Monday, August 30, 2004

Once More Into the Fray 

I feel compelled, having witnessed first hand the cinematic genius that is Alien v. Predator, to join the ongoing debate over the film.

To begin with, I have to say that I had zero expectations for this movie. With this framework in mind, I trudged to the Edwards Palace with my long time, crap-movie companion Trevor Thomas. Trevor and I have a history of making an effort to see movies we are fairly convinced will suck, but still hold out some shred of hope will surpass even the lowest of expectations.

In this regard, I must confess that AVP did just that.

It's not a good movie in the UTRTF/Danish minimalist obsessed manner, but I thought it entertaining.

THe movie begins, appropriately enough, with a scientist (presumably) sitting in front of about 1000 screens that suddenly start making an alarm sound and flashing "alert," who has to say to the other scientist in the room, "hey, look at this!"

It is then that were introduced to the crap-heroine of the film, Alexa Woods, played by Sanaa Lathan, who has taken a career downturn since her breakout performance in "Catfish in Black Bean Sauce." Woods is an ice junkie, and we first meet her as she's scrambling up an icefall in Nepal, and is startled when her cell phone begins to ring. Personally, I was startled that her cell phone worked so well in the Himalaya, but that's just one of myriad inconsistencies. Her character is transparent and predictablly self-righteous, but I didn't go see the movie for the character develpoment. I went for the ass-kicking.

There was plenty of ass-kicking.


We learn that human civilization has been shaped by the Predators in a very convenient instant translation of ancient hieroglyphs by the resident egyptologist of the bunch. Apparently, thousands of years ago, the predators came to this "back water planet" and taught humans how to build. Ergo, pyramid structures in Egypt, Pre-Colombian Central America, and Cambodia. After teaching us to build, the race of hunters began to use humans as hosts for the ultimate prey, the Aliens. They would come around every hundred years or so, have the humans incubate a new crop of Aliens, and then engage the Aliens in combat. If overpowered, the predators would simply employ the ole' wristband nuclear device and wipe out entire civilizations.

Fast forward to the present day:

It's Antarctica, and a pyramid bearing elements of all three ancient civilizations' building techinques is discovered below the ice. Billionaire tycoon Weyland (played with subtle curiousity by Lance Henriksen - there's a funny moment when we briefly see him do Bishop's hand/knife trick) assembles a crack team to go down to the pyramid so he can be remembered for something after he dies (which we soon learn, is impending). Of course, the team is merely lured into a trap to become host bodies for the recently awakened Alien daddy.

The team is suspicious (for a millisecond) upon reaching the dig site, only to realize that someone (not even thought to be something) has already done this for them. The viewer, in all their omniscience, knows that the predators did this. The crew descends down the perfectly cut 30 degree tunnel into the pyramid chamber, and the real fun begins.

Enter the predators, who systematically slay all the humans until only our heroine is left. She and the remaining predator form a bond of warriorship so ridiculously concocted, you almost expect the inevitable embrace in the end. Fortunately, the only sign of endearment is when he burns her face with acid. Then, the plot thickens in the most predictable way imaginable, while our heroine is left alone on the polar ice cap with very little clothing on, all the while not shivering at all. Must be her new-found warrior ethos of the Dalton-esque "pain don't hurt" persuasion.


Many questions abound. We know from the first Alien that humans had never encountered Aliens before. This can be resolved by the explanation that no one tells about the encounter.

We do know that mankind knows a lot about the predators. Not only did Arnold do battle with them in the jungle, but Gary Busey spent his life trying to trap one. And Danny Glover survived after the predators terrorized LA and cut a wide swath through the town on their way out. Surely the "legend" continued. Why then are the creme de la creme of the scientific community completely befuddled at the sight of these active-camoflaged behemoths? Wouldn't billioinaire science guy know about them?

Why is it that the team has to use flashlights for only the first 30 minutes of the movie? Presumably, the pyramid cave doesn't get any less dark.

Why do predators kill everybody, when they're only supposed to want to kill warriors?

Why did Ripley's people never figure out that Alien shells are impervious to Alien acid-blood? Wouldn't Newt have figured that out? Why don't you put her in charge?

Like I say, the questions abound, and we can debate the merits forever. I liked the movie, although it fundamentally sucked. And I was impressed with the director's ability to make what was at times a thoroughly frightening movie without having to resort to the ultraviolence of the first Predator or Aliens. There were some enjoyable slow-mo scenes we haven't had the enjoyment of yet in the genre.

And I must take issue with the League's bashing of Event Horizon, which, I felt, while not a great movie, certainly probed some interesting and frightening science ficition issues. I hate Sam Neill, but I thought the movie was downright terrifying the first time I saw it. I wonder if, consumed by its disdain, the League noticed that Paul W.S. Anderson directed both Event Horizon and AVP?

Which, incidentally, butresses Mr. Thomas' suspicion before the movie. While watching the preview for the new Resident Evil movie starring that master of the English lexicon, Milla Jovavich (note to hollywood: she's scary and annoying. stop trying to make her a sex symbol), Trevor questioned whether there had ever been a good video game movie adaptation. Apart from Mortal Kombat I (an okay flick), our answer was a resounding no. It is no suprise then, that Paul W.S. Anderson has been responsible for an overwhelming lot of them.

Overall, I would say that the movie is worth seeing in the theatre if only for the sheer spectacle of it. That, and it's got the guy with the scar on his face from Braveheart.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bill Underwood, Attorney at Law 

While pursuing unrelated activities today on the website of my fair alma mater, Baylor Law School (incidentally, the counselor's and the fiance's alma mater as well), I came across this announcement.

Prof. William Underwood is the head of the more-than-famous "dreaded Practice Court Program." I was one of the lucky few who had "the 'Wood" for both Civil Procedure and Practice Court. The experience as a One-L of being hazed by such an imposing figure left an indelible impression on all of us, and no doubt helped to shape my legal acumen in a not insignificant manner.

I recall the first time 'Wood mentioned this case to us in our first quarter. His client, Alberto Valdez, by all accounts a mentally retarded man with the mental capacity of a child, stood accused of murdering a police officer in Corpus Christi. Apparently, the lawyer for the accused slept through part of the trial, and Mr. Valdez was convicted and sentenced to death. The first time we, as young law students, came to know of the case, was when 'Wood stood in front of our class and read the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granting his client a new trial. Thereafter, the case came to be regarded as something of a cause celebre to those who schooled at Underwood's hand.

Our esteemed professor always sought to instill in his students a sense of duty to serve those who haven't the means to afford representation, and he led by example - contributing some 15 years of pro bono services to a man who, but for the efforts of Underwood and Jeff Levinger, would likely have shuffeld off his mortal coil some years ago on a cold steel table in Huntsville.

For a man who made his fair share of sports cars over the years through his various legal endeavours, I nonetheless wholeheartedly accept as honest and forthright his assertion that he considers obtaining the commutation of his client's death sentence as the high point of his legal career.

And to that I say "job well done, counselor."


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

White House West 

Will Ferrell is at it again. This commercial sponsored by America Coming Together is downright hilarious.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Crescent Update 

Charlie Crain reports James Brandon has been released.


Friday, August 13, 2004

More News from the Crescent 

My man in Baghdad, Charlie Crain, reports today that his friend is the journalist who was kidnapped in Basra.

Is there ever an end to this madness?


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Stanton the Altruist 

My friend and classmate from Baylor Law, James Stanton, has taken it upon himself to run the Maui Marathon. He is doing this in an effort to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. There was a time when Ole' Stanton was a Houstonian that he talked me into running a 5K. Never again, unless I'm being chased by a ravenous wildebeast.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the need to set a couch along the route, heckle the runners, and catch a really big f***in fish that I beat to death with my Fijian war hammer.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I've been Redeemed . . . 

That's right folks, the old, not so-original Texas Jewboy has seen the light. Last night I watched the Passion of the Christ. I am now, and shall forever be, consumed by the holy fire.

But seriously.

All things considered, and all "Mel Gibson for the Papacy" lunatic vitriol aside, it wasn't a very good movie. I thought that the characters were shallow and predictable. I thought Pilate was treated with kid gloves, and I overwhelmingly felt as though I was watching Braveheart in Jersusalem. Pilate = Robert the Bruce; Caiphus = Longshanks; Jews/Romans = dirty drunken british.

Also, I take issue with Gibson's overuse of colored lighting constantly fading in and out - oh, wait a minute - that must have been the bootleg copy my buddy picked up at the So' Houston Flea Market.

Is the movie anti-semitic (which is the burning question that grossed 700 million worldwide)?

Yes, because not only are the Jews the bad guys, but the elders are, by and large, all assholes. Anti-semitic in the sense that Happy Gilmore was anti-moustachioed, or Rad was anti-Bart Connor.

"So say goodnight to the bad guy."
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