Movie Truth

The Invisible Man 1933

One of the most common fantasy powers to have – arguably right up there with flying and super strength – is the power of invisibility. Long before Harry Potter got his invisibility cloak or Susan Storm was given the ability to make herself invisible, H.G. Wells introduced modern popular culture to the double-sided coin this power could hold. Years after Wells wrote his book “The Invisible Man,” Universal Studios adapted the story into a film with Claude Rains, which spawned several inferior sequels. Throughout the years, our fascination with invisibility continued to show, in modern versions of the story by John Carpenter (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) and Paul Verhoeven (Hollow Man) as well as elements of other films like the goofy sci-fi invisible Aston Martin in Die Another Day. In fact, invisibility shows up so much in movies that it got me thinking about it more than I ever did walking past the girls’ shower room while I was in high school. Could a person really ever become invisible?

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interstellar.black_.hole_

As one might expect following the release of any highly anticipated film from a well-respected director, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was met with some rave reviews but also some harsh criticisms. All character issues aside, many people have been taking aim at the science in the film. It seems odd that such scrutiny is given to a movie when the director’s previous film involved a billionaire who dressed up as a bat to fight crime, who also managed to heal a broken back with a rope and some push-ups in an undisclosed hell-prison with only a dedicated CNN feed and an insane inmate to keep him company, but there you go. In fact, all the science dissection of Interstellar prompted celebrity astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to offer his support for the film’s underlying scientific themes. He certainly enjoyed the film and was willing to forgive a number of science fiction issues, but we have to remember that the CBS interviewers are asking the difference between a black hole and a wormhole, so there’s a certain degree of dumbing down his answers needed. Tyson also claims Contact to be his favorite and the most realistic science fiction movie he’s ever seen, so we have to wonder if he’s just pushing for the McConaissance above all else. Instead of focusing on a sweeping examination of the science as a whole in Interstellar, I have to wonder about one part, and let’s give a big, fat SPOILER ALERT before getting to it. If you haven’t seen Interstellar, you’ll […]

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War of the Worlds 2005

With Ebola ravaging West Africa, and flu season quickly approaching, I can’t help but think about infectious diseases and how I will survive. In troubled times like these, I turn to movies for reassurance. No, I’m not talking about watching Outbreak and realizing that saving the world from an airborne Ebola-like pandemic is as simple as catching a monkey in the suburbs, or watching Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion and realizing that bats and pigs (and Gwyneth Paltrow) are the worst biological enemies known to man. Instead, I look to more traditional science fiction and realize that while diseases lay waste to large segments of the human population, they may also be our saving grace from alien invasion. After all, that’s the plan that H.G. Wells laid out in “War of the Worlds,” which was adapted into films in 1953 and 2005. While Wells (along with George Pal and later Steven Spielberg) warned us of potential dangers from life on other planets, he also assured us that our own microbes might keep us safe from atmospheric intruders. After all, it was these microscopic organisms that disabled and eventually wiped out the invading Martians. And that got me thinking: Could the microbes here on Earth save us from an alien invasion?

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Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare On Elm Street

I remember reading an article in the 1980s about writer/director Wes Craven’s inspiration for Freddy Krueger, who visits his victims dreams and kills them while they’re asleep. Craven has since talked about this inspiration often, and it involves a news story he stumbled across about a Cambodian refugee boy from the Killing Fields who was plagued with nightmares. One night, his parents heard him screaming. He had died in his sleep. This isn’t the only time that Craven has made films inspired by real-life events. His 1988 Haitian zombie flick The Serpent and the Rainbow was a fictionalized story of antrhopologist Wade Davis who studied drugs allegedly used to induce zombification for slavery. Because Craven had two well-known films in the 80s based on real-life accounts, this led to a minor urban legend that there’s real truth to someone dying in real life if they die in their dreams. As anyone who occasionally suffers from nightmares might tell you, this is a terrifying concept, so it got me thinking: if you die in a dream, would you really die in real life?

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American Werewolf in London

Driven by the full moon, I’ve been moving through the Universal classics at a steady pace, including 1941’s The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr., as well as its sequels Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and the farcical Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The transformation of the character of Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) into the Wolf Man was groundbreaking back in the 40s, and it still looks great on screen today. Of course, modern movies employ heavy CG work, often leaving practical effects in the dust. That’s why we are treated to shots of a shirtless Taylor Lautner morphing mid-leap into his baby-mind-raping teen wolf form in the Twilight movies. As effects have gotten more sophisticated, scenes of werewolf transformation have become more fantastical and less realistic. But what would a more “realistic” transformation be like? What would a real Wolf Man be like?

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Candyman

Speaking as someone who has been on this earth since the early 1970s, I can attest to the fact that some movies often behave like wine. They may be novel when they first come out, but after a few years they become bland. However, if you let them age long enough, they become good again, often times embodying a nostalgia factor that makes their imperfections seem endearing. This process takes about 20 years for the effects to be initially felt, which is why nostalgia often runs in 20 year cycles, which coincide with a person in his or her 20s looking back fondly at what they watched as a child, and major movie studios remaking beloved titles old enough to drink. Because of this, the films of the 90s are starting to look more and more vintage. Yeah, there’s that bump in the middle of the decade with really bad CGI that will always hamper films like Spawn and Species, but the movies from the earlier part of that decade seemed to have escaped that. Such is the case with the 1992 horror film Candyman. Candyman took on the subject of urban legends when they were gaining popularity, and it started its own legends about the now iconic monster. Case in point, I saw it as a college preview back in 1992, and I knew plenty of people who immediately went home and said the name five times in the mirror. (My sister, who was often affected like this from […]

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Shining Elevator

Each year in October, I find myself revisiting the Stanley Kubrick classic The Shining, which has surpassed broad criticism from Stephen King throughout the 1980s to eventually become a heralded classic of horror cinema. Last year, I was inspired to re-watch the movie after seeing the sometimes nutty but always thought-provoking Room 237, which offers various theories about the hidden messages in the original film – including everything from Native American genocide to Kubrick confessing to faking the moon landing. One part of the film that was examined is that iconic blood elevator sequence, first seen by Danny Torrence (Danny Lloyd) in a psychic vision. A lot of discussion has surrounded this image, including the symbolic meaning of the blood as well as how the effect was achieved. With the twisted mind I have, my thoughts went somewhere else: How much blood would it actually take to fill the elevator lobby?

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the purge

Waking up in today’s world has become more and more depressing. Even before I roll out of bed, I will usually grab my phone and settle into a morning routine of checking email and social media. Unfortunately, the latter has become less about socially interacting and more about sharing awful stories of the human condition. Before I manage to brush my teeth, I’m bombarded with news stories and links about terrible things that people do to each other. My Facebook feed is quickly becoming a giant international police blotter. With all the injustices in the world going on, it makes me wonder if there’s something we could do about it. I recently re-watched The Purge and also saw its sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, this past summer. Aside from there being 12 hours of hell to deal with once a year, the series’ titular event — an annual night of anything goes — seemed to be working for the people in the movies. That got me thinking: with crime seemingly spiraling out of control, would a real-life Purge really work?

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MGM

There’s nothing quite like the autumn when the cooler weather allows you to open your windows and enjoy the fresh night air. And nothing serves as a buzzkill than hearing sirens or gunshots in the distance. Even as society has grown and people feel they’ve become more enlightened, crime is still a big problem. Sure, not every place is like Detroit in films like Beverly Hills Cop and RoboCop – or like Detroit in present day, for that matter. However, with crime still running rampant in some areas, it’s enough to keep one awake at night (especially if you keep hearing those sirens and gunshots in the night air). Everyone wants to do something about crime, but it’s not like we really want someone to turn into a maverick cop like Sylvester Stallone in Cobra. In reality, you’d want a super cop to actually care about civil liberties, laws, and individual rights. Though it’s a really violent film, the title character in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop at least attempts to serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law. It helps that these prime directives were hard-wired into his programming. And that got me thinking: Is the world ready for a real-life RoboCop?

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Warner Bros.

I don’t know what your movie news feed looks like, but mine tends to be painfully predictable. Over the past few months, with rare exception, it’s pretty much been a non-stop barrage of Star Wars, DC, and Marvel updates. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good franchise. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and am eagerly awaiting the release of Episode VII. Likewise, I love me some Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be first in line to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. I’m still a bit cautious about Batman vs. Superman: Courtroom Drama and the upcoming Justice League slate of films, but that’s a whole ‘nother article. A friend of mine recently echoed the ridiculously common complaint that Hollywood has lost its creative edge and is no longer making original movies. Instead, it’s obsessed about remakes, reboots, sequels, and other adaptations of previous source material. My knee-jerk cynicism aside, he seems to have a point. Sure, there are some interesting original films that show up now and then, but the studios seem to be focused greatly on retreading the past. This got me thinking: Can’t we go back to the good old days when Hollywood wasn’t all about remakes, reboots, sequels, and franchises?

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Pirates of the Caribbean

As I tend to watch movies for a living, periodically I am faced with potential career choices that might be more lucrative for me. A stint aboard a space mining freighter for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is a bit too futuristic for me, and I’ve missed the boat for enrolling in med school or law school. However, there seems to be one way to make money that doesn’t seem to take any formal schooling: treasure hunting. Of course, before I kiss my wife and kids good-bye and embark on a whirlwind global journey to get rich off of other people’s plundering, I had to look into this career choice a bit. I started by thinking: Where can I dig up a buried pirate’s treasure chest?

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Jurassic Park Ian Malcolm

As the summer winds to a close, I tend to look back at some of the activities I’ve done with my kids. Living in Ohio, I have access to one of the best zoos in the country, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. However, after a couple visits, it gets tiresome of looking at the same animals over and over again. Thanks to the heartbreaking documentary Blackfish, it’s not cool to visit Sea World any more (and the old Sea World of Ohio location fled the state for warmer temperatures years ago). Without these options, there are few opportunities to look at new and interesting animals. Having recently watched Jurassic Park, I found myself wishing there was a real-life dinosaur park where I could take the kids. Of course, it should be humanely run and not include any velociraptors running amok due to a greedy programmer shutting down park security. I’m sure those issues of park life would be ironed out in beta testing. This got me thinking, at least for next summer’s family activities: How close are scientists to making a real-life Jurassic Park by cloning dinosaurs?

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Superman 3 Computer

The life of a film critic is one of the swankiest and most lucrative jobs you’ll ever have. Forget doctors and lawyers. Forget international business. Forget technology. Film criticism, particularly that which involves publishing on the internet, has me rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck. I’m not just rich, I’m stupid rich. Still, when it gets to be the middle of the month, and I’m paying bills, I can come up a little short. There never seems to be enough money in my bank account to comfortably live. It’s around this time that I start to think creatively about how to make even more money than my swag-filled, jet-setting life already brings me. Sure, there’s always the possibility of becoming the trophy companion of a supermodel. I certainly have the rippling muscles, two-percent body fat, and inguinal arch of Ryan Gosling. Then again, I’m happily married, and that might be a deal-breaker for a sugar momma. After recently watching Superman III and Office Space, I realized that the best way to make ends meet might be a life of crime. After all, I live most of my life on computers. Just ask my 2,693 Twitter followers. That’s got to be worth something. This got me thinking: Could I use the banking glitch we saw in Superman III to get even richer than I am today?

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Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix

Just as Marvel’s The Avengers gave shawarma sales a huge boost in the summer of 2012, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has brought forth a newly-rediscovered love for cassette tapes. This is thanks to the “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” that Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt), dying mother made for him in 1988. Quill kept the joy of mix tapes alive while he bounced around the galaxy for 26 years, rocking out to music from Blue Swede, The Jackson 5, David Bowie, and The Runaways. As a child of the 80s, I am intimately familiar with cassettes, Walkmans, old-school 1/8” headphones, and the awesomeness of a mix tape. However, I also remember burning through my fair share of cassettes in my youth (and needing a pencil more than a few times). Of course, the track list for “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” will always be awesome, but seeing all that Quill goes through in Guardians of the Galaxy, it got me thinking. Would that mix tape have lasted for 26 years in space? Would it even still work?

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Universal Pictures

This weekend, Luc Besson’s Lucy topped the box office with more success than expected. You might say that the film performed above its potential. Coincidentally, the film is about a woman (Scarlett Johansson) who, through an unexpected side effect of being a drug mule, was able to access the full potential of her brain. This led her to various super powers, including being a genius in mathematical calculations, having the ability to diagnose medical conditions by hugging someone and controlling radio waves with her mind. The film rests on the belief that human beings only use about 10 percent of their brain’s full potential, and the drugs that leaked into Lucy’s system helped unlock the other 90 percent. It’s not the first time this theory has been brought to the silver screen. Bradley Cooper got similar powers in the 2011 film Limitless. Both the 90s cheese-fest The Lawnmower Man and the more down-to-earth 70s drama Charley feature similar ideas. Even the character of Sherlock Holmes, seen in everything from classic Basil Rathbone films to Benedict Cumberbatch and his “mind palace” in the BBC’s Sherlock, have found a way to access seemingly limitless and unnatural brain power. This got me thinking. We might never be able to look like Scarlett Johansson or Bradley Cooper, but could we think like their characters on screen? What extraordinary things could we achieve if we tapped into our brains’ “full potential”?

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The best posters of Comic-Con 2014

Much of the press from Comic-Con comes in the form of descriptions of moving images. Everyone wants to hear about the footage being shown in the cavernous Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center. But there’s so much more to the annual geek culture event, including plenty of great memorabilia releases, a slew of awesome comic art and panels (because what would Comic-Con be without actual comics) and some great film art, as well. Galleries such as Mondo, Bottleneck, Gallery Nucleus and even movie studios bring awesome poster releases to the event every year. To celebrate this explosion of art, we’ve rounded up the best and brightest of Comic-Con 2014’s movie poster selection.

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Kill Bill Five Point Punch

In the midst of insane fight sequences and impossible violence, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill gave me a moment of pause. In the second part of the movie, The Bride (Uma Thurman) finally confronts Bill (David Carradine), and ultimately dispatches him with a secret technique from their old master Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) known as the five-point-palm exploding heart technique. This closely-held secret move uses pressure points on a man’s chest that will stress the heart to a point that the victim can only travel five steps before his heart explodes and he falls dead. That’s a pretty cool technique, and would be quite handy in a pinch, so it got me thinking: Which martial art will teach it to me?

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Memento Movie

We can learn a lot from the movies. Of course, sometimes what we learn has no basis in reality. For example, lawyers should not take their cross-examination techniques from Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, and doctors shouldn’t be too quick to use a defibrillator as demonstrated in… well… pretty much every medical drama ever made. Certain real-life afflictions make excellent plot points in movies and television, and one of the biggest cliches that’s still used today is amnesia. Whether it’s Jason Bourne trying to get a hold of his past or a poor widower chasing down a man named John G., amnesia makes for a compelling story where we get to learn alongside a person who already knows the thing that they don’t know. But is movie amnesia realistic, or is it total crap?

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The Worlds End Movie

For fans who like to recreate movie moments, The World’s End offers a destructively inebriated challenge. One night, twelve pints, twelve pubs. If you’re trying to be authentic, alien robots and a deep sense of foreshadowing are must-haves. In the movie, Gary King (Simon Pegg) forces his friends to take a second stab at the Golden Mile pub crawl with no regard for age, teetotaling or blue goo-filled beings trying to remove their personalities. When they were kids, they missed the finish line by three pubs, and even though their middle-aged attempt is marred by the fate of the entire planet, King valiantly soldiers on. That got me thinking: what would it take to survive a real-life Golden Mile?

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Thunderball Jet Pack

While watching Thunderball recently, I was reminded of how James Bond escapes from a funeral on a wicked-cool jetpack (or rather, a jetpack that was wicked-cool in 1965). This, in turn, reminded me of all the fantastic uses of jetpacks over the years – from the original King of the Rocket Men serial from 1949 to the Commando Cody shorts from the 50s to Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer in 1990 and even Iron Man’s portable propulsion devices. Like the flying car from The Jetsons, the jetpack seems forever out of reach for our everyday use, but it’d be such a brilliant tool to have. This got me thinking… where are the jetpacks we were promised?

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published: 11.26.2014
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