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Showing posts from 2019

The Irishman (2019)

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Shortly before the release of The Irishman director Martin Scorsese made headlines with his comments showing disdain for the current state of cinema, largely aimed at Marvel and DC films.  While all of his points were valid (and many have been voiced by myself and others), the way it came across was as a rant from an angry old man.  It was one of the biggest "Okay, Boomer" moments of 2019.

I think the reason some directors suddenly got their hackles up is, despite Grandpa Simpson way his concerns were presented, they contain more than an element of truth.  Movies, from the start, have always been a way to make money.  However, as with any visual medium, there are those who can do it better than others and turn out works of art that, coincidentally, end up making the investors happy as well.  Martin Scorsese has been one of those directors, and his influence on just about any director from the early 1970s forward is unquestionable.  Even if there is not necessarily an imitat…

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

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Besides bringing us the collective works of Coleman Francis, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is responsible for bringing a number of movies to public awareness that would have been forgotten or lost.  Often those that made or starred in them might have preferred that had happened, but some, like Manos: The Hands of Fate, have become underground classics.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was already pretty much known as a bad Christmas/science fiction mashup long before MST3K, largely due to the books published by Michael Medved going over the worst movies ever made.  Although in public domain, it took the interest of the Misties (much like another maligned Christmas movie, Santa Claus) to bring it back to the awareness of the general public.  Among all the Christmas specials that used to play in December I can definitely say that this was not among them.

It is a bit surprising, since by all accounts the movie didn't do that bad on initial release, especially considering that it was …

Iron Man 3 (2013)

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I have no idea if, when Iron Maninitially came out, that Marvel was thinking in phases.  Whatever the situation, Iron Man 3 marked the start of phase two of the series, as well as the last movie made by Paramount.  Disney and producer Kevin Feige, in fact, were largely in control of the direction by this period, so the whole "phase" thing may have come about since, in a roundabout way, the preceding movies had finally led up to The Avengers

It is fitting, then, that we begin once again where the entire series started.  There were no threats from space and no union of superheroes, just a man coming to terms with the error of his ways and fighting to maintain control of his family legacy.  It may not have been chock full of shiny effects, but it was solid story telling, as was the direct sequel.  It also didn't try to shoehorn any unnecessary characters just to have cameos (Colonel Rhodes, aka War Machine, was always part of the story).  Both movies had bad guys with no…

Octopussy (1983)

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By the mid 1980s it was not a question of if there would be a new James Bond, but when.  Roger Moore himself was ready to hang it up after Moonraker, but it turned out to be a good thing he didn't.  Where Guy Hamilton's directing, as well as Albert Broccoli's producing and procuring of scripts, had turned Bond into self-parody, new director John Glen brought him into the 1980s with the surprisingly back-to-basics For Your Eyes Only.  Not only did Moore seem reinvigorated, but the movie also acknowledged his age in not having as much bed hopping, but still emphasizing his physical presence with a number of great action scenes.

John Glen came back for the next movie, Octopussy, as did Moore.  The latter wasn't a given, however.  American actor James Brolin had basically won the part, and screen tests were made in preparation for him to replace Bond.  Were were going to have our first American playing the British secret agent since the original television broadcast of Ca…

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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Looking back it is apparent how hard Game of Thrones (the television show; the books have more than one main influence) wanted to be The Lord of the Rings.  Both books series have epic battles set within an historic sweep in fantasy worlds that in different ways mirror our own.  The difference is, the showrunners behind Game of Thrones only seemed to notice the battles in The Two Towersand The Return of the King, somehow thinking that this was the reason audiences showed up.

In a way, they were partially right.  When The Fellowship of the Ringscame out I was unsure that anyone who was not already familiar with The Lord of the Rings would even come to see it.  I was relieved that Peter Jackson was filming the whole thing simultaneously, as I didn't want to see a quality film (which I had no doubt that he would deliver) just sitting there, for years, as one third of the story with no conclusion.  It has been frustrating having the majority of The Song of Ice and Fire written and av…

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

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So, let's get to the story so far. 

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) came back from self-imposed exile, insuring that his family was going to be cared for an getting rid of a bunch of neo-Nazis that were holding his partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) hostage and forcing him to cook meth using White's recipe.  While White dies from a gunshot wound after setting off a remote-controlled machine gun, Pinkman hops into an El Camino owned by a psychopath named Todd (Jesse Plemons) and high-tails it on out.  The end, credits roll.

That was four years ago as Breaking Bad came to its end.  I won't say the show was perfect; in fact, I think its spin-off, Better Call Saul, is the superior program.  It is kind of unfair to compare them since, even though they are the same universe and some of the same characters, the feel of the shows couldn't be more different.  That is why it is strange that, instead of a new season of Better Call Saul, creator and director Vince Gilligan decided…

X the Unknown (1956)

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Hammer Studios didn't just appear out of nowhere remaking Dracula and Frankenstein films.  They were founded in 1934 and, while initially doing comedies, branched out into a number of different genres, finally finding success with nearly 20 years worth of classic fright films until they fell apart in the 1970s. 

Just as Hammer didn't just materialize out of nowhere, neither did British science fiction.  Long before Doctor Who there was Professor Bernard Quatermass, an earthbound rocket scientist who found himself fighting aliens across three well-regarded British television series in the 1950s, and better known in the United States through a number of movies based on the show and the character.  The first of those was The Quatermass Experiment, the television version having suffered much the same fate as early Doctor Who.  Fortunately, in 1955, a movie version called The Quatermass Xperiment was released and did well in the United States (where it was released as The Creeping…

The Avengers (2012)

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Iron Manwas a huge risk in 2008.  Even by Hollywood standards Robert Downey, Jr.'s behavior had been outrageous enough to where he was practically blackballed.  Typically this is something reserved for someone like Mel Gibson, who managed to combine a sexist and anti-semitic rant all within the same traffic stop.  Downey had decide to clean up his act and, in doing so, got a starring role in what would become one of the largest movie franchises in history.

Over the four years a number of things changed.  Marvel Studios was sold to Disney, although Paramount continued to put out the films up to this point.  Iron Man itself got a direct sequel, while the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America all got movies of their own.  The quality of the movies varied, but woven throughout were visits from Nick Fury, connecting the various films and moving toward the main heroes and supporting characters coming together in one movie.

The Avengers is that movie and, in 2012, it made over a billi…

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

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The Roger Moore years of James Bond are quite frustrating.  Albert Broccoli probably couldn't have picked a better actor to portray Bond after both Sean Connery and George Lazenby backed out of the role, but for some reason the directors (usually Guy Hamilton) and writers of the 1970s couldn't decide whether they were making comedic super hero films are serious spy movies.  Thus, even though there are good (and even great) parts in all of the 1970s Bond films, only The Spy Who Loved Mestood out as approaching the classic adventures from the 1960s.  Unfortunately, after getting the series back on track, it was back to absolute silliness with Moonraker's attempt to jump on the Star Wars coattails.

For Your Eyes Only was another attempt to modernize the series as well as give it a more serious tone.  Originally planned to follow The Spy Who Loved Me, it unfortunately was delayed.  Despite the fact that a good portion of the film (ski slope chases, a technological McGuffin, un…

The Witches (1990)

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I remember the first time I saw The Witches.  All I knew is that it was a movie my girlfriend at the time wanted to see.  I had no idea about Jim Henson's involvement and even less about Roald Dahl, other than he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The name I did recognize when the credits started up was Nicolas Roeg.

Yes, it does seems strange for an 18-year-old on the cusp of graduating high school in 1990 to get excited when the name Nicolas Roeg came up.  However, there was good reason.  Science fiction and music were always a passion of mine.  I was not the biggest David Bowie fan at the time (except for the first Tin Machine album he was not releasing anything new or exciting) but appreciated him enough.  I was a fan of a rather strange science fiction movie he was involved in, The Man Who Fell to Earth, which in some ways dovetailed with his Ziggy Stardust persona at the time it was made.  I was suddenly interested in what an obvious art film director was going to do…

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

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John Carpenter and Debra Hill created one of the best horror movies of the 20th century with the original Halloween.  I know there are those who retroactively pick it apart, but that's a trend that has been around forever.  I will still stand by the original Universal films as being some of the best as well, but if all you are concerned about is that anything older than a decade is not worth watching, then I guess there's really no way of changing your attitude.

Still, attitudes do change.  I will always maintain that Halloween II was a mistake.  Sure, the first made a ton of money, so the sequel was almost guaranteed to do the same, especially since they got Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance back, John Carpenter was still tangentially involved and Debra Hill worked on the script.  However, if the original intent was to make a number of unrelated films with a Halloween theme year after year, then this was bad way to start.  It's not even that the sequel was a huge dro…

Coma (1978)

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Hospitals figure into many horror films.  Usually the killer has been brought there when they think he's did and starts looking for the protagonist who, conveniently, was brought to the same place.  Other times he's content to reduce the hospital's payroll.  Either way, it's long, deserted corridors with barely-functioning flourescents flickering on and off.  It is always the same way - not a soul around.  Security guards asleep. No nurses making rounds unless they conveniently get in the way of the killer's knife. 

The truth is I don't think a masked psycho killer has ever been on the top of anyone's mind when going into a hospital for surgery.  They are generally well-lit and full of people any time of the day, largely because all the bad stuff that happens outside the hospital doesn't keep a time schedule.  The fear most people when going into the hospital is whether or not they will leave.  Surgeons remove the wrong limb, leave stuff inside the pat…

Ghostbusters (2016)

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For decades Dan Aykroyd has been promising a third Ghostbusters film.  While Ghostbusters IIwas a financial success, it was nowhere near the fan nor critical success of the original.  Still, if everyone had been on board for it in the 1990s, and the proper script (that didn't break Sony's bank account) had come around, there was still enough life in the franchise to draw audiences back.  Of course none of that came to be.

Instead, after all the years have gone by, what we get is a reboot with an all-female main cast.  Director Paul Feig decided to follow up his Melissa McCarthy action-comedy vehicle Spywith this production, which had Aykroyd as executive producer and which Feig co-wrote with Katie Dippold, who had worked with him on a previous movie (also with McCarthy) called The Heat.  While there was some eye-rolling about the gender swapping early on, things heated up when the initial trailer dropped.  It became the most down-voted trailer on YouTube.

Honestly, there was …