And You Thought It Was Safe(?)

The Avengers (2012)

The Rocketeer (1991)


Here’s another great example of a good idea handled badly by a major studio more interested in selling toys than selling a movie. Dick Tracy didn’t do as well as Disney’s upper management hoped, at least not on the merchandising front.  Michael Eisner’s mouse house – eager to make that up, and hopefully copy Warner Brothers success with the Batman franchise – bought license rights for this particularly independent comic book property because of its high-concept and oodles of nostalgia.

The Rocketeer is a deliberate homage to movie serials, pulp-novels, and comic books of the early-to-mid 20th century. Its steeped in cameos, in-jokes, and subtle references fans of its source material or time period (or both) will readily appreciate. Interestingly enough, Dick Tracy, which went out of its way to look like a comic book, could help but wind up feeling like a cheap, Disney-fied gangster movie. The Rocketeer, which goes out of its way to look like a big-budget movie (even if the budget wasn’t as big as it needed to be) feels more like a comic book done well.

Problem is, in order for a kid from 1991 to find The Rocketeer anything but slow, kitschy and boring, that kid had to have my parents…or the rough local equivalent. An adult figure kind enough to pass on their appreciation for the Golden Ages of cinema and Sci-Fi literature. You could say I was preconditioned to like this film, but does The Rocketeer hold up today…? Continue reading

Unbreakable (2000)
The word of the day is "Parallelism."

The word of the day is “Parallelism.”

had a lot on its shoulders, as evidenced by the ubiquitous banner headline every trailer, poster and DVD box still sport. “From the Visionary Director of The Sixth Sense,” it said, before adding “M. Night Shyamalan” almost as an afterthought, since no one really knew how to pronounce his name correctly in the Year 2000.

Fewer still knew that Sixth Sense was Shyamalan’s third film, the penultimate flick in his autobiographical period. All artists go through one, especially since its propagandists managed to make the dictum, “Write what you know,” synonymous with common sense. They forgot to add the necessary corollary: “The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to write about.”

Night’s first film, Praying With Anger, was about coming to terms with his heritage as an Indian kid raised in Philadelphia, watching baseball and eating hotdogs. Wake the Dead was about growing up Catholic, and going to school with the penguins in true Blues Brother’s style (though not nearly as awesome). The Sixth Sense was about Night’s childhood as a great big scaredy-pants wimp, afraid of Stephen King’s old bogey, The Thing Behind The Closed Door. Shyamalan just painted the doorknob red. Continue reading

The Rock (1996)
The devout Action Movie worshiper must face west five times a day and sing praise to their great god, the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18 Hornet.

The devout Action Movie worshiper must face west five times a day and sing praises to their god: the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet.

Michael Bay didn’t know it at the time, but he made this movie for my mother. She’s an actor junkie who came of age in a time when movie stars were movie stars and the mainstream culture still surrounded them with auras of “respectability.” As such, she prefers her leading men play flawed-but-noble heroes…though she’s not opposed to the occasional flight of hyper-masculine fantasy (after all, she married my dad). So putting Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery in the same film was like ringing her personal dinner bell. And since I was thirteen at the time, I had no choice but to suffer through this at her side.

This was my – and a lot of people’s – real introduction to Michael Bay. Sure, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence might’ve headlined their own TV shows, but neither boasted the box office draw of the original James Bond…or the original Ben Sanderson. Continue reading

Gen 13 (2000)

Dick Tracy (1990)
December 14, 2010, 12:00 am
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , ,
Bang Bang! You're dead, punk.

Bang Bang! You're dead, punk.

Most people have no idea how their movies are made, lacking even the faintest clue as how much of a Hell on Earth the process can become…especially once money’s involved. Throw in a well-known “property” (Hollywood-ese for an “idea”), a multibillion dollar movie studio, and a legend-in-his-own-time actor/director known for ball-busting levels of perfectionism and the irresistible compulsion to sexually harass anything that walks by him with breasts…and welcome to the Ninth Circle of Development Hell. Pull up a pot of boiling pitch and stay yourself awhile.

It took a little-known Tim Burton film called Batman to break the logjam between Disney, who put up the money (and own the film through their subsidiary, Touchstone Pictures), Tribune Media, who owned the idea, and legend-in-his-own-mind Warren Beatty, who secured the chance to direct himself in the lead role as every self-styled tough guy’s ultimate author-insertion fantasy persona, a man appropriately named Dick. Continue reading

High School Musical (2006)
Hold your nose, we're going in.

Hold your nose, we're going in.

Now for something really horrible: Disney’s vision of adolescence.

Meet star basketball player Troy (Zac Efron) and lonely bookworm Gabrielle (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), two teens as far apart as you can be without breaking the Stepford mold Disney’s live action movies use to create characters. Through pure happenstance, both are forced to sing Karaoke together at a gutless, New Year’s Eve “kids” Party. As they do so, both manifest the strange and fantastic powers possessed by all major characters in musicals, singing a song they’ve never heard before perfectly, complete with overproduced, generic “oooh”s and “yeah”s that inspire cheering accolades from all the dumbshits in their audience. Said dumbshits drop whatever it is they’re doing to form a pan-worthy tableau behind our two leads.  Here I thought audiences typically gathered in front of performers. I didn’t count on this being Opposite Day is Disneyland. Or the fact that Disneyland is a such a demon-haunted world. Continue reading