Pop culture and entertainment reviews by the Gama News Team's own video editor, Fred the Mole


Oh hi! Sorry I wasn't ready for you just yet. I was just in the middle of my favorite book and I simply couldn't put it down. Well, I guess it's okay, right? After all, May is "Get Caught Reading Month," or so my promotional calendar from Half Price Books told me. I especially can't wait for July, which is "National 35% off All Hardcovers Any Tuesday Month."

We as a culture don't seem to read books too much anymore, don't you think? Oh sure, we have tons of other ways to pass the time, from our computers to our DVDs to our Segways to our basket-weaving classes, but I still don't think anything can compare to the simple joy of opening up a book and diving right in. And I ain't trying to be preachy or anything. By all means, download your porn and weave your baskets all you want, but also do yourself a favor and set some time for yourself to sit down with a good book, or a crappy one if you prefer. You might just like it.

Since this month is so reading-centric, I'm going to devote all of my regular reviews to the wonderful world of books...um, sort of.

What I'm Currently Reading

The DaVinci Code
by Dan Brown

Doubleday
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Okay, I have something of a confession to make. I didn't actually read this book yet. It's been sitting on my shelf for well over a year now collecting dust. I've just been so sick of hearing about this book so much that it's really turned me off from wanting to actually read it. I've never been a big fan of the pack mentality. I'm a rodent, so I had my fill of that stuff during childhood. "C'mon Fred, we're all going out for worms," or "Fred, stay here with the little ones while your brother goes out with the shrew." Being in a family of moles is just so labourous.

But I do understand that people would probably want to know what this thing is about if my recommendation is to be taken with any degree of seriousness, so I decided to check out the popular Ron Howard film adaptation currently in theaters. Yeah, I know I'm cheating, but I really don't want to read it just yet; maybe when all the protests and cross-burnings across the country have died down a bit. Why are people even protesting this thing? It's a novel that's been turned into an adventure film. It's really not that hard to understand. The cover of the book even says it's just a novel! If someone's individual faith is so fragile that a hammy work of fiction has the potential to shatter it into a million pieces, then what does that say about them as a person?

Okay, from what I could understand, albino monks connected to an evil faction of the Vatican (or rather, the Vatican) are trying to find the Holy Grail (making this, I believe, the four hundredth movie--err, I mean, book about such a quest), and they simply won't stop murdering Louvre curators until they find it. Enter heroic symbol...um, guy Robert Langdon, who finds himself being accused of one such murder. In a really convoluted series of events not seen since the days of the Home Alone movies, Langdon soon finds himself trekking across a small portion of Europe to find the Grail by cracking a code set by Leonardo DaVinci and Sir Issac Newton...or something. I was especially pleased with Magneto as the wise old crippled mentor/Jesus historian and Jean Reno in the role of a lifetime...and I mean literally, as it's the exact same role he played in La Femme Nikita, The Professional, Ronin, The Pink Panther, and about nine million other movies--err, I mean, books.

Will Langdon be able to clear his name? Will the code finally be cracked? Will the Holy Grail finally be found? And was Jesus just a regular love machine??

Movies That Are Better Than Titanic and Why:
Planet of the Apes
Two words: talkin' chimps!
What I'm Currently Listening To

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way
by Bruce Campbell

Rykodisc
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Speaking of actors who have been unfairly typecast for decades, what the heck's up with Bruce Campbell? Why was The Man with the Screaming Brain so lousy?? Bruce has been in some quality motion pictures (Evil Dead, The Hudsucker Proxy, Bubba Ho-tep, and Spider-Man, among others) and television shows (Xena and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.) before, so why would his own first directing job look so shoddy? Why did it look like it had the production values of the welcome video when you turn on the TV in a Red Roof Inn? He couldn't have been that much out of his element, could he?

And it's certainly not like he can't produce entertaining material on his own, as this CD set clearly demonstrates. This is much more than a mere "book on tape." This is closer to a modern day radio play version of the novel of the same name, which sort of chronicles Bruce's career and luck on the B-movie circuit and the surprise chance of a lifetime to star in a new Mike Nichols comedy (that is, assuming Mike Nichols still made good movies...Regarding Henry, anyone?). Make Love... proves that Bruce can not only create an inventive story but also come up with a unique way to present it effectively. Why he couldn't do the exact same thing on film, the medium from which he spawned, is a mystery.

Maybe there's a way to make Bruce Campbell make Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way for the screen. I'm sure everyone would love that.

I Don't Give a Crap About Lost So Much That...
I feel compelled to knee anyone in the groin who starts a conversation with, "Don't tell me what's happened on Lost this season! I've got them all saved up on my Tivo!"
What I'm Currently Watching

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Directed by Andrew Adamson
(Shrek)
Disney
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"Let's go see Narnia!" "Let's go see Narnia!" "Let's go see Narnia!" All bloody winter I heard that from everybody...family, people at work, strangers on the bus. Finally I relented. I was never really a fan of the Narnia books as a young moleling, but I was game to see how they would be adapted. Not even the presence of director Andrew Adamson scared me away despite the loud, groan-inducing mess that was Shrek 2. How bad could it be?

C.S. Lewis's quasi-biblical tale gets thoroughly raped by the Walt Disney Company, the folks behind such other fictional rapes as those of the Winnie the Pooh characters, Nickelodeon's Doug, and of course the Muppets. This is really nothing more than Disney's desperate attempt to launch an epic literature-based film series akin to the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movies. And boy do they rape! The Beavers are transformed from warm characters into wacky animal sidekicks (no doubt originally penciled in to be voiced by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis), Edmund is turned into a conniving little snot, waterfalls are inexplicably added to the story, and Aslan comes off less like a wise leader than he does like Yoda's grandfather. To its credit, though, at least it starts off fine, right up until the introduction of the land of Narnia. If you can stop watching the movie after about the first hour, you'll be in for a good time!

It's an epic adventure film of Chris Columbus proportions...but really, who the heck wants to see that?!?

It isn't so much that TCON:TLTWATW is a bad movie. It's just poorly, poorly executed. It's long, it's dull, and the scenes that are supposed to make one's eyes light up in wonderment--the end battle or Santa's arrival, for example--chug along with the pacing of a Little House on the Prairie episode. I have never been this bored with an "epic" movie before. In the theater I was literally fighting to stay awake. Everyone kept asking me if I was all right as I curled up into a comfortable ball in my theater seat. I was having a very hard time not nodding off, and my ordeal even inspired me to write this song....

Click here to hear me sing!

DVDs We'll Never See

Action Jackson: The Hot! Hotter! Hottest! Edition
Studio: Warner Home Video
SRP: $26.98
Packaging: Digipak
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Tracks: English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Special Features
Commentary by director Craig R. Baxley and screenwriter Robert Reneau
Commentary by producer Joel Silver and stars Carl Weathers and Denise Matthews (Vanity)
Craig T. Nelson's home movies
From the Vaults: The Making of Action Jackson
All-New Documentary: Stormy Weathers Blows through Motown: On Location in Detroit
All-New Documentary: It's Time for Action: The Stunts of Action Jackson
Deleted scenes
Storyboards of Unfilmed Sequences: Missing from Action
Outtake Reel: How Do You Like Your @#!!??
Pointer Sisters music video: He Turned Me Out
Vanity music video: Undress
Vanity Karaoke
Photo gallery
Cast and crew biographies
New digital transfer from Metrocolor negative with 5.1 Dolby and DTS Surround
Theatrical trailer

The stars were in perfect alignment for Carl Weathers. He had just come off one of the most successful movie series of the decade, the seemingly neverending Rocky films, and he cemented his place as an action movie tough guy in the supernatural action flick Predator. He was ready for a coup. So what happened?

Enter Joel Silver. Joel was on an amazing streak as a successful action producer, having helmed such hits as 48 Hours, Commando, the aforementioned Predator, and of course Lethal Weapon. But alas, he also had his share of embarrassing flops, such as Streets of Fire and the slimy John Hughes comedy Weird Science. (What happened to John Hughes anyway? I refuse to believe that any organism more evolved than pond scum would let their final directing work be Curly Sue!) But still, need a quasi-hip action movie? Joel was your man.

The end result was Action Jackson, a harsh, blunt cop movie more akin to '70s blaxploitation flicks like Shaft and Slaughter rather than in the down-to-earth, funny-ha-ha-guys-joke-and-punch, Lethal Weapon vein that it's desperately trying to come off as. Weathers plays Jericho "Action" Jackson, an Ivy League Detroit police sergeant who has a reputation of using his wits in addition to his fists. Unfortunately, we never really see that happen, as he seems to think his way out of things by doing a lot of punching, dislocating of arms, driving cars into houses, and spouting out contrived puns before killing someone. Evidently the most one can get out of a Harvard degree is the ability to do an embarrassing street preacher impersonation.

Craig T. Nelson (Coach, Poltergeist, Stir Crazy, The Incredibles, etc.) is Peter Dellaplane, who, like everyone else in Detroit who isn't a cop, is a powerful auto tycoon trying to get rid of people who seem to be either competitors or former partners (they don't quite make that clear). Sharon Stone (Catwoman) plays his bubble-headed, good-natured, often nude wife, while Vanity (Never Too Young to Die, Terror Train) plays his drug-addicted, bad-natured, often nude singing mistress. Although Dellaplane is an experienced martial arts expert, as all medium-build auto tycoons in their early 40s are, he chooses to instead do away with his enemies in a variety of creative ways. Ninjas leap out of nowhere and punch people to death ("We're a hedge. Go away."); bombs gets handcuffed to unpleasant-looking overweight guys; and hitmen disguise as UPS workers on the off-chance that someone not expecting a package will still sign for it, thus distracting them from the gun hidden behind the clipboard. For some reason, Action Jackson 2: The Action is Backson was never made.

What's all the more interesting about Action Jackson's failure is that it was released just five months before the action blockbuster Die Hard, a movie involving many of the same people behind the scenes, including producer Silver, and many of the same supporting actors and actresses...not to mention the fact that clearly these two films had to have been in production at the same time at some point. Yet, the differences in quality are like night and day. It would be like if the people behind Boogie Nights were just wrapping up Gone Fishin' at the same time. Action Jackson can best be described as the ugly stepbrother to Die Hard, and it's a testament to how much of a difference a writer and director can make to a movie.

Until then, you're stuck with the original DVD release

        


The Gama News Team ©2006 GAMA Productions. The Gama News Team, Fred the Mole, and related characters are the exclusive properties of GAMA Productions. All rights reserved.