Gearing up for J-session

As you all know, I teach a j-session course each year called “Zombies in Popular Media.”  To keep myself up to date and stay on track, I use November, December, and January as zombie months, watching only Zombie movies from my personal queue.  This year, instead of the haphazard randomness I usually use to decide which movies to watch, I’ve decided to take Netflix’s advice.  Thus, here are the first 20 zombie movies I’ll watch, in “star rating” order.

Zombie queue Fall 2009
Zombie queue Fall 2009

Last year I managed 16 zombie movies between 1 Nov and 31 Jan.  I’m gonna try to watch all 20 of these this time around.  Of course, my zombie queue is now up to 160 movies or so.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Of course, you were as excited for this film as I was when you saw the Youtube trailer. Some thoughts:

  • I don’t mind my movie science shaky, but I like them to try, at least. My biggest complaint has to do with the classification. The scientists unblinkingly call this shark a Megalodon. Megalodons are the biggest documented predatory fish in history, reaching upwards of 60 feet in length. But this shark is more like 1200 feet. Or more. Look at the picture of the shark holding the sub in its mouth. They mention that this is a Sea Wolf sub (part of a “Wolf pack”). The sea wolf sub is 350 feet long. By the looks of this image, the shark has to be at least four times as long or more than the sub. That’s fine. I don’t mind the ridiculous size, but give the biologists a line like “We’ve never seen anything like this!” Also, notice the changing scale: the shark isn’t too much bigger than the plane, but it absolutely dwarfs the submarine.
  • Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah(!) Gibson do fine in their roles, as do the other players. I think it would be fun to do a movie so shamelessly entertaining.
  • Most of the dialogue is entirely utilitarian. It’s too bad they couldn’t get the script a bit more punch. There were a few good lines though…

    Alan Baxter: And now what activity do we see? (Points to the radar screen.)
    Emma McNeil: None.
    Alan Baxter: Score one for Ms. Fancypants.

    Crewman: All five ships destroyed by Octopus, sir.

    Alan Baxter (referring to a plan to use pheromones to attract the beasts): How do you know this plan will work?
    Lamar Sanders: If you’d been frozen for millions of years, you’d be pretty horny, wouldn’t you?

  • The film had a vaguely environmentalist message, ala Godzilla. The low-frequency sonar beacon covertly dropped by a navy pilot in the arctic is what actually breaks the monsters loose. Emma McNeil wonders if we are reaping what we’ve sown.

Probably not worth watching unless you know ahead of time that you like this sort of thing, in which case I look forward to your comments.

The most important film ever made.

Via Pharyngula:


She goes by Deborah Gibson now.

Queue update

Shocker.  There’s a limit to how many movies you can have in your queue.

queue limit
queue limit
In order to be able to add more movies, I went through and removed the entire runs of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I had added on a whim.
For those of you keeping track, Jackie Brown is now at #190.  Keep in mind that I’ve moved the zombie movies to the top 85 positions or so, but that’s still a slide backwards of 31.  Heh heh.

Kung Fu Panda

Jenny and I realized that we’re both home during the day and, on Tuesdays, Avery is at daycare. We can go see movies again! Whoo! I suspect this will be a trend. Anyhow, here are a couple quick bullets about KFP.

  • Lots of delightful voices. I didn’t recognize Lucy Liu, and poor Jackie Chan got about two lines, but it was delightful to hear David Cross. I spent the whole movie trying to figure out who the villain was, only to learn that it was Ian McShane, whom I’ve never heard of. Sigh.
  • The Wilhelm Scream. Again. Listen for it during Tai Lung’s escape sequence. ( It just occurred to me that you might not know what it sounds like. Check out the new category for details….)
  • James Hong as Po’s dad. He’s in every American movie that has Chinese people in it. EVERY one.
  • Good training sequence. No “Eye of the Tiger” though.
  • We saw a trailer for the new Star Wars cartoon and it struck me that he should have just done that with all of them. We don’t care if the animated movie looks animated. I bet I’ll like it a lot.
  • The fight sequences are quite dazzling and enjoyable.
  • The movie’s lesson (that what you can do is based on your will and mind, rather than physical prowess) reminded me of Kung Fu Hustle.  In KFP, animals like the mantis and the rat are powerful fighters, just as in KFH the laundry owner and the old beachcomber are both powerhouses.

And one spoiler, kinda:

Continue reading Kung Fu Panda

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes

1935.  Holmes, descending into retirement, takes one last case to catch the elusive Dr. Moriarty.  He gets involved, somewhat obliquely, and Holmes ‘catches’ him at the end.  Sigh.  It was moderately entertaining, but the sound quality is pretty terrible on the 1930s movies in this set, so it was difficult to follow.  I enjoyed the bespeckled sidekick and Watson’s bumbling, and the image of Holmes fishing out the window with an umbrella worked pretty well for me.  I also liked the moment when the detective, assured by Holmes that they had no more need of the body in situ, tells the butler that he can remove the body now.  Geez.

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: The boss of the scowlers threatens cecil barker

The film also features a long flashback sequence told by the widow of the victim.  She tells what essentially turns out to be a hard-boiled detective story, about her husband the renowned Pinkerton detective who broke up a vicious gang of thugs that ran a small coal town.  (The photo above shows the boss of the Scowlers threatening Cecil, the man whose death brings Holmes to the manor.)  These thugs swore revenge and it was through Moriarty’s help that they found the victim.  The priceless name of these bastards could have come straight from a Dick Tracy story: they’re The Scowlers.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: Watson nudges Holmes

Throughout the film, Holmes keeps snubbing Watson by forgetting to introduce him whenever they meet someone new.  Watson, for his part, gets bent out of shape about it, nudging Holmes in the ribs and getting a constipated look on his face.  Here’s the usual exchange:

Police Inspector: Mrs. Witness, may I present Sherlock Holmes.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do, Mr. Holmes?
Holmes: How do you do, Mrs. Witness?
Watson [elbows agitating furiously]: ahem
Holmes: Ah yes.  May I introduce my colleague, Dr. Watson.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do?
Watson: How do you do?
Holmes: On the night of the murder…

There is obviously some humor already at work in this setup, but it gets doubly funny when one considers that Watson is played by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame.  I like the imagine that Bond is suave and debonair in all the ways Watson was not, and that perhaps Fleming imagined himself not as the bumbler of these films but rather as we see Bond fifty years later.

Follow-up: As I finished writing the above, it occurred to me that the Ian Fleming in these films was pretty old to be in espionage 5 years later.  So I checked IMDB and found this sentence: “Not to be confused with the creator of James Bond.”  Well, shit.

This is a big mental jump, but it makes me want to go back to my idea for the namesake series.  In looking back at that post, I see that Jeff Rice’s suggestion of Charlie Brown and Chuck D has been lost.  I think Brian Doan also suggested some. Darn.  Anyway, there seems to be some Derridian value in the idea that the man who played Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and the man who created James Bond had the same name.