Tag Archives: steampunk

Three Musketeers: the (newest) movie review

Well, by luck and happenstance we ended up seeing a screening of the Three Musketeers today.

Now, I am going to disclaim my feelings about this movie a little.

I am a big fan of the Milla Jovovich / Paul W S Anderson Resident Evil movies, which this basically serves as the steampunk version of. If you’ve seen those movies, you know of what I speak – wild technology, slow motion fighting, action that every once in a while is actually really good but can also get really campy, etc. If you like that, you will like this.

Also, if you’ve ever hummed Abney Park’s “Airship Pirates”, you’ll find some goodness in here. I don’t want to get spoiler-ish but there is some really, really great fan service in here for those who like airships.

Paul W S Anderson has a habit of making movies that look like the exact movies my inner 13 year old would film if he could. This is definitely one of those movies.

I am a bit sad about the PG13 rating – other than a bit of language here and there the movie was almost kid-oriented, with a very high wacky factor, relatively nonviolent fights (especially compared to the R rated Resident Evil movies). There are some quite funny character / comic relief characters.

Another important note – the movie was shot in 3D and the 3D was quite good, unlike quite a bit of bad 3D I saw this summer. Pirates 4 comes to mind – the 3D was super disappointing in that one in particular (and they both had a lot of 3D swords, so I think it is a fair comparison).  I’m not thinking I’ll see any oscar noms for the effects, but they were really pretty good and not entirely dependent on CGI.

So, in summary – if you like Steampunk, slightly westernized martial arts movies, slow motion fight scenes, Milla Jovovich, airships, anachronistic technology, or any of the Resident Evil movies you should catch this one for sure! If not… maybe not? It did have a bit of a B movie vibe, just one that I happened to really like.

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Steampunk Trifecta – Sherlock Holmes, LXG, and Van Helsing

These are three mainstream movies that say “Steampunk” to Burgandy and I. I am sure there are purists who (possibly angrily) disagree. But, for the sake of argument, I am going to say that we had a steampunk marathon this weekend and watched Sherlock Holmes, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen / LXG, and Van Helsing. It was a chance to introduce the little one to a few properties that we hope to get her actually reading soon.

I greatly enjoyed all three of these movies upon first viewing, and even saw Van Helsing and LXG in the theater twice (I let myself get scared away from Sherlock Holmes by bad word of mouth / the zany trailer, which is quite unfortunate). So, with that in mind, the immediate judgment – how did they hold up? Well, I thought Van Helsing and Sherlock Holmes both held up – this is somewhat unfair, almost, because Van Helsing is definitely a special effects blockbuster type and Sherlock Holmes is not as ambitious, but they both looked great. LXG, on the other hand, aged horribly – the Nautilus looked almost Roger Rabbit-esque, way too big for what it was supposed to be and not at all real. Likewise with the somewhat choppy action sequences.

I think Sherlock Holmes had the best acting – I loved the Holmes, Watson, and Adler here. They were a bit modernized (though, as Burgandy’s post pointed out, not as much as you may think) but still evocative of the characters. Van Helsing was a bit more questionable  Hugh Jackman wasn’t super-engaging at first (though he doesn’t have a lot to work with, as Van Helsing starts with basically no personality and gradually gets better). Kate Beckinsale’s Anna has a silly accent and some horrible lines (“I have never been to the sea”) but the character is a lot of fun and you get used to it (it doesn’t hurt that she looks great in this movie). David Wenham is actually quite hilarious as Carl, the friar. Both Dracula (VH) and Blackwood (SH) are great villains, too.

LXG is not so good – the first time I watched it I was just so amused by the ‘JLA of Victorian England’ schtick that I missed how much Sean Connery is phoning it in, or how silly Nemo’s beard looks. The smaller roles are better – I still really liked the foppish-but-deadly Dorian and generally enjoyed the more-vampiric-than-the-comic Mina. Dr. Jekyll / Hyde was a great performance, actually, really enjoyed it. As you watch this movie, you see the actors trying to progress things (Jekyll’s personalities integrate, Mina is less repressed, Nemo and Quartermain are nicer) but with the big cast and the movie’s lack of focus it all sort of ends up being out of nowhere. The bad guy, the Phantom, is a bit of a dud. Silly costume, sillier accent.

Plot-wise, I thought Sherlock Holmes had a great mystery and good interaction between the characters. Van Helsing had a sweeping, sometimes confusing story that added to a video-game-like feel the movie had at times (I love video games, so this isn’t necessarily something awful, but it did seem a bit strange). LXG was just plain weird – things happen that really don’t make sense if you think about them too much like outracing an earthquake in a car, then stopping with a missile or Mr. Hyde somehow knowing exactly how to drain the Nautilus when it is taking on water.

So, the verdict. The best movie has to be Sherlock Holmes, I think – everything just comes together, albeit in a way that sends rage through the minds of traditionalists. Second best – Van Helsing. I can forgive a lot of incoherency and video-game-ness when it’s helped along by Hugh Jackman in superhero mode, a scenery-chewing Dracula, a hilarious sidekick, and a badass Kate Beckinsale in a corset and leather pants. Third – LXG. My only thought on this one is that my brain was so blown by the premise the first time that I just forgave everything. Now it barely seemed to make sense, the effects looked awful, and the action sequences were choppy and nonsensical. It was still sort of fun, though, and I think it will prompt the little one to read Invisible Man and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and me to read King Solomon’s Mines) so it can not be all bad!

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Sherlock Holmes (2009) – A review

As you can tell, I put off seeing this movie for a long time. I am a big fan of Robert Downey Jr. I’m also a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, having read every Holmes story I could get my hands on in grade school before moving on to Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. I am not a fan of attempts to “modernize” classic works to make them more palatable to an audience that doesn’t have time for that reading nonsense. Which is what I expected this film to be, especially since many reviews insisted this was a revisionist Holmes that took great liberties with the character. That isn’t the film I found myself watching.

I mean, yes, it takes liberties with the timeline, but I can appreciate why they did it. Rather than just filming the same famous Holmes stories that have been filmed a thousand times over, the movie is a mash up of a handful of Holmes stories and set smack in the middle of an era during which Holmes is traditionally dead, because he’s already fought Moriarty, Irene Adler has been reduced to “the Woman” and  Watson has already been married. But I’m okay with that. Because they captured something much more important to me – they captured the essence of Holmes, not as he has become in urban legend, formed by a thousand movies of a neat and business like Holmes in a deer hunter hat, but the Holmes (and Watson for that matter) from the original stories. This is a Holmes that can beat the tar out of his adversaries as well as best them with his astounding intellect. This is a Holmes that is more than a little… eccentric, and has some chemical dependency issues to boot. This is a Watson that can hold his own with Holmes, instead of being the bumbling side kick he has become in most recent incarnations. This is the Holmes I remember. (Heck, most of the things in the movie deemed most outlandish were taking directly from Holmes stories, from Holmes shooting up a “VR” in a wall to him training bees with a violin to his little underground boxing match. Holmes was a martial artist before it was cool for action heroes to be martial artists. This was the guy they based Batman on!)

And befittingly so. One of the reasons I think Steampunk and the Neo-Victorian movement have been so popular is that Victorian characters are fun. They were the superheroes of their day. This was the era of mad geniuses – when men of keen intellect and odd habits were called “eccentric” rather than being labeled “ADD” or “Manic Depressive” and given a bunch of prozac before they could hurt themselves. We’re talking about an era where cocaine was legal and even real life geniuses were pretty much insane (Go read about Nikola Tesla sometime. That man was like a comic book villain of epic proportions).

So, yes… it messes with the timeline to tell an original story and it reintroduces all those “messy” details from the Sherlock Holmes stories like that he knew Bartitsu, or that he sometimes traded fisticuffs with his adversaries and always won, or that he had a drug… issue. But then maybe if more people spent time reading Sherlock Holmes stories than just watching stuff British movies with their safe, tall, skinny, “refined” Holmes, they’d know that.

Anyhow, enjoyed the movie quite a bit, laughed out loud in parts (not surprisingly, most of the best dialogue is actually lifted directly from the Holmes stories), and am looking forward the sequel coming out in a few months time.


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Bats Day 2011 – The Black Market

Due to circumstances related both to Mother’s Day and the contents of another post, we will not be attending the actual Bats Day Festivities on Sunday. However, we did attend the Black Market today at the nearby Doubletree, where we purchased many gothtastic accessories, as well as meeting up with an old friend.

As a general summary, the Black Market was set up in the same manner as any other convention exhibitor’s hall, but with a very focused goth theme (although the occasional steampunk table was available).  It’s pretty sizable, covering three rooms, but with very little in the way of walking room. The booths offered a nice mix of clothing, accessories, spooky stuffed animals, and even baked goods. My one disappointment is I was hoping to find a shop selling cloaks, but it looks as if the poor timing of having Bats Day the same weekend as RenFaire has resulted in a lack of any medieval style clothing. However, the gap was filled by a handful of steampunk booths, so maybe that’s okay.

Some of the highlights of the Market:

Blackmarket Bakery – It’s not often you see a counter culture bakery, and this OC favorite was serving up such appropriate goodies as chocolate bat shaped cookies. We shared one, it was a little dry, but tasty enough we’ll probably hit up their brick and mortar location sometime soon.

Funky Recycling – Green is the new black? This booth was selling super cute and eco-friendly necklaces, pins, and magnets made from the aluminum cans of a variety of tasty beverages that have been recycled into artsy shapes like cupcakes, and Baron Sameti  style skulls with top hats. I picked up a Dr. Pepper themed skull and top hat pin that even was adorned with a Marvel logo bat.

RetroScope Fashions – This was one of the aforementioned handful of steampunk themed booths, selling a nice collection of Victorian style clothing in a variety of colors and styles. There are more than a few steampunk clothing websites out there, but finding somewhere you can actually view the quality of said items is pretty rare. These seemed to be well crafted, although the only purchase I made was a parasol that perfectly matches my existing burgundy and black lace themed costume – which was greatly in need of a parasol. Be sure to ask them if you’re looking for something specific – I had originally passed them by because they didn’t appear to have anything that worked with my wardrobe, but when I asked if they had anything in a burgundy wine color, they produced this beauty from the back of the booth. Remember – it always pays to ask (or it costs to ask in this case, but it was a damn fine Mother’s Day present if I do say so myself).

Lair of Wolf & Moon – Our best find of the day was this booth. We purchased a spooky looking skull/claw ring which looked pretty badass despite being pewter, but it was only $10, so that worked for us. We also picked up what was arguably the most awesome bit of jewelry in the whole market – an amazingly detailed gothic steampunk bi-plane pendant. The bi-plane itself is so awesome looking I gave it a spot on our dresser instead of hiding it away in the accessories drawer (and it has a turning propeller! Squee!). The biplane pendant is the work of a British company called Alchemy Gothic which apparently does some pretty amazing work. The booth also had an impressive collection of goggles, gas masks, and hair falls, so I’d recommend checking them out for those, too. We plan on purchasing one of the more steampunk themed gas masks in the future.

Overall, this was good times, and we came away with fliers and business cards for a variety of merchants we will have to check out when we have more money to spend. If you didn’t get to go, I’d not only recommend the above merchants, but also checking out the main Bats Day site for a helpful listing of links to a number of the vendors who had booths at the marketplace. And put a note in your calendar to go next year!

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