Monday, December 29, 2008


The Spirit was a fun ass movie, but hey, this is a guy who enjoys All Star Batman and Robin, and DK sequel, etc (and never read Sin City, or 300)...It just seems to be cool to hate on Miller, and The Spirit, and if you're prone to that, this is Miller hater fodder extreme!
Was it a great movie? No, it certainly was a mess, but I still really enjoyed the hell out of it.
The thing is, it's hard to go into a movie and just purely take it in in this age... you go in with so many expectation or reservations from what you've heard and seen online etc. Some times things are so hyped, it's hard to match up to the expectations, other times, like with The Spirit, they're so badmouthed, any quality seems that much better in contrast...


The visuals, of course, were amazing, and I thought most of the cast were pretty good, Macht as the Spirit was cool, he fit the vibe and character very well, and Sam Jackson owned his Octopus (in his finest form since Pulp Fiction... over the top? Hell yes. Sublime? Hell yess!), the commissioner (that Wonder Years dad), and Jewish police gal (whom I didn’t recognize) were cool too.
The action was pretty cool too, it starts off great, with a slam bang Octopus v Spirit dust up, and finishes strong in the same vein.


Well, yes, there's a lot, but for me the flat to odd performances were cleary due to Frank's inexperienced hands, and mostly forgivable. I mean, with the whole tone here, it’s acceptable, and maybe even better with some really bad acting… Scarlett Johansson’s Silken Floss was the worst offender though, and not much surprise there... Scar Jo is pretty dry, and her beauty is best served in a certain light, Miller and co missed the mark here and didn't cater her costuming, makeup, whatever to bring that out, which is a huge mistake... to say nothing of her wooden performance (call it prequel syndrome, with George being the other big offender here, taking mostly top notch talent and making them utterly lifeless and dead eyed on screen).
However, as much as the directing of the actors was lacking, or uneven, by far the worst offender was the dreadful score. My god! Look, I'm not a big soundtrack honk, but these big budget franchises with generic or nonexistent scores (Iron Man, X-Men, FF, Hulk, etc) look superb compared to the work in The Spirit. The soundtrack here is downright annoying and distracting! It's almost like the producers knew they were in big trouble with the uneven directing/performances, so they tried to zing things up with the most obnoxious distracting score, that pulls you out of half the scenes. Awful. Just awful. There was one moment, mid movie, the elevator scene, where they had a snippet of jazz, and wow, something jazzy would've really suited this film better throughout.


So, yeah, if you're averse to Miller's over the top, broad stroke, lead heavy storytelling, or out for more Dark Knight/Iron Man modern contemporary ultra realism, this is clearly not for you, but, if like me, you're open minded and out to have a fun time at the movies, and be swept into an amazing new worlds, The Spirit DOESN'T disappoint!
Myself AND my wife really enjoyed it, and it's too bad that the films shortcomings will likely overshadow what's a fun, daring comic book movie that's clearly not for everyone. Come on all you Miller haters, get over yourselves… the man may turn off many, may not be what he once was, but he is a visionary artist, that continues to stay true to his self, and if he wants to try his hand at bringing his trademark style to the screen, as opposed to directors aping it, fine by me, and maybe he'll get it better next time (or maybe it'll be an even bigger mess).


Now, what did all of you think?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

TALES FROM NETFLIX: Turning Japanese

Watched a couple of off-the-beaten-path Japanese flicks recently, VERSUS and Takeshi Miike’s SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO, so thought I’d give them a mention together...

First up, VERSUS

Just finished watching this one, and it’s a bit older, been kicking around since 2000, but I’d heard of it quite a ways back and put it in the queue, since it was supposed to be gonzo action with a touch of zombie, then when it got a plug on Attack of the Show’s Asian Underground, I dug it out and bumped it up.

To be honest, as much as I wanted to like it, I did have a really hard time not ejecting it, several times, but, I am glad I stuck with it. As much as it has really cool action and staged conflicts, and stylish anime style camerawork and characters, it does move very very slow when not in action, and get a bit repetitive. However, things do escalate, and get cooler.

Also, it’s not really a zombie flick, and I knew that, but don’t get it expecting that. Basically, an escaped prisoner intervenes in some kind of gang incident in the woods, but it turns out everything ties together, and the woods aren’t what they seem, when bodies start dropping, and then getting back up.

Choreographed sword fights, gun fights, fist fights, and 50 caliber damage!
RECOMMENDED if this sounds like your type of thing, it's definitely worth a watch, just be patient.

Along the same lines is a recent release from Japanese gonzo master, Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer), SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO

Takashi Miike has built a strong brand for himself as the cutting edge Japanese director, who traffics in the extreme, plus he’s quite prolific. Now, I haven’t seen too much of his work, but what I have seen is definitely gripping, if you can stomach it. With his latest release though, Miike is giving us his take on the spaghetti western genre, and is in safe mode by comparison. Django also features Quentin Tarantino in a cameo, so it’s gotten a bit of buzz.

As with Versus, I found Django a bit tough to get into at first, and contemplated giving up, but just like Versus again, I’m glad I stuck with it. Django plays like a straight western, but thematically it’s purely Japanese. Only, instead of choosing subtitles or dub, Miike has the cast here learn their lines phonetically in English, just as he did with his Masters of Horror feature, Imprint (also recommended, but very very dark), which is a bit strange, and so is the movie.

Stick it out though, because it’s a solid story, and has some fun and imaginative standoff/showdown sequences.

A ballet of gunplay, costumes, and blazing gatlins!
RECOMMENDED, again, if you’re ready to be challenged with some offbeat Japanese spaghetti western craziness.
For more Netflix gems, hit up the TALES FROM NETFLIX archives HERE

Friday, December 19, 2008

TALES FROM NETFLIX: From Dusk Til Dawn and on and on

So, I'm a huge Rodriguez, and Tarantino fan (especially Tarantino), but I didn't much care for From Dusk Til Dawn when it first came out, I can't stand Juliette Lewis, and the whole vampire twist wasn't my thing at the time... I'd never been much of a horror movie buff, til more recent years. Now I get the whole inspiration and everything behind it, and just love horror movies of every variety yadda yadda.

Anyway, re-watched Dusk Til Dawn earlier this year, and didn't realize they ever made sequels, so I'd been checking those out.

I watched Dusk Til Dawn 2 (Texas Blood Money ) a month or two back, and while it was fun, it didn't tie into the first movie too much, and wasn't really that good. It has it’s moments, and some flair here and there, but is otherwise pretty forgettable…

However, I just watched Dusk Til Dawn 3 (The Hangman's Daughter - 1999) tonight, and that is a hell of a lot better... a really fun movie.
It's well done, great cast (mostly), great costumes, designs, sets, music, you name it, all very solid.
The story is also great too, as it's a prequel this time, set in Mexico in the early 1900's, that has outlaws, Christians, lawmen, and more all colliding, and eventually having it out at the infamous vampire pyramid home that would become the Titty Twister in the later films.

Some great gunplay, humor, gore, and damn, Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison, the clone man himself) as a hangman/Indiana Jones bad ass. Not to mention Michael Parks (Grindhouse) is super cool throughout, and Machete (Danny Trejo as the barkeeper) as the only actor to appear in all three films (I think).

From the imaginative story, to the quality production, and colorful cast of characters, the movie is full of quirky touches that make Dusk Til Dawn 3 stand out as an overlooked camp/horror/action/adventure gem!

Check it out if you haven't!

And for the die hards, Texas Blood Money might be worth a look, there's nothing to great about it, but it's not a bad way to spin up your DVD player...

FROM DUSK TIL DAWN 2 - MILDLY RECOMMENDED (If only for the Bruce Campbell cameo!)

Dusk Til Dawn 3 TRAILER:

And who can forget this scene, man woman or child, from the original?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I was finally able to catch Quantum last night, as I'd been dying to see it since it hit, but my wife's not big on going to movies, and my Mom had actually mentioned wanting to see it, but it turns out my Dad and wife not so much. So with the holidays and everything, it took a bit to get on the same page, as I absolutely had to see this in the theater, so my mom and I went last night... probably not your typical Bond ticket buying demographic ;)

So, how was the movie?
Was it worth the wait?
And what did mom think?

Quantum of Solace kicks ass.

Casino Royale? An appetizer, a slow burn origin to this new, lean, mean, ass kicking machine that is an utterly modern spin on the shoe worn franchise, wholly unleashed from the opening frame, clear up to the final, where perhaps we catch a glimpse of evolution and resolution. And just as Casino takes us directly to the start of Quantum, most likely this latest chapter does to the next. Because it’s not just James Bond the character who’s been totally reworked, and the world he exists in, but also the framework of the franchise, to include an ongoing, over arcing story. One that, frankly, seems asinine to not have existed before… we all follow her majesty’s secret agent from film to film, over decades, but we’ve never been acknowledged in doing so, not to any great extent. This new spin finally takes that into consideration, not only giving us a fresh start, new approach, and origin, but an ongoing story, unfolding in layers.

Quantum peels back the next layer, and starts to get at what, and who was behind the tragedy that befell our superhuman spy the last time out, and while it resolves some of that, it also unfolds more layers and points to a much larger tale afoot. It’s simply great storytelling, and when it’s coupled with even smarter set pieces, increased pace, an amazing character growing before our eyes, all with fantastic acting, production, and direction, Quantum of Solace maintains Casino’s momentum, accelerates it, and slings you into the much anticipated next chapter of Daniel Craig’s Bond franchise.

And for those that find it doesn’t carry enough of the elements we've come to expect from Bond films, i.e. the gadgets, girls, and goons, I’m not among them. I thought, just as with Casino, there were a ton of techie tools in play, and next gen gadgets that are either already in use, or believably could be. And while both films feature new, stronger female counterparts, and more grounded villains, this Bond still has plenty of game with the ladies, and I think we’ll get bigger villains as the story progresses. And there are plenty of nods to cannon along the way, in scenes like the one when Bond escapes MI6 at the hotel but meets up with M in classic Bond profile, or when a woman turns up dead on a bead in that same hotel, covered head to toe in oil (as opposed to gold).

My only complaint, as with the first, is the tricky balancing act of a James Bond franchise that very much lives in an ultra real world setting, it can some times be too over the top, in contrast with it’s grounded nature. Although, my qualms with this in Quantum are much better than with Casino’s ridiculous set driven Venetian villa collapse climax. So, as with Casino, it’s not perfect, but it’s damn close!

I absolutely loved Quantum, it is an exhilarating, gorgeous, and dangerous next level of Bond storytelling!!

Oh, and mom loved it too :)