That Guy: 'Tiny' Lister

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lister_friday 'Tiny' Lister has a small part in The Dark Knight and seeing him reminded me that he's a perfect That Guy. For the last two decades, whenever casting directors have needed a big, mean looking black man, 'Tiny' has been on the short list.

On my list of his greatest hits are:

  • Wrestler/movie villain Zeus in the World Wrestling Federation and the first WWF movie, No Holds Barred
  • Debo in Friday
  • President Lindberg in The Fifth Element
  • Sancho in Sublime's music video for Santeria
  • Random tough guy roles on sitcoms like Perfect Strangers, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Step By Step, and USA High

His IMDB filmography shows 8 projects pending release, so there are no signs of the big man slowing down. Here's to you, 'Tiny', I hope you'll be an intimidating presence for years to come.

The Dark Walrus

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They weren't kidding about the dark part As we discussed in CT's Dilemma, I am the first of the crew to see The Dark Knight. As you might have guessed from the (lack of) timeliness of my reviews, I don't make it out to the theater often. Though for this one I was completely on board and knew I had to go all in. So I headed to my local IMAX theater with high hopes and came home disappointed.

Story

Your own mileage may vary, but the story left me wanting. It was a relatively straightforward plot designed to showcase the morality play and Heath Ledger's performance. The plot did what was needed to tie into the first film and then got out of the way. All in all, not a bad way to go, but it also didn't offer much new in the way of storytelling.

Where things went a bit sideways with me was the darkness of the story. I certainly expected a darker version of the Joker, but the story on the whole was the most depressing I've seen since Children of Men. Quantitatively speaking, I don't think The Dark Knight featured any more mayhem than Batman Begins. However, there was a qualitative difference to me. I won't divulge spoilers here, but by the end of the movie I felt that even a world with Batman is a dismal place. I came out of the theater feeling like I had watched Schindler's List instead of a comic book/superhero movie.

Presentation

The acting performances were solid all around. Everyone has raved about Heath Ledger and indeed he was as good as advertised. I've read that Ledger was inspired by the Alex DeLarge character in A Clockwork Orange and, if that's true, Ledger succeeded at being equally disturbing. Rather than laughable or just plain weird, Ledger's version of the Joker was purely sadistic and psychotic.

Aaron Eckhart's portrayal of Harvey Dent was noteworthy as well. Dent came across as capable, likable, and a worthy counterpart to Batman. I empathized with Dent and that made his part of the story work for me. The rest of the main characters were well done, though there was less of Bruce Wayne, Alfred, Jim Gordon, and Rachel Dawes this time around.

The special effects were top notch and the IMAX specific scenes were impressive. Nolan chose some odd shots for a few scenes including an overuse of the single take (or appearing that way) shot which revolves around the performers during dialogue. Once per two hours is probably enough of that, Christopher. The Foley art sounded especially good over the IMAX sound system, but none of the score stood out to me.

Story score--

Presentation score--

I can't hand out the rewatchable walrus for this one. My feeling is probably best encapsulated by the following gem that Shamus from 20 Sided Blog let loose in a video game review a few months back.

"How do you rate a restaurant that serves mouth-watering steaks for $5 and a punch in the face before the meal?"

I did enjoy the steak, but the punch in the face left me feeling bad enough that I'll pass on seconds.

I Want To Believe...That It's Good.

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Those who know me will take it as no surprise that I don't generally respond well to people telling me that I will love something. The X-Files TV series debuted my senior year of high school, but I never watched it that season and instead would only (occasionally) watch Brisco County, Jr which debuted at the same time. About a year or two later, X-Files became cool and all sorts of people found that they had to tell me that it was "my kind of show." And in spite of my usual tendencies to resist being pegged like that, I gave it a shot. I watched a handful, but by that point, the show was too deep in the mythology for me to make the effort to play catch up.

Cut to 2005 when some great buddies of mine gave me a Netflix subscription as a going away present, I immediately took the opportunity to start at the beginning and watch all nine seasons of the X-Files, plus the movie and spin-off over the course of 13 months.

I can see where someone would think that I would love the show. Aliens, monsters, and mysteries seem like something CT would like. And I do admit...it earned a place in my heart. At its best, the show was great but, in a lot of ways, it was like mining for gold. There were some absolutely brilliant episodes. And then there were a lot that just bored me. Part of that comes from me not caring much about the mythology episodes. I like the standalone episodes better for the most part. That probably came from the mythology episodes being convoluted and nonsensical.

I think my biggest problem with the show is that I just really didn't find Mulder to be all that likable of a guy. He wasn't your typical hero, I got that. But in the same way he would often wind up the damsel in distress, he often didn't seem to be working on these cases for altruistic reasons. He had goals that often seemed self-serving, and after years of working on these cases and getting glimpses of a larger picture of the universe, I would have thought he would have changed. Instead, he got more annoying. It was with the introduction of The X-Files' version of Coy, John Doggett, that I really was able to put my finger on my problems with Mulder. Doggett shows up, has no belief in this stuff and literally died for the cause (although he was eaten and regurgitated into his exact, healed form). Doggett was a hero. Mulder...not so much.

Still, Mulder was endearing and that was due mostly to the fact that Scully liked him. Scully was easier to like and if she liked someone, it somehow made it okay for the viewer to like that person, too. Although she wasn't perfect either. It wasn't that long into the show when I thought it began being hard to buy her skepticism. She saw some pretty weird stuff and after five or six years, you'd think you'd start to believe something weird was going on in the world.

Still, in spite of my problems with the show, I enjoyed The X-Files: I Want To Believe.* I found that as I watched it, I had all the same problems with it that I had with the show. So, from that perspective, it was perfect. The movie was not X-Files at its best, but it was X-Files. And for those who miss Mulder and Scully and want to see how they're doing, this is a decent way to get that. But don't expect anything above an average episode. In fact, the worse you think it will be going into it, the better you'll probably think of it afterwards.



* Gasp! But CT, you don't go to the theater to see movies. How were you one of the three people who saw X-Files opening weekend?! It was movie day at work, and I chose X-Files even though there were three other movies I would have probably rather have seen. But X-Files is safe. It's not something I would have gotten myself arrested for if there were problem folk.

When Horrible is Good

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Joss Whedon + Neil Patrick Harris + Nathan Fillion + quirky super hero universe + a musical = Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. You know you want to watch it.

CT's Dilemma

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Why so serious, CT? We are at the cusp of one of the great decisions of our age.  Sure there's that whole election thing in the fall, but in the coming days and weeks CT must decide if he'll break his self imposed ban on seeing movies in the theater. He has had enough bad experiences at the theater that he vowed never to go back and to simply wait for things to come out on DVD. Aside from a rare spoiler dropped here or there, his plan seems to have worked well.

The problem is a little film called The Dark Knight that comes out this Friday (July 18th). You may not have heard of this obscure arthouse piece, but trust me when I say it's going to be a big deal. It may end up being the best super hero movie of all time and people are even whispering about a potential posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger. Over the past week or so we've had a little poll in the side panel of the blog asking if CT should break his embargo. Several folks have voted yes and, since she has to live with the consequences, Janay is less than thrilled with that prospect.

State your case, folks. Why should CT roll the dice and head out to theatre for this one? Or should he wait for the DVD and hope it makes it out in time for Christmas?

00Walrus #11: Moonraker

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Over the halfway point for both Bond movies and the Roger Moore era. Hard to believe this is part of the same series that began with Dr. No.

MOONRAKER
Bond: Roger Moore - 2 tusks
Against the backdrop of this movie, my problems with Roger Moore pale in comparison. Actually, given the material he had to work with, he did alright. His delivery of some of the little quips has really gotten better and he's much more comfortable in the role by this point than he was in the first two he did.

Girl: Lois Chiles as Doctor Holly Goodhead - 1 tusk
According to IMDb, Chiles was offered the role of Anya in The Spy Who Loved Me and turned it down. And I'm so glad she did. She and Roger Moore had very little chemistry although I think they were wanting her to be another Anya and have she and Bond share that similar dynamic.

Gadgets: A plethora - 0 tusks
My problem with the gadgets here is that there is no set up for most of them. Other than Bond's watch he uses in the centrifuge and the laser rifle, the gadgets and vehicles seem to come out of nowhere. The worst offender would be the gondola Bond uses in Venice. Why is there a guy paddling in the first place if Bond has a super gondola? The gadgets go overboard in general especially when they break out laser pistols. Bond never uses a laser pistol and for that, I'm very glad.

Opening Theme: "Moonraker" performed by Shirley Bassey - 0 tusks
"You're listening to WNRD, your local Lite Rock station..." Completely unfitting for both James Bond and this movie. In doing some of the reading I do for these write-ups, I discovered that Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis were both in line to do the theme. Sinatra doing a Bond theme...that would have been a hoot.

Villain: Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax - 0 tusks
Absolutely awful. The man had no screen presence and was the least exciting villain in a Bond movie yet. Could he deliver his lines with any less enthusiasm? And the guy was completely under-developed. Why did he want to destroy the world? I don't know. Maybe he said and I just slept through his lines.

Henchman: Richard Kiel as Jaws - 1 tusk
It got to be a bit much to see Jaws survive everything in the previous movie. Here, it was absolutely absurd. If I based Jaws appearance in this movie based solely on the opening sequence, I'd give him two tusks. And that's where his involvement in this movie should have ended. But then, he wouldn't have been the henchman. More than just annoyance of his super-strength and his apparent superhuman ability to hone in on James Bond's exact location, Jaws was further de-coolified when he was turned into a good guy. The whole love story between him and Dolly was cringe-inducing and absurd. (Have I used that word already? Let me check...yep. Well, it was.) That alone almost cost him any tusks, but what saves him is that...

Pre-title opening sequence - 2 tusks
You know, I really thought that mid-air fight sequence was spectacular. And after watching the extra features on how it was made, I'll give it the full two tusks. Very well done in a time way before cgi and all sorts of other computer cheats. This stunt was practically done. And these guys jumped out of a plane over 80 times to shoot this sequence. Amazing.

Story:
By this point, there's been a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek stuff throughout the films, but this has by far the most. The silly by-stander reaction shots, the continuous call outs to sci-fi films, and the Jaws/Dolly plot all make this movie hard to stomach. Director Lewis Gilbert must have had some fascination with the idea of temp headquarters for M, Moneypenny and Q because in all three of his movies, M has an office somewhere other than London and Moneypenny is right outside the door. What? Why?!

This movie goes beyond believability in the final sequence. Though the special effects are surprisingly well done for the day, the fact that six shuttles and a space station have been constructed by Drax, and that the US have space-trained Marines, and that Drax is able to find an entire network of people who are up for living on the station and destroying the world is completely absurd. (I used that word again.)

By far the worst Bond movie as a whole. If I ever watch it again, it'll have to be done with someone so we can make fun of it the whole time.

Special shout out to Bernard Lee for playing the premier M for 11 straight movies. He usually only had a scene or two in each movie, but he owned the role and made what little he got to do count.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me

Worst. Show. Ever.

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Last week, the Nick Digilio podcast was devoted to discussion of the 25 worst sitcoms according to TVCrunch. Sitcoms rank only slightly above reality TV in my current entertainment pantheon, but I certainly have watched my fair share. TVCrunch's list gets more things right than wrong and that's more than I can say for many Internet lists. But they make for easy work and even easier blogging, so let's discuss.

I have to object to Perfect Strangers and Mr. Belvedere getting the knock as both are exactly what I want from an 80s sitcom. And while I fully admit that it sucks, Charles in Charge is a guilty pleasure of mine. Maybe it's just me, but Woops! sound like an interesting premise for a show.

Aside from Perfect Strangers, Belvedere, and a three shows that I have no recollection of, I can't argue against any of the selections.  Off the top of my head I do think there are a few notable omissions that are more deserving of inclusion, but reasonable people can disagree on crappy TV.  Great food, bad comedy

Any other candidates that I have slipped my mind? Would anyone like to make an impassioned defense of My Two Dads?

Klaatu barada necktie!

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A classic sci-fi movie from the 1950s is getting remade into a big-budget blockbuster. Well, another classic movie. This isn't the first time a classic sci-fi movie has been remade.

I watched the trailer for the upcoming version of The Day The Earth Stood Still today and was a little disappointed.

I don't have any inherent problem with remakes and I'm not opposed to a remake of this movie per se. However, the way the original ends, it actually cries out for a sequel. I would much rather see the next movie...the one where the aliens come back and say, "Hey Earth, remember when we told you to shape or we were going to destroy you? Well, you didn't shape up."

It also looks like they're jumping on the "go green" bandwagon with this. Not that being environmentally conscious is bad, but if that's what every movie with a message is going to be about now, it's going to get a little old. The original themes of getting along as an entire species are still relevant and always will be.

And I'm not sure about the Keanu Reeves casting. The original Klaatu had some charisma. Keanu...not so much.

00Walrus #10: The Spy Who Loved Me

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Got the tenth movie watched on the last day of June. Ten Bond movies in six months. Well on track to having these wrapped up by the end of the year.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
Bond: Roger Moore - 2 tusks
The best of the three movies he's been in so far. In this movie, they strip out even more of the Connery aspects like his disdain for women and he becomes a lot more casual and looser. During the big reveal that he was the one who killed Anya's boyfriend, he delivers some pretty good lines in a very convincing way. I largely have no complaints about him in this movie although, by this point, he's really beginning to show his age and some of his action sequences are laughable from that respect. I waffled on giving him the full two tusks here, but I'm going to round up and give it to him.

Girl: Barbara Bach as Major Anya Amasova, Agent XXX - 2 tusks
A refreshing change from the last three movies where we have a strong female lead. Certainly the strongest since Diana Rigg's character in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Gadgets: Lotus that turns into a mini-sub - 1 tusk
I'd like the Lotus that turns into a submarine if it were in almost any other movie. I don't really like the super far-fetched gadgets like that in Bond. That's a bit overboard for my tastes. The other gadgets throughout were fine though. Although I didn't really understand why Q-Branch was set up in Cairo. Maybe I missed something.

Opening Theme: "Nobody Does It Better" performed by Carly Simon - 2 tusks
After the Lazenby movie, the themes meander in styles and lose the big, brassy feeling they had in the 60s. "Live And Let Die" was one of the best theme songs ever, but as I mentioned in my review of that movie, the theme didn't really mesh with the movie. Carly Simon turns in my favorite Bond song (that top spot only recently rivaled with Casino Royale's theme) with a theme that is enjoyable and matches the tone and mood of the movie. The only downside is the real corny version played at the very end of the movie. I could have done without that.

Villain: Curt J├╝rgens as Karl Stromberg - 1 tusk
"Diet Blofeld" sums up my thoughts on this character. Apparently the original script drafts had SPECTRE and Blofeld return, but the Kevin McClory legal issues put the kibosh on that. So, instead we get another crazy megalomaniac who wants to change the face of the world. His motivations are unclear. I wonder if he's underdeveloped with the original intention of being Blofeld. Ultimately, he doesn't have enough screen time to be cool. He had no defining moment like Goldfinger, Scaramanga, or any of the Blofelds did. But, he's not horrible either.

Henchman: Richard Kiel as Jaws - 2 tusks
Jaws might ought to be considered the villain of the movie because he has more to do and more scenes than Stromberg. He's the best henchman since Oddjob, but his invulnerability is overly far-fetched.

Pre-title opening sequence - 2 tusks
Nice combination of mini-adventure that sets up the story and lays the groundwork for conflict to come later on. The end stunt was amazing and it's worth watching the extra features to learn a bit about the background on that scene.

Story:
Due to legal problems and other behind the scenes issues, there was a longer than usual delay between the previous movie and this one, but it was probably for the best. They had been cranking out Bond movies once every other year for years and a lot of the people were the same. Guy Hamilton had directed the last three straight and Tom Mankiewicz (the guy who made Superman better) had a hand in writing the last three. Although the director was the guy who directed You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me Comes in with a sense of freshness in spite of how derivative it is of earlier films.

It basically apes the plot of You Only Live Twice and marries it with some of From Russia With Love, but does so in a different way. And by the tenth movie, it's no surprise that we're running out of plots and repeating elements. The love story is one of the best in the series thus far and the two leads have some real chemistry.

I liked that Bond's marriage was mentioned for the first time in three movies. I also liked the reference to Q's real name of Major Boothroyd. It was obvious that this was written by a fan. And now that the series of movies have been around for 15 years and the books even longer, it's no surprise that we're entering the era of Bond movies written by guys who were fans of the originals.

Also, this was the first Bond movie to come out after I was born. Not that that means anything, just thought I'd mention it. Now...bring on MOONRAKER!!!


Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
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