Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
I was a huge Hitchhiker's Guide fan in high school. My friend rscott was about the biggest appreciator of Douglas Adams possible without being an actual fanboy, and senior year we played through the Starship Titanic video game together. Anyway, since I was a big fan of the books I was worried about the movie, that it would somehow reduce the power of the novels through its sheer suckitude. Because of this I read the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide book over the past couple weeks to have the novels fresh in my mind before going in. They were just as good as I remembered (although a little shorter and the writing is more transparent now than it was then) and the re-reading of the books was incredibly enjoyable. For the purposes of the movie, though, it was a mistake.
See the Hitchhiker's Guide books are about as unfilmable as any books can be, save perhaps the dictionary. Much of the humor and impact comes from little asides and historical data that you just can't show on a movie screen. You can narrate it, which they do to some extent, but excessive narration is ruinous to any film. So the adaptation involved a lot of compromise, hilarious bits were taken out and new things were put in and on the whole the film has an incredibly different feel than the canon. Since the books were fresh in my mind when I went in to see the flick I kept wincing at missing bits, or new insertions that didn't fit with the themes of the book. Namely there's a whole new subplot shoehorned in, which isn't terrible in and of itself except that it Hollywoodizes the characters ludicrously. Arthur is made courageous FAR before he should be according to his more natural character arc in the books, and the love sequence between him and Trillian is about as awkward and useless as any I've ever seen. It's like the filmmakers called George Lucas and were like "GEORGE, baby, can you write us a totally lame love scene?" And he was like "Can do." It's one of those things where the characters seem to be looking down at the scripts and saying "Oh, this is where we fall in love? Okay, I guess" instead of doing it organically. Hideous.
The visuals were almost uniformly excellent and I have no real complaints save one. I liked that they seemed to do at least some of the aliens with puppets rather than CG, but maybe the CG was just that good in which case no complaints here. The space ships were great, the worlds were exciting and interesting, it was a really good visual film. That being said, Zaphod's second head was CRAP. Not only was it oddly placed, but it was distractingly fake looking. They should have done something else, or had Sam Rockwell play two heads in those scenes and juxtaposed them. Terrible stuff.
The acting was mostly quite good. The guy they got for Arthur Dent was decently schlubby and played the part with nearly enough cluelessness. Mos Def was adequate as an underwritten Ford Prefect and Sam Rockwell was a blast as Zaphod. Zaphod in the movies is less sympathetic than in the books, but Rockwell manages to make him likable through sheer charisma and cluelessness, just completely nailing the part. I thought that it would have been better if Ford and Trillian had been played by British actors, but I can't imagine anyone better than Rockwell in the part of Zaphod.
As for Trillian, Zooey Deschanel is cute enough (She's no lambada breasts, but who is, except lambada breasts) but the role was kind of crappy and I don't like her spacey delivery for Trillian who is, after all, a pretty competent chick. I'm not sure who I'd cast in the part, she's supposed to look vaguely Arab. Maybe Gina Bellman who played Jane on the British Coupling and is a little old for the part but could probably pull it off.
Alan Rickman/Warwick Davis as my favorite character Marvin were FANTASTIC and it was a crime that he wasn't in the movie more.
The animated segments of the Hitchhiker's guide were very well done and enjoyable. Quite a good showing there.
They didn't absolutely destroy the soul of the book to make the movie. They came close, but they didn't do it. That being said, the added material was pretty weak and incoherent, they chopped the movie up enough that character motivations and plot lines seem to fade in and out almost at random. The relocation of several scenes to new areas was nearly criminal, they didn't explain quite enough about certain key elements, and THEY DIDN'T REFER TO EARTH AS MOSTLY HARMLESS. That last bit is unforgivable.
I didn't like the introductory song. Not that it was bad in and of itself, it fit well in the end, but it misses the point of the story. The story is about a man thrust from the mundane insanity of Earth into the bizarre insanity of the universe, and his coming to find out that they aren't that different after all. Starting with the bizarre Dolphin stuff takes away from that juxtaposition terribly. BAD CALL, no matter whose it was.
The weak sauce lily-livered Hollywood romance stuff. BOO
On the Baldwin Scale the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy earns:
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
This documentary I saw last night with my friend after I went to Hitchhiker's guide alone. The subject matter is terribly important to me, as I find corporate mis governance to be a symptom for many of the ills afflicting our society and a true sign of the future. It is hard for me to evaluate this film without a tidal wave of emotions overcoming me. When Ronnie Reagan appeared on the screen for a few seconds I gave him a pair of one-finger salutes (one with each hand) and I think a woman behind me cheered. Whether it was for Ron-Ron or my patriotic display I couldn't be sure.
As for the film:
Bethany McLean one of the coauthors, was just INCREDIBLY attractive. She had that cute classy look going for her, and a high clear intelligent voice that just makes you want to hop into the screen and do something dirty.
The experts they used all spoke clearly, and some even candidly, about what happened and no institutions were spared.
They talked about how the banks were complicit in the corruption and the nature of a stock-driven company in terms of its need to keep propping itself up basically no matter what.
The sheer number of insiders they got to talk was impressive, as were the number of corporate training videos they managed to show.
I didn't learn anything I didn't know already. There wasn't a lot new.
The cutesy stuff was just stupid. They'd talk about a rabbit coming out of a hat and show a magician, they entitled a section of the film "Love me, Love me" and played the old song "Love Fool" along with it. They just focused too much on entertaining when they were most interesting when informing.
The Enron insiders were all too quick to claim they had nothing to do with what happened, no, pass the buck the buck must be passed.
At the end they said that Enron was a company that set out to change the world but ended up sabotaged by greed. What bullshit. The only way Enron ever wanted to change the world was by increasing the amount of property Enron executives owned in it. Manipulating the electricity prices in California so that Grandma Millie had to sit in the dark alone and afraid? That's just a natural offshoot of what happens when greed is the engine behind basic services.
Cliff Baxter's Suicide
It was a decent movie, and it's important to show people IMAGES of how these people behaved and the terrible things they did. That being said, it wasn't anything more than a run of the mill documentary, nothing special. Worth seeing but probably not in the theater.
On the Baldwin Rating Scale it is:
*pggmilltn, or Oxnard as he is called by those who like to call him Oxnard, is a very sweet person and it should be announced that I am gently ribbing him here, so that he does not unleash his terrible Oxnard wrath.