Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Another is over, folks! Thanks for reading my sometimes ridiculous ramblings. I'm a little surprised to see 377 for this year.

I started Caliban's Revenge as a way to document a play I was directing in 2008 and just went with it. And earlier this year started my second blog, the weekly Zombie Zone. Of course, all this blogging means I am neglecting my other writing, but that's OK.

So, here's wishing all of you the very best in 2010. May all your hearts' desires come true.

More, anon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Next Three Months

2009 may have only one day left, but there are plenty of movies to look forward to in 2010, including Alice in Wonderland; Iron Man 2; Prince of Persia; Toy Story 3; Despicable Me; Tron Legacy and The Green Hornet. Of course there plenty of awful-looking films coming our way, as well: Tooth Fairy; The Last Airbender; Furry Vengeance and quite possibly the most unnecessary remake ever, Red Dawn.

This post, however, is about the movies I most want to see in the first quarter of the coming New Year. And of course, since this is Uncle Prospero''s list of movies to see, they're all genre pictures. In order of scheduled* release, they are:


In the near future, vampires have taken over the world and driven their food source to near-extinction and the race is on to discover an artificial blood substitute. Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe and the reportedly smelly Ethan Hawke star.

The Book of Eli:

Denzel Washington stars in this post-apocalyptic tale about a man who must traverse a hostile country to deliver a book that very may well save humanity. Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and Jennifer Beals co-star in this Hughes Brothers film.


Keeping the Covenant of the Rainbow, God sends an army of angels to wipe out Humanity. Paul Bettany is the Archangel Michael who decides Humanity is worth saving. Bettany is joined by Dennis Quaid, Kevin Durand, Kate Walsh and Doug Jones in the first major film directed by SFX guy Scott Stewart (trailer language may be NSFW).

Poor Jon Tenny. The sexy "Closer" (the best drama on TV, for my money) co-star barely gets three words out before getting his throat ripped out.


Clive Barker's tale about college students conducting an experiment in fear. From Anthony DiBlasi, director of The Midnight Meat Train and The Book of Blood.

The Wolfman:

The much-delayed next entry in the series of Universal Monsters re-boot, The Wolf Man features an all-star cast which includes Benicio Del Toro; Emily Blunt; Anthony Hopkins; Hugo Weaving and Geraldine Chaplin in a re-telling of the classic tale, directed by Joe Johnston.

Shutter Island:

My least favorite actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) stars in Martin Scorcese's horror movie about a mysterious insane asylum on an isolated island and the horrible things taking place there. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane ("Mystic River;" "Gone Baby, Gone."), this film's cast is a who's who of Hollywood heavyweights including Mark Ruffalo; Ben Kingsley; Emily Mortimer; Max Von Sydow; Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Hailey. I think I'll put up with creepy DiCaprio for his one.

The Crazies:

A remake of the George Romero film about a small town under siege by folks driven insane by an accidental chemical spill. Yummy Timothy Oliphant and Silent Hill's Radha Mitchell star.

Season of the Witch:

Okay, I'm the first to admit that Nicholas Cage often spells disaster for a genre film, but this one really has me intrigued. Ron Perlman and Christopher Lee co-star in this story of medieval knights who must escort an evil witch to a remote Abby in order to destroy her.

Clash of the Titans:

Ray Harryhausen is a cinematic legend, whose last film may as well have been called "Clash of the Trite Ones." Sam Worthington (most recently seen in Avatar) is Perseus in this remake that might actually do the Greek hero justice. Thankfully, there's no robotic owl in this one (or at least, I think there isn't).

Whew! I'm exhausted. So what movies are you looking forward to seeing in the next three months? You know I love your comments.

*Studio schedules are subject to change according to the whims of the moronic CPA's who now run Hollywood.

More, anon.

PS - Watch for Caliban's Revenge's new layout, coming soon...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Three I Missed

Sadly, I never get to see as many films as I want to each year. Either I don't have the time (especially in late Spring and Early Summer) or they only play in major cities like New York or L.A., both of which are too far for a suburbanite like Uncle Prospero to travel just for a movie. I take solace in the fact that eventually I will see them on DVD or On Demand.

Still, these three Horror movies had enough Internet buzz to make me determined to see them one way or another:


Stephen McHattie stars in this Canadian zombie flick about a DJ who is on air when the outbreak (spread by vocal signals) takes hold of Ontario.

The House of the Devil

Writer/Director Ti West's take on the "Babysitter in Peril" is supposedly one hell of a ride. The presence of Tom Noonan (Manhunter) alone is enough to make me want to see it.

Dead Snow

This Norwegian Nazi Zombie flick had gorehounds and zombie fanatics chomping at the bit to see it. Sadly, it played nowhere within driving distance of Uncle P. Still, any movie that references Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (Dead Alive in the States) is good enough for me.

And what movies in 2009 did you want to see, but didn't or couldn't? Inquiring minds want to know. OK. Maybe I just want to know.

I'll be posting my Top 10 Movies of '09 after the New Year (I still have a few more movies to see before the year is over).

More, anon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 10 Worst Movies of 2009

This image is from an incredibly bad 50's Sci=Fi movie called The Brain from Planet Arous. The movies on my 2009 Worst list are certainly no better, though most certainly have bigger budgets and probably better production values (though I wouldn't count on the latter).

I actually only posted reviews of two of these films, mostly because I was embarrassed to admit that I had seen them. The majority were seen either On Demand or on DVD well after their initial theatrical releases. Again, I can only speak to films I have actually seen (with one exception), so there will be no mention of truly awful films like Paul Blart: Mall Cop or Miss March (which seems to top most professional critics' Top Ten Worst lists). No, these are just the 10 worst movies I saw this past year.

10. The Unborn

Screenwriter David Goyer attempts to make Judaism scary with this tale about a dybbuk seeking revenge on it's living sibling. With all apologies to my Jewish friends, but Jewish mysticism just isn't scary. Gary Oldman, James Remar, Jane Alexander and Carla Cugino should all have known better than to get involved with this mess.

9. Push

A shady government agency is out to get a hold of some young folks with extraordinary powers. Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning star in a movie already made by Brian DePalma.

8. The Ugly Truth

Please will someone tell Gerard Butler that he has no business making romantic comedies? Because he really sucks at them. Yeesh!

7. The Haunting in Connecticut

Supposedly based on 'true' events, this ghost story was sillier than an episode of "Happy Tree Friends." It's a shame, because I really love Virginia Madsen and think she deserves a better career.

6. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Even the presence of someone I know as an extra couldn't drag me to this mess in the theater, so I watched it on DVD. Noisy, disjointed and just as incomprehensibly plotted as the original, Transformers 2 is more of a commercial than an actual movie.

7. G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA

In what is possibly the least necessary toy tie-in movie ever made, Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Ray Park and Arnold (The Mummy) Vosloo appear in yet another 90 minute toy commercial.

6. Friday the 13th

Marcus Nispel's "re-boot" of the 80's horror franchise explores no new territory, gives us no insights into any character and makes Steve Miner's original cheese-fest look good in comparison. The only reason to see this movie is Jared, and he never even gives us the pleasure of appearing half-naked. Boo! I wish I had spent my Memorial Day off doing almost anything else than seeing this piece of crap.

5. The Pink Panther 2

Steve Martin used to be funny. He gave it all up to become a Hollywood Whore. How sad. If a film was eaten, regurgitated, eaten again and the deposited as feces, it would have been this movie.

4. Funny People

The falsest title ever.

3. New Moon

The Twilight movies aren't just bad, they're insulting. Vampires do NOT sparkle and werewolves are NOT cute, cut and cuddly.

2. Terminator: Salvation

If you though Terminator: Rise of the Machines ruined the franchise, then take a look at director McG's turd of a movie:

1. Paranormal Activity

Made in 2007 for $11,00, Paranormal Activity was supposedly the scariest movie ever made. What it actually was, was a cheap, unscary and boring movie that tricked unsophisticated movie-goers into thinking it was much better than it was.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: "Avatar"

I'm not exeactly sure what I want to say about this movie. Last weekend's major snow storm kept me from seeing it when I had planned, and then it was last minute shopping and the holiday and gifting and eating and more eating...

Anyway, every review in the world is in, so I won't bore you with a summary of the plot (not that there's much of one, anyway), most of which Cameron seems to have written by assembling scenes and ideas from other movies (not just his own, either) like a jigsaw puzzle that fits together in different ways. There used to actually be a plot-tree, from which writers would chose various elements and weave them into a script, and Avatar comes as close to that as any movie I can remember seeing. What I will do is some picking away at it, later.

But let's address the thing everyone is talking about: Avatar's astounding visuals and the 3D. Yes, it is an astonishing film to look at, but at 162 minutes in length, one's eyes begin to get tired (or at least mine did) about 2/3 of the way through. I didn't get the headache or the nausea some have reported (though I never do), but eye fatigue was definitely an issue for your Uncle Prospero's aging eyes... sigh. That having been said, every penny is on the screen; gorgeously rendered colors and imaginative flora and fauna are painstakingly placed just so and the movie certainly looks like no other you've ever seen. And yes, the 3D is the best you've ever seen, but it is (thankfully) never used gratuitously or for a cheap shock.

The mostly excellent cast's talents are completely wasted on a beautiful, but ultimately unoriginal film. Sam Worthington is fine as the Na'vi born in a human body, destined -underdog-warrior-hero and Sigourney Weaver is... well, Sigourney Weaver. In completely motion-capture performances, I suppose Zoe Saldana, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi and Laz Alonso do good jobs pretending to be 9' tall blue cat-people who overtly represent oppressed indigenous peoples of our own species. But how does one know how said sexy blue cat-people behave? But we've all seen Pocahontas, so we know how imposed-upon indigenous people behave - OK, we're making a Space Western, here. from the Native Americans' POV. Hey, we can even call them the Na'vi so people will get that they're the natives. I get it now. Hmm... Wait, didn't Kevin Costner do that like 20 years ago? Oh, it's a Marines Vs Aliens war in space flick? Like Starship Troopers but less ironic? So, Aliens from the xenomorphs' POV? That's so original James. It's going to change movies forev... oh ,who am I kidding?

Anyway, back to the performances. As the power-mad C.O. (last seen as Michael Biehn in The Abyss) Stephen Lang is the ultimate Muscle Daddy top with a penis so tiny he has to smash everything in sight, while Giovanni Ribisi plays the corporate weasel last seen as Paul Reiser in Aliens. As for Sigourney's character, Grace Augustine is a renowned xeno-botanist. That means she studies alien plant-life. Indeed, she's fascinated by the symbiotically connected trees of Pandora. Why then, was she chosen to head-up a diplomatic program involving the genetic engineering of biological avatars controlled by human drivers? Oh, that's right. She's a BOTANIST! Everyone knows what great Diplomatic Genetic Engineers botanists make. Oh, and there's Michelle Rodriguez as the empowered Latina pilot with a conscience, last seen as Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez in Aliens.

And how about the Na'vi and their intimate relationship with Pandora's fauna? The Na'vi all have these braids, at the end of which are these wriggly scillia, capable of neuro-interfacing with, not only other animal species but trees, as well. Oh, that's right. Everything is literally connected (ew) to the Mother-Planet-Gaea-New-Age-Tree-Deity who will die if the Na'vi don't protect Her.

Oh, and there are these mountains that float. Yes, that's right. There's no logical explanation for why they do so, but they do. It's an anomaly. So that's how we'll explain it. It's a gravitational anomaly which somehow manages to knock out basic radio transmission and navigational equipment. It's Pandora's Bermuda Triangle. Yeah, that's the ticket!

So, now that we have this pastiche plot, let's throw in some pastiche imagery that references Aliens; King Kong; The Terminator; Stargate; Flash Gordon; Harry Potter; Star Wars; Little Big Man; Braveheart; Return of the Jedi; Jurassic Park and countless other films that have come before. Hell - let's give 'em a 9/11 reference just to to drive the nails a little bit deeper into the audiences' collective psyches. Sure, it's a whole lot prettier than it's ever been before, but that doesn't mean we haven't already seen this movie dozens of times. Do we care about Jake and Neytiri and the Tree of Souls? I suppose the performances are good enough to overcome the character's cardboard cut-out personalities. Are we surprised by anything that happens? No. And that, ultimately, is the film's tragic flaw. Good triumphs over evil; love conquers all, boy meets, gets, loses and gets girl again; a lost soul finds himself; it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature; those who live by the sword... blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... It's like Cameron just tried to see how much crap he could stuff his movie with. Sadly, it's mostly empty calories in that big, pretty, sugary sundae.

Will Avatar actually change movies forever, as the ads are proclaiming? I doubt it. As revolutionary as its effects and cameras are; it's plot is as squeaky as an old leather boot left out in the rain and Cameron's dialogue sounds like it came from a 1947 manual on screenwriting. Happily, Cameron's go-to composer James Horner provides a lush and exciting score, adding depth to the film's admittedly exciting battle sequences.

I'm not saying that Avatar is a bad movie. Far from it. I was entertained the entire time. And seeing it alone allowed me to really let myself become immersed in what Cameron was trying to give the audience. Sadly, as in Titanic, I could not immerse myself enough in the plot to care about anything else but the visuals. Maybe someday Cameron will direct a script written by someone else, and he will make an actually brilliant film.

Yes, you should see Avatar and you should see it in IMAX 3D. Just don't expect the revelatory experience some would have you believe. Expect instead, a rollicking Action/Adventure/Sci-fi film with visions of ecological grandeur.

Dances With Aliens... um, er... uh, I mean Avatar is great for a mindless escape from the stress of the holiday season. It will make a gazillion dollars, though I doubt it will earn Cameron another Oscar for artistic achievement. Derivative, predictable but visually unparalleled, Avatar will hopefully lead to films that can embrace the new technology while maintaining depth, substance and original ideas.

**1/2 (Two and a Half Stars).

More, anon.*

*Now with links. Edited 12/28/09

Mini Review: "Up In the Air"

It's officially Sunday, so here's the first of my Holiday Reviews.

I wasn't planning on seeing Up In the Air in a theatre until dear friends suggested we see a movie at their local cinema, an ancient multi-screen theatre with a raked floor and seating for about 150 per auditorium. We (K and I) were meeting them for our Boxing Day gift exchange and dinner at their house anyway and since we all agreed on seeing it and it isn't the kind of movie that has to be seen in IMAX 3D, we went to the 70's relic for their $7.00 matinee. I love director Jason Reitman's first film, Thank You for Smoking and despise his second film, Juno, so I had no qualms about seeing it in a theater whose big claim was "Enjoy our State-of-the-Art Dolby Surround Sound System!" (meanwhile, the only sounds we were surrounded by were the rush of the rainwater through the roof's drainage system and the bleed--through of the explosions from whatever was playing next door.

I'm going to keep this one short, because it is late, so I'll borrow liberally from my friend and fellow blogger Sean with a 5 For/5 Against List:

5 For:

1. Clooney. Handsome, charming and a fine actor, George Clooney really is the Cary Grant of our generation. One can easily picture Grant in the role of Ryan Bingham, a professional "Fire-er," who spends all but 40 some days a year traveling; going from company to company and doing their dirty work for them. Clooney builds in so many layers to what on the outside seems a callously detached outsider, we honestly almost forget it's him. But, just as in Grant's finest roles, we always know it's George. Still, its possibly his best screen performance to date.

2. Vera Farmiga. Funny, charming and everything that makes experienced women so sexy; Farmiga's relaxed performance is a wonder to behold.

3. Anna Kendrick. As the uptight Ivy-Leaguer out to revolutionize the business by eliminating travel, Kendrick rises above her Twilight role and takes a step towards becoming a fine comedic actress. Her speech on the dock is amazing.

4. J.K. Simmons; Jason Bateman; Melanie Lynsky; Zach Galifanakis; Sam Elliot and Danny McBride, all in smaller roles which left us hoping to see more of them

5. The ending was perfect and would have been wrong had it gone any other way.

5 Against:

1. The pacing was a bit off and I thought it could have been 10 to 15 minutes shorter. The wedding sequence goes on for far too long.

2. Not enough Chris Lowell. The "Private Practice" hottie has a brief appearance early on as Ryan's assistant, but is never seen again.

3. Not enough Zach. It would have been funny if his character had later confronted Ryan again.

4. The music. Not as bad as in Juno (worst film soundtrack, EVER - don't argue, you won't win), but still too hip for it's own good and something that will make the movie feel dated in 10 years.

5. It felt kind of wrong to laugh at a movie about people losing their jobs, especially in the current job crisis. Made even worse by one particularly dark event.

The Movie: Three Stars (***); Clooney: Four Stars (****)

More, anon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Holy Night...

(click to enlarge)

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gone Giftin'

Just a quick post tonight to wish each and everyone of you the best this Holiday Season. For me, all holidays are secular. I suppose I celebrate the season more as an ancient pagan might; feasting and sharing and glad for the passing of another year above ground. (Too dark? Sorry). And yes, we should celebrate those things every day, but its nice to have a special time set aside for doing extra.

We share our bounty with family, friends and those less fortunate. We eat differently; we get secretive and excited; we wrap gifts in paper to heighten the suspense and take special delight when a gift hits the recipient's mark (or when a giver hits yours). We hug and kiss and carry on; we drink more alcohol and eat more sugar and regret it two weeks after its all over. We spend too much; we stress too much; we run around too much and we put so much pressure on ourselves to have a "perfect" holiday. The best holidays I can remember were always about who I was with, rather what was going on around us or what presents were exchanged.

If you are reading this post, then you are hopefully taking a break from Holiday Madness in search of some insight (or at least a chuckle). Or maybe you're hoping for one of my occasional links to some half-naked hottie or a YouTube clip:

And ha-ha if you clicked that half-naked hottie link.

I'll be back on the Zombie Zone this Saturday (and you should check it to see my favorite Christmas gift so far, from the same kindred spirit who made my "Princess Unicorn" doll last year) and then again with my review (finally) of Avatar Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Eat well, give wisely and spend time with those you love this weekend. Uncle Prospero * certainly plans to do so, and strongly suggests you follow his advice. We wouldn't want this happening, would we?:

Peace on Earth; Joy to the World; Shalom; Namaste; Peace; Flowers; Beads; Happiness. Hare-hare, Rama-rama; Shama-lama-ding-dong.

Oh, and one more thing:

More, not-quite-as-usually anon.

PS - Ha-ha if you didn't click on the second half-naked hottie link. Merry X-Mas, Yo.

*Bonus points to the first person who identifies that image.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Nonsense

I'm tired of hearing about celebrity deaths. Today I learned that veteran character actor Arnold Stang passed away at the age of 91. Stang was a nerdy-looking guy with a nasally voice and a rubber face, and even though you may not recognize his name, I promise that with over 142 credits on his IMDb resume, you have seen and/or heard his work.

Well, when I went to find a 'Top Cat' clip, wonderful YouTube suggested a clip that stopped me dead in my tracks and immediately made me think of the hilarious Julia Louis Dreyfus as Elaine on "Seinfeld" and her amazingly bad and painfully hilarious dancing. Behold the astounding wonder that is, Teenage Mother:

I can only hope that Dreyfus was inspired by that very film. "Sweet, fancy Moses!" indeed. Does it get any whiter and straighter than that guy? Did anyone ask him to dance at the audition? Was there an audition? Maybe his step-father financed the thing to make his mother happy. Or maybe, just maybe, every other person involved with this film was equally inept in their performance as well, and therefore no one realized it was retch-inducingly bad at all. Oh bad movies, how I love your unintentional hilarity.

I ended up posting the 'Top Cat' clip to Facebook, but you can watch it here. By the way, if you aren't my Facebook friend but would like to be, please leave me a comment so we can exchange the info.

Anyway, I hope that bit of bad movie silliness helped lighten the mood. Enjoy the last two shopping days before Christmas. If you waited until tomorrow or Thursday to start your shopping, shame on you. You deserve the scorn of those who receive your last-minute desperation gifts of car-wash air fresheners; cigarettes; lottery tickets and counterfeit perfumes. You're the same kind of person who goes on a fabulous trip to an exotic port of call and brings home refrigerator magnets from the airport on your way home. If you're dones hopping and are out looking for little extras, have fun - there are still plenty to be found: air-fresheners, cigarettes, lottery tickets and counterfeit perfumes.

Merry Christmas, suckers!

More nonsense, anon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Case I Forget...

I think I already mentioned that my posts are about to get shorter and lighter. It's the Holiday Season, after all, and we're all so busy this time of year. For me, it's nice to know that a few folks care enough about what I have to say to visit here at least a few times a week.

My Christmas shopping is finally finished (though I am very late this year) and now I have the wrapping to contend with, though I managed to arrange my gift exchanges in manageable intervals that will allow me to wrap in stages, rather than all at once. I don't bake, so I needn't worry about cookies or special desserts, though I do cook and my Christmas Brunch menu is already planned: Stuffed Italian Toast (French Toast made with Panatone and stuffed with cream cheese and pineapple preserves), sausage patties, bacon, Asti Mimosas and Amaretto-spiked coffee.

We exchange gifts on Christmas Eve in my family, and Christmas Day is for lounging, eating and watching the DVDs we opened last night. We sleep in, have an extravagant, calorie-laden brunch and don't do much of anything, really. We don't do a big dinner, but nosh all day on the left-overs from the night before. Not being particularly religious in any sort of organized way, Christmas for Uncle Prospero has become a time to celebrate the love of his family and friends; a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what the new year may bring and yet another opportunity to express my thanks and love to those who love me.

I'd especially like to thank those of you who read my nonsense on a regular basis. You guys help validate me. And a special shout out to Sean and the two Stephens. You guys are the best! May the New Year bring all of us our hearts' desires as well as all the love, joy and happiness we all deserve.

I know, I know. "Uncle Prospero, have you gotten mushy and sentimental?"

Yes, damnit, I have! It's the season; it's the mood; it's the whatever. I still meant every word.

Okay, off to work on the new screenplay.

Less mush and more other kinds of nonsense, anon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

That's James Franco swapping tongues with adorable (his eyes get me, evey time - just like Jake's do, but in a less dirty way) SNL regular Will Forte playing Franco's character's grandfather in a sketch about a creepily affectionate family that was gross, hilarious and curiously hot, all at the same time. Franco appeared in the original version of this sketch in last year's Thanksgiving show.

The loss of Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan and Amy Poehler has left SNL much more hit-or-miss than usual, but this week's Christmas show was among the best I've seen in a long time.

The show started with "An Intentionally Lost Episode of Lawrence Welk" featuring another appearance by singing Mahrelli Sisters, three of whom are beautiful, butone of whom (SNL's strongest and most consistently hilarious, Kristen Wiig) is the 'special' sister. The character is reminiscent of Rachel Dratch's 'mutant sister.' though Wiig makes it uniquely hers. I have to admit, as wrong as this character is, and as uncomfortable as she may make some, Wiig almost made me pee my pants from laughing, especially by the end:

Franco is adorable as ever, though I'll never understand why they made him sing and dance (the Latin 'Maury Show' parody got very old, very fast). Still, he not only played tonsil hockey with doe-eyed Forte, he also parodied his role as James Dean on "The Vincent Price Christmas Special" by letting Liberace (Fred Armisten) pleasure him under a piano. Wiig is again hilarious as an over-achieving young Katherine Hepburn:

"Mmmm... Asbestos!"

There's something familiar about the look on James' face at the end of sketch... Hmmm.... I wonder what could it be?

Here's hoping all my fellow East Coasters are safe and at least on their way to digging out. The official record in Philly was just under 2 feet, though here in Southern Bucks County, I think we got more. And a special "Thank You" to the new neighbor who offered to snow-blow my driveway and sidewalk. You saved Christmas, sir! Thanks to you, I was able to actually finish my holiday shopping today, quite pleased with all of my choices and the bargains I got on them, not to mention the lack of crowds almost everywhere I went.

More, anon.

Brittany Murphy (1977 - 2009)

Brittany Murphy, whose films included of Drop Dead Goregous; Cherry Falls; 8 Mile and Sin City, has died at the age of 32. Probably best known as Tai in 1995's Clueless, Murphy was also the voice of Luann on Mike Judge's long running animated series King of the Hill.

A talented comedic actress who seemed to be one of the few actresses her age to not involved in some scandal or other, by all accounts, Murphy was as genuine and sweet and she was funny and smart.

No word yet as to cause of death, only that she was found unconscious by her mother and was in full cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived at the home she shared with husband, Simon Monjack. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Sedars Sinai in Los Angeles at 10:04 AM PT, according to TMZ (via).

Here's how I'll always think of her:

No more obituaries, please (though I suppose she, Dan O'Bannon and Jennifer Jones make up the troika).


Friday, December 18, 2009

Dan O'Bannon (1946 - 2009)

Dan O'Bannon died yesterday at the age of 63. He was the cousin of my college friend Brian, and one of the screenwriters (along with Ronald Shusett) of Ridley's Scott's 1979 masterpiece of space horror, Alien. He directed 1985's zombie comedy Return of the Living Dead and worked on the screenplays for Lifeforce and Total Recall, among other films.

But the movie for which I will most remember him is his and Shusett's follow-up to Alien, 1981's Dead & Buried. Starring James Farentino; Melody Anderson (Flash Gordon); Jack Alberston and Robert (Freddy Kreuger) Englund, Dead & Buried is set in the small Rhode Island town of Potter's Bluff. When a series of strange murders starts to take place, the local sheriff (Farentino) starts to become suspicious of the kindly undertaker/coroner (Albertson). As directed by Gary Sherman, D & B is shot through a dream-like foggy filter, making its strange events seem even more surreal.

I saw Dead and Buried with my sister (who will always be my favorite movie companion, even if it's been years since we actually went to the movies together) at a long-gone movie theater in the Quakerbridge Mall and we were both freaked-out by it's slowly building, quiet sense of doom (not to mention the freaky murders).

Thanks for the movie memories, Dan. I hope the projects you had in development come to fruition.

More on Dan O'Bannon's career on tomorrow's Zombie Zone post.

More, anon.

An Annoying Delay?

Well, it seems that the Nor'easter headed my way tomorrow may very well delay my seeing Avatar until at least Sunday night. They are predicting at least 6 to 10 inches of snow for the Philadelphia area. I live in the Philly suburbs and the closest Imax theater is in New Jersey, about 15 miles away, normally not a big deal at all. In fact, I see most movies at that very theater as the cinemas near my house suck. But with blizzard-like conditions predicted by noon, I seriously doubt that we'll be going. My problem now is figuring out how to get a refund for tickets I already bought. Not to mention the Christmas shopping I MUST finish tomorrow because I'm seeing some folks (my Aunt, in particular) on Sunday. I picked up a few things tonight, but still need one more thing for her and a gift for my friend's daughter by Sunday... sigh.

I know I wasn't all that enthusiastic about this movie before, but now that the reviews are in, I was actually looking forward to seeing it. Oh, well. Here's one more look at the trailer, not in Imax or 3D.

More, anon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade

Rounding out the genre troika is my list of the Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade. You'll note there are quite a few Superhero movies on this list. Most genre-specific lists include Superheroes in Sci-Fi, but I think they usually include more fantasy elements than science; near-perfect men and women who do extraordinary things for those less perfect than themselves. And yes, Superman may well be from outer space, but Thor is right out of Norse mythology.

"Fantasy" as a label has been used as a catch-all for Horror and Sci-Fi, but when you think about it, isn't all fiction by definition Fantasy?

For the purposes of this post, Fantasy is defined as having fantastical elements, including, but not limited to, mythological creatures, beings and entities or those who through fantastical circumstances find themselves imbued with fantastical properties and/or abilities. So, without further ado, my picks for The Top 10 Fantasy Movies of the Decade:

10. MirrorMask

Neil Gaiman's traditional 'quest' fantasy about a teenage girl who must find a fabled Mirror Mask to end a conflict and heal her mother, has been described by some as The Wizard of Oz Goes to Cirque du Soleil. Canadian illustrator Dave McKean directs for Jim Henson Productions, creating a rich and gorgeous world where anything can and does happen. Simply magical.

9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee's Chinese fairy tale about the search for a stolen sword and the abduction of a young noblewoman introduced Western audiences to wire-work and cemented Lee as one of the best filmmakers in either hemisphere. Luscious, exciting and enigmatic, it features a terrific performances from Chow Yun Fat and the amazing Michelle Yeoh, who says more with here eyes than pages of dialog could ever convey. Add a gorgeous score from Tan Dun and you have a unique film experience that's been copied, but never quite replicated.

8. The Prestige

The first of two Christopher Nolan films on this list, The Prestige is a story about two rival magician's and the lengths which one will go to take revenge on the other for a perceived wrong, and fine line between science and magic. Starring Hugh Jackman; Christian Bale, Michael Caine; Scarlett Johansson; Andy Serkis and David Bowie, The Prestige is a movie that requires more than one viewing to understand all of its complexities. A truly amazing film.

7. Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. completes his return from Hollywood hell in Jon Favreau's brilliant adaptation of the Marvel comic book about weapons manufacturer Tony Stark who, after being kidnapped and forced to build a weapon for the enemy, creates a flying suit that he uses to enforce peace. A fun, thrilling and dazzling Superhero movie unlike most in the genre, Iron Man is also one of the genre's best. Downey is joined by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and an unrecognizably hot Peter (A Christmas Story) Billingsly in this exciting first entry in what is sure to become a 3 picture franchise.

6. Watchmen

Alan Moore's supposedly unfilmable graphic novel was brought to the screen this year by 300 director Zach Snyder, and while the end product was far from perfect, it was sure worth the wait. Billy Crudup, Mathhew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley (in a tour de force performance) head up the cast in this story about disillusioned superheroes who must re-team to stop the world from being destroyed. Moore may have disavowed teh Hollywood machine, but his story makes for one hell of a good movie.

5. Spider-Man 2

The first sequel on my list, Sam Raimi's follow-up to Spider-Man is one of the best Superhero movies ever made. Tobey Maguire; Kirsten Dunst; James Franco; Alfred Molina; Dylan Baker and the amazing Rosemary Harris head up an exciting and intelligent movie about the toll being a Superhero takes on the human underneath the mask.

4. The Incredibles

Pixar has yet to fail us, and Brad Bird's hilarious tale about Superheroes forced into retirement takes on not only the comics' staple, but James Bond, teh fashion industry and family dynamics in one of Pixar's best entries. Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Elizabeth Pena, The Incredibles is a hilarious, exciting and touching movie worth seeing again and again.

3. Pan's Labyrinth

A movie that I feel is the first true Cinematic Masterpiece of the 21st Century, Guillermo del Toro's tale of a young girl living under the thumb of a sadistic step-father who is also a General in Franco's regime of terror, Pan's Labyrinth is not a sweet fairy tale for children, but rather a tale of beauty and truth triumphing over evil. And whether you choose to believe to believe that Ofelia is truly a princess from another world or a young girl who escapes into fantasy to escape the pain of the real world, there is no denying the power of del Toro's vision. A stunning acheivement.

2. The Dark Knight

How many times can Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins be praised? Not enough, for my money. The late Heath Ledger's astounding performance as The Joker is enough to make The Dark Knight the best Superhero movie ever made, but it's only part of the whole that is the amazingly dark and gritty film that The Dark Knight is. Christian Bale (despite teh ridiculous raspy voice) turns in another powerhouse performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Add Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal to the mix and you have a Batman movie even Tim Burton must be jealous of.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

How can one separate Peter Jackson's three films? You may as well try to separate Tolkien's novels. Ambitious, extraordinary, luscious and iconic can only begin to describe these three epic films. I'll simply let the trailers speak for themselves:

Any arguments for the #1 spot? I thought not.

Honorable Mentions: Finding Nemo; King Kong; Hellboy 2; The Illusionist; Peter Pan; Shrek; Spirited Away; Tideland; Howl's Moving Castle.

On side note, Uncle P may be absent for a few nights over the next couple of weeks. I recently had a dream which has inspired a new screenplay, which demands to be written and I'll be spending some time working on that. I'll stop by now and then and will be posting my Top 10 of 2009 before the end of January, but if I don't get to say so before, I wish you all avery Happy, Safe and Healthy Holiday Season.

More, eventually.