Saturday, February 26, 2005


My expectations had been thoroughly trashed for this one, and then some other blogs reviewed it saying essentially that if you had low expectations you won't think it's too bad.

So I'm going in expecting something I'll enjoy as much as, say, Van Helsing, AvP, or maybe Hellboy (2004 was the year of reasonably satisfying but not particularly good action horror films).

Instead I got a film that will probably go in with Resident Evil and Mission: Impossible (1) on enjoyment level -- in other words, I give it a 4 out of 5, will buy the DVD quickly then watch it fairly often.

I'll list out some stuff [SPOILERS BELOW]:

Yeah, I missed the accent but Keanu is always fun to watch, and he managed to capture the dark sarcasm of the character. I think they should have pushed him more towards angry and bitter at the world instead of brooding though.

L.A. works fine in the film; gives it a nice connection with the Chandler novels.

This is one of those movies where they tried to fit too much in -- but this time it doesn't hurt the film so much. The filmmakers drag you kicking and screaming over the bumps and plot holes between the sequences at such a high pace that they aren't too bothersome -- much the same as The Maltese Falcon.

There are a number of very cool scenes. The tiny little fight against the demons on the street in front of the religious icon is terrific -- I don't understand it, but it's memorable.

My spider sense felt the hand of a powerful, but easily confused, member of the production team. You can see signs of this when a sequence plays out as follows: Constantine and sidekick enter building to fight demons -- sidekick runs upstairs to a big water tank, then drops a cross in tank and some vials of water from the River Jordan -- Constantine faces down a gang of demons in a large room, then holds up his cigarette lighter to the sprinkler system -- sprinklers go off and the water melts the skin off the demons ****** then, because the powerful but easily confused member of production team didn't quite figure it out and was worried the audience wouldn't either, we have some demon actually say "HOLY WATER". BTW, that's an iconic example of "on the nose" dialogue, and something typically not present in early drafts, but only after notes come down from on high.

Tilda Swinton was terrific as the androgynous Gabriel. I particularly liked the ending, where she plays a rather unique form of crazy, causing all this suffering in order to make humans worthy of God's love -- she really pulls it off at the end, being like this supportive, sweet-natured aunt who just happens to have a bunch of hoboes buried in the basement. This is a fresh take on an antagonist and I hope she gets some major play in the sequels, if there are any.

Gavin Rossdale pulled some nice scenes as the lesser antagonist, Balthazar. There's not a lot for him to do, but there's one early scene where he chats with Constantine and reveals the sadism and corruption hidden under his power suit and nice manicure. It reminded me of the characters in In the Company of Men, a film so unpleasant I couldn't watch it all the way through, despite being terrifically done.

Peter Stormare pulled off a great vision of Lucifer/Satan. I much prefer this kind of portrayal to the regal sort such as in The Devil's Advocate or Angel Heart. Constantine's Satan owes more to Doestoyevsky's devil in clownish rags -- you might fear him but there won't be any respect in it. Underneath his expensive white suit black slime runs constantly down his feet, leaving a filthy trail everywhere. And the mannerisms, Stormare gets this really right since he comes off not as Darth Vader, the cool force of darkness, but as a pedophiliac uncle -- something sick and scary and just a little pathetic.

For a time the producers were thinking of getting Peter Stormare to play the role of the older guy in The Sound. I'm not sure if that will still work out (timing matters a lot for a small production) -- but I'd be very happy with him in the part.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Triple Post (3 of 3): Online Games

I've wound up actually playing two online games, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft.

I'd probably let one of them drop but, since I subscribed in large blocks in order to pay a bit less, I'm in this zone where I can still play both of them before making a decision which way to go. And, given that "The Sound" is supposed to start filming before either of those subscriptions run out, I'll possibly not feel the pressing need to save the monthly fee afterwards.

They're both great games. I slightly prefer the game play in World of Warcraft. There's an awful lot to do -- quests pay off well and you can have up to twenty at a time (I often have a stack of 15 or so, many of which are grouped in a similar location), crafting skills have you out scrounging herbs and making potions and trying to get the craft skill up, and the auction house brings Adam Smith's invisible hand to the land of make believe.

City of Heroes has a great hero building system -- complete with a wide variety of costumes. The game play feels a little more repetitive than WoW, but you get little benefits every level. Also, after not too long playing you can pick up some nice and fast movement powers; WoW feels sort of slow getting around after CoH. The chat features are also just a little more convenient. However, if you die you do get experience debt, which can make playing feel a bit more like a grind.

The best thing about City of Heroes, though, is that another of my old friends, Sung, is playing it -- along with his brother, George, and George's wife, Jessica. It's vastly more enjoyable to play these games with friends, particularly when we've all spread out since this way I get to catch up with them a bit. Sung is actively recruiting the members of our old gaming group -- so, Scott, there's just something seriously wrong with a long time Champions player like you not getting online with us.

If you happen to be picking up, or already playing either game, I'll put the server names and character names (in order of who I usually play) I use here:

City of Heroes
Liberty Server


World of Warcraft
Feathermoon Server


Triple Post (2 of 3): Fair and Balanced

Yeah, yeah, not really, I've only added two links -- but probably as fair and balanced as any of the other media outlets.

I added a link to one of my oldests friends' blogs in the friends section, Scott Eiland. He can go a bit over the top when provoked to anger by lefties -- so my more liberal friends might want to take a valium or smoke some herbal remedy prior to looking at his blog -- but he also includes some terrific bi-partisan comments on the great sport of baseball (the only sport you don't actually ever have to watch in order to thoroughly enjoy, perhaps not watching is even a benefit).

I've also added a link to The Conservative Philosopher. There's no shortage of web sources for conservative thought, but it's nice to see what some academic philosophers have to say (and find out who they are). One worrying trend on that site is the tendency toward posts that make general claims about The Left and other posts that extrapolate general claims about The Left, based on the ravings of a few radicals.

There is no The Left just as there is no The Right -- and they should know this because one of the more interesting posts on their site is a conservative defense of animal rights, what I imagine most people associate with The Left. It'd be nice if there was a little more focusing on specific arguments, or claims, or even individuals, instead of trying to detail the characteristics of abstract categories that only loosely, and poorly, map onto reality.

One question I have, is why do so many of the people, both lefty and righty, reserve their greatest hatred and vitriol for, you know, people who are slightly to the right or left of them, respectively? I suppose Pol Pot and Idi Amin are dead, so there's not much point in despising them any longer -- but surely there are worse people in the world than Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

Triple Post (1 of 3): The Movie

I was considering writing one long entry but, since this will cover a bunch of unrelated things, I'll break it up into three posts. I figure that'll be easier to read.

Earlier this week one of the producers sent me a list of the nine actors they're considering for various parts and who have expressed interest. I definitely knew a lot more names on the list than I expected for a film with a purportedly $2 million budget, which made we rather curious as to how you can get these people. My guess is they can get relatively known people for two reasons: A) the actual shooting time will be brief, less than a month; so it's not a lot of time out of the actor's schedule. And B) the better known actors might get a chunk of the profits.

Last night the producer emailed me again and said that they had sent offers to two of the people (the actors who'd play the main younger characters). That reduced my nervousness (they're actually spending real money!) but increased my anxiousness, and so I couldn't sleep for a few hours -- which gave me an excuse to play City of Heroes for a while (see above post 3).

Anyway, it's enlightening as to how much one actually can do with a limited budget. Sorry about being so vague about who's on the list. Like W's handlers prior to the debates, I'm working overtime to manage expectations.