Haiku and Review, Scifi Edition: Barbarella, Event Horizon, Alien: Covenant, Starship Troopers, The Thirteenth Floor

After listening to the latest season of the podcast You Must Remember This, which featured Jane Fonda, my wife and I thought it would be kind of neat to go through Fonda’s filmography.  We started with her first real movie role on Walk on the Wild Side and after a few more films, arrived at…

Barbarella
This is one strange film.
So strange that I had to stop.
And feel terrible…

After half an hour, I’d had enough.  A sexploitation film in every way, though I think what bothered me more than anything was that Fonda seemed 100% committed to the campy role with absolute seriousness.  There’s something eerie about the juxtaposition.  Not recommended.

Now for the rest — I’ve been meaning to see some of these movies for quite a while; we’re talking years for all but the newest (Alien: Covenant).  I had some time last week, so it was a great joy to finally catch up to them.

Event Horizon
What an engine room!
Gotta love the spike decor.
Hellraiser in space.

Not what I expected.  I mean I’d heard this was a horror movie set in space, in the vein of Alien, but I did not know how much Clive Barker influence it had (he was consulted, even, during pre-production).  Laurence Fishburne was so young and thin!  Recommended.

Alien: Covenant
I’ve seen this before
in Star Trek’s Data and Lore
with much less drooling.

I liked Prometheus better than this one.  Not a bad movie, and Michael Fassbender is wonderful as always, but sadly predictable in just about every way.  My favorite moment of the film was when Amy Seimetz, who plays Faris (and wife of Danny McBride’s Tennessee), in her dash to escape the alien, bangs her shoulder against a metal box in the hallway.  It seemed so utterly real, her panic.  Barely recommended.

Starship Troopers
Time to kill some bugs!
Wooden acting master class.
Hooray…fascism?

Wow, is the acting bad in this film.  Helmed by Paul Verhoeven, who also directed Total Recall and Basic Instinct, you’d think that he’d know how to get a half-decent performances out of his young actors, but no, the leads are uniformly terrible, even Neal Patrick Harris.  I couldn’t quite figure this movie out — it’s made to resemble a propaganda film, I guess to satirize the obvious fascism/Nazism imagery, but it almost seems like it’s celebrating it?  It’s weird.  And really bad, and not in a good way.  Not recommended.

The Thirteenth Floor
Plot is tricky, and
D’Onofrio’s amazing
as geek and barkeep.

Craig Bierko is the lead in this film, but Vincent D’Onofrio, as always, steals every scene he’s in.  I think everyone who knows movies knows about D’Onofrio, but he’s one of these actors that I wish was a household name.  Four actors play dual parts in this movie, but D’Onofrio is the only one who really seems like two completely different people.  There’s a twist in this movie that’s quite ingenious; I wish they went even farther with it, but I’ll take what I can get.  Recommended.

“Froggy,” in The Korean Quarterly

The kind folks at The Korean Quarterly have printed an essay of mine in their summer issue.  In case you aren’t familiar with the publication, here’s a primer:

Korean Quarterly is a non-profit quarterly newspaper, written by and about the Korean American community of the Twin Cities and upper Midwest. We define this community to include first and second generation Korean Americans and their families (including non-Korean family members), adopted Koreans and their families, and bi-racial/bi-cultural Korean American people.

The Korean Quarterly staff, contributors, and advisory board consist of first, 1.5 and second generation Korean Americans, adult adopted Koreans and adoptive parents of younger adopted Koreans.

Even though they have a presence on the internet, they publish their quarterly on newsprint only.  You know, newsprint — that thing that we wrapped fish in, crumpled to pack boxes, and also read occasionally.

But since we live in modern times and since you cannot actually read my essay unless you subscribe to The Korean Quarterly, here it is, from paper to smartphone to Dropbox to my website.  I suggest you click on the graphic in order to read it, since the type’s gonna be too tiny to read as is.

Froggy

A reflection on one woman and her love-hate relationship with a car

[FYI, it’s about my mom and her Volkswagen Beetle]

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My Long-Lost Sibling (LLS) Contribution to Sports Illustrated

One of my favorite sports writers out there is Jon Wertheim, the gifted tennis scribe who does it all — commentating for Tennis Channel, writing bestsellers, and posting a weekly column on SI.  This week, he picked my Long-Lost Sibling (LLS) suggestion for his mailbag!

 

They could totally be brothers.  I have a feeling Karen could also wield a hammer quite well…

Haiku and Reviews: Saga, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window

A Horn and a Wing
star-crossed lovers in wartime
trying to save their child.

I don’t read comic books often, but I think it’s about time I started to, because if they are anything like Saga, I’ve been missing out big time.  Saga is written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, and it’s been going on for years (the title of the series is very apt) — since 2012.  I just caught up to the last issue, #42, and it is a humdinger.  Even though this story takes place in another world, in space, the kind of stuff you’d expect from comic books, it is extremely accessible and very much a story for our times.  It’s got elements of Romeo and Juliet and Star Wars, and it’s just an epic, epic story.  Great characters, exciting storylines, what we love about fiction.

She drives her car as
if the road does not exist.
All for a picnic.

A single suitcase.
Pink gown, pink slippers, for night.
Then we hear the scream.

Old movies, these two.  Both by Alfred Hitchcock, and both starring Grace Kelly.  To Catch a Thief felt a bit more dated than Rear Window; it is definitely the lesser of the two films, though still quite entertaining, especially the scene where Kelly drives Cary Grant to a picnic lunch.  Even though I’d seen parts of Rear Window before, I never actually sat down to watch the whole movie from start to finish, and I must say, I think it’s my new favorite Hitchcock (Vertigo was my previous #1).  Not only are the lines hilarious (especially Thelma Ritter’s Stella but really, all the characters), the movie is really about movies — how we all are voyeurs when we watch.  The script is impeccable, the balance between humor and suspense just right.  Also, there are times when Grace Kelly here is so incredibly beautiful that I almost had to avert my eyes!  What great casting — she had to be the perfect woman, and she delivers in form and function.  This is a very difficult part for Jimmy Stewart to play, too, as he’s stuck in that wheelchair and so much of his acting is subtle expressions.  There are so many scenes where he has no one to act against, just himself with his camera or his binoculars, reacting to what he sees.  Rear Window is just a gem of a movie.  Roger Ebert, as always, does a fantastic job of reviewing this film.  Watch it, and then read him.