Movie Review – War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, and Tim Robbins.

If there’s one thing a sci-fi guy has to love, it’s the alien invasion movie.  It’s been a staple of the genre.  Of course, it’s a part of the genre that H.G. Welles created when he wrote his novel War of the Worlds.   Ya just knew it was a matter of time until a new movie version was created.  But then I heard the remake was the next pairing of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise.  Now, I’m one of the few who really didn’t like Minority Report.  So my curiosity on this film nose-dived.  But, I was still interested, because I am, after all, a sci-fi guy.

Ray Ferrier (Cruise) is just your average guy.  He works an average job.  He’s divorced.  He’s got his kids for the weekend, and he just can’t relate to them anymore.  His teenaged son has grown sullen and moody, and his young daughter (Fanning) changes just about every he sees her.  As they settle in for the weekend, there’s some strange lightening storms, and gigantic alien tripods raise out of the Earth and begin destroying everything in sight.  Not quite sure what to do, Ray packs up his kids and starts heading for his ex-wife in Boston.  As they run through the countryside, staying one step ahead of the aliens, there’s only one thing on everyone’s mind:  can they survive?

This film works out to be about 2 hours of running and screaming from aliens.  Certain aspects of it all just started feeling familiar…and then it donned on me.  This is just Jurassic Park with aliens.  But it’s still a fun ride, nonetheless.  Cruise is his Cruise-y best, Fanning sure screams good, and Robbins has a very creepy small role as a survivalist getting ready to launch the resistance.  It’s chilling, it’s scary, it’s exciting, but it does feel as though you’ve seen it all before.  But I will give it this:  it was better than Minority Report.

3 Nibs


The Announcement

Chaos in Print


MOM:  I wonder why he called us here today.

DAD:  He said he has a big announcement to make.

MOM:  You don’t think he’s finally decided, do you?

DAD:  That would be great if he did.

MOM:  Because I don’t think I can afford to put him through another year of university.

DAD:  We were fine when he wanted the first degree.  Getting a second one seemed fine….

Continue reading The Announcement

Movie Review – Herbie: Fully Loaded

Herbie:  Fully Loaded

Directed by Angela Robinson

Starring Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Breckin Meyer, and Justin Long.

OK, I have a confession to make.  I was raised on Disney’s Love Bug movies, and love them to death.  I’m sure my lifelong desire to own a VW Beetle stems from it.  So, it was about three or four years ago, right when “franchise” and “branding” became the big buzz words in moviemaking, that I first heard Disney that Disney just had to make a new Herbie movie.  Fast forward to 2005, and the final product is now in multiplexes.  How does it rate compared to the originals?  Read on….

So.  Maggie Peyton (Lohan) has just finished college and is off to take on the world.  She’s just landed a job with ESPN, but what she really wants to do is go into the family business:  driving stockcars on the NASCAR circuit.  Naturally, Dad (Keaton) wants her to get a real job, thus leaving her brother (Meyer), a driver who just plain sucks, to continuously crash cars.  Anyway, as a peace offering, Dad offers to buy Maggie a car for graduation, and she just happens to pick Herbie out of a junkyard.  But, that Herbie, he’s got a mind of his own, and before you know it, Herbie has suckered Maggie into racing in street races under an assumed identity.  Herbie also sets up Maggie with her high school sweetheart, a mechanic named Kevin (Long).  Things progress, and as Maggie and Herbie rise through the ranks of street racing, they soon irk reigning NASCAR champ Trip Murphy (Dillon).  Will Maggie realize her dream of driving stock cars?  Will she beat Trip in the big race and win the heart of Kevin?  And all with the help of a magical Bug named Herbie.

I can’t look at this film objectively.  It’s just such a big nostalgia trip.  They even throw in such little geek touches as having samples of the score from the original film.  But, I’m glad to say that they didn’t feel any need to dramatically re-invent the Herbie formula.  It’s as predictable as a top-40 radio station.  But, it’ll give you what you pay for.  It’s fun for the younglings, and a nostalgia trip for all else.

2.5 Nibs


The Leg

Chaos in Print

We have once again reached a point in my life where I must say farewell to a friend. “Trouble,” a long time confidant from the time of Augustana, is embarking for places unknown. Well, Scotland really. She just always wanted to travel the world, and figured she ain’t getting any younger. Scotland is the first stop, where she’ll spend a year or two living with a friend and working for living. From there, it’ll be a nomadic existence as she works her way across Europe. She figures she’ll be home by 2010. But of course, I wasn’t going to let her go without one final day together.

Continue reading The Leg

Movie Review – Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki; English translation directed by Pete Docter

Starring the voices of Emily Mortimer, Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, and Billy Crystal.

Like a lot of die-hard animation geeks, I’ve discovered Hayao Miyazaki.  It all started in university, when my movie gossip sites started talking about the forthcoming dub of Princess Mononoke.  The first film I actually saw was Kiki’s Delivery Service, which was shown at Augustana’s budding young anime club.  And from there…I was hooked.  I arrived in Japan about a year late for Spirited Away, although people still couldn’t stop talking about it.  When I saw that Howl’s Moving Castle had finally come to Edmonton, I knew that now I could see Miyazaki on the big screen.

The film opens on Sophie (Mortimer), a young woman working in a hat shop in a vaguely European town at the outbreak of a war.  Sophie seems to suffer from a serious lack of confidence, as she just spends her days toiling in the back room and putting herself down.  Then one day, she has a chance encounter with the enigmatic wizard Howl (Bale), and this makes Sophie the target of the wrath of the Witch of the Waste (Bacall).  The Witch casts a spell on Sophie, turning Sophie into an old crone (now the voice of Simmons).  Wanting a way to break the curse, Sophie quests into the Wastes, where she soon finds herself taken in by Howl and she becomes the housekeeper of the titular castle.  Here, she gets to know Howl and finds that he’s a rather angst-ridden soul.  With the war on, Howl has been summoned to fight in the King’s army, but Howl doesn’t want to.  Our good man Howl is a draft-dodger.  But, it’s not long before Sophie starts turning Howl’s life around, and the lives of those around her:  Howl’s apprentice Markl, a fire demon named Calcifer (Crystal), and a voiceless scarecrow that Sophie dubs Turniphead.  Together, they find out how to break all of their respective curses – and discover a little something about themselves.

I have finally seen a Miyazaki film on the big screen, and it is good.  The moving castle is truly one of the most intriguing concepts ever to be seen on the screen.  I do have to agree that it’s a notch or two below Spirited Away.  It’s like Studio Ghibli’s take on Disney fair…this is Miyazaki’s Beauty and the Beast.  But then, some of that may be due to the translation.  Like Spirited Away, this was dubbed by the folks at Pixar, with Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter directing the American voices.  Bale once again has bowled me over, making a Howl a commanding yet tortured soul.  My only objection has to be Billy Crystal, who just acts far too much like…Billy Crystal.  All in all though, this a very good film and I enjoyed it immensely.

3 Nibs


Movie Review – Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe and Morgan Freeman.

Ahh, Batman.  Like a lot of comic book fans, I got into him big time thanks to that Tim Burton film in 1989.  And then, from there, the animated series, and finally, the comics.  And, once I finally got my hands on the source material, I noticed something strange about the films.  They were wrong.  They weren’t as good as they could have been.  Like many disappointed fans, I consoled myself with reruns of the animated series and curled up by the fire with The Dark Knight Returns.  The movies finally faded from existence…until Spider-Man and the X-Men came along and jumpstarted the whole superhero movie genre.  It wasn’t long until Batman returned…again.

Bruce Wayne (Bale) is a tortured soul.  After seeing his parents gunned down before his eyes when he was a kid, he just hasn’t stopped running.  Finally, he finds himself in a remote northern European prison where he beats the crap out of the inmates with ferocity.  This gains the interest of the League of Shadows, led by the immortal R’as al Guhl (Watanabe) and his chief lieutenant Ducard (Neeson).  They take Wayne into their secret society, and train him how to use his fear and anger to fight the evil around him.  But, when the League shows its true colours, Wayne turns on them, and is cast out from the order.  The League, though, has given Wayne inspiration.  He returns to Gotham City, determined to clean up the town.  And it’s just in time, too.  That dastardly psychiatrist Dr. Jonathon Crane (Murphy) is running around as the Scarecrow and is determined to destroy the city.  It’s not long before Bruce Wayne becomes that which he fears the most…a bat.  The Batman, to be specific.  Of course, Batman needs allies, and he finds them:  his trusted butler Alfred (Caine), Wayne Enterprises head of Applied Sciences Lucious Fox (Freeman), the last good cop, a detective by the name of Jim Gordon (Oldman), and Bruce Wayne’s old childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes (Holmes), who’s now a crusading Assistant District Attorney.  It’ll be this alliance, led by Batman, who saves the city.

Wow.  Wowie wowie wow.  This movie rocks.  At long last, we finally get to see all those great “Batman-isms” that have been lost in the nipples on the batsuits.  It almost reminds me of the first Superman movie, in that at least the first half is dedicated to the origin; Bruce Wayne doesn’t don cape and cowl until at least halfway through the film.  And that’s good.  At long last, on the big screen, we get to see Bruce Wayne, Batman, and why he does what he does.  This is just a good movie.

I remember one time a friend was visiting, and she read the classic Batman Year One.  At the end, she screamed and threw down the book.  “That can’t be the end!” she said.  “I’ve got to see what comes next!”  I just semi-sarcastically said, “It’s meant to be the beginning…the entire Batman universe comes next!”  That’s how I felt at the end of Batman Begins.  (Yes, it’s left wide open for a sequel.)  That can’t be the end.  I’ve got to see what comes next.

4 Nibs


Chaos in Print

There are times when I feel very lucky to live in Entwistle. Entwistle, like a lot of small towns, has a railway running through it. In these days, the railway seems to be a dying mode of transportation. The grain elevators get torn down and the railway gets torn up soon after. If you’re lucky, the railway will be sold to a short line operator, who’ll keep it running for the locals. But a fate like that will never befall Entwistle. For you see, Entwistle’s railway is the CN main line. It’s the main artery from the wheat fields of Western Canada to the Pacific coast. It’s the second main line that was built, earning it a place in the history books. When you hear people talk about the main line, well, that’s it right there! Slicing through Entwistle!

Continue reading Trainspotting