You're probably going to die. That's what the powers that be would have us believe, anyhow. And depending on the school of thought to which you subscribe, the form your hereafter will take can vary quite a bit: some will ascend to Heaven, some will approach Nirvana, some will crash land onto a polar bear-laden island until learning to appreciate the people around them. And some — a very select few, in fact — will turn into snowmen.
In the second half of a mystical, long-forgotten era known as the 1990s, the American Rockies were overtaken by a bizarrely specific phenomenon of human reincarnation. In 1997, just before Christmas, an apprehended serial killer was ostensibly killed when a collision of the police vehicle charged with delivering him to his imminent execution and a cargo truck filled with dangerous chemicals resulted in the dousing of the criminal with the gene-altering substances contained within the latter. Right around the same time, the snowy roads of Colorado took another victim: an aspiring musician and family man who was blinded by the inclement weather and driven to his presumed demise.
Both individuals were white American-born males nearing the age of 40, residents of the United States Mountain Region, and faced with a distinct character flaw that would fuel their eventual foray past the bounds of worldly mortality (one being too preoccupied with his blossoming music career to pay due attention to his young son; the other being a sociopathic murderer). And both men — these outliers in the grand constitution of science that facilitates our journeys through and limits within this unconscionable plight of being — were named Jack Frost.
Jack Frost vs. Jack Frost
You'll probably remember the 1998 Warner Bros. feature Jack Frost, starring Michael Keaton as an absentee dad (the sort you'd find in just about every family movie in the '90s, doesn't it seem?) who dies, transforms into a snowman, and uses his new form to (ironically) warm the heart of his lonely son (Joseph Cross). You might not remember a similarly titled film released, in some capacity, a year earlier: Jack Frost, starring Scott MacDonald as a serial killer who dies, transforms into a snowman, and uses his new form to commit a string of murders in a nearby small town. So, is it name alone that these two films share? Let's look at the similarities:
Title: Jack Frost, obviously
Hero's name: Jack Frost — the absurdity of this is only referenced in the Keaton film.
Setting: Colorado (only explicitly stated in the Keaton film, although Denver is suggested to be nearby in the MacDonald picture).
Cause of death of hero: Vehicular accident (or, at least, something that happens immediately after a car accident).
Local annual winter festival: The significance is played up more greatly in the horror than in the family movie, but they both have one.
Precocious child who nobody else believes about the living snowman: They both have one.
Sledding bullies: Each has its own gaggle (the horror film's get their comeuppance, the family film's are shown to have inner good).
Prevalence of snow puns: Excessive throughout both movies, to the point where the vast majority of both Keaton's and MacDonald's dialogue can be followed by, "Get it? Because he's a snowman!"
Inadequate law enforcement: Check and check.
Leaky kitchen pipes: Both have 'em.
And now, the differences:
Directed by: Troy Miller (the family movie). Michael Cooney (the horror movie).
Rated: PG and R, respectively.
Hero's plight: Keaton needs to redeem himself for being an inconsiderate father, and to bring his son to a point of emotional closure over his passing. MacDonald just wants to keep on killing, presumably until he does away with the man who caught him in the first place, Sheriff Tiler (Christopher Allport).
How he's revived: Magic: Keaton is brought back thanks to a wish bequeathed upon him by son Charlie while playing the harmonica his dad gave him right before he died. Science: MacDonald's genes are mutated and conjoined with the atomic makeup of the snow beneath him when he is doused with a Secret World of Alex Mack-esque chemical on the side of the highway.
Hero's arms: Keaton has sticks, MacDonald has mitten-like snow arms.
Hero's nose: Keaton has a button nose, a la Frosty, while MacDonald opts for the traditional carrot.
Hero's weaknesses: Heat of any kind will melt, and do away with, Keaton. MacDonald can only be undone (and even then, for how long?!) by antifreeze.
Fate of the hero: Keaton dies, promising his son that he will always live on in his heart. MacDonald, supposedly, never dies, as we see his melted form bubbling hostilely beneath the Earth's surface in a container of antifreeze in the last shot of the movie.
Lessons learned: Keaton's: Family is more important than anything; never give up; death is a part of life; part of growing up means moving on. MacDonald's: well, there's this weird tangent about the human soul actually being a chemical bond, but it's largely overlooked.
Zappas: Keaton's has three (Dweezil, Ahmet, and Moon Unit), MacDonald's has none.
So what are we to conclude about these stories? Wholly different in some ways, starkly similar in others, and remarkably close in their timing of release? Well, there's really only one logical conclusion: they're the same story, told from two very different perspectives.
Covered up by totalitarian Colorado news circuit was the story of a middle-aged everyman Jack Frost who was killed on the side of the road and then transformed, either right away or one year later, into a snowman. In an effort to learn more about the fantastic account, reporters hit his small mountain town, seeking out anyone who might be able to shed a light on the deceased. Eventually, they came upon someone wronged by the late Jack Frost: perhaps (as seen in the Keaton picture) an angry neighborhood hockey coach (Henry Rollins), one of the fellow's shirked band members, or even young Charlie Frost, Jack's neglected son. Any one of these figures might hold a grudge against the departed, painting him as such as a monstrous killer in an act of misguided vengeance.
But of course, diligent journalism would lead the investigators of this tale to friends of Jack: perhaps his best pal Mark Addy, one of the aforesaid Zappas, or his widow, Gabby (Kelly Preston). Any one of these individuals would surely describe Jack with elegiac holiness, making him out to be a saint beyond all others. Their grief would drive them to an idealization of a man prone to selfish acts, such as missing out on his son's hockey game, or bombarding a bunch of helpless kids with a cavalcade of icy snowballs (that happens in the non horror movie).
Somewhere between these accounts rests the real story: the true account of an average jackass — not a horrible guy, but not a great one either — who lived a humdrum life before returning in snowman form to neither kill innocents nor guide his son to enlightenment. He probably just wandered around, confused and horrified, about the form he had taken, until his ultimate resting form as a solemn puddle on the side of a Rocky Mountain road. But Hollywood isn't interested in middle grounds. They want extremes! Horror, blood, and gore! Or charm, laughs, and lessons! And so, the legend of Jack Frost was twisted, contorted, and itself transformed into something wholly... nonhuman: Jack Frost and Jack Frost. Two very different, highly fantastical movies about one regular guy who just happened to turn into a snowman one day.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros, A-Pix Entertainment]
What Your Favorite Christmas Movie Says About You
The Bright Lights of Hanukkah: The 'Rugrats' Special
'The Hobbit': What the Heck is a 'Warg?' Middle Earth Vocabulary For Non-Nerds
From Our Partners:
25 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Aladdin’ (Moviefone)
50 Best Movies of 2012 — With Some Surprises! (Moviefone)
The cop genre can be a little tired but few have explored it as thoroughly as David Ayer. Ayer wrote the modern crooked cop movie Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and he's written and directed a handful of other cop dramas based in South Central Los Angeles. Ayer's latest End of Watch has some of the same tropes at his previous movies — crookedness in the force the bond between two partners the push and pull between family and career — but our protagonists' biggest test is the street itself not each other.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are partners and best friends who sling racist insults at each other as often as they pledge their loyalty. As Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) they are instantly likeable; they're goofy foul-mouthed brothers who are on the beat in South Central LA. They're definitely not always above board and they're a little smug about a recent bust; they want to find another big catch but when they do it lands them in the middle of a turf war and something way bigger than they could have anticipated. It's ugly it's graphic and it is in some ways a bit salacious in its portrayal of the violence most of us merely read about in the papers.
The conceit that Ayer uses to bring the viewer in close is that Brian is filming their work for a filmmaking class he's taking. Besides the dubious legality there are plenty of times when it's impossible for Brian to be filming so Ayers only uses this device when it's most convenient. At other times the camera moves to a typical third-person POV or even as if we were looking at footage from the in-car camera of a police chase. The most unbelievable aspect of the handheld camera is when the gangsters they're after are filming themselves at parties or on drive-bys. While it's interesting and effective insofar as it brings us up right into the action it's just not logical. At one point Ayer even uses night vision for a suddenly and weirdly introduced enemy. On one hand the use of Brian's footage (and how much it ticks off his fellow cops) is quite effective but on the other it's simply illogical. We're supposed to believe that this is indicative of Brian's goals his desire to grow past the life of an officer on the beat and start a family and all that but at the same time there's not much backing that idea up. Although the family angle comes in later it doesn't seem likely that Brian will give up life with his partner without a big push in another direction.
Ayer deftly switches between the violence of the job and the cops' intimate conversations in their car their regular off-duty lives and the bravado among officers jockeying for position on the force. The type of events Brian and Mike encounter can be stomach-turning; even the cops turn away before the camera offers the audience a look at what they've encountered. It's shocking at times and graphic in a way that's different than a horror movie or a shoot-'em-up like The Expendables 2. It sticks with you after the credits have rolled.
End of Watch also grabs you emotionally although sometimes it is a bit too on the nose. There are more than enough scenes where characters get drunk and mournful about the lifespan or lifestyle of a cop. Brian who is a bit of a womanizer finally meets a woman he can't believe would go for a cop Janet (Anna Kendrick). Kendrick isn't given a lot to do but when she's onscreen she brings some levity to this grim business. Mike's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) also has quite a few zingers although her screen time is even less than Kendrick's.
There aren't many other notable female characters. It's great to see America Ferrera play against her Traveling Pants type as a police officer who comes from the neighborhood and knows the people she's up against. Although the butch lesbian cop is played-out Ferrera does a good job bringing Orozco to life. There's also a hint that she was once romantically involved with the female leader of the Latin gang that's taking over South Central. The various gang members and other people the cops meet on their beat are fairly flat too; they're just the bogeymen and women who haunt cops on the streets and in their nightmares. There are some references about a street code and the changing gangs of South Central but it's more of a plot device than anything else.
In the end though this isn't a sociological study; this is a portrait of a friendship. End of Watch has a lot to offer for fans of the genre especially if they've got their Kleenex at the ready.
Stars including Beyonce, Octavia Spencer, Oprah Winfrey and Nicki Minaj have reached out to teenage American gymnast Gabrielle Douglas after she made history at the London Olympics on Thursday (02Aug12).
The 16 year old was part of the U.S. side which took gold in the artistic team all-around gymnastics event at the London 2012 games on Tuesday (31Jul12), and two days later, she landed another gold medal for her solo efforts - making her the first black female ever to win the individual all-around contest.
Justin Bieber, Pink and Lady Gaga were among those who sent their congratulations to the medal-winning team, but Douglas won more praise when she scooped gold by herself.
Singer/actress Beyonce has written an open letter to Douglas in a post on her official blog, calling her performance "inspiring".
She writes, "A huge congratulations to 16 year old Olympic gold medallist Gabby Douglas - WOW - what a thrill to watch you take this gold! - Enjoy this moment, it's yours. Thank you for inspiring all of us! Love, B"
A number of other stars got in touch with Douglas via Twitter.com to pass on their congratulations..
Actress Gabrielle Union writes, "Golden girl!!! I'm in awe... Gold for Gabby!" while Octavia Spencer adds, "Huge huge moment!!! Own it! Bringing home the gold!" and Denise Richards gushes, "Gorgeous girl gabrielle doug GOLD!!!!!!!!! so happy for you! your mom looks so proud. congrats!!"
Singer Ciara ?declares, "Not only am I happy 4 U (for you). I'm happy for your family 2 (too)! The sacrifices payed (sic) off! Keep inspiring young girls and women like me," and rapper Nicki Minaj writes, "Kisses to Gabby what an amazing little firecracker. USA Olympics."
Winfrey admitted she cried when she saw the youngster triumph, writing, "OMG (Oh my God) I'm so thrilled for Gabby. Flowing happy tears!! Team USA", while La Toya Jackson had a similar reaction: "Why am I crying! I'm just so overwhelm (sic) by Gabby Douglas win!!!"