Monthly Archives: November 2009

Salma Hayek in Cirque du Freak- The Vampire’s Assistant (Movie Review)

salma hayek bearded lady

Hey, at least I don't have a unibrow this time

The film Cirque du Freak is based on the first three books of a young adult series called The Saga of Darren Shan or alternately, Cirque du Freak.  It is unfortunate that this film comes after several vampire movies and TV series because I am sure vampire fatigue will make some people dismiss it. That would be a mistake because Cirque du Freak isn’t annoyingly angsty and any love story is secondary to the plot. It is grittier, darker, and surprisingly fun.

I have not read any of the Cirque du Freak books, so I didn’t go see this movie with preconceived notions about what I thought I should see. I enjoyed The Vampire’s Assistant. It has lots of dark humor, seriously scary moments, and blessedly few cheesy ones (a graveyard pinball scene comes to mind).  The casting is pretty much perfect except for Mr. Crepsley. He was supposedly converted into a vampire when he was 20 years old but the actor, John C. Reilly, is clearly in his forties. Weren’t vampires supposed to look the same as when they died? This may be explained in the books, but not in the film. Overlooking that detail, Reilly does a great job as Mr. Crepsley. The circus freaks were wonderfully done by several brilliant actors, and it is a pity we didn’t get to see more of them. The only freaks I thought looked truly fake were the CGI creatures that look like mini-druids.

Darren Shan, the titular vampire’s assistant, lives in a suburban neighborhood where people dress in pastel and khaki, and absolutely no freaks are allowed. He is a straight A student and all-around good kid. His best friend Steve continuously gets him in trouble, so Darren’s parents forbid him to hang out with Steve. Still, Darren rebels and continues to see him anyways. They go to a Cirque du Freak show recently come to town and that’s where the trouble begins. From suburban teens, they end up becoming enmeshed in a war between Vampires and the Vampaneze.  The main difference between these two factions is that the Vampaneze feed off humans and kill them, while the Vampires don’t kill anyone they feed on. Darren and Steve become pawns of a Mr. Tiny, a character that at first reminded me of Fringe’s Observer, only this guy is truly evil and instead of just observing is an enthusiastic participant and instigator of the Vampire/Vampaneze war. (When I looked up the actor, Michael Cerveris, I discovered that hey, he was Fringe’s Observer with lots of prosthetic makeup. D’oh! I guess he’s been typecast.)

Salma Hayek plays the part of Madame Truska,  the Bearded Lady, who gets visions that she can’t remember. Her character has a romantic relationship with Mr. Crepsley and besides providing him support and blurting out random visions (and showing off her cleavage) doesn’t have much to do. This is very disappointing for an actress of Salma’s caliber. I am hoping that she chose this role because of the strong potential for sequels and that the character of Madame Truska will become more important in future installments. Come to think of it, all the female characters could do with more independence and strength and not be there for the sole comfort of males, offering up blood (or body parts) for consumption. Since The Vampire’s Assistant is clearly set up for at least one sequel, I hope things change for all the ladies, including Madame Truska.

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V Series Episode Two Review

morena V

I will answer all your fashion questions today

[NOTE: Minor spoilers, especially if you haven’t seen the first episode.  In that case, big spoilers!]

Episode Two of the V series- the one that should have been shown with the pilot- definitely made more sense than the pilot episode. Events were better paced, and if something happened too fast (like establishing Earth-Visitor diplomatic relations), it was explained early on that sleeper Visitors have been on Earth for at least seven years. Presumably during this time they have been infiltrating every influential organization on Earth including governments.

Characters are fleshed out more and additional characters are introduced.  Still no military though.  Maybe I question the lack of military power because I am so used to the mostly military human organizations in series like Stargate and Star Trek.  In this episode we also see more people protesting. The writers are making us paranoid just like FBI agent Erica is; since Visitors can look and act like humans, now we don’t know who to trust.

Unfortunately this episode had a lot of teenager Tyler and his buddy Brandon. I say unfortunately because I can tell that they will be the most annoying characters, the ones who act stupidly and need others to rescue them.  Tyler for example ignores his mom’s advice and gets more involved with the cute Visitor Lisa. Since I doubt Tyler is going away any time soon, I hope they make his character grow up and fast. Or die. Meanwhile on the New York mothership, we see more of the Visitors intent on crushing any “new” rebellion, implying that they had fought this battle before- perhaps on Earth, perhaps on another planet.

As for Anna, we get a glimpse of her holographic wardrobe, and all us women who can’t figure out what to wear in the morning are instantly jealous. We also wonder how lizard-Anna is hiding under the human skin of skinny Anna. Besides the “very important” wardrobe scene we see Anna thanking different nations for their diplomatic ties in different languages and watching a Visitor television debate with reporter Chad. I really like the way Morena uses more facial muscles than anything else to convey emotion. It seems that non-sleeper Visitors are much less emotional than those that have been living on Earth, so Morena makes every twitch count.

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Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell at Basauri Con

BasauriCon

The 13th Tribe announces its first sci-fi convention in Basauri, Spain, with guests Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell (Admiral Adama and President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica). There is information in English here and at EJO’s website. The Con will take place on February 5-7, 2010.  Looks like it will be small and intimate- perfect for a close up of your favorite BSG power couple.

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Uruguay Has a Panic Attack (Sci-Fi Short)

Ataque de Pánico (Panic Attack) is a great four minute short by Uruguayans Federico Álvarez and Mauro Rondán in which we see Montevideo attacked by giant robots and enemy spacecraft. It is refreshing to see this city’s landmarks attacked by aliens, since I thought aliens only knew about the U.S. and Japan. Go Montevideo! (Oh, wait…)

Filmed in 2006, it took Álvarez and Rondán 6 months of work (over two years) to finalize it. They spent around $300 U.S. dollars, making it a low-budget marvel considering how cool it looks. The pair also developed a different video clip for Uruguayan band Snake at the same time they worked on the short.

See the entire short here (music is In The House – In A Heartbeat from the 28 Days Later soundtrack):

UPDATE (11/28/09): Uruguay newspaper El País informs that Federico Álvarez will commence pre-production on a feature length film (ironically without robots) with a budget of at least 30 million dollars. His Panic Attack video was seen by the powers that be in Hollywood, and like a dream come true, they came knocking and now we will have another scifi Latino film!

Álvarez signed a contract with Sam Raimi’s production company along with co-screenwriter Rodolfo Sayagués. So far they haven’t released any other information about the movie other than it’s going to be science fiction and that the pair will have creative control. This is exciting news and I wish them the best of luck!

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Morena Baccarin in V (Pilot Review)

Morena Baccarin as Anna in V

No garish red and black for me

Tonight the much-anticipated series V (Visitors) aired on ABC. This is a remake of the 1983 series about alien visitors to then-current-day Earth which I remember with a mix of excitement, disgust and fear as a child. The Pilot started off with the Visitors causing panic and mini-earthquakes. Spaceships hover over major cities blocking the sun and causing mass houseplant extinction. Just kidding.

People begin to calm down when Anna, played by Morena Baccarin, shows up and says everything is fine. Anna is the alien leader. Her story is that the Visitors need water and minerals abundant on Earth and will in exchange provide technology and universal healthcare. They even have a motto: “We are of peace, always.” Plus, every Visitor is humanoid and very attractive. As we all know, pretty people tend to be more successful at providing a good first impression (their shuttle craft, on the other hand, are butt-ugly).

Anna selects a reporter for a one-on-one interview based on the perception that said reporter will ask softball questions; in fact, she demands it with a beautiful yet evil smile. But hey, she’ll provide universal health care so who cares? Sign me up to become a “Peace Ambassador”- humans who learn about the aliens and pass along their awesomeness.

Morena’s acting was excellent. She does emotionless and calculating very well, like she did for the Stargate SG-1 series. It is refreshing to see a strong female leader, and this blogger is doubly happy to see a Latina in the role.

As a Pilot, my opinion is that it could have been better. ABC should have broadcast two hours to really get people interested. As it was, most people already knew the show’s premise from the 80’s series, and needed more to get them hooked. The timeline seemed rushed, with people deciding all too quickly to accept the Alien visitors, even visiting their ship (which is beautiful, by the way). Even being allowed to visit the ship so soon by the authorities  was ludicrous.  I saw very little military presence beside a fighter pilot and I found this highly illogical.  There seem to be very few people surrounding such a historical event, and there wasn’t a real sense of awe produced by extraterrestrials coming to Earth you get from films like District 9 and Independence Day. Perhaps the humanoid aspect of the aliens had much to do with that, but still.  (Remember the wonder the 4400 produced? And they were just humans.) Where was the sense of excitement and fear? In more people going to church? There are other lacunae I won’t mention because of potential spoilers, and I hope to get them explained as the show develops.  The topics covered are solid and interesting and I would like to see more. Media manipulation, humanity in crisis, beauty/attractiveness as a weapon of acceptance, terrorism, betrayal… I’ll be watching.

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