Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

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

October 27, 2009

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

MY GREAT SHAME, Part 1

March 20, 2008

Hey there good people of Blogveria!  How art thou? 

So, there’s been plenty of big comic book news out there in the wake of Wizard World LA, but none that really floats my proverbial boat.  I mean, Matt Fraction is one of my favorite current comic book writer’s, but the excitement of him joining with Brubaker as co-writer of “Uncanny X-Men” was immediately urinated on with the addition of these four words:  “New artist, Greg Land.”  And to think, they almost had me considering buying that title. 

No, none of that news was as exciting to me as the word from Stephen King (an not news from a con, mind you, but from NPR.  What’s that?  A comic story on NPR?  What happened?  Did they run out of stories about wheat harvesting?) that Marvel comics is going to be putting out a graphic novel adaptation of his epic novel “The Stand.”  

Here’s a link to the story:   http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=150380 

I am a big fan of the King.  I’ve liked pretty much every book I’ve ever read of his and have been reading since I could get my hands on the stuff.  But, and this is a cause of great shame for me, I have somehow never made the time in all these many years to read “The Stand.”  I’ve read plenty of long books in my day, but for some reason the page count of this particular book has just always been too daunting to me.   

And, I suppose the fact that I’ve gotten so excited about this adaptation full of purdy pictures and all (ya know, so’s I can easily understand it) should also be shameful to me.  And, well, it is.  Just shameful.  And, It’s sad that my first encounter with the book that, outside of the Dark Tower series, is supposed to be the signature work of an author I adore might be in comic form due to my own bestial laziness.   

Well, this shame got me to thinking of all of the other books that I really should have read by now.  In fact, that list is a good part of what motivated me to start this blog in the first place. 

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I’d share the top 15 sci-fi and fantasy novels that I’m most ashamed to have never read.   

I hope and assume you’re sitting down.  It’s not pretty people.  Here they are in alphabetical order: 

THE TOP 15 SCI-FI/FANTASY BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ (to my great shame): 

1984 by George Orwell:  Seems like everyone but me had to read this one in high school.  It’s one of those rare books (like “Catch-22”) that I haven’t read but that I make reference to on a regular basis. 

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle:  I can’t even tell you how many times I must have picked this one up in the library of my junior high school, carried it around for twenty minutes, and then saw something I wanted to read more and put this back.  Not sure what held me back each time but I have a good feeling I’ve been missing out every year since. 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:  Another of those quintessential texts you find referenced on a regular basis in pop culture but one that many folks, I’ve found, haven’t actually taken the time to read.   

At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft:  I wrote this Lovecraft off early in life as a “poor man’s Poe” and, having now read many of his stories in the past few years, I can say that I was mostly right to do so.  But, I think before I finally write him off completely and for all time I should read this signature work since I understand everything else I’ve read only nibbles at the periphery of the themes and concepts that this one explores.   

Brave New World by Aldos Huxley:  I’ve been told to read this one so many times and in the most finger-waving, shame-on-you sort of terms that I fear it’ll be like taking cough syrup.  I guess it makes me a bit of a blockhead, but I really just want a novel to be fun.  I’m always nervous when a book is supposed to be “good for me.”   

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke:  A big RIP to this old gent this week.  As big a fan of “2001: A Space Odyssey” as I am, it’s downright uncool that I haven’t read a single one of Clarke’s novels.  This is the one I’ve always known about as THE BOOK of his to read but I could just as easily add “Rendezvous With Rama” to this list.   

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury:  Another title from the high school reading list that I somehow avoided and, from what I understand, another one like “Brave New World” that I need to read not just for its merits as a novel but for my betterment as a human.  Well, as I said, that kind of “good for you” crap is certainly not going to get me to read it any faster.  What will do it for me, though, is the fact that I really like Bradbury.  “Martian Chronicles” is one of my old school favorites and I remember many frightened nights in the thrall of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”    

Foundation (series) by Issac Asimov:  By the way, I didn’t just miss these “Foundation” books.  I never read the “I, Robot” stuff either.  So, just tell me where I turn in my “Geek Credibility Card” and I’ll get to it right away and never bother you again.   

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:  Not just a horror classic, but one of the granddaddy’s of sci-fi.  This one’s even on my book shelf, so what exactly am I waiting for?  Of course, I haven’t read “Dracula” either.  

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson:  Netflix just advised me that I should have the film version of this in my mailbox today.  Will Smith already killed my desire to read the aforementioned “I, Robot” so I’m wondering if I’ll have any appetite for this one after this weekend.  Here’s hoping.  All I know is that I should really start chipping away at this list before he adapts any more of these books.   (Ironically, the ridiculous yet sublime “Omega Man” only makes me want to read this one even more!) 

Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick:  True confessions time.  I have a blog about science fiction and I’ve never read any Phillip K. Dick.  What am I even doing here? 

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut:  True confession number two.  Never read Vonnegut either.  If it makes it better, I haven’t read any John Grisham or V.C. Andrews either.  It doesn’t make it better, does it? 

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein:  I remember reading “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” and thinking that Heinlein books were just goofy, outdated fodder for kids, but I’m told that I am very much mistaken.  This one and a few other of his books are on the very long to-do list.   

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells:  Couldn’t decide if this or “War of the Worlds” should be on this list more, but ended up picking Time Machine because of how much I’ve heard reference to the mythology of that universe.  Additionally, I really ought to read this just to scrub the memory of that terrible film that came out a few years back with Guy Pearce from my brain.  Ugh.   

Watership Down by Richard Adams:  Any “Lost” fan worth his salt is supposed to have read this one, so I guess I can’t go on much longer without doing so.  Not that “Lost” is about anthropomorphic bunny rabbits, but I hear along with “The Stand” that it’s a crucial reference point. 

And, that’s it folks.  Of course, “Dune” and “Ender’s Game” would have easily been on this list were it not for the book club, so at least that’s something.  If EG hadn’t (I think) already read most of the above I’d be adding those to the Steve Austin curriculum as well. 

Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, you may commence being disgusted with me now. 

COMING SOON:  My Great Shame, Part 2: Movies