Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
Rated R because it really wants to be an '80s raunchy comedy. There's sex, nudity, cocaine, language, grand theft auto, vomiting, and blood. The odd thing is that, with all that stuff in the movie, it still hedges its bets for a wide audience. I never really felt like I was watching a dirty movie with the exception of one scene. Most of the movie really rides the rom-com train all the way to the station. Regardless, it still has the content. R.
DIRECTOR: Michael Dowse
It really didn't start off so bad. I mean, sure, it was trying pretty hard for its opening gag. But it is a rom-com that has a pretty generic title. If its a rom-com, I was probably watching it to impress my wife. About half-an-hour in, she kind of abandoned ship and just started reading about the movie instead of actually watching it. It's not a great movie. It's actually kind of what I have a problem with when it comes to rom-coms in general. But this one probably has the added problem with the fact that it is seriously suffering from not knowing its intended audience.
I remember trailers for this movie and thought it wouldn't be a bad movie to see. When it completely crashed and burned at the box office, I wasn't going to power through it. I know that I was sold almost entirely by the soundtrack and the '80s vibe. This analysis / critique will be a list of crimes that the movie commits. Some of them will be outright nitpicky. But the thing that bugged me most is that I felt manipulated in this movie. Maybe when director Michael Dowse and the many carryovers from That '70s Show decided to make this movie, some of them probably wanted to return to the '80s staple of the raunchy comedy. I'm sure that the goal, at least at one point in time, was to make Porky's for the new millennium. That's why the movie is set in the '80s. This movie is not that. Again, it has raunchy stuff. I mentioned that in the MPAA section. But without putting too fine a point on it, the movie is really trying to get the widest demographic while also being a little filthy. This leads to the title and the setting. The movie is set in 1988. You can tell because the title of the movie is Take Me Home Tonight, which never actually appears in the move. The movie teases a lot of rad '80s songs. The font screams 1980s as we explore Topher Grace's yearbook. But that's really all that really cements this movie in the '80s. The movie has nothing to do with 1988. It isn't a love letter to the era. It's not locked into this special moment in time. Rather, the setting is just bait for the nostalgia nerd. It plays some good songs. Some people dress a little bit goofy. But there's no reason that this movie couldn't be set in 2007. (It wouldn't be set in 2011 because this movie sat on a shelf when the studio realized it wasn't a great film.) There are some really great nostalgic pastiche films and television shows. Wet Hot American Summer roots itself in the sex comedies of the '80s. Films like Super 8 and TV shows like Stranger Things hearken back to a simpler times when the lack of Internet would leave small towns isolated from the rest of civilization. But Take Me Home Tonight really wants you to ignore its movie and just go see it for the great music and the neon vibe that the font evokes. There are times in the movie where I completely forget that the movie is set in 1988. In fact, we even had a hard time agreeing what year the film is in, thinking that the movie screamed more '90s than anything else. It's a bummer because it all just feels cheap.
The message of this movie is uncomfortable as heck. On a barebones look at the movie, it really is just derivative of lots of other romantic comedies. I don't think that a lot of thought was put forward to the foundation of the story. Overall good guy Matt Franklin, played by too handsome nerd Topher Grace, hasn't gotten his life together. He has the worst problems: he is too smart and has too many options to move on with his life. But he has graduated from MIT and fakes having a job at Goldman Sachs to impress the girl of his dreams. Too bad she works in the same field. I mean, we know the structure of the film. He impresses her time and again, until she finds out that he is lying. There's no issue there. It's pretty cut and dry. Even from a slightly moral attitude, the movie kinda sorta addresses the problems with being stuck in arrested development. But it also just kind of works out for him. The movie does a lot of telling and not showing. I want to contrast Matt Franklin to Cameron Frye. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris addresses the audience, telling them that Cameron is too tightly wound. But the message of the story isn't constantly bombarding him with reminders of how much of a stick in the mud he is. Instead, Cameron is desperate to impress and have people like him. Through the course of his day, he discovers his own value and learns to let go. When he has his big cathartic moment, he isn't told that he has to let go. He just lets go. Compare this to Matt Franklin. Matt actually seems remarkably well adjusted, considering that his life isn't working that great. But everyone constantly reminds him that he lacks success. When he's lying about having the Goldman Sachs gig, he keeps being reminded that the real world sucks. He knows that he's actually better than the people around him that are putting in the time and effort. It's only after he gets caught and taught a lesson that he agrees to do something with his life. The movie doesn't even give us a firm plan about what he's going to do. It's very light on its moral choices. It knows that it needs a character change for Matt, but what that entails is very loosey goosey. Actually, the only reason that he's actually honest about lying (right?) is that he achieved his goals. He bedded his infatuation and then she said that he was honest. (What irony!) Listen, being stuck in that period of development is a bummer. The problems are real. But I don't think that this movie would give anyone a good kick in the pants to pursue their dreams or to move out of their parents house.
If anything, the movie even muddies its own premise. I'm pretty sure that this is the movie that Chris Pratt and Anna Faris met. I know, I'm raw still too. But he's kind of a dope. He's an innocuous dope for a lot of the film. He proposes and Faris is all thrilled about it until Matt talks her out of it. He kind of craps all over her dreams and she starts seeing this guy through his eyes. Pratt's character is an archetypal jock. He's dumb and gets the girl. His ideas are regressive. But those traits only come out after Matt mentions them to his sister. Is he a bad guy, or is Matt's distaste for Chris Pratt's character coloring Faris's eyes? The thing is, he kind of becomes a bad dude afterwards. This is the problem I have with this. Faris's character is the foil to Matt. They are siblings, but she really kind of has her life together. She's about to get married and she thought that she loved that guy. She has a job. But before she moves onto the next step of her life, committing to a guy that she seems to have cared for for a long time. She's totally right. Matt is acting like he's the doting brother, but he's also putting his own problems on her. She's moving and growing and that all of the sudden becomes a bad thing. Is the film about growing out of those trappings or is it about how we're just going to follow tropes throughout. I mean, Faris gets second billing in this movie and she's not really in it that much. Dan Fogler is in this movie a ton and he gets third billing. Heck, the leading lady of the movie, Teresa Palmer, doesn't even get main billing. So that character has to mean something. Faris has to mean something and she kind of just leaves the movie disillusioned about what is right and what is wrong. Yeah, she smiles a lot because of Matt's successes. But why would she care so much about what Matt went through. In one night, she went from moving in with her boyfriend, to getting engaged, to being rejected by Cambridge and single. Why is she so happy? She wasn't unhappy with her boyfriend. Yeah, he's imperfect, but that's far and away not the same as being awful. They had to awful him up just to make the movie work.
The weirdest thing about this movie: its attitude toward cocaine. I don't think I've ever seen such a pro-cocaine movie. I guess I shouldn't really be the guy writing about this because I'm criminally straight edge. But I've kind of appreciated pro-pot movies because they can be funny. But the attitude that this movie takes towards cocaine is outright funky. Basically, we have the first-time-using-drugs trope. Everything is larger and character let out inhibitions. It's weird, because Barry already seems pretty extroverted and in-character. Yeah, he has some cocaine fueled adventures that may put him off of it. But the movie never actually takes the stance that he made a mistake for taking cocaine. If anything, Michelle Trachtenberg is attracted to to the cocaine-fueled Barry. There's also a scene where Matt just casually wants to use cocaine because he got caught in a lie. The boys agree never to do coke again when they are confronted by Matt's police officer father, but that's not a problem with the cocaine, so much as they are bargaining to not go to jail. I know that the movie ends with the right result, but this movie really makes cocaine look rad. Also, I know that the studio shelved the movie for a couple of years trying to figure out its cocaine problem. But man, it's such a weird choice. I would almost applaud the movie for trying to do something different with a taboo, but it doesn't. It just takes the "accidentally taking acid" trope and applied it to a way scarier drug. At the end of the day, I don't worry about Barry or Matt's life after their brush with cocaine. Also, both of them took it willingly. It's just an odd choice. I don't know why it had to be cocaine. Yes, cocaine is funnier. But the jokes are the exact same as some other drug being used.
I mean, me dunking on Take Me Home Tonight isn't shocking. I would love to be the guy who offered the fresh take that really sold this movie. It is a rom com, but it also wants to be Superbad. It really doesn't do any genre particularly well. The movie suffers from lacking a voice on one thing. Maybe this is an instance of studio pressure trying to market it to everyone, but the movie ends up being a watered down version of all opinions.
Superman Returns (2006)
PG-13 because Superman borderline has his own crucifixion in this movie. Also, the most noble hero of all time apparently has had premarital sex (which happened in Superman II and doesn't really deal with fatherhood in the most responsible way.) Otherwise, the movie is full of danger and action set pieces that could be anxiety inducing for younger audiences. I mean, it's Superman Returns. I'm going to talk about some dark stuff, but the movie almost seems ignorant of what it is showing on screen.
DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer
Brandon Routh just announced that he's going to play Superman again on the CW Arrowverse. Yeah, that's a good reason to rewatch this movie. Here's the deal: I adored this movie at one point in time. I had a really gnarly Superman Returns poster hanging in my room in 2003. I was in college. It was a different time. Also, I always hate old me. I don't know how I expect to get people to like me if I keep mentioning me that this current iteration of me is going to suck one day, but I've also stressed that I'm a huge hypocrite. Anyway, I was obsessed with Superman Returns. It was a tonal continuation of one of my favorite movies of all time. I've finally run into another movie that doesn't hold up like it used to.
No one really loved Superman Returns. Okay, fanboys and the unobjective love Superman Returns. I still think that this movie is way better than Man of Steel. (What if I write this blog for so long that one day, I'll like Man of Steel? Gah.) The biggest complaint I hear about Superman Returns is the same complaint I hear about The Force Awakens: "It's just the same movie all over again." Oh, yeah. Superman Returns is derivative of the first Superman movie. I can't deny it. It was written as a love letter to Richard Donner's original film. I get that. That's what I wanted and that's what I got. My complaint isn't that it hits a lot of the same beats as the previous movie. Okay, Lex's land grab schemes is a bit far, but I don't want to make that the center of my argument. What I really want to talk about is that Superman Returns got some parts really right and some parts really wrong. It actually takes a 2019 viewing to see how really problematic this movie is. Remember, in 2006, Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer were rad. I find it remarkably appropriate that both of them are tied to this movie knowing their reputations now because the theme of this movie is scary. It actually is really scary. In 2006, I was super duper lonely. It was a sad time. I was moping around everywhere. I was 23 and my love life was nothing. I would start dating my life three years later, so everything turned out okay. But I was a nice guy. I liked comic books and I liked being sympathetic. Some of you already see where this is going. For those who don't, I'm going to spell it out. I thought I deserved more. I kept being this nice guy and expecting something for it. Superman was my role model. Oh, I know. I had a fictional role model. I'm the picture of health. I'm not saying it's a problem looking up to Superman. He stands for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Yeah, I can get behind that. But Bryan Singer did something really uncomfortable with Superman that is really sly. He made Superman entitled. When Sam Raimi made Spider-Man 2, he talked about the trials and sacrifices that come with being a hero. Peter Parker experiments with not being a superhero. His life starts falling into place and things start to work out for him. But he realizes that he's being the bad guy by having his cake and eating it too. Superman Returns kind of plays with the same moral complexities. Superman did something very personal for himself. He abandoned the people of Earth, quietly. He didn't tell the people he loved where he was going and if he would be back. He simply left Earth and left Lois Lane all alone without a trace. What is interesting is that there would be consequences. Like I said, people change with time. I thought Superman Returns was a good movie in 2006. Lois Lane found a significant other. Samesies.
Bryan Singer, taking a huge risk, split apart one of the greatest fictional couples in literature. Yeah, I said it. I'm sorry, but you have Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, and Lois and Clark. I know. I teach English. I should be better than this. But Lois Lane and Clark Kent have always been one of those great couples. There's something about the chemistry there between the headstrong reporter and the Man of Steel that just works. While I applaud doing something different with the characters, especially in a film that is so tied to the past, there is a major problem with the result of this. What happens, and it is really uncomfortable, is that we root for them to get back together. I know, lots of movies have people leave their significant others for the sake of true love. I'm the one who always complains about it because I have a really high horse that constantly needs grooming. Because we need Lois and Clark together and Superman unangsty by the end of the film, he needs to be forgiven for his snooping and overinvolvement in Lois's life. I will give the film credit. Lois and Clark aren't formally reunited by the end of the film. Superman Returns was supposed to start the ball rolling on more Superman films that never happened. I'm sure that was set up for future films. But Clark, without actually revealing his true identity again, inserts himself into Lois's life without answers. He still gets to be distant Superman, but allowed to be in Richard White and Jason White's life. He has a very romantic flight with Lois Lane that I'm sure Richard would be very upset about. Richard is reading the room really well. He is one of those characters who keeps doing the right thing. He never becomes the bad guy boyfriend in the movie. He's jealous of Superman, but keeps that jealousy in check. It's really weird. Superman is Jason's father. He needs to be in Jason's life. But there's a part at the end where Superman sneaks into Jason's room. He parrots what his father, Jor-El, told him. But he does so from an emotionally distant way. He can't stop being Superman for five seconds. A lot of the film is Superman reminding the world of who he is. One night, and Superman has saved people all over the world. He's on every news station. Superman is meant to be an inspiration, but a lot of this feels like it is to stroke Superman's ego.
There's a line in the film that I never caught before. It's the result of a cut scene that has the line read real awkward. It's the scene that I refer to as the Crucifixion. Lex Luthor is torturing Superman on his new Kryptonite island. He stabs him in the side (eventually). That scene. It's the scene that I make sure that my kids aren't watching because it is a bit too brutal, especially considering the tone of the rest of the film. But a henchman is dragging Superman away by the head and the subtitles has Superman screaming "I'm still Superman!" It's really bleak. But that line makes no sense until you realize that one of the earlier versions of the script had Clark quit being Superman. The showing off element makes sense if you knew that he quit being Superman at one point. Okay, that's fine. But the film the way it is, Superman never really accepts responsibility for what he has done. He left Earth. From one standpoint, all of the disasters of the past five years kind of fall on Superman's shoulders a bit. But from a completely objective standpoint, Jason and Lois are his direct responsibility. Superman slept with Lois Lane, got her pregnant, and left. Realistically, he probably didn't know about the pregnancy. Okay, that's B- okay. But he also slept with the love of his life and then didn't tell her he was leaving. She raised this kid on her own. She found a guy who didn't mind that she had a kid with an unknown guy. Then Superman has the nerve to try to insert himself into Lois's life again? What? This even bugged me then. But the takeaway is that...he's Superman. He's done so much good that he deserves happiness. AND THAT'S WHERE THE MOVIE IS A PROBLEM. This is a stretch, but it's a stretch I can't get rid of. Both Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey have lived this philosophy. If Bryan Singer is the monster that people say he is, he keeps getting free passes because he makes really good movies. He thinks his art outweighs the crimes that he has committed. Kevin Spacey came out as gay when he was accused. He thought that he had gone through enough as a closeted gay man that he should deserve happiness once he revealed what he had gone through. That's the message of the movie. Superman drove a wrecking ball through Lois Lane's life. At the end of the day, it's all about Superman's happiness. Do people screw up? Yes. Can Superman screw up? Definitely. But he also has to stop being the Superman persona when that happens. He needs to create a third identity. Superman is for the people of the world. He is the hope and inspiration to millions, myself included. Great. Clark Kent, as most of the world sees him, is the dork and kind of a mask for the real Clark who grew up in Smallville. (Okay, he needs a fourth version.) He needs a version of the Clark who is just figuring stuff out. And that's the person who needs to interact with Lois. Not someone who stops by and becomes a father when he wants to be a father. He needs to be a dad who admitted that he screwed up. There's no romantic attachment there. He burned that bridge when he left. He's allowed forgiveness, but he still needs to be responsible for the damage he's done. Honestly, Clark Kent needs to show up at Richard White and Lois Lane's house, no glasses and tell them everything. He needs to apologize and be a dude. That's what's up.
In terms of actual filmmaking, there's so much good coupled with a bunch of stuff that aren't so good. I like Brandon Routh, the human being. I get the passing resemblance to Christopher Reeve. I always feel like it is so passing that I don't associate the two of them as the same person. Routh does a pretty good, but not great, impersonation of Reeve for the entire film. I wish that this Superman was somewhat different, but I get it. It's the costume and the contact lenses that really bug me. Man, that color blue is terrible. It's really...too much. I remember grumbling about the costume then too, but I put it behind me. It never really reads as Superman to me. I don't know why. I think it might be the texture and the colors. For a movie that completely embraced Donner's Superman, why was the costume a step too far? I get slightly modernizing it. It would have looked bad on digital. But that is a jump too far. I know that Singer had the same attitude with his X-Men costumes, but Superman looks rough. The real bad casting was Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane. Geez...I wanted to like her so much. I REALLY wanted to like her. I remember hearing that she didn't want to do Margot Kidder's character at all. But they were meant to be the same person. There are things that she could have done that wouldn't have been Margot Kidder, but would have been Lois Lane. I don't know why Lois Lane is afraid to be intense. The only Lois Lane since Margot Kidder that has captured that intensity was Erica Durance on Smallville (and I suppose Dana Delaney on The Animated Series). But at one point, it stops becoming Lois Lane. Lois is just boring in this movie and I can't really make peace with it. And for all my disgust for Kevin Spacey, he's a really good Lex Luthor. Like, that's what it means to be inspired by a performance without copying it. Spacey is Gene Hackman, but different. There are moments that resonate with that character, but he really wears it well. It's such a good performance and I kind of wish it wasn't. I want to be able to attack Spacey. I don't know why the movie copied the archetypes of Miss Tessmacher and Otis, but didn't actually include them. I like Parker Posey as Kitty, but she did confuse me at times. Regardless, there are some really good choices throughout. Oh, Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olson was inspired. INSPIRED!
I didn't have a bad time in the movie. But I did leave the movie kind of feeling gross this time. I'm a different person living in a different era. I still want to see Routh as Superman again, but I need it to be as far away from a Singer production as possible. There's entertainment to be had, but I think I'll just watch the first two Superman movies again, thank you very much.
PG, but 1990-PG. It means that they can curse and take the Lord's name in vain a whole bunch of times because they never really go higher than that. Also, Sean Connery straight up murders a dude and he's considered to be one of the heroes of this movie. There's a couple of Die Hardy things in the movie too. A guy gets shot up and that's pretty grizzly for a PG film. But it's not awful either. It's an espionage thriller that just happens to technically be rated PG.
DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
A while ago, Bob and I were throwing around the idea of watching all of the Jack Ryan movies in preparation for Amazon Prime's Jack Ryan television show. We say lots of things and this hit the bottom of our priority list. The only problem was that I bought Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in the meantime because it wasn't available on Amazon Prime. Then all of the other movies disappeared from streaming services, so I bought them on Blu-ray. I'm a modern day hero.
I'm going to write a lot about something that should be absolutely obvious. It's going to make you mad. It's going to make me mad. But it was something that I couldn't really get over for the majority of the film. The obvious statement I need to make is that John McTiernan movies look and feel like John McTiernan movies. I'm intentionally writing that statement to make myself look dumb. It seems really obvious. I just looked up John McTiernan's films on IMDb. He only made 12 movies. That's actually kind of shocking. I've seen the majority of John McTiernan's films. But The Hunt for the Red October felt like such a spiritual sequel to Die Hard that I almost enjoyed it just for that exact thing. I mean, it's a PG spiritual sequel to Die Hard, but those movies have such a specific tone to them. McTiernan made Die Hard in 1988. He made The Hunt for the Red October in 1990. These were both huge hits for him. But the way those movies are constructed is almost silly. I don't know if McTiernan had any influence over the script, but he used a lot of his tricks that he learned on Die Hard for this one. Personality wise, Jack Ryan in this movie is just John McClane. Ryan in The Hunt for the Red October is regularly put upon. He is continually loaded with inconvenience and the understanding that he shouldn't be the one to have to complete the job. I know that is part of the character, but McTiernan just drives it home with the constant belaboring of his situation. He even does the John McClane talking to himself thing about how he isn't supposed to be there. As an extension, I don't really feel like we get to understand Jack Ryan as a character. I'm never quite sure that Ryan is ever fleshed out as a character. We have the origin story keep showing up, the helicopter crash leading to him becoming an analyst. But in terms of actual substance, we kind of just get that he's a brainy dude who is right when everyone is telling him that he is wrong.
But because John McTiernan has his hands on Jack Ryan, Jack Ryan is kind of a more polite version of John McClane. That actually might be the biggest problem with Jack Ryan as a character. Don't get me wrong. I actually really like Jack Ryan movies for the most part. I don't know if I'll ever lose my mind over them. There was a time when I first started liking film in middle school that I thought I was really artsy by liking Jack Ryan movies. (Yeah, I tend to not like my younger self.) But the accidental byproduct is that Jack Ryan is less of a character and more of a vehicle for an actor and a director to decide who he is. Lots of characters have that issue. James Bond definitely changes between actors, but a lot of the same beats keep on getting hit. Sherlock Holmes is all over the place, depending on the attitude of the director. But I always feel like Jack Ryan wants to be one thing, but that one thing is only loosely defined. With a movie like The Hunt for the Red October, there is probably less to work with than in other films. I know that in Clear and Present Danger, we see a lot of Ryan in his sense of normalcy. But in Hunt for the Red October, we see him flying out in crisis mode in the middle of the night. Everything about Jack Ryan that we need to know about what his life is normally like is done through telling, not showing. We see a bunch of submarine books to give us exposition for his in-depth knowledge of submarines. We know that he has a daughter, so something to fight for. But he's already on a plane. Then, he's just given John McClane's discomfort with flying from moment one. He can't sleep on a plane, which is fun, but in light of Die Hard, it's him without shoes. It's a running gag that ends with the film ultimately allowing him to fall asleep on a plane. It's cute and all, but it's also wildly manipulative, not to mention kind of predictable. That's not a fleshed out character. But again, we hadn't had an on-screen Jack Ryan yet. I wonder what fans of the Tom Clancy novels thought of that adaptation. Maybe I've given it the most thought on the Internet, which sounds right. I'm going to stick with that.
I wish I had something original to say about Sean Connery's character. I mean, everyone has already said to death that it is hilarious that Sean Connery and Sam Neill don't even attempt to try Russian accents. Brits playing every foreigner is pretty hack at this point. I even appreciate McTiernan's attempt to ground it in reality by having the big shift of everyone speaking Russian to everyone speaking English. It's clever. I wonder how weird this movie must have been for Russian audiences, who probably never even got it. But the discussion on Connery should kind of go in a different direction, one that is only tangentially related to him. This might be the only movie to lower the stakes than raise them. By the end of this movie, the worst thing that could happen is that the United States loses out on a sweet opportunity. I guess if I really wanted to up the stakes to a potential apocalyptic level, I could say that we would be unprepared for a secret nuclear launch from an invisible sub. But the movie starts off with the stakes through the roof. It really REALLY implies that Connery is a rogue submarine captain obsessed with starting nuclear war with the United States. It makes sense because the bulk of the cast thinks this as well. It's only Jack Ryan who figures out otherwise. Okay, that's great. But think about how that completely subverts expectations for a film. The Hunt for the Red October is a fine film, but it actually kind of hits a "so-what" moment a few times in the movie. Ryan risks his neck out, not as someone who is stopping a nuclear war, but as a treasure seeker. The misleads are pretty intense. Connery murders a guy in the first few minutes of screen time in a really brutal way. That guy seemed plenty nice. But McTiernan is evoking some of his Hans Gruber stuff with the introduction to Connery. Part of this is the movie is coming out at the perfect time. Audiences are just about to emerge from the Cold War. I think the Berlin Wall came down in 1991. We are so used to the Russians being the bad guy. Also, while Connery makes a good hero, seeing him in this role almost builds on the idea that he would make an even better villain. He's James Bond, the guy who deals with the Russians time and again. Yeah, his films have established that the Russians are not to be trusted. That twist to show that Connery's character is sympathetic to the Americans is really a weird one. It actually makes the antagonists fairly faceless. The closest things we have to faces to our bad guy is an ambassador who seems to be pretty clueless, a Russian nuclear submarine commander who has little background story (kind of like the big henchman in Bond films), and a cook. The cook is almost just a monkey wrench in the works. It's a very odd structure. It also creates a weird tone. Okay, the mother of all submarine movies is Das Boot. I haven't watched it in a few years, but I remember my dad talking about it all the time. Submarine movies, I guess, have a certain reputation for being the classy war / espionage movies. I suppose it is the claustrophobia of the whole thing. But The Hunt for the Red October, despite being a mildly classy movie, kind of reads as a Michael Bay action movie with very little action. I can see Jerry Bruckheimer producing this film. It's really the submarine movie for the common man, despite the fact that it is heavily seasoned with Tom Clancy-esque jargon.
I'm not going to lie. The Hunt for the Red October was a different movie than what I thought I was going to get into. It's not on a list of modern classics, but it is close. I watched it, and thought that this movie was a lot dumber than I thought it was going to be. That also being said, I had a lot more fun with this movie than I really planned to have. It's actually a good time, with the exception of young Alec Baldwin's Bruce Willis impression. Listen, I love Die Hard. So for something to act as a great double feature with Die Hard, I can't complain too much. I wish McTiernan branched out a little more. But The Hunt for the Red October does the job it is supposed to do. I enjoyed it.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
PG for repetitive childhood trauma. This is a movie I watched a thousand times as a kid. I'm sure that my parents got mad at me for how many times I watched this movie and how many times it messed me up. I mean, Artax dies. I'm going to be specific because you need to be prepped for the saddest animal death scene you've ever seen. Gmork is terrifying. There's bullying. Actually, at one point, everyone dies but Atreyu, Falcor, and the Childlike Empress. The sphinxes are also topless. They are statues, but extremely buxom statues. I'm also terrified to see if my kid is going to skip school and read in the school's attic during a major thunderstorm. Also, Bastian's dad eats a raw egg. That's just disgusting. PG.
DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Petersen
I showed my kid this movie and now she's obsessed. She's looking over my shoulder as I write this, despite the fact that I tell her that it drives me nuts and that her dad is going to spit in her dinner next time. (Okay, she ran away.) When The Neverending Story moment got dropped in Stranger Things season three, yeah, I got really nostalgic. See, I'm in the prime time for nostalgia. My demographic is getting represented pretty hard in popular culture right now. But I always thought that the version of the '80s that we see is a pretty generic version of the '80s...until they did The Neverending Story bit. There's something so important about this movie and I didn't think that it would hold up. Besides having the slowest opening three minutes of any movie, it's still so good. Mind you, now that I watch it as an adult, it is even more amazing than I thought before. Maybe my parents didn't actually mind watching it a billion times because it is so interesting.
I never realized that the story that Bastian is reading is not only calling him to intervene and interject himself into the story, but all of the issues are metaphors for what Bastian is going through. None of Atreyu's trials are ever physical. Okay, he stabs the wolf, who lunges at him. Whatever. That wolf had to die someway. But he just kind of stands there as the wolf impales himself on a sharp rock. But Bastian's issue is that he is bullied. When Mr. Coriander confronts Bastian, he accuses him of not reading. In that moment, Bastian passes the first test. He spouts off a litany of book titles, all pretty impressive reads. He then steals the book. I want to look at that moment later. But he is a character's whose first reaction is to flee. He flees the bullies instead of fighting back. He flees Mr. Coriander's with the book. He avoids his math test and hides in the attic. His dad talks down to him and tells him that he practically doesn't really believe in him and that horse lessons seem to be out of the question. The Nothing, as explained at the end, is a manifestation of the end of imagination. I can't believe that I didn't pick up on the fact that the land was called "Fantasia" and that it represents fantasy. I feel real dumb right now. But the first real trial that Atreyu encounters is losing Artax in the Swamp of Sadness. It's called "The Swamp of Sadness." Of course, it is an allegory. The way that you fall in the Swamp of Sadness is that you allow your sadness to consume your thoughts. On topic, I guess, but was Artax depressed? Atreyu watches his horse die and he begins to sink. But Artax just falls like a lead weight. Did the swamp take Artax to make Atreyu unimaginably sad? In the Swamp, Atreyu meets the wise turtle, who fills him full of despair. He tells him that there is an oracle 10,000 miles away. Sneezing on him, Atreyu falls. Looking at the turtle, it is the despair of the real world. Atreyu technically fails this quest. Instead of making a plan to cross all of Fantasia in an attempt to save the Childlike Empress, he breaks down and succumbs to negative thoughts. Bastian, for what parts of the movie we see him, is constantly down on himself. He doesn't believe he can pass his math test. He doesn't stand up to his dad. He allows failure to overwhelm him. Coriander said that the book doesn't let him be safe after the book is done because it calls him out on his crap.
Then, the sphinx will not let anyone pass who doesn't believe in himself. Geez. It's right there. Like, it's right there. (Note: I never had nightmares about the wolf or the Swamp of Sadness. That messed everyone else. Real truth is that I was terrified of the sphinx. Perhaps it was the violent sexual imagery going on there, but I really have to analyze that.) Atreyu passes by running. The eyes open for the sake of building tension, right? (Also, for those people who are mad at The Lord of the Rings and the Eagles, why are you not citing The NeverEnding Story and Falcor for completing most of the journey for Atreyu?) I don't know how I let this movie not beat me over the head with the message. The second trial of the oracle is Atreyu's reflection. Whatever you see in the mirror is your true self. It sends people screaming. What does Atreyu see? He sees Bastian. I always read that before as a way to get Bastian into the book and scare him a bit. But Bastian Balthazar Bux (I REMEMBER HIS FULL NAME FROM PART 2!) is an avatar for all inquisitive children. We know very little about Bastian at the beginning of the story. We know that he's very creative. We know that he likes horses. We know that he's bullied and that his mom died. But it really seems, from a quick look, that Bastian is a framing device for the whole movie. He's not. He's the audience, assuming that the audience is the bullied and marginalized and not the bullied. When Atreyu sees Bastian in the mirror, yes it is a cool moment, but that moment is telling. Outside of the fact that it is some of the best meta storytelling that I have seen coming out of the '80s, it shows that Atreyu is the reader. Coriander spells it out with the Captain Nemo reference. You, as the viewer / reader, are the protagonist. The changes that the protagonist experiences are the messages for the reader. It's why authors have themes. We assume that, when Atreyu sees the mirror, he's going to see something terrifying like it is discussed. It is terrifying, but in a way that we're not really prepped for.
The viewing in the Mirrorgate is terrifying not just because Bastian doesn't expect to see himself in the book he is reading. But rather, the Mirrorgate is a call to action. It is easy to grasp onto an adventuring hero like Atreyu when there is no responsibility. But the Mirrorgate is saying that Bastian has the potential and the same qualities to be Atreyu. I know. I'm stretching, but I'm really not. Atreyu is an adventurer. But none of his trials involve violence or special skills beyond riding a horse, something his father has forbidden him to do. Bastian already claims that he has an affinity for horses and unicorns. There's nothing that really stops Bastian from becoming the hero of Fantasia. Note that the two people who are cynical about the end of the naming of the Childlike Empress are Bastian and Atreyu. The Childlike Empress looks at the screen and begs Bastian / the viewer to name her. Sure, "Moon Child" isn't the name that I would have picked. It is implied that Bastian's mother was named "Moon Child", which is a bit of a stretch. But Bastian is given the Auryn and control of Falcor. Yes, he waves to Atreyu at the end because it was literally Atreyu who did the acts contained in the book. But it is through Bastian's focus on the pages that allowed the story to happen. If Bastian had stopped reading, the Nothing would have won. The closer he got to the end of the book (The...Michael Ende of the book?), the less of Fantasia was around. Of course that the only thing left was the Ivory Tower. Bastian had explored everything else. It is through Bastian's wishes that Fantasia is reborn. He wishes to see more of it, so the Fantasy of his mind now exists. That's what stops the Nothing from completely wiping everything away. The naming of the Childlike Empress makes the story personal for him. By naming the Empress after his mother, he makes Fantasia his own.
It's so odd to see a movie that I knew so well when I was a child again as an adult. It's been a really long time. I watch trailers every so often and I didn't realize that this was a German movie when I was a kid. I don't think I really understood dubbing, or ever noticed that a lot of the creature characters were clearly done in ADR. It looks a little dated, but I still think it looks pretty epic. I couldn't help but think that I could watch The NeverEnding Story back-to-back with The Fountain. It think that both metatextual narratives would play well with each other. Also, the aesthetics of both movies would probably resonate pretty well. What's really weird is that the kid who plays Atreyu (and, apparently, Boxey from the classic Battlestar Galactica) is a pretty good actor. It always bothered me in the sequel that a Native American kid played him. But I should be way more mortified that they got a white kid to play Atreyu because he's straight up supposed to be Native American. Either way, the movie really holds up. I showed my wife and kids the trailer for The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter and they thought that the special effects got better. No thank you. I don't think I'll ever take Part 2 as the better visual treat. I adored this one so much. I said I wanted to come back to Mr. Coriander before the end. Did Coriander want Bastian to name the Childlike Empress? Is the book unreadable for anyone but Bastian? Who is Coriander? It's so bizarre. I want to explore this.
Check out our COLLECTIONS page to check out an analysis for every 20th Century Fox entry for the X-Men franchise, including spin-offs.
R. It's Deadpool. We're not in 2016 anymore. You can't assume that because a movie is about a superhero that it's for everybody. I know. Somehow, Deadpool has fallen under the radar for someone. This movie has all of the offensive content. The most regular offensive stuff is just the over-the-top language. But then there's some absurd ultra-violence. There's all kinds of sexuality and nudity. Really, you name it, this movie is proud to have it. Also, T.J. Miller is in it. R. All the R.
DIRECTOR: Tim Miller
Geez, I'm analyzing Deadpool. I knew that if I started doing entire collections, I would have to run into stuff that I didn't really want to write about. I'm not above Deadpool. It's a fun movie. Is it the greatest R-rated movie ever? Not really. Some people treat it like that. I know that it made the most money for an R-rated film. As fun as I thought that Deadpool was and the attitudes behind it were somewhat reassuring, there are so many R-rated movies that need to get this kind of money at the box office.
Like a lot of movies that have an intense fanbase, I have to say that the fanbase kind of ruins it for me. Normally, I'm a big supporter of fandom. But there's something particularly tiresome about cosplaying as Deadpool. Maybe it's because he's so mainstream. This is the hipster blogger talking. I'm the jerk who prides himself on his obscure Halloween costumes. I once covered myself in Kryptonian glyphs and was a Phantom Zone escapee. I was Jake from Chinatown one year, removable bandage and all. I was Morgan from Chuck. And the thing that impresses me about cosplayers is the amount of detail and obscurity that some of these costumes go into. I'll never really fall in love with the Deadpool movie because the concept of Deadpool makes me roll my eyes a little bit. This is on me. This is my snobbery getting in the way of a good time. Because Deadpool is mostly a pretty good time. Ryan Reynolds fought to make the characters fun and like the comic, perhaps with a bit more R-rating than I'm used to, and he completely succeeded. I think I've talked about this before, especially when it comes to the licensing of Spider-Man to the MCU, but it is absolutely insane to me that the behind-the-scenes studio nonsense is really public knowledge. People didn't know why certain things could or couldn't happen in a movie. The fact that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? exists is mind-blowing. But Deadpool's claim to fame is not that an R-rated superhero movie completely dominated the box office. Deadpool is a success because it is mostly a victory of creators versus studio execs who think that they know better.
There's still some stuff that you can smell execs on in Deadpool. Really, I don't think that Tim Miller really wanted Deadpool to physically look like the other X-Men movies, but he lost that battle. It really stands out when Wade is getting his powers. The whole look of edginess, mirroring some of the Weapon X stuff is tonally off. I really want to state what is going on here. I think that a movie like Deadpool can have some of that edginess to it. An action comedy doesn't have to be all laughs. But using the visual similarities of a lot of the other entries seems like studio flexing. But that stuff, in the long run, is pretty minor. There is one famously rough moment for Deadpool which is completely admirable that they worked through. The studio, having no faith in this project, apparently cut the budget at the last minute. You know how Wade packs all of those guns? Apparently, he was supposed to use all of those guns in the big finale. It was going to be a fireworks show. But the studio cut the budget and Miller with his team had to figure out how to make the scene work. Honestly, I don't know how they pulled it off, but it worked. Having Wade lose all of his guns made the scene great. First of all, the joke works. Forgetting the backpack in the car is a stroke of genius. But then, it also made Deadpool appear to be a force of nature. He's clever. He's oddly competent at stuff like this. It's baller, really. It actually sells the movie better, in my mind, than an outright gunfight. Mainly, because it would try to break new ground, but it would just be derivative. I am forced to think of Shoot 'Em Up and similar ultra-violent epics. But the end becomes much more about character. Also, really? A gunfight in a Deadpool story just reads as kind of boring. I know. It sounds weird. But it's such a distant thing. Having him work around that problem is the best thing for the movie.
I am very impressed by the fact that this movie exists, but it only really works as a comedy. I'm sorry. It has fun action, but if you excised the heavy amount of comedy from this movie, it REALLY doesn't work as a good film. Deadpool's origin is really confusing at best. Is he a mutant? Why is he allowed to gain his mutant abilities so late in life? Wade Wilson regularly exposed himself to high stress situations. Wouldn't those mutant abilities appeared earlier? Then, the rest of the movie is a "save the princess" storyline with a little bit of a lame Punisher vengeance arc on top of it. Wade is basically angry for being made ugly. I know. He was double-crossed and was about to be sold into super-slavery, but he got out of that. He's really hunting down Francis because Francis is able to make him look normal again. I almost prefer it to be because of the way he treated him at the facility. I know. It's part of it. But this kind of transitions me into something that almost makes Deadpool a kids movie. The honest-to-goodness moral of the story is "It doesn't matter what you look like. It's what's on the inside that matters." That's some ugly duckling nonsense. The victory is in the comedy. But superhero movies have come so much further in terms of character and plot that Deadpool really feels kind of antiquated. Yeah, I adore the jumps in the the narrative. But that's part of Deadpool's meta narrative. It's a gimmick that's so good that it makes you forget that it is a gimmick. But I think a lot of Deadpool's appeal is that audiences weren't really expecting that. I'm in a category of people to whom the movie doesn't sell as hard as it could. The general audience probably wasn't expecting a movie so in your face with its meta narrative and its childish humor. Hardcore Deadpool fans were a movie that really understood the character and got as close to a Deadpool comic as you could get. (Sure, you couldn't get the multiple personalities, but that's still very impressive.) I'm the guy who knew what he was signing up for. I knew that Deadpool was zany. I am glad that it was a zany movie. But I also don't adore Deadpool. He's fine. He's great. It's just that I expect good storytelling too.
I try to review franchises in order. I got a little all over the place because I didn't own some of the Wolverine movies. Also, I started this blog the same year that Deadpool 2 came out, and I already have something on that. But watching the first Deadpool movie actually reminded me of the constantly shifting understanding of what's funny. Sure, emotions change over time. I don't know if the writers changed, but Deadpool 2 seems cultural aware and straight up woke compared to the first Deadpool movie. I'm going to take a big step back and just state the obvious. Neither Deadpool film is necessarily responsible with its humor. It's first goal is to make people laugh. But watching Deadpool made me cringe a couple of times. It also really suffers from the fact that I now think that T.J. Miller is an icky dude. I know. Roll your eyes and call me a snowflake, but it's so weird to think that this only came out in 2016. That's no time at all. Maybe it is because of its lewdness and devil-may-care attitude towards the politically incorrect that shepherded audiences to the theater. I'm not saying that Deadpool is fundamentally conservative or progressive, but I get the vibe that some red states totally adored Deadpool. I'm completely speaking from the hip on that one. I just get the vibe.
Also, why isn't Wade really ugly? I should have talked about this when it came to the theme. I mean, the real Deadpool (and by real Deadpool, I mean the drawing of the character) is super gross to look at. You can see the muscle peeking through the skin at times. He has haunting yellow eyes and doesn't even look human at times. He's constantly rotting away. One of the running gags in the movie is everyone, especially Weasel, commenting on how it is impossible to look at Wade because he's so gross now. But really, he looks like a bald and pock-marked Ryan Reynolds. It's such a choice. I know that make up artists can do a lot more than what we get to see in the film. Again, this might bring me back to the studio making decisions. I know that there was no faith in the character, but there was also some hedging of bets. People still wanted to connect to Ryan Reynolds. I'm sure that someone threw around the word "toys" at one point. There had to be that guy who wanted to sell toys of an R-rated movie to kids. It's so weird how many times the running gag happens and he's not that terrible looking. It actually makes the story way weaker because Wade is terrified to scar Vanessa. But instead, it makes her look completely superficial and like a monster because she can't handle a scarred Ryan Reynolds. Like, if the story is about making someone look so gross that he can't return to humanity, it should be absolutely horrifying.
Anyway, it is really hard to talk about Deadpool as a piece of work. All I can think of is the corporate nonsense that went into making this movie. It's a movie that only got made because someone leaked some buried test footage of the movie and it went viral. An illegal act got this movie made. I mean, thank goodness. I enjoy the two movies for what they are. But I also know that if Disney does anything with the character, the story better be ttiiiiiggggghhhhtttt...
The Dark Crystal (1982)
PG, for kinda sorta '70s-leftover / early '80s dark fantasy stuff. Like, as an adult, it's not scary. But a puppet gets stabbed with a knife. Also, there's genocide. You don't think of it as genocide, because they're all puppets or children in costumes from a distance. But it's got some pretty intense genocide. There are scary creatures who try killing everything. Like, I was born in '83. I was hip deep in this kind of disturbing stuff growing up. But I realize that a lot of people weren't born in darkness. They had to adopt it. PG.
DIRECTORS: Frank Oz and Jim Henson
There's something absolutely hipster about loving this movie. I'm not saying that people don't love this movie. But if I was to give you the grand spread of Jim Henson films, claiming you love The Dark Crystal definitely says something about your personality. Hey, I got wrapped up in the pageantry of the whole thing too. I'm not above it. So many of the websites I follow won't shut up about follow-ups to The Dark Crystal, I suppose I had to rewatch it.
Here's a confession. I'm 100% certain I watched this as a child. It's in the same category as Legend, where I know that I've seen it, but I remember nothing about it shy of what pop culture references have permeated the landscape beyond the film. I don't think that The Dark Crystal has always had the strongest fandom, shy of the last five years. I don't know why there is now a surge in fans for this movie, besides rumbles of eventual continuation of the franchise. But I decided that I owed it to myself to really find out what was up with this film. If I was to be completely unfair to this movie, which I often am to a lot of movies, The Dark Crystal is such a visual feat that it is kind of a crime that so much of that movie is left uncooked. Like, a lot of this movie, for multiple reasons, takes a lot of shortcuts when it comes to storytelling. But I know what a lot of defenders of this film could say. The same is true for The Lord of the Rings. Honestly, the films are eerily similar. I know that a lot of epic fantasy can be tied to Tolkien's work in some form. I mean, Tolkien technically plagiarizes himself with The Lord of the Rings books after he wrote the template for it in The Hobbit. That epic quest through a world with the goal of reaching a location and accomplishing what should be a simple mission, yet knowing that the simple act is actually a great hurdle. (I hate that sentence as much as you do, but I have a baby who is sitting on my lap AND who is intrigued with how keyboards work.) But look how both movies begin. Both Peter Jackson's films and The Dark Crystal begin with a shorthand of a great and complex history of the land. But for some reason, Jackson's works better. I may be infusing some of my love for the movies on top of that, but I feel like Jackson gives us the bare minimum that we need to know about Middle Earth. He tells us about the forging of the rings. But more so, he does show us the major moments in time. One of the things that really bug me about The Dark Crystal is that we get a painfully verbose infodump at the beginning of the movie with very few visuals to help us really understand the world. Henson made this really in-depth world with so much detail, but asks us to kind of jump into the deep end with it.
It's biggest burden is its short run-time. I'm thinking about 1982 Jim Henson studios. They want to make this epic movie starring puppets / muppets. They've got puppetry down to a science. They are the leading company to make a movie starring protagonists that are puppets. They want to blow everyone out of the water and prove that puppetry should be taken seriously. So they embark on this nearly impossible quest. They need to make this movie not only as good as its fantasy contemporaries. They need to show that puppets should be the only way to make stories that rival Tolkien's imagination. It's the equivalent of trying to make the first CG film. Or, maybe its the same attitude that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow had. But puppets, even for the most amazing technicians and artists, are time and effort. They cost money. Also, there has to be a sense of scale. The Lord of the Rings was an impossible feat. But Jackson also had a budget. He had a studio that really wanted to blow everyone else out of the water. He also had the patience to be only making one movie for the rest of his life if he wanted to. The Lord of the Rings works because it feels epic. The Dark Crystal, for as much as it accomplishes, feels rushed. It acts almost as a proof of concept video. I know. An hour and a half is a good length for a film. But they have this epic world full of history and complexities. Instead, the story really becomes about Jen trying to get from one place to another without a sense of how far that story would be. Frodo and Bilbo constantly remind us of the impossibilities of their tasks. The odds are against Jen, but Jen is almost ignorant of the dangers that he is in throughout the film. Part of this comes from the placid look on Jen's face for a lot of the film. As cool as the Skeksis look (albeit really hard to tell one from another), Jen and the Gelflings look like puppets. I don't know what it is about Muppets that allow me to empathize and relate with those characters, but I do. Perhaps its the silliness of it all. But that silliness allows for characters to over-emote. Jen only has a range of emotions that is pretty limited. I know when Jen is scared or inquisitive. For ever major action scene, of which there are a few, the camera has to pull back to allow a child actor to act as a stunt double. This made me think of the very nature of stunt actors. I suppose that the goal of the stunt actor is to appear invisible. He or she has to move and convey the mannerisms of the named actor on the bill. Really, it's an attempt to make us believe that the character can do all of these things. But when you watch The Dark Crystal, it's clearly not the puppet. I know. It seems silly. But that kind of leads to my main idea behind the entire viewing / article.
The Dark Crystal is more of an experiment in filmmaking. There's a lot of heady stuff going on here. I'm sure that the entire team thought that they weren't just making an art film or a step forward in special effects. There is a story there. In fact, it's a really detailed story. But so much of the important part of the film is talked about and not shown. Rather, we put a lot of faith that Jen's journey is important without really understanding the context of the whole thing. Everything that is important about Jen reuniting the shard of the Dark Crystal is talked about. The entire thing is linear. Because Jen's journey is an attempt to show off what the filmmakers can do in terms of setting and scenery / creature design, there really isn't a great importance to what all of these locations really mean to the greater tapestry. Sure, people who were making this movie know what these places all really mean in the end. I'm sure that Dark Crystal fans also have the same attitude. They know the maps and the locations. But like Avatar, it's all looking pretty without a lot of substance. I never really connect with Jen like I do with Frodo. It's not because he's a puppet. I connect with lots of inhuman characters created by effects workshops. It's just that Jen has time to grow. Instead, Jen has always been a member of this world. He is the last of the Gelflings, meaning that he already has greatness thrust upon him. Yeah, he's a reluctant hero, but he's really a reluctant hero that isn't all that reluctant. There are so many shortcuts to get this guy on his journey that there's never actually a sense of normalcy. I know. The rules of the plot mountain don't always have to be three. But the exposition does some very important things. The first thing that the exposition does is to establish the world of the story. The narrator does a lot of that. We never get to see, from the common man's perspective, what normality is in the world. Instead, we have a lot of narrator. In The Lord of the Rings, we get Gandalf's birthday party that shows what the world is like. Then, we also get to see how the protagonist views the world. Instead, our first interaction with Jen is mourning the loss of his father figure. What is normal for Jen? What is he fighting for? By cutting all of this short, it really becomes just a movie about a journey instead of giving us purpose for this journey.
The thing is, in no way is The Dark Crystal a failure. If you ever wanted to see a movie about directors and their priorities, The Dark Crystal is kind of it. The movie shows that stories, regardless of genre or tone, can be told using a different form of expression. I'm thinking of how long certain films weren't qualified for Academy Awards because they used CGI. This is the 1982 equivalent of that. I'm certain that there were probably many, MANY no's because this was trying to be a serious film using puppets. I'm super impressed by this film. I would watch The Dark Crystal for its effects sooner than Avatar. I think that Avatar has the luxury of having a lot of money behind it and a director who is playing more than anything else. The Dark Crystal is a challenge of filmmaking. I look at that movie and see an entire team who believes in the mission of the film and is probably exhausted because of it. It looks exhausting, the amount of detail on that film. You knew that stuff probably fell off of those puppets time after time. Every scene had to take forever. With a Muppet movie, you at least had the benefit of having human actors on screen to divert attention away from any kind of puppet mishaps. But in this, everyone has to simply trust the director. There had to be rehearsal after rehearsal. No one could really see what was going on and everything had to be timed with such precision. I can imagine the long nights, having to figure out how to make impossible shots work. Simple things as characters running probably drove people nuts. And then, to do the whole thing and still try to make it an immersive experience is mind-boggling. The TV show has the benefit of 21st century technology. It looks gorgeous from the trailers. But there's almost nothing rag tag about the new show. I'm just in awe that The Dark Crystal actually exists. Yeah, it's not my cup of tea. I often found myself bored. But my daughter, she lost her mind. My son often makes me pretend that I'm the Skeksis and attack him. There's something there and I think that the TV show can actually do a lot with this model. I mentioned that this is almost proof of concept. The TV show will prove whether or not I'm right.
Update: I'm Slowing Down
I'm just writing this to let everyone know that I need to slow down. I've been writing this blog for three years. It was never my goal to watch five movies a week and write five essays a week on those movies. These analyses have grown to be quite long and I'm now really tired.
I love movies and I'm always excited to watch movies. But it has started to be a bit of a chore. There are so many things about which I'm passionate, and this blog is taking a lot out of me.
I'm still going to be writing on it. But I'll be writing about what I watch organically. I'll get it done when I get it done. Thank you to readers who continue to read this regularly. I hope you keep checking back. I refuse to let this place become a dead space. Just don't feel too disappointed without daily content.
I still have two movies to write about. For all I know, now that this is off my shoulders, I might really enjoy watching some movies now. It also gives me the freedom to watch longer movies. When you watch a movie a day, it really detracts from films like The Seven Samurai.
The Wolverine (2013)
PG-13. These Mr. Knife-Hands movies are obsessed with Mr. Knife-Hands' butt. You see it in every Mr. Knife-Hands movie. Maybe you don't when he's old. I already broke that movie down. But there's a whole lot of violence in this one. Mr. Knife-Hands heals after getting hit by a nuclear bomb. That's not pretty. Also, there's lots of stabby violence. On top of that, Mr. Knife-Hands doesn't heal that well in this one, so the violence somehow seems more intense. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
Ah geez. I'm about to do another post about how I need to slow down. This blog is taking over my life. I'll go deeper about this later. But I should actually give The Wolverine the attention that any other film would get. I would say "That it deserves", but that sounds snippy and I don't think that I'm quite there when it comes to being catty. My biggest takeaway is that this is a much better movie than I remember it being. I also didn't remember that Jean Grey was in it, let alone all the way through this movie. I remembered Japan. I remembered the Silver Samurai. I remember that Days of Future Past completely negated the end of this film and that the consequences didn't matter. But this was like watching a new movie for me. I guess that's not the worst experience in the world.
There's a break between Days of Future Past (and technically Apocalypse) and Logan. By all intents and purposes Logan is the last Wolverine film. I can't argue that there technically is a Wolverine trilogy starting with X-Men Origins and then ending with Logan. But like what Old Man Logan did in the comic books, we understand that the world of Logan may not be canon. Rather, it's just great character stuff and a good story. The Wolverine, God bless it, is doing its best with trying to normalize what had happened in X-Men: The Last Stand. It seemed like so many movies wanted to undo what had happened there and there was probably a temptation to say that we didn't really need an epilogue to the events of a pretty mediocre film. But for the characters, who have to deal with some repercussions, it's kind of important. From Logan's point of view, his whole world collapsed. We're kind of used to characters making touch choices in film. That sacrificial moment becomes less and less impressive because we always have to imagine how a character would adjust to making the difficult decision. It's actually somehow become part of our tapestry. I'm going to evoke Star Wars and Luke. While I never really understood Luke's attachment to Ben Kenobi, I accept it. He treated him like a surrogate father and that's very much woven into Ben Kenobi's sacrifice. He has that sad moment on the Millennium Falcon, but it's back to action immediately. In Empire, he sees Ben's ghost and that should completely mess him up. Instead, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi is a plot point. I'm not crapping on Star Wars and lifting up Empire. It's because Star Wars is part of foundation of the trope of sacrifice that we're allowed to notice these things. Also, the tone of Star Wars is miles away from that of Logan. But I love that The Wolverine rests firmly on the notion that a sequel should have that character deal with the fallout.
Seeing Wolverine the savage / pacifist makes a lot of the film. The reluctant killer is something new that we have to deal with this character that makes him complex. I know that Origins kind of tried to deal with that same notion. But again, we don't really give Origins a lot of points for anything. Instead, The Wolverine is really an internal story. Before Logan, it might be the most character building movie in the X-Men franchise. This is what kind of bums me out about the third act of the film. The first two acts are really sparse on the action sequences (especially act one). Act two has Wolverine fighting some great fights, but he's definitely out of his element for those fights. The character isn't being the Mary Sue character that we've grown to know over the course of the franchise. He seems scared and reluctant to give his all. I think I probably had the same issue with Logan. Don't get me wrong, I adored Logan. If I wasn't so sleepy and overwhelmed, I would give Logan another go. But The Wolverine and Logan are both movies that focus on the character more than the action. I know I'm probably speaking for myself, but that's way more interesting than any action set piece you can come up with. I know. He's a comic book character. I just always viewed that argument as flippant. It doesn't matter what his medium is or what kind of stories we're used to. If there's something good to explore, the movie should explore it. Both The Wolverine and Logan take a story that is fundamentally about a character changing and healing and end the film with a big CGI mega-fight. Logan has the benefit of at least ending with the character fighting a giant metaphor, who he was. Okay. But the Silver Samurai fight doesn't really play with the idea of aging and coming to grips with one's past.
Having Silver Samurai be the man that he saved is a really weird message. I mean, it's the only way you really could end the movie. It has to all tie in together. But is the message that Wolverine's kindness and heroism has only brought people misery. That kind of contradicts everything else that the movie has hinted at. Yashida tells Logan over and over again eternity is a curse for some. By having Yashida actually prove to be the bad guy, isn't he right for the entire film? I know that Wolverine considers his long life to be a curse, but Yashida makes a really convincing point if realizing that, if he hadn't saved his life, nothing bad would have happened in this film. All of the people who died and all of the misery of the film wouldn't have happened if Wolverine's gifts weren't a curse. It's a really weird way to end the movie. Wolverine as a pacifist is really more interesting than him as a killing machine. That's actually what "Old Man Logan" by Mark Millar was all about. It was about a guy who refused to pop the claws. No matter how bad it got, he had a line that he wouldn't cross. Instead, the third act is wildly generic. I don't care how flashy it gets; it really just makes me want to yawn throughout it. We have Viper, possibly the least interesting and least developed X-Man villain we've run across. I leave the film knowing so little about her that I don't care what she's about. Also, the Silver Samurai is just kind of teased before Wolverine fights him. There's no real villain. It's Logan against an institution like the yakuza. Why would it be a supervillain battle? And then the movie ends with this big moment: Wolverine loses his adamantium claws. But considering that The Wolverine is about dealing with fallout, the movie itself creates fallout that we as audience members really never have to deal with. It's kind of a crime. I get it. Magneto probably just gave him his claws back.
And Professor X is back? I know. At the end of The Last Stand, it was teased that he had returned. But he looks like Professor X. This movie is supposed to be about dealing with consequences and grieving. It is about regret, yet it doesn't seem that Professor X has had any regrets. He actually broke his own moral code and has moved on with it all. We develop all of these relationships within The Wolverine, yet none of them really follow Logan outside of this film. What about Yukio (who is not the same Yukio as Deadpool 2. Apparently, two people having the same name is a thing that really happens)? Mariko is such an important part of the Logan story and I adore that we're kind of exploring the stuff that Frank Miller and Chris Claremont did in their initial mini-series. But this stuff should matter. I kind of want the film ending with Wolverine deciding to live in Japan. As gutsy as it seems to have Wolverine lose his adamantium, the movie does a painful amount of lifting to return him to the status quo. Why? I just watched Far From Home and the movie soars because it refuses to allow a status quo to happen. Maybe that's my big frustration with the X-Men movies. There's always an attempt to return to the status quo. Remember in The Last Stand where the film shows Ian McKellan pushing the chess piece with his mind? I enjoyed The Wolverine, but it is a really painful reminder that nothing ever changes in this franchise. Everything has to go back to the way it was. I want damage. I want growth and evolution. Yeah, Wolverine remembers Nagasaki. That's really interesting. But it doesn't change who he is. Let characters stay broken or build them in new ways. I don't want to see another Wolverine the way he was before. I don't need to see him fight big bosses. I want him to fight himself.
The Wolverine is a big step in the right direction for the movie, but it ends so so so poorly considering that it does so much work to not be another X-Men movie. Part of this screams 20th Century Fox, but I also think that it is an audience thing. People don't want a ton of introspection in their action films. At least, they don't think that they do. We simply expect for the last act to be bombastic, so they always have to be. It's silly, but it is what it is.
The Collections page has been updated with Spider-Man: Far From Home under both the Marvel Cinematic Universe section and the Spider-Man section. Enjoy!
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.