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Thursday - January 20, 2022

Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

 

Coming Of Age in Isolation

January 17th, 2022

Every coming-of-age story is the same story, even though it’s always a different story. If you’re reading this, you’ve either transitioned into adulthood or you’re going to transition into adulthood. You’re going to take the first tentative steps into a world that, at least from the outside, appears to be filled with sophisticated and intelligent people who have all the answers. You’ll fall on your face. You’ll learn that those same sophisticated and intelligent people often don’t know what in the hell they’re doing. But it’s always different. A few weeks back, I watched The... Read More

Life Does Not Agree

January 10th, 2022

Most of the time in movies, people enter the criminal underworld because they’re evil. John Doe in Seven is a gimlet-eyed psychopath who kills people to satisfy a twisted moral code. While Neil McCauley in Heat isn’t a gibbering madman, he’s still evil, just more low-key about it. As much as he goes on about professionalism, he’ll still put innocents at risk in a gunfight. Hell, there are no shades of gray to the Russian gangsters who foolishly antagonize one John Wick. They’re straight-up Bad Guys, and we’re into it when Super Storm Keanu comes for them. Most of the time in life, people... Read More

Planet-Killing Asteroid for President

January 3rd, 2022

There’s a private joke I have when I get into my car. On the screen, the words “Depress brake pedal and push power button to start” always come up. Those words are a challenge, one I’ll always accept. If I’m in a lighthearted kind of mood, I’ll say, “Brake pedal, Transformers: Age of Extinction was the only movie to make a billion dollars in 2014.”  If I’m a little moodier, I might mention, “Brake pedal, millions of Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen and would happily sacrifice democracy for gas at $1.59 a gallon.” On bad days I’ll mutter, “Brake pedal, climate... Read More

Critical Hate Theory

December 27th, 2021

As I write this, I’m thinking back to the previous thirty minutes. During that time, I took my dog for a long walk. With my AirPods firmly installed, I listened to a podcast and was probably forty percent checked out. At one point, I yelled at my dog for eating an unidentified thing on the ground. I wasn’t worried about anything, and that is where my white privilege comes into play. If I were Black and wanted to walk my dog? Forget the AirPods, because I would have needed to have some degree of situational awareness. I would have needed to make sure my facial expressions weren’t too threatening,... Read More

The Parker Luck

December 20th, 2021

If you’re a filmmaker tasked with adapting a comic book character to film, your initial thought might be, “How can I prevent the fans from having me drawn and quartered?” The first thing you should do is hire an Israeli security team because I hear they’re the best. The second is to be mindful of the core concepts in the character’s personality.* Planning to make a Superman movie? He’s a guy compelled to help, and portraying him as a surly jerk is a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. Planning to adapt Thor? Whether you go serious or mythic, the God of Thunder has to have... Read More

Once a Mod

December 13th, 2021

We all come of age, and one catalyst for that can be the death of a parent. Do we do that through closure? While I don’t believe in the concept of closure, a parent’s passing is a seismic event. Ideally, it’s an event that ought to be faced and considered in as healthy a manner as possible. Sometimes it’s not possible. My mother died when I was seven, and, for various reasons, her death became a thing that we generally didn’t talk about. As a result, “closure” never happened, and until fairly recently, her life was an almost completely closed book to me. Whether it was fair or right... Read More

The Last Spook Show

December 7th, 2021

There’s an old rule in screenwriting that posits the idea that your main character should be likable. Like many rules in the art world, it’s completely wrong. Cowardly studio executives and shallow screenwriting gurus drill down on this concept because it’s easy. They assume that if viewers are stuck with a protagonist that isn’t morally upright, they’ll check out. Put more simply, they assume that viewers are dumb. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be an icon of virtue — they only need to be interesting. Dirty Harry is nearly as much of a threat to public safety as the crooks he blasts.... Read More

Entitled

November 30th, 2021

How do you pick the movie you’re going to watch? Some viewers are well-versed in cinema, and when they step up to the ticket booth, they will declare in a clear and confident tone, “One for Fast and the Furious 14: The Spawning, please,” thereby earning the admiration of their peers. My wife and I undergo a complicated dance, not unlike a hostage negotiation. A few dozen titles will be proposed, rejected, re-examined, and eventually, a winner staggers out of the carnage, just in time for us to look at each other and say, “Is it too late to even watch a movie?” It all depends on a desire... Read More

Crossing The Streams

November 23rd, 2021

Ghostbusters shouldn’t have worked. To be sure, it’s become a beloved film, but it’s a beloved film almost in spite of itself. Dan Aykroyd’s original script was reportedly several hundred pages, involving pandimensional travel and bonkers science fiction concepts. Had it been shot, it would have cost over $200 million — in 1980s money. Ivan Reitman got involved next, convincing Aykroyd that a rewrite was necessary and that the script required a more grounded approach. The plan was for Aykroyd to star alongside John Belushi and Eddie Murphy, and as the director of Meatballs and Stripes,... Read More

Supergods

November 15th, 2021

According to the official count by Marvel Studios and Disney, there are more than eight thousand characters in the Marvel Universe. This number doesn’t necessarily count supporting characters and one-offs. If it did, we’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of over seventy-two thousand. With numbers like that, it only makes sense that most characters will remain somewhat anonymous. The general public hasn’t the foggiest idea who Jack of Hearts or Dr. Druid happens to be. Not every Marvel character is destined to be an icon, and even when the best is in the business of creation, sometimes their... Read More

The Discreet Charm of the Undead

November 8th, 2021

Do you know how much a billion dollars is? I mean, it’s a staggeringly large number, so much so that even when the term is tossed around willy-nilly, most of us don’t understand the enormity of it. Seconds of research taught me that a billion is a thousand million. To think of it in physical terms, one million dollars can fit comfortably into a backpack. One hundred million can be stuffed into a crate, and you might be able to wedge it into your closet.  If you physically had a billion dollars, you would have about ten of those crates packed full of hundred-dollar bills. The idea of a single... Read More

Red Light District

November 1st, 2021

Watch movies long enough, and you’ll start to learn the individual traits that directors have. I think it would be physically impossible for Quentin Tarantino to make a movie with no dialogue.* If J.J. Abrams made a movie set in a lightless cave, he’d figure out a way to sneak a lens flare in somewhere. Some for-hire filmmakers are able to sneak under the radar by tailoring their style to the project, perhaps in a desire to let the story be the star. For the most part, you can eventually spot their tics. One of those tics for Edgar Wright is music. With the exception of Martin Scorsese, I’m... Read More

A Regular Dude

October 25th, 2021

There have been eleven movies made with the title Vengeance is Mine. The first of those films was made way back in 1912, proving that even in those sepia-hued days of the Titanic, massive dinner parties, and the birth of the Oreo, people also wanted to see movies where somebody who’s gotten screwed over achieves satisfaction. I’m perfectly fine with revenge movies. One of the greatest ever made is John Wick, where a thoughtless act of cruelty unleashes a storm of violence on a truly Biblical scale. For a revenge movie to work, three elements need to be firmly in place. They are: An interesting... Read More

Michael’s Game

October 18th, 2021

He was close. He thought he was ready, but at the last moment, he stepped away. Wait — let me back up and I’ll explain. To set the stage, last weekend I knew my upcoming review would be Halloween Kills, the latest entry in the extremely venerable franchise. The film picks up moments after the end of the 2018 Halloween, and as I had a little free time, rewatching Halloween felt like a good move. As my son Liam has gotten older, he’s been developing his own tastes when it comes to film. He has directors he likes* and films he’s been curious about.** The only genre he hasn’t leapt into is... Read More

Antisocial Worker

October 11th, 2021

Movie stars are good. Serious Actors are better. Best of all are That Guys.* Even if you’re a casual film viewer, you likely have a favorite That Guy. In blockbusters, they’ll show up in supporting roles, often playing the same 2-3 kinds of roles. Michael Biehn, for example, is an excellent That Guy, and he carved out a pretty good niche playing steely-eyed military types and psychopaths.  Better yet is when That Guys get a chance in the spotlight. This almost always happens in smaller films, and to my mind, that’s a good thing. Those smaller films tend to be more interesting, riskier, more... Read More

The Bond Craigslist

October 4th, 2021

I once read that a person’s preferred 007 can be determined by when their father showed them their first Bond movie. This is not a concept that’s supported by any kind of rigorous scientific method, and I know that because of my own experiences. My father was a product of World War II and the Cold War. The exploits of a gentleman spy were right up his alley, and to the best of my knowledge, he never missed a Bond movie either theatrically or on television.* He loved Bond, and Roger Moore was his Bond. My first full Bond experience was us trooping to the theater to see A View to a Kill.** Dad... Read More

A Vulgar Business

September 28th, 2021

We say that all lives have value. Do they? If so, what exactly is that value? To ponder a question like that is, at best, distasteful. At worst, it’s a monstrous concept that’s so big, it almost can’t be grappled with. But someone has to. Someone has to take the decisions and idiosyncrasies that live in each of our lives and break it all down into some kind of hard data. Consider the lives and deaths of two people on September 11, 2001. One of them worked in Windows on the World*, the restaurant that dwelled on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Directly... Read More

Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu

September 14th, 2021

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a trend-setter, and it’s kind of amazing considering the risks taken. Consider the lead of Iron Man was a troubled actor with a notable drug problem. Consider that the vast majority of people had no earthly idea who Iron Man even was. Consider that the idea of an interconnected multi-film franchise was looked at as, to be charitable, raging insanity. The irony is that, despite the huge chances taken by the MCU, Marvel Comics originally followed numerous trends instead of inspiring them. The creation of the Fantastic Four was a response to DC Comics’ creation... Read More

Bruja

September 6th, 2021

I’m a genre nerd. While a thoughtful documentary or smart drama will capture my attention, nothing gets my nerd radar pinging faster than a film that Wikipedia defines as, “a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.” Luckily, there’s an awful lot of room for filmmakers to operate in when it comes to genre. A war movie only has to feature…well, war. A vampire movie simply needs to have something within it that can be recognized as some sort of vampire. Science... Read More

Uncaged

August 30th, 2021

Is it fair to call Nicolas Cage a film icon? Not in the religious sense of the word, but more the idea that an icon represents a concept.  Take a look at his filmography for a moment. You’ll first notice a fairly astonishing amount of good to great films he’s made. Red Rock West. Leaving Las Vegas. Lord of War. The Rock. Mandy. If any other actor had done just one of those films, they’d be looked at as an all-timer. The other thing you’ll notice on said filmography? A titanic amount of crap. Some of it was due to simply picking the wrong projects. Some of it was due to fallout from a high-profile... Read More