Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Bane's voice, Catwoman, and hope

The Dark Knight Rises has its fair share of problems, even accounting for it being a superheroic action movie: indistinguishable motivations, character traits that bob to the surface and sink with no rhyme or reason, a slew of missed opportunities, muddy plotting, a totally tonally inappropriate coda, and plenty more besides. In Christopher Nolan’s flawed trilogy, the third film easily creaks loudest. However, if you listen closely, two clean notes sound forth, and carry with them hope for the director’s future. That’s a lot of pressure to place on Bane’s voice and Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, but if they didn’t want it, they shouldn’t have been so compelling.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Too many questions: on Ridley Scott, Damon Lindelof, aliens, and 'Prometheus'

[Now, any in-depth discussion will probably necessitate a warning of spoilers. You've been properly notified.]

Here's how you enjoy Prometheus: don't ask, "Why?" sit back, and enjoy the gorgeous design of the movie. Because it is gorgeous, and recalls the great design work that marked Alien in so many ways.

The idea of making a prequel to Alien has apparently been kicking around for a while, but it's here now, even though Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof always go out of their way to contend that Prometheus isn't strictly an Alien prequel in promotions and interviews...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Context and mythology in 'The Cabin In The Woods'

In the long-running battle between art and commerce, very little so exemplifies art's inability to compete with commerce like a horror film franchise. Sure, the movies that kick those franchises off can be fresh and fascinating, even unlike much of anything the audience has ever seen before, but once the profit-generating and marketing machines get their claws into them, what was once original becomes paint-by-numbers, a stone from which every single drop of blood gets wrung before it's finally tossed aside. Sure, a bright and shining light can sometimes rear its head unexpectedly (Season of the Witch, New Nightmare, Friday the 13th: Part IV), but those are aberrations, and not anywhere close to reflections of the whole. A horror movie franchise is about as crassly commercial as it gets (and those attempted franchises that don't get beyond a single film? Yeesh), and it's well past time someone made a movie like The Cabin in the Woods in response to it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Diamonds in the Rough: Dan Stark in 'The Good Guys'

Richard Belzer's played John Munch full-time on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, for guest appearances on Law & Order: Classic, 30 Rock, The Wire, and Arrested Development, and even been offhandedly mentioned on Luther. Munch is a great character, for certain, but why is he so special? There's a legion of great TV characters just as deserving as he of continued existence, and many of them never even appeared on a single great TV show, let alone eight. In this attempt at a recurring series, I'm going to try to spotlight folks from less well-regarded programs, and make a case for their reinstatement on the small screen. To kick things off, let's take a look at Dallas Detective Dan Stark from The Good Guys, played by Bradley Whitford.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The Other Way Around:" James Gunn's 'Slither' and the Gender/Identity Politics of Horror

In horror films, sexual objectification typically leads to death. The films encourage their audience to appreciate a body for its aesthetic qualities, and shortly thereafter to enjoy watching that body get mutilated and torn/blown apart. The filmmakers focus on getting to their movie's next “body moment” to the exclusion of nearly every traditional element of “story” or “character.” In a genre that so heavily loads its scales on one side, Slither stands out, as it crafts multi-faceted characters, rather than mere objects of repulsion and/or desire. When Starla Grant, Bill Pardy, and even Kylie Strutemyer walk away from the Grants' obliterated home at Slither's end, they've survived not only an attempted invasion by an alien hive mind, but a camera (and an audience) that all too frequently reduce characters like them to cutouts and dolls.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How Not to Stick the Landing: 'Daybreakers,' Metaphor, and Vampires

We live in a world of finite resources. Everything, from water to real estate to energy to even creativity will run out/become poisonously unusable if it's not stewarded properly. It's accepted among most reasonable/sensible people that oil, especially, will run out, and sooner than anyone would like. Daybreakers takes that sense of overconsumption dread and applies it to a world run, and mostly populated, by vampires. It freshens up a largely corpsified genre in doing so, but casts its initial goal aside in favor of pursuing a more well-trodden action movie course in the end. In doing so, Daybreakers becomes the Equilibrium of vampire movies: smart, but not smart enough to save itself from itself.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

'Green Lantern:' A Cavalcade of Bad Choices, so Let's Just Pick One

Well, it took me over half a year, but I finally watched Green Lantern. I had hopes for it, before it came out, but it lived up to virtually none of those (shoutout to Michael Clarke Duncan's performance as Kilowog, the only character who had a presence from the moment he stepped onscreen). From its crummy, exposition-laden script that couldn't have wasted more time telling rather than showing if it'd been trying to do so, to its ineffective villain, one that does virtually nothing before a rookie human Lantern gets it sucked into the Sun's gravity well, to its unforgivable teasing of a cosmic adventure while delivering a movie that's 80% exposition and 20% bad CGI action, to its awful, terrible costume design, Green Lantern put a whole clip of bullets in the head of my longstanding position that you could argue Martin Campbell's never directed a bad movie. Of all the missteps and bad decisions that make up Green Lantern, one stands head and shoulders above the rest: the hero in whom we're supposed to place our trust, Hal Jordan.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Trust Anyone Over 30: Parenting and 'The Social Network'

After the neck-and-neck race for the top spot on my list of favorite David Fincher movies that'll perpetually go on between Se7en and Zodiac, The Social Network sits at a solid, comfortable third. For almost any other director, The Social Network would probably qualify as the greatest film they'd ever made, but Fincher's not almost any other director. Technically precise, imbuing his work with an intellectual detachment that rivals Michael Mann (except, perhaps, in Fight Club, but I'll leave the discussion of that piece of work to Film Crit Hulk), and inexorably drawn to antisocial characters focused on overturning or even remaking society, Fincher's produced nearly as many missteps as he has masterpieces, but when his sensibilities mesh with his material, he's on par with any other filmmaker working today.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Completing the Arc in a Single Film: Why 'The Fellowship of the Ring' is My Favorite LOTR film

A series will always have its peaks and its valleys; not only can you not maintain a constant breakneck pace over a multitude of episodes, books, or films, but the very nature of narrative demands the slowing down/regrouping/buildup in equal, or at least relative, proportion. Of course, some programs mistake wheel-spinning for buildup - 24, Lost - but that's another article. Furthermore, narrative peaks don't necessarily correlate to preferential peaks, but again, that's yet another article, maybe the one I write on Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica reimagining.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Committing to the Joke, or Why Ben Stiller Hasn't Helmed a Good Movie Since 'The Cable Guy'

If you've spent much time talking with me about any kind of narrative media at all (mostly movies and TV, but I'm all for talking print and theater), I've probably bored you with my theory about committing to the joke. I believe that, in comedy, as well as innumerable other things, you have to wholeheartedly commit if you want the joke to mean something. Smarmy self-awareness, halfhearted delivery, taking it all back in the end (the "Just Saying" corollary)... all deadly when you want to produce something that actually means something. Craig Ferguson's great at it, Ricky Gervais is [usually] great at it, Louis CK's great at it, The Perry Bible Fellowship, Patton Oswalt, Chappelle's Show, Observe & Report, and more than a few episodes of Deadwood understand exactly what it means to commit to the joke.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reversals vs. Complications - Why the First Mission: Impossible will Likely Remain the Best

I haven't been so invested in an action sequence like the Burj Khalifa sequence in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in... I don't know how long. I understood the stakes (a world mostly free of nuclear radiation), I was invested in the characters (really, Ghost Protocol is stunningly well cast), and I felt like they were legitimately in danger from the moment they stepped into the building until Tom Cruise's pursuit of the arch-villain wound up fruitless, and the sandstorm passed. It was gripping, edge-of-your-seat action in the greatest sense of the words, and the spectacular peak of Brad Bird's live-action film directing debut. Despite this, and all the other things the movie does right or even grandly, Ghost Protocol's going to occupy a comfortable, though distant, second in my personal pantheon of Mission: Impossible movies. My reasoning is simple: the problem that's infected the franchise sequels persists in Ghost Protocol, in that it hangs its plot on complications, rather than the reversals that so permeated the original film and help to keep it fresh even 15 years later.