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Films - John C. Kirk

Mar. 29th, 2007

01:58 am - Films

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I went off to watch Ghost Rider at the cinema tonight, and I really enjoyed it. I've been reading the comics on and off since I first started following US comics (when I went off to university in 1992); I wouldn't say it's my favourite, but I like it. There were a few changes between the comics and the film, but they don't bother me; on the whole, I think that the film-makers made the right choices for their medium. It definitely benefitted from being shown on a big screen, since one important point of the character is the intrinsically cool visual effect. (There was hardly anyone else in there, so we got the best of both worlds.) I'm not sure whether the special effects improved, or whether I just got more used to them, but the skeleton seemed to get more solid as the film went along. There was one particular scene that just had me sitting there with a huge grin on my face; trying to be vague (to avoid spoilers), it's the "long ride" one. Anyway, it's not going to go down as one of the great cinematic classics, but it was a fun way to spend an evening, especially on the Orange Wednesday 2-for-1 scheme.

Looking ahead to upcoming films, Mr. Bean's Holiday is going on general release this weekend. The previous Bean film is one of my all time favourites (as per my review), so I have high hopes for the sequel, although I don't think I'll be able to drag anyone else along with me.

TMNT is also coming out this weekend, and I'd like to see it at some point, although I may just wait for the DVD. There was an enthusiastic Shortpacked strip about it (which I gather mirrors the writer's feelings), so that bodes well. I also liked the related strip from last year, which is probably a good indication of whether you'll like that webcomic. (As an aside, are they still trying to avoid the word "Ninja"? I gather that this is why the 1980s cartoon was renamed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" in the UK.)

As a trivia note, the original TMNT comic was a parody of other work, specifically Frank Miller's ninja stories. Compare and contrast:
* Daredevil was taught by a ninja master called Stick. The turtles were taught by a ninja master called Splinter.
* Daredevil fought an organisation of evil ninjas called the Hand. The turtles fight an organisation of evil ninjas called the Foot.
Admittedly, I haven't actually read those original comics. However, I do recommend Peter David's recent comic run (linked to an animated series); it went on indefinite hiatus after #7, but the martial arts bits in later issues (not direct adaptations of TV episodes) were particularly good. Of course, in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I also like the "Turtle Power" song from the 1990s (by "Partners in K.R.Y.M.E.")!

Thinking back to the old animated series, my favourite turtle was Donatello, because he was the techie. (As the theme tune said, "Donatello does machines!") Not exactly a detailed character study, I'll grant you, but I was young...

Digressing a bit, there are certain cliched interview questions (for programming jobs) which are designed to test lateral thinking. I've never been asked these personally, but there's a nice parody here (with an explanation here if you didn't recognise the questions). Anyway, one of these questions is: "Why are manhole covers round?" My basic answer to that would be "They're not". Or at least, not in the UK; all the ones I've seen recently have been rectangular. Sometimes that's specialised into square covers, and some have been divided diagonally into two triangular covers for one rectangular hole, but I haven't come across any round ones, so I'm guessing it's an American thing. So, based on that, and the fact that I've never been to America, I need to rely on popular culture. This then brings me back to the turtles. They live in a sewer, and eat a lot of pizza, and pizza is round, so having a round manhole cover would make it easier for the delivery guy to fit it through the hole. Sadly, this may not be quite the insightful answer that Google are looking for.

Speaking of Frank Miller, I'm not intending to go and watch 300. Based on the trailer it looks quite faithful to the comic (except that they've omitted the full frontal male nudity), but I haven't re-read that comic since I bought it in 1998. More generally, I think that Frank Miller's work is a bit erratic: his "Daredevil" stuff was excellent (particularly "Born Again"), his "Batman" stories were pretty good (although "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" was a bit derivative), "300" was ok, and I've avoided "Sin City". I studied the battle of Thermopylae when I was doing my Greek GCSE, and I was a bit disappointed that the key strategic move I'd learnt about was only mentioned in passing. Still, there were some good lines in the comic, so if you're new to it then you may enjoy the film. There have also been a few funny comic strips inspired by the film: Ctrl+Alt+Del, Least I Could Do, and Penny Arcade.

On a related note, I saw a trailer for Pathfinder, and I just thought "Meh". It's probably quite arty, but I was feeling bored by the end of the trailer. If you want to make a good Viking film, try adapting Harry Harrison's "Hammer and the Cross" trilogy - that's got all the ingredients of a good epic!

Coming back to a positive note, there were a few other good trailers tonight, although some of the films are quite a long way off.

Reno 911!: Miami (27th April)
Apparently this is based on a TV series, although I've never seen it. Anyway, the trailer really did make me laugh a lot, so that's a good enough reason for me to go and watch the film.

Spider-Man 3 (4th May)
I like the character, and I liked the previous two films (as per my reviews here and here), so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd go to see the third one, regardless of the trailer. In fact, I'll probably go to see it on opening night, so I'll try to book the Friday off work. The first film did suffer a bit on repeated viewings, but I'll still probably watch both films before the new one comes out (I haven't got round to rewatching the second film since I bought the DVD). My only concern about the new film is that they might be overloading it with too many characters/plot points (this was where "Batman and Robin" went wrong), but I'm optimistic, and they're certainly laying the groundwork for a fourth film. On the merchandise front, I've just heard about the Spider Spud toy (a Mr Potato Head variant in the spirit of "Darth Tater"). Apparently the back of the box says: "With great potatoes comes great responsibility." Aargh!

Transformers (27th July)
I didn't have a huge emotional reaction to the trailer, but it looks as if they've done a good job with the material, so I'll watch that (either at the cinema or on DVD).

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (10th August)
I thought the first film was ok; not great, but it had some nice touches, particularly Johnny's sheer enthusiasm in his abilities ("Flame on!"). I've also been reading the "Ultimate Fantastic Four" TPBs which have helped to renew my interest in the characters, so I'll be watching the sequel. One thing which did occur to me when I saw the trailer is that the Silver Surfer does actually move like a real surfer (at least some of the time); I've never really got that sense from the comics he's appeared in, so that's a nice touch. Trying to be a bit vague, I think that they're either laying groundwork for a third film or they're planning a big surprise in this one; I suspect that they'll end the second film on a cliffhanger. However, that's just based on what I know of the comics, so I could be completely wrong about the film.

So, all in all, I think it's going to be a fun year for films.