Saturday, February 19, 2011

Torch snuffed

The Human Torch, mainstay of the Fantastic Four, was extinguished earlier this month in Marvel Comics.

Put a stopwatch on your computer and see how long this comics' death lasts (my bet, not long at all).

IIRC, Marvel's last big death was Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, which received mainstream press coverage (verrry slow news day, yes). But they had his former sidekick immediately take up the superhero mantle of Cap, and then they brought Rogers back to life shortly after that as well.

I'm glad I gave up reading comics a long time ago with blatant money grabs like this going on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jason X, Audience 0

Jason X (2002)

Turn the lights back on at the Satellite of Love, 'cuz this is Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder, bots and girls.

Yes, when you'e done nine previous movies and your slasher series has become bloated and tired after soaking in Crystal Lake these many years, what else can you do but shoot your unstoppable masked killer into outer space?

They spent about $13 million on this turd pile. How many hungry and orphaned kids could have been fed and sheltered with that money? A lot, that's how many. Instead we get something that looks exactly like one of those bad Syfy channel movies, with shaky production values and a goofy cast filled with somewhat familiar TV actors.

And the story, good grief, the story - it was just a lame rip-of of Aliens and Alien. You see there were space marines on board a ship full of space college students (WTF, right). The space college students are from Earth 2, and are visiting our ratty, now-uninhabited Earth 1 with their terribly acted space college professor, where they stumble upon Jason Vorhees doing his Good Humor Man impression in cyrogenic freeze. Of course they bring aboard their ship a giant, hockey-masked freak wielding a machete. Jason quickly thaws out and gets down to bi'ness. First the grunts go after hockey head, get hacked and stabbed, and then he goes after the space kids. The majority of the cast was in their 20s it seemed, even the hardened space marines, so the movie should have been titled, Jason versus the Space Kids.

Now some of the sets come across as pretty decent, they look like they were designed and built by pros with a keen eye and love of the genre; others are of the "lets shoot in a dark warehouse with concert scaffolding and stacked boxes" variety (in other words, severely cheap ass). The CGI is TV quality and mostly laughable; the designs of the space ships are crude and look like pre-animation school student work.

But the worst part is that the kills are uninspired. After nine movies where old hockey face has slashed, stabbed and skewered everything that moves, and some of that gore was during the hey day of the 1980s horror craze under latex-master Tom Savini, you expect these kills to be something special. Use some frakking imagination for Freddy's sake! Jason simply stabs more than a few people, which we've seen 17,486 times already (not counting the Friday the 13th rip off slasher flix). Since Jason doesn't talk, the kills need to be "fun" and creative (especially creative). I laughed just once when he was using a coed in a sleeping bag to bash a second coed in a sleeping bag, which the director said was an homage to a previous Friday film (and I ain't talking about the Friday film with Chris Tucker as Smokey neither). Come on, people, you put Jason IN SPACE. IN A SCIENCE FICTION FILM. Have some fun with that!

The only other laff was when Jason comes back and he's all "robocized" with nanites and metal scraps. He was so ridiculously muscular and over-defined he looked like one of those dolls for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Nevertheless (and believe me, this movie is all "less") this is a stupid, stupid movie, and should be watched with many beers, pretzels, chips, assorted nuts, and most of all, lovers of crap cinema.

Take this Persian rug out back and beat the crap from it

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Yet another disappointing summer blockbuster, a bloated, bland and boring adventure film with an American actor playing an Asian character but with a British accent.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays dusty Dastan, the titular prince. After raiding a holy city he is accused of killing his adopted father, the king. So he goes on the lame with a beautiful princess (the beautiful Gemma Arterton) to clear his name and yada, yada, yada. Dastan bounces around his and other cities using obvious Parkour/free running styles, but as this is a modern fantasy film, the quick-cut editing employed takes all the fun out of that amazing technique, so we're not sure if we're seeing CGI, doubles or whatever (look at Casino Royale and, of course, District 13 to see how to properly shoot Parkour for a movie). This ridiculous editing style is used in the many action/fight scenes so those are just a messy blur. When will we see an end to this wretched hyper-editing?

This is one of those movies where they spent far too much time and money building sets, props, costumes and on visual effects that very little was actually spent on story and character. Not one character appealed to me, or said a funny or interesting bit of dialogue (Alfred Molina came close). When you watch the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies you cannot imagine any other actor playing those lead roles. Persia's characters are so flat that ANYONE ELSE could play the roles; save for Molina, they didn't cast any actors with any real spark.

The movie was shot in a sepia tone making everything look the same, which is bad for a desert-based film. People, here's another word for sepia: BROWN. The story supposedly took place over more than a week, but everywhere they went looked exactly like where they just came from, simply more sepia-tinged sand and rocks.

There was no sense of adventure to be had in this mess. Watch the original Jonny Quest to see how to do exotic adventure on a shockingly limited budget (as least compared to a $200 million movie).

Sitting through a lousy movie in this genre only makes me want to watch a good one, like the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, which had everything Prince of Persia does not: memorable characters, exotic settings, and a true sense of fun and adventure.

ps: As a capper to show you how they completely f-ed up everything, check out the movie's title font. Instead of a design that evokes a sense of the exotic or otherworldliness or adventure - see Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies - we get a dull white font that looks like it's perfect for a contemporary drama!

Friday, February 11, 2011

This Spirit Has No Soul

So I popped in the DVD of The Spirit the other day. I lasted all of about six minutes. Something about the movie just makes me hate it.

Comic book artist/writer Frank Miller adapted the Wil Eisner comic book series for the big screen, but along the way Miller somehow turned it into Sin City 2, which was a huge mistake. (I hate to think he's a one trick pony, but that horse is the one in the barn.) I've never read a complete Spirit book, seeing as how it had its hay day in the 1940s. I've seen panels and pages reproduced in book on comics and it seemed to be a series that loved its two dimensional world, with Eisner playing with panel sizes, compositions, layout, color, sound effects, etc. In the film we just get black and white nonsense. These "green screen" movies work every once in a while, as it did with Sin City and 300, but here I was just annoyed. Perhaps because I didn't care for the characters or was interested in any of the actors the CGI work got all the attention.

The cast was full of big names, but nobody made a real impression with their character. Samuel L. Jackson's big bad The Octopus came across like a third-string Adam West Batman tv series villain. Gabriel Macht was a complete snooze as the Spirit. And the femme fatales, who are such a large part of the comic book series, all fell flat. Didn't care for any of them, including Scarlett Johansson, who is in one of my favorite movies of all time, Lost in Translation.

Oh, and Frank, I'd like my six minutes back, please.