Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Shadow

Since The Phantom revisit went so well I thought The Shadow could be another tiny treasure.  Well, it ain’t.  The script is perhaps the main culprit (David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)) with a weak villain, muddled evil scheme, lack of action, intrigue and horrendous dialogue.  Of course, it doesn’t help that the acting is bland (except for maybe Tim Curry (Muppet Treasure Island) who plays a henchman) and the directing isn’t anything special (which is surprising because I dig some of Russell Mulcahy’s other work like Ricochet and The Real McCoy). 

I like the production design though.  The very exaggerated Art Deco style is nice visually but isn’t worth checking out the movie for alone.

The thing is it feels like there isn’t enough of The Shadow himself here.  There’s plenty of his alter ego, Lamont Cranston, where Alec Baldwin really shines in a helluva bad performance.  Sure, I already mentioned the script is crap but Baldwin and every other actor compound the problem by hamming it up in the worst possible way.  And now that I think about it The Shadow is actually in this a fair amount.  It’s that most of this movie is so forgettable that it feels like the title character is too absent.   

Like The Phantom The Shadow is sort of a messy character with abilities that he doesn’t use to their full potential, guns that he only fires as a last resort and he has a whole army of civilian agents at his disposal even though, just like any other super hero, he conceals his identity from the world.  That’s a little contrary if you ask me.  He has a cool name, look and super powers but at the same time he doesn’t stand out.  Maybe it’s that one of his trademarks is he laughs manically (even though he’s the hero), or maybe it’s that he relies on too many other people to help fight crime (it seems like every other person in NYC is a Shadow agent), or maybe it’s that he doesn’t have a neat base of operations like so many other comic book characters (they don’t show it here at least), or maybe ok I’ll stop.  You get the point.  It’s a combination of a bunch of shit that doesn’t add up for me. 

My favorite part of the picture is when Lamont rips off his own face like it’s a rubber mask.  He sticks his fingers underneath his skin, starts pulling and it looks really great.  This is probably the strangest and edgiest part of the movie.

Bottom line is aside from that one face tear scene, there isn’t anything all that interesting here.  I think The Shadow card might’ve been played too early.  He seems like he would be a better fit with the darker and more serious tone that we have today in comic book films.  It’s actually kind of interesting that this version is very effects heavy so the impression is even stronger that they should reboot this guy. 

Unless you’re a big comic book movie person or Tim Curry fan I’d say skip it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Price of Gold

If you’re over a certain age or really into figure skating you know this story.  I completely remember it from the time and no one had any doubt that Tonya Harding was involved in whacking Nancy Kerrigan on the kneecap with some sort of blunt instrument.  And a good chunk even believed Tonya carried out the deed herself.  How much was she involved?  It’s difficult to say and that’s part of what makes this such an intriguing tale.    

The contrast between how the media portrayed the two, and maybe how they actually were in real life, is pretty staggering.  It was America’s perfect little skating princess, Nancy, versus the trashy heartless bitch, Tonya.  This was such a bizarre occurrence that captivated the country which makes this film the perfect documentary for the winter Olympics season. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Voyage of the Mimi

Ok guys this may be getting kind of obscure but has anyone seen this mini-series?  It’s about these seven people that go out researching whales and eventually get shipwrecked.  The idea was that they would educate kids about science, whales and how to be a sailor by telling a narrative and weaving in bits of knowledge.  But that was only the first half of each episode.  The second half was a dull, tedious and very poorly presented science lesson hosted by the “actors” from the series (most of them never really did anything else except the girl who plays Rachel and this fellow named Benjamin Affleck (Changing Lanes) who ended up doing one or two other movies).

The ironic thing is the fiction part of the episode did a better job conveying the science than the actual teach-at-you part.  And that’s because the show is actually written pretty well.  It doesn’t feel contrived the way they bring up shit like how to make fresh water from salt water or that a whale’s fluke is like a fingerprint.  Plus a lot of what they’re saying is genuinely interesting.

The characters are all diverse enough and surprisingly fleshed out too.  There’s Anne, the head scientist, Ramon, the Latino other big scientist, Sally Ruth, the deaf sailor, Rachel, the bratty teenage girl that knows about sailing, Arthur, the black student, Captain Granville, the salty ol’ skipper of the Mimi and C.T., the Captain’s grandson. 

There’s a little bit of racism with how they handle Arthur though.  He arrives on the Mimi with a fuckin’ boombox that’s playing some sort of funky rock tune.  Later he gets a package from home that includes a tape with city sounds on it.  The letter that comes with it says it should help Arthur get to sleep at night.  The subtle message that all black people are from a big city is oddly contrary to the don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover vibe that the series has. 

Captain Granville is kinda funny because he’s an asshole.  But of course he’s an asshole with a heart of gold just underneath the Cosby sweater that he wears.  He dislikes everyone at first and has such a dismissive tone about him.  It begs the question: why would this guy agree to rent out his boat for a scientific expedition if he hates people?  Maybe the Cap’n was strapped for cash and needed the money.  Maybe he thought it was a good way to meet women.  Whatever, his icy exterior begins to melt after the first couple of episodes and we see that he’s not so bad after all.

Even though this was meant for late elementary and middle school students it doesn’t feel childish.  With the first half of each episode they manage to teach you things without doing it in a ham handed way.  And I’m sure a lot of the whale stuff is still relevant.  Hell, aside from the outdated technology they use all of the science shit should still be true too. 

I ended up skipping almost all of the second halves though because they‘re way too dry.  It’s almost the exact opposite of what they pulled off in the first halves.  The part about purifying water by freezing it was cool though.  Who the fuck knew?  I don’t think that fact is common knowledge and I pride myself on knowing some common knowledge.  Maybe I should stop doing that.

They made a sequel called The Second Voyage of the Mimi but only Captain Granville and C.T. returned.  I tried to watch the first episode but it just wasn’t the same without those other characters.  No Ramon Arthur or Sally Ruth?  Count me out (I don’t give a shit about Ann and Rachel is annoying as all hell).

Mimi is a strange animal which makes it tough to say check it out.  But I guess I do recommend this educational mini-series from the 80’s.  You just might learn something, like that you’re into educational mini-series’ from the 80’s.