Salt the popcorn and settle your gigantic soda in the cup-holder. Brendan Fraser is back and just as important, so are the mummies. Strictly speaking, these guys are not mummies, but they’re close enough.
It’s only been nine years since the first film, in which handsome, wisecracking, intrepid adventurer Rick (Fraser) met the brilliant, gorgeous, and equally intrepid librarian and Egyptologist Evie (Rachel Weisz). They found themselves battling mummies and falling in love. But this is movie world, so in the third installment Rick and Evie have a college-age son named Alex (the bland Luke Ford). Oh, and Weisz is not around any more, as we are informed with a brisk wink at the fans before the action gets underway. We first see Evie from behind, reading aloud from one of her books, and it is Weisz’s voice. But then she answers a question with “Honestly I can say she’s a completely different person,” and the camera swings around to show us that Evie is now played by Maria Bello.
And after that, it is just about all action, all the time. As is appropriate for movies in this category, there is just enough plot to give us an opportunity to have various kinds of conflict in various kinds of settings and otherwise stay out of the way of all of the chases, explosions, and battles. It’s sort of the same idea as Hellboy 2 — a sleeping army will awake and take over the world for evil if blah blah. This time, Rick and Evie end up in China mostly so that mummy honors can go to Jet Li as the evil emperor who was cursed by a witch who has the secret of eternal life.
Like the old movie serials that inspired it, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it takes the action scenes seriously and there are some great ones, especially a chase in a truck filled with fireworks. You can guess where that one is going. Yes, it is a little over the top by the time the Yeti show up. And Bello, as terrific an actress as she is, doesn’t match Weisz’s chemistry with Fraser and does not have his gift for finding the right mix of sincerity and spoof. The father-son-conflict and the romance are weak and predictable. But Fraser is spot on, Michelle Yeoh adds elegance and dignity as the witch, and Li is agreeably fast and fierce as the Emperor. When the silliness gets out of hand, just grab another handful of popcorn and before it’s gone the next fight or chase or near-plane-crash or fall or avalanche or mummy-esque attack will get things going again and remind you of the pleasures of the summer movie.
Anything Dennis Lim writes about movies reflects his exceptional knowledge and insight and is a pleasure to read. His latest piece is about the way fight scenes are staged in movies is terrific — and his insights are accompanied by the film clips that illustrate his points. From a stunning fight between Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck in 1958’s “The Big Country” to “Died Hard,” “Raging Bull,” and “The Matrix,” Lim points out the how the way the fight is shot and edited can convey as wide a range of emotion, character, and plot as the dialogue.
I really like his description of the way that styles in the editing fight scenes have changed over the decades, partly as a result of technology advances that made quicker cuts and shakier, more close-in cameras possible. Walter Murch, the venerable film editor reflects on how effective cutting keeps audiences grounded as one shot, often imperceptibly, becomes another. The trick is to determine where the viewer’s attention is trained in a particular shot and to cut to a shot that contains a focal point in the same area of the frame. But there is at least one major exception to this rule: the fight scene. “You actually want an element of disorientation–that’s what makes it exciting,” Murch says of his approach to splicing together a fight. “So you put the focus of interest somewhere else, jarringly, and you cut at unexpected moments. You make a tossed salad of it, you abuse the audience’s attention.” Attention abuse is certainly one way to describe the on-screen tumult that is by now a summer multiplex ritual and that increasingly suggests even more aggressive terms than Murch’s. (Try pureed instead of tossed.)
And what a great description of the influence of the Hong Kong films and of the period when two-men fights briefly were eclipsed by bigger bangs: Yet ’90s action cinema is a wasteland when it comes to fight scenes. Most of these frat-metal spectaculars, obsessed with scale and volume, were too busy detonating asteroids and dropping fireballs on major metropolitan areas to bother with anything quite as puny as one-on-one combat.
Until “The Matrix” came along, that is. Here were fights (choreographed by martial-arts veteran Yuen Wo-ping) that defied time and space. CGI was not new, but The Matrix introduced the sense that anything is possible and, what’s more, could be conjured from nothing. The way you feel about most contemporary movies–and their fight scenes–probably depends on whether you find that prospect thrilling or alarming.
The healthy siblings of disabled or sick children are often “the forgotten ones” as understandably pre-occupied parents devote their attention to the child whose needs seem most pressing. Author Christine Frisbee lets these siblings tell their own stories in Day By Day, Children tell their journeys of faith and determination living with a sick sister or brother. The book shows how siblings of seriously ill or challenged children can learn to embrace the challenges of their exceptional situation, ultimately allowing them to transform into strong, spiritual, and caring people and gives parents some resources for making sure that these children do not feel neglected or guilty. I interviewed Ms. Frisbee via email.
What can parents do to make the sibling who is not disabled feel that he or she deserves time and attention?
Although it is easy to think that everyone in the family is adjusted to having a sick child in the family, often the siblings are quietly coping. The reason they are quiet is because they do not want to make the issues worse or make their parents feel more overwhelmed than they sometimes can.
Therefore the best thing to do is to talk about the sibling’s feelings and make sure that they know you, as a parent, have their best interests at stake too. Spend separate time with the children who are not disabled and tell them you appreciate their patience and help every day. Explain that just because you need to give so much attention to the disabled child does not mean that you care about them any less, but that you admire and respect their help and love.
Is “Survivor Guilt” a problem?
It is a fact that survivor guilt is a big problem in families. Children are very happy that they are not the one to have the disability or serious illness, but with that said, they also feel very guilty that they are the one who continues with a more normal life. Neither child understands why illness came to one of them and not the other.
Do the siblings sometimes act out to get more attention? Do they wish they were sick or disabled?
It is extremely common for siblings to act out when they have a sick sister or brother. They sometimes do not realize how much they are misbehaving. Often they know they are acting out and continue because they are angry about the misbalance of attention within the family. When they see their sick sibling getting more attention they wonder if it is worth it to have something happen to them so they get more attention, compassion and gifts from friends and relatives who want the sick child to feel better.
I had a private interview with Chris McKenna, screenwriter of an animated release due out this fall called “Igor.” It is the story of a hunchbacked lab assistant to an evil scientist who wants to be more. Voice talent for the film includes Jon Cusack as Igor, John Cleese as the scientist he works for, Eddie Izzard as the villain, and Molly Shannon as the Bride-of-Frankenstein-like creature they create. Here is the adorable trailer:
“We cooked up a really fun story with a great character,” McKenna told me. “Everyone knows him but no one really knows him. He’s lurking in the shadow. But he has his own hopes and dreams, aspirations. Is everyone born with a hunch named Igor and forced to become a lab assistant? Setting up the world was the biggest challenge. What do we need to tell the audience? How do we tell the story in an interesting way, balancing all you need to know to understand this world with all you need to know to get involved with the characters and connect to the story? Igor lives in a world where the biggest stars are the evil scientists, they’re the rock stars, all he wanted to be, his role model, but that’s impossible. He had a hunch and was forced to serve. But he needs to create.”
Producers of comics, movies, music, games, magazines, and other media “content” were not the only ones trying to get the attention of Comic-Con attendees. Advertisers are very eager to find out how to reach audiences who are able to skip radio and television commercials and are increasingly resistant to traditional forms of marketing. I was very interested that a session on a new web-based comedy series called On the Bubble led off not with one of the producers, writers, or performers but with a brand specialist. The people who created the show said that they loved the creative freedom of not having to deal with a television network (“They always have notes.”) The Sierra Mist representative said, “Comedy is the way we reach you.” They will not do anything as obvious as product placement, going instead for “deeper engagement value” through added content, message boards, and other new media.
The panel discussion about “Dollhouse,” the new television show from Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly”), began with Tahmoh Penikett (“Battlestar Galactica”) taking a photo of the crowd. “Smile everyone!” he said. Whedon watched him, amused. “This is his first experience with science fiction.”
Star Eliza Dushku explained that her new series began when she was was complaining to Whedon about not being given a chance to show all of the range of characters she could do. “Staring into the eyes of the woman, seeing all of the things she could be, I realized I’d have to do it,” Whedon said. “So, I created a girl who has every personality in the world except her own.” The result was the new series with Dushku as Echo, one of a group of men and women who are imprinted with different personalities for different assignments. Dushku talked about what she loved about Whedon’s scripts. “He makes the words pretty on the page, fully puts me at ease and challenges me at the same times. The characters have feist, fury, some funny. He’s like a career brassiere!” Whedon said he liked Dushku because she is “good with pain and being crazy and also acting.”
A questioner noted that there are already web sites dedicated to saving the show and it has not started yet. “The enthusiasm I love, the wariness is earned, but this is not a niche show,” Whedon promised.
If you’ve read through to the very end, you are really a fan! The first person to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the word Comic-Con in the subject line will get some small knick-knacks I was given there.
Alan Menken Plays His Hits [iframe width="416" height="234" src="http://abc.go.com/embed/VDKA0_i2msn1gc" frameborder="0"]
Alan Menken, currently composing the songs for "Galavant," here sings some of his greatest hits, including songs from "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Little Mermaid," "Enchanted," "Pocahontas,"
Despite the big names behind it, including George Lucas, who came up with the story and produced, it feels like a straight-to-DVD, about the level of Disney's Tinkerbell series. It's bright,
Bad Movies Inspire Great Critics: Mortdecai Johnny Depp's "Mortdecai" is sure of a place of dishonor on the end of the year worst lists. Business Insider and Huffington Post have some choice quotes from some of the movie's best bad reviews, and I've found some good ones, too, including:
David Edelstein, New York Magazine
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