And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Daredevil (2003)
"Ugh, Ben, jeeze...I can smell the Jennifer on you."

"Ugh, Ben, Jeeze...I can smell the Jennifer clinging to you. It's downright wafting!"

I hate to admit this, but there’s a sad, small part of me trapped down in the basement of my mind that wants very much to like Daredevil. But what does that whinny little bastard know? I’m in charge here, and I say the film’s a mess. It’s an interesting mess with decent color sense and the occasional flair for high drama…but so are most of the drunken artists staggering home through every major city on any given night of the week.

Really, Daredevil is a case history in everything that can go wrong with film – any film, regardless of genre. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson tried to get this made back in 1997, but Marvel Comics’ bankruptcy, the collapse of the Batman and Superman franchises, and a widespread public disregard for superheros kept Daredevil in development hell until the turn of the millennium (or Willennium, as we said at the time). Continue reading

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X-Men (2000)
"What did you expect...a group shot full of action? Go back to your Rob Leifeld comics then, you posers,"

"What did you expect...a group shot full of action? Go back to your Rob Leifeld comics then, you posers,"

Now here’s a case study in adaption, a simultaneous example of how to successfully make a comic book movie and how to cock it up even as you’re supposedly doing “right” by both your fans and your studio backers. An unqualified box office success, X-Men ignited what I’ve come to call the Silver Age of Comic Book Movies, inaugurating trends and best practices that hamstring the genre to this day, despite elevating superhero flicks up to a level of respectability they’d never previously enjoyed…save, perhaps, for about a minute and a half there, after Tim Burton’s Batman.

Batman was a filmmaker’s film by a man who’s gone on to admit he’s never read a comic book in his life. (“Which,” as Kevin Smith put it, “explains Batman.”) At least X-Men‘s Bryan Singer had the good since to claim making his “comic book” movie helped him see the light. Before this, Singer was known for one decent thriller (Unusual Suspects) and one half-decent Stephen King adaption (Apt Pupil). Seeking to do a sci-fi picture, he nonetheless turned X-Men down three times…until producer Avi Arad convinced him to actually read the damn books…and watch some of the wonderful animated series Arad brought to Fox Kids for five season’s in the 90s. Continue reading



Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Bromance! 2007It’s amazing how unmemorable a film like this can be. Twenty-four hours and it vanishes from your mind like a bad dream. Oh, to wake in a world where Marvel Studios did not chose to produce Fantastic Four films in conjunction with 20th Century Fox.

At once flagrantly pandering and incoherently pretentious, Rise of the Silver Surfer is undeniably worse than its prequel. All thanks to production logic that threw aesthetics under the bus in favor of expediency and marketing tie-ins. Got to crank them out quick before the marks get wise, see? And we are getting wise, though the general mass (who still, even after all this, refuse to read comic books) continues to throw cash at whatever crap’s offered us. And so it goes. {More}



Predator 2 (1990)
Targeting your children since 1997.

Targeting your children since 1997.

It’s easy enough to feel like the Predator during an opening shootout, when we as the audience have no real idea who the hell anyone is or what’s going on. Except we know at once that we’re trapped in an action film, and a fairly gratuitous one at that. No problemo there. Gratuity and I are old friends. But Predator 2 is unique in that it lets us know, almost from the first, that it knows we know how gratuitous all this is.

I think this extra level of aesthetic intelligence contributed to Predator 2‘s near-universal condemnation. Genre fans failed to appreciate the time, effort and thought that went into this production (at least at the time…most have woken up since, and the rest of you should keep reading – this one’s for you guys), while non-fans…well…we all know there’s no reasoning with them, don’t we? Yes. {More}



Fantastic Four (2005)

Strike a pose! It's all you're really here for.I’ll be honest with you: I never gave a toss about the Fantastic Four. I know that’s heresy to a certain number of nerds and I don’t care. Their family comradeship, good natured bickering, and overriding message of wholesomeness never sat well with me. Like Pizza Hut pizza, its initial beguiling flavor disguises stomach-churning ookiness. Leave it to Hollywood to pick out the Four’s most nausea-inducing elements and assemble them into an annoyingly bland film.

Credit where it’s due: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby revolutionized the superhero team back in the 1960s, elevating the genre to a new era of psychological realism…even as they stuffed it with  alien invasions, world-conquering dictators, and evil siblings/parents/college roommates inexplicably returned from the dead. For my money, Lee and Kirby did a much better job of dysfunctional superhero family-creation two years later, when they used what two years of churning out comics had taught them to create the original X-Men{More}



Avatar (2009)
May 27, 2010, 11:48 am
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

James Cameron's ego and superego stroll casually through your imagination.James Cameron lost something sometime in the middle nineties. I don’t know what it was but I know where it went: into Terminator 2, the last good film to bear Jim’s name, the place where his wave crested. It had already rolled back by the time True Lies came out, and while I liked True Lies well enough (enjoying, as I do, any  slapstick send-ups of the Action movie, with its pretensions of the mythic…there’s even a soft place in my heart for Last Action Hero, and I’m not ashamed of it) who the bloody hell follows up Terminator 2 with a screwball comedy about a secret agent ubermensch and the Jamie Lee Curtis who loves him?

(Answer: a man who gets his Great Ideas from the Governator.) And who follows that with Romeo and Juliet at Sea? With Titanic, Cameron threw all pretense of originality over the side along with Leonardo. And bless his heart for sending the foppish pretty boy to a well-deserved watery grave. But Titanic also proved Cameron’s real talents lay in fields having nothing at all to do with making good films. The man is first and foremost a technician. Give him a some hardware and a chunk of time and he’ll go Rain Man on that shit…but God help you if you’re a flesh and blood human being. Bless Linda Hamilton for dropping the man faster than a hot rock from the Temple of Doom. Bless her also for warning us all about what he was and where he was going. And curse everyone else for not paying attention. Titanic also taught him that America’s film critic community is so coddled and concentrated on writing proper ad copy that they’ll let any half-hearted, hackneyed sci-fi flick slide, so long as you make it pretty. {More}



The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
March 20, 2004, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , ,

"Stop, or my mom will shoot!"The next industry Uncle Tom who calls Alan Moore out for his righteous hatred of Hollywood need only take a peek at this train wreck of a film. Do that, and understand that the pain you feel is nothing compared to what it might be if, say, you’d actually created this “property.” That’s the term they use. Not “story,” not “idea,” but “property.” As if the book were a piece of over-mortgaged real estate.

I have a lot of love for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I’ll admit I would never heard of the book if not for this idiotic little film. That alone ameliorates my otherwise-all-encompassing hatred of it, and the system that birthed it. Movies like this make me wish the aliens from Independence Day really would hurry up and destroy Los Angeles with their incredibly slow fireballs.

This film is a throwback to the Golden Age of superhero movies. That was not a happy time, despite my choice of nomenclature. Sure, Richard Donner’s Superman came out, but so did those crappy, made-for-TV Captain America movies. Remember Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Or The Punisher. Have you forgotten that the era of Tim Burton’s Batman also cursed us Joel Schumacher’s? I haven’t! {More}