2018年2月21日 星期三

Some Other Movies From 1994

In some ways 1994 doesn't seem all that long ago.  I graduated high school the year before, I had a job, and I was - for all intents and purposes - an adult.

But in other ways it does seem like a while back.  Many of the people I know now weren't even born then.  It was my first job.  No one I knew had cell phones.  We didn't spend much time thinking about the Internet.

If I had to pick a best movie out of all the movies released during that year it'd be Forrest Gump.  A lot of other people would probably pick Pulp Fiction, but I think Forrest Gump has aged a lot better.  The Ref, The Paper, and Quiz Show were also pretty good.

Some Good Ones

1. The River Wild

Meryl Streep, her estranged husband, her son, and two shady characters take a Deliverance-style rafting trip towards a suitably dramatic conclusion.  It's not bad, though all of the actors involved have appeared in better films.

2. Cobb

Tommy Lee Jones delivers one of his best performances, with Robert Wuhl (whatever happened to Robert Whul?) costarring as a reporter interviewing the baseball legend.  If you can get past the fact that the protagonist is extremely unlikable it's a great movie.

3. Blown Away

Hey look there's Tommy Lee Jones again - this time with a terrible Irish accent.  Jeff Bridges stars as a bomb expert facing off against Jones' IRA terrorist, with predictably explosive results.  Unlike Cobb it's NOT a great movie, but it's watchable and most of the scenes involving bombs are well done.  (well done, get it?)

4. True Lies

I think I was too hard on this movie the first time I saw it.  I can remember seeing it in the local multiplex, and back then I was both tired of Arnold Schwarzenegger and taking this film way, way too seriously.  After watching it for the second time 24 years later, I'd have to say that it's a solidly put together movie.

And whatever happened to Tom Arnold?  He had his share of screen presence.  And Tia Carrere?  She was beautiful.

Sad to say, however, that this movie's been in the news fairly recently.  The actress who played Schwarzenegger's daughter, Eliza Dushku, claimed that she was sexually abused on the set.

Not-So-Fun Fact: A True Lies sequel was put on indefinite hold after the 9/11 attacks, due to director James Cameron's subsequent distaste for "terrorism-themed" movies.

Much More Fun Fact: Tia Carrere posed for Playboy, though the results are surprisingly unsexy.

5. Brainscan

Edward Furlong - that most early 90s of young actors - and Frank Langella star in this low-budget horror movie about virtual reality.  The "Trickster" character makes it feel more 80s than 90s, but this movie's still better than it has any right to be.

6. Death and the Maiden

As anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows, I'm a big fan of Roman Polanski.  Yes, I'm aware of his personal history.  But I think that you have to separate the art from the artist, and what someone's done in their personal life shouldn't always color appraisals of their films.

Sigourney Weaver should have won the Academy Award for this movie, but instead it went to Jessica Lange for Blue Sky.  And while I haven't seen Blue Sky (yet), I'd have to say that Weaver was robbed.  That scene where she talks about how she was tortured.  Damn.  I almost had to turn the movie off.

Ben Kingsley, for that matter, is in fine form in this story of past crimes and retribution.  The scenes in which he "confesses" are among the best that he's ever done - or (I assume) that anyone will ever do.  Death and the Maiden is a great movie, and even though it's hard to watch I highly recommend it.

7. The Client

How many movies have they made of John Grisham's books?  I don't know, and I'm lazy to look into it now, but it seems like a lot.

Susan Sarandon stars as a lawyer representing a young boy whose life has been threatened.  Tommy Lee Jones appears in this one too, this time as opposing counsel.  I've seen a lot of courtroom dramas recently, but this one kept me interested all the way through.

8. Guarding Tess

1994 was a strange year for Nicholas Cage.  Not only did he star in the disastrously bad Trapped in Paradise (see below), but the same year he also starred in the MUCH better Guarding Tess.  In Guarding Tess he plays a secret service agent assigned to former first lady Shirley Maclaine.  A very good movie that reminds you that Nick Cage really can act when he wants to.

Fun Fact: Nick Cage named his second son Kal-El.  No one knows if this is because of the aborted Tim Burton Superman movie he almost starred in or just because he really loves comic books.

9. The Crow

The ill-fated Brandon Lee stars as the Goth superhero par excellance.  Some of the effects look dated, but it's still an entertaining movie.  Director Alex Proyas probably longs for the days in which he could still capture this level of zeitgeist.

10. Iron Will

A Disney movie about dog sledding!  Featuring a handsome young man and... Kevin Spacey!  Oh no!  The presence of the current Antichrist aside, it's still a decent movie.

11. Renaissance Man

Quick!  What's Mark Wahlberg's first movie?  You guessed it - Renaissance Man.  This movie is so OLD that there's even a song on the soundtrack where Marky Mark raps.  And yes, it's somewhat painful to hear now.

Critics despised this movie in 1994, but I think it's alright.  Danny Devito stars as a civilian teacher of below average military recruits, with Gregory Hines costarring as a hard-nosed army trainer.  Not exactly suspenseful, but then again none of Penny Marshall's films are suspenseful.  If you don't overanalyze it, you'll probably find it somewhat heartwarming.

12. No Escape

Ray Liotta stars as a convict consigned to life in a penal colony.  Martin Campbell directed.  Liotta did this one four years after Goodfellas, and three years before Copland.  It's a good movie, though about as predictable as Renaissance Man.

Some Bad Ones

1. Airheads

Quite possibly the most "early 90s" movie ever made, and also the movie that Brendan Fraser would prefer that you forget.  Three would-be rock stars take over a radio station.

This movie really only has three things going for it: 1) Chris Farley, who needed more lines, 2) that moment where Beavis and Butthead call into the radio station, and 3) Nina Siemaszko in that sexy, sexy dress.

On the other hand the two great sins committed by this movie are that 1) it's just not funny, and 2) it totally misread its audience.  By 1994 the L.A./Sunset Strip scene was decidedly uncool, and musical tastes had moved far away from the likes of Motley Crue and Poison.  There's even a swipe at "Seattle bullshit" halfway through the film, despite the fact that Fraser and co. are flannel-clad for most of the movie.

2. The Next Karate Kid

Now wait a minute - if Mr. Miyagi's a naturalized citizen, and he's lived in the States since freaking World War II (50 years at the time of this film's release!) how is he still speaking with such a heavy accent, and referring to everyone as so-and-so san?  Is he trying too hard to hold on to his cultural roots in Japan?  Or is he conforming to a stereotype?  I know one thing, that "so-and-so san" business would NOT have flown in the U.S. military at the end of World War II.  No matter how enlightened his superiors might have been, they would NOT have been cool with that shit.

If you're wondering which one this is, it's the "girl Karate Kid" movie featuring Hillary Swank.  And yes, once again, Pat Morita.  Like Ralph Macchio before her, Swank is similarly "troubled," and - you guessed it - she learns to overcome her grief through the power of karate.

The biggest problem with this movie is that there's so little karate in it.  For almost the entire first half - no karate.  This, and Japanese monks dancing to The Cranberries.  Super cringe.  And Mr. Miyagi buying Swank's skimpy prom dress and then teaching her how to dance.  Super duper cringe.

Swank is damn sexy in those jeans though.  Oh, and Michael Ironside is somewhat amusing as the fascist school self-defense instructor.  And who's that?  Is that Walt(on) Goggins yet again?  ...last glimpsed in 1992's Forever Young?  Why yes, I believe it is!

Fun Fact: Despite starring in this disaster of a film, Hilary Swank went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress.

3. Trapped in Paradise

Nicholas Cage, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey star as three criminally-minded brothers in this Christmas-themed comedy.  It's PAINFUL.  Carvey spends most of the movie doing this Robert De Diro-on-helium accent, Lovitz is annoying, and Cage is characteristically overwrought.

One So Bad It's Actually Kind of Good

1. Double Dragon

Man, I played the hell out of the arcade game back in the 80s.  Trouble is that the movie came out in the 90s, and by that time even the NES and SMS versions were old hat.

It's funny how little fighting this movie based on a fighting game actually has, but the acting is terrifically bad, and the plot is nonsensical enough to be amusing.  If they'd invested in a good fight choreographer (and people that could really act) it might have been halfway good in a good way, but instead it's BAD in a good way.

Fun Fact: Jean Claude Van Damme appeared in Street Fighter the same year.

Related Entries:

A Review of Every Marvel Movie from 2008 to the Present (Revised as of February 13, 2018)
Some Other Movies From 1992
Ideas for DC Films
Some Other Movies From 1990

Two Books I Read During Winter Break

I don't think either of these books deserve their own, individual posts.  One because it's so short, and the other because it's so insubstantial.

(I'll let you guess which is which)

1. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Is this book really that deep?  Or is it just deliberately obscure?  Your guess is as good as mine - although I did enjoy The Prophet.  

I read it during one of the more difficult moments in my life, and parts of it did help me through that particular crisis.  But again, I have a nagging doubt that the author wasn't so much spreading wisdom as reveling in obscurity.  Want to sound wise?  Confounding categories and avoiding definitions will get you there every time.

2. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Come on Neil, isn't this a bit easy and/or lazy?  I get that you added some of your own "touches" to these stories of gods and monsters, but this is Young Adult fare at best, and involved VERY little effort on your part.  

I'll agree that these stories are entertaining, but they were entertaining before you offered your own spin on them, and they'll be entertaining long after your version is forgotten.  And besides all that, those looking for a clearer understanding of Norse mythology would do better to seek out any number of more academic treatments.

Related Entries:

Snail People, Rotting Robo-Sharks, and a Whole Lotta Penises
"Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace (1996)
"Home Below Hell's Canyon" by Grace Jordan (1954)
"House of Suns" by Alastair Reynolds (2008)

2018年2月13日 星期二

A Review of Every Marvel Movie from 2008 to the Present (Revised as of February 13, 2018)

Due to the truly astonishing number of Marvel films either released or in various stages of production, I have decided to begin the list below with the first Iron Man, in 2008.  For reviews of older Marvel films look here.

Excellent!  Had to see it twice!
Good movie with a few flaws.
Not bad, but not great.
I’d watch it once if I was bored enough.
[no stars]
Just terrible.
So bad it’s kind of good.

21. Iron Man (2008) ****

After Batman Begins, this is the other movie that reinvigorated the genre.  Where Batman Begins was dark, this one was funny.  Where Batman is driven, Tony Stark is brilliantly conflicted.  It is everything that Nolan's movie wasn't, and that's why it works.

22. The Incredible Hulk (2008) ***1/2

This movie was sidelined by the overwhelming success of Iron Man, but I loved it.  I loved Edward Norton's take on the character, I loved the script he wrote for the film, and I loved the Greco-Roman take on The Hulk.  My only complaint is that he let The Abomination live at the end.  I found this hard to believe.

23. Punisher: War Zone (2008) *

A more violent take on Frank Castle.  It's a solid film, but maybe a little too depressing for its own good.  I consider it an improvement on the first.

24. X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009) *

This movie is standard popcorn fare, much along the lines of Ghost Rider. Hugh Jackman goes through the motions, an attempt to bring Deadpool and Gambit into the mix is handled badly, and by the end you're thankful that it's not as dreadful as X3.


25. Iron Man 2 (2010) ***

I liked this almost as much as the first one.  Downey Jr. is given even better one-liners in this film, and Mickey Rourke characteristically chews the scenery.  Sam Rockwell is also great as Justin Hammer, and my only complaint is that Don Cheadle isn't given enough to do.

26. Kick-Ass (2010) **

I have friends who love this movie.  I don't.  I think the first half is good, but after Big Daddy dies it just gets silly - especially the jet pack.  A nice warm up for The Amazing Spider-Man, however.

27. Thor (2011) *

Considering how hard it must have been to adapt Thor to the big screen, I would consider this movie a success.  Still, compared to other movies Marvel Studios has made, I think this is the weakest one.  I've never been a big fan of Kenneth Branagh.

28. X-men: First Class (2011) ***

Michael Fassbender makes this movie.  Forgive the pun, but he is positively magnetic as Magneto.  I thought the end was weak, but it's still miles ahead of the first three films.

29. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***

Still one of my favorite Marvel movies.  It might seem a bit slow for some people, but the mixture of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark really worked for me.

30. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Ghost Rider journeys to Europe on an extremely low budget.  The screenplay was probably good, but the direction is all over the place and Nicholas Cage overdoes the "manic" elements.  The only good thing I can say about this film is that the actress who plays "the Devil's baby-momma" is extremely beautiful.  Fun Fact: Idris Elba, who appeared in Thor the year before, is Johnny Blaze's sidekick.

31. The Avengers (2012) ***1/2

There are entire websites devoted to how awesome this movie is.  It's a good film, but not one of the best.  Considering how difficult it is to put characters as diverse as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor into the same movie universe, this one is an unqualified triumph.  I'm only sorry the Oscorp Tower didn't make an appearance.

32. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) ***

This is a good movie, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have some terrific chemistry, and it's a solid effort.  The Lizard is a bit too Hulk-like for my taste, but this is a vast improvement over Spider-Man 3.

33. Iron Man 3 (2013) *

I was super excited about this movie, but walked away from it disappointed.  It starts out well, but neither of the villains are very compelling, and the stunt work is too over the top.  My biggest complaint is the ending, which gives us a Tony Stark who no longer has any reason to be Iron Man.

34. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) **

It's not a great movie, but it's not bad.  There are some funny scenes in this one, but it could have been a lot better.

35. The Wolverine (2013) **1/2

I had high hopes for this one, but it wasn't all that good.  It's certainly much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine and all the other X-Men films, but that's not saying all that much.

36. Thor: The Dark World (2013) ***

This was a great movie.  I didn't love the first Thor, but this one was a vast improvement.  Reminded me a lot of the Walt Simonson run on the comic book.  Hoping to see Beta Ray Bill in Thor 3!

37. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) ***1/2

Steve Rogers struggles with the modern world and his role in S.H.I.E.L.D.  After encountering the Winter Soldier, he has even more reasons to doubt the nobility of certain causes.  A very topical movie, with some great action sequences.  Didn't like it as much as Thor: The Dark World, but it was well done.

By the way, if you liked this movie you'd probably also enjoy (and find a lot that's familiar in) the Robert Redford vehicle Three Days of the Condor.

38. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) **

Too much CGI, but some great performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  I liked this movie more than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," though the action sequences in Cap were better.  This film has more dramatic tension, better ensemble performances, and more heart.  Looking forward to the third film!

39. X-men: Days of Future Past (2014) ***1/2

A surprisingly good movie.  As mutantkind faces extinction, Wolverine journeys into the past to change the future.  Excellent performances, and one of the most emotionally resonant superhero films to come along in quite a while.  Fun Fact: Although played by a white midget (Peter Dinklage) in Days of Future Past, Bill Duke, a rather large black man, plays Bolivar Trask in the earlier X-Men: The Last Stand.

40. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) **

A good movie, though it features too many characters for its own good.  Humor holds the film together, and makes some of the less plausible plot elements seem more plausible.  As with many other recent films from Marvel Studios, seems less inspired than calculated.  Maybe the second one will be better?

41. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)**1/2

I can't say it's flawless, but I did like it much better than Guardians of the Galaxy.  It's less talky than the first Avengers, and the battle between Hulk and the Hulkbuster is truly awesome.  Quicksilver seemed a bit  underused, and I would have liked to see more of the Vision, but it's still a great movie.

42. Ant-Man (2015)***

Any great scenes in this movie involve a) Michael Pena, b) shrinking, or c) both.  As for the rest of it?  It starts off well enough, but it takes too long to get going.  "The heist" at the end is a bit of a non-event, but the fight scenes between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket are good.

43. Fantastic Four (2015)*

This movie is not bad up until the four return from Planet Zero.  After that point it's a mess.  Once Reed escapes from the military facility the dialogue is awful, the characters do things that make no sense, and the movie somehow ends without building up any kind of dramatic tension.  It feels like an hour of this film was removed before it hit theaters, and Dr. Doom looks like he escaped from another, much lower-budget film.

44. Deadpool (2016)***

The good news: as far as films within Fox's X-men universe go, this one is second best.  It's not as riveting as X-men: Days of Future Past, but it's better than all the other ones.  Compared to the Marvel Studios films, I'd rank it above lesser efforts like Iron Man 2 and 3, though it comes nowhere near their best.  It's refreshingly profane, yet it struggles during most of the "serious" parts.  A sequel to this movie would probably be much better than the original.

45. Captain America: Civil War (2016) **1/2

I liked it, but it was WAY to long and that fight at the airport seemed entirely unnecessary.  The inclusion of both Black Panther and Spider-Man also did very little to advance the plot, though I was happy to finally see Marvel's approach to these characters.  I think a smaller-scale movie, concentrating on the dynamic between Steve, Bucky, and Tony would have worked much better.

46. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) **

Continuity be damned!  Never mind the fact that many of the events occurring in Apocalypse happened much later (or is it earlier?) in the first three X-men movies.  Never mind the fact that many of the characters from First Class ought to be in their 50s by the 1980s.  The biggest problem with this movie is the villain, and the fact that he's just not threatening.  When you title a movie "Apocalypse" it ought to feel like the end of the world, and this movie just doesn't deliver on that promise.

47. Doctor Strange (2016)**1/2

A former neurosurgeon battles otherdimensional threats.  Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor with an established reputation, is a credible Dr. Strange, though the plot is somewhat formulaic.  The strength of this movie is its visuals, and these are something worth seeing.

48. Logan (2017)***1/2

A solid, dramatic film that may well prove Oscar-worthy.  It's still early 2017, so it's hard to say whether or not the Academy will remember Jackman's performance or Mangold's direction come Oscar time.  But Logan is a good (maybe great) movie that might just stand the test of time.  The last act falters a bit, but the first two acts are excellent.  Not as mind-blowing as The Dark Knight, not as paradigm-shifting as Deadpool, but nevertheless a well thought-out, well executed meditation on pain and loss.

49. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) **

If you're one of those people who LOVED the first Guardians of the Galaxy, you'll probably love this one, too.  I wasn't a huge fan of the first installment, and this movie did nothing to change my mind.  The humor in Vol. 2 seemed even more forced, and the characters spend SO much time explaining plot points that it took me right out of the movie.

50. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)****

Gotta say they nailed it.  I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this movie.  The acting, the directing, the special effects, the fight scenes - and they even made me love Iron Man all over again.  I'll be seeing it again soon.

51. Thor: Ragnarok **1/2

Too jokey by far, even if the jokey bits are also the best parts of the movie.  Hela might be one of the better developed Marvel villains, but the Thor and Loki seen in this movie are so watered down as to be unrecognizable.  Who is Thor, really?  What is his personality?  What does he want?  Even Marvel doesn't seem able to answer these questions - and thus the central flaw in their Thor trilogy.  I'm still a big fan of Taika Waititi, and What We Do in the Shadows remains one of my favorite films, but his directorial style obscures what might have otherwise been a solid action movie.

52. The Black Panther (2017) ***1/2

My favorite thing about this movie is the world-building.  As a piece of world-building Wakanda rivals Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, and Jackson built Middle Earth with the aid of Tolkein's novels.  I've also read my share of Black Panther comics, and I can't think of many precedents for what Ryan Coogler and co. managed to get onscreen.  Black Panther is a well put together movie, and my only reservation is that there isn't much tension leading up to the film's climax.

On the Way

54. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

It was bound to happen.  Thanos is the villain, and his quest for the infinity gems (stones) will probably cause Earth's mightiest heroes a great deal of misery.  Now that the long-anticipated Justice League movie has proved itself to be a steaming pile of sh*t, Infinity War will stand in a class of its own, the culmination of 10 YEARS' worth of movies.

55. Deadpool 2 (2018)

Ryan Reynolds reprises his role from the first movie, with Josh Brolin (yes, that Josh Brolin) costarring as Cable.  I like what I've seen from the trailers, and I'm looking forward to it more than Infinity War.

56. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2018)

Fox gives it the old college try with yet another adaptation of the X-men's most iconic storyline.  Hopefully it doesn't suck, but with the way they're rushing this into production I'm not optimistic.

57. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) 

There are many set pics online, but no details with regard to story.  Ant-Man is still one of the more overlooked Marvel movies, even though it was, in my opinion, far better than Doctor Strange.

58. Venom (2018)

A LOT of disappointment surrounding the teaser trailer.  I'd have to agree that NOT showing Venom was/is pretty weak.  I'm still optimistic about it, but damn, it would've been nice to have seen Venom somewhere in that teaser.

59. Silver and Black (2019)

Is this movie still a thing?  Sony plans to make a movie centered around Black Cat and Silver Sable, but I doubt it will ever hit theaters.

60. The New Mutants (2019)

Josh Boone is directing.  The teaser looks more like a horror movie, a development I have no problem with.  Aside from being very beautiful, Anya Taylor-Joy has also been in a lot of good movies.  Her involvement in this one has me optimistic, and I loved the Demon Bear run as a kid.

61. Captain Marvel (2019)

A female superhero film - even if it will appear a TWO YEARS after DC's Wonder Woman.  And Captain Marvel ain't no Wonder Woman!  Production on this movie's still chugging along, though few details are available.

62. Avengers 4 (2019)

With a rumored budget of a BILLION dollars, this and Infinity War will, if nothing else, be something to talk about.

63. Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (2019)

If it's half as good as the first one, it should be great!

64. Gambit (2019)

Don't hold your breath.

65. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2020)

The last one made me sleepy.  A third one?  I don't know, if Adam Warlock is involved I might be more interested.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 1992
Snail People, Rotting Robo-Sharks, and a Whole Lotta Penises
Ideas for DC Films
Some Other Movies From 1990

2018年1月23日 星期二

Some Other Movies From 1992

1992: My junior and senior years of high school.  Yes, I'm that old.

If I recall correctly, glam metal had bit the dust, and the cool kids were trading in their Poison and Ratt T-shirts for Soundgarden and Nirvana.  Or, if your high school was more "ethnic" (like mine), Public Enemy shirts were being traded in for Tupac (or Biggie).

Of the 10 highest-grossing films of 1992, I'd have to say that A Few Good Men was the only really good one.  Of the Academy Award-winners, I only like Unforgiven and Raise the Red Lantern.  Not that great a year for movies.

I've seen all of the movies below recently.  I found them via the "1992 in Film" article on Wikipedia.

Some Good Ones

1. 1492: The Conquest of Paradise

Ridley Scott directed, with Gerard Depardieu starring as the famous discoverer.  It's a beautifully shot film, and Depardieu is excellent in the lead role.  Probably a bit slow for some people, but I loved it.

2. Chaplin

Robert Downey Jr. stars in this Richard Attenborough-directed biopic.  It drags in the second half, but it's still very watchable.  Oh, and some of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses play Chaplin's wives and girlfriends.

3. Deep Cover

Still a great f*cking movie.  Even if you took classes, and earned advanced degrees in Coolness, you still wouldn't be half as cool as Laurence Fishburne is in Deep Cover.  Also one of Jeff Goldblum's better efforts.

4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Weird FBI agents go to weird small towns where they say weird things to weird people followed by weird shots of things in the background.  The craze for the TV show long gone, this movie will be difficult for most people to sit through, but if you've developed a taste for David Lynch (as I have) you'll probably like it.

Fun Fact: Moira Kelly. who was - in my opinion - one of the sexiest women of the 90s, consulted her parish priest before every sex scene, in every one of her movies.  Ah the Catholic guilt... somehow it makes her even sexier.

5. Howard's End

A painstakingly authentic Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel about British people with painstakingly good manners.  If you can get past the excruciating politeness, it does get pretty good near the end.  It's not exactly Deep Cover, but if you're the kind of person who can appreciate the book then I'm sure you'll like the movie.

6. The Mambo Kings

As cool as Laurence Fishburne is in Deep Cover, Armand Assante might be just as cool in The Mambo Kings.  This movie was also Antonio Banderas's first appearance in an English-speaking movie.

And it's strange to say, but this story of two aspiring musicians does bear some strong similarities to Scarface, even if cocaine and automatic weapons are largely absent from the film.

Fun Fact #1: Assante and Banderas won their roles over the likes of Jeremy Irons and Ray Liotta, who were riding high off the success of Reversal of Fortune and Goodfellas.

Fun Fact #2: Assante would star opposite Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd only three years later.  That guy's career has been quite the roller coaster ride.

7. The Power of One

In 2018 the white savior aspect of this movie will probably rub most people the wrong way, but aside from that it's still a good film.  Stephen Dorff stars as an (English) South African born under the Apartheid regime, with noteworthy appearances by Morgan Freeman and Daniel Craig.  John J. Avildsen (Rocky) directed The Power of One, and this makes sense given the main character's love of boxing.

8. Juice

Speaking of Tupac...

This one's a latter-day Beat Street, centered around an aspiring DJ (Omar Epps).  And while Beat Street gets serious nostalgia points, Juice is probably a better movie.  

The soundtrack is still great, by the way.  "Here is something you can't understand/How I could just kill a man..."  That song really, really takes me back.

9. The Player

After the Weinstein scandal, #MeToo, and the Marvel/Fox "merger" there's a whole other dimension to this movie.

Tim Robbins stars as a motion picture executive accused of murder.  He gives a good performance, though the character he plays isn't particularly compelling, or even all that interesting.  I imagine Robbins was overjoyed to be working with the legendary Robert Altman, and the movie certainly earned its share of praise from critics, but if you ask me The Player is a far cry from California Split and Nashville.  I'm sure that at the time it was gratifying to see Altman direct something halfway good after what he'd done in the 80s, but there's something unconvincing about The Player, almost as if it's too fond of its own cleverness.

Great ending though.  One of the best endings to any movie ever.

10. Diggstown

James Woods and Louis Gossett Jr. star as a pair of con men trying to win big in a boxing match.  James Woods has been in his share of bad movies, but this isn't one of them.  Bruce Dern is wonderfully slimy as the man betting against Woods.

Fun Fact(s): Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, who plays the referee, also appeared in several of Jackie Chan's films, and the "Diggs" for whom the town is named is played by the actor was the villain in Ghostbusters II.

11. Enchanted April

A group of British people try to escape London's gloominess by spending a month in an Italian castle.  I liked this film a lot more than I thought I would, even though nothing much happens aside from good naps and a few subdued conversations.

Some Bad Ones

1. Forever Young

If you were to divide Mel Gibson's career into three phases, these being: 1) the action star/sex symbol phase, 2) the actor/director phase, and 3) the we-all-know-he's-really-talented-but-we-suspect-he's-still-an-anti-Semitic-misogynist phase, Forever Young would be the last movie in the first phase of his career.

This said, the movie itself could also be divided into three parts, these being: 1) the predictable first act where his ladylove dies and he volunteers for a suspended animation experiment, 2) the surprisingly good second act, and 3) the bullsh*t third act that flies in the face of any scientific understanding of suspended animation.

Fun Fact: If you look real hard you can see Walt(on) Goggins as an M.P. near the beginning of the film.  If you look less hard you can see both a young Elijah "Frodo" Wood and Joe Morton playing - yet again - a scientist-type dude obsessed with temporal anomalies.

2. The Mighty Ducks

Emilio Estevez/Sheen leads a peewee hockey team to the championship.  I'd forgotten what a bad actor Estevez is/was, and this Disney movie is also predictable without making you care about anyone in the movie.  

What makes me dislike this movie even more is my certainty that there's some oppressive hockey dad somewhere, forcing his kid(s) to watch The Mighty Ducks.  "Come on, kids!  See?  Hockey's FUN!"

3. Jennifer Eight

Andy Garcia plays a cop trying to track down a killer.

If they'd just cut a half hour out of this movie it would have been MUCH better.  As it is it gets off to a strong start, and then quickly gets bogged down in its own plot twists.  The confrontation between Garcia and John Malkovich is particularly implausible, and also serves as something of an anticlimax.

4. Light Sleeper

As much as I like Paul Schrader, and as much as I like Willem Defoe, I'm just not buying Susan Sarandon as a drug dealer.  There are some other things about this movie that seem improbable too, like the diary that Defoe keeps, and his empty apartment.  Dudes like that would need to be a lot more flashy to attract clients.  

It's still a good movie, but it's SLOW at times and I found the ending infuriating - it just didn't seem to make any kind of emotional or logical sense.  Various elements of this movie will also remind you A LOT of Taxi Driver (which Schrader wrote), but not in a good way.  While I think it's in some ways stylistically superior to Taxi Driver, in other ways it seems like a lazy retread of the same themes.

Related Entries:

Ideas for DC Films
Some Other Movies From 1990
Some Other Movies From 1988
Some Other Movies From 1986

2018年1月22日 星期一

Snail People, Rotting Robo-Sharks, and a Whole Lotta Penises

Not one, not two, but THREE weird graphic novels.  The quality of weirdness might be relative, but I think most will agree that these three are, indeed, weird... and not always in a good way.

Yeah, I think that relationship is pretty much over...

1. Gyo

This was the first I read, and for that reason it's hardest to remember.  As I recall a young Japanese couple visits an ocean resort, and then these weird marine animals start appearing.  The marine animals in question are actually dead, and this multi-legged, nanotechnological organism is somehow animating them and is, of course, up to no good.  The multi-legged, nanotechnological organism eventually works its way up to people, and when they're not infecting others with a multi-legged, nanotechnological virus they're expelling foul gases from various orifices.  I remember there being some kind of weird circus part at the end, and that the hero is sadly unable to rescue his girlfriend from her fate as a rotting, nanotechnologically animated corpse.  (So sad)

There's a great "bonus chapter" that has nothing to do with multi-legged, nanotechnological organisms.  People somewhere in Japan discover these human-shaped caves in the side of a mountain, and individuals throughout the area are inexplicably drawn to enter specific caves, where each of them is slowly elongated through some likewise unexplained process that draws them through the mountain to another, distorted cave on the other side.  Human Play-doh!  That sucks!

Try going to work with THAT on your face!

2. Uzumaki

Of the three weird comics discussed here, this is by far my favorite.  I'm not sure if "Uzumaki" translates into "spirals," but that's what this comic is about.  People get obsessed by spirals.  People TURN INTO spirals.  People also turn into snails (which have shells which have spirals).  Villages are reconfigured into spiral patterns.  And ultimately the last to survive visit an underground spiral world that was sitting right under their village the whole time.

Uzumaki is F*CKING GREAT.  Really, you should find a copy and read it as soon as possible.  Of course it's completely unscientific, and of course some of the things the characters do make no sense, but as an example of dream logic used in comic books it F*CKING WINS.  I'll probably go read it again later today.

Penises!  Vaginas!  It's all so deep, right?

3. Black Hole

This is the American, Eisner Award-winning version of weirdness.  It's the 70s, it's high school, and people are doing a lot of drugs and having a lot of sex.  The only trouble is that some of them may be passing around a virus that might be making them mutate in a variety of ways.  They grow little mouths on their necks, they develop horns, you get the picture.

Oh, and there are A LOT of penises in this comic book.  Breasts, too.  People spend a lot of time fantasizing about "getting away" - which makes sense because it's Seattle and it's raining all the time - but sometimes their dreams of "getting away" end in bizarre firearm-related altercations in the local KFC.

And you know the difference between Gyo, Uzumaki, and Black Hole?  Gyo and Uzumaki are fun, while Black Hole is the biggest pile of pretentious bullsh*t I've forced myself to read in a long time.  I get that readers of recent Image Comics titles* will probably RAVE over it, but f*ck man, Black Hole is some boring, repetitive sh*t.

F*CK the Eisner Awards too, by the way.  Those awards have been meaningless for years now.

Related Entries:

"Flashpoint" by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert (2011)

*Hey, I like Saga too.  And a few other Image titles besides.  But you'll have to admit they make a higher-than-average percentage of pretentious crap.

2018年1月12日 星期五

Ideas for DC Films

It's no secret that the DCEU is in a state of crisis (ha ha get it?).  Justice League tanked both critically and commercially, and one gets the feeling that Warner Bros. will scale down their plans quite a bit.  We'll still see Shazam, we'll still see Aquaman, and we'll still see Wonder Woman 2, but anything other than that is anybody's guess.

Below are five movies I would like to see in the DCEU.  I doubt we will ever actually see them, but then again you never know.

1. Justice Society

I'd like to do this as more of a Kingdom Come-style movie, with older superheroes coming out of retirement to fight some kind of monster and/or supervillain.  But here's the thing: remember that story arc where they were trapped in some alternate universe, endlessly fighting some world-ending foe?  I'd like to do it that way.  No origin story, just an older* Justice Society fighting a monster across the world.  And then - when they're about to die for the hundredth time - we learn that they've been reliving this scenario over and over again, and then they don't die, emerging into the same continuity as the rest of the DCEU.  This effectively retcons the entire DCEU much in the same way Flashpoint would have done, but now we get this whole fun backstory where the Justice Society weren't characters in a comic book (as in "Flash of Two Worlds,") but rather integral components in an entirely new universe.

2. A Decent Flash Movie**

I have never liked the Flash TV show, and I like Ezra Miller's version even less.  I really can't see why Warner Bros. and the CW are having such trouble adapting this character to the screen.  Ditch the silly leather outfits.  Dispense with the melodrama.  Give us an engaging backstory, and don't worry about whether audiences recognize the character from previous incarnations.  The Flash's costume and power set are in themselves the makings of a good movie.

There is some truth to the argument that the Flash isn't so much a character as a plot device.  When his comics are taken in their entirety, this has certainly been the case many times over.  But I think that a beginning could be made from Darwin Cooke's version of the character (the Flash that appears in The New Frontier), and from the version that appeared in the later issues of Cary Bates' run on The Flash ("the trial of the Flash").  Those two versions of the character have a very obvious center around his relationship with Iris West, and this center plus the visual elements of the character would make for a compelling film.

The real question is just how powerful to make him.  Stripped-down "metabolism Flash?"  Or "no-plausible-scientific-explanation Flash?"

Oh, and no more Speed Force.  The Speed Force is stupid.

3. The Marvel Family

It's too early to say what route they'll take with Shazam, but I'm hoping it's set during World War II.  This would open the door to the rest of the Marvel Family, and if done well could be a lot of fun besides.  I'd like to see Captain Nazi as the villain.

People keep bringing up Black Adam, but the trouble with Black Adam is that he doesn't really need Captain Marvel/Shazam.  What people think of as cool about Black Adam are qualities associated with later stories that Captain Marvel had little to do with.

Making a funny, kid-friendly Marvel Family movie seems like a no-brainer to me.  It'd be even better with Tawny and Uncle Dudley.  Throw realism out the window, and make a comic book movie that's really like a comic book.

4. Revisit Swamp Thing

Alan Moore wrote so many great comics for this character.  Any one of those comics could be easily adapted into a good film on a lower budget.  Make it adult.  Push boundaries.  Make it weird.

There's been a lot of chatter around a Justice League Dark movie, and although that's not a bad idea I think just bringing back Swamp Thing would be better.  There's also no reason you couldn't later connect a newer Swamp Thing with the existing movie starring Keanu Reeves.  The "trilogy thing" is getting a bit old now, but a Swamp Thing movie and the existing Constantine movie could easily lead into Justice League Dark, and you'd already have Reeve's name to build on.

And let's be real about it.  Zatanna's more of a sex object anyway.  Deadman?  Who really follows Deadman?  The Demon?  That rhyming guy?  Of course any of these characters could be interesting if written well, but it's not like people are clamoring for Zatanna, Deadman, or Demon solo films.

5. A Really F*cked Up Joker Movie

Yeah, yeah, I know the Suicide Squad movie was terrible.  Yet I can't fault Jared Leto for his performance, given the fact that the movie was obviously rushed into production before the script was ready.

And maybe, just maybe you were like me and got chills up your spine when you saw the shot of Joker lying on the floor in the midst of his "tools."  If you did then you've probably also read Brian Azzarello's "Joker," and right after that you were probably thinking about that scene where one of Joker's acquaintances emerges from behind a curtain without his skin.

The recent success of the movie It only emphasizes many people's deep-seeded fear of clowns, and in the right hands a Joker movie could be similarly terrifying.  Of course you'd want to recast (I still think Leto could have been great, but no need to have Suicide Squad hanging over anything), but I could see such a movie working regardless of whether it was set inside the current DCEU continuity.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 1990
Some Other Movies From 1988
A Review of Every DC Movie from 2005 to the Present (Revised as of November 16, 2017)
Justice League!

*I'm thinking 40s or 50s, still fit but obviously older.  This would put the "pocket universe" in the 50s or 60s.  Perhaps uncomfortable close to "Watchmen time," but Watchmen was released so long ago, and received such a lukewarm response, that I don't think this is much of an issue.

**Here's an idea: how about a revenge movie featuring Barry Allen.  Eobard Thawne has already killed Iris, and beaten him almost to death, and in the wake of Allen's defeat Thawne is posing as The Flash.  The Flash, after a period of "training," assumes the mantle of Reverse-Flash as a means of overcoming the psychopath impersonating him.  They fight, and in the course of their battle the events leading up to Barry Allen's assumption of the Reverse-Flash mantle are slowly revealed, leading to the defeat of Eobard Thawne.