Monthly Archives: March 2005

The Ring Two

MV5BMTY2ODc2NTQ2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzA4OTU3._V1_I finally got out to a movie again, which is nice, because I was starting to feel bad about how few I’ve seen this year. (Barely more than one per month!) Despite the overcrowded and subsequently hot theater, I went for the one I wanted to see the most out of my available choices, The Ring Two. The title really bothers me, and I don’t know why. Is it because it’s too short or monosyllabic to have the number appended? Is it because it’s written out instead of numeralized? Maybe it’s just because the posters with Two written out and the o matches the Ring imagery from the original movie is so brilliant that any other vision of the title pales by comparison. Seriously, good poster. I kinda wish I collected movie posters. Perhaps once I have a bigger house I’ll make a poster room, and spend a lot of unnecessary money on eBay.

So, yeah, there’s this movie. The first one was really scary, despite the ridiculous premise that people are still watching anything on videotape. As the movie opened, and I know it’s only supposed to be six months later by plot, but it’s been several years in real life, and also the kid is the same actor, so he looks several years older, and my point here is even if I could handle it in 2002, no way am I going to buy into the videotape thing in 2005, and as the movie opened I was already rolling my eyes. (Also: I was starting to think that opening night is a bad time to see a horror movie, because too many people were too amused, but that faded at the same time my eye-rolling did, so I instead take this as proof that the rest of America agrees with me on the ridiculousness of anyone watching a videotape, or probably even owning a VCR.) Luckily, the people making the movie seemed to get that, and the plot unleashed the scary drowned spider girl into a different, somewhat less scary[1] but more emotionally resonant and symbolism-filled world.

Symbolism and to spare. Lots of iconic ring and related images to be found all over the place. (I can’t go into detail there without spoiling the first movie.) Lots of water imagery. A distorted reflection of the maternal themes in Aliens, which now that I think about it was also less scary but more emotionally resonant than the movie it was a sequel to. I like this thing where horror movies are deep, but still manage to get in the scary cinematography, oppresive musical score, and sure, occasional cheap thrill. It’s kind of like science fiction in the literary world, in that there’s room to explore pretty much anything you can imagine, yet it’s all lumped together in one critically dismissed (although increasingly less so, in both cases) category based strictly on a setting that everyone assumes isn’t adult enough to care about.

Scary? Sure. Good plot? For the most part, although I still don’t really get what it is that Samara actually does to her victims. I think this is a Japanese horror trope, the idea that you can be scared to death without worrying about what was so scary, so I’m willing to let it go. It is creepily effective, so it’s easy to not mind. Extras for people who just want to see boobies and cameos? Naomi Watts is the star of a movie filled with water-related events, so you do the math there. Also, Bingo Bob has an amusing turn as a real estate agent. (And gets fourth or so billing out of basically a cameo-sized appearance, which surprised me; but the cast is small and therefore more personal, which is a good thing for the story as written.)

[1] With the exception of Halloween 2, all horror movie sequels are less scary. And it’s only as scary, because no horror sequels are more scary than the original. Can’t be done.

Captain’s Blood

Along with some equestrian obsession I don’t fully understand and a successful re-invention of himself as a kitsch icon, Bill Shatner (yes, that one) has been spending his time in collaboration with a couple of other writers going about the business of crafting Buck Rogers in the 25th Century stories, only with James Kirk instead of Buck Rogers. To be fair, this makes a lot more sense than if it were actually Buck Rogers, because there’s really no link there.

I can appreciate this desire, I think more than most. I know what it’s like to get inside the head of a character and then feel like I could tell more stories about the character after everyone else is done. The problem, of course, is that Kirk eventually died. Inevitably, the bringing him back to life and putting him back in play in the new Federation part of the story was complete tripe, because of the degree of self-indulgence required. (If another person had written exactly the same thing, would I be calling it self-indulgent tripe? Well, since I maintain that nobody else would have done, I’m giving myself a free pass.)

Here’s the thing, though. Once you get past the two books worth of that, there have been about four more since (and at least one more next year) that have been on the high end of the Star Trek novel spectrum. I know this is not a high mark to reach, but I’m already on record of reading treasure and trash with equal abandon, and this stuff is by no means the trashiest.

Which brings me to the latest book, the middle-of-a-trilogy Captain’s Blood. It has a lot in common with the first book of the trilogy, Captain’s Peril. Both wrap hints of an extra-galactic invasion force that are sure to pay off in the final entry around the meat of the plot, two murder mysteries. This one is more engrossing by virtue of the size: The murder in question is Spock, blown up in the midst of a unification speech furthering his efforts to bring the Romulans and Vulcans back together. Naturally, Kirk, his old-school pals who managed to still be alive into the 24th century with him, and his next generation chums gather together to investigate.

That covers the first couple of chapters, and, well, the twists and turns are well enough plotted out that I’d prefer not to dig deeper. Like I said, after you get past the self-indulgence bit, he (and his under-writers, I expect) writes some pretty good books. Plus, the next book with the extra-galactic invasion will probably be self-contained, just as these two have been, and that will save you really a lot of time over reading the 21 or so volume Star Wars extra-galactic invasion series. (I don’t even know if I’m serious there, so probably it’s not worth asking.)

Door to Alternity

If you’re in any way interesting, you don’t remember that I read the first book of a Buffy/Angel crossover trilogy in December (at least, not before I reminded you just now), because you’ve had other, better things on your mind. Like, say, tax season, or how the Iraqi election contributes to the stability of that region.

A few days ago, I finished reading the equally engrossing second book of the Unseen trilogy, Door to Alternity. (As before, there are inevitable spoilers through the first several seasons of Buffy, so stop now if you want to avoid them.) Much as The Burning had lots of fire, this book has lots of doors to alternities. (An alternity, sensibly, is an alternate reality but without so many syllables.) The third of the trilogy combines the thrilling danger of randomly appearing monsters swarming over Sunnydale, teens (disaffected and affected alike) disappearing into glowing portals all over LA, and a turf war between Mexican street gangs and the Russian Mafiya. (As you can see, only a couple of key changes have occurred in the greater Southern California area in the ten years since the events chronicled in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.) Against this thrillingly dangerous backdrop, the authors have included the kinds of Buffy tropes you’d expect of a Scooby gang frozen in emotional time for the summer: Xander and Anya sure do talk about and have lots of sex, Buffy, Riley, and Angel sure do spend a lot of angsty thought over their non-existent triangle, and Spike sure does want that chip out of his head.

It was approximately three months between when I read the first book and the second. By comparison, it was approximately two months between when the two books were released. I can’t say I know they were written two months apart as a result of that publication spacing, but I also can’t say I’d be surprised to learn that it was so.

Doom 3

So, after that long Half-Life detour, I finally did get around to playing Doom 3. And then came a very frustrating interlude this morning when, less than 10 seconds from victory, my wireless/optical mouse crapped out and I had to start all over. (Well, okay, just the last battle all over. Still, though. It was stressful.) In any case, after a 20 minute struggle to fix the mouse and a 2 minute struggle to replay that end bit, I have now finished.

Was it exactly the same as Doom and Doom 2 and Quake and etc.? Well. It still didn’t have a story the way Half-Life does. I mean, it has a story, and a pretty good one. But it’s basically the story of everything that led up to the endoomening. Space marine wandering around the planet Mars shooting demons, that part is identical, but now it has prettier graphics and a backstory. Which is to say, the fun in the game is seeing the graphics, but not in seeing how it turns out. Still, the backstory part is an improvement over the original Doom. I’d compare it to Doom 2 as well, but that would require me to remember anything, anything at all about that game that would distinguish it from the original. As for the Quake comparison, well, Quake sucks as a single player game, so this is much better than that. So, to answer the actual question: it’s different, but only cosmetically.

That’s okay, though. Going into Hell with guns blazing to save humanity is its own reward. On top of that, the graphical and auditory enhancements have made it pretty spooky. Okay, there’s no good reason in-game why you can’t have the flashlight and a weapon out at the same time. But it would ratchet the tension way down, and the whole point of the Doom franchise is to be twitching around at every noise afraid of being blasted into a lava pit by a giant beholder (which we call a cacodaemon, because this isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, but I think I know a beholder when I see one, thanks). It succeeds masterfully at this aspect, and the backstory-gathering is all gravy on top of that.

I hope they wait for Doom 4 until we’re at another full leap forward technologically, because otherwise they’re really going to have to write an engrossing plotline after all, and id’s only real innovative strength (at least, that others don’t do as well at or better) is the iconic shock image, eg Doom’s missile-launching minotaur or Wolfenstein’s power-armored Hitler. Good Stuff, yeah, but only so good when games that are chock full of plot are in the same place on the store’s shelf, for the same price.

Constantine

When I first saw the preview for Constantine, with the hot Mummy chick getting pulled through a building and Keanu chasing after her, I really thought they were making another Matrix movie for some reason. This guess is not as far off the mark as you might think. It made about as much sense as Matrix Revolutions, but I feel better about it because of differing expectations.

Keanu’s acting worked pretty well for me in the John Constantine character, bearing in mind that I come to the movie untainted by the comic. Basically, his acting in any role (leaving aside the Theodore Logan aberration) works well, as long as the character is a cipher who never gets angry. He can emote detachment quite well, but detached shouting is oxymoronic. You may claim that ‘detached’ is not an acting skill, but there are a lot of characters in Hollywood with that as the defining characteristic, and actors have been filling those roles for all the years they’ve been written, some of them quite well. See also Charles Bronson.

Except for the part where lots of things were stated but not really backed up (Why is Constantine of so much interest to hell? What’s so special about this particular time that the neutrality thing is being breached?), the story was sufficiently comic-y to make me happy on that count. Also, Keanu has that look. Really tall, really thin, he just looks like a comic character. I’m sure a big part of that was the cinematography and wardrobe choices, but it was well-done enough that I want to emphasize it. For your comic movie to work, at least someone should look like a comic character.

Anyway: story, schmory. It had a good look, the Hell sets were really cool, and lots of demon-fighting. This is plenty to keep me happy with a February movie. Also, in a bow to gratuity, hot Mummy chick stayed soaked for the final half of the movie. That’s just good directing.