Sunday, March 29, 2009


March 6th, 2009 (3-6-9, get it?) is the date when this years films actually take off. Alan Moore's epic satirical, socio-political opus hits the big screen after more than ten years of production hell. Even with the preview out the gate, the legal mishaps with FOX made it seem like we'd never really get to see Watchmen come to life the way it was really meant to. I could go on and on about all the inconsistencies from the graphic novel and all the bits and pieces they left out and switched around, but when it comes down to it, I really did like Watchmen. Quite a bit. Was it perfect? No. Was it worth watching? Of course.

It's been a long hard road from the graphic novel to the big screen for Watchmen. Being passed between studios. Getting the green light only to get almost immediately yanked from the "in production" list. In a way, Robert Rodriguez's almost too faithful (and not in a bad way) adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City that paved the way for Watchmen's success as a film. Director Zack Snyder's previous engagement (Frank Miller's Spartan swords and sandals epic 300) proved that even without a decent narrative behind it, his visual style was well suited for the comic book movie medium. The adaptation is ultimately faithful to the source material, the only exceptions being the exclusion of a vast amount of subsidiary character material (Rorschach's therapist is a footnote in the film and the newsstand owner and the comic book reading kid are only seen once with no dialog and never expounded upon) and some of the narrative structure at the end is rearranged, I would assume to add more cinematic and dramatic weight (even though the understated subtlety was what sold the finale graphic novel, in my opinion.) Also (spoiler alert) no giant squid monster...

Visually, the movie was gorgeous. With only a slight redesign to some of the outfits (especially Night Owl II's) the characters were spot on, though Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy) could've afforded to add a few more pounds of pudge to his Dan Dreiberg, the rest of his look as the sullen ex-masked vigilante was great. Possibly the most challenging part of Watchmen to sell on the big screen is, of course, Doctor Manhattan. There are only so many ways you can handle a blue, muscle-bound demi-god (one of the earliest casting rumors from the 90's was Arnold Schwarzenegger and thank god that one never happened,) and Snyder and crew opted for a full CG-MoCap paired with the voice of a soft spoken Billy Crudup. His gentle tone conveys both a sense of all-knowing bewilderment and omniscient curiosity. Casting win on that one, for sure.

Really, my only other grievance with the film was Snyder's penchant for this whole slo-mo thing. Don't get me wrong, it has it's time and place (namely in 1999 when The Matrix came out, but that's just me.) For a film that ran over normal run-time expectations outside a rebooted Batman sequel, for the amount of material that was partitioned out of the story, the action sure took it's sweet time. If they'd run them all in real time, I may have been more impressed with it and there might've been an extra 15 minutes or so for those peripheral characters I was talking about a few paragraphs back. While I'm on the subject of the slo-mo... the sex scene was a bit much. It reminded me almost shot for shot of the sex scene between King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in 300. While the scene is a necessary step for the characters in question, what ensued was borderline Cinemax late night material.

All in all, this is the best adaptation of Watchmen that we'll get this decade. They've taken a graphic novel that was described as "unfilmable" (and honestly, some parts of it ARE just that) and kept it as faithful to the source material as a Hollywood superhero vehicle would allow and kudos to Zack Snyder for that one. Then again, there's always the inevitable (and already announced) director's cut sporting an additional 35 minutes and the Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood DVDs on the way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera

This movie tears me apart because a month and a half after the fact, I still don't have a clear opinion on it. And the sad thing about it is that I really really wanted to like it. For all intents and purposes the odds were stacked against it from the start. It comes from the guy (Darren Lynn Bousman) who directed Saw 2-4, which I did not like. At all. Also the cast was made up of actors I love, respect, couldn't care less about and downright loath.

My dissension may come from the venue in which I viewed the movie. Since the studio gave Repo! such a miniscule release, the writer and director took the movie on tour to small theaters across America in order to garner a fanbase. That said, this required a drive to Maryland and a stay in a hotel, so I'm already invested in this movie whether I wanted to be or not. Once at the theater there are about 20 or so people decked out in costume. There was a brief intro by the theater owner and Darren the director before then the lights went down and the movie started. First things first, apparently we'd decided to attend the showing with a theater full of would-be Mike Nelsons (MST3K) who instead of tossing clever witticisms at a movie deserving of ridicule, shouted mindless brain-vomit at the screen presenting a movie I'd paid money (and gas money and hotel stay) to view with little to no interruption. That being said, here is my assessment of the film itself.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is better in idea than execution, in fact, the trailer was more enticing and well put together than the final product. Budgetary restrictions aside (made for only $8.5 million) the script seemed a bit sophomoric and underdeveloped and the musical numbers, while diverse enough, just didn't hold together. There was a vast amount of backstory that was glossed over in illustrated comic book panel interludes that felt more like an interruption to the story than a relevant insertion of important character material. Overall, I really felt that when everything was said and done, nothing ultimately got accomplished.

On the opposite spectrum, the acting was pretty good (with the exception of Paris Hilton, but her character was meant to be obnoxious and snobby, so not a huge stretch.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Anthony Stewart Head always impresses, especially when singing (see "Once More With Feeling.") One thing this movie has going for it is diversity. You've got Sarah Brightman and Paul Sorvino, both accomplished opera professionals and then Ogre, best known for his post-industrial act Skinny Puppy. Throw in Bill Mosely and the kid from Spy Kids (Alexa Vega, she pushed me out of the way after the screening and Q&A, she is short) and you've got the weirdest ensemble I've seen since Southland Tales.

While not great, I'm sure I'd be up for watching it again in a full room if the right amount of drinks were involved. Though, it's good to see movies like this are still being made. Whether it was well received or not, this is a labor of love on the filmmaker's parts and for better or worse, they got it done the way they wanted it to be. It's just not the cup of tea I ordered.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

So it appears that kitschy cinema fad, 3-D has reared it's head to the moviegoing public yet again, and this time with a vengeance. Not since the early 1980's have there been this many flinch-inducing, headache machines being released in such a rapid succession. Starting with last year's Beowulf, this summer's line-up looks to be packed with image-poppery (Dreamworks' Monsters vs. Aliens and Disney/Pixar's Up leading the charge,) though the most successful projects seem to only be animated. Thus far, I've only seen one of the two live-action 3-D movies to come out, and that movie was My Bloody Valentine.

Now, I must warn you. This movie is absolutely terrible. Possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen. But I'll be damned if I didn't have the best time ever while hating this movie. There is absolutely no reason to see this movie unless you're in a theater with those ridiculously awkward glasses draped across your nose. The acting is shoddy, the plot is practically non-existent, the dialog is laughable, etc. etc. ad nauseum. While this makes for a terrible horror movie (or movie in general) this is almost the perfect comedy. Probably because no one knew they were making a comedy. It's quite possible I laughed harder at this movie than during Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express (key word, laugh AT, not WITH.) Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer should take notes from this MBV because this is what true parody looks like.

The plot is inconsequential, really. A bunch of teens get murdered at a party at a local mine (apparently, that's the only place to party in the middle of nowhere town that this takes place in.) Murderer wears a mining suit and mask, uses a pick-axe, we've seen it all before. Flashforward ten years or so, the "friends" that survived find themselves being stalked and murdered by a similar killer. Yes, it's THAT original (after all, this IS a remake, kind of.) The kills are many, the ending is cheap but let me tell you why this is so awesome.

Aside from the veritable buffet of laughs this flick serves up, the 3-D was absolutely awesome. There were several points where I found myself actually ducking in my seat to avoid being hit in the face by whatever the character just hurled toward the screen (eyeball, pistol, tiny yapping dog...) In addition to that kind of awesomeness, the scenes that did absolutely NOTHING for the 3-D aspect became that much more funny due to the fact that it makes you feel as if you're ACTUALLY a part of the mundane, contrived BS conversations and arguments the characters are laboriously trudging through.

Again, there is absolutely no reason to see this movie unless it's huge and 3-D. And two months after the fact, I say, good luck. Does Blu-Ray have 3-D capability? Let's hope so. And it might be cheaper than a movie theater considering they charge something like $2 for those stupidly clunky glasses.