May 2006

…and the Bad News

by Alan Rapp on May 31, 2006

in Uncategorized

Paul Gleason who will forever be remembered for his role as Principal Richard Vernon in the classic 80’s film The Breakfast Club passed away on Saturday of lung cancer.  He was 67.  Although most known for The Breakfast Club Gleason appeared in more than 60 films and even more television shows ranging from Dawson’s Creek, Seinfeld, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, and Die Hard

Also in sad, and extremely odd, news DC Comics has announced the dusting off and relaunching of Batwoman.  Batwoman?!  The character last seen almost three decades ago (when she died!) will return as a 52 year-old lesbian socialite involved with former Gotham Police Detective Renee Montoya in DC’s new “52” line which takes place a world where major heroes of the DC Universe are no longer active.  This isn’t the only DC character to get a radical new millennium make-over including the Blue Beetle as a Mexican teenager, Firestorm as African-American, and the Atom as Asian (wow, an Asian scientist, wonder who came up with that in no way politically incorrect stereotype).  Hoo-ray diversity.

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Paul Gleason who will forever be remembered for his role as Principal Richard Vernon in the classic 80’s film The Breakfast Club passed away on Saturday of lung cancer.  He was 67.  Although most known for The Breakfast Club Gleason appeared in more than 60 films and even more television shows ranging from Dawson’s Creek, Seinfeld, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, and Die Hard

Also in sad, and extremely odd, news DC Comics has announced the dusting off and relaunching of Batwoman.  Batwoman?!  The character last seen slmost three decades ago (when she died!) will return as a 52 year-old lesbian socialite involved with former Gotham Police Detective Renee Montoya in DC’s new “52” line which takes place a world where major heroes of the DC Universe are no longer active.  This isn’t the only DC character to get a radical new millennium make-over including the Blue Beetle as a Mexican teenager, Firestorm as African-American, and the Atom as Asian (wow, an Asian scientist, wonder who came up with that in no way politically incorrect stereotype).  Hoo-ray diversity.

The Good News…

by Alan Rapp on May 31, 2006

in Uncategorized

A couple feel good items of interest for you today.  First for fans of the FX drama Rescue Me new episodes started airing last night.  The brooding meandering series has found some modest fan support over its first two seasons but hasn’t garnered the attention of FX hits such as The Sheild or Nip, Tuck.  The series centers on a New York firefighter (Leary) who is watching his life literally burn and spiral out of control.  It’s either quite excellent or easily dismissive given your taste (and if you want to taste you better try it while it’s hot because odds are this one’s not going to last much longer). 

Also of interest to true Sci-fi nerds out there – Blade Runner will get re-released this September on DVD as the film will get a limited run in theaters as well!  Then, as to not be out-Lucas’ed, Warner Home Video will release a brand new “final cut” DVD edition in early 2007 which will include all versions of the film from the first theatrical version, the international version, and the director’s cut.  The Sci-fi noir film is an adaption of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and weaves a tale about a detective (Harrison Ford) tracking down four replicants (human looking robots) who have hijacked a ship and returned to Earth seeking their maker (William Sanderson, without his brothers Darryl and Darryl).  Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edwards James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah also star in what most agree is one of the finest Sci-fi films ever made.

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A couple feel good items of interest for you today.  First for fans of the FX drama Rescue Me new episodes started airing last night.  The brooding meandering series has found some modest fan support over its first two seasons but hasn’t garnered the attention of FX hits such as The Sheild or Nip, Tuck.  The series centers on a New York firefighter (Leary) who is watching his life literally burn and spiral out of control.  It’s either quite excellent or easily dismissive given your taste (and if you want to taste you better try it while it’s hot because odds are this one’s not going to last much longer). 

Also of interest to true Sci-fi nerds out there – Blade Runner will get re-released this September on DVD as the film will get a limited run in theaters as well!  Then, as to not be out-Lucas’ed, Warner Home Video will release a brand new “final cut” DVD edition in early 2007 which will include all versions of the film from the first theatrical version, the international version, and the director’s cut.  The Sci-fi noir film is an adaption of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” and weaves a tale about a detective (Harrison Ford) tracking down four replicants (human looking robots) who have hijacked a ship and returned to Earth seeking their maker (William Sanderson, without his brothers Darryl and Darryl).  Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edwards James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah also star in what most agree is one of the finest Sci-fi films ever made.

New On DVD

by December Lambeth on May 30, 2006

in DVD Reviews 

We’re here to keep you informed on hot choices for renting or buying new DVD releases. Released this week: Date Movie (Unrated Edition), Freedomland, Platoon – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Two-Disc Special Edition), Alf: Season Three, Numb3rs – The Complete First Season, Queer as Folk – The Final (Fifth) Season, and The Dukes of Hazzard – The Complete Sixth Season.

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Here’s what is getting released today on DVD:

Film:

Date Movie (Unrated Edition) – Just like the Scary Movie films before it, a spoof of romantic comedies full of satire and gross out humor.

Freedomland – Here is what our very own Alan Rapp had to say about Freedomland. “Sometimes a movie is so awful you need a shower to get clean.  Freedomland is just such a movie.  One of the worst films of 2006 and the most vile and disheartening films I’ve seen in quite some time.  I still can’t believe I saw what I saw or that parents with small children allowed them to view this violent, distasteful, and heartless film.  Whatever you do this weekend keep you and yours out of Freedomland.”  Read the full diagnosis.

Special Editions:

Platoon – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition – It’s like the best gift ever, it’s Platoon, undoubtedly the best war film ever made and it’s got all kind of extras like a documentary and newly added commentary with Oliver Stone and Captain Daly Dye Military Supervisor. Plus there is the Original Theatrical Trailer and a gallery.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Two-Disc Special Edition) -Sweet, finally they have released one of the most creepiest and scariest movies of all time. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play sisters, one was famous in her youth, but looses it in her older age. She is forced to take care of her crippled sister and starts to completely loose her mind. She leaves her helpless sister upstairs without food or water for days at a time, while she dresses up in little girl outfits and tries to be the star again. Yes, it’s a creepy one for sure, but a classic.

Family/Animated:

Alf: Season Three – The “Alien Life Form” better known as ALF started corrupting our TV screens in 1986, a ugly warted creature who spends most of the show mouthing off and chasing after the family cat. Funny at times, for the 80’s that is, but only holds little to no humor today.

TV:

Numb3rs – The Complete First Season – A mixture of popular crime dramas found on TV today, Numb3rs uses mathematical equations to solve crime. Starring Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure) and David Krumholz (10 Things I Hate About You).

The Dukes of Hazzard – The Complete Sixth Season – It’s the good ole’ boys, hell yes. Nothing better than the General Lee and some good-looking country boys running from the law. For the boys, let us not forget about those Daisy Dukes. Season six still has Bo and Luke and not those nasty little replacements, the cousins.

Queer as Folk – The Final (Fifth) Season

This Week

by Alan Rapp on May 29, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week.  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released this Friday which includes a new romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, the second film this year about troubled young gymnasts, and more water attacking film audiences.  All that and more; read on.

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more, just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look, just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

The Break-Up

In what appears to be another War of the Roses-lite comedy Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) breaks up with her longtime boyfriend (Vince Vaughn).  Since neither is willing to move out of the condo they both stay trying by various and nefarious means to force the other to leave.  The film supports a fine cast that includes Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Ann-Margaret, new Iron Man director Jon Favreau, John Michael Higgins, and Jason Bateman but director Peyton Reed hasn’t tickled America’s funnybone since his first film project – 2000’s Bring It On.

Banlieue 13 [13th District] (Limited Release)

The near future of Paris is the setting for this French thriller that involves an undercover member of the elite police force (French action star Cyril Raffaelli) and a criminal (David Belle) attempting to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.  Directed by first-timer Pierre Morel and written by Luc Besson who teamed-up to give us The Transporter and Danny the Dog (Morel served as cinematographer on both).  Early reports on the film’s look and plot compare it to a French Escape From New York.  The film also stars Tony D’Amario, Larbi Naceri, Dany Verissiom, and Francois Chattot.

Peaceful Warrior (Limited Release)

The latest from writer/director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers, Clownhouse, Powder) is an inspirational and emotional tale of a young collegiate gymnast (Scott Mechlowicz) who strikes up a student/mentor relationship with a gas station sage (Nick Nolte) who teaches him the “way of the peaceful warrior.”  The film is based on Dan Millman’s semi-autobiographical book of the same name.  The supporting cast for the film includes Amy Smart, Ashton Holmes, Beatrice Rosen, Paul Wesley, Agnes Bruckner and even Millman himself gets a cameo.

Taepung [Typhoon] (Limited Release)

Korean blockbutster action film about a North Korean pirate’s mad plan involving creating a typhoon by nuclear means in order to use it to attack the Korean Peninsula.  The film was written and directed by Kyung-Taek Kwak (Champion, Chingoo) and stars Dong-Kun Jang, Jung-Jae Lee, Mi-yeon Lee, Chattapong Pantannaunkul, and David Mc Innis.  Are audiences going to be too water-logged by Poseidon to give this subtitled special effects flick a chance?

Films, like any collaborative effort, require the right ingredients.  Let’s take a gander at some of the (supposedly) last X-Men film’s key ingredients:  Directed by the guy who gave us Rush Hour 2, Money Talks, and Running Scared.  Written by two gents who between them have delivered unto a grateful populace the cinematic bounty of Urban Legend 2: Bloody Mary, Electra, Catwoman, Fantastic Four, xXx: State of the Union, and Inspector Gadget.  Acted out by seemingly competent actors who are only slightly less shocked than the audience at how incredibly stupid and contrived the whole affair is.

Sorry, true believers, but film couldn’t suck any harder if it was powered by a bavarian creme doughnut crazed Lindsay Lohan.  The plot makes about as much sense as a box of magetic poetry phrases arranged by a blind man, the action is both nonsensical and dull, and the CGI looks like it was cribbed from a Super Nintendo game. 

Thanks, Brett Ratner.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Negative Stars

Let’s be honest here:  I love the X-Men.  Hands down it was my favorite comic book obsession for nearly 20 years.  As such, it was the last comic book property I wanted to be made into a film, because there’s no concievable way that any film could match the impact those glorious four color epics had on my life.  Then Bryan Singer sucker punched me hard.  Twice.  I went into the first films expecting the worst, and I came out thinking ‘holy shit, he actually understood the comic!’.  Sure, they changed stuff that I’d have otherwise left alone, but at least the spirit of the comic was intact within the interpersonal dynamics and moody atmosphere of the first two X-Men films. 

X-Men: The Last Stand however, will one day be held up as a film that manages to make Batman & Robin look like Apocalypse Now.

Trust me, I was in Catwoman.  RUN!

This time out, we’re treated to a vastly expanded cast of mutants dealing with the triple threat of a genetically engineered ‘mutant cure’ being offered by billionaire Warren Worthington II (whose son’s mutation vexes him to no end), a fired up and recruiting Magneto, and the return of Jean Grey, whose seemingly limitless powers are raging out of control.  Wolverine and Storm are left to make a new team out of the also-rans of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in order to stop the opening salvo of what Magneto hopes will be the war on humankind.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t elaborate further.  Frankly, there’s not much else to the plot, and Ratner and Co. throw some much at the screen that it’s a wonder anyone could walk out of the movie and remember what they’ve seen.  I’m not going to address the heresies Ratner commits against the comic book’s history, because frankly the film sucks just as a film, regardless of it’s source material.  Following in the much-hated footsteps of Joel Schumacher, writers Zak Penn and Simon Kinsberg decided to ignore any semblance of good sense by throwing so much at the audience that it becomes impossible to care about any of it.  We see the return of Peter Rasputin (aka Colossus), yet we know exactly nothing about him beyond that he’d be a welcome addition to any Circuit City staff, and he turns very, very shiny.  We’re given marginally more info on Kitty Pryde (whose now been played by 3 different actors), but only in the form of a needless and ridiculous romantic subplot with Bobby Drake (Iceman) that exists only to remove the otherwise useless Rogue from the film for the last two reels.  Otherwise we’re given nearly dozens of new characters, so much so that we’re not even given their names even though they have ample screentime.

Penn and Kinsberg likewise ignore the established Martin Luther King / Malcolm X dynamic of Charles Xavier (who, let’s face it, is awesome even when he phones it in as he does for the all of 15 minutes he’s in the film) and Magneto (a sadly less compelling McKellan) in favor of a Jesus vs. Osama Bin Laden thing.  Oddly, the whole film reeks of a ‘War on Terror’ atmosphere, which undermines the previous films just as much as the character excesses and nonsensical plot twists.  While almost cartoonishly bloodless, the film revels in moments where the uppity mutant terrorists are given their ghastly due. 

Visually the film attempts to follow Bryan Singers color and lighting template (which makes sense since Ratner was brought on just a couple weeks prior to shooting), but again the sheer excess of everything ensures that most of the CGI work is decidedly subpar and shoddy.  In fact, most of the moments that should be jawdropping look like B reel footage from a Sci Fi channel film.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and send a message to those companies that create the title credit sequences:  Do us all a favor and just delete those ‘inside the body’ and ‘assembly line’ macros you have.  It’s tired, it’s already cliched, and it’s about as impressive as a Power Point presentation.  Seriously.  Just start the damn movie already.

Know who this is?  Should you care?  No.

I’ve been asked if there is anything positive that I can say for the film, and all I can come up with is that the color balance seemed okay, the audio was well dubbed, and the film never jumped the reels.  That’s about it.

It’s bad enough that Bryan Singer jumped ship to give the Big Blue Schoolboy another shot at box office glory (which rumors say might be a $300 catastrophe), but giving Brett (the extra ‘t’ shows he’s extreme) Ratner the reins to a previously viable franchise illustrates just how much contempt Hollywood has for this kind of material, and for it’s audience.  There’s a very pervasive attitude out there that states that, for some reason, we should lower our cinematic standards and expectations when it comes to comic book adaptations.  It’s an attitude that extends from the heads of the studios, to the marketers, to the cast and crew themselves.  Of course, the fact that most film critics seem to share that view doesn’t help matters.  Don’t believe me?  Check out mainstream reviews of the Fantastic Four film.  Not only did that atrocity kill at the box office, it was the recipient of a baffling number of positive reviews.

I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t bring up the moment in the film where I had to be physically restrained by another critic from attacking the screen.  I’ve so far avoided talking about the abominable casting and design of Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), but it’s impossible for me not to address this.  At one point in the film, the underwhelming Juggernaut utters the line “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”, beating out Storm’s infamous lightning and the toad line from the first film, but also commiting the tasteless crime of blatantly ripping off an Internet meme (NSFW language).  It’s a perfect example of just how careless the crew of this film is with their creation, and it’s not hard to imagine a dull moment on the set where some doofus blurted out ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”.  Save that shit for the blooper reels, people. 

Comic books started the painful (and long overdue) process of growing up over 20 years ago by using the form to address very real themes with a sophistication that belies it’s admittedly juvenille history.  It’s about time Hollywood did the same and started treating this material with if not reverence, at least a little respect.  There’s no reason why a comic book film can’t have an intelligent script, great acting, and a powerful story.  So let’s all do each other a favor and stay away from this peice of trash and hope Hollywood gets the message.