me? I’m rather proud of myself. When I realized what this film was going for, I thought, “Oh, okay. Well, I’m not exactly the target audience, but let’s see what happens.”

Photobucket

And, sure enough, I’m not the audience for this film. I can’t imagine rushing out to get the DVD for it when it comes out, or even going out of my way to see it again… but I did find it enjoyable.

Yeah, I could talk about the shortcomings of the film all day. I could tell you that Chris Massoglia, who plays Darren, is essentially a clone of Ashton Kutcher and that his performance seemed disengaged. I could complain that the other freaks of the Cirque didn’t get anywhere near enough screen time, and that the large number of name actors were generally wasted in the film.

But, you know what? That is a bunch of nitpicky kinda stuff that, while accurate, didn’t really stop me from enjoying this movie. The effects for the movie were pretty cool, even if some were a little too obviously computer animated. The makeup on this film was stellar, though, top notch stuff that really made this world come alive.

And, though they had limited screen time, the cast of freaks were really good. Jane Krakowski as Corma Limbs was bizarrely perky.

Photobucket

Orlando Jones as Alexander Ribs was… well, Orlando Jones. (Orlando Jones seems to be himself in most things.) Ken Watanabe had an amazing presence as Mr. Tall, and Patrick Fugit was so fantastic as the Snake Boy that I’d like to see an entire movie based on that character.

Photobucket

And, there is Salma Hayak… being all Salma Hayak and hot and all.

Photobucket

The most amazing performance for me, though, had to be John C. Reilly as Crespley, the vampire. The role is so completely against type for him, but he manages to completely own it.

Photobucket

His turn as the weary, cynical vampire is enough for me to recommend this movie to anyone I know. He delivers some of the best lines in the film that range from dark, wry humor, to an almost sad melancholy, and delivers them well.

Photobucket

Honestly, other than when he appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and tore into Kevin Costner about when they both were doing For Love of the Game, this is my favorite thing John C. Reilly has ever done!

(And, by the way, if anyone knows where to find a clip of that, I’d be forever grateful to have it!)

For me, this movie was an unexpected treat. It won’t appeal to everyone, as it is definitely aimed toward mid-teens, but it wasn’t bad. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I wouldn’t mind seeing this film get some sequels, if only to expand on this world and to see the actors in supporting roles get a chance to shine.

I’m giving Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant three out of five Running Steves.

Photobucket

If nothing, this film has made me want to seek out the series of books on which it was based.

Micro-Hero of the Week: Vampire Edition!

October 26, 2009

Photobucket

Greetings, one and all, and welcome to the second of our very special theme weeks – Vampire Week! Brain-Cravers took center stage last week, but this week belongs to the Bloodsuckers!

As we are apt to do, we start out with a very special micro-hero from EG, and boy, is it a special one! See, over the weekend, EG was able to watch a special episode of Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In. Wolfman Mac is the latest in the fine history of Horror Hosts (such as Sir Graves Ghastly, The Ghoul, and Dr. Shock) that we’ve had in the area. This weekend’s movie? None other than that 1922 silent classic, Nosferatu!

Inspiration struck, and the Steve Austin Book Club is proud to present one of the most famous vampires of all time, Count Orlok!

Photobucket

Keep a lookout, because we’ve got a week of vampire goodness ahead!

EG’s Review: World War Z

October 23, 2009

Photobucket

Photobucket

Alright, peoples, you’ve waited long enough to hear about this one! The Steve Austin Book Club is back, and more extreme than ever! Or, perhaps that is Xtreme! Mayhaps we should rename ourselves The Xteve AuXtin BooX Club, as an indicator of our new hip and happenin’ ways!

Or, not.

Anyway, this is the review of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. This review is apt to spoil the book, so if you haven’t read it and want to, you may want to skip this. There will be SPOILERS-A-PLENTY! If you have read the book, feel free to leave a comment!

Photobucket

Now with the preliminaries out of the way, sit back and enjoy!

World War Z is a collection of the post-Zombie War rememberances of indidual survivors throughout the world. It is ten years after the official end of the war… a time to look back. The book is presented in a series of personal stories/interviews with individuals discussing their roles and reactions as the world was plunged into a panic and near extinction of the human race. Using these personal stories, the audience follows as the events of the Zombie War are revealed in pieces, from its start within the borders of China, to the various steps taken by governments throughout the world in attempts to protect their borders, through battlefields where traditional tactics are found lacking, to the eventual steps toward survival, which rely on plans for each nation to virtually abandon most of their citizens. The stories come from average individuals, politicians, military personnel, corporate leaders, slackers, etc., etc., etc.

And… that’s about the sum of it.

Let me start this by saying that the concept of this book is genius. I loved the premise and the style used. As an avid fan of the History Channel, I could really see this story being told through the account of eye witnesses just as much of their programming does. If there is any downside to that, it is that I think that this is one of those few occassions where the upcoming film based on this book may surpass the book in effectiveness. Why? Because the biggest complaint I have about the book seems to be a near universal complaint about it – while we are told that the stories come from various individuals, the vast majority of the stories are very much in the same voice, seemingly from the same individual. That is why I think the movie has the advantage. The various actors will lend their own spin to each vignette, allowing the audience to see a greater variance than what was afforded in the book.

I did appreciate the fact that the author knew his audience. Very little time was spent dwelling on what zombies are and trying to explain them away. Instead, he worked from a standpoint of “the people that pick this book up know what these creatures are.” It was nice to not have the lodestone of origin dragging the book down.

Now, the downside. Without an establishing of the specifics of the zombie of this book, we don’t have a firm enough idea of what these zombies are really like. And, it seems that the author forgets as well. There are times when we are told that zombies eventually decompose, and yet we are confronted with zombies in several instances that seem to have survived locked up in abandoned homes for years, no worse for wear. We are told that frozen weather will freeze zombies, yet they can walk unencumbered along the ocean floor, which rests at right about 32 degrees. (Fun science fact: the ocean, being salty, doesn’t freeze until the water hits about 28.5 degrees. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.)

There also seems to be a real lack of knowledge about military weaponry. The idea that modern weapons would be less than effective against the undead is really hard to believe. The shrapnel described in the book always somehow managed to avoid hitting the zombies in the head. There is a reason that the militaries of the world issue metal helmets to their soldiers.

I can go along, to some extent, with the laughable actions of government during a situation like this, but the overall political commentary in the book is hack-kneed and blunt to the point of near rhetoric. Everything is too surface, no depth.

I was also unimpressed with the two types of people that we were presented with in the book: the noble hero and the scummy opportunist. There didn’t seem to be any other degrees of personality. I understand that a tragedy can be a polarizing event, but there are more shades to people than this, and not having those shades made almost all the characters boring and relatively two-dimensional.

Which, now that I think about it and re-read my last complaint, is the problem I have with the book as a whole. For all the supposed individuals “interviewed” in the book, there just isn’t enough to any of them. The characters are flat, which is really what makes them all sound the same. Perhaps if the author had focused on fewer stories, we could have had a more in depth character study of each. People aren’t simply noble or evil… they are far more complicated than that.

The book wasn’t terrible, but I expected and wanted so much more from it. As I mentioned, I’m really hoping that the actors in the planned film are able to bring that little extra to this project that is sorely missing in the book. For the potential of this book and the concept, I’m giving it two and a half Running Steves.

Photobucket

And, here’s to hoping that the film gets moving from development limbo and into actual production!

Movie Time: Zombieland

October 22, 2009

Photobucket

Photobucket

Zombieland
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigal Breslin

Photobucket

How to sum up this movie? In a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies, four individuals join up… sorta… in search of a safe place that at least 75% of them don’t even believe exists. And Twinkies. Oh, and along the way, they learn a little about themselves, family, and they kill zombies.

And, honestly, that’s about it.

Photobucket

If you are looking for anything more than that, Zombieland is going to be a great disappointment. If you are just looking for a relatively fun film with some zombie killing, you’ll probably like it. But (and, this is where I differ from about 90% of the people that see this movie), if you are looking for a great zombie movie, you’ll probably be a little let down.

Parts of the movie were fantastic. Early on in the film, we are introduced to Columbus (Eisenberg), in all his nerdiness, and his rules for surviving in the new status quo, which is really funny.

Photobucket

(By the way, I find that Eisenberg:

Photobucket

… is completely interchangeable with Micheal Cera:

Photobucket

… who I originally thought was in this movie before I actually saw the film.  Just sayin’.)

And, when Tallahassee (Harrelson) and Columbus are in the early stages of their road trip, the film takes total advantage of the contrast between the characters. The comic chemistry between the two was fantastic, and the zombie killin’ they commence to doin’ is top notch and entertaining.

Photobucket

Photobucket

If the whole film had been just that, I would’ve enjoyed the whole thing much more.

Once Tallahassee and Columbus meet up with Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigal Breslin), though, the focus shifts away from zombies almost altogether to the bonding of the group of four individuals… which isn’t a horrible thing, but it kinda sapped away my enjoyment of the movie in the manner it was shoehorned into the middle of the film.

Photobucket

At this point, you get the weakest portions of the movie – a sequence of destruction of a souvenir shop that was pretty “eh”, and the Cameo (which you likely already know about, but I’m not going to spoil). The Cameo was surprising to me (because I was fortunate enough not to have heard a thing about it), but it was also only mildly amusing. And, then you get more character bonding (which is undermined by some less than stellar humor).

Which then leads up to the big finale, where two of the characters, in maybe the greatest display of stupidity in the entire film, run off to an amusement park and turn every light and noise-maker on, so they can play for a while. This, of course, attracts every zombie for miles around, and the two idiots have to be rescued by the only two other remaining people on earth (okay, we aren’t expressly told that, but it is implied). This rescue, though, lacks the creative and comic sense of the zombie kills early in the film, and kinda seems a little easy, despite the overwhelming numbers involved.

Photobucket

I enjoyed the movie as a sort of mindless popcorn film, but I wasn’t as blown away by it as most folks. As a result, I can only give Zombieland two and a half out of five Running Steves.

Photobucket

I just wish they had kept up the momentum from early on in the film.

Photobucket

Movie Time: Fido

October 20, 2009

Photobucket

Photobucket

Fido
Directed by Andrew Currie
Starring Billy Connolly, Carrie-Ann Moss, Dylan Baker, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny

Photobucket

Combining the nostalgia of Leave It to Beaver and the tender mercies of Dawn of the Dead, Fido is the story of a boy and his zombie.

In an alternative 1950’s era, the world is perfect in its innocence after recovering from the Zombie Wars (a time when the world was ravaged by space-dust reanimated dead). And, thanks to innovative technological advances, everyone can now even have their very own zombie servants!

Photobucket

Sure, every once in a while, a zombie goes bad and has to be taken care of, but folks are prepared. Children hone their shooting skills during the school day, and there is always ZomCom, the company that makes the control collars for the zombies, and their security division that keeps normal folks safe.

In the idyllic setting, we meet the Robinsons – Bill, Helen, and their son, Timmy. Bill is the responsible father, making sure that each member of his family have a funeral savings, ensuring that they will not revert to zombies after their deaths. Helen is a loving wife and mother, perhaps a little too concerned with keeping up with the Joneses. And Timmy? Timmy is the average boy, who’d just like to play catch with his dad.

Despite Bill being against it (for pretty good reasons when you see the movie), Helen orders a zombie after the head of ZomCom’s security division moves into the neighborhood. After a short period, Timmy becomes truly attached to the zombie and names him Fido.

Unfortunately, Fido’s control collar goes on the fritz, and he attacks and kills a neighbor. Despite the best efforts of Timmy to keep this under wraps, it is eventually found out, and Fido is recalled to ZomCom. Then, it is up to Timmy to rescue Fido.

Photobucket

I have to admit, when I decided to watch this film, I wasn’t expecting much. I had seen the preview, and thought, okay, I’ll give it a shot.

I’m very glad I did.

The look of this film is unbelievable. Despite the low budget, the feel is captured every bit as well, if not better, than in most movies that try the same. Everything from the costumes to the houses are era-perfect. It is a beautiful and lush setting, full of bright, synthetic colors that make for a great contrasting look with the zombies, clad in blues and grays to match their skin tones.

The acting throughout the film is pretty top notch. I wasn’t annoyed by the kid actor playing Timmy (which is a feat), and Carrie-Ann Moss as the mother was really fantastic, as, perhaps, the most dynamic character of the entire film.

Photobucket

Henry Czerny stole every seen he was in as spot-on casting for no-nonsense Head of Security Mr. Bottoms. The delightfully creepy Tim Blake Nelson as Mr. Theopolis, neighbor to the Robinsons, is worth the price of admission!

Photobucket

If there was any fault in the cast, I’d have to give that to Dylan Baker, who I usually really enjoy. In this movie, though, he seemed to be the only one playing a bit over the top, which was a contrast to the other actors that seemed to be playing the ridiculous as straight.

Photobucket

Still, overall, no major complaints.

Oh, and, let me just say that it blows me away that Fido:

Photobucket

Was played by this Billy Connolly:

Photobucket

Which was a fact I didn’t realize until very nearly the end of the film! I knew Billy Connolly was in the film, but I just didn’t connect it until late in the movie.

For better or worse (depending entirely on your tastes), the gore of this film was very understated overall (especially considering that it is a zombie movie). As a result, if you are looking for a bloody mess of a movie, you’ll probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are looking for a zombie movie that non-horror fans might enjoy, this is a heart-warming film (with a nice touch of satire and a bit of gore) that will probably fit the bill.

Photobucket

I’m giving Fido three and a half out of five Running Steves.

Photobucket

While this film isn’t quite up to the level of brilliance of the amazing Shaun of the Dead, it is certainly high up on the list of wonderful zombie comedies. Check it out if you have a chance!

Micro-Hero of the Week: Zombie Edition!

October 19, 2009

Photobucket

Welcome, friends, to the first of two very special weeks here at The Steve Austin Book Club.  This week, we focus on the life-challenged brain-cravers everyone loves – ZOMBIES!

And, to start us out this week, a special micro-hero from EG.  For those of you that have not seen the cinema masterpiece known as Plan 9 From Outer Space, you have lived far too sheltered a life.   Rectify this missing part of your life as soon as possible.

For those of you that have seen this epic film, we are proud to present one of the greatest zombies of all time – Tor Johnson as Inspector Daniel Clay:

Photobucket

Stay tuned throughout the week for more zombie fun!

Movie Time: Surrogates

October 14, 2009

Photobucket

Surrogates
PG-13
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Starring Bruce Willis

Photobucket

There was a time, not too long ago, when Hollywood offering a token of science fiction with good production values and name stars was unusual. It was a dark time. As a result, I still get excited when I see a movie preview from the genre, despite the greater number of offerings.

Enter, Surrogates.

I saw the previews for this film and was really amped to see it. Real life delayed me, until this past weekend, but now I’ve seen it, and thought I’d go ahead and give my two cents about it.

Photobucket

In a future world quite similar to ours, technology has allowed the vast majority of people to purchase robotic surrogates, physically perfect avatars, to interact in the real world. No more need to fear the dangers of the outside world, people plug themselves in and live through these machines in perfect safety. Even if the surrogate is damaged, the operator is perfectly safe.

Photobucket

That all changes, though, when a college student is somehow murdered via their link with a surrogate. FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) investigates the death, running into roadblocks from the company that creates the surrogates, the military, and those that rebel against the use of surrogates.

Photobucket

The movie is based on a limited comic book series from Top Shelf Productions.

I’ll admit, I haven’t read the comic book. I thought about seeking it out before seeing the movie, but I tend to believe that is a bad idea. Seldom to films live up to the source material, and I wanted to give this film every chance.

At the start of the film, I was completely struck by the look of the characters. I would bet that underwear companies had to delay their ad campaigns while every perfect underwear model in the world worked on this film. That isn’t a knock against the film – it establishes very early on the feel of the movie, and artificial perfection, a “fakeness” that allows the premise that people living through perfect machines is plausible.

Photobucket

In fact, this is reinforced when we meet up with the plastic version of Bruce Willis’ character. I don’t know what all they did to Bruce Willis to give us the plastic/perfect look that blends in with the underwear model cast so well, but it is impressive.

Photobucket

And, when his character is forced to go without his surrogate, the grizzled, wrinkled, and bald look of the actual human behind the puppet is also great for establishing the contrast of the film.

Photobucket

Unfortunately, one aspect of this compare/contrast demonstration didn’t really work. In the movie, there are those that are resistant to using the surrogates. Resistant is probably too subtle a term. “Violently opposed” is more accurate. They have been separated from the general populace in various camps. To emphasize the difference between these “real” people and the surrogates, most of the real folks are too real – sloppy looking, craggy, unkempt. It made me wonder, as I was watching, why none of the “real” people looked basically average. You can’t tell me that only the least attractive members of society reject surrogates. There have to be a couple of average folks mixed in, or it seems too black and white, which actually took me out of the movie.

The movie does have several good action sequences, and I have no complaints about the effects within the film. And, with a running time of under 90 minutes, the movie certainly doesn’t drag!

Photobucket

On the other hand, the film is pretty heavy handed in its moral. Not only does the main plot seem to revolve around the detachment of humanity, the sub plot of the relationship between Greer and his wife does as well. I think the makers of the film were trying to use the sub plot as a more personal reflection of the widespread issue of the main plot, but what results is the feeling of being hammered over the head in a “well, if you didn’t get the idea from that, how about this” sorta way.

Photobucket

(Ooh, by the way, wanna see what that surrogate having its face pulled off looks like? Okay!)

Photobucket

And, had the film stuck with the single social commentary of the detachment of humanity, I think they could have had a better product. Unfortunately, that non-dragging 90 minutes doesn’t really allow for the exploration of that theme, the violation of personal civil liberties, the question of justification in terrorism, and any of the other statements that the film failed to sufficiently elaborate on.

The movie failed to really offer anything new, though. We’ve seen this same sort of story done before, both better and worse.

The real problem with the film, though, is predictability. Every action seems to be telegraphed throughout the movie. Plus, I was able to figure out most of the film in the first five minutes, which is something I hate. OG tells me that this is partially my fault, because I never go into any book or film without overanalyzing as I go along. Maybe he’s right, but I still hate knowing how things are going to be put together at the beginning.

Overall, the movie was okay. Nothing spectacular, but it wasn’t unwatchable. I wouldn’t recommend running out to the theater to catch it before it moves to DVD. It isn’t worth that.

I’m going to give Surrogates two Running Steves.

Photobucket

I don’t know that they could have really done enough to make the film great, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Micro-Hero of the Week

October 12, 2009

It is almost mid-way through the month of October!  Where does the time go?!?

Here is a special heads up for you, our faithful readers:  The last two weeks of October will be special focus weeks here at The Steve Austin Book Club!  We are not gonna let the cat out of the bag as to the themes we have planned, but we think you’ll enjoy them.

One clue?  Okay.  Halloween does occur this month, doesn’t it?  Yeah, those two weeks probably have something to do with that.

And, speaking of Halloween, since these don’t fall in line with the themes for the next two weeks, but should be put up this month…

EG put a lot of work into this week’s micro-hero… or, actually, micro-heroes!

Photobucket

That, dear friends, is none than your hosts, EG as Batman, and OG as Robin!  Yes, costumed for Halloween, but long has EG hassled OG to dress up for a convention, but to no avail.  And, so, EG turned to the mighty art of the micro-hero to bring his dreams to life!

(Dreams may be a bit strong…)

This is probably as close as anyone will ever get to OG wearing green panties and showing off those fine legs of his.  ‘Tis the world’s loss I say…