A Review of The Thing

AKA Ramona Flowers vs Aliens. Oh yeah!

October 18, 2011

The Thing is one of those classic films that really changed the genre. The special effects showed a graphic representation of alien invasion on a biological level. The sense of paranoia created by not knowing and actually caring who had been infected by the Thing made it not only deeply disturbing, but also unleaded nightmare fuel.

So how did the prequel/remake stack up?

I’m going to try and not give away any spoilers, but here’s the lowdown on the original 1982 film.

An American research station in Antarctica finds out that a nearby Norwegian outpost has been decimated by… something. They investigate and find evidence of an ancient starship buried in the ice. However, as a coming storm threatens to cut the Americans off from all contact with the rest of the world, they slowly realize that something from the Norwegian camp made it to the American outpost. It can perfectly mimic whatever it consumes. And not everyone is human anymore.

The prequel actually starts days before in the Norwegian camp. After finding the alien ship, they call in a paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When she arrives, the team removes an alien corpse from the ice and begins to study it, but soon things take a turn when the alien wakes up and escapes. Soon, the team can’t be sure who is still human or not.

The Thing by ~PurityOfEssence on deviantART

The Good

The movie is FUN, and I mean that in the best way. One thing I liked compared to the 1982 film is that the prequel actually has happy, likable characters. Kurt Russell is dour and jaded and shell-shocked, and everyone else is pretty much just as dark. The Norwegian team, though, is actually having fun with their work, making it more jarring when the bodies start piling up. Winstead is actually really good in her role as an archeologist-turned-Amazon and she adds some heart to the film.

Because of the changes in special effects technology, the monster is much faster and interacts with the victims much more prominently. We get to see some very freaky transformations that don’t have to cut back and forth between different models. Plus, we FINALLY get to see how the thing absorbs someone and changes them, and it’s the kind of thing that would make the Marquis de Sade gag.

Best of all, whoever wrote the script actually paid attention to a little something called continuity. We get to find out what the hell the creature the American team found was and we got to see why the Norwegian camp was such a warzone, including finally explaining the corpse that apparently killed itself in the radio room.

Once the action gets going, it gets going, too. While it starts with the same kind of paranoia as the original, it soon turns into a chase to stop the creature, and it’s much faster than the original film.

The Thing by ~FritoSparrow on deviantART

The Bad

Let’s face it: it’s a foregone conclusion than pretty much every character you see is going to die by the end of the film. They have to. There are only so many ways to tell this story, too, and if anyone is smart enough, they do what the characters do to try and weed out the alien. This unfortunately means that the general plot is a dead giveaway. You know the broad strokes of what will happen.

By having the creature take a center stage in the action and featuring all sorts of close-ups and extended transformations, the film obviously needed to step the game up. While early reports said that the film was going to use as little CGI as needed, the final version is FULL of CGI. Not only that, but it’s not revolutionary in any way. It looks okay. It’s not a bad computer effect, but it’s the same thing that’s been done over and over again.

The Thing by *tarrzan on deviantART

The Final Word

Does the 2011 film stack up to the remake? Yes and no.

It was a really fun movie overall. I enjoyed the action scenes and was concerned with the welfare of every character. I thought Winstead and the rest of the cast were very good at their roles.

However, I do want to address something else. As io9 pointed out, a lot of viewers are complaining that the Thing in the prequel doesn’t seem to have any plan, unlike the original film where it was trying to leave Antarctica and infect the rest of the world. True, but I actually thought it made sense. In the prequel, the monster’s just woken up. It’s weak. Even if it infects other humans, it’s still an alien to our culture and our ways. It’s probably more scared than anything.

By the time we get to the sequel, it’s had time to adapt and it makes the great escape plan of looking like a dog so others will take it in. Even at the end of this film, it finally wised up and decided to try to blend in to get rescued as a human.

Would I watch it again? Probably. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but it does have the added weight of having to live up to one of the standards of the genre, so that hurts it.

Go watch it. If you saw the 1982 version and loved it, this is a nice addition to the mythology. If you’ve never seen the Kurt Russell version, do yourself a favor and do so now before seeing this one.

Or watch it on Netflix without having to pay.

Queen Gaga?

What? Wait. No! Well, maybe. WHAT? NO! Well...

October 10, 2011

She’s a pop culture darling. They’re legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Together, they fight crime.

I mean… together, they might make a new legendary sound.

It seems Brian May has been courting Lady Gaga to become Queen’s new frontwoman. The band never dissolved. It just stopped playing after Freddy Mercury passed away. I’ve had a lot to say about Lady Gaga, most of it unpleasant. I think she’s too much show. She has a lot of heart and is very talented, but I never really got into her sound. She knows how to get her fans going, though.

On the other hand, Queen is legendary. They created some of the most enduring songs of the last thirty years and sort of fell off the pop culture radar since Freddy left us. Freddy Mercury, though, was his generation’s Lady Gaga: flashy, talented, and passionate.

Could this actually work for anyone? Would a Lady Gaga-led Queen be a good thing?

Queen – Till the End of Time by ~Tabascofanatikerin on deviantART

I see two major obstacles here.

First of all, Lady Gaga is doing fine just the way she is. She’s got hit songs, tours, the whole nine years. There is no reason for her to join a band that hasn’t released anything since the 80’s. Becoming part of a group also means sharing the spotlight, and while Gaga HAS collaborated with other artists, it would set her back.

Second of all, Queen fans might not react well to Gaga as the new voice of Queen. She’s (rightfully so) a very modern, very sugary performer who relies more on shock value than anything else. It’s not that she’s not talented. She can sing and she explores various personal themes with her music, but I, and I think a lot of Queen fans will agree, am afraid that this won’t be so much a collaboration as it will be Queen becoming Gaga’s backup band.

Lady GaGa by *Auri3 on deviantART

…But let’s say that Gaga decides to put aside questions of money and fame and does this for the sake of the music.

Suppose this isn’t Gaga just doing Queen songs or Queen adding some rock to Gaga covers. Suppose we actually get a blend of styles and genres, and actual artists collaboration between today’s queen of pop and yesterdays kings of rock. Suppose Gaga puts aside the meat dress, takes her thorazine, and actually mellows out to create coherent music that doesn’t need to use shock to sell. She’s done it with Tony Bennett already, and she sounds great!

Could it really work? Maybe, and I hate to say it, but I’d be very curious as to what comes out of it.

Notes series – F. Mercury by ~Galathrandir on deviantART

This really could go one of two ways. If Gaga ss business-savvy, she might play it safe and stay away. If she’s really serious about collaborating and not just doing this for a gimmick, she and Queen could make something really unique. She did, after all name herself after a Queen song (though I’m not sure she understood what the song meant).

Well, to perhaps preview what such a super-group might sound like, here is a Lady Gaga/ Queen mix. If you prefer metal, here is an (amazingly good) metal cover of “Bad Romance.” If you prefer something a little harder, try out Lady Gaga meets Judas Priest.

The Luck o’ the Skittish

It's real because I say so.

June 15, 2011

Careful readers may have noted how I tend to knock on people who hold outrageous beliefs for the sake of tradition or comfort. Think gays are committing a sin by loving and existing because the Bible says so? Do you think that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles despite the Bible being entirely opposite to what the Bill of Rights guarantees?

Guess what? You’re a moron for ignoring reality.

On the other hand, it’s comforting to believe in something that has no basis in reality. It’s yours. It’s personal. Conspiracy theorists work this way. They see themselves at the center of some unimaginable tangle of powerful beings and organizations that can somehow control everything from the political landscape, to the progress of technology, and yet cannot catch these desktop detectives as they unravel the web of deceit.

And yet you and I are much too smart for that, right?

Well, I got to thinking…

Tempting fate by ~jsings on deviantART

How different is superstitious thinking from fanatical religious thinking? Not that far off. We had people who believed, who genuinely believed, the world was going to end last month. Some people, even if not religious themselves, will cross themselves before entering a Catholic church, just in case. My sister refuses to shuffle cards a certain way when we play poker because it will disrupt her card-ma.

Yes, “card-ma.” Her word, I swear to Bob.

I have a Dungeons and Dragons player who insists her dice rolls don’t count if the die touches an object before it comes to a standstill. While I don’t think she really believes it, she insists that touching another object throws her off. In fact, gamers are finicky when it comes to their dice. Some dice are just “lucky.” Of course, gaming dice aren’t tested for balance like casino dice, so there very well might be lucky and unlucky dice.

Everyone’s done these sorts of things, and I tend to laugh when I see them or hear about them.

I believe in chance and choice. I believe there are things I can and cannot control. The things I cannot control are the events that are beyond my grasp, the choices others make, and the totality of existence. I can’t tell lightning where to strike. I can’t make others think what I want them to think. I can’t luck out and hope a publisher sees my work online and offers me a contract.

love is chaos by ~parasite3 on deviantART

I can, however, choose to not stand out during a lightning storm while wearing a tin foil hat. I can learn how to put together a coherent argument and make my point as persuasively as possible. I can make my work the best possible and look for ways to advertise and get the word out.

There is nothing that says charms, spells, or even good luck rituals work for us, and yet so many of us really do cling to these beliefs. I know someone’s going to fire back with, “But that’s the die I used when I slew the vampire king! It’s lucky!” or “I was wearing this shirt when I met the love of my life. It’s my lucky shirt.”

Well, show me the study where we discovered luck. Show me equations. Prove to me that our lives and random events around said lives are controlled by invisible force fields and I’ll eat my words!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do laundry and make sure I have my gaming shirt for this Saturday. When I wear my Star Wars shirt, I KILL!

Old school gaming by ~Kiaaaa on deviantART

And now, for your viweing pleasure, links.

  • And finally, I have to say that while I’ve never heard of or tried this beer, this commercial alone makes me want to do it. it’s over the top, obviously conscious of its own absurdity, but it owns it like a boss. Enjoy, and I’ll see you Friday.

Where Genres Go to Die

He sees you when you're sleeping...

May 12, 2011

Did we forget how to do horror?

Look, I’ll be the first to say that watching a bunch of dumb white kids go after weird noises and die ironic and elaborate deaths at the hand of a lovable sociopath is fun. I’ll be the first to say that a creepy sound in a quiet room can make most of us jump. I will admit that a well-done horror movie gets the blood pumping and the adrenalin going. A really good horror film can be an exercise in suspense, drama, and character growth.

This, I guarantee you, is none of those.

Yes, the franchise that just won’t die, even with a Mozambique Drill, napalm, and a kryptonite shiv in its back, is back for another installment. This time, it seems as if Death collapses a bridge and the survivors must once again try to outrun Death much the way trees outrun winter. This time, if the trailer is to be believed, the rules have changed!


Maybe Death got a gun and became more efficient.

Seriously, though, I remember when the first movie came out. The idea seemed interesting, if claustrophobic. If Death is after you, game over. How do you escape something like that? Well, according to the movie, you don’t. Big whoop. Even Ali Larter, who managed to survive in two installments, finally met her fiery end.

Death Is Only A Game by *wyldraven on deviantART

This film series, along with the many Saw remakes, are part of the reason torture porn is getting such a bad rep. Pretty much any slasher film will contain violent and gory shots, but that isn’t tension. I love a gory shot… if it has some sort of context. The Final Destination movies are really just a series of scenes wherein everything from a pebble to an escalator can kill you. There is no tension. You know people are going to die. The only question is the how. If we focus on one character, hey, guess what? That character’s dead. There is no getting around it.

Oddly, one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the last few years is gorier and bloodier than the Final Destination films. Hatchet has about as clichéd a set-up as possible. Tourists go into the New Orleans bayou and encounter an undead hulk that butchers them with everything from the titular hatchet to a sander.

The difference? There was an actual sense of drama as to who would die and when. People had options. They made plans that didn’t actually depend on a deus ex machina coming in and killing them in the most contrived way possible. I know, I know. In most slasher films, you have to assume virtually no one will survive, but Final Destination takes away any pretense of drama and just shows us people being tortured because Death is far too much of a dick to just give you a heart attack or drop you out of a window.

It has to take you out with Freddy Krueger-like flair.

Well, link time.

  • Cats are agile stalkers, athletic paragons of grace… or are they? This one certainly isn’t.
  • And finally (yeah, short list today), in case you wanted to get the gist of the entire Final Destination series, here is every death in the movies set to some… appropriate music. See you Monday!

An Open Letter to Rebecca Black (And Anyone Who Wants to be Like Her)

She's everywhere! Make it stop!

April 8, 2011

Music’s dead.

At least, pop music is dead. I know, I know. Every generation thinks its music is crap. I’m too old if I start whining about the kids and their music and their Beibers and all that. Yes, I know that we’ve always had crappy music and the really good stuff is the stuff that gets remembered.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to dismiss the utter crap fest I’ve been hearing on the radio.

I stopped listening to the radio in about 1999, back when every other song was Backstreet Boys. I swore off radio and the closest thing I used for a while was Pandora. I really have only a cursory knowledge of popular music in the last ten years aside from what I see on TV, in movies, or happen to read about.

So, Rebecca, as a concerned artist, I want to tell you to stop.

You’re a celebrity. Congratulations. So’s Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Kim Kardashian. Nice list. They’re pretty much famous for making fools of themselves. And you’ve joined them whether you want to admit it or not.

Let’s go down the list of things done wrong, shall we?

Rebecca Black: Friday by ~mexicanpryde2000 on deviantART

Your parents paid for the music video and recording.

Someone else wrote the lyrics.

The video is just one notch above “middle school project with a camera and pirated copy of Final Cut.”

All you did was get dressed and sing. And you didn’t even do that! You got Auto-Tunned for half the song!

Look, I know Auto-Tunning is the latest, best thing to happen to people who want a music carrer. Without it, Ke$ha would be an alcoholic with a camcorder drowning in her own vomit. Even without it, she’s nothing special. You, Rebecca? You had a dream. You wanted to be famous. Did you practice singing? Train yourself in poetry and songwriting? Listen to the classics of pop music?

No. Your parents forked over $4,000 dollars to get your face plastered on a song where your own voice isn’t even heard. It’d be like me paying someone to write Charcoal Streets over a weekend, then putting my mug all over the cover.

Rebecca black by ~ItalianxGal on deviantART

Plus, the lyrics? I’d ask for my money back.

(Yeah, Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ark)
Oo-ooh-ooh, hoo yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah

I already have a headache. It’s the lyrical equivalent of white noise. It also proves that if you have nothing to say, say nothing at all.

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

Gotta have my bowl? Are you smoking weed? Are you on the dope!?

Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’

Yup. You’re stoned off your gourd, aren’t you, Rebecca?

Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends

Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

You remind me of that scene in Knocked Up where Paul Rudd’s character gets freaked out by the number of chairs in the room. Just pick a damn seat!

It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

Also, people look forward to happy hour, 5 o’clock, lunch time, and the week’s episode of Criminal Minds.

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend

Okay, a few things. First of all, you’re thirteen. You’re frakking thirteen years old. What “partying” are you doing? Unless you’re snorting coke off a Justin Beiber CD or smoking that bowl from earlier, you’re not “partying.” You’re hanging out with friends at Chuck E. Cheese.

7:45, we’re drivin’ on the highway
Cruisin’ so fast, I want time to fly
Fun, fun, think about fun

Well someone’s been reading The Secret. Hey, I can think about fun all I want, but it won’t make it so. I suppose one could make the argument that by moving faster, as you suggest, you could indeed use time dilation to make time outside your vehicle move at a much slower rate… But I doubt your songwriter knows how to spell relativity.

You know what it is
I got this, you got this
My friend is by my right
I got this, you got this
Now you know it

I’m sitting in a chair. My hands touch the keyboard. My fiancé is at work. Okay, now your turn to spout out more blatantly obvious observations. Also, any point to telling us your friend is on the right? And, from a grammatical viewpoint, what is “this” you are referring to? I’m sorry I don’t speak “street.”

Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

Wait, you’re hanging out with high schoolers? You’re what? In seventh grade? How are these friends of yours driving?! …Hold on. I thought you were already in the car. What-

It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday

Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend

Friday isn’t the weekend, Rebecca. On Friday AFTERNOON, you can start enjoying the weekend. People still work on Friday. If you’re so stressed in eight grade that you look forward to getting down on the weekend, you’re either in a very work-intensive middle school or you have no concept of what it really means to be stressed.

I’ve never seen a more blatant example of clutter in my life, too. There are words and phrases here that are just taking space. It’s like the writer simply got the beat for the song, then played Mad Libs trying to fill the void… and the void stared back and said, “Screw you.”

Friday by ~PeaceLoveMulan on deviantART

Look, these lyrics were obviously written by someone who wanted to appeal to teens who think the weekend is about partying all the time and dancing in a brightly lit room, but clubs are full of sweaty idiots who smell like Bud Light because they can’t stomach real beer. Real parties with teens typically have one idiot who brought a controlled substance.

Everyone has a dream. I have mine. You, Rebecca, obviously have yours. And I’m not being unfair by critiquing this. “But she’s just a kid,” I can hear some of my readers saying. “Leave her alone.”

No. You put this out there, you get the same amount of scrutiny the rest of us get when we put something out. I’m not about to give you a bronze medal just because you tried.

You, and Beiber, and Ke$ha, and your ilk are overproduced performers who go hyped to the top. You’re like Episode I, but more annoying because I can choose to not hear Jar Jar. I keep hearing this stupid song everywhere!

Let’s clean out those brain lobes with some linkage.

  • And finally, let me leave you with two of the most awesome things in the world: classic Michael Jackson and Transformers. See you Monday!

Palin Hates Babies

Target acquired. Unleash the fury!

February 19, 2010

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Family Guy episode “Extra-Large Medium” (Season 8, Episode 12), originally aired 2/14/2010

It’s been famously said that dying is easy, but comedy is hard. It’s true. Ever told a joke that went flat? Your elation at possibly making someone feel good turns to ash as you realize everyone is looking at you like you just pulled a dead rat out of your nose and started giggling like a madman. It also takes a sharp mind to get comedy, especially complex jokes, or, for some people, anything more confusing than a joke about a chicken and a road.

Enter Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin is a mother who loves God and country and family. I’m still not sure on the order of the first two, though. On Valentine’s Day, Fox aired an episode of Family Guy that featured Chris trying to and eventually going on a date with a girl with Down syndrome named Ellen. I highly recommend you watch the full episode. The… and I use the term loosely… offending clip is at 16:02.

Basically, Ellen makes an off-hand remark about her mother being the former governor of Alaska. Palin is the former governor of Alaska. And she has a child with Down syndrome named Trig. Seth McFarlane and the Family Guy writers are obviously making fun of her child and everyone with Down syndrome. It’s an outrage. It’s inhuman! Won’t someone think of the children! On top of all this Rahm Emanuel went and called someone “retarded” behind closed doors, insulting the entire mentally handicapped community.

And yet… not a few days after the Family Guy incident, Palin goes and does THIS:

Yup… Satire. Let’s wind the clock back and pull out the ol’ dictionary. Satire is the use of comedy to point out some vice either in a group or individual, usually with the goal of making people aware of the fault so it can be fixed. The tone of the work may be playful or abrasive, but it has the same goal. Satire uses a strong dose of sarcasm, parody, contrast, and other literary tools to make the point as obvious as possible. Satire goes all the way back to ancient times, to both the Egyptians and the Greeks. It’s older than Christianity. Its purpose has always been to point something out we would otherwise miss or might be too scared to accept by showing us the ridiculousness of our situation, going to extremes to highlight the absurdities of life.

Good satire teaches us.

Bad satire is simply parody with delusions of grandeur.

Which was the Family Guy episode? If you actually watched it, and I wonder if Palin herself did, you know Ellen was not teased because she had Down syndrome. Stewie made a few short quips when he met her and in his musical number, but nothing terrible. It looked as if it was more shock that Chris went for the non-traditional girl, that he picked Ellen over the other girls around her.

In fact, he and Chris are convinced that she is a good person, sweet, and is simply handicapped. Stewie helps Chris get ready for his big date, but once the date starts, Ellen makes several snippy comments at Chris, becomes highly demanding, then at the end of the night demands an ice cream Sunday, saying that if Chris wants access to her “temple,” his tribute should be much better. Chris, rightly so, points out that, despite having Down syndrome, she is just like every girl he knows: conceited and demanding.

Did they make fun of her for having Down syndrome? Not really. Like I said, Stewie got off a few snide remarks when he first met her, but he seemed to like her. The only reference to Palin is the one line early in the date where she mentions her mother is the former governor of Alaska.

What was the point of this satire, then? Chris summed it up. We treat others with disabilities as though they were special, wonderful, kind people simply because they are handicapped. Did the show imply that all people with Down syndrome are like this? Only if you believe that a single example is indicative of the whole, which is a logical fallacy. If they’d meant to imply that all people with Down syndrome were mean and conceited, Chris would have said that ALL people with Down syndrome were like this, not just Ellen. Instead, he was referring to her specific behavior.

bitchy little tiger by ~loveshugah on deviantART

Then, to top off this little hypocrisy sundae, Palin went on to defend Rush Limbaugh. Is she really upset over the show? Maybe. She seemed visibly upset, but it couldn’t have been because of the way the character was treated. Ellen was treated fairly, though she did end up being the villain. She was treated like a normal human being. Maybe there’s something else at work here…

Remember a few years ago when no one was allowed to mention that Dick Cheney had a gay daughter? Mary Cheney has been in a committed lesbian relationship for years, and yet when the same-sex debate heated up a few years ago, no one could bring her up as an example of the Right’s hypocrisy. While they railed against the destruction of American values, the daughter of the Vice-President was not only in a loving relationship with her partner and parents, but she soon had a child with said partner. It’s almost as if they were ashamed to acknowledge her existence. Tricky Dick Cheney himself dodged the question in interviews.

Wait a minute…

Palin hates her son.

Think about it. Either she completely missed the episode’s theme or she is embarrassed to be reminded that she was a son with Down syndrome. It’s likely that she just didn’t get the satire in the show, but at the same time, if she is reacting only to the fact that they made a reference to her son having Down syndrome, this isn’t outrage on her part. It’s shame.

She is ashamed of him and being reminded that her son, a child not even able to walk yet, is not perfect. After Limbaugh used the word “retarded” and she didn’t call him out like she did Rahm Emanuel, she showed she wasn’t willing to speak against her political allies. Going after Family Guy after they didn’t even make fun of a character with no physical or gender resemblance to any of her children shows her sensitivity with the issue, but not her commitment to actually protecting Trig. There was nothing, NOTHING for her to complain about. They made an ALLUSION to her.

But, like I said, it’s just as likely that she didn’t get it.

It’s one thing to peddle your daughter across a stage and use her unwanted pregnancy to further your agenda. It’s what any good politician would do… but it takes a special kind of icy evil to do the same to a child who is not only going to face hardships later in life, but can’t even speak out yet.

And what have we learned from this?

Trig Palin has Down syndrome. His mother’s the retarded one.