Die Hard” (1988) is required Christmas season viewing for many, but “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990) should not be overlooked. Although both are rightly revered as classics, I personally like the sequel more, and it certainly leans harder into its holiday trappings. This one takes place in Washington, D.C., in a snowstorm, and the terrorists set up camp in a church that’s being shut down to make way for runway expansion.
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of Philip K. Dick adaptations: Those that are faithful to his themes while switching the medium to movies (“Blade Runner,” “Minority Report”), those that are so faithful they come off too rigid (“A Scanner Darkly,” “Radio Free Albemuth”), and those that launch an action movie from a PKD premise (even though PKD almost never wrote action sequences). “Total Recall” (1990) introduces us to this most ubiquitous type of adaptation.
Mel Odom, who wrote many outstanding “Buffy” and “Angel” novels, makes an all-over-the-place debut in the “Roswell” universe with “Shades” (September 2002), the fourth tie-in novel. It’s a daring novel in a way, as it introduces a whole new alien race plus the supernatural into the mythos, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing. Set immediately after Season 2, “Shades’ ” “big ideas, shaky payoff” status actually fits well with the season gone by.
The Crow” (1994) is more style than substance, as director Alex Proyas uses the comic book adaptation as a testing ground for his brilliant “Dark City” (1998). But the style is pretty great. The unnamed city patrolled by Eric Draven/The Crow (Brandon Lee) is filled with crumbling and seemingly abandoned architecture and perpetually wet streets. And when the back-from-the dead Crow reflects on the murder of himself and his wife Shelly (Sofia Shinas), he’s literally seeing red. Those flashes of red-tinged violence are hard to follow – as are the motivations of the bad guys, of which there are just enough to fill the running time of this revenge actioner.
Ilove the way Javed (Viveik Kalra) loves Bruce Springsteen in “Blinded by the Light.” The Pakistani-British youth sings and dances in the street once he gets the Boss bug. He smiles when listening to the lyrics. He writes about the Boss for his school paper. He wins an essay contest and a trip to America by waxing poetic about Springsteen.
Thanksgiving plays a small role in “The Vicious Kind” (2009). There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turkey dinner, and one character sleeps through the holiday. But the fall Connecticut setting is prevalent and it’s ultimately a sweet-and-sour indie film about family, making it a good (if not always good-natured) under-the-radar Turkey Day pick.
In 1988, Alan Moore wrote “The Killing Joke,” imagining the Joker’s origin story outside the primary DC Comics continuity. And now director/co-writer Todd Phillips (“The Hangover” films) does the same with “Joker,” a movie set outside the DC Extended Universe that imagines the Joker’s origin story in more robust fashion than ever before seen on film. It happens to be better than anything in the DCEU so far, so it’s a shame that this is a side project, especially since it builds up Gotham and the Wayne family so effectively.
Although “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.
Confessions of a Crap Artist” (1975) was the public’s introduction to Philip K. Dick’s non-science-fiction novels. Even though he wrote it in 1959 – along with eight other mainstream novels from 1950-60 – it wasn’t published until a decade and a half later, and it was the only non-SF book published in his lifetime. The rest were published posthumously, most from 1984-88, and the last two in 1994 and 2007.
After the excellent “No Good Deed,” Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch take a step back with “Little Green Men” (April 2002), a simpler novel that seems rushed, since it has many more typos than the previous one. It’s a one-day read at 197 pages, with a one-track story. Its lack of surprises is a weakness, but it is a nice example of the Roswell teens’ (and sheriff’s) teamwork, as all eight main characters contribute.