Monday, September 12, 2016

What I Watched in August

As someone on record as a big fan of MAN OF STEEL and the much derided BATMAN V SUPERMAN it's fair to assume that I was quite excited to see DC Comic's newest cinematic effort. I figure I had better enjoy this run of darker superhero films while they last because the general bitching about their more adult nature will eventually destroy them. Sadly it appears that the frantic worrying about this has already hit the series with SUICIDE SQUAD. I was extremely excited when I learned that David Ayer was making this film because his WWII tank film FURY was an unexpected surprise. Dark, realistic and unflinching in its treatment of it's characters it was as if the film was calculated to show the hidden truths underneath all those great war movies of the past. I hoped that Ayer was going to turn that creative eye toward superheroes and from what I can tell that is what he did. Then the second guessing happened and we end up with this.

The first 45 minutes are a chopped up mess that shows that too many bosses were allowed in the editor's room. The film has a lot of story to tell us but it's as if there was no final choice made on exactly how to present things. The tales of the various characters get thrown into a blender and almost randomly shown to us through a series of flashbacks. That eventually makes it difficult to know when what we are witnessing is actually happening. It feels like the filmmakers had no confidence that we'd have the patience for all this character stuff and so contrived to just spasm-edit it all into an info dump. That was a mistake. A second error was the slash editing of rock tunes into the soundtrack almost randomly. Just as I started to get a handle on what the hell was going on suddenly another everybody-knows-this-one rock song blared out of the screen telling me I should smile now. No, no, no, no! I realize that the film is trying to use each song as an identifier for each character but it does not work that way. One might have been effective, maybe even two but when you get to three we all get it and we're looking for the mute button.

But..... once the plot begins to move, we know the villains of the piece, the Joker's plan to grab Harley comes together and all Hell breaks loose I enjoyed the rest of the film. In fact, if there is ever a re-edit of this thing that gives us more of the character introductions, smoothes out the choppy editing and gets us into the rhythm of the story faster it might be a damned good movie instead of an OK effort robbed of it's possible glory. You can see the dark, funny beauty of the original vision peeking out from around the corners where it was shoved. Stop second guessing a film  - once it's made leave it alone!

My original plan was to get drunk and then go see INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016). The film had finally appeared (for a single week) at the $2 theater and I could think of few things more fun than an inebriated viewing of a Roland Emmerich film. He and his team of talent-negative morons have never mastered the fine art of making good or even passable films so you always know the movie will suck in surprising ways. The first INDEPENDENCE DAY is still my benchmark for awful science fiction scriptwriting. I remember watching that mess on the big screen and wondering just how such a stupid script could be green lit for millions of dollars. It was so dumb I suspected it had been written by a third grader who rushed though the project to get out onto the playground. But it got made and made a zillion dollars so now we have this crap - an even dumber retread of the same idiotic idea only new! It is, of course, loud and packed with explosions none of which have any weight or relevance. Every plot point is telegraphed, every surprise obvious, every situation clichéd and all the dialog is pedantic. The film is dull, stupid and insulting. When I hear people bitching about big summer blockbusters THIS is what I picture and I like big summer blockbusters. Can't someone make Emmerich stop? Please. I wish I had actually followed my plan and gotten drunk. 

I had no real interest in seeing this new version of THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) but I'm glad I checked it out. It's a sharp and often touching retelling of the classic tale with state of the art CGI bringing the animals to life quite well. The bright, detailed visualization of the jungle is gorgeous always capable of seeming both welcoming and dangerous. The young actor playing Mowgli is good and the entire tale feels well paced with little wasted narrative that isn't built into the story effectively. All the voice work is excellent and they even managed to work in the greatest Disney song of all time (in my grinning opinion) The Bare Necessities! Good job on every count. 


THE BEES (1978) - 2 (rewatch)
BEACH PARTY (1963) - 4 (silly AIP musical comedy)
SUICIDE SQUAD  (2016) - 6 (first half's a mess but it finally finds its feet)
EMBRYO (1976) - 6 (interesting science fiction tale with Rock Hudson)
PASSPORT TO  SUEZ (1943) - 6 (solid Lone Wolf film that steals several plot elements from CASABLANCA)
SANTO VS. DR. DEATH (1973) - 8
THE 'BURBS (1989) - 6 (rewatch)
BLACK TORMENT (1964)- 6 (solid gothic mystery)
CRY_WOLF (2005) - 7 (rewatch) (solid murder mystery with a great end scene)
A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL (1973)- 7 (rewatch)
THE TRIAL OF SERGEANT RUTLEDGE (1960) - 6 (solid late period John Ford western)
KISS KISS, KILL KILL (1966) - 7 (fun Euro-spy adventure)
DARK ALIBI (1946) - 5 (not bad Charlie Chan mystery)
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)- 2 (worse than the original?)
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) - 9 (ultimate edition)
THE PHANTOM OF PARIS (1931)- 6 (good Gaston Leroux adaptation)
BLACK SABBATH (1963) - 9 (rewatch of the Italian version)
THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) - 8
DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933) - 7 (amusing but too light)
THE OUTSIDER (2013) - 8 (documentary about Antonio Margheriti) 


Nick Rentz said...

Now be honest, did Margot Robbies hot pants have anything to do with your rating?

Rod Barnett said...

A little. ;-)

Truly, there is a lot of great stuff in the film and you can tell Ayers had a vision but it got chopped to hell and back.

Nick Rentz said...

I've been thinking about rewatching Embryo. It's been about six years since I've seen it. I remember liking the end when she is elderly and goes into labor then Rock Hudson tries to kill her.

Brian Lindsey said...

As the Space Hippies said to Mr. Spock: "We reach!"

Glad to know I'm not so alone in loving MAN OF STEEL and BVS. With them I finally -- after 40+ years! -- got the version of Superman I'd always wanted to see: More Sci-Fi and much less silliness. The Ultimate Cut of BVS thrilled me... I haven't seen SUICIDE SQUAD yet (and your mini-review gives me pause), but I rate MOS and BVS higher than any Marvel film to date -- and I definitely enjoy the MCU. The DC films simply have an epic scale and operatic quality to them that Marvel hasn't matched.

Rod Barnett said...

You put it very well Brian - there is a scope and beauty to MOS and BVS that - as much as I love the Marvel films - isn't present elsewhere. It pisses me off that fanboy bitching will kill a chance at a mature version of this universe.