A look at the legacy of "Independence Day," as reflected in films that tried to top it, including its sequel.
A dinosaur that started on four legs and then graduated to two, just like humans; a Chinese poet writes about his experience of torture in prison; why all journalism is "advocacy journalism"; why it matters that 50 Shades of Grey will have a female director; a brief history of the president as action hero; the 50 essential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movies; artist creates portraits of people she's never met via DNA samples from cigarette butts.
Marie writes: There was a time when Animation was done by slaves with a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. Gary Larson's "Tales From the Far Side" (1994) was such a project. I should know; I worked on it. Produced by Marv Newland at his Vancouver studio "International Rocketship", it first aired as a CBS Halloween special (Larson threw a party for the crew at the Pan Pacific Hotel where we watched the film on a big screen) and was later entered into the 1995 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It spawned a sequel "Tales From the Far Side II" (1997) - I worked on that too. Here it is, below.
Marie writes: the great Ray Harryhausen, the monster innovator and Visual Effects legend, passed away Tuesday May 7, 2013 in London at the age of 92. As accolades come pouring in from fans young and old, and obituaries honor his achievements, I thought club members would enjoy remembering what Harry did best.
"Extraterrestrial" (90 minutes) premieres simultaneously on June 15th on DVD and all major on-demand platforms. It also opens June 15th in limited theatrical release.
If you've seen the 2007 thriller "Timecrimes," you already know that Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo has a noteworthy knack for developing big ideas (in this case, time travel) on an intimate scale. "Timecrimes" marked a promising debut, with Vigalondo in full command of limited resources: With only three central characters and a tightly restricted location, he executed a cleverly conceived plot with stylish economy and Hitchcockian flair.
With his second film, "Extraterrestrial, " Vigalondo presents another, more intricate exercise in thwarting expectations. Imagine the bloated-budget excess of a blockbuster like "Independence Day," with dozens, maybe even hundreds of gigantic alien spaceships hovering ominously over Earth's major cities. Now take the same alien invasion scenario, eliminate 99% of the special effects and spectacle, and shift its focus to four lovelorn apartment dwellers in an abandoned city (in this case Madrid) as they proceed to confuse each other with a comedic succession of lies.
Now you've got "Extraterrestrial," in which the only E. T. is... well, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but here's a clue: Think of Vigalondo as the anti-Roland Emmerich. He has no apparent interest in epic battles requiring Will Smith to save the world against slimy, monstrous aliens. Instead, Vigalondo attempts an audacious bait-and-switch, keeping his "epic" sci-fi entirely in the background while focusing on what is, essentially, a farcical rom-com about three guys in love with the same woman. It's a daring attempt at genre-bending that doesn't always pay off, but it's a refreshing alternative to uninspired, play-it-safe blockbusters.
Marie writes: I attended three different elementary schools; St. Peter's, Our Lady of Mercy (which was anything but) and finally St. Micheal's; where I met my Canadian-Italian chum, Marta Chiavacci (key-a-vah-chee) who was born here to Italian immigrants. We lost touch after high school, moving in different directions til in the wake of a trip to Venice and eager to practice my bad Italian and bore friends with tales of my travels abroad, I sought her out again.We've kept in touch ever since, meeting whenever schedules permit; Marta traveling more than most (she's a wine Sommelier) living partly in Lucca, Italy, and happily in sin with her significant other, the great Francesco. I saw her recently and took photos so that I might show and tell, in here. For of all the friends I have, she's the most different from myself; the contrast between us, a never-ending source of delight. Besides, it was a nice afternoon in Vancouver and her condo has a view of False Creek...smile...
(click images to enlarge)
Marie writes: the ability to explore an image in 360 degrees is nothing new, but that doesn't make these pictures any less cool. In the first of a series, the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore introduces spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic photographs of Britain's architectural wonders. "You are put in the middle of a space, and using your computer mouse or dragging your iPad screen - you can look in any direction you choose: up, down, sideways, diagonally, in any direction in full 360 degree turn, in three dimensions."
Go here to explore St Paul's Cathedral, London, built 1675-1711.
Marie writes: Yarn Bombing. Yarn Storming. Guerilla Knitting. It has many names and all describe a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk. And while yarn installations may last for years, they are considered non-permanent, and unlike graffiti, can be easily removed if necessary. Yarn storming began in the U.S., but it has since spread worldwide. Note: special thanks go to Siri Arnet for telling me about this cool urban movement.
Q. In "The Men Who Stare at Goats," my friend says they used special effects to make the goats keel over, but I say they used those special Fainting Goats.
During the first press screening here of "Creation," during a scene when Charles Darwin walks out of church during a sermon on the first book of Genesis, an audience member stood up and walked out. Was he offended by the film? There's no way to say. There were an unusually large number of walk-outs, but who knows if they were leaving for theological reasons, or to get in line for the screenings of "Bright Star" or "Fish Tank," or because of boredom? I hope it wasn't boredom. Although it's a movie with a good deal of talk, at least no one shouted out, "You lie!"
Charles Darwin as Paul Bettany
This will adamantly not be a review of "Creation," which will await its opening. It will be a discussion of some of the thoughts it inspires. I expected the film to be focused on Darwin's theory of the origin of species and the controversy it provoked in mid-19th century, but it is primarily about his domestic life, centering on Down House, Bromley, where he and his wife Emma lived from 1842 until until his death in 1882.
Q. Big problem arose last night for me at Spielberg's "Lost World: Jurassic Park." When T-Rex goes storming through San Diego, there's a brief shot of a group of Japanese businessmen fleeing along with the rest of the crowd. I laughed aloud (as did many others in the house). My spontaneous outburst, in appreciation of what I saw as Spielberg's tip of the hat to a convention of Japanese monster movies, set my fiancee off on a tear that began with an elbow in my ribs and a warning to behave myself, and a berating as soon as the house lights came up. Her reason: The folks seated to her left were Asian--and my applause was an indication of racism. Roger, look at that scene: It's shot from the same low, three-quarters behind the characters angle, with the characters' faces turned to look back as they flee (running slo-mo), just like any Godzilla, Rodan or Mothra movie. It is a tribute to the genre; use of a cinematic convention. She says it's a stereotype--because bad monster flicks "are all they make in Japan" and that Spielberg is no better for including it than I am for liking it. (Gerard Farrell, Bay City, TX)