Showing posts with label comic book movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic book movies. Show all posts

Monday, June 16, 2014

Call and Response: The Pussy Posse Bad Movie Edition

Repost from 2010.

Recently, the local blog for the James River Film Society had a post on the top 5 worst films directed by Christopher Nolan, with Inception being at the top of the list, although it was an un-numbered list. The author called Nolan "the most celebrated bad director since Ed Wood."

Now, Nolan is no Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau. He is a technically competent director. I would consider him more along the lines of a more subtle and less heavy-handed and narcissistic M. Night Shyamalan. Or a more lucid Michael Bay, but who has the ability to hire better actors (then proceed to waste them, like Cillian Murphy). But Inception is his worst film. While I think that The Prestige is a fun film, the rest of Nolan's films have never stuck with me for too long after I left the theater or turned off the TV. So I am not so sure that his stories are as compelling, smart, or deep as everyone makes them out to be. Inception at least has the honor of making me laugh, then a little angry afterward.

I guess all discussion for Inception must begin with a preface that yes, I understood the movie. I am not stupid and have been told that I can explain the plot (or more precisely what is going on) in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond better than most people, and The Beyond is a very strange film in terms of time and space. Inception had five layers of dreams with a big stupid action movie as its creamy center, with overwrought guilt as the peanuts. Too bad that the film tried to both embrace the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time giving it a structure, so that dreams have "architects", and when there is a team involved, there is a leader whose subconscious serves as mainframe of sorts. Otherwise, why would everyone dream an action movie? Why would only Ellen Page's character be concerned that their leader was unstable? Even as a newbie, she should have the right to say, "let's use a more stable team member so no one gets hurt." Contradiction, misplaced ambition, and discontinuity, thy name is Christopher Nolan.

Inception lost me almost at its opening scene. You cannot open a film with Leonardo DiCaprio being washed up onto a beach and not immediately think "a hundred years after the Titanic sunk, Jack finally washed up on the shores of...Japan?" Then Leo was nice enough to give his old friend Lukas Haas a brief role as an "architect" where he is kidnapped and never seen again. If "architects" are so disposable, why not fire Ellen Page as soon as she gets into the brain of Leo to find that he is one messed up dude? Do the inception-eers only have one client? What do they do when they are not battling Ken Watanabe? Does Leo just watch action movies? Because in the dream world, there is a whole lot of Bourne-like sequences going on, as well as the mountain scene that while some have called it a "Bond villain fortress", I call it something out of a xXx sequel. I think I would have liked the film a lot more if Vin Diesel inexplicably showed up on a snowmobile and high-fived everyone. This goes to show that perhaps they should have chosen a team member who likes comedies and British heritage films from the 1990s.

Then there is the overwrought and maudlin domestic drama that is Leo's subconscious. It is also where DiCaprio becomes a terrible actor. While I have not seen the original Solaris, I have seen the re-make by Steven Soderbergh, and I get the impression that if you're the wife of a well-meaning, but misguided guy in a somewhat dark sci-fi film, you will commit suicide. At least the Solaris re-make had some basis in reality, as the wife commits suicide because her husband disapproves of the abortion she had. Leo incepted his wife, she became mentally unstable as a result, and committed suicide. She haunts his subconscious because he feels guilty, as he should. The suicide is shown on film, and DiCaprio's reaction is some of the worst acting I have ever seen in a big budget film. If you cannot make me teary-eyed over the suicide of a family member or missing your children, you fail! Those are two of my top triggers.

I am not sure what could have saved Inception for me. It was not weird or ballsy enough for me to respect it in its failings. I know I was not expecting an action movie, although perhaps I should have, given that is what Nolan does now. It seems illogical to try to use the illogical nature of dreams while at the same time trying to make them logical or rein them in by using the concept of "architects". I think to make things worse, it reminded me in some ways of my favorite Phillip K. Dick novel, Ubik.

Can you find Leo strutting through this M.C. Escher piece? And Sad Keanu? The Leo Strut meme almost makes up for Inception. This one is a good hat tip to one of the two scenes I liked in Inception, where Ellen Page made the Paris dream city into a cube.




Also, my friend Erica made this Advice Phillip K. Dick meme awhile back:


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A couple of weeks ago, Movieline included Spider-Man 3 in their series Bad Movies We Love. Spider-Man 3 is also known as "the one where Spidey went emo". Which is true, as far as the haircut goes, and the fact that I am convinced that while Leonardo DiCaprio is starting to look like a grown-up now, Tobey Maguire will always look like a teenage boy. And it is also true that despite their image, emo boys can be insensitive jerks too, which is what Peter Parker becomes in Spider-Man 3. But I have always thought that if anything "emo Spidey" is just an homage to Ted Raimi, who is of course, the brother of Spider-Man 3's director, Sam Raimi, and who also appears in all three films as J. Jonah Jameson's assistant. Emo Spidey is an homage to Ted Raimi when he played Joxer on Xena: Warrior Princess. Joxer always thought that he was cooler and more heroic than he actually was. In other words, he was a dork, but a sweet guy. Joxer would totally think that these were some sweet dance moves, contrary to what the ladies on the street think:




Despite looking like a teenage boy, I'm not sure Tobey Maguire does dorky as well as Ted Raimi or even Jake Gyllenhaal.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Image Association: Deleuze and Films About Money

The Queen of Versailles (2012, Dir. Lauren Greenfield)

Wall Street (1987, Dir. Oliver Stone)
Danger: Diabolik (1968, Dir. Mario Bava)

"Money is the obverse of all the images that the cinema shows and sets in place, so that films about money are already, if implicitly, films within the film or about the film. This is the true 'state of things': it is not in a goal of cinema, as Wenders says, but rather, as he shows, in a constitutive relation between the film in process of being made and money as the totality of the film...What the film within the film expresses is this infernal circuit between image and money, this inflation which time puts into the exchange, this 'overwhelming rise'. The film is movement, but the film within the film is money, is time...And the film will be finished when there is no more money left."
-Cinema 2: The Time-Image by Gilles Deleuze, 1985

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tank Girl (1995)

Dir. Rachel Talalay || 1995 || USA

I remember liking Tank Girl as a teen in the 1990s, but looking at it now, it's easy to see what a mess this film is. It's not an odd or even fully enjoyable mess, and it's only occasionally amusing. It can't be chalked up to inexperience or disinterest in the source material, qualities that tend to factor into the better comic book films; because Talalay was an experienced director at this point and did like the material. But by all accounts, there was a lot of studio interference with the film because up until this past decade, very few people knew what to do with comic books or graphic novels as source material. The film is live action, but it also has clips from the comic books and animation sequences.

Most post-apocalyptic films tend to have a timeless quality to them, no matter what decade they were made in. Tank Girl is so 90s it hurts. The situation that the film takes place in is timeless - where a comet hit Earth and it hasn't rained in 11 years, so water is high in demand and only a select few has access to it. But everything else is 90s. Considering that one of the first places I was introduced to Tank Girl was an article in Harper's Bazaar, the fashion magazine (yeah, I read this as a teen, what?), the film is very high on costume changes (IMDB counts 18 for Lori Petty as Tank Girl) and it's all very punk-grunge-pseudo-riot grrrl. Even The Rippers dress in 90s clothing (flannel shirts and t-shirts, one Ripper looks like a half-man-half-kangaroo member of Color Me Badd). It's funny that in the comic's revival in the mid-2000s by IDW Publishing, Tank Girl was drawn as wearing a lot of 1980s power suits because the reasoning was along the lines of "a lot of people still dress like Tank Girl from the 1990s, it's no longer edgy." The soundtrack, supervised by Courtney (Love, Love-Cobain, whatever she's calling herself now) is sort of a mix of good 90s music and music that never made it past that decade, along with some bizarre covers (like Devo covering Soundgarden's cover of Devo's "Girl U Want", or something).

Tank Girl is an overwhelmingly cartoon-y film. And yeah, Tank Girl is a cartoon character even in the comics, but on film it's ridiculous. The film just meanders. The sense of urgency towards saving the little girl that lived with Tank Girl is never there because of all the side missions that are jokes and costume changes. It would almost be a parody if the film could settle on anything whatsoever, other than being a valentine to Tank Girl as a fashion icon of sorts, and occasionally her other positive attributes; like being a good friend or being a loud-mouthed and brave woman.

The one thing that I will give the film is that for much of the film, Tank Girl and Jet Girl (Naomi Watts!) have realistically post-apocalyptic water shortage greasy hair. Do you know how rare that is in post-apocalyptic films? Although Tank Girl's makeup rarely smudges, even when being in a torture chamber for what seems like a couple of days.



Monday, May 5, 2014

What I've been watching lately in four sentences or less

Repost from 2011.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Fall of the House of Usher (1929 || Dir. Jean Epstein || France)
Not nearly as surrealist as some would have you believe.

Blood and Roses (1960 || Dir. Roger Vadim || France)
A slightly more heteronormative-incestuous take on Carmilla, but still interesting.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966 || Dir. Robert Bresson || France)
Poor donkey.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011 || Dir. Joe Johnston || USA)
The most watchable and fun out of the Marvel Studios films released this year. No daddy issues ('sup, Thor?), and it doesn't take itself too seriously ('sup, X-Men: First Class?). It honestly has Cap jumping a ramp on a motorcycle, away from an exploding Nazi camp. Cap runs away from explosions quite a few times in the film, so it almost cancels out the terrible creepiness of the first 30 minutes consisting of Chris Evans being made to appear shorter and skinnier through CGI.





The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962 || Dir. Jess Franco ||France-Spain)
Jess Franco's first film, a slightly sleazier retread on Eyes without a Face. It's not a very entertaining retread and the era it takes place in is indeterminable.

The Spirits of the Dead (1968 || Dirs. Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini || France-Italy)
European artsy-sleazy takes on Poe stories with pretty people? Bet you didn't know Fellini could do head decapitations, did you? I would like to frame most of the shots in Fellini's segment "Toby Dammit" and put it on my wall because that man could do Technicolor. The anthology is pretty good, although Malle's story isn't that great except for being able to look at Alain Delon and a brunette Brigitte Bardot.

Faceless (1987 || Dir. Jess Franco || France-Spain)
Another retread of Eyes without a Face by Jess Franco, this one being better, if a bit repetitive and drawn out. There are nods to The Awful Dr. Orloff.

Flyboys (2006 || Dir. Tony Bill || USA)
A dull movie that takes itself too seriously, despite what the trailer would have you believe sometimes (i.e., guy running away from explosion on top of a zeppelin). I fast-forwarded through much of the last hour and was a better person for doing that. Someone should have told James Franco that there were no frosted hair tips during World War I.




Punisher: War Zone (2008 || Dir. Lexi Alexander || USA)
The most comic book out of all comic book movies - the colors, the over-the-top violence and characters (complete with bad NYC accents for the villains), the cinematography  - all comic book. Sometimes the film drags a little, but then there's another insane set piece. 

Don't Open 'Till Christmas (1984 || Dir. Edmund Purdom || UK)
I watched this because the guy who played the dean in Pieces stars and directed this movie. I guess if the idea of a serial killer killing people in Santa suits sounds good, check it out. Otherwise, I can't recommend it because that's really all the film is: killing Santas and some police procedural - it's as if the movie was being written as it was filmed. This movie makes Silent Night, Deadly Night look profound.

Burnt Offerings (1976 || Dir. Dan Curtis || USA)
Many of the daytime scenes were very washed out looking and I am not totally sure why. It's perhaps better than most haunted house movies, if a little slow sometimes (this is a high compliment from me, considering that I've never been one for haunted house films). The ending is quite good and dark.

C.H.U.D. (1984 || Dir. Douglas Cheek || USA)
Not a terribly bonkers horror film, but it has a good "future stars" cast, good special effects, and it fits in well with other early 1980s gritty NYC horror films.




Children of the Corn (1984 || Dir. Fritz Kiersch || USA)
While I haven't read the short story since I was probably 12, this is not a good movie. It's like a moralistic, somewhat dull, and ballsless version of Who Could Kill a Child?. The film also has this bizarre dichotomy of the two good, non-cult children being cute, while the majority of the children in the cult are either awkward-looking or ugly.

The Bride Wore Black (1968 || Dir. Francois Truffaut || France)
Bet you didn't know that Truffaut did semi-Hitchcockian revenge films, did you? This is not a bloody film, but quite clever.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Crazy Theory #1: Thor: The Dark World and Nymphomaniac (NSFW/NSFWish)

Welcome to Crazy Theories, where I discuss weird theories I have about films for no particular reason.

Image taken from Honest Trailers: Thor: The Dark World
In November, already having seen the short trailers and character posters for Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac, I went to see Thor: The Dark World in theaters. I am not really a Thor fan, but I figured I would give it a try. Stellan Skarsgard's Erik Selvig spends part of the film running around naked before being placed in a psychiatric facility and bailed out by Jane and Darcy. I want to believe that this is Marvel's way of helping promote Nymphomaniac, a smaller film, although one generated by controversy because it is a Lars von Trier movie. And Lars von Trier is going to Lars von Trier.