Monthly Archives: February 2006

Final Destination 3

There’s no denying that it’s ridiculous on the face of it. You can’t very well have a third final destination, given certain definitions of the word final. But? Not caring, me. Halloween II was the day after Halloween, and few if any of the Friday the 13th movies will be heard to even mention the date. That’s just the way sequels work. And as this is a valid sequel to Final Destination, I’m satisfied.

Now, was it a good sequel? This relies on two postulates. One: that the original was good, and it was. Not only can anyone die at any time, but that’s actually the premise of the movie. You can’t adhere to the rules much more closely than that. And two: that this movie be exactly the same as the original good movie. This is a mistake that occurs all too often in horror. If the film was good, why confuse people by making the sequel be some different, unrecognizable movie? (In stark contrast to the rest of Hollywood, where we call making the exact same movie twice in a row by a more derogatory term than sequel, that being remake.) But it’s still not as good as Final Destination 2, the best possible kind of sequel to a horror movie: a continuation of the original.

The plot is simple enough. A person has a vision of impending doom, then sees the world start to conform to that vision, and so escapes the doom, accidentally or purposefully including a small group of people in that escape. Death’s plan now being out of whack, the seemingly lucky people start to die in grotesque and inexplicable ways soon thereafter to right the balance. (This is clearly not the friendly, compassionately goth Death envisioned by Neil Gaiman.) On the bright side, the world offers up clues to avoid these deaths, if only they can be perceived and acted upon. Thusly, in any given sequel the audience receives a reasonably spectacular catastrophe, followed by a series of grisly deaths that would fit right into the opening segment of a Six Feet Under episode. Except for naked chicks, that’s all I’ve ever asked of the genre. And this has those too.

Circus of the Damned

And then, another vampire hunter book. It’s not clear to me if I’m reading these spaced too closely together, although I’m leaving about as big gaps as the narrative leaves between stories, so I suppose it’s not as bad as all that. Still, I felt a little crowded with them, so maybe I’ll wait longer next time.

In any case, Anita Blake is at it again. This time, she’s trying to help the police solve a string of preternatural murders while avoiding her attraction toward the Master Vampire of the City (and incidentally that vampire himself) and trying to get a handle on her dating life. Wherein lies the flaw in the series. To all outward appearances, that’s the plot of all of them that I’ve read. Well, I’m taking some liberties, but it’s pretty close, at the least. The good news is, the actual mystery part of the book tied up as neatly as a bow by the end, despite me being 40 pages out and thinking it impossible. So it still works as mind candy, even with the roteness of it all that’s starting to build up. Oh, and unlike The Laughing Corpse, this title of Circus of the Damned both referred to a location integral to the plot and was relatable to themes and events in the book. Kudos.

Except for the weird part. I’ve heard tell that the series starts to get ever more poorly edited, even as it gets ever more monster-orgy-heavy. Although the latter hasn’t happened quite yet, the former grew alarming in this last book. Multiple easily noticeable typos despite years between editions, and in fact different publishing companies. It’s very hard for me to imagine not checking on things more thoroughly between the first edition and the second, much less like this. And that’s not even all! At one point in the story, the woman has a magical appearing car to replace her totaled one, and it vanishes again as soon as it’s no longer necessary. (Due to other hints, I’m quite sure it could have been neither taxi nor rental.) This kind of plot hole is completely unnecessary, and it makes me fear for the future of the series. …yes, the series of romance novels with vampires. Except, dammit, well-crafted mysteries. Honest!

Fables and Reflections

Typically, I’ll look over previous serial entries before hitting the next review in any given series, to give myself an idea of where I was at the earlier point in the series, and make a decent attempt at a coherent narrative in my own right to match the (let’s hope) coherent narrative that the author provided in the first place. Having finished the 6th Sandman book, Fables and Reflections, it was time to do that. Only, I apparently never got around to reviewing A Game of You. Oops. Clearly, it’s a little late to do a reasonable review now. So, um…. it was pretty good? I guess?

Okay, more seriously, like The Doll’s House, A Game of You was a self-contained storyline, whereas the new volume has turned back to the meat of the Endless mythos. I said before that in the 4th volume the seeds of the remaining storyline were all present. In this one, plants are clearly beginning to sprout. The personalities of the family members outside of Dream and Death are finally starting to be revealed in richer detail, and some family mysteries are solved while others are finally acknowledged.

I liked the construction of it, too. Multiple (at-first-glance-) unrelated tales are linked together by both the family dynamic above and by ongoing reference to months of the year in the stories and in their titles. It doesn’t sound like much here on paper, but the experience of it fun to discover as well as somewhat lyrical in execution. An odd point was the final story, Ramadan. Although it matched the month theme, the rest of the tale didn’t match the feel of the others, to the extent that I’m surprised it ended there, rather than being placed at the beginning. (It’s surprisingly relevant to present day for having been written some 15 years ago, though.)

Date Movie

Usually when I see a movie on opening day, it’s a sci-fi / fantasy thing, or a comic-y thing, or at least a horror thing. Very, very rarely is it a comedy or a chick flick, rarely enough that I can’t think of any to name. And yet, there I was yesterday, sitting down to a showing of Date Movie. Which, y’know… the act of being a parody movie tends to elevate above the lowest common denominator level filled by your Kangaroo Jacks and your White Chicks and your Big Momma’s House 2s. So there’s that?

Seriously, when it was on, it was pretty funny. I especially dug the Mr. and Mrs. Smith bits, although I’m sure that’s based in part on how much I dug the real thing. And it’s fair to say that there were a lot of pieces, like the Big Fat Greek Wedding allusions, that I maybe didn’t find funny because I’m not as versed in the date movie genre as I am in some other ones. Or that my continuously evolving tastes have made me enjoy this kind of thing less. But I think it’s more likely that I know plenty enough, and the parody flick just isn’t nearly as good as it used to be. And that if I stuck Top Secret! in the DVD player, I’d be laughing for the whole thing all over again.

On the bright side, Alyson Hannigan is every bit as palatable to watch as she ever has been, plus she’s still pretty funny in her own right. On the not as bright side, boy can she not sing. I mean, a lot. But I love her anyway, so that’s okay.

The Curse of Chalion

A couple-three years back, I devoured the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, all in a row in a manner that I clearly no longer utilize. They were good, and I recommend them highly. That said, I was of course interested in the idea of her new book (which has since started to turn into a series of its own), and I eventually snagged a copy of The Curse of Chalion. Only, when I started to read it four months ago (maybe six?), I got about a page and a half in, felt like I was being betrayed into generic fantasy of the most boring stripe, and set it aside for a magical place I like to call the future.

The good news is this: the future has come, and it turned out to be a lot brighter than I would have guessed. I’m not even sure what was so objectionable about that first page; I guess it was just a matter of mood. Anyhow, it’s cool. Cazaril, our hero, is returning home to recapture the simple life he remembers as a castle page, after spending some time as a galley slave. Only, the thing about heroes is life never turns out quite as they hope, and he’s instead re-embroiled in the same politics that led to his original fate (but at a much higher, or perhaps deeper, level) faster than you can make up an appropriate metaphor.

Good stuff: politics, swordplay, treachery, chases, romance, a medieval wet t-shirt contest, demons, and the mysteries of the past and the present. Not only that, but her prose has gotten prettier than I remember it being; from time to time, I’d forget and think I was reading Kay. Finally, it rates well on a theological level. Her version of how gods and men interact with the world and each other is a reasonable approximation of how I imagine these things to work, too, at least. Also, I like that religiousity can be important, nay integral to the storyline without at the same time making the story look like a Chick tract. At some point, I will buy the first sequel and read it too, continuing my ongoing tradition of reviewing any given book months or years after the general public has forgotten it was ever published. Because that’s the kind of quality that I’ve always promised to provide to you, the reader.

When a Stranger Calls (2006)

I learned two things about Valentine’s Day when I went to catch the late showing of When a Stranger Calls (with, as you may recall, the side goal of finding another single out for a horror movie). The first was that only couples go to see movies on that day. Seriously. Fifteen, twenty couples, no larger groups, certainly none smaller except me. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt quite so conspicuous. Secondly, Valentine’s Day is the day for cleavage. So, that’s alright, then.

But, I also saw a movie. A remake of a movie that was not as old as I personally would have speculated, in fact, but which I nevertheless have not seen. On days like this, I feel bad about rolling my eyes at the factory of unoriginality that Hollywood has become lately. It’s not like I’m doing my part to support the originals instead here. So, I can’t compare it as I ought. I can say it was pretty darned good.

Babysitter Jill Johnson has two sick (and therefore sleeping) children to watch, free access to the fridge, the run of an enormous lakeside mansion, and prank callers. Trade out the prank calls for an amorous boyfriend, and it would probably be a pretty good night. Although the calls are nearly as persistent as the supposed boyfriend would have been. Are they coming from all her friends, away at a bonfire party while she’s stuck on the job? Wrong number? Mysterious stranger bent on her brutal murder? It’s anyone’s guess, but it’s certainly enough to leave girl and audience increasingly tense in the unfamiliar and dark house on what can only be described as a stormy night. The slow build and lack of cheap, tension-relieving scares set this one a cut above, in my book. The original is usually better than the remake of any given movie; I hear that’s not the case this time, but if it were? Wow.


I know, I know. Not one but two horror movies out as of this past weekend, and yet somehow what I’ve seen lately is Firewall. Well, to that I have two things to say. 1) I bet I see one of them within the next night or two. In fact, there’s something obscurely pleasing about going to see something tomorrow night particularly, as a single girl in a horror movie on Valentine’s Day might be just the thing I’m looking for. 2) Harrison Ford does have a certain cachet that outweighs considerations of how similar his recent movies have been to each other.

This latest is a by the numbers thriller, even to the extent that its misleads come at predictable intervals. Mr. Ford plays a bank internet security expert who even knows how to set up a proper Cisco access list to block potential Asian hackers, so you can tell he can handle all the other security considerations within the first moments of the film. The problem is, someone has decided this makes him the perfect inside man, and they’re willing to kidnap his entire family to convince him. Will they get away with it? Will someone have a conveniently leveraging peanut allergy? Will there be a climactic fist fight? I think you know.

It did, however, have one of the most hilarious fraught-with-portent lines in my recent memory. “So, what are you going to do?” “I’m going to find my dog!”


The video game renaissance continues unabated. Earlier this week, I finished another shooter with the unlikely acronym expansion of First Encounter Assault Recon, a government organization called in whenever the military anticipates paranormal activity on a combat assignment. In this case, a psychic with control over a thousand clone troops has snapped, started eating people, and taken control of a military contractor’s facility. What’s a guy to do but strap on some guns and start hunting clones? Except, the little girl in the red dress who keeps incinerating the normal backup units is making things… complicated.

I was surprised by how good this game was. The AI thing is really starting to get a lot better, such that part of the strategy for surviving an encounter with an enemy squad is making sure there’re enough items around to heal you afterward, rather than the old restore from save if you get hurt any trick. On top of that, I never imagined playing through a Japanese horror film, but that’s what this was, despite the wholly Americanized plotline that encases it. Several genuinely scary moments in the dark room with those headphones on.

The really cool backgrounds and graphics were ruined for me by Condemned, though. I just finished playing it in huge screen HD glory before F.E.A.R., only to find myself in another game made by the same people, which meant that I’d seen a lot of the background items and some of the background buildings just before, but in almost infinitely better resolution. (It might be time to upgrade my video card, though I won’t. It’s definitely time to upgrade my CPU and maybe motherboard, though I doubt I’ll do that either. This is why consoles hold the market share. Much lower cost to maintain, as long as you were going to get a good TV for your monitor anyway.)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Okay, so I lied. I do kind of know why it took me so long to review the Matador. Part of the reason, at least. Shortly thereafter, I saw Eternal Sunshine, and it left me disquieted and unsure what to say or even whether to say anything, and that leaked into the other thoughts I had about the other movie, and then I was just stuck.

Kind of like I am again now, as it happens. Good movie, though. Very good use of camerawork to demonstrate the workings of how people think and remember. Good use of the taking the story out of order to frame important events properly device, and that’s not light praise from me, because a lot of people have been doing that in TV and movies alike lately, and it’s most often just a way to get a cheap thrill out of the opening moments of the show rather than a thoughtful look at the entire story. Excellent acting, of course, and also Kate Winslet is everything that I want her to be, as in the majority of her work. (That is, pleasant to the eyes, ears, and mind. Yumtastic, even.)

See how I didn’t really say anything about the movie there? Yeah, I’m trying to keep the plot quiet, because it ought to be seen with a clean slate. But that’s not really it at all. It’s that I feel like with only very minor changes in the facts and in available technology, it could have been lifted right out of my life. It’s not just that it’s difficult to talk about things that are very personal (though it is), it’s that it’s harder yet to have someone else who I’ve never met before do it for me. Like I said, disquieting is what it is. I’ve lived that life, and learned those lessons, and if I’m lucky, someday I’ll find someone else who is the right person for me like that but has also learned those lessons, because I don’t think I can only apply them from my side and have it do any good. So, anyway, being that personal, did I like it? I did. A lot. But I don’t think I’ll be watching it again anytime soon.

Also, referring to an earlier point in the review that I intend not to specify: see what I did there? Ha! I kill me.

The Matador

Sometime over the weekend, I saw The Matador. I doubt I would’ve gotten around to it, only it fit the day’s schedule better than my horror-remake preference or my mom’s generic military coming-of-age preference. Which is almost certainly lucky for one of us, and that one of us is probably me, so I’ll take it. Why, then, have I not reviewed it yet? That was days and days ago. I don’t have a good answer. My head has not been in the right place for typing, perhaps. Nonetheless, I’m here now, and here I go.

So, yeah, Pierce Brosnan as a contract killer is not a stretch, perhaps, but this ain’t no James Bond flick. Bond was never an alcoholic, for one thing, neither did he ever have moments of doubt or a penchant for pedophilia. At least, we’re led to believe he had none of those things, but considering one of the things Bond and Julian Noble do have in common, I’m not so sure we can really take any of this to the bank. That is, they’re both sociopaths.

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s all there. Bond has no regard for others, no sense of remorse over his actions, is a consummate liar and indulges in constant illegal activity. It’s just that’s he’s in one of the few jobs where all of this is sanctioned, and it’s worked out very well for him. But I’m not here to talk about Bond, just to make the comparison. My sense is that whereas Bond is filmed through a flattering lens that hides all of these flaws in favor of what he achieves for his country, Noble is shown in a more honest light. Of course, being a paid assassin is automatically less acceptable than being a spy, but the ways he acts toward other people are much less polished as well. And yet, in true sociopathic form, he’s still thoroughly likable, witty, and outright fun to be around, able to win people over at the drop of a hat and keep them won despite being caught in insulting lies. I know I was rooting for him, even while diagnosing in my head everything that made him not just a bad person but an outright sick one.

So: funny movie, good characters, reasonable enough storyline. I should say that I don’t think I ever quite bought into the matador comparison that was the movie’s central conceit. …and it’s pleasant I did say so, because it’s just clicked for me. The whole point of claiming that the matador’s profession is noble, making a better death for the bull than a hammer blow to the head, is that this claim is completely untrue. It’s just something we say to make ourselves feel better about being entertained. Or about being the entertainer, in this case.