Known Johnson

May 1, 2005

The weekend in audio/visual treats

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:29 pm
  • We saw Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Saturday night, I having been one of those geeky middle-school kids for whom the five books held my fascination with a much more mature type of humor than is typical for kids that age. I won’t bother with a full review showcasing what the movie missed – just do a search, every dork like me with a blog is probably covering that ground quite sufficiently – but I do think it did some things very well. Casting was superb – Martin Freeman as everyman Arthur Dent is just about as perfect as could be, Mos Def as Ford Prefect worked very well, but seemed overplayed at times, Sam Rockwell’s space-cowboy take on galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox was (and here is the most overused term associated with him and this movie) inspired, and Zooey Deschanel is pretty much exactly how I pictured Trillian would look (although her mesmerizing, pretty, HUGE blue eyes were, as always, often overshadowed by a kind of lapsed southern drawl that simply makes her sound a little drunk in every role she takes on. Enunciate, Zooey!) Alan Rickman’s voice as that of Marvin, the paranoid android, was wonderful. Marvin is kind of the anti-C3PO, a depressed, sullen doomsayer for whom no amount of wonder holds any interest, and Rickman’s elegant delivery carried off the role beautifully. The movie itself was hit and miss – I’m not speaking as a reader here, but simply as a viewer. The movie seemed to want to work on two levels – “zany” and “intelligent” – and when you strive to hit two very different targets with humor it often fails more often than it succeeds. Every once in a while some bit of humor would sparkle and tease, only to be smashed back down by something heavy-handedly zany and slap-sticky. As a reader, however, I have to admit that it did miss more often than it succeeded, at least in terms of rendering the spirit of the book. There are moments, like a whale that instantaneously appears in the atmosphere, whose meandering and trivial thoughts we hear as it plunges to certain death far below, that so perfectly invoke the spirit of Douglas Adams’ work that it’s frustrating when the film goes back to trying to be zany. These are such well-formed, beautiful moments, and the film simply fails to maintain that kind of even keel. It is, however, refreshing to see something so concept-driven brought to the silver screen in a manner that actually does work, in general. It’s only now that technology has come sufficiently far enough to enable film-makers to render at least some of the obtusely literatary ideas Adams employed. What will be interesting to see is if they can pull off a sequel, and maybe since they’ve already hooked an audience, they might be able to hew closer to the original novels.
  • Sunday night, one of the many Discovery channels showcased an eleven year old body builder. Let me repeat that: an eleven year old body builder. There are few things that creep me out about kids that age besides, oh, say, adolescent murders and the like, but a kid with a rigid six-pack is one of them. Not only is he a body-builder at 11, he’s basically been one his whole life. As one of the doctors on the program said, there’s something odd going on when a kid can gain muscle like that at such an early age, and steroids of some kind have to be suspected – boys are boys because they lack the testosterone that makes them men, and which makes men so much more easily muscle-bound than women. Unfortunately, no answers could be gained from the situation, but it sure was weird.
  • If you’re a Dream Theater fan like me who tends to get a little tired of the constant show-boating that seems to make up a lot of their music, I have good news for you. I picked up DT singer James Labrie’s solo album, Elements of Persuasion, today after reading quite a few favorable reviews, most of which said in a nutshell, “It’s not Dream Theater, but it’s pretty good.” They’re right, it’s not Dream Theater – sure, it’s metal, and it’s very heavy, but there’s much, much less of the wanky histrionics that have come to define Dream Theater. What’s more, I’m pretty sure that were I to have heard this playing without knowing who it was, I’d immediately recognize Labrie’s characteristic vocals, but the music itself sounds like Dream Theater’s past couple of albums – minus, of course, the constant soloing and annoying need to very obviously ape the sounds of their own favorite bands (Metallica and Tool spring immediately to mind.) Labrie’s crafted the Dream Theater album I’ve always wanted – something that is intelligent and heavy, but leaves just enough room for some very impressive instrumental passages. Who would have thought it was the one element of Dream Theater that seems to have the least amount of say in the music that would put out the most musically interesting project?
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