Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

22 May 2008

Michael Jackson's Thriller, dir. John Landis (1983)

NIKKI says: We got to this because I got the idea to watch concert videos on the big screen and pretend I was actually there. How awesome it was. First I watched my new James Reyne DVD, which is very cool -- just James and his band playing the Espy with no crowd. Then I watched Kenny Loggins belt out "Peace of Mind", which is just shiveringly brilliant. And then... Michael Jackson. Steve wanted "Thriller", so "Thriller" it was. Music, turns out, is just as great to watch on the screen as movies and Moonlighting.

How great is "Thriller"? You really can't fault it. It's funny, spooky, and really well put together. It's hard to believe it came out 25 years ago. Wow, that's shocking. I just love young Michael, with his crazy sense of humour, and his love of horror and sci-fi stuff. He just smiles all the way through this (except when he's a zombie), and he looks to be having so much fun. I miss the fun-having MJ.

Anyway... so this was cool to revisit. The zombies look great, the dancing is the best, and I love how it's all about blending artforms and using them to their fullest effects.


STEVE says: When MTV started running Thriller in December of 1983, my brother Mike was only a little over two years old. He would watch it religiously, every hour-on the hour, kneeling in front of the TV, fascinated by the dancing undead.

Nearly a year later, when all the Thriller hype had died down, MTV ran the video (a short film, really, hence its inclusion here) on Halloween. Twenty-five years later, I can't remember if it was Michael Jackson turning into the Wolf Man, or whether it was the Zombies pulling themselves out of the damp earth, but my brother promptly forget that he'd already seen this clip about 72 times with no adverse reaction, because he started crying, bolted up the stairs and hid under my desk.

He'll kill me for telling you that.

Later, of course, when he was closer to five, he'd be watching Re-animator with me and asking how the effects worked, so this Thriller thing appeared to be a one-time-only episode. It's a great little, flick, though - due largely in part to John Landis.

It was Landis' American Werewolf in London that started this whole thing. Jackson, being a huge American Werewolf fan, asked Landis on board for this clip, and he brought his own style and sense of humour along. Once the Wolf Man part of the story is revealed to be a movie, we can hear one of the actors on-screen reciting Landis' famous in-joke, "See You Next Wednesday", and there's even a poster for Landis' first film, Schlock, hanging outside the theatre. And the disclaimer "Any similarity to actual events or persons, living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental" is a nod to American Werewolf itself.

Credit must be given, too, to Rick Baker and his crew for their Zombie make-up. Only four years earlier, George Romero's Dawn of the Dead opened unrated in theatres because he wouldn't cut it for an R rating. Baker and his crew pulled off some pretty nasty looking Zombies here, some certainly scarier than the legion of undead in Romero's film - and Thriller ran on television... where it could scare the pants off of unsuspecting two-year olds.


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, dir. Steven Spielberg (2008)

NIKKI says:
Well, this was a surprise. I did not think I'd like it as much as I did. Truth be told, I didn't think I'd get it. I was expecting much talk about arks and covenants and I envisioned myself just missing the point and just waiting for the climax.

How wrong I was. I was with the movie all the way through, and I loved how it was all about aliens and Area 51. There were a few things I didn't get, like why Oxley took the head in the first place, but I'm sure Google can answer that for me. Otherwise, I followed things quite well.

The action scenes were good. I loved the dual car fighting, when Shia and Cate Blanchett were back-and-forthing over two jeeps, and she has the head, then he has the head, then she lands on another car altogether, and then Shia is swinging through the jungle with the monkeys. Somehow, I never questioned the realism of that -- see, I finally got what it was like to be wrapped up in an Indiana Jones adventure. Very cool.

And the ants! The other thing I worried about with this was that it would play too much to the kiddie crowd, but it really doesn't. The ants were the main evidence of that. Gory!

Overall, I enjoyed it. It's currently my favourite of the series.


STEVE says:
George Lucas has spent the last few weeks promoting Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by telling all and sundry, basically, "Don't get your hopes up." He reckons that high expectations, not his own mediocre script and tepid direction, are what killed The Phantom Menace, and wants to make damn sure that doesn't happen here.

The difference, of course, is that Crystal Skull has the double advantage of having a good writer in David Koepp, and a great director in Spielberg, so there's no way, really, that expectations could possibly kill it. Right?


Well, it's like this. I liked Crystal Skull. I didn't love it, but I liked it, and I don't think that has anything to do with the altitude of my expectations (which were both high and exceeded, by the way, Mr. Lucas). There is simply no way that this movie was going to be better than Raiders - apologies to Nikki - but it certainly had every chance in the world of being better than the previous two sequels. My expectations were based solely on how it compared to the original adventure, and not how it fit into the series, or whether it "beat" the last one, which is how these things are usually judged. Each sequel has to be "better, stronger, faster" than the one that came before it, raising not only the expectations of the audience, but the responsibility of the filmmakers to the point of absurdity, so that after ten movies Jason somehow ends up in space.

David Koepp seems to understand this, and has written not just "another movie" in the Indiana Jones franchise, but a direct sequel (or at least a companion) to Raiders. And in this way, it was better than Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. It beat them without trying to beat them, but by ignoring them completely.

Hats off to you, Mr. Koepp.