Archive for March, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

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Wow.  This looks absolutely incredible.  I was impressed last week by the CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS trailer that was filled with images right out of the children’s book.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to this.  It looks like Spike Jonze has literally brought Maurice Sendak’s classic to life. I read it about a thousands times when I was a kid, didn’t you? It’s almost scary how this film looks like it was ripped right from the pages.  Everything from all the beasts, to Max’s costume, to the scenery is right on target.  The music is perfect too.  This just became the most anticipated film of the year for me.  How about you? Find out here.

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Drag Me To Hell Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

 AHHH!! EVIL GYPSY LADY!!!drag20me20to20hell

The trailer for Sam Raimi’s new horror film, DRAG ME TO HELL (love that title), hit the internet today and I am just a bit apprehensive.  For one thing, its PG-13 and I cannot think of a single good PG-13 horror movie in recent memory.  Sorry, THE RING and THE GRUDGE both sucked.  Its produced by Raimi’s own Ghosthouse Pictures which has given us a slew of shit ever since its conception, such as BOOGEYMAN, the already mentioned GRUDGE, and THE MESSENGERS.  All were PG-13 and all sucked big fat hairy balls.  I don’t get the point of making horror films ‘accesible’ to young audiences.  They’re called ‘horror films’ for a reason folks.  I suppose a PG-13 horror flick could be good, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Also, Raimi’s last film was SPIDER-MAN 3, a complete and utter waste of time.  It felt like a good portion of that film was heavily influenced by the studio and that kinda seems to be the case here as well.  This feels less like a passion project for Raimi and more of a way for him to cash in on his status as a ‘horror icon’, which he really isn’t.  I love the ‘EVIL DEAD TRILOGY’ as much as the next guy but they’re demented screwball comedies, not truly frightening films.  I also love them more because of the God known as Bruce Campbell than the director known as Sam Raimi. 

Maybe I’m being too harsh.  Raimi’s track record is pretty strong, all things considered.  SPIDER-MAN 1 and 2 were pretty great, the EVIL DEAD films are awesome, and A SIMPLE PLAN is a flat-out masterpiece.  Alison Lohman is a good actress, it’s nice to see David Paymer again and I always like Justin Long.  And for a PG-13 flick, this looks intense enough.  

The film itself is about a bank teller who denies a gypsy woman a loan and gets a cursed placed on her.  Said curse involves her being tormented by a demon who after three days (arbitray number) of torture will literally, you guessed it, drag her to hell.  I don’t know.  The idea is solid, but I think the gypsy curse is overused as a horror device.  THINNER anyone?   Check out the trailer here and hit the theaters on May 29 to see if ‘the return of true horror’ really has come to pass.

Watch the Watchmen

Posted in Movies on March 7, 2009 by kickingupthedarkness

watchmen-smily

Psychotic fans like me have been waiting almost 22 years for this story of deranged super-heroes struggling in a doomed universe to hit theaters.  We’ve followed the project as its gone through several different directors (Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass among them) until it finally landed in the hands of Zack ‘300’ Znyder.  We’ve followed the casting rumors that Mickey Rourke was all set to play Rorschach and were surprised when former child-star Jackie Earle Haley got the part.  We listened with growing dread as Warner Bros. and Fox fought over the rights and threatened the movie’s release date.  We wondered how Zack Snyder was going to change the ending and hoped he wasn’t going to blow his wad.  We bought t-shirts, actions figure and even more copies of the original novel.  Some of the really crazy ones of us went out and bought a five hour visual audio-book of the film.  We can’t wait for the supplemental DVD to hit stores in two weeks (featuring the complete TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER and UNDER THE HOOD).  And finally, last night, we stayed up late and got to sit down to watch the ‘most celebrated graphic novel of all time’ unfold before our eyes on the big screen.

So how is it?

In short,  WATCHMEN is a masterpiece.  A stunning visual experience that manages to stay almost ridiculously faithful to the comic book while easily opening up the world to novices.  The performances (except for one) are all right on target.  Zack Snyder has crafted a film that is filled with unadulterated love for its source material.  So many sequences are exact replicas of panels from the novel, and unlike SIN CITY which simply transmuted the comic to the screen, WATCHMEN not only reproduces images, but it adds sound and a terrific cinematic feel that makes us feel like we are watching the first true completely visual novel.  The movie is a comic book made flesh.  And yes, it is as good as THE DARK KNIGHT, and actually even darker.  And I believe the altered ending to be a stroke of genius. This is a bold, important film that challenges its audience just like the graphic novel did back in the eighties. And I cannot wait to see it again.

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For those of you who don’t know, WATCHMEN takes place in an alternate version of America where Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as president.  The time is 1985 and The United States and Russia are on the brink of nuclear war.  Scientists have set a doomsday clock at five minutes to midnight.  Amidst all this chaos are the Watchmen, a disbanded team of super-heroes and misfits now living in the shadows after President Nixon outlawed all super-hero activity.  The most powerful of them being Dr. Manhattan, a former physicist who was transformed into a literal superman after an experiment gone wrong.  Dr. Manhattan is the only character with actual super powers; he can grow to over two hundred feet, replicate himself and bend matter to his will. He is so powerful that he acts as the world’s best nuclear deterrent. What’s even more interesting about him is that he seems to be made up of the very building blocks of the universe and, as a result, can see the past, present, and future simultaneously.   Then there’s  Rorschach, a demented version of Batman who refused to take off his mask and now wanders the streets fighting the good fight all by himself.  His polar opposite and only friend is Nite Owl aka Dan Dreiberg, who has grown pudgy and bored after being forced into retirement.  Dreiberg is actually the second version of Nite Owl taking over from a man named Hollis Mason who gave up the cloak and went on to write a best-selling book about his adventures.  The heroine is a young woman named Silk Spectre who is also Manhattan’s girlfriend and who took over the job after her mother retired.  Ozymandias is the smartest man in the world and has since become an extremely successful businessman.  Rounding out the cast is the Comedian whose death at the beginning of the film sparks an investigation by Rorschach as to who could be killing off costumed heroes.

You got all that? If you don’t, not to worry.  Snyder provides the complete history of these characters in a virtuoso credit sequence set to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times, They Are A-Changin’.  It’s a terrific way to introduce us to the WATCHMEN universe and the song fits the tone of the film perfectly.  It’s also amazing how much information Snyder is able to cram into five minutes of screen time without being too convoluted.  I fell in love with the movie as soon as the sequence was over.

I said that the performances are right on target and they are.  Rorschach has always been the fan favorite.  With his constantly shifting mask and angry voice over, he is at once a terrifying and surprisingly relatable figure.  Jackie Earle Haley does a terrific job of bringing the character to life.  He uses a diseased voice that sounds as if he’s been living in the gutter for his entire life.  He nails every line from the comic so well that some of them deserve  applause.  Much of Rorshach’s dialogue could have been played cheesy and over the top, but Haley sells them so well that they provide a window into the mind of this tortured soul.  And when the mask finally comes off, watch out.

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Equally impressive is Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan.  It must have been a difficult role for Crudup to play, granted for anyone to play.  Manhattan has been so powerful for such a long time that he is much more God than man and has fallen completely out of touch with humanity.  In the comic, he was often frightening and overbearing, but Crudup brings a gentleness and a profound feeling of sorrow to the character.  Particularly difficult for a character who is all but devoid of emotion.  He doesn’t remember how to be human, but Crudup shows us that a part of him still desperately wants to be. 

THE MANY FACES OF DR. MANHATTANdr-manhattan

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is fucking dynamite as The Comedian.  Easily the most sadistic of all the characters (he guns down a pregnant woman in Vietnam), and Morgan relishes every evil grin and laugh.  But there’s a lot more to the Comedian that just killing people and making jokes and Morgan takes the time to show us his depths.  Also very impressive is Matthew Goode as Ozymandias.  This is one of the most difficult roles of the film as Ozymandias has to provide the film with a lot of exposition that was easy to read in the comic but difficult for an actor to express.  Goode does an excellent job of illustrating these points without it seeming like he is merely moving the plot along.

THE COMEDIANwatchmen07

The actor who seems to taking the most flack from critics is Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl.  I am at a loss as to understand why.  Nite Owl was the heart of the comic and he is the heart of the film too.  People say that he didn’t gain enough weight for the part, but come on, that’s a silly fanboy quibble.  Wilson is so good at playing the nerdy, impotent Dreiberg that we almost don’t want him to put the costume back on.  Also critical to the film is his relationship with Rorshach.  I was reminded of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in RAIN MAN.  Every one remembers Hoffman, but it was Cruise who truly made the relationship work.  It’s the same with Wilson and Haley.  It’s also one of those performances like Aaron Eckhart in THE DARK KNIGHT that is so honest and heartfelt that it will go completely unnoticed by mainstream audiences.  Wilson carries a good portion of the film on his shoulders and I can no longer picture anyone else in the role.

NITE OWLWatchmen

The other actor who is taking a lot of flack from critics deserves it.  Malin Akerman is shockingly weak as Silk Spectre.  At her best, she is serviceable and at her worst, she is laughable.  She is the most inexperienced actor on screen and it shows.  It’s a good thing she has Wilson to play off of for most of the film because he frequently makes us forget how bad she is.  In the comic, Silk Spectre was a ballsy, smart broad who, along with Nite Owl,  provided the heart of the story.  Not the case here.  However, it doesn’t take much away from the film.  Everyone and everything else around her is so solid that we only notice her atrocious line readings as an afterthought.

NOT VERY GOOD SILK SPECTREwatchmen_xl_04-film-a

In preparing for the film, I wondered how Snyder was going to handle adapting the comics’ more complex sequences.  The most complicated being the scene with Dr. Manhattan on Mars where he relives his past, present and future in a single moment.  Snyder captures Manhattan’s sense of time perfectly and the Mars sequence is the most visually breathtaking part of the film.

MANHATTAN ON MARSwatchmen1medium

In adapting all the fights to the screen, Snyder made the inspired choice of slowing them all down so they feel like moving images from the comic.  This allows us to savor both the action and the images in the same moment.  The opening fight between the Comedian and his unknown assailant is a dazzler.  But even better is the extended sequence where Nite Owl and Silk Spectre break Rorschach out of prison.  Everything Rorschach does is exactly as it was in the comic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Snyder gives Nite Owl and Silk Spectre a lot more to do in this sequence and it’s great to actually see them doing what we had previously only imagined.

THE ORIGINAL WATCHMENwatchmen-minutemen-img

His soundtrack adds a lot to the film as well.  Using artists and songs such as ‘All Along the Watchtower’ that were referenced in the comic is one of the many ways he shows us his pure love for the story he is telling.  I also really loved his choice to use Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ during Nite Owl and Silk Spectre’s big sex scene.

Fans have known for quite a long time that he changed the ending.  Many have refused to see the film just because of that.  Grow up.  The ending of the book is way too out there and bizarre to bring to the screen.  It would have felt forced and tacked on.  What he does to compensate is brilliant.  I won’t say exactly what he changes (If you’re that desperate to know, just head on over to Ain’t It Cool News and have Harry Knowles tell you), but I will say that it arises naturally from the story and I think that many readers of the novel may have guessed that the story was going to head in that direction anyway.  He doesn’t change the outcome of the story at all, just the specifics of how it arrives there. And the final shot of the film is the exact same as the final panel of the comic. 

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Being a huge fan myself, I could make lots of minor complaints and criticisms about the film: stuff that was left out, lines that went to different characters, etc.  But those are just issues of personal taste and should not be considered when reviewing the film.  Let the fanboys debate about whether or not Dr. Manhattan’s penis was too big.  That’s what they’re there for.  And by the way, why is it that every time a penis is shown in a movie, the audience reacts as if its the most horrifying thing in the world? What the fuck guys? We all have them and we all stare at them and play with them on a daily basis, so what is so goddamn terrifying about seeing one on the big screen? Something tells me some people are a tad uncomfortable with their sexuality.  It’s a penis folks, not a monster.

So, be warned, you’re going to hear a lot of people complaining about this film.  The fanboys are going to whine like little babies about all the stuff that was left out and how the slightly altered ending ruined the entire experience for them.  Pay no attention to them.  Whining is how they live.  You’re also going to hear a lot of mainstream critics calling the film over-long and confusing.  Fuck them.  They’re just grumpy old men whose attention spans have become far too short.  WATCHMEN is a film that demands for you to pay close attention.  And you should.  It’s as relevant today as it was in 1985.  Snyder was wise enough to know that there was no need to update the material; the story is universal and speaks for itself.  He was also wise enough to know that this story is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with its characters reactions to it.  The Watchmen are demi-gods and they’re different points of view can be seen as different religions to live by.  Trapped in a world without hope, they are scrambling for meaning just as we are.  And when they realize that there are few answers and the ones that do exist are not the ones they were looking for, they become as human as we are. 

So far, WATCHMEN is the best film of 2009 and will undoubtedly be one of the best films of the year. Watch the WATHCMEN as soon as possible and as many times as you can.  You won’t have another film experience like it for a long time.