Posts Tagged ‘book


Movie Review: City of Ember



A post-apocalyptic kids movie.


Starring Harry Treadaway, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Toby Jones, Tim Robbins and Martin Landau. Directed by Gil Kenan. Based on the book “City of Ember,” by Jeanne Duprau.


The story: in a world on the throes of Armageddon, a group of scientists create a city underground (City of Ember) that will last 200 years. The Mayor of the City is instructed to keep a box that counts down the 200 years and gives explicit instructions on how to evacuate Ember and return to the (hopefully) restored Earth above. Problems ensue when the 7th Mayor of Ember has a heart attack and the box is hidden away.


Doon (Treadaway) and Lina (Ronan) are school friends. When the power outages become longer and more frequent, Doon and Lina decide to do something about it while others blindly wait for the Builders to return and fix everything. Doon searches through the Pipeworks and finds secret doors and passages. Lina meets with Mayor Cole (Murray) and fins how corrupt he really is. When Doon finds that his father, Loris, and others tried to escape Ember and Lina finds the instructions to leave, they become suspected of treason. They’re only hope is to find the way out of Ember.


“City of Ember” could have easily been darker and grittier, but it wasn’t. I would say that’s akin to “The Black Cauldron,” or more serious childrens’ fare. My only real complaint about the movie is that I felt it took a while to get to the heart of the mystery, but that’s pittance compared to what the movie delivered. The overall movie was entertaining, engrossing, fun, and it held my attention the entire way.


Most impressive to me had to be the set designs. Ember looked like it had been designed somewhere between the 1940’s and 1950’s. And with the fact that the city would be limited in resources, especially after 200 years, it only seemed right that the characters would be wearing hand-me-down-to-the-nth-generation clothing. The city existed in the basement of the Earth, and thus so had small inventions scrapped together from bits and pieces of other objects. The entire civilization was well thought-out.


There’s no doubt that Bill Murray ate-up his role as the corrupt “everything is just fine” Mayor Cole. Tim Robbins stood in as Doon’s father, and did pretty well. Most surprising was Martin Landau as Sul, the narcoleptic engineer at the Pipe Works. He provides comic relief and effectively “saves the day.”


Do I recommend this movie? Sure. There’s no language and relatively no violence. The story is engaging enough to keep the attention of kids and adults. As for what ages should see it, I suggest 6 and up.


My grade: B+


Where’d HE come from? The Frankenstein monster

A lone castle, isolated from the town below. A wild-eyed scientist has pieced together parts from various “donors” in order to create a human being. Lightning flashes in the sky and strikes a lightning rod, kicking the machinery below into action. When everything is said and done, a lone finger rises from the compiled body. It’s alive! But, how did we get here?


Grave robbing was good pay in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s. Doctors and scientists were just beginning to study anatomy and would pay for a corpse to dissect. Nefarious individuals would go into cemeteries at night and dig someone up, then meet for the dropoff and payout. Money is money, right?


It was in the cold summer of 1816 that Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin and her then boyfriend Percy Shelley went to visit Lord Byron. As the day was dreary, they stayed indoors and waited for the next day. Conversation turned to experiments on Erasmus Darwin, who claimed to have animated dead matter. After reading some German ghost stories and having been tasked to come up with a supernatural story, Mary had a dream. That dream would eventually be realized as a novel called, “Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus.”


The “Frankenstein” story was about Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who became inspired by modern studies and combining them with older alchemic studies, proceeds to bring inanimate objects to life. Once he does bring it to life, however, he is horrified by what he created and runs out of the room, fleeing from the creature. Within a year’s time he recovers, but finds that his youngest brother is murdered. Is it the work of the creature? On a hike in the Geneva Mountains the creature finds Victor and tells him a story about helping out a family that turned on him, and that all he wants is a companion. Victor goes to create such a companion, and then destroys it. The creature retaliates by killing Victor’s best friend and wife. Victor is then in hot pursuit of the creature, following him to the Arctic. Victor finally dies from ill health and the creature is disheartened, leaving on an ice raft.


Mary Goodwin/Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” in respect to Gothic novels and the Romantic Movement, and as a response to the Industrial Revolution of the time. Victor Frankenstein had more of wonderment with science, and the creature became a rejected child that emotionally and mentally grew up with loneliness. She was speaking out about how times were changing, and how man mentally reacted to the change. There’s also something to be said that the creature is the “Frankenstein monster,” seeing as Frankenstein never named it, rejecting his creation in horror.


While critically panned, the book became hugely popular. Theatre producers loved the concept of a scientist “piecing together” and animating a man, but weren’t too keen on the “psychological implication” aspect. Victor slowly became more and more crazy, and the monster began losing any human qualities he had. These changes to the story led to another “creation”: the mad scientist genre. The fine line between genius and insanity depended upon what the mad scientist was trying to do which usually involved mutating humans, body-swapping, etc.


Back to “Frankenstein.” Thomas Edison created the first “Frankenstein” movie in 1910. A few other silent “Frankensteins” were also created until 1931, when Universal released what has became the most widely known and recognized Frankenstein movie to date. Starring Boris Karloff as the monster, “Frankenstein” was about Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), a scientist who is busy at work in his lab with his loyal hunchback, Fritz (Dwight Frye). When his fiancée convinces his old med school prof Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan) to speak with him, they find he manufactures a creature (Karloff). The creature comes to life. Waldman tries destroying it, but the creature kills him. The villagers start a manhunt and chase the monster to a windmill. They set the windmill on fire, the creature burns, and Frankenstein is saved. Of note, the movie was based more on Peggy Webling’s 1920 play than the book.


“Frankenstein” joins “Dracula” in the sequel factor. “The Bride of Frankenstein” came next in 1935, seizing on the “Frankenstein” name and attributing it to the monster more so than the scientist. Following that, “Son of Frankenstein,” and “Ghost of Frankenstein.” The Frankenstein monster was the influence for Herman Munster on the TV show, “The Munsters.” And the original “Frankenstein” movie was spoofed by Mel Brooks in the film, “Young Frankenstein.” Trivia note: Brooks was able to use the exact same props and set pieces from the original movie.


Movie Review: Iron Man







The popcorn superhero summer blockbuster you’ve been waiting for.


Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges. Directed by Jon Favreau.


This movie doesn’t waste any time.


But let me get to the story: Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) was the son of Howard Stark, who blazed forth a career in weapons manufacturing, in the process creating Stark Enterprises. Tony grew up a math/science prodigy, eventually taking over the business at the age of 21. His partner was Obadiah Stane (Bridges) who ran the company between Howard’s death and Tony’s ascension. Tony grew up designing some of the top weapons systems in use.


“Hey, get to the part where he becomes Iron Man!” – some fanboy behind me.


Alright, alright. So we see Tony as he is now: an alcoholic, womanizing billionaire playboy who can’t go anywhere without having a fifth of scotch. After testing his new missile, Jericho, the military envoy he’s in is attacked and he’s taken hostage. For three months he designs a giant robot suit (instead of another Jericho missile) with parts from his own weapons. He escapes and is eventually rescued by his military friend Jim Rhodes (Howard).


“Dude, be Iron Man already!” –another fanboy.


Anyways… Stark comes back and wants to make the world a better place, citing the fact that his weapons are being used to murder innocent people. He is locked out by Stane, who has been double-dealing weapons under the table. With the help of Pepper Potts (Paltrow) he gets back on his feet and designs what is to become Iron Man. After a “test” run in a small Middle Eastern town, Iron Man is green for Go. Trouble is that Stane gets his plans on the “original’ Stark made, and creates Iron Monger. Inevitably, there is the face-off between the two.


“Oh! Yeah!” – someone is geeking out because Starks is adding the “custom colors.”


I honestly liked this movie. For starters, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie until the 2/3-of the-way-through point, which is a good thing (especially for the superhero genre). Favreau did a great job in making Stark someone you should hate, but had sympathy for. I never read “Iron Man” growing up. If I was a lot younger, or had seen this movie when I was a kid, I would’ve been more inclined to read the comics.


I’m sorta at a loss here. I want to find something overly wrong with this film, but can’t. I hate to be surrounded by people and everybody praising that ONE thing; I like finding something that could’ve been done better. It could’ve been a little less popcorn-y, it could have strayed from the “superhero” formula, etc. But then, it wouldn’t be this film. In my opinion, this ranks up in Top Superhero Flicks list with “Superman,” “Batman Begins,” and “Spider-Man.”


Kudos to everyone involved. Great storytelling. The soundtrack really fit the movie. Also, congrats to Marvel for releasing this as their first SELF-FINANCED movie. Downey is great, Howard is good, Bridges is having fun playing the bad guy, and Paltrow makes me wish I was Chris Martin.


Time will tell as to how it will stack up with other superhero films, but it’s already farther than “Daredevil,” or Ang Lee’s “Hulk.”


My grade: A.


“Dude, if you are a fanboy, you’ll need to stay ‘til the end of the movie. Trust me.” –actual guy in theater. No joke.


Stay after the end credit credits whereupon you’ll see Tony Stark come home to find someone looking out his living room window. That man is Samuel L. Jackson, and he’s playing Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.