Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What I Watched In May

I've already written about the latest in the ALIEN franchise but here are the other two theatrical viewings for last month. 

About GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) I'll just say that although it isn't as fresh as the first film it still had more than enough energy, imagination and humor to make for a very fun couple of hours in the extended Marvel Universe. Ever since SLITHER (2006) writer/director James Gunn has shown himself to be a clever, witty fellow capable of making even large, unwieldy ideas easily understandable and abrasive characters somehow relatable. Frankly, Marvel is lucky to have him. This is a damn good movie and I can't wait for more.

But I want to single out two performances for praise. I've said for a while now that the easiest way to up the quality of your film is to get Kurt Russell in the cast. The man is effortlessly cool and a brilliant professional who adds immeasurably to whatever story you place him in. Given the right role he may one day actually be noticed by his colleagues as the shinning talent hiding behind that mountain of sheer charisma but until then we can just soak up his awesomeness in roles like Ego. As soon as I knew he had been cast in this role I knew he could pull it off and, indeed, just might be the only living actor able to play a living, planet sized intelligence without embarrassing himself. Russell is perfect here and shows once again that he can do damned near anything onscreen asked of him.

The other performance has already been talked about by writers my skilled than I so I'll just add my voice to the choir - Michael Rooker has been James Gunn's secret acting weapon for more than a decade and it's high time everyone else noticed how good he is. Here Rooker reprises his role as Yondo and is allowed to bring color (hahaha) and depth to the character that was completely unexpected. By answering the lingering questions about his attachment to Quill we get a beautiful and ultimately touching arc that shows Rooker digging into this criminal and showing us the wounded heart of a good person. He is fantastic and if these kinds of films were taken at all seriously by critics he would be nominated for a supporting actor award or two.

Sometimes when you see a film that is no good it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Such is not the case with KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017). There are two big problems with this movie one of which might not have been under the control of the director. But the second one is a direct result of the director's weaknesses and he should have known better.

I've loved Guy Ritchie's crime films, really liked his Holmes films and I think his stab at The Man From UNCLE was brilliant but it seems that he has taken the wrong lesson from those tales. Ritchie and his writers have reimagined Arthur and his band of blokes as a group of London pimps and criminals which might well have worked IF - and this is a big if - there had been any attempt to make us believe that these characters existed in the story's period of history. But there is zero desire (it would seem) to have these guys act like people would act in Arthurian England, so, instead we get SNATCH refugees running around being cool with knives instead of guns. It does not work and so often destroys the tone and atmosphere that the excellent production design evokes that it becomes completely irritating. Casting the characters as rouges with rough edges was a good idea but making them late 20th century pub blokes with dialog that feels lifted out of ROCKNROLLA was a huge misstep.

The second big problem is one I'm not sure Richie could have done much about given the state of things in filmmaking today. It would seem that because of the Lord of the Rings films we will never be able to have another medieval fantasy type battle without CGI creatures regardless of whether they are needed. From the first few minutes of the film we are treated (?) to the sight of several humongous  war elephants helping to lay siege to an even larger castle. They smash up against things, swing huge boulders tied to their tails and just generally stomp around causing a large amount of CGI damage. All this over-priced carnage is there only to give audiences what I'm sure is perceived as what they expect - big monster CGI beasts. I mean, how will anyone know this is a fantasy story without the big CGI beasties, huh?

It's pathetic unnecessary crap and it's clear that they were an addition slathered onto the film late in the game by someone panicking that people would expect such things in a film with swords and stuff. How do I know they were added late? Because the monstrous animals are never even referenced in the dialog! Wouldn't giant, tusked, castle-crushing brutes be a topic of conversation in the aftermath of a battle? Or during it? Or at some damned time? Ugh! What a lame mess. 

The List 

THE LORELEY'S GRASP (1974) - 7 (rewatch)
THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965) - 7 (rewatch)
THE OTHER HELL (1981) - 4 (Italian 'nuns get possessed' tale)
POINT OF TERROR (1971) - 5 (drama masquerading as a horror tale)
ROBERT KLEIN STILL CAN'T STOP HIS LEG (2016) - 8 (excellent documentary about the comedian)
THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966) - 6 (rewatch)
THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967) 5 (rewatch)
ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) - 8
CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) - 8 (rewatch)
TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016) - 9 (excellent Korean zombie film)
STRYKER (1983) - 4 (post-apocalyptic trudge)
PRIVATE LIVES (1931) - 6 (Noel Coward play adapted in pre-code style)
ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955) - 5 (rewatch)

1 comment:

Nick Rentz said...

The only thing I remember liking about Point of Terror was Dyanne Throne's..... talents.