After Hours

It’s official: I’ve discovered the most forgotten mainstream film of all time. That distinction rests with the 1985 film “After Hours“. I discovered it perusing the Netflix Instant Play library. The summary sounded intriguing:

Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) embarks on a trip to New York City’s SoHo district in hopes of hooking up with a recent acquaintance, the beautiful Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette). But Paul loses all his money, and just to get back home he must endure a night of kooks, psychotics, punks and an angry mob trying to kill him.”

Whoa, so like, his whole night just unravels and gets crazier and crazier? I love movies like that!! The downward spiral that takes place over one single piece of time! Well, the movie is most certainly crazy. But the “dark” seems to overcompensate loudly for the “comedy”. It’s strange to watch a film vacuum any humor out of its various situations. There’s suicide, awkward meet-ups with the opposite sex, punk parties, all the wacky stuff that gets punctuated by a night alone in a New York City neighborhood. And yet…nothing the characters do makes any damn sense! Awkward scene after awkward scene between people play out, all the while you’re thinking, “Who would do that?” or “There’s a really simple way to get out of this situation”. Kinda like watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, except EVERYONE is Larry David or weirder. There ain’t a single “regular” person there to contrast the weirdness.

Maybe this movie was created in another, weirder dimension and was accidentally shipped to this one. Although that’d be tough, since the director was (get this) none other than (you ready?) Martin freakin Scorsese!!! In know, right?! There are certain shots that are very indicative of his work, like quick push-ins and long, long, looooong takes in a scene. But they really don’t add anything to the story; they stand out like sore thumbs, mainly because the rest of the pacing, acting, and shot composition are so slowly-paced. This came off as a practice film; each scene had waaaay too much air. And the truckloads of cameos didn’t help (although it does feature both parents from Home Alone…and Cheech…and Chong).

Ideally, a dark comedy should make me feel sly or mischievous, like I’ve gotten away with something. Instead I felt as weirded-out as the protagonist…but maybe that was the idea? There are way too many “but maybe’s” when I reflect on this movie. Perhaps it would have fared better under its original director, Tim Burton (yes, really). He really had a knack for weird, dark, 80s cult comedies. And those were actually funny.

Gawd, even the TRAILER’S pace is saggy.

Clouded Judgement

Having been bombarded with the ads for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs all year, I think it’s finally getting to me. The film looks less than stellar in my opinion, and there are some strange things going on visually. Overall I think that’s my biggest hangup with this thing. The original book has a very detailed, realistic look, no? So why then render the film’s characters to look like they were ripped from a 1950’s UPA cartoon? Additionally, why would you place those very simplistic, stylized characters in a world being overrun with photorealistic food? Anyone else see a slight disconnect?

I appreciate that animation studios are starting to branch out from the novelty of 3D and actually using the tool to push the medium forward, but you can only go so far when you’re relying on visuals to support lackluster jokes, acting, and narrative. Now I’m not knocking the source material, but let’s not kid ourselves…this ain’t sticking too close to the book. We’ve still got a ways to go before some of these studios really start thinking about legitimate artistic quality. Sure, it looks interesting, but it’s just empty calories.

You Basterds!!

I had the misfortune of going to film school after Quentin Tarantino burst onto the film scene. Needless to say, by the end of my run, I was sick to death of every cinematic trope he made “cool”. I’d had it up to HERE with lengthy dialogue about some small piece of pop culture, references to film eras I was not privy to, and badass violence for the sake of pure, badass violence.

I’d been hearing about his latest, Inglourious Basterds, for a long, long time. There had been rumors of Tarantino making a WWII-era film for the last 10 years or so. Was I excited to learn that it would finally see the light of day? Not even close. I was ready for that guy to disappear forever, especially after the ultimate self-indulgent flick Death Proof. Goodbye Tarantino, you had your fun.

Yet, I started hearing more and more positive buzz about Inglourious Basterds, and I was hearing it from people who shared the same anti-Tarantino sentiment as me. Needless to say, after absorbing enough of this hype, I marched in to see exactly what they were talking about…

And I really liked it! My life wasn’t changed, but I think that expectation is just a smidge unrealistic for his movies. All of his tropes were there, but they actually served the story very well. And any moments that seemed cool for the sake of being cool actually served the story. See, that’s where I come away with the most respect for this film: It was self-contained. His other films feel like elements of cinema from many different eras all mushed together. Yet, you can tell that this new concoction is made up of tiny little pieces. This flick, however, really blended all the inspirational elements (and there are many) to form something entirely his own. For once he seemed to really use his influences to take this film to a level all its own.

So please do check this one out if you’re at all curious, if not only for its (truly) unforgettable climax. My mind ain’t totally changed on this Tarantino fella, but as an independent work it’s something I can really respect. Looks like the guy finally found a story that suits him just perfectly.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

For one brief second, today was like Christmas for me. After a long day at work and a never-ending softball game, I was eagerly anticipating my arrival back home. I would be receiving a much larger respite than normal.

Finally, finally, finally, Amazon followed through and sent me my copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum for the XBox 360. As a lifelong Bat-fan, I was oh so very excited. This was, however, the game that finally got me to buy the damn system way back when. Unfortunately the game was delayed for a few months, proving I could clench my jaw harder than I ever thought possible.

Because of this release delay, coupled with the fact that there’s never really been a standout Batman game I can mention, I was concerned this would be a forgettable affair. Then the reviews started pouring in. Oh, how they praised the story, combat, acting, visuals, gameplay, and pacing. Oh, and how they’re all exactly on the money. Without parroting too many of the reviews out there, I’d like to say that I am really digging this game.

Everything about this title just comes together exactly the way you think it should, right down to Batman’s appearance (which I’m a pretty big stickler about. I’m looking at you, puffy outfit from Batman Begins). I was raised on the animated series from the 90’s, and Paul Dini, one of the main creative forces behind that endeavor, provides the story for this game. It’s wonderful, as to be expected. You’ll also see the return of many cast members from the show playing the roles that were so very crystalized to me as a child.

The word on everyone’s lips about this title seems to be “combat”, and I can absolutely see why. Creating elaborate, flowing combos is quite easy, and holy hell is it satisfying. Punch, crack, slam…they’re all there. You’ll never again wonder what’d it be like to lay down a Batman-style beatdown. And, not to be forgotten, there’s a “detective mode” that you’ll be making copious use out of as you sneak through the various levels. Taking at least a small cue from The Dark Knight’s x-ray lens thingies, you’ll be able to spot clues and enemies in a very cool and scientific way. You really do feel like the world’s greatest detective.

So yes, I’m writing in praise of this game. In a way, it’s a rough representation of the pretend Batman games I played as a kid…and that’s a compliment. Any time you can accurately personify an 8-year-old’s imagination, you’ve really accomplished something. Go get this game. Go get it now.

And welcome to the madhouse.

That Star Trek Movie

I’ve never been a huge trekkie growing up, preferring that OTHER franchise and it’s more fantastical elements to the exploration of space and that whole “boldly going where no man has gone before” thing. Never really got into the original Star Trek series either, and was only marginally interested in The Next Generation (we have Patrick Stewart to thank for THAT). Voyager and Deep Space Nine never even registered on my radar. However, I think I may just have to go back and revisit the franchise, and it’s all thanks to the new film..

Yes, J.J. Abram’s Star Trek IS that good, and there’s one major reason for this: it’s fun. The casting is superb, and the pace is brisk. I never once felt that things were dragging, something I can’t say about Insurrection or much of the other TNG films. Even the original Star Trek film pales in comparison.

It’s been said that because J.J. Abrams was an outsider, he was able to inject more life into the limping franchise and I agree. I never once felt punished for not being a Trekkie. What homages I DID catch were great, but I never felt excluded from the experience because I didn’t know a damn thing about the Kobiashi-Maru test or Scotty’s original backstory in the original timeline beyond coming up with a kick-ass formula. Point is, I knew enough and wasn’t penalized for it, and I think it’s that fact that’s going to bring in a lot of new people and make Star Trek a viable franchise in the future.

Now, the real test will be to see if they can pull off a sequel..

(I hear Jon is a good screenwriter..)

Watchmen Review (The Tolerant One)

Is it obligatory to begin a Watchmen review with my personal connection to the story? Let’s err on the side of safety: All I’ve ever learned about Watchmen has been within the past year. I’d heard grumblings from the hyped-up film world (negative ones, to be sure) and the very first trailer preceding The Dark Knight. I’ll be honest and say I picked up the book a few months before the film was released, but only to educate myself so I wouldn’t be lost during the film (but I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who can say the same). I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and really tried to immerse myself in the little details. All the while, however, I was thinking about how certain scenes were going to play out in the movie. The book for me was, above all else, a primer.

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Watchmen Review (The Outsider One)

I saw the Watchmen movie a week ago and was for the most part unimpressed. But let’s take a few steps back and gets some backstory, shall we? Truth be told, I’ve never read the graphic novel. I’ve leafed through it a few times in the bookstores and read up on it on wikipedia, but that’s basically the extent of my immersion in the universe created by Alan Moore. I just never had all that much interest in reading the book, which was expounded by the fact that V for Vendetta was kind of a dud for me. And then the film itself came out and was even more of a dud. So, when I heard that Zack “slo-mo-but-speed-up” Snyder was directing the new film, I wrote the whole thing off. End of flashback.

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Watchmen Review (The Bitter One)

OK, so let me just start by saying, yes, I am a hypocrite. I said I was never going to see this film, I said it was going to suck, I said it was just Hollywood BS. I read the comic, loved it, and caved in. I saw the movie. Was I right? Kind of. Let’s discuss. Or rather, I’ll tell you my thoughts, and you can read them. Or not. We can still be friends.

So, let’s talk about the good first. The movie is very faithful to the source material. Sure, there are a few changes, but for the most part, we get much of what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had put together way back in the 80s. We get spot on origin stories. We get a nearly exact plot. We get dialog and compositions straight out of the comics.

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