Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Criticizing Critiques: Battle: LA edition

In my rather long review of Battle: Los Angeles, I asserted that most contemporary reviews are of dubious quality, merit, and rigor. I think that professional, dedicated reviewers can be the worst offenders in this field. Many of the review web sites, newspaper features, and tv spots that I watch on occasion fall into terrible review pattern of: summarize the piece; critique the piece; make a recommendation to see or not see the movie. While this may seem like a valid review format, it is inherently flawed because it assigns objective status to the reviewer's perception of the film, it assumes, but does not acknowledge, that the reviewer's audience is aligned with the reviewer himself, and--most arrogantly of all--it deigns to prescribe or proscribe movies without giving decent qualifications for those who have conflicting values with the reviewer.

I can understand how this could happen. Specifically, being tasked with watching a broad spectrum of movies could easily wear on good rigor for the review process. You're subjected to repeated bland, shrill, pointless, feckless, plain old bad movies. Movies that you resent prosper, and the gems that thrill you don't get a proportionate amount of attention. Of course at some point your reviews will become less objective and more about promoting movies you label 'good' and antagonizing the rest.

That said, I stand by my assertion that a good review should look something like my 'odor', 'beef', 'gravy', and 'cheese' format. Whenever you begin to publicly evaluate something, it's only fair to yourself and your audience to analyze your starting conditions, but few reviewers do it consistently. The distinction between 'gravy' and 'cheese' is also important, since it's all too easy to assume that your evaluation is or should be normative.

Science fiction is particularly susceptible to these faults of bad reviewing. It's a flashy genre with a long history of strongly influential works within its own genre of which those who don't consider themselves fans will not be cognizant. But because science-fiction in the post-Star Wars universe is generally identified by the popular media of making a superficial cash-cow, everyone and their fifty year-old mother presumes to understand science fiction without feeling the need to be informed on the genre or devote any particular analysis specific to the genre. And this is doubly true for Battle: Los Angeles. So, without further ado, here's my critique of the criticisms of Battle: LA.

Or, Eat Poop and Die, Ebert.

Most of the fixations of poor reviews of Battle: LA have been touched upon by Roger Ebert's review, so I'll refer to his review to structure the apologetics of this article. I won't link to it--like goose droppings during a spring walk, his stuff's easy to find, hard to avoid, and is best not worth pointing out.

First of all, let's look at Ebert's conclusion to his review. In no uncertain terms, he says that anyone who likes Battle: LA is an idiotic, undateable guy. Wow, Ebert just throws the 'cheese' out the window. Forget objectivity, forget self-aware full disclosure. Roger Ebert is here to save America's women from dating sci-fi fans, the raving douche-bag. As if intrinsic awkwardness wasn't enough of a hurdle for nerds, they also have to battle Ebert's sway over eligible bachelorettes' dating patterns. Oh wait, that's not much. Never mind.

So what concrete, evaluative things does Ebert have to say about this movie--this threat to American progenation? Well, apparently he doesn't like the alien design, the alien technology aesthetic, the camera work, the fact that it's a war movie, etc. I can almost hear him throwing in an addendum: "and it's too loud, now get off my web-page before I start rambling about how games can't be art, but I want gamers to care what I think anyways..."

So Ebert has a problem with the alien design of Battle: LA. Let me point out that Ebert has given good reviews to Star Wars and Independence Day in the past, both of which are responsible for some offensively stupid alien designs. Really, how stupidly precarious is the bio-mechanical suit design in Independence Day? It's clearly an example of a European artist going nuts making a Freudian super-phallus without pondering what utilitarian decisions might go into making a suit. And don't forget Mamow Nadon--the hammerhead, one of the more glaringly stupid aliens of Star Wars' almost offensive cantina scene. I mean, we get a sequence of like a dozen close-up shots, each of a different alien, all to show us, what? How bizarre this place is? How thoroughly amalgamated bar culture is on Tattooine? This isn't good story-telling. If we're supposed to get a sense that it's normal for all these characters to be gathered in one place, then we shouldn't be bombarded with conspicuous close-ups to establish that, and if it's supposed to show how weird and threatening they are to farmboy Luke, then we should see them doing some threatening things--not chortling on alien reefer and making hand puppets to each other. I mean, could that scene work with people in a movie set in Chicago? No.

Anyways, I've digressed too much. These are the depths of alien design that Ebert is willing to accept. However, being confronted with an alien soldier that has an implanted weapon, a bulbous head, and jaundiced-looking skin is too much for him. Never you mind that it is strongly implied by the movie that this alien may be genetically engineered or modified to be the twisted creature he is, thereby making it a powerful statement about the dehumanizing potential of technology--especially as applied to a military industrial complex. These sorts of issues are critical components to almost any post-golden age science-fiction, but they have received little attention in popular sci-fi tv shows and movies. But forget about all that. I mean, Roger Ebert thinks he looks ugly. Scrap that alien and give me a friggin' Ewok, man.

Similarly, Ebert thinks that the alien vehicles look clunky and cluttered. He thinks that alien reentry vehicles--which crash into a hostile planet, are then reassembled, and used to paste the squashy humans--should adhere to 1950s Chevy aesthetics. I mean, if one were to look at a 1950 Chevy 2 door classic and a military humvee or LAV, you'd clearly recognize that the Chevy is the superior piece of technology. Considering that the man begins his review lancing at Battle: LA by calling it an insult to 'science' and 'fiction', I think it's fair to expect a little rationale and/or creative imagination from him. But no. I mean, this guy insults the hyphen for a cheap punch-line. Har har har, good one, Roger. They insult the hyphen between science and fiction, because science-fiction is hyphenated.


He goes on to say that Battle: LA represents another in a long line of shaky camera war cinema that he doesn't understand and views as a digression from the pinnacle of action-movie cinematography: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The mere juxtaposition of the two films beg the conclusion that Ebert's cheese has slid off his cracker. Any of the movies in the Wyatt Earp genre design their action to fully realize a small, brief, and intense moment of conflict between less than a dozen men. There should be no realm of comparison between that and an army group-sized conflict across a city which represents one small theater in a global military campaign. When the characters are supposed to be confused, panicked, and ambushed at any given point in a movie, confusing cinematography is its own point and purpose. That's thematic, Ebert. Heck, it's so easily identified and registered by an open, un-constipated audience member that it shouldn't even register as being part of a normal person's higher-order reasoning. You get confusing perspective and hyper-kinetic action because everyone is confused and people die without warning. Hrm.

And Ebert has a problem with it being a war movie, in that the dialogue is terse and to-the-point, and that the characters are stereotypical soldiers. First, let me agree that the dialogue is overly-elegant. That's right, elegant. Meaning efficient to accomplishing the task in a few words.

English major time...

Elegance is one of the primary purposes of language. Most ideas we use language to communicate can be inferred by less precise means. 'I want food' can be communicated in other ways, but not necessarily in the second it takes to emit those three syllables. In the military, a lot of language becomes even more streamlined--more elegant--out of dire necessity. You might say 'you two look inside that room for any enemies and eliminate them', but a combat commander need only say 'two check door on the left'. When the frame of experience is reduced in scope--you don't need to communicate feelings or abstract thoughts, just concrete, tactical information--language can become very elegant within its intended field.

Now, if you're not invested in the mood of the movie, good military language can be jarring, boring, and uninspired. Battle: LA, being a well-researched distillation of military culture in a science-fiction setting, suffers at times from that effect--if you aren't tensely engaged in the moment, then watching Aaron Eckhart order his marines to check the rooms of the police station won't mean much to you. But that clumsiness--especially at several moments critically lampooned by reviewers--is often the point.

Light spoiler: Aaron Eckhart's character, Sergeant Nantz, is being gripped in a hug by a boy no more than ten years old whose father just died. Earlier in the movie, the boy showed a faint connection with Nantz, and now that he is in the midst of ultimate loss, he passes by two women--potential mother-figures--and latches onto the heroic man whom he best identifies as a father figure. Nantz, choked up and gruff-but-sensitive, tells the boy he needs to be 'his little marine'. That line has been chewed up as symptomatic of bad writing--but it elegantly elaborates on the character, for the industrious, actively engaged viewer. Nantz is unmarried, he has no kids, and he's served in the Marines for twenty years. This moment encapsulates the soft tragedy that this man--such a heroic inspiration in the realm of the film--is completely disarmed in a moment of familial intimacy. In a moment where comfort is necessary, the best he can tell the boy is that his emotions are valid, but he needs to be...the highest thing to which Nantz himself can aspire: to be a marine. In the next beat, Nantz confronts one of his soldiers with the fact that he does, in fact, feel remorse over the soldiers he had lost in a nebulously described mission prior to the movie. He unflinchingly admits that he'd rather have died, and that he'll never forget them in the florid sort of language that brothers-in-arms apply to one another. In that moment, it should be clear that Nantz identifies himself as a father to his soldiers, and that, like a good father, he tries to balance doing what's best for them and urging them to do what's right. It makes the moment with the boy a special realization for Nantz and the audience that he has already given his life for the cause in the most real sense of the term.

Now which is more elegant? The preceding paragraph or 'it's okay to cry, Hector, but right now I need you to be my little marine'?

End spoiler, but continue English major rant about literary analysis: Battle: LA is riddled with stereotypes, true. So is every single work by William Shakespeare or Victor Hugo. Stereotypes are a useful tool for story-telling. They allow the audience to draw more familiarity with a character than they would otherwise have given the page or screen time devoted to them. Merely identifying that something employs stereotypes says no more about its quality than saying that a dish has salt in it--the use of those stereotypes is critical. So, in Battle: LA, we have the academically proficient-but-untried new lieutenant, the guy planning for his wedding, the soldier with a chip on his shoulder about his brother's recent death, and the leader with a reputation for being a hazard to his men. You know what else has this exact same list of so-called stereotypes? Band of Brothers, you frakkin' uppies! And that, if you'll recall, is not only a critically acclaimed military drama, but also based on real stories of a real wartime military unit. There was Henry Jones--the naive West Pointer played by Colin Hanks. Lt. Welsh consistently talked about marrying Kitty when he got back home, even saving his parachute for her wedding dress. Bill Guarnere flouted orders and antagonized a superior officer while battle-grieving over his dead brother. And Ronald Speirs was rumored to have shot one of his own men, dozens of prisoners, and had a reckless battlefield philosophy.

These characters certainly work in Band of Brothers, but are openly assaulted as glaring faults in Battle: LA. Well, one of the issues is proximity, certainly. We're acquainted with the stereotypes in Battle: LA in a much shorter narrative span. That's a fair point, but I doubt that's the real issue for most critics. I think most critics expect stereotypes to always be turned on their head in some hackneyed third act twist that imperils the plot and/or the upright protagonist. Maybe if Battle: LA had Lockett try to kill Nantz halfway through the movie, suddenly turning an invasion movie into some kind of angst-ridden Moore story. Which would've sucked so bad as to strip the ruge off the story.

Oh, and Ebert dropped a strange comment about Aaron Eckhart's fine performance, saying that he made an especially handsome marine, but that his acting chops were irrelevant to the movie. The second part of that comment is totally baseless, as Eckhart really drove the subtle emotions of the movie as well as the overt ones. But the first part of that comment...I can't decide if that's Ebert being homo-phobic or homo-erotic, but either way I don't like it.

Ebert's long since decided that the best way to fight his nearly complete irrelevance to modern media is by becoming the lawn-chair codger yelling at kids to get off his lawn. The sad thing is that the senile old frakker is too demented to realize that his lawn is just an apartment terrace, and no one wants to go there anyways. But, he represents an influential standard of reviewing that has been propagated throughout the  media, much to the detriment of good, rigorous, and objective criticism.

Obviously, I loved Battle: LA. I don't think that limits the nature of my critical awareness, my education on media or aesthetics, or my right to reproduce. Despite Ebert's addle-pated ramblings. You can even dislike the movie, provided you give good, legitimate reasons that you don't withhold from worse movies, like Independence Day. It is entertainment, after all. Watch what you like, but watch why you like it, too.

So keep your eyes open for such one-sided, unthoughtful reviews. Remember that a good review will generally give someone enough honest information to decide for themselves whether a movie is right for them or not. The reviewer should not dictate the terms of your entertainment, and he shouldn't be blessed with your readership when he openly insults anyone with a contrary viewpoint.

Unless you don't like The Lord of the Rings. Then you should get junk-punched.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Donnie Wahlberg

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Donnie Wahlberg: All too brief, not what you expect

Movie: The Sixth Sense (Own it)

Although he's only in the opening scene of the movie, Donnie Wahlberg, as troubled medium Vincent Grey, adds a key pathetic element to The Sixth Sense. This is critical because sympathy, apathy, and empathy are really symbolic keys to analyzing the film. There are no proper villains, no single antagonist opposing the protagonists at each plot point. Rather, the film revolves around internalized demons--the tendency to dismiss 'freaks' in our midst, and the ease with which we ignore suffering--and to that end, Vincent shows the menacing potential of those demons. Wahlberg's portrayal of Vincent is acutely memorable, as his appearance in the scene is immediately threatening and also depressingly vulnerable. He's broken, shuddering, and naked, but the audience knows that he's dangerous, as he is both weak and liable to strike out at any moment. In a movie with very little concrete action, this first scene establishes that the cerebral plot has appreciable, deadly stakes. And Donnie Wahlberg achieves this in only a few moments of screen-time, embodying the conceit so well that he's hardly recognizable.

Granted, throwing a scrawny, sobbing dude in his tighty-whiteys into the exposition of a film is a sure-fire way to barb its way into the audience's memory. Either that, or to force the scarred viewers to blot the image from their minds. I think my wife falls into the latter category. Regardless, Wahlberg gives a striking, jarring performance that cuts out the main theme of the movie with scalpel-like precision.

Movie: Dreamcatcher (Own it) LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD

Cast yet again in a brief but powerful role, Donnie Wahlberg plays Douglas Cavell--Duditz--in the Stephen King-based horror film Dreamcatcher. Even more than his impact in The Sixth Sense, Duditz looms over the film, his shadow preceding his inevitable appearance as a Godot sort of character. Only, since Stephen King is in the business of giving his audience what they want, we get to see the Godot figure in Dreamcatcher, and we're both under-whelmed and impressed by his brief presence. In The Sixth Sense, Wahlberg is introduced as a frantic, naked man. In Dreamcatcher, he stumbles into the film, hair falling out from chemotherapy, crying all over himself as he childishly hugs Henry--a friend he hasn't seen in twenty years. It's awkwardly endearing, and Thomas Jane as Henry plays opposite Wahlberg well, feeling the subdued shame of having grown up while Duditz has maintained the same innocent mind despite his deteriorating health. This is a fun contradiction, as Duditz is brought into the movie's plot to help save the protagonists, despite the fact that he has the mind of a child and the physique of an invalid. But, when Duditz encounters the hideous antagonist at the film's climax, he invokes his favorite show as he psyches himself up for a wicked moment of extra-terrestrial mind-frakking:

I love it. You wouldn't expect a mentally-handicapped clairvoyant to have much of a "You're going down, b----!" moment, but when it comes, I always find myself thrilling to the line and Wahlberg's slurred delivery of it. That--and the associated butt-kicking he delivers--is a fun way to pull a victory out of a typically dark Stephen King climax. I need to start introducing it into regular conversation.

In fact, I wish I'd thought to utter it in the delivery room when my wife started to go into transition labor. There she is, sweating, propped up, and grunting through searing contractions as I lovingly hold her hand and slur in the Duditz voice: "Ooby-Ooby Doo, we got some work to do now." I'm sure it would've been magic. Although on second thought, I doubt she would've appreciated me invoking the movie with the famous 'bathroom scene' in the middle of such a grueling and gruesome life experience.

Silly women.

Mini-series: Band of Brothers (Own it) LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD

While Donnie Wahlberg plays fleeting but key roles in The Sixth Sense and Dreamcatcher, he gets to feature in every episode of the essentially-perfect World War Two mini-series Band of Brothers. As C. Carwood Lipton, Wahlberg's character is one of dozens of grounded, relatable characters that fill the roster of the early episodes of the series. But there's too much distraction of plot and being masterfully deceived as to who the audience should fixate upon to really appreciate his character early on. This isn't a fault of Wahlberg's acting or the directing of the series--rather, it's a mighty asset of the direction of the series, giving it the chaotic, rich texture of a documentary with the gratifying personal touch of the very best war movies yet made.

When Lipton becomes one of the principal protagonists about halfway through the series, we're gratified to recognize him as a solid, reliable soldier and leader from the past year of narrative, and concurrently the audience is assured of his fitness for promotion when it finally does come. Wahlberg's performance is also one of the most subdued personalities of the company of characters--alongside Damian Lewis as Winters, he is the master of dead-pan, he can appreciate his decisions as being deliberately wise, but far from ingenious, and you feel that he has a generally good relationship with everyone in the company without being a raucous carouser or specifically invested with a key group of friends. This ensures that when he steps to the narrative foreground of the series, Lipton is a personality that is not only trusted by the characters as a soldier, but also trusted by the audience as a narrator and consistent filter for evaluating the world around Easy Company.

This is critical, as Lipton sells us on the value and trust-worthiness of Spears. An officer who is ambiguously portrayed early on in the series as having killed a group of Nazi prisoners, Spears is the emblem of military rumor-milling and a sort-of Machiavellian approach to small-scale military leadership. When he takes over Easy Company, though, he gets Lipton's immediate approval--which is more than qualified enough for the audience at that point.

Over the course of a ten-part series, some might say that Band of Brothers is too long, or just long enough. I've always felt that it could have easily been twice as long, thanks in large part to the wonderfully real performances delivered by all of the actors involved.

Of course, I've sat down to watch all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings in one sitting. Several times. And I've done the same with Band of Brothers. So your mileage may vary. But if you don't love it, you might be stupid. Or a ruga.

Or both.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Bruce Willis

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Bruce Willis: what kind of hero are you?

Movie: Die Hard (Own it)

Last time on Movie Web Monday I explained how Die Hard was a new type of action movie from the standard fare of the late 70s and 80s. Alan Rickman's new refined and competent take on the action mastermind helped to establish this, but it would've been for naught if it wasn't featured opposite Bruce Willis as John McClane. McClane is a new type of anti-hero, a reluctant jack-of-all-trades, that strictly contrasts the charismatic uber-men of previous installments in the genre. He's not a hulking, over-muscled GI Joe type, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, or Jean Claude van Damme. Nor is he an especially handsome, debonair Kirk type, like Harrison Ford, Tom Selleck, or Sean Connery. He's not over-the-hill but just past his prime, as is indicated by his grappling with jet-lag at the beginning of the movie. Do you think Dutch makes fists with his toes? Hell no, but he can make fist with his testosterone-filled pectoral muscles. McClane is also somewhat emasculated at the beginning of the movie, lugging around an over-sized teddy bear and trying to smooth things over with his career-minded, maiden-name-using wife. Would Han Solo do that? Naw, he'd insult her and then make out with her in the hyperdrive core. But McClane does, because he's that guy. Die Hard on its own doesn't try to make McClane out to be the best at any particular thing--he just happens to be a guy who does the right thing the wrong way at the right time. And, unlike previous movies with similar characters, he calls out these moments in a way that hugs the fourth wall and gives it a creepy-uncle wet kiss on the cheek. Like when he's evading the bad guys by crawling through the air ducts, already very torn up but only about half-way to the walking hamburger he'll be at film's end:

Indiana Jones? He gets messed up, sure. He might even get sarcastic about it when he and Marion are relaxing by massaging his wounds. But he doesn't climb onto the parapet of a German castle, lash his whip to swing across a chasm, and intone 'How could the same s--- be happening to the same guy twice?' That's pure McClane, baby. And, even though John McClane isn't treated as a particularly charismatic guy in the Die Hard movies, Bruce Willis is. His perfect delivery of the posturing, machismo one-liners and the petulant, resentful soliloquies are both so impressive and endearing, that we can appreciate and esteem John McClane just as if he were the immaculate hero of previous movies.

And all the while, audiences overlook that Bruce is prematurely balding. You go, Willis. That's what I'm talking about.

Movie: Look Who's Talking (Own it)

Speaking of bald roles, we have Look Who's Talking. This is one of those movies, along with Star Wars and Kindergarten Cop, that I have no recollection of ever having not seen. And back in the day, man was I confused about the conception sequence in the beginning of the movie. I think at the time I thought it was some kind of sci-fi battle sequence, because I enjoyed it even in my ignorance, and that's what I associated Fantastic Voyage with, as well. Nowadays, this movie is a quaint little farce that totally glosses over the nasty reality of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a newborn. And I love it. Almost purely based on Bruce Willis' voice-over work for Mikey, the titular talking baby, this movie is ingrained into my mind. The sarcastic, blunt, and always cute scripting of how pre-natal and post-natal infants might identify and address the world is always fun for me. There are a lot of great lines, including when Mikey back-talks to his dead-beat dad, but the absolute best is when he is first born and immediately begins screaming:

Overall, the movie is pretty saccharine, despite the somewhat seedy elements of the plot. Kirstie Alley and John Travolta lend some solid support, too, but this is really Bruce Willis' movie. His voice work is youthful, innocent, and naive. Not bad for a thirty-four year-old, which makes me surprised he hasn't done more voice work.

Movie: The Sixth Sense (Rent it)

No spoilers here. Out of respect.

The Sixth Sense is the premier--and paragon--of M. Night Shyamalan's formulaic movie-making style. For some, it is the best of his films. And for a few, it is the only one of his movies that really succeeded--largely because no one was looking for his canned twist ending. But for me, it is a fairly underwhelming movie that never had a chance to wow me. All thanks to Tim, from my eighth grade class. Tim liked to mock and rehash movies--it was part of his way of enjoying the film--and he must have enjoyed the movie a lot. Within the first month of the movie, I'd heard him say 'I feel much better now' and mock-regurgitate at least a dozen times.

Needless to say, there was no twist ending for me when I finally saw The Sixth Sense.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. There's a solid artistic beauty to the film for which--if I didn't know better--I'd admire Shyamalan as a cinematic genius. The dramatic, inevitable camera angles, the vibrant colors that are used almost precisely enough to be painted contribute to making The Sixth Sense feel like a surreal dream experience. And Bruce Willis, with a sort of coldly detached confusion, really sells the hollow healer angle. In keeping with being a non-traditional hero, his character, Dr. Malcom Crowe, is characterized not only by his previous failure, but he's got a stalking vibe going on with his (really) estranged wife. It's this interesting dynamic that elicits my favorite The Sixth Sense line. Malcolm is in the basement when he sees one of his wife's co-workers on the street. After checking in with her, the younger hopeful debates whether to go back and ask her out. Passive-aggressive Malcolm's commentary:

Oh yeah, invoking the most holy incarnation of dairy and the male reproductive organ to insult someone. Malcolm Crowe is my kind of guy. It's a nice moment that highlights the dry humor that really strengthens Shyamalan's earlier movies--this isn't a thigh-slapping moment. You chuckle at the humor while recognizing that something is deeply wrong with the scene and the characters involved.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nerdview: Battle: LA

Nerdview: A good review is hard to find. A good review--that is, a quality review, not a positive review--seems to be even more rare amongst professionals and dedicated reviewers. Fortunately, the nerdery is helmed by a literary nut. Each review, whether it is a game, movie, book, or television series, will have the four elements: bias, appreciation, personal enjoyment, and general enjoyment. Put in food terms, these are odor, beef, gravy, and cheese.

Holy gorram frakking slag! Really long post ahead!

So things on here have been a little slow, but fear not. A few raging life issues cannot lay waste or dampen the enthusiasm of one nerd typing, not even if that issue aggressively pukes on said nerd at 6 in the morning. No sir. That said, on April 2nd and April 6th I did something I hadn't done in months--I went to see a movie in the theaters. What's more, I saw the same movie--it was just that much fun, folks. I'd been waiting anxiously for years for this film, and I wasn't disappointed when I finally got to see it.

That movie was Battle: LA.

I know what you're probably thinking. "Didn't that movie suck?" "It got bad reviews." "I heard it's cheesy..." And so on.

Well, can it, turd! It is a very solid movie, with all the elements necessary to keep a real nerd happy. In fact, most of the criticisms of the movie are the results of bad review rigor and improper literary perspective in modern criticism. As such, this nerdview will be broken into two sections--a proper review of the movie and a scathing criticism of the standards of the reviews themselves.

You see, a good public review has at least four parts: the reviewer's bias and expectations going in, whether the reviewer enjoyed the piece, the reviewer's appreciation of the movie, and enough information to decide whether you will enjoy the piece or not. For illustrative purposes, I call these the odor, beef, gravy, and cheese of a meal. The odor is your first impression of the meal, and it tells you what to expect. Sometimes, a meal that would be otherwise tasty is unpalatable if it smells unappetizing. The beef is the edifying, nutritional content of the meal. Having enough protein and iron can make up for an otherwise bland meal in certain cases. The gravy is the individual flavor of the plate--highly subjective and easy to change from one plate to another. And the cheese--everyone loves cheese. In this usage, if the plate has enough cheese, just about anyone should like it. If it has a specific type of cheese or a small amount, then maybe only a particular person will enjoy it.

This last element is important, largely because it is rare. The average modern reviewer tends towards a sense of enfranchised tyranny, who believes that you ought to have the same opinion of the subject that they do. Sometimes, this is unavoidable. Some crap steams up the room too much for you to tolerate the thought that anyone else would want to sleep there. But most of the time a prescriptive review is a bad review. So with all that in mind I present to you...

Battle: Los Angeles
What's Independence Day?

Expectations 'the odor': I had originally heard about this movie in the context of it working hand-in-hand with the Defense Department for researching its military authenticity. Any time I hear about a science-fiction medium going to military source material, I get excited. My sci-fi maidenhead was lost to Robert Heinlein's Red Planet at the age of eight or nine. A few years later, in order to be properly disappointed by the atrocious movie adaptation, I read Starship Troopers, and have been infatuated with military sci-fi ever since. So when I heard that Battle: LA's motif was to be a gritty war drama centered on a marine unit in an alien-embattled Los Angeles, I began singing the hymn of the Roger Young and having dreams of finally getting a solid military installment in the invasion sub-genre of sci-fi.

I thought of Starfist, Old Man's War, and most especially Orphanage as I bought my ticket for the film. I took my seat wanting to get a movie with a realistically limited perspective, proper identification of military ranks, roles, and characters, and a nice appreciation for the chaos that would be violent first contact with alien life.

Appreciation 'the beef': This movie is a definitive actioner, and as it falls in the spring-summer period that normally houses the pop-culture blockbusters, Battle: LA has been given the pejorative label of 'popcorn feature'. This presumes that the film won't have much in the way of depth or interpretive content, but such assumptions only hurt the merit of the medium. If we keep expecting spectacular action flicks to be vacuous and shallow experiences, they'll never have any impetus to aspire to be more.

And yet Battle: LA has a few moments of depth that does give it at least as much nutritional value as a Chicago-style hot dog. Starting out with a chaotic vignette of the global situation, the film crashes through a mix of images and a dour general's report that LA has been completely overrun, and then settles on an aerial shot of an explosion-wracked hills shot as marines helicopter into the alien-occupied city. The rest of the movie then proceeds from the twenty-four hours leading up to that money shot. With the exception of the exposition and a brief scene in the first act, the entire story is what literary analysts would consider third-person-limited perspective--we consistently follow Aaron Eckhart's character, Staff Sergeant Nantz. This story-telling decision, ignored in all the reviews of the film I've read, helps to ground the film with the strongest of its actors, and supports the movie's theme that this military campaign is being driven by subjective impressions.

Case in point: in the first act of the movie, the marine protagonists are ambushed and pinned down in a dusty backyard garden. The cinematography makes the tension and confusion palpable as one of the marines falls and begins getting dragged into the foliage. Nantz rushes forward rushes over and fires wildly into the brush until the unseen enemy releases the marine, who then crawls free and continues to fight. We are given no sense of whether the attacker was killed, fatally wounded, or merely scared off, just that Nantz fired his weapon, and the marine escaped. Later, another marine panicked after a close encounter with an enemy combatant, claiming that they were invulnerable and that he shot the alien 'like a hundred times' even though he didn't shoot the alien nearly as much, and the marines had surely killed at least a few of the enemy before that point. This is a nice nod to the importance of psychology and impressions when dealing with new situations. The protagonists, as the only human venue of interaction with the aliens, have their opinions defined by the combat context, and you can very easily conclude that they have no objective experience with the aliens per se--only with the aliens' combat elements and doctrine.

This might seem like a tautology, or at the very least as a common sense conclusion, not worthy of note. But this kind of subjective honesty--recognizing that brief, immediate contact defined by a single activity type is a necessarily inaccurate picture of reality--is essential to understanding military fiction and, really, society in general. Tim O'brien might express this as the difference between truth and fact. The fact might be that the aliens are vulnerable, but for much of the movie the truth is that they are unstoppable.

Many other science-fiction stories, especially in film, fail to appreciate this dynamic. A menace doesn't need to be invulnerable to be unstoppable, and yet most sci-fi stories tend to assume this. In Independence Day, the alien shields are essentially impregnable until the third act of the movie, when negating a single advantage leads to their sudden defeat. Or J. J. Abrams' Star Trek, where the Narada wipes out more than twenty Starfleet vessels off-camera, but later on is unable to quickly despatch the Enterprise in a more-or-less straightforward slugging match. These are examples of sci-fi being dramatically simplistic and denying the reality of human experience--subjective and prone to leaps of conclusion first and foremost.

Secondarily, the movie focuses on the common theme of all military sci-fi: that exotic, alien threats, despite their obscure and frightening technology, can be overcome with a combination of preparation, logistical acumen, and military fortitude. Lots of people--men, women, and soldiers--die during the course of the movie, but the protagonists' ability to stick to coordinated behavior, honoring the chain of command and the tenets of their training, is depicted as their personal salvation. Since military sci-fi gets so little main-stream attention(I'd say there are virtually no good examples of it in a movie, in fact), it's nice to see one of the first pieces of true military sci-fi to pay proper homage to the sub-genre's anchor.

A minor example of this is the initial reaction to the alien arrival. As soon as NASA determines that the 'meteors' are impacting at less than terminal velocity--making a controlled descent--the military begins recalling its forces and mobilizing them towards the impact sites. Civilians are given evacuation orders, and there is some level of immediacy before the first ET kacks a human. In the superficially similar Independence Day, on the other hand, the government notes that the 'meteors' are slowing their descent and yet make no effort to mobilize until well after the ships park over the capitols of the world. The ponderous stupidity of people who should know better ends up taking up at least half of that movie, whereas in Battle: LA they quickly come to the only reasonable conclusion necessary based on that introductory piece of knowledge, and that quick response time seems to have helped the position of the human resistance in general.

Finally, there is a under-utilized ethical current in the movie that alludes to issues more cogently addressed by District 9. These aliens, while unrelatable due to their superficial differences, are supposed by one of the characters to be 'grunts just like them', presumably under orders and not personally malicious. This thought gets brushed aside, and in one of the immediately succeeding scenes Nantz begins digging into an alien with his ka-bar to try to determine the best way to eliminate them. Objectively, its a torturous scene of cruelty, and I felt that it is treated as such by the fact that it is the goriest scene in the barely PG-13 flick. The creature is killed, and it gives the marines an edge in the rest of the film, and I think the fact that the scene is unsettling enough to stick out in the mind alludes to the issue--it is easy to compromise one's ethics when expedient benefits can be had by attacking something we don't identify as human. This is a deadly pitfall, one that we fall into when judging other humans, and it's also the great province of good science-fiction.

After all, science-fiction is about applying the problems and concerns of humanity to exotic, technological extremes. The very best in the genre grapples with it in ways that allow us to reverse-engineer the moral qualms into our own lives. Again, this is certainly better handled in District 9, but Battle: LA does make a small stab at that theme as well.

This deserves a mention about acting, too. For an action movie, Battle: LA has a great selection of actors. Their talent likely gets denigrated because they play action-based characters, but they do a great job of playing up the combination of fearful reaction to an incomprehensible threat and being experienced, capable marines. The few civilians are portrayed extremely well by Bridget Moynahan, Michael Peña, and Bryce Cass. Bryce Cass, in particular, impressed me as a really good child actor playing stress, trauma, and uncertainty really well. Another one that shone out was Ramon Rodriguez, who plays an inexperienced Lieutenant Martinez with vitality and charismatic force that reflects the post-modern trope of young, well-educated officer with little battlefield experience grappling with his own command inadequacies--a long way from playing Leo in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Personal enjoyment 'the gravy': Battle: LA delivered on my expectations quite soundly. I wanted something where we weren't arbitrarily fed absolutely-defined pieces of meta knowledge, where the audience is given an experience that is raw and emotionally-charged, and doesn't unrealistically shoe-horn an entire global military campaign into one film. And if the alien invasion method, technology, and logistics seem interesting, that would be great, too.

I find it extremely grating when a sudden alien invasion is effectively understood. In Battle: LA, though there is a degree of certainty about what the aliens are going after once they are on earth, there is still a degree of uncertainty about the ultimate motivations of the invaders that isn't concretely addressed. I like this. The movements of a civilization, especially an alien one, shouldn't ever achieve historical certainty until they are, well, history. Especially in the first half of the movie, the protagonists' uncertainty heightens the first fights with the aliens.

The action-packed, jumbled cinematography of the film resembles that of war films like Blackhawk Down, Band of Brothers, and We Were Soldiers. Some people find it jarring, but I enjoy it as a grounded way of 'describing the elephant' for mass audiences. It's also a way of getting around giving us many close-ups of the aliens, helping to emphasize their mystique as the aliens are never seen directly and at close range. This is a motif of the film that has been criticized and falsely labeled as an accidental fault, but I latched onto it right away as effective and expedient to the theme.

To me, the title of the movie was a pledge that Battle: LA paid off on. The idea of resolving a planetary campaign in a single two-hour film is ludicrous. Even resolving a terrestrial war in that amount of narrative space is absurd. And this movie accepts that. The audience sees a small slice of the initial stages of one piece of the invasion. The plot consists of a key part in the global campaign, and the strides made by the soldiers in the film purchase solid set of tactics for engaging the aliens later on. But this isn't a global perspective, we don't know what the president is doing, or who's fighting to save New York City, and that works for me. Aaron Eckhart's Nantz is interesting and compelling, and if he was reduced to a sarcastic Steven Hiller character, that'd really be to the detriment of the movie.

The alien tech is tactile and enjoyable, too. Evoking crude cyborg methods that might remind you of the Borg of Star Trek, the Strogg of Quake, or other bionic tyrannies of sci-fi, the alien tech feels much more grounded and accessible than your average ray-gun-wielding enemies. Their implant-guns fire some sort of more-or-less conventional bullets, with an incendiary effect that made me think of white-phosphorous, and their big guns shoot missiles rather than lasers. It makes the combat feel more like a near-future incursion and much more real than I think it could if lasers were pew-pew-pewing around the screen.

My two biggest complaints about the movie are faint, small infractions against my suspension of disbelief, and probably irrelevant to most people's sensibilities. The first is Michelle Rodriguez's character, Tech Sergeant Santos. Since the protagonists compose a marine combat unit, none of them are female, but doubtless the desire to feature a fight-capable hottie in every main-stream action flick overrode that consideration. So they include the air force sergeant as a stranded survivor from a communications team that was wiped out in the city and joins up with the unit. This is a plausible, believable way to incorporate an extremely unlikely military character who fills a movie niche. After all, historic military action has involved devastated units forming ad-hoc units beneath ranking field officers from other units or other branches. But at some point, those absorbed soldiers should simply return to their parent units and traditional chain of command. When that doesn't happen in Battle: LA, it is simply because the warrior-woman niche still needs to be filled.

My second complaint is that the movie didn't go for an R rating. I don't have any problem with movies pursuing a given rating for commercial reasons. I understand that an R-rated movie will automatically take in fewer tickets than a similar film rated PG-13. It's an acceptable way to attune a movie to your target demographic. But if I know anything about the MPAA's standards, Battle: LA is literally one F-bomb and a splatter away from an R-rating. Toning down the violence I can understand, even if its kinetic violence evokes a timbre similar to Blackhawk Down, but I have a hard time listening to military dialogue that sounds authentic except for its dearth of coarseness.

A note about me: my father served in the Navy for over two decades, my grandfather was a World War Two marine, my brother serves in the Air Force, and I live and work near a major naval base. I've also done a research paper on the nature of military jargon. And you know what? Servicemen swear. A lot. With delightful creativity, I have found. I appreciate this, though I try not to swear myself, and when I watch a scene in which soldiers are in such stressful situations and they don't fill the air with a blue streak, it pulls me out of the action. I'd much prefer that if a movie is that close to a ratings threshold they'd just jump into an R-rating with both feet.

General enjoyment 'the cheese': This is a movie for fans of science-fiction, certainly, and so I think those who don't consider themselves nerds should be prepared for what kind of movie they are going to see. There are deliberately unresolved questions in the plot, both regarding the aliens and the main characters. I found that my own familiarity with the military helped to elaborate on the movie's plot assumptions. The constant deluge of action is probably about as prohibitive to non-violent audience members as the brief but much more intense intense violence of District 9, but the emotional tenor of the story also feels apt for military melodrama.

I found that, throughout the film, I was pretty constantly plotting out how this setting would be great for a role-playing game or a strategy wargame. To me, that makes for an enjoyable, engrossing experience that draws me into the creative reality of the film, so I'd highly recommend this film to nerds of the gaming variety, as well.

And though some skeptical reviewers have assaulted it, the movie features a neat theme that might appeal to those who enjoy strong family connections in their military stories. There's a couple of tear-jerking moments that fly based on the strength of Eckhart's acting chops. I found them moving, and I know my wife and parents really appreciated it as well.

It's not a perfect movie, but Battle: LA is certainly the best in the under-represented alien invasion sub-genre. Formerly, I enjoyed Independence Day for what it was--a fun us vs Them actioner where Them was a special effect-equipped race of space tyrants. But the aliens and humans were stupid, the ETs lacked a personal presence and threat, and the total perspective of the film--encompassing the entire story of contact, invasion, reaction, and repulsion--seems a bit contrived. But not Battle: LA, it does what it sets out to do with enthusiasm and thorough research, accomplishing a grounded, gritty feel that at its best moments feels like an alien-war documentary.

So, it might be too late to see it in theaters near you, but if it pops up in a second-run theater or at least when it comes out on DVD, I suggest you ignore the anti-hype and strongly consider watching this refreshing sci-fi action epic.

Next, I'll do a spoiler-filled breakdown of the movie, dissecting the shallow, short-sighted, and just plain bad reviews of the movie that have surfaced as precipitants of poor critical literacy regarding popular media today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dumbasscience: Flying Cars Part 4

Dumbasscience: Science is not always smart. Oh no sir-ree-Bob. Sometimes it is just plain stupid. That's okay, I won't judge. I'll just point it out and mock it mercilessly. These articles will contain rants from history and breaking news where scientists are pursuing through-and-through bad ideas. From the 'flying your car to work' pipe-dream, to various plans of how to forcibly reverse global warming, if it's technological and perilous to rationalists, it's Dumbasscience.

Last time in Dumbasscience, I dissected just a handful of the myriad safety issues with the concept of the flying car. In this, the last installment of the Flying Cars series of Dumbasscience, I will address a few more issues with safety and expound upon the fabulously Verhoeven level of violence that would need to be employed in Sky America's law enforcement.

Think back to the last time you were on the road for a long period of time. For a road trip, perhaps. Think of all the crappy cars you saw--plastic-wrap for a driver's side window, duct-tape holding the mirror in place, a spare tire for both front wheels, and string suspiciously fastened to the windshield-wipers. Pathetic, but not too frightening at anything but the fastest and busiest interstate highways. Now put that a couple thousand feet above the ground and moving four hundred miles per hour. Suddenly that wiggling hood stops being comical and becomes a potential air-to-ground missile.

Even today, when airplanes are relatively rare compared to cars, and its operators are appropriately moderated by expense and licensing designed to keep pilots and plane owners in an extreme minority, aircraft maintenance is becoming more of a concern. Think about all the clamour in the airline industry today because some commercial companies--who employ full-time, dedicated mechanics--aren't keeping their fleets in pristine condition. Imagine if every pickup-owner out there suddenly became responsible for the use, care, and maintenance of a flying car.

Yeah, it ain't pretty.

Or imagine the number of road-rage and alcohol-related incidents that will occur a mile high going at two-thirds the speed of sound. When everyone has their own personal conveyance waiting to be converted into a missile, sobriety will become a major issue. This is doubly true when you consider that buzzed flyers won't have the shoulder of a road or median rumble-strips to shock them into realizing they are too drunk to fly. Much like our contemporary heart attack commercials, the first symptom will be colliding with a strip club at the kinetic energy of a stinger missile.

"Suddenly that wiggling hood stops being comical and becomes a potential air-to-ground missile."

And forget about those dueling ruge you see trying to pass each other on the highway, exchanging lewd sign language and snapping their Hondas around some poor soccer mom in a Chevy. In Sky America, the number one 'sky rage' expression will be using your radar to follow a person home and then buzz their house, Maverick-and-Goose-style.

Then there's law enforcement. With how much damage any flying car could cause, you'd need to enforce strict limits. The most obvious limit would be altitude. Since collateral damage worsens with height, you'd probably have progressive altitude levels become the slow-middle-fast lanes of the future, with a very low ceiling relative to the cars' capability. I mean, you don't want to worry about drivers flying too high and losing cabin pressure, sending them screaming to the earth at hundreds of miles per hour while clawing at the black eels beneath their eyelids, right?

So the highest civilian level becomes the fast lane, except there's no curb, so you know there'd be all sorts of butt-burgers illegally passing in the restricted height zone. This problem would tend to escalate, especially with the road-raging d-bags who populate the traffic arteries marrying Illinois and Wisconsin. The sky-cops of tomorrow, of course, would have different technologies for different infraction levels, with progressive responses. Maybe at the first increment they tap into your Blezinsky's radio and give you a stern warning, Demolition Man-intoned, to go back down to civilian altitudes.

At some point, though, the sky-cops are going to take off the kid gloves and rev up Cautionary Tale, the Skyway Patrol's answer to all unsolvable questions. Cautionary Tale is a lightweight mini-gun with explosive tracer rounds and an integral laser-based range-finder. When the SP determines you've reached your limit of warnings, they use Cautionary Tale to vulcanize you, your ride, and your legacy in a hail of 1,000 exploding shells per second. You and your reckless driving ways are converted into a mist of blood, motor oil, and vaporized metal that drizzles down onto the law-abiding traffic-bound flyers below.

A math break. This is the future. There are, say, 500 million future Americans living in the sky-high utopia of the future. We'll say one in one thousand is a sky-douche and does something grossly illegal with their flying car in a year. That means that nearly 1400 acts of high-flying stupidity occur every day in Sky-America, or nearly one a minute.

When you look at the spread of fine particulates at high altitudes, that means that the mist of pulped offenders will affect more than enough drivers below and with enough frequency that we will inevitably develop a slang term for it. 'Red mist' is a little too on the nose, so I'll guess our future term for it will be 'legal precipitation'. I'm sure that even for the massively de-sensitized Sky-Americans of tomorrow, after the first dozen or so times you have to clean the 'legal precipitation' off your Blezinsky's windshield, you start to miss the good old days of wheel-based locomotion.

So be a man and say no to flying cars. They're cool, empowering, and generally improve every science-fiction setting's mass appeal, but they're just too much for the average joe, thank you very much.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Alan Rickman

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Alan Rickman: Frakking with your Genres

Movie: Galaxy Quest (Own it)

Alan Rickman, as Sir Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus, provides a great level of depth in Galaxy Quest, both in terms of dramatic reality and tremendous comedic timing. Early on in the movie, Rickman's character embodies the bitterest ennui amongst the principal characters, playing a rather self-possessed brit that can't escape the cheesy embarrassment that represents his greatest fame. As the movie progresses and the characters have to live the reality of their roles, he gives a ton of comedic fodder as he is forced to represent an alien and the second-in-command of the crew. But for me the greatest moment in the whole comedy comes in a tear-jerky moment that gives me nerdlies every single time. Read below the picture to get a description of the slightly spoilerific moment.

Shortly after meeting the alien crew, Alexander Dane meets an extraterrestrial fanboy named Quellek who--like all of the pimply earth counterparts we see in the opening scenes--loves to quote Dr. Lazarus' over-done catch-phrase pledge. Dane rebuffs the fan's enthusiasm, and there's just a bit of sensitive shock in the alien's reaction as his hero rudely brushes him off. Towards the climax of the film, Quellek is fatally shot by one of the lobster-goons of the antagonist. While the youthful xeno dies recounting adulation for his idol, the jaded actor utters the hackneyed line as a solemn, tearful pledge to put aside his British ways and kick some crustacean keester. Charging out into the corridor, he body-slams the assassin, proving to the timid alien fans that gadgets and technology are useless without the courage to use them.

It's a fabulous scene that proves that this comedy has heart, and it really flies true thanks to Alan Rickman's grounded performance.

Movie: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Own it)

Robin Hood has been adapted and re-hashed time and time again, and up until 1991, most of those versions had settled into a reasonable number of predictable interpretations. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves assaulted most of those staid concepts in a dark alley, and Alan Rickman really leant his support to it. Stepping into the villain's role as the Sheriff of Nottingham, this medieval baddie is at once humorous, but--unlike the previous Hood foes--he maintains a vicious sort of menace throughout the film. From murdering his own cousin, to personally and somewhat-charismatically taking part in his dungeon's torture regimen, Rickman's Sheriff is unique, despicably fun, and has just enough wherewithal to be threatening while seeming evenly matched with his enemies. At the climax of the movie, he retreads the classic villain path to glory by trying to force himself on the protagonist's woman, and when the hero interrupts, Rickman is pitch-perfect with the line:

Oooh, slimy. His delivery for that line is so great, so vile, and so casual in its dry wit, that the audience is imbued with a fresh desire to see the villain stabbed. And it makes the entire film all the better for it, and intensely unique from the stale old interpretations of Robin Hood that have gone before it.

Movie: Die Hard (Own it)

Ah, Die Hard. The action movie that almost single-handedly ushered in the genre-shift of the 90's action movie. A movie with classic lines, a more humble, balding, and less put-together hero than before, and bad-guys that were defined--in the movie, at least--as being smart, professional, and organized. And at the head of it all is Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman's savvy international man-of-bank-robbing-means. Previously, your average 80s villain tended to be a drug-dealing buffoon surrounded by crazed idiots on a bender with guns, or they were some kind of pseudo-military organization that spoofed a communist or guerilla force from the real world. Hans, by contrast, is personable and eloquent, with a group of more-than-competent specialist bad guys at his command.

Now, as a bad guy, Hans seems almost too put-together to be defeated by your average good guy. Or so it would seem. But in Die Hard the universal constant is that John McClane is not an average good guy. Average good guys in this movie's reality are either good-natured-but-largely-ineffectual underlings, or posturing bureaucrats who allegedly call the shots. That's one of the main conceits of the first movie, as Hans happily proclaims that his entire master plan hinged on the FBI's predictable response.

In a movie series defined by outrageously memorable lines, Rickman has a vast majority of the great ones that deadpan amidst the potpourri of explosions, blood, and expletives. It's a welcome spice, and based on its success, it's no surprise that the themes of elegantly organized bad guys opposed by inept bureaucrats with a rogue hero in the middle had become the order of the day for action movies for at least a decade.

Alan Rickman. In your genres, messing them up. Making them better.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.