Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Zombies, Capitalists, and Others in Film

I ended my previous entry by likening government growth to monsters from the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Call of Cthulhu,” but luckily in recent days I’ve also seen a documentary from the libertarian (and Catholic rather than Cthulhu-worshipping, not that I care to take sides in that fight) Acton Institute called The Call of the Entrepreneur that gives one hope for the future — depicting a handful of businesspeople and explaining what they do and why it benefits society rather than rapaciously feeding off society, as the conventional wisdom would have it. The documentary is scheduled to be on PBS in March and is the sort of thing that might actually change the way some people think about the world.

On a less philosophical — but still somewhat moving — note, I think I Am Legend, which made even more money than Ron Paul this past weekend, might be the best zombie film of all time, though I admit I never saw Zack “300″ Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and if Snyder’s zombies were half as impressive as his Spartans and Persians, it was probably pretty good. J.R. Taylor inspired me to see I Am Legend by heaping praise on the previous film version of that story, The Omega Man (clearly the inspiration for the Police song by that title) starring Charlton Heston, which in turn was preceded by The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, also based on the same novella. Now I really ought to watch the first two versions and compare — I think the zombies-as-decadent-counterculture subtext was more blatant in the Heston version, while the Price version has more lurid she-zombies.

I see no reason that we should feel sorry for Hollywood when it has a bad year financially, any more than we feel sorry for any other business (maybe people will lose interest in full-length movies altogether one day and do more reading, and that’d be no tragedy). But if a few well-done, thoughtful blockbusters like I Am Legend can be a big help to Hollywood, I predict 2008 (unlike 2007) will be a great year for them (I am rarely wrong about which films will be big hits, mainly because I reserve my most optimistic predictions for well-done nerd epics — including 300, which I found myself assuring a group of Warner Brothers marketing people would do well, a few months before it came out, while they were having doubts; when in doubt, ask a nerd — or better yet, pay the nerd some large retainer to make these predictions — then again, I admit I didn’t expect to be one of only a minuscule handful of people who saw Grindhouse, but that was an odd case).


So I say: Next month’s anticipated 1/18/08 premiere of the reportedly Lovecraft-influenced Cloverfield by Lost/Alias creator J.J. Abrams may do well, but the real action starts in May, when each successive Friday will bring another box office smash so huge that Tinseltown will be buried in tottering mountains of cash and no one will be able to summon any pity for movie studios:

Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. perfectly cast as alcoholic arms merchant playboy turned armored hero Tony Stark
Speed Racer with the Wachowski Siblings of Matrix and V for Vendetta fame taking their computer-generated car chases to the next level
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, in which we find out (both on screen and in real life) whether children can cope with finding out that all the talking beavers and fauns they loved in the first movie have been dead for over a thousand years
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which an aging Indy, circa 1960, has to rescue ancient-astronaut artifacts from Soviet agents who’ve infiltrated Area 51, or so I hear (extra fun for me, since an ancient alien crystal skull was the initial catalyst for all the magical, extraterrestrial, and superheroic events in the comic book and sci-fi plots I devised as a child, which perhaps I should post someday, complete with a map of the planet Doxilus, which is of course the lush planet of giant shrubs where humanity hides its secret fleet of vaguely Lego-shaped spaceships — unless Mom demands that the fleet be put away — in the distant, futuristic year of [I kid you not] 2006 A.D., though construction of the fleet began covertly during the Carter administration, with the help of some guys who came out of a UFO).

And the rest of the year will bring Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hulk, Hellboy, Holmes, Harry #6, heroic Starfleet officers, more Bond, and others plus more piles of cash, cash, cash — in no small part because, the odds are, nearly all of these movies will also be good (Wolverine, alas, has been delayed until 2009, when Watchmen by the aforementioned Zack Snyder is also due). There will barely be enough time for nerds to recover from their excitement over one film before heading to theatres to see the next, and the rest of you will simply have to ride along with the runaway cultural nerd-train, not that I mean to gloat.

(J.J. Abrams, responsible for both Cloverfield and Star Trek in 2008, has complained that the writers strike is already compromising his Trek-reboot movie a bit, since directors, no matter how talented, are not allowed to rewrite lines of dialogue on the set during the strike — a dream come true for scriptwriters who want to see their work come to fruition unchanged but maybe not so great for those of us who now have to see Trek reborn with an unaltered script by one of the same goofballs responsible for the fun but juvenile Transformers movie.)


In less auspicious and more TV-oriented nerd news, reports say David Hasselhoff will likely guest star in a new Knight Rider series, and that the new Fox Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles series will soon be joined by a fourth Terminator film with Christian Bale as the adult John Connor, destroying the evil computer program SkyNet in a post-apocalyptic war against cyborgs that we’ve been wanting to see for three decades — but apparently, he will not destroy SkyNet quickly enough to prevent what by this point seem to be dozens of unstoppable cyborg assassins from going into the past and failing over and over again to kill one teenage boy, which seems very implausible, even with a good Terminator played by Summer Glau from Firefly/Serenity defending him. Screw all the time travel, man, I just want to see the post-apocalyptic cyborg war.

Two downright worrying bits of movie news — because a post like this wouldn’t be complete without at least a couple complaints that my childhood memories are being desecrated:

•I was excited to hear about a big budget G-Force/Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets movie (based on the Japanese superhero/sci-fi cartoon) being in the works. After all, that show’s androgynous villain, Zoltar, gave us one of the most poetic lines in cartoon history, which I’m half-tempted to make this blog’s new slogan: “I am a lone oasis in a desert of fools!” But new reports describe this film’s version of G-Force as computer-animated talking animals, one of them with the voice of Nicolas Cage. Cage’s involvement is often a bad sign — from the collapsed 90s plan for a Superman movie scripted by Kevin Smith to the mediocre Ghost Rider (aside from that one dual-riders scene near the end) — but he loves superhero projects, bless him, so he’s not going to go away. Computer-animated talking animals, meanwhile, have their place but do not seem likely to wield jugular-slicing sonic boomerangs with quite the same deadly efficiency fans have come to expect from G-Force’s desperate spacewar.

•A Tom Swift movie is in the works (by the producers of Jimmy Neutron, which makes sense) — Tom Swift being the pro-science, pro-capitalism boy inventor from a series of old novels that were among my first and most important influences — but one of the producers said the movie will stress “green technology,” which strikes me as un-Swiftian. Then again, if the producer’s smart and un-p.c. enough to recognize the environmental advantages of nuclear power, perhaps they’ll adapt the book Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster. I’m not holding my breath, though.

On a more hope-inspiring note: Tim Burton (who was at one point slated to direct that ill-fated 90s Superman mentioned above) is now working on a big Alice movie, and Wonderland seems like the perfect place for the man behind movies like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — which our Jan. 2 Lolita Bar speaker Michael Malice once declared his favorite movie, though I never summoned the will to see it, since I just didn’t think it’d be the same without the songs from the classic Gene Wilder version, like that awesome number by Veruca Salt (the character, not the band) [UPDATE 12/28/07: Though Francis Heaney tells me, even though he didn't like the Burton version of Factory overall, that its Danny Elfman-arranged version of the Veruca song was quite good].

The best musical sequence in film history, though, is probably still the ten minutes or so from the time Brad and Janet enter the mansion until the moment Frankenfurter ascends in the elevator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, during which time we hear “Sweet Transvestite” and, of course, “The Time Warp.” (And for good measure, here’s the video for Tim Curry’s song “Paradise Garage,” proving that there’s a very thin line between glam rock and disco, despite the overall Rocky Horror vibe being in some small ways proto-punk.) I have never held to the popular theory that Rocky Horror is a bad film redeemed by the tradition of audience participation — it’s an awesome movie, and the audience is expendable.

Speaking of time warps, I haven’t really mentioned anything wholly new in this movie overview, have I? Doesn’t matter — familiar or not, Iron Man and Capt. Kirk are on their way. Let Obadiah Stane and the Romulans, respectively, beware!

1 comment:

Christopher said...

And Peter Jackson is now reattached to the “Hobbit” film as a producer at least. Apparently it will be two films (filmed simultaneously, of course): one of the book and the second covering the period between the “Hobbit” and LotR based on Tolkien’s notes, etc.