Category Archives: Movies

Preview: The Great Superhero Movie Project

[EDIT: The Great Superhero Movie Project now has its own page. You may leave movie suggestions and/or comments here or there.]

Mystery Men
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I’ve gotten some interesting feedback (both in the comments here and on Twitter) regarding my Top Ten Superhero Movies Since the Dawn of Time lists. Some folks agree with me, some don’t, but the question I hear most often usually begins with words along these lines: “Hey, you forgot about…”

And I did. The first time around, I definitely snubbed Mystery Men; after the second iteration The Kingfish wondered where (or if) Hancock placed on the list, David Mead asked about Darkman and Rachel “Nycteris” Ross brought up Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

I Have a Plan

I’m not one to leave a stone unturned—whether that stone was bitten by radioactive bats, sent to Earth by a race of alien vampires or just found some sexy tights and decided to start kicking people in the face—so I’ve come up with a plan to turn all the stones in one fell swoop.

Okay, two fell swoops.

The First Swoop: My Job – Two Lists

First, I’m going to make two lists: every superhero movie I’ve ever seen and superhero movies I know about but haven’t seen.

The Second Swoop: Your Job – The Third List

Second, I want you to submit movies that I’ve overlooked. Yes, you. If you’re reading this and you’re aware of a superhero movie that is not on either of my lists, I want you to comment here and tell me about it. I’ll add all of these to my third list: superhero movies I didn’t know (or forgot) existed.

The Third Swoop: My Job – Watch, Rate, Review

Oh, wait, there’s a third fell swoop: I’m going to watch every one of the movies on all three lists. If I haven’t seen the movie in the past two years, I’m going to watch or re-watch it and then I’m going to write a review (unless I’ve already written one, in which case I may tweak an existing review).

Sound like fun? Sound like a lot of work? It might be, but let me set up some guidelines here so we don’t get all crazy-go-nuts with the lists. Pay attention.

What is a Superhero Movie?

  • The “movie” part of the definition is easy: All movies, whether they were theatrical releases, straight to DVD or even made for television; if it’s a movie, it gets on the list. Note that movies made as pilots for or as direct spinoffs of a television series don’t count, so The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno is not eligible, ((This includes The Incredible Hulk Returns, The Trial of The Incredible Hulk and The Death of the Incredible Hulk, movies that were made after the series was cancelled. Don’t worry, these will all be eligible for a future list: The Best Television Superheroes in the History of Televising Superheroics.)) but Captain America II: Death Too Soon starring Reb Brown and Christopher Lee is.
  • The tricky bit of the definition is “superhero”, as I’ve already been asked whether Transformers is a superhero movie (it’s not) and if Hellboy should count (it does). I can’t exactly pin the energon cube on why Transformers doesn’t qualify; it just doesn’t. Comic book movie, yes; superhero movie, no. ((I’ll do a separate Comic Book Movie list later, so all you 300 fangirls can nominate your favorite computer-enhanced pectoral muscles.)) I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ll decide whether a movie qualifies as superheroic or not. If you’re not sure, nominate it and if I reject it I’ll do my best to tell you why.
  • Superheroes do not need to be in or come from comic books to be eligible. The Incredibles is a great example of an original superhero movie that was not a comic book first. Black Scorpion is also an example, though under no circumstances should the word “great” be associated with it.
  • Oh, and movie serials aren’t elibigle. They’re just not.
  • If in doubt, nominate.

The First List – Superhero Movies I’ve Seen

  1. Batman: The Movie (1966)
  2. Batman (1989)
  3. Batman Returns (1992)
  4. Batman Forever (1995)
  5. Batman & Robin (1997)
  6. Batman Begins (2005)
  7. The Dark Knight (2008)
  8. Black Scorpion (1995)
  9. Captain America (1979)
  10. Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
  11. Captain America (1990)
  12. Catwoman (2004)
  13. Daredevil (2003)
  14. Darkman (1992)
  15. Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1994)
  16. Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996)
  17. Doctor Strange (Animated, 2007)
  18. Elektra (2005)
  19. Fantastic Four (2005)
  20. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
  21. Ghost Rider (2007)
  22. Hellboy (2004)
  23. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
  24. Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (2006) [Added 19 July 2008]
  25. Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron (2007) [Added 19 July 2008]
  26. Hulk (2003)
  27. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  28. The Incredibles (Animated, 2004)
  29. The Invincible Iron Man (Animated, 2007)
  30. Iron Man (2008)
  31. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) [Added 18 July 2008]
  32. Lightspeed (2006)
  33. Mystery Men (1999)
  34. The Phantom (1996)
  35. The Punisher (1989)
  36. The Punisher (2004)
  37. The Shadow (1994)
  38. Spider-Man (2002)
  39. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  40. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
  41. Superman (1978)
  42. Superman II (1980)
  43. Superman III (1983)
  44. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
  45. Superman Returns (2006)
  46. Superman: Doomsday (2008) [Added 19 July 2008]
  47. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
  48. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
  49. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (1993)
  50. TMNT (2007)
  51. Ultimate Avengers (Animated, 2006)
  52. Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (Animated, 2006)
  53. Unbreakable (2000)
  54. X-Men (2000)
  55. X2: X-Men United (2003)
  56. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Okay, that’s a lot of movies, many of which I haven’t watched in well over two years. Some of them, like the 1994 never-released version of The Fantastic Four, will be a bit tricky to track down, but I’ll do my best. For science!

The Second List – Superhero Movies I Haven’t Seen

  1. Black Mask (1996)
  2. Black Mask 2: City of Masks (2002)
  3. Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (1997)
  4. Blankman (1994) [Added 19 July 2008]
  5. Dr. Strange (1978)
  6. Fantastic Four (1994)
  7. Hancock (2008)
  8. The Meteor Man (1993) [Added 19 July 2008]
  9. Silver Hawk (2004)
  10. Steel (1997)
  11. Underdog (2007)

That’s a short list. Much shorter than I anticipated. It may get even shorter if I decide to disqualify Black Mask and Silver Hawk in order to prevent a deluge of martial arts movies masquerading as superhero movies. A guy has to set limits somewhere, right?

The Third List – The Ones I Don’t Know About

Now it’s your turn: if you know of a superhero movie I missed, please leave a comment and nominate it!

Summer Movies: Hulking Dark Man-Boy Knights of Incredible Iron

Iron Man
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I have now seen all ((Oops! Forgot about Hancock, starring The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sorry, Will!)) of this summer’s slate of superhero movies. I’ll do a more in-depth write up shortly, but for those wondering whether The Dark Knight managed to unseat Iron Man from the number one position on my list of the Top Superhero Movies of Forever and Ever, Amen, the short answer is no.

The slightly longer answer is: not by a long shot.

The Dark Knight is not a bad movie—I gave it a solid 7 out of 10 stars—but it’s note a great movie, either. I’ll be posting a full review in the next couple of days, so let’s get back to the list.

Though Iron Man remains safely (for now; Watchmen is coming and the trailer is absolutely stunning) in the top spot, the summer blockbusters have shaken things up a bit in the middle and lower ranks.

Without going into excruciating detail, here are The Ten Superhero Movies (Summer 2008 Edition):

  1. Iron Man
  2. Hellboy
  3. Batman Begins
  4. X2: X-Men United
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. X-Men
  7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  8. The Incredible Hulk
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Spider-Man

Something feels a bit off about the middle of this list; I may have to tweak it a bit once I’ve written reviews of The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Spice World: The Many Versions of Frank Herbert’s Dune

Audio Renaissance presents Frank Herbert's DuneI’ve been a little Dune-crazy over the past couple of weeks. It all started when I stumbled across the Audio Renaissance production of Dune on CD at the local library. Several weeks of 15-minute (and occasionally longer) chunks of audio later I finished the 18-CD production. I followed that with the 1984 film version directed by David Lynch and starring Kyle MacLa…McLach…Maclach…Jürgen Prochnow. Two hours and seventeen minutes later, ((This is the theatrical running time of Lynch’s version. An “extended version” edited for television adds another 30 minutes, but I decided to stick with the original this time.)) I started watching the miniseries produced by the SciFi Channel in 2000.

That’s a lot of sand.

In fact, it’s just under twenty-nine hours of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, the weirding way, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, CHOAM, Fremen, carryalls, Shai-Hulud, Paul Muad’Dib and above all, the spice melange. If you add the time I spent poring through the Dune Wiki, I’m sure my total time invested in matters relating to the desert planet Arrakis is well over thirty hours.

Oops, almost forgot: I installed Emperor: Battle for Dune on my PC, too. Might as well tack on another two or three hours of playtime (so far) to that total.

So, how do the various iterations of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction masterpiece measure up against one another?

Frank Herbert's DuneLet’s start with the book: I’ve never finished it. Like Stephen King’s The Stand, the first volume of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and The Bible, ((NIV Study Version)) Dune is a book that I’ve started multiple times but have never managed to finish. In fact, I’ve got all six of Herbert’s original Dune novels in paperback but I’ve only ever read the first half of the first volume. I consider this an abyssmal failure on my part and it almost certainly reveals a fatal character flaw.

Fortunately, I’m of the opinion that listening to the unabridged audio version of a novel counts as reading it ((That assertion is certainly up for debate, but I already know which way I’ll cast my vote should the issue ever appear on the ballot, and there’s little anyone can say to sway me.)) and, as far as I can tell, the Audio Renaissance production is unabridged. Double-fortunately, Audio Renaissance has completed audio versions of at least three of Herbert’s original Dune novels and I’m told by very reliable sources ((The Internet.)) that the ultimate goal is to produce the entire series in audio format.

The Audio Renaissance production is twenty-two hours long, narrated by Scott Brick and features voice actors in many of the major roles. Unfortunately, the narrative switches back and forth at seemingly random intervals between the full cast and a solo performance by Brick. This was very distracting at first, but I was eventually able to ignore the transitions.

Dune (1984)My first exposure to Dune was David Lynch’s 1984 film, though I can’t remember exactly when I first saw it. Lynch, true to form, brings his twisted vision to the story of the desert planet, especially when it comes to the treacherous House Harkonnen. The bloated Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s crippling disease takes on new dimensions under Lynch’s eye, as do his depraved appetites. Unfortunately, Lynch takes the wind out of Harkonnen’s nephew, Feyd-Rautha (memorably portrayed by a very buff Sting), omitting the na-Baron’s schemes to kill his uncle and seize control of the Great House.

Lynch also introduces “weirding modules”, new technology being used by House Atreides to create a secret army. This threat to the Emperor leads to another variation in Lynch’s story: a conspiracy between the Spacing Guild (who control all interplanetary commerce and travel) and the Emperor himself in which the Guild orders the Emperor to have Paul Atreides killed.

Despite the fact that Lynch’s Dune makes significant changes to Herbert’s original story, is chock full of clumsy exposition (mostly in the form of multiple voiceovers) and was a critical and commercial failure, the movie is really quite enjoyable, and its distinct visual style is so closely associated with the Dune universe that it was adopted by both Cryo Interactive and Westwood Studios for most of the Dune video games they produced. ((Cryo Interactive released the RTS Dune in 1992. Westwood Studios released a series of real-time simulation games: Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty—also known as Dune II: Battle for Arrakis—in 1992, Dune 2000 in 1998 and Emperor: Battle for Dune in 2001. Only Cryo Interactive’s 2001 3D action game, Frank Herbert’s Dune borrowed the visual style from another source: The SciFi Channel’s miniseries.))

Dune (2000)The SciFi Channel miniseries was written and directed by John Harrison and featured a largely unknown cast, with the primary exception being William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides; Hurt was a big enough star that he got his name before the title: William Hurt in Frank Herbert’s Dune. I thought Hurt came across a little flat in his portrayal of the Duke, but I was pleased with most of the other performances, if not always with how the characters were written. Paul Atreides, for example comes across as a whiny, spoiled rich kid—with a haircut bad enough to rival Luke Skywalker’s disastrous coiff in the first Star Wars film—at the outset of the series, which (with the possible exception of the haircut) is not at all true to the novel.

From the design of the stillsuits and other costumes to the color of the spice itself, ((The Dune Wiki describes the spice melange as a “reddish-brown powder”, though I’m not sure whether that description originates in the novels or in Lynch’s film. The SciFi Channel miniseries depicts the spice as a green powder.)) the SciFi miniseries clearly wanted no visual resemblance to the 1984 movie. Usually, this worked very well, but some of the costumes (in particular the odd dorsal decoration on Feyd-Rautha’s jacket) verged on outlandish. I had a hard time taking the Sardaukar—the Emperor’s elite soldiers—seriously when they were all wearing large, floppy tam o’shanters; they looked like a squadron of goth Darby O’Gills wielding miniguns.

Storywise, I felt that the miniseries stayed fairly true to source material; certainly more so than did Lynch’s version. There were a number of unfortunate omissions, including the Atreides Mentat Thufir Hawat’s fate following the Harkonnen invasion of Arrakis, and the role of the Harkonnen’s twisted Mentat, Piter de Vries, was made all but insignificant, ((Brad Dourif was both creepy and funny as Piter in Lynch’s version, but he consistently mispronounced “landsraad”. On the other hand, he did recite the Mentat’s mantra, “It is by will alone I put my mind in motion…” which was excluded from the SciFi version, so I forgive him.)) but certainly the expanded format allowed for more of the original story to be preserved, especially in the Director’s Cut.

The Lynch version, on the other hand, is more fun to watch. It may not be the best choice to introduce the unitiatiated to Frank Herbert’s universe (Duniverse?), but the sheer, overblown, cheesy spectacle of the thing is enjoyable in and of itself.

Soon, there will be yet another version to add to the already expansive list. Peter Berg, director of The Rundown and the Will Smith reluctant-superhero movie, Hancock, is helming yet another film adaptation of Herbert’s novel. As of this writing, the details about this new version are scarce: only that Berg is directing and the film will likely be released sometime in 2010.

With just about any other novel I would probably say one adaptation is enough, but Dune is a special beast and I’m looking forward to yet another take on the universe. I’m interested to see what the stillsuits and the spice harvesters and the Guild heighliners will look like and whether they’ll finally cast someone who at least looks the right age (fifteen, at the start of the novel, eighteen or nineteen at the end) as Paul Atreides. And then there’s the matter of Chani, the Fremen woman who becomes Paul’s concubine. In 1984, she was played by Sean Young; in 2000 she was played by Czech actress Barbora Kodetová who is at the very least eleven times hotter than Sean Young (no slouch herself in the hotness department). I am interested to see if this elevation of relative hotness can continue. Very interested, indeed.

Bring it, Peter Berg. Show me what you can do. The spice must flow.

On DVD: Black Water

Why wasn’t I told about Black Water? Why did I have to stumble across it in the local video store? I need to know these things. Don’t you understand? I need to know.

Black Water
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“Inspired by true events”? That tears it: I’m never going swimming again.

And what’s with all the crocodile movies coming out of Australia all of a sudden? ((See also: Rogue.)) Shouldn’t they be making movies about marsupials?

Oh, wait. Never mind.

Top Ten Superhero Movies (Spring 2008 Edition)

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a blog! It’s an ordered list! It’s the Top Ten Superhero Movies as ranked by me!

Batman: The Movie (1966)10. Batman: The Movie (1966). The Dark Knight makes three separate appearances on this list and this is arguably the least dark of his incarnations; in fact, I’ve previously referred to the relative darkness of the Adam West version of Gotham’s nocturnal vigilante ((Actually, Adam West and Burt Ward do most of their crimefighting in broad daylight.)) as “a skim milk vanilla latté with a shot of raspberry syrup”. Batman: The Movie is classic, campy fun that still makes me chuckle, ((“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”)) but this movie proves that superheroes don’t have to be dark and gritty to be enjoyable.
Superman: The Movie (1978)

9. Superman: The Movie (1978). Superman movies trouble me. Christopher Reeve was a fantastic Man of Steel, ((Brandon Routh did a find job of imitating Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns, but that was just about the only thing worthwhile in the entire movie.)) but I’ve never really been a fan of the “funny” Lex Luthor. Why pit the most powerful man on the planet against a clown with delusions of grandeur? How about a villain who actually has a menacing presence on the screen? ((Sorry, Nuclear Man, you’re about as menacing as Gunther Gebel-Williams with a head cold.))

Most people I know would probably rank Superman II higher than the original, what with Terence Stamp and all that business about kneeling before Zod. In truth, the first two movies kind of blend together for me and I don’t really consider them separate entities.
Batman (1989)

8. Batman (1989). The first movie I ever stood in line for on opening day, Tim Burton’s Batman pretty much revived the superhero genre. Michael Keaton was surprisingly good in the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but it is Jack Nicholson who stole the show as the maniacal Joker. Unfortunately, this set a bad precedent for bringing in big-name actors to portray the villains and The Shumachery that followed damn near marched the genre off a cliff in a rubber-nippled batsuit.

Spider-Man (2002)

7. Spider-Man (2002). All hail Sam Raimi for bringing the web-slinger to the big screen! Now please, stop making superhero movies. Though Spider-Man 2 had a better villain and better action sequences, the overabundance of whining and preaching knocks it down several pegs in terms of sheer enjoyment. We will not speak of Spider-Man 3. Is that understood? We will not speak of it.

The Incredibles (2004)

6. The Incredibles (2004). Here’s a special beast: a well-made superhero movie that was not adapted from a comic book. Actually, The Incredibles has roots in a whole slew of comic books, especially Fantastic Four (the movie adaptation of which only wishes it could be The Incredibles). For sheer imaginitive use of superpowers, no movie has yet matched this one.

X-Men (2000)

5. X-Men (2000). In 1997, Joel Schumacher drove what I thought might be the final nail into the coffin of not only the Batman movie franchise, but into the entire superhero movie genre. Then along game Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart to revive it. Sure, Halle Berry, James Marsden and a bunch of other folks were along for the ride, but let’s face it, X-Men fans only cared about two things: getting Captain Jean-Luc Picard into Professor Xavier’s wheelchair and finding the right guy to wield Logan’s adamantium potato peelers. Ian McKellan as Magneto was icing on the cake. As for the other X-Mean…yeah, whatever, we got Patrick Stewart, baby!

Unfortunately, Bryan Singer went on to murderize Superman Returns while Brett Ratner came in to do the same to X-Men: The Last Stand.

X2: X-Men United (2003)4. X2: X-Men United (2003). Why does the sequel rank higher than the original? Two reasons: Brian Cox and BAMF! Brian Cox plays an excellent bad guy; the perfect antagonist to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. ‘Nuff said on that. Now on to the other thing: Nightcrawler’s teleportation attack on the White House was simply stunning. I spent the following five minutes trying to reattach my lower jaw and to this day I’m still not sure what happened immediately after that scene.
Batman Begins (2005)

3. Batman Begins (2005). Holy franchise resurrection, Batman! Director Christopher Nolan rolled the stone away from the tomb and we found that George Clooney was gone—replaced with the American Psycho himself, Christian Bale. The retelling of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the Dark Knight Detective is the grittiest silver screen version of the Batman to date, and the Gotham-under-siege storyline lays a solid foundation for a resuscitated series.

Hellboy (2004)2. Hellboy (2004). How much do I love this movie? Let me put it this way: I wish I had not one but two wombs so I could have both Guillermo del Toro’s and Ron Perlman’s babies. That is all.
Iron Man (2008)

1. Iron Man (2008). The latest is, indeed, the greatest. Jon Favreau is clearly an Iron Man fan, because he got everything right: casting, story, special effects, pacing, beards; it’s all brilliant. Iron Man is the first movie I’ve seen in quite a while that had me wanting to stay in the theater and watch it again after the end credits had rolled. Speaking of end credits, if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet (and you should), be sure to stick around for an extra piece of geekery after they roll.

As the self-appointed Arbiter of Superhero Movie Worthiness, I declare that this list is truth absolute ((Until my whim changes and I update it.)) and its accuracy is above question. However, if you should wish to offer your opinions on the topic—whether they rightly align with my own or not—you are encouraged to do so in the comments.

Coming Soon: Rogue

Rogue
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How this managed to escape my attention is beyond me, but thanks to the ever-watchful David Mead my eye is now upon it.

Rogue is not the latest spinoff from the X-Men franchise (sorry, Anna Paquin), but rather the tale of some hapless tourists lost in the wetlands of Australia. You know, where the hungry, hungry crocodiles live.

Chompity-chomp-chomp!

There’s no trailer available yet, but with a release date of 25 April, the folks over at The Weinstein Company had best shake a scaly tail and give me a thirty second montage of quick cuts, snapping jaws and plenty of screaming.

EDIT: I’ve found two different trailers online. One is the very thirty second montage I was looking for, with very little dialog but plenty of quick shots and shrieking. The other is a couple of minutes long and goes on about unnecessary things like premise and plot. Bo-ring.

Moviestuff: Crocs and Gators

My love of monster movies is well established, but giant alligators and crocodiles occupy a special place in my—well, not heart, but certainly the reptilian center of my cinematic brain. Even more so than sharks, snakes and spiders (the latter of which creep me right the hell out, regardless of size) I enjoy movies that feature ridiculously huge crocodilians running rampant and treating the human race like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

But, you might be thinking, how many such films can there possibly be?

More than you might expect. The hastily-compiled list below contains a dozen of the finest man-eating reptile films from the past two and a half decades or so. I’ve seen nine of the twelve films and I hope to find and watch both Killer Crocodile, Killer Crocodile II and Krocodylus in the next couple of months. Yeah, I’m a bit of a completionist.

  • Alligator (1980). It’s not really fair to say that Alligator followed hot on the heels of the grandfather of all When Animals Attack movies, Jaws; in fact, this first true star of the sub-genre arrived between Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D. Where Jaws made viewers afraid to go into the water, Alligator (starring none other than Robert Forster) was a cautionary tale about flushing unwanted pets down the toilet. The beastie survives to become a crocodilian of unusual size by munching on hormonally-modified critters discarded by Science. As usual, when Science makes a mess, it’s up to the Robert Forsters of the world to play God’s janitor.
  • Killer Crocodile (1989). Alas, I’ve not seen Killer Crocodile, but it stars Richard Crenna’s son, Richard (Anthony) Crenna, so how bad could it be?
  • Killer Crocodile II (1990). The sequel, also starring Anthony Crenna, was shot back-to-back with the original, inspiring Peter Jackson to do the same when he shot the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Alligator II: The Mutation (1991). Is eleven years too long to wait for a sequel? Maybe not if you’re an Indiana Jones fan; they’ve been waiting 19 years, but at least they get their leading man back. Not so for Alligator fans. Robert Forster does not reprise his gator-asploding role in The Mutation, instead it’s up to Joseph Bologna to kill the rampaging reptile. Is eleven years too long to wait for a sequel? When it’s as bad as Alligator II, absolutely.
  • Lake Placid (Amazon.com)Lake Placid (1999). Written by David E. Kelley (who created Ally McBeal and co-created Doogie Howser, M.D. with Steven Bochco) Lake Placid resurrected the giant crocodilian sub-genre, and just in time. Lake Placid is funny, ((Betty White (The Golden Girls) drops the f-bomb. That’s funny stuff, right there. Crass? Exploitative? Sure. But hilarious.)) scary, has several jump-out-of-your-seat moments, and doesn’t skimp on the special effects. Easily my favorite killer croc flick.
  • Krocodylus (2000). Also known as Blood Surf, this one apparently features double trouble: sharks and a giant saltwater crocodile. Sounds like Deep Blue Sea meets Lake Placid, but probably isn’t. Too bad.
  • Crocodile (2000). Okay, kids, I’m only going to say this once: do not steal the crocodile eggs. Got it? Good.
  • Crocodile 2: Death Roll (2002). When Martin Kove (Hard Time on Planet Earth, The Karate Kid) is the only person you recognize in a SciFi Saturday monsterfest, you’re not all that far from the bottom of the barrel. I don’t remember much about Crocodile 2, apart from a scene in which Kove and his bad guy buddies are eaten one by one at a pole shack in the middle of a swamp. Then again, what else do you really need to remember about a giant crocodile movie?
  • Dinocroc (2004). Science has yet to learn that messing around with prehistoric DNA and recreating giant, carnivorous critters is an inherently bad idea. The men and women in the white lab coats always seem surprised when their bloodthirsty creations are aggressive and hungry and strong (or clever) enough to escape. On the other hand, scientists are great appetizers. Alas, while Dinocroc borrowed the basic plot from Jurassic Park, the SciFi Channel appears to have been borrowed the special effects budget from The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends.
  • Supergator (2007). Science strikes again! This time, it’s Kelly McGillis in the lab coat and Brad Johnson (no relation) cleaning up the mess. Supergator is a sequel to Dinocroc in everything but name: same plot, same monster, same bad special effects.
  • Lake Placid 2 (2007). Brought to you by the SciFi Channel—the same folks who unleashed Mansquito and Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy on the world—the sequel lacks everything that made the original so entertaining. Standing in for the cantankerous, foul-mouthed Betty White is Frau Blücker herself, Cloris Leachman, who plays Betty’s crazy sister. Meanwhile, John Schneider (AKA Bo Duke, or Pa Kent for you young’uns) is the sheriff who must save his daughter and her friends (not all of them, mind you) from the giant crocs Cloris has been feeding in her backyard.
  • Primeval (Amazon.com)Primeval (2007). Inspired by actual events. That’s not the same thing as “based on a true story”, but it’s interesting to note that Gustave, the giant crocodile depicted in the film, really exists and is thought to be responsible for upwards of three hundred deaths on the banks of the Ruzizi River in Burundi, Africa. Primeval comes in a very close second on my list of top croc (and gator) movies. It’s not as funny as Lake Placid, but it’s beautifully shot, has some very nice special effects—Gustave is entirely computer-generated according to the “making of” feature on the DVD—and provides an interesting perspective on the origin of the beast. My major gripe: the girl goes back for the dog. Why do they always go back for the damn dog?

We’re Watching (The Secret Lair Episode 0003)

If you’re the sort who appreciates post-modern zoetropic presentations, it may be of interest to you that the fellows over at The Secret Lair have made the third episode of their pod-cast programme available for your enjoyment. There is some discussion of the feature films Next (starring Nicolas Cage, Jessica Biel and Julianne Moore) and Dragon Wars (starring Robert Forster and…no one else of whom you’ve likely heard), both of which have been encoded and are available on Digital Versatile Disc. I’m told that this technology—much like the Marconi radiotelegraph—allows for the enjoyment of a virtual theatre in the comfort of one’s own parlor.

Moviestuff: Indy 4 gets a title

SCI FI Wire has a blurb about Shia LeBeouf announcing the title of the new Indiana Jones movie at the MTV Video Music Awards last night.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sure, it’s got a pulpy, movie serial feel to it, but hasn’t Harrison Ford already done crystal skulls? Well, no. But yes. Sort of.

Star Wars fans may recognize the cover of Han Solo and the Lost Legacy by the late, great Brian Daley, published way back in 1980.

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy
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As long as I’m on the topic of Star Wars, I may as well invoke that old familiar quote: I’ve got a bad feeling about this. But I’ll be thrilled if Lucas, Spielberg and Ford prove me wrong.

Movie Preview: The Last Legion

The Last Legion

“Oh!” Laura said as the trailer for The Last Legion came on halfway through another Thursday night rerun of CSI. “Watch this!” I was a little surprised that she’d be interested in yet another retelling of the Arthurian legendActually, it’s pre-Arthurian legend. The Last Legion, based on the novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, apparently tells the origin story of the sword Excalibur in the last days of the Roman Empire., but three quick flashes revealed the source of her excitement: Colin Firth.

It’s an interesting change for Mr. Firth, who is often seen in period pieces of an entirely different nature (Pride & Prejudice) or in romantic comedies (Love Actually); the closest he’s come to an action role that I’ve seen is kicking Hugh Grant’s ass in Bridget Jones’ Diary.

“He should be a bigger star than he is,” Laura says. I tend to agree, but in my case it’s not because the sight of him makes me weak in the knees; he’s just a damn fine actor and it’ll be good to see how he does in a more rough-and-tumble role for a change. Plus, I’m a sucker for movies that explore Arthurian legend. The only one in recent memory that I haven’t seen is First Knight, and only because The Connery Factor wasn’t quite enough to overcome The Gere Factor.

The Last Legion opens on Friday, 17 August, and I suspect Laura will soon be making arrangements for a sitter.