Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Alien" (1979/2003) - Alien Anthology, Disc 1

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt and Ian Holmes
Written by Dan O'Bannon
Directed by Ridley Scott

"In space, no one can hear you scream."

Ridley Scott's "Alien" has been called a classic, garnering numerous awards and praises since its release in 1979.  Sharply written, and excellently directed, "Alien" is more than its simple premise might imply.  Other films had been made with similar ideas, but never in such a mature, frightening fashion.

The crew of the star ship Nostromo is awakened early from their cryogenic sleep to find that they are nowhere near Earth as they'd expected.  Instead, the ship's computer has woken them after it received some kind of signal from a nearby planet.  The crew, contract workers for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, set down on the planet to investigate and find a derelict alien vessel.  In the lower levels, one of the ship's crew, Kane (John Hurt) discovers strange alien eggs which seem to contain some kind of life form.  One of the eggs opens, and a creature attaches itself to Kane's face.  The crew brings him back aboard their ship with the creature still attached, despite the protests of second officer and pilot Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).  

"Fight Club" (1999)

Starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter
Written by Jim Uhls
Directed by David Fincher

As I mentioned in my review of "Office Space" a few minutes ago, I saw "Fight Club" as part of a double feature at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.  Great little place, really.  Anyway, at first glance, I said this might seem like an odd pairing, but the two films sort of tackle similar themes in very, very different ways. 

"Fight Club," an adaptation of the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, comes to the screen under the guidance of uber-talented director David Fincher.  What begins as a sort of darkly comic exploration of corporate culture and blind consumerism running rampant in eventually turns into a twisted psychological thriller of near-apocalyptic proportions.   The film could easily collapse under its own weight, but it's Fincher's incredible sense of pace and vision that keeps the whole thing on track. 

Edward Norton is your typical office drone, working a job he cares little about so that he can buy things that he feels are important.  He narrates the film with a dry wit, talking about how he needs to acquire just the right sofa to be "complete" as a person.  His refrigerator is full of condiments, but no real food - just like himself, it's all dressing with no substance.  One day, on a business trip he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), an eccentric soap maker who tries to teach him that the things he holds important are really just worthless.  "The things you own," Tyler says, "end up owning you."

"Office Space" (1999)

Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston and David Herman
Written and directed by Mike Judge

"Office Space" is one of those comedies that really grew on me over time.  The first time I saw it, I thought it was alright, but nothing special.  That's a pattern that would repeat with me on other movies, most recently "The Hangover."  Over time, however, catching bits and pieces of "Office Space" on TV, or the occasional DVD viewing with friends, the film just sort of grew in my mind, the restrained absurdity of it taking root.  "Office Space" failed to ignite the box office, but it has rightfully taken its place since then as a beloved cult classic.  Tonight I went and saw a double feature consisting of "Office Space" and "Fight Club."  At first glance, these two films might have little in common, but upon closer inspection, this is actually a pretty amazing pairing.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is an unhappy software programmer at Initech, toiling away day after day with little drive or motivation.  His friends Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu) are also frustrated with their repetitive, unfulfilling corporate existence.  Peter is in the death throes of a poor relationship with his anorexic girlfriend who convinces him to visit an occupational hypnotherapist who might be able to help him.  But while under hypnoses, the therapist keels over and dies, leaving Peter in a sort of uncaring, conscious hypnotic state.  With his inhibitions removed, he suddenly finds himself realizing that he does have the power to change his lot in life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Tron: Legacy" (2010)

Starring Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde
Written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Ah... Hm.  I've written a bunch about sequels in this blog, how they can often just seem like remakes of the original, trying to recapture the magic of the first.  I've also written a bit about bringing back long-dead franchises (Hey there, John McClane... Whatcha been up to for 15 years?).  "Tron: Legacy" is a bit of both.  As a sequel, I suppose it's rather successful.  As a rejuvenation of a dormant franchise?  I don't know.  On a technical level, it's pretty damn slick, but the script is mostly flat and there's one critical failure that saps the life out of even the big action sequences.

Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund) is the 27-year-old son of the legendary Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who in the first film traveled into "the Grid," a digital world of his own creation.  But in 1989, Kevin Flynn disappeared, leaving his son and his corporation, Encom, forever.  Now, Sam lives alone, dropped out of college and refusing to run Encom, even though he's the majority shareholder.  His father's old friend Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) comes to him one day and says that he's received a message from Sam's father at Flynn's old arcade. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Doctor Who' Season 1 (2005)

Starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Holding the record for the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, "Doctor Who" returned to TV screens after a hiatus of some time.  In this incarnation, Christopher Eccleston stars as the Ninth Doctor, along with his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).

The premise of "Doctor Who" requires some explanation, but is actually deceptively complex.  There were a race of beings known as Time Lords, of whom the Doctor is the last.  The rest of the Time Lords sacrificed themselves during the legendary Time War to stop the evil Daleks from destroying all of creation.  Only the Doctor remained, and now he travels alone in his TARDIS ship, which can travel through both time and space. 

In this new series, the Doctor comes to Earth in the present day and encounters a young department store clerk named Rose, who is being chased through her store by living plastic mannequins.  After the Doctor blows up the store to destroy the mannequins, he offers Rose the opportunity of a lifetime: to come with him on a journey through time and space, to see fantastic alien worlds, the far future and the distant past.  For the next twelve episodes, Rose and the Doctor will do just that.  They'll come across the ghosts of the dead in the 1860s, witness the ultimate destruction of the planet Earth billions of years in the future, travel to space satellites and witness other strange places and creatures.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Dexter' Season Four (2009)

Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and Julie Benz
Developed by James Manos Jr.

Two words: John Lithgow.

Now, going into "Dexter," I'd heard many people tell me that Season Four was the best of the lot.  As I delved further into the series, from its razor-sharp first season, messy second and interesting third, I was looking forward more and more to this ultra-hyped fourth season, which would have Michael C. Hall's titular serial killer squaring off against John Lithgow's sinister "Trinity" killer.

Picking up several months after the end of Season Three, which saw Dexter and Rita (Julie Benz) tying the knot while preparing for the arrival of their baby, Season Four opens with the happy couple having settled into their new home with their new family.  They've integrated into their neighborhood as friendly newlywed neighbors, attending parties and barbecues and the like.  Their kids play regularly with the neighbors' kids, and participate in carpools to school.

Elsewhere, Dexter's sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) has moved in with her boyfriend Anton (David Ramsey) and forged a better working relationship with her partner Quinn (Desmond Harrington).  Detective Angel Batista (David Zayas) and Lieutenant LaGuerta (Lauren Valez) have begun having an affair.  Things are quiet in Miami, but Dexter finds that the daily grind of being a full-time father is depriving him of sleep.  It starts to affect his work, both as a police forensics analyst and as a serial killer.  He brings the wrong case file to a court appearance, allowing the defendant to go free, and later falls asleep while stalking his prey, causing him to lose his victim.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"The Rocketeer" (1991)

Starring Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly and Alan Arkin
Written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo
Directed by Joe Johnston

Action!  Adventure!  Romance!  Nazi Spies!  Gangsters!  Oh my!

In 1991, Joe Johnston's "The Rocketeer" hit the screens, based on the 1980s comic book.  Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) is a hot-shot pilot with impulse control issues.  He and his friend "Peevy" Peabody (Alan Arkin) have finally bought and finished their dream plane, and are ready to hit the national flying competition.  But on their plane's maiden voyage, Cliff flies too close to a shootout between fleeing gangsters and FBI agents. 

Those gangsters have stolen an experimental piece of technology: The X-3 rocket pack, designed and built by the great Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn).  They hide the rocket in the seat of Cliff's old plane, and switch it for a vacuum cleaner.  But their escape doesn't work out as planned, and Cliff's maiden voyage is cut short by gunfire and a crash.  The gangster's car hits a fuel truck and explodes.  The feds think the rocket was destroyed in the explosion, but Cliff and Peevy find it in their plane.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Live Free or Die Hard" (2007)

Starring Bruce Willis, Justin Long and Timothy Olyphant
Written by Mark Bomback
Directed by Len Wiseman

A full 12 years after "Die Hard with a Vengeance," John McClane returned to theatres with "Live Free or Die Hard" and I'm still not sure whether it was a good idea or not.  A fourth go around wouldn't have been a bad idea in the 90s, but more than a decade later?

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is now an aging senior detective with the NYPD.  He's long divorced from Holly, and his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is now in college and wants nothing to do with him.  John McClane is tired.  One night, he's ordered to drive to New Jersey to pick up a computer hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long) who is wanted for questioning by the FBI.  When McClane arrives to pick up Farrell, the two are attacked by mercenaries.  Barely escaping, McClane and Farrell head to Washington DC to meet with FBI Director Bowman (Cliff Curtis) and they soon discover the full scope of the threat: someone has initiated a "fire sale" - a full-scale attack on the technological infrastructure of the United States.  Transportation, communication, utilities, all going down one after another and chaos breaks out across the nation.

It seems the architect of this carefully laid plan is Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphan) and his girlfriend, Mai (Maggie Q).  Gabriel used to work for the US government, but was drummed out when his work became a bit too radical for his superiors to handle.  He's spent the last few years putting together this plan, including using a bunch of computer hackers like Farrell to create small bits of code necessary to pull of his plan, and then killing the hackers when they finish.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Die Hard With a Vengeance" (1995)

Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh
Directed by John McTiernan

This is more like it.  While "Die Hard 2" may seem like a big puff of 'whatever,' "Die Hard With a Vengeance" brings the fun back.  Bruce Willis returns as John McClane, once again a cop in New York City, split up from his wife Holly once more.  McClane is pretty much in the dumps when the next big adventure drops right in his lap, whether he wants it or not.

Someone going by the name Simon (Jeremy Irons) takes responsibility for the bombing of a downtown Manhattan department store.  He says that if John McClane doesn't do exactly what he says, when he says, more bombs will start going off around the city.  McClane, fighting a massive hangover, reluctantly agrees to play "Simon Says" for this whackjob.  His first task is to stand, half-naked, in the middle of Harlem with a sign bearing a racist slogan.  Before he's attacked and killed by a local street gang, McClane is rescued by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson).  Simon decides that Zeus will be playing his game now, too, and sends them on a journey all over town to find and disable more bombs before they go off.  One massive explosion rocks Wall Street, but Simon keeps them hopping, even though McClane's instincts tell him something isn't right.

"Die Hard 2" (1990)

Starring Bruce Willis, William Sadler and Bonnie Bedelia
Written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson
Directed by Renny Harlin

After the massive success of "Die Hard," how could Fox not go for a sequel?  Unfortunately, though they threw some extra money at it, a weaker script and a less talented director meant that lightning didn't quite strike in the same place twice on this one.

Once again, Detective John McClane, now a cop in Los Angeles, must contend with terrorists over Christmas as a disgraced military colonel seizes control of Dulles International Airport.  McClane is waiting for his wife's plane to land, but Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) has other plans.  His men manage to cut off control to the air traffic control tower, leaving dozens of planes circling overhead, some running low on fuel.  They're waiting for a particular plane carrying General Esperanza (Franco Nero), the deposed dictator and drug lord of a South American country who is being extradited to the United States.  They plan to free Esperanza and escape to a non-extradition country and live out the rest of their lives in paradise.

McClane, being the troubleseeker he is, manages to get involved when he notices two of Stuart's men mucking around the airport's luggage area.  A fight ensues, and McClane manages to kill one of them, which brings him to the attention of the airport's chief of security, Lorenzo (Dennis Franz) who instantly resents McClane, dismissing him as some fame-seeking LA asshole.  But when McClane manages to prove that the dead guy isn't just some punk stealing luggage, he convinces the airport's chief controller, Trudeau (Fred Thompson) that something worse is happening.  Now the race is on to find Stuart and prevent him from escaping with Esperanza before planes begin dropping out of the sky.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Die Hard" (1988)

Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman and Reginald Veljohnson
Written by Steven E. De Souza and Jeb Stuart
Directed by John McTiernan

"Die Hard" is the best Christmas movie ever.  It has rightfully cemented itself as a modern classic, an action picture that changed the genre entirely, set the stage for three successful sequels and made a career for its star, Bruce Willis.  Filled to the gills with suspense, action, humor and lively, memorable characters, "Die Hard" is just an all-around awesome movie, the kind of summer blockbuster that moves beyond simple, disposable fun.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a New York detective visiting his estranged wife and kids in Los Angeles for the holidays.  Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) is now a high-powered executive whose job has taken its toll on their marriage, since John simply couldn't handle the fact that in order to further her career, she would uproot the entire family across country.  But with this visit, John hopes to patch things up and reunite with his family.  He's picked up at the airport by Argyle (Deveroux White) and driven to the Nakatomi building where Holly works.  The only people left in the building are the skeleton security staff and a bunch of employees having a Christmas party on the 30th floor, including Holly, her slimy associate Ellis (Hart Bochner) and her boss Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta). Not long after John and Holly's brief but tense reunion, the party is cut short by the arrival of a group of heavily-armed terrorists led by the classy, well-educated Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).

'Dexter' Season Three (2008)

Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and Julie Benz
Developed by James Manos Jr.

If there's a major theme in the third season of Showtime's "Dexter," it's trust.  Practically everything that happens in this season revolves around characters trusting other characters, or perhaps the lack thereof. 

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) has settled back into life as usual after the events of Season Two.  The crimes of the Bay Harbor Butcher have been pegged on the deceased Detective Doakes, and Dexter is free to continue his work.  He's also back together with Rita (Julie Benz) and the kids.  Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) is close to becoming a full detective with the Miami PD.

But, of course, something must happen to throw this happy little world into chaos.  One night while Dexter is preparing to kill his next target, he gets into more trouble than he'd bargained for and, in self defense, ends up killing the wrong man.  Enter Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), a prominent assistant district attorney.  Turns out the man Dexter kills is Prado's younger brother, Oscar.  Dexter is brought onto the case the next day in his capacity as a forensic analyst.  But Dexter still hasn't killed his original target, who is now on the run.  When he finally tracks him down and kills him, Dexter is shocked to discover that Miguel has, as well.  Now Miguel knows Dexter's secret, but instead of turning him in, Miguel keeps that secret and strikes up a friendship with Dexter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Ninja Assassin" (2009)

Starring Rain, Naomi Harris, and Ben Miles
Written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by James McTeigue

Whenever someone asks me "Ninja or pirate?" I have to reply ninja.  Ninjas are just fucking cool, yo.  At least, they're supposed to be.

"Ninja Assassin," brought to us by the makers of "The Matrix" and "V For Vendetta," somehow manages to make ninjas not that cool.  It should be easy as hell, but they just try too hard.

Mika (Naomi Harris) is a forensic researcher for "Europol," some kind of European law enforcement agency based in Berlin, Germany.  She's somehow managed to uncover a money trail linking various high-profile assassinations with, um, well, these mythical ninja clans that aren't supposed to exist.  Her boss, Maslow (Ben Miles) tells her to be careful.  But, of course, she decides to just keep on going.  This leads her to come to the attention of the ninja clans, who decide she must be eliminated.  She's rescued by Raizo (Rain), a former member of the Ozunu Clan.  

Raizo tells her that she's been targeted by the clans, and so has he.  Maslow manages to capture Raizo, but not long after, the Europol safe house is attacked and destroyed by the ninjas.  Raizo is wounded in the escape, but he and Mika manage to make it out alive... but not for long.  Mika plants a tracking device in Raizo and the ninjas capture him and bring him before Lord Ozuno (Sho Kusogi), his former master. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Falling Down" (1993)

Starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall and Rachel Ticotin
Written by Ebbe Roe Smith
Directed by Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher is one of those filmmakers whose wildly inconsistent body of work leads to a lot of negativity surrounding his name.  Having directed two infamously awful Batman movies, he went on to do a short string of failures, which pretty much negated all the positive cred he'd built up with hits like "St. Elmo's Fire," "The Lost Boys" and "A Time to Kill."  But we tend to forget that he is actually a capable film director, having made the aforementioned films, as well as smaller movies like "Phone Booth" and "Falling Down."

Bill Foster (Michael Douglas) is having a bad day.  Sitting in traffic in the sweltering Los Angeles heat, surrounded by noise and aggravations at every turn, he finally snaps, leaving his car in the middle of the road and wandering off and muttering something about "going home."  Dressed simply, with a white shirt and tie, carrying a briefcase, he walks into a nearby convenience store to get change for a payphone.  When he learns that his purchase of a can of Coke won't give him enough change for the phone, he loses it completely, smashing up the store's displays with a baseball bat and ranting about inflation and the fact that the Korean store owner can barely speak English.  But Foster pays for the Coke (the price he wants to pay, not the price set by the store owner) and leaves. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Young Frankenstein" (1974)

Starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Peter Boyle
Written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder
Directed by Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks is a damn genius.  As I get older, I find myself suffering from that same thing I told myself growing up that I never would: more and more I think the old stuff is better than the new stuff.  The other night as I was watching "Young Frankenstein" I came to a terrible realization: Someone in the room wanted to watch the flop-tacular "Grown Ups" rather than Brooks' comedy classic.  This saddens me, to no end.

I don't understand how this attitude exists.  Don't get me wrong, Adam Sandler has made some funny movies.  But really, not much that he's done can stand the test of time like the run of Brooks' films through the 70s and 80s.

"Young Frankenstein" stars Gene Wilder in the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Fron-ken-steen!), great grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein.  After his grandfather dies, he leaves his fiance (Madeline Kahn) and travels to the family castle in Transylvania where he meets his assistants: Igor (eye-gor!) (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr).  He also meets the mysterious Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman) who seems to have had some kind of relationship with his grandfather.  Although Frankenstein rejects the ridiculous notions that his grandfather had created some sort of monster in a secret laboratory, he soon finds that the rumors were actually true.  Becoming obsessed, Frankenstein goes about attempting to recreate his father's experiments and breathe life into dead tissue.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Supernatural' Season 5 (2009)

Starring Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins
Created by Eric Kripke

I generally feel like five years is a pretty solid number for a show to run.  Sure, a well-written show can be extended further, but five years is a pretty decent amount of time to both explore a premise with a certain amount of depth while still not sticking around too long to outstay its welcome.  But alas, the business of TV is just that... a business.  And when business is good, it's hard to stop.  Such is the case with the CW network's "Supernatural," which had planned to end with this fifth season.  Unfortunately, the CW noticed that "Supernatural" was one of its most popular shows.  As a struggling smaller network, it could barely afford to let one of its hottest properties simply expire.  Of course, it had pulled the same move with "Smallville," which has gone on about five seasons too long as it steamrolls into its 10th idiotic season, playing fast, loose and stupid with the Superman mythology.

But I digress.  I'm here to talk about the fifth season of "Supernatural."  The fifth season finds demon hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) dealing with the repercussions of their major blunder at the end of season four: Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) has been released from his prison in Hell, jump-starting the Judeo-Christian apocalypse.  Now, as the demon army mobilizes, Sam and Dean find themselves accosted from all sides: Lucifer wants Sam to be his vessel on Earth, the Archangel Michael wants Dean to be his vessel, and once the human hunters find out who brought all this death and destruction down on them, well, even they want a piece of the Winchesters' hide. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Dexter' Season Two (2007)

Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and Julie Benz
Developed by James Manos Jr.

While the first season of Showtime's "Dexter" seemed much like a sharpened scalpel blade, Season Two feels a bit more blunt and unwieldy.  Much of the first half of the season is spent dealing with fallout from Season One, while the second half starts to throw a bit too many things into the fire at once, making the season come off unfocused.  While the individual episodes are mostly still quite good, the overall package feels like a misstep. 

After Dexter (Michael C. Hall) has successfully dealt with the Ice Truck Killer, he tries to settle back into life as usual, with his girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz) and sister Debra (Julie Benz) at his side.  Unfortunately, Dexter's solutions to some of his problems have had unforeseen consequences.  Rita discovers that it was Dexter who shot up her ex-husband with heroin in order to get him back behind bars, and she now believes that he, too, is addicted to heroin.  Forced to go along with the lie rather than tell her the truth, Dexter joins a local Narcotics Anonymous group where he meets Lilah (Jaime Murray) a former meth addict who becomes Dexter's sponsor.

At the same time, the suspicious Sergeant Doakes (Erik King) has been following Dexter.  Doakes is certain that Dexter is not what he seems, and is determined to prove it.  To make matters even worse, a number of bodies of Dexter's victims have been recovered from the ocean floor, and an FBI agent named Lundy (Keith Carradine) has been brought in to help the Miami PD investigate the killer dubbed "The Bay Harbor Butcher" - aka, Dexter Morgan.  So now Dexter must contend with all of his friends investigating his kills, Doakes on his trail at every turn, and his deteriorating relationship with Rita once Lilah starts putting the moves on him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'The Walking Dead' Season One (2010)

Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies
Developed by Frank Darabont

Anyone who knows me knows my love of Robert Kirkman's THE WALKING DEAD.  That's right, I love it so much that I usually type the title entirely in capital letters.  I can't help it.  Every time a volume of this comic book series comes out, I rush to get it ASAP.  When I heard they were developing a TV series based on it, I was immediately intrigued.

When I heard that it was being developed for AMC by Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Mist") and Gale Anne Hurd ("The Terminator," "Aliens") and that comic series creator Robert Kirkman would not only be a producer but a member of the writing staff... I couldn't have been more excited.

And now that the show has premiered, I still couldn't be more excited.  The premiere episode, "Days Gone Bye" is simply a fine hour of television.  It was so good, I watched it twice in a row.

Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes, a sheriff's deputy who is wounded in the line of duty.  He falls into a coma, and when he awakens nearly a month later, he's shocked to discover that society has collapsed and hordes of the dead roam the Earth.  Rick manages to escape the hospital and make his way to his home, only to discover that his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are nowhere to be found.  Instead, Rick finds Morgan (Lennie James) and his son Duane who have been squatting in the house next door.  Morgan explains to Rick what has been going on, and about "the walkers."

'Dexter' Season One (2006)

Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and Julie Benz
Developed by James Manos Jr.

The first season of Showtime's hit cable show "Dexter" is pretty damn fantastic.  It's easy to see why the show has garnered the following that it has, filled with lively characters and gripping storylines.

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a forensic analyst for the Miami Police Department, specializing in blood spatter.  He's often called to grisly murder scenes to help reconstruct the crime by looking at sprays and pools of blood littered liberally about.  To his coworkers, he's friendly enough, but a bit weird - they write it off as a necessity of his job.  But the truth is that Dexter hides a dark secret: he's a killer, a man who rarely feels emotion of any kind, and spends his night tracking and killing his prey.

At first, this might seem ghastly, but we quickly realize that Dexter follows a strict code: he only kills those who "deserve" it.  That is, he rids the world of other killers, like him, but unlike him, killers who have no code to protect the innocent as he does.  In order to fit into civilized society, Dexter has become an expert at faking normal human behavior.  He acts scared when he should, laughs at jokes, and shows remorse or sympathy for his actions even though he rarely feels that way.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Kick-Ass" (2010)

Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Nicholas Cage
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

I have a very shaky relationship with Mark Millar.  He seems to come up with great ideas, but then ruins a lot of them in the execution in one way or another.  I found "The Ultimates" to be a fairly enjoyable update of Marvel Comics' "Avengers."  But "Wanted" disgusted me, going beyond a mere deconstruction of superhero comics and into the realm of overt sadism. 

It was with some trepidation, then, that I approached "Kick-Ass," a film by Matthew Vaughn based on Millar's comic of the same name.  "Kick-Ass" is the story of a kid named Dave (Aaron Johnson) who decides he wants to try being a superhero.  Of course, the real problem is that Dave has no superpowers of any kind, and he's not particularly athletic in any fashion, either.  But he is driven, and dressing up in a silly costume energizes him.  He quickly finds that he's in over his head when he attempts to stop a car theft and gets stabbed in the gut and hit by a car.