none more black…

This Is Spinal TapWhether it more deserves to be one of the great: comedies of all time, music films of all time or documentaries of all time… I don’t know, but it is certainly one of the great films of all time. Yes, This Is Spinal Tap and the world is a better place for it. Rob Reiner, in his first feature film directorial role (and the first of six great films in a row from his hands), delivered us a genuine classic. For anyone out there who may not know, this mockumentary of a rock band on tour is a brilliant combination of all of the above. A great (and somewhat realistic?) tour diary of a band who seem to be a spoof on any hard rock or prog band who toured during the 1970’s; from Hawkwind to Led Zeppelin. They’ve got the band manager, attitude, presence and egos that helped to define the great era of big rock. Oh, and they’ve also got the spandex, the volume and the armadillos…

This Is Spinal Tap



In short, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest of The Princess Bride and of his own series of mockumentaries), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean of Clue and Laverne and Shirley) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer of The Simpsons: Mr Burns, Smithers, Flanders and many more!) are the core of Spinal Tap, a British hard rock band in the second decade of their career. For the release of their newest album, Smell the Glove, the band proceeds to the US for its first North American tour in years. Sadly, this is the tour in which they come face to face with how “selective” their popularity has become. Starting out with a respectable itinerary of arena shows across the country, as the tour proceeds those shows start getting canceled, the album’s release is continually delayed, their bookings become much more unusual and the tension between the two lead members starts causing strife. This situation is not improved by the mid-tour addition of David’s pushy “yoko” girlfriend and her groovy attempts to improve the band. The footage of the tour in progress is interspersed with videos of past incarnations of the band, interviews of the band members discussing their musical history and the unusual deaths of their past drummers.

This Is Spinal Tap



If you haven’t seen it in a while, remember that This Is Spinal Tap includes all of those (now iconic) scenes: Stonehenge, “11”, the Air Force Base, “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap”, Graceland… Everything about this movie is fun and with the director and the cast writing the movie and most of it being somewhat ad libbed, it comes across as feeling very genuine. The movie is really a wonderful ensemble piece, with the film’s director playing the documentary director and the actors writing and playing the music in the film it really brings the production and the performance together. There are also many fun and short cameos. And, of course, the musical numbers are wonderfully great!

Tap in to witness all of your favorite tunes: Hell Hole, Big Bottoms, Sex Farm Woman, Stonehenge, Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You and more!

This Is Spinal Tap



I have the old Criterion Edition, which I wouldn’t recommend as its image quality isn’t very good (though I haven’t seen any of the newer editions to compare it with)… though it does have over an hour of cut scenes.



back to the future

Star TrekI did it. I went out and saw the new Star Trek. As an avowed fan of the original series (and quite disinterested in all of the other series), this is the first of the films that I’ve seen since either The Undiscovered Country or The Final Frontier.

Regardless, after all of those years and the disdain I’ve felt for the non-original Star Trek, I wasn’t too skeptical coming into this. Though I hadn’t heard much about it and I wasn’t thinking much about it, I did have it in my mind that it might be worth checking out. Of course, the fact that it is a prequel to the original series and would feature the classic characters, did make me wonder how much they would work to tie it in to the existing history. Only after the movie did I realize that it had been directed by J J Abrams (of Lost), otherwise I might have been prepared for some the alternate reality involved. First off, the whole premise. It is, yes, the story of the young (original) crew of the Enterprise and their (and the Enterprise’s) first mission. But instead of just doing a straight up prequel to the original series, he has thrown in some time-chucking to make it both a prequel and also an alternate history.

An evil Romulan, Captain Nero, has come back in time to wreak some vengeance on the Federation and the Enterprise crew must once again (though for the first time) go up against unbeatable odds to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy who will otherwise destroy the Federation. In the midst of this, we have to see the characters and relationships that we know so well begin to develop… Starting out with an exciting sci-fi battle and then moving to Kirk’s youth (and an unexpected Beastie Boys song… it certainly does have its cheesy moments) and the formation of our core folks. There is lots of action and space battling, the special effects are nicely done… This I especially appreciated because of lot of the stuff didn’t look too far removed from now. Wandering through the Enterprise it looks like you could have been just wandering through the aircraft carrier, rather than the spacecraft. There were some other good ships and some fun science stuff… Though I hate those silly “black hole/worm hole” theories, I did enjoy the Red Matter.

I thought that it was an interesting way of being able to use the same characters but yet also be able to do whatever you want with the story (and I believe, move us into a whole new series of movies using the classic characters). Of course, as with the second chunk of Star Wars movies and anything prequelesque, it feels a bit too self referential (even going so far as to give us the Kobayashi Maru incident and also an unusual and surprising take on a rather infamous romantic angle from the show)… But I find it easy to forgive such things in this case. Though I wonder how most of the movie will be perceived by people who are not thoroughly familiar with the classic star trek series.

The casting is pretty good, but most outstanding is the choice of Karl Urban (previously seen as Eomer, the great warrior of Rowan in the Lord of the Rings movies) as McCoy. Though his attempts to pull of McCoy’s mannerisms may at time seen a bit overdone, he actually makes it come across pretty well. But then, with the original series, being overdone is part of the package. And though it has a few corny and light-hearted moments that don’t really interest me, some of the other “funny” stuff I didn’t mind. Especially surprising was seeing Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott… And when the credits rolled I realized that I had unfortunately and completely missed that Spock’s mother was played by Winona Ryder!



stringing them along…

Forbidden KingdomSo with my little brother-in-law staying over we let him pick out a movie to rent and he picked one that I’d never heard of and that didn’t seem particularly exciting. But we watched it anyway and after seeing it, I am somewhat surprised that I hadn’t heard of it and assumed that is was just another old time cheapo Kung Fu flick. But no, the movie was Forbidden Kingdom and it seems to be a fairly recent addition to the flying through the air kung fu extravaganza genre. Though I haven’t seen many of these, after having Sleeping Dragon Flopping Lizard leave a dull taste in my mouth, I thought that this one was actually pretty good. Starting of with the photogenic scene of a martial arts battle across a bunch of little mountain tops poking out of the clouds…

Forbidden Kingdom



We wake to a young American fellow who has seemingly been dreaming it… The plight of those who watch too many Kung Fu movies, I suppose. Anyway, to make things more interesting, he comes across a staff in a junk store… A staff that featured prominently in his dream… And we’re off!

Forbidden Kingdom is the story of Chinese immortals with an issue. See, the Monkey King is rather obnoxious (and quite undefeatable with his magic staff)

Forbidden Kingdom



and many years ago, he ticked off the Jade Warlord by crashing a party and the Jade Warlord managed to trick him and get the upper hand. Of course, prophecy says that one day a stranger will come and return the staff to the Monkey King and he will be able to defeat the evil warlord.

Forbidden Kingdom



One guess who this prophesied stranger is… Our guy meets up with Jackie Chan (as the drunken immortal) and Jet Li (a monk on a mission) and a woman with vengeance on her mind and they set out through lush landscape, dramatic scenery and much much Kung Fu fighting to get to the palace of the warlord.

Forbidden Kingdom



In addition to all the nice looking scenes, they encounter some interesting landscape, a witch with some tricks up her sleeve and the movie is pretty entertaining with not too much of the sappy stuff, not too much of the dumb slapstick but tons and tons of action. All sorts of fight scenes, all sorts of martial arts techniques… Just people flying and fighting all over the place.



 

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