Star Trek + ER + Buffy = The Librarian

16-Jul-09 10:46 AM by
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I'm a fan of Jonathan Frakes, be he acting as Commander William Riker or directing silly sci-fi flicks. It's been two years since the second Librarian film, a made-for-TV series of action-adventure movies in the style of Indiana Jones. Looking back, I wonder why I judged the first two entries so harshly, as I thought the recent third film, The Curse of the Judas Chalice, to be a fun romp.

The main character, Flynn Carsen, is a young man with an eidetic memory and a knack for finding himself in trouble — a perfect combination for someone charged with finding and preserving all the artifacts of lore. His newest adventure sends him not through mountains, deserts, and other exotic locales (been there, done that, I suppose), but to New Orleans in search of the relic that made the first vampire.

And yes, this film features not just vampiric cups but vampires themselves (in much the way the fourth Indiana Jones film featured aliens — do we really need to suspend our disbelief this much?). But I love how stereotypical they aren't. They aren't pale, they don't wear all leather, they don't mope around, and they definitely don't sparkle. There's hardly anything to give away who is or is not a vampire. And really, isn't that how it should be? If I had to flop my sleeping schedule and change my diet, I don't know that it'd make me evil.

I've never seen Noah Wyle play any role other than Flynn Carsen or Steve Jobs, so I can't attest to his acting range, but one trait he has down cold is subtly competent. Flynn can get himself out of any situation, even if he is easily distracted and rarely sees them coming. Stana Katic (Quantum of Solace, The Spirit) as the love interest has a twinkle in her eye that reminded me of… I'm not sure who. Perhaps Famke Jannsen's character on Star Trek: The Next Generation? Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin (Third Rock from the Sun) are amusing in supporting roles as library staff.

Jonathan Frakes (can you spot his cameo?) directs the action well, though again, The Librarian scores points for execution, not originality. There was one odd transition, one scene that made no sense, and a plot twist that can be seen coming a mile away (when has Bruce Davison ever played a good guy?). There's also a plot device that's lifted right from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the ending is similar to Twilight. But it's obvious the actors are having fun, which makes it easy to empathize with them and the occasionally hard decisions they make.

The DVD's special features includes a deconstruction of the special effects, similar to the Pink Five video previously posted here. Though some are obvious, the extent of the subtle effects is astounding. A rural library becomes a metropolitan one; a townhouse becomes a cathedral. It's a stunning reminder that little of what we see out of today's Hollywood is truly authentic. Kudos to the actors for not letting that stop them from making a film on par, in both quality and enjoyability, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Hart of the Bunch

21-Jan-08 5:37 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; Comments Off on Hart of the Bunch

The spotlight has dimmed on two staples of early Seventies sitcoms.

Suzanne Pleshette, co-star of The Bob Newhart Show, passed away on Saturday at the age of 70 from respiratory failure. It's been more than a decade since I last saw the show for which Ms. Pleshette was most famous, but I grew up on The Bob Newhart Show and loved the balance she gave to the zany and dry characters she found herself surrounded by. Knowing she was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds gives me renewed reason to finally seek it out.

Overshadowed by this passing is the loss of Allan Melvin, whose roles are better known than he was. Mr. Melvin played Alice the housekeeper's butcher boyfriend Sam on The Brady Bunch, which wasn't a stretch from his former role as another kind-hearted lug — Magilla Gorilla. He passed away Wednesday at 85 after a long fight with cancer.

Thank you, both. Though you never worked together, you shared the hearts of many fans.

Library Distortion Field

15-Jan-07 5:35 PM by
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Just as my Trekkie nature led me to watch What the Bleep?!, a film with a cameo by Quark, I've now been pulled in the direction of The Librarian. Commander William Riker directed the recent second film in this TNT series of action-adventure-comedy films, both of which are now available on DVD.

The underlying concept for these films is that every myth, legend, or rumor you ever heard, from King Arthur to King Midas, is true. The artifacts of these tales are stored in a high-security museum, and Noah Wyle's character, with his genius intellect and short attention span, is its new protector. In the first film, Hitler's Spear of Destiny is stolen; in the second, the storeroom of Solomon's biblical wisdom is revealed. In each, Wyle is sent overseas, where he meets a headstrong woman, wins her over with immature innocence, and beats the Bad Guys and their nefarious booby traps.

Yes, these films are as predictable as they sound; no, I can't say "But despite that, they're actually quite good." The series borrows from Indiana Jones, Casablanca, and everything in between, without doing any one thing better than its source — unsurprising, considering the quality company The Librarian is trying to keep.

But I can imagine these films being perfect for a younger audience. Wyle's character is enough of a caricature of an accidental hero to be entertaining; the plot is evenly paced between action and exposition; and there's no nudity, vulgarity, or violence beyond Power Ranger levels. Adults will enjoy the dry wit of Bob Newhart, Wyle's employer and mentor. So, for these reasons, the films warrant having been made, and I anticipate a third to close out the trilogy.

Coincidentally, I went from watching Wyle, best known in geek circles for his starring role in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, to watching the actual Steve Jobs deliver his MacWorld keynote speech. A recent hardware malfunction had me a week behind in such news, so I downloaded the entire 105-minute video from iTunes to get the scoop straight from the horse's mouth. I have no interest in either an iPhone or an Apple TV, but it was an entertaining presentation nonetheless. It makes me wonder: What would Apple be without Steve Jobs?