And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Super (2010)
Judges say: meh, it's not that bad. 6.5 for effort.

Judges say: meh, it’s not that bad. 6.5 for effort.

Now we come to Super, written and directed by James Gunn. A “dark comedy” apparently full of stunning, satirical insight. Or so you’d think if you believe what you read. I believe in using past experience as a guide. Some people might consider that an inexcusable bias…but some people need to check the tree in their own eye before they start bitching about the splinters in mine. And experience told me to stay the hell away from James Gunn after 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, which he wrote. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, I’m still holding that against him. Is that fair…? Probably not. But it’s not about what’s fair: it’s about what I want.

I wanted a cast of characters I could give a crap about, but Dawn of the Dead‘s bunch felt more like the subjects of someone’s half-assed social experiment. We were so far removed from them the script had to work overtime to characterize them through clunky, expository dialogue (the laziest kind of characterization around…apart from voice-over narration). So I went into Super with serious trepidations. I don’t watch The Office, so Rainn Wilson held no appeal for me. And sure, Ellen Page was in Inception…but before that, she played Shadowcat in X-Men: The Last Stand. Liv Tyler is…Liv Tyler. And Kevin Bacon is in serious danger of being typecast as The Villain.

Still, the things that annoyed me about Super have proved to be crowd-pleasing. So I once again get to be the asshole in the room who made the mistake of reading comic books back in the 1990s, when Super‘s pet issues were common storytelling currency and everybody took a whack at them (with a pipe wrench) sooner or later. I’ve seen this movie called “perhaps the definitive take on self-reflexive superheroes,” once again revealing film critic’s monumental ignorance of pretty much everything that doesn’t involve a current celebrity. Continue reading

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Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Bad news is, you're the best character in this film because you're not in it long enough for me to get bored with you.

Bad news is, Andy, you’re the best character in the film. Because you don’t have any lines. The less people speak in this movie, the fewer chances they have to piss me off.

The original Dawn of the Dead was twenty-six years old by the time this remake entered the pipeline. Its time had very much come and, in one sense, already gone. Tom Savini’s 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake celebrated its sweet sixteen by the time 28 Days Later broke out of its “low” budget genre ghetto, made it to Sundance, eventually broke out of that ghetto, too, and became a critical darling and smash hit…for whatever reason.

I try to ignore Spring horror films as much as I can because they tend to suck as a rule. (A popular example from the year in which I write – 2011 – would be the Scott Charles Stewart directed Paul Bettany vehicle, Priest.) January and February are studio dumping grounds for sub-standard, shitty movies they know no one will want to see. By March they’ve usually worked through the previous year’s back catalog and begun to ship out films designed specifically for home  markets. Christ’s sake, no one really wants to watch big budget horror movies in March…but March is only seven months away from Halloween. Time enough for a film (like this one, which “only” cost $28 million) to earn its money back in theaters, allowing ancillary sales (like seasonally-appropriate DVDs and TV broadcast rights) to count as pure profit.

Predictably, this movie became the early breakout hit of 2004. Not that anyone at Universal actually predicted that. They were convinced the complete failure of 2003’s House of the Dead meant no one really wanted to see any more zombie movies. (And as long as by “no one” they meant “me” that statement held true.) Anyone with a functional brain could’ve told them House of the Dead failed because of two key words: “Uwe” and “Boll.” Never the less, Universal cut every corner they could, going so far as to turn the cameras over to some jumped up car commercial director named Zack Snyder. Continue reading