animation – cinema – design

Adventure

You know… mostly a travelogue.

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The Dark Tower

Stephen King’s epic keystone film is more a reason to see Idris Elba and to discover Tom Taylor, who is amazing.  Not just his furrowed eyebrows, but his willingness to cast himself into a role.  Look for his next film to be as important as Basketball Diaries, he’s the new cool.

It doesn’t work, in the theatre cut, it’s too long in places it should be short and too short in places it should be long.  Much like the original Bladerunner, however, it is going to be a “cult” classic.  Not just for the powerful imagery or the seamless transdimensional travel, but the actual questions about what it is to grow into an adult in 21st century america.

While many will focus on the story and it’s position in the Steven King Universe, or the acting of the many good thespians in this piece who hold their own and even work well together, but I believe this film sits in an interesting intersection of cinema that for the purposes of this long winded paragraph we’ll call “growing into manhood”.  Many films tackle this topic with their characters struggling with identity and place within the world, while providing the impetus to grow into socially acceptable human beings.  The characters in the dark tower, Jake especially, is challenged with his position in the world, then the universe, and in the end makes some heady choices about who he wants to be and what he wants to become regardless of the society around him.

heady stuff.

All in all the film will be undoubtedly better once the directors cut comes out and it gets the extra 20 minutes of development this film needs to really be a piece of cinematic history.  I had a great time.

Netflix

I, Frankenstein

I have a really amazing stomach flu.  Let me just preface with that.  I’ve been up for days on and off excreting out my ends and fevering it up.  My wife and wondrous child have it as well.  If you’ve never taught a toddler how to puke, you’ve got some more living to do.  A real treat.

So I thought I’d relax, since they’re all passed out and the kitchen is clean, by watching a movie on the interwebz.

WOW.
What a freakin WOW.

I don’t think the cast of villains from Underworld was the secret to that franchise’s success, but I could be wrong.

They are certainly just as ineffectual here.

I keep wanting those dudes to win. Like… Keep them as villians, but do a remake of “Empire Strikes Back” or “Chinatown” right? They’re good actors, they know what’s up… They should get to win. Or at least perform. These wooden lines are doing nothing to help their careers. The camera though… Nice job guys.

I waited to watch this thing for a while. Previews made it look high “B” and Eckhart was great on Conan.
Mostly though I can’t stop thinking about how Aaron Eckhart and Thomas Jayne should do a brothers movie, but also because I was worried there wouldn’t be enough bang for my buck on the big screen.
I was totally right.

That said, get a projector and watch this as big as you can.  Bring friends.  Throw popcorn.
Not that it’s not really interesting to see Eckhart run around on different sets pretending to be in Paris, just that
when the forces of good and evil clash, it’s not necessarily IMAX material, know what I mean?  The best parts of this film are the little homages to the titles past films.  Great cinema turned into B roll that’s fun to recognize.  Make a game of it.

That guy can act. Just … REALLY REALLY GOOD you know? He almost makes this TV drama into a franchise.

But then you realize that something is wrong. Somewhere in the cinematography you realize that you’re watching a Turner and Hooch remake and while you want to root for the hero (who doesn’t like frankenstein’s monster? and that message about how we are our fathers sons whether we like it or not? Brilliant!!!) you’re never given an alternative.

Even the good guys are evil. It’s just stupid.

SO it starts out brilliantly; and for the first 30 seconds I’m SO pumped. Here comes the monster carrying a
body stumbling out of the frozen waste.
I’m waiting for the goodness and it’s starting to really get to me.  Does he have her?  Is it about love and revenge?
They turn it.
Go back to the novel.
So it’s not the girls body, it’s Frankenstein’s. Eckhart’s disembodied voice (+2 for voice over) tells us of how he’s
been pursued to the frozen north, but his makers body quits in the cold.
Weak.
So now the monster returns him to his families burial ground.
Weak.
So now some demons attack our hero, the monster.
WEAK
But it’s okay. He kills one of them with a grave marker and is rescued by some gargoyles.
Seriously.
They take him back to Notre Dame.
Seriously?
They name him “Adam”
SERIOUSLY!
It was at this point that my daughter woke up and I had three verses of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” with which to collect my
thoughts:
The cinematography is pretty good, with an excellent editor. They suffer from first gen super HD which nobody’s
accounting for yet, so all the animation is crystal clear and doesn’t match what they shot on set because who see’s
that level of detail? Used to be it would blurr out in the playback at the theater. But with the digital projectors
it doesn’t and nobody’s covering their asses the way they ought to be, so we can see every inch of amazing detail in
these masks, but they look like masks because we can see the seam.
ALso: shouldn’t demons be able to do more than stand around and be tough? I though they were demons… The
vampires in Blade can at least fly around with wire work.

Back to it;
So they imprison this monster. It’s made really clear that humans can’t be involved, thus saving production costs by removing all the background actors. This becomes important later.
Demons attack and then Adam escapes and falls for the scientist girl who of course is working for the demons to reanimate corpses.
Not so they can live as monsters, but so they can be possessed by demons because they don’t have souls.
Which leads to some moral problems.

So much of this plot rests on the idea that Adam is a lonely guy. But for 200 years he’s been “wandering” the earth and avoiding Demons. How much of the earth has he covered and he hasn’t gotten laid? Nobody has met him and befriended him? I feel like that’s a bit preposterous. Humans on the edges of society are the most open and exchanging when it comes to helping eachother survive. Here comes this indestructible dude with limited survival skills and he never makes friends with not even one crazy russian trapper? No Eskimo is like “Hey bro! Come get your grub on! What are you doing out here?” Never?
So then he goes back to join humanity and gets to Paris and kills a demon in the streets and gets captured by the Gargoyles and it’s like… He just never seems lonely to me is all.                      Never.

So later on when they’re killing everyone its’ made clear that this army of soulless monsters actually get reanimated, and that (SPOILER ALERT) and let me make this really clear, because it’s not very relevant to the plot in the dialogue at this point. Adam has a soul.
Now this means that he can’t be possessed. Great. It also seems to mean that he gets more power (at least a free healing bonus) from a demon trying to possess him because the cuts into his forehead are healed.
So then badguy dies and the whole works gets demolished in a very “sweep it under the rug” kind of way.
Which has some problems.
Because we just watched this dude not only rebuke a possession from a prince of hell, but get healed in the process.
Which means these dudes who are getting reanimated in his style…. Shouldn’t that have happened to them all?

SO now it’s a bunch of brand new creatures falling back into this pit and being crushed to death (or starving, etc) and it’s all I can think about while the gargoyle queen is defending her moral dilemma and Adam Frankenstein is monologuing over here.

Nobody talks about these monsters, not all of whom can have died in the fiery collapse that, at the very least, will have effected the Parisian train system. (see escape in act II)

I’m so upset I wrote a movie review.  I probably won’t sleep tonight, but instead wonder, in my fevered state, about the monsters awakening and emerging into the network of tunnels that my generation is so keen on exploring under Paris.  Now THERE”S a monster movie!
All in all, a pretty good new-age B movie. It’s no “Mummy” but I would watch the sequel on netflix, know what I mean?
***–

My roomate hadn’t had enough movies after WWZ and he took me to Man of Steel.

It was awesome.

Zack Snyder has had some success with his films lately, and Amir Mokri is the reason this one kicks so much ass.  This film is littered with special effects, and to combat that Mr. Mokri has used a bunch of hand held.  I was really glad we saw it regular style, as the 3d might have made me throw up a whole bunch.

The story focuses on Clark Kent growing up on earth as a superhuman.  It has some great cameo’s, but they are phoned in and take a back seat to the super destruction happening around the film.  Christopher Nolan might have lost some die hard Superman fans for the decisions young Kal-El makes in this film, but he’s made more by turning what could be a boring coming of age film into an explosive punch fest worthy of being called a comic book movie.

Hell, worthy of the Hulk.

The plot is a bit WTF and upon retrospect this morning I couldn’t help thinking “Wait, they traveled around the universe to all these other planets that have died because they didn’t have the right equipment.  They collected up all the right equipment, they just need Kal-El.  They get Kal-El and they can’t decide to all go to some other planet and make a new Krypton?  They have to destroy the Earth?  Why doesn’t Superman just say ‘I’ll go with you if we leave the earth in peace’ or something.   Why the rush?”  Which made me think back to WWZ.

Are we becoming such a culture of “now” that even our heroes don’t get a moment to think?  Whatever happened to Snake Pliskin sitting down for a moment so the plot can come to him?

Are the slacker days truly over?  And if so, must we, like Kal-El, become the last of our kind?

****1/2

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