Category Archives: paranormal

When Gnomes Attack…

So, I guess this is what happens when you piss off that little Travelocity fucker:

I’ve decided to put my lifelong hunt for Bigfoot on hold, buy a butterfly net, and track this creepy little bastard down.

Genre Movies VII: Fantasy Goes to Hell

The AFI defines a fantasy film as one “where live-action characters inhabit imagined settings and/or experience situations that transcend the rules of the natural world.”

This is a pretty open-ended definition, in my opinion.  To me, it means that the movies on this list are not just those technically defined as “fantasy”, but those considered “horror” movies also seem to fit (and, to be honest, “comic book” movies like Superman, Spider-Man, and X-Men).

Anyway…here are my picks for the Top 10 Fantasy Films:

1. Evil Dead

2. Big Trouble in Little China

3. Hellboy

4. Willow

5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

6. Labyrinth

7. Ghostbusters

8. The Mummy (1999)

9. An American Werewolf in London

10. Clash of the Titans

Hyde and seek

nesbitt460.jpg

When I first heard that the BBC was doing a television series based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I was more than a bit excited.  I’ve always been a fan of that story and everything that it inspired (from the Incredible Hulk to Jim Carrey’s The Mask).  We’ll momentarily ignore what it says about me that one of my favorite stories involves an intelligent but repressed man who gives in to (and later relishes) his darker, baser instincts.  Anyway, I was excited.  Then, I realized that I didn’t have BBC America–sure, I have the Soap Channel and the Game Show Network and about 5 MTVs…but no BBC America–so, I promptly forgot all about this new Jekyll and Hyde.

Flash-forward a few months.  I’m watching something and see a trailer for the DVD release of the BBC’s Jekyll.  Suddenly it all comes back to me.  And, hey, I have a DVD player.  I have Netflix.  Let’s give this a go, shall we?  Yes, we shall. 

Jekyllis a six episode series (I feel it may be finite, even though I’ve only seen the first three episodes, we all remember how the original story ended) set in modern-day London.  Dr. Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt) has recently discovered he has something of a split personality.  Jackman happens to be the last descendant of Dr. Henry Jekyll (who was apparently a real person) and has inherited his ancestor’s “affliction.”  Unlike Jekyll, Jackman and his alter ego have a system worked out…a visitation schedule, if you will.  Jackman leaves himself messages on a digital mini-recorder and uses GPS to track the movements of his other self, with the aid of a sultry assistant (played, ironically enough, by Michelle Ryan!).  The first three episodes deal mainly with introducing Jackman, his wife and children, “Billy” (the name Hyde gives himself before discovering that he is, in fact, Mr. Hyde), and the shadowy organization keeping track of Jackman (an organization that has been tracking Jekyll and his descendants for the last century).  Oh, and there’s Jackman’s old boss, played by Wedge Antilles.

What makes this series work is the performance of James Nesbitt.  The differences between Jackman and Hyde are almost exclusively within Nesbitt’s performance, with the addition of black contact lenses, a wig, and minor prosthetics to his chin, nose and ears.  Most adaptations of Stevenson’s novella seem to play up Hyde as some kind of beast-man or troglodyte…when, in actuality, Mr. Hyde could blend in perfectly well with the citizens of London–in fact, unless you really looked at him, you’d think this Hyde chap was perfectly normal.  So, Nesbitt had to create a different way of moving, speaking and behaving as Hyde…and he does so marvellously.  He holds himself differently.  He moves differently.  His smile as Hyde can chill your blood.  Nesbitt’s Jackman is a slouchy, twitchy, middle-aged sad sack.  His Hyde is lean and predatory, the quintessential alpha male–it’s rather chilling watching Hyde stare at someone with those black eyes, body perfectly motionless.  I can’t think of another actor who has been able to create such a varied performance with little more than his posture and voice.

A wizard named Harry

No…not that one. 

For the last year or so, I’ve been slowly and steadily making my way through Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books.  I just finished the eighth book in paperback (Proven Guilty) and, despite a few ups and downs along the way, I’ve enjoyed every page. 

This Harry is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.  Like the other Harry, Harry Dresden is a wizard.  Unlike the other Harry, this Harry is also a detective.  He’s also the only certified wizard to advertise in the Chicago yellow pages.  The series begins with Storm Front, which is presented as a pretty straight forward detective story of the wise-cracking, P.I. variety.  Yes, it involves magic, but Butcher treats magic the same way Robert Parker or Elmore Leonard would treat a knife or a handgun.  It’s a tool.  In fact, Harry goes about two-thirds of the way through this first book without doing an ounce of hocus-pocus.

As the series progresses, things get more complicated.  A ton of secondary and tertiary characters move in and out (including Harry’s old mentor Ebenezar McCoy, Michael Carpenter–one of God’s holy hitmen–and a horny talking skull named Bob).  A war erupts between the wizards and the vampires.  But, for the most part, Harry remains Harry.  He’s the same wise-cracking, pop-culture-reference-spouting, bad-luck-having, chivalrous schmuck in the eighth book as he was in the first.

Personally, I’ve probably enjoyed the fourth book, Summer Knight–which involves Harry getting caught up in a civil war between the Summer and Winter Courts of Faerie (don’t ask)–the most.  However, the second book, Fool Moon, also gets high marks for using every possible explanation for lycanthropy under the sun.