Friday, March 20, 2009

Summer Film Preview

Starting around memorial day (although moving ahead earlier and earlier in the year,) the summer filmgoing season is where Hollywood tries to cram all its earnings into a three month period (although by August they’re usually just dumping whatever they couldn’t get in earlier.)

While doing my brackets for the Large Association of Movie Blog’s March to Box Office Madness, I got to take my first real look at some of these titles. Some were surprising, some were awful, some were actually intriguing. Some...

Safe Money

In this category we have sequels and franchise films: Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Angels and Demons, X-Men Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Transformers 2, and to a lesser extent Crank 2 and the new Fast and Furious. Many people will see these primarily because they have seen the ones before and people like safe movies (or, rather, known quantities.)

Also, a good bet will be the family film sequels: Night at the Museum 2, Ice Age 3. Pixar will also have Up coming out this summer, which looks fun, and Disney might also get a chance to recoup from the Jonas Brother’s 3D movie with The Hannah Montana Movie (unless the tweens have turned on her already too. Fickle, fickle, tweens.)

Imagine That is a curious case, because Eddie Murphy makes two kinds of movies: good movies, and abysmally awful movies. I am optimistic this might actually be the former.

And, of course, there’s a stream of comedies, either of the “sweet romantic” variety (The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Proposal, When in Rome, and The Ugly Truth) or the raucuous Judd Apatow variety (Funny People, Observe and Report, Land of the Lost, The Hangover, When in Rome, Adventureland, Year One, and Bruno) (I seriously believe Seth Rogan doesn’t sleep or he has a twin running around Hollywood.)
And 17 Again, which falls right in the middle (safe but not saccharine):

It’ll do alright.

Weird Release Dates

State of Play

The Soloist

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Of those three, The Soloist looks most intriguing, but all seem more a fall release. I’m curious to their strategy of releasing them in the summer.

Things I’m Actually Curious to See

Well, more like, “thing.”

This is the only trailer I’ve seen (besides Up) where I said to myself, “I want to see that.”

What in the name of all that is good and holy?


Not to say it’s bad. It has the potential really go wrong, but the trailer’s sheer ridiculousness made me laugh so hard that it might actually work.

Not to be confused with…

Dear God, Why?

Dragon-Ball Evolution

To quote Rainier Wolfcastle: “My eyes! The goggles! They do nothing!”

After watching this trailer, I want to start a rumor. Next year 20th is doing an adaptation of Neon Genesis Evangelion starring Hillary Duff and a CGI robot monkey. Pass it on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Faith and Boggorah, top of the mornin’ ta yae, boyo, kiss the Blarney Stone, merrily we go along... It’s that time of year again where everybody wears green or gets pinched, the beer is green, and everybody is a little bit Irish. As someone of actual honest-to-god Irish heritage (although not evident in my name, like many modern Caucasian Americans, I got a solid streak [a little over a third] giving me a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism.)

Were this a serious blog, I might discuss “real” Irish-ness, through something like The Secret of Roan Innish. But I won’t. See it. It’s good. But I won’t.

If there is a more Irish symbol than the Leprechaun in the American popular consciousness, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine it. They fight, defending their pots of gold, and people are always after their lucky charms. But this Leprechaun…

Leprechaun (Mark Jones, 1993) is part of a series of horror films going spanning a decade. From Leprechaun’s 2 and 3, to Leprechaun 4: In Space (set in, as Wikipedia will tell us, in Space, with a hyperlink to Space, as in “the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction”) and taking a turn in 2000 with Leprechaun: In the Hood and 2003 with Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (and, unfortunately, not followed by Leprechaun: Back 3 tha Hood (In Space). This sequel, unfortunately, writes itself.)

I will admit that, until deciding to write this, I have never seen Leprechaun. I saw a clip of it on TV at one point in my early childhood and, traumatized, refused to watch the rest of it (I had similarly feelings towards The Goonies, primarily because I stopped watching after Chunk, tied to his chair, first met Sloth. I ended up turning off the TV, wondering what that strangely deformed man did to that little boy until years later. I believe I squealed and hid under my bed.) But, Leprechaun is most noteworthy for having a young Jennifer Aniston, and little-person and nerd hero Warwick Davis as the titular Leprechaun.

Warwick Davis’ other credits include Marvin the Paranoid Android in the unfortunate film version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (where, as the character tends to do, he stole the show,) Labyrinth, Return of the Jedi, the Harry Potter Franchise, and Willow, the latter is the primary reason I don’t try to sneak under George Lucas’ bed every night with a garrote wire. Thus, as you can see, he is a friend of nerds.

Look how hard they try to hide the little guy. I can only imagine the disdain of those who paid to actually see this in theaters. But, even then, you knew what you were in for.

I’m going to try my damndest to take this seriously and not damn this movie immediately. My thoughts, more or less as they happen, here we go…

20 seconds in and we get a rather interestingly lit shot of the Leprechaun limping down a flight of stairs. Warwick Davis certainly is taking this seriously, to his credit, he does get top billing appropriately. The production values are pretty standard early 90s. We learn immediately that those who try to steal the leprechauns gold are doomed to death.

Beginning with a woman with a pretty lame Irish brogue and the drunken Mr. Daniel O’Grady provide charmingly accented exposition and the chauffer with an American accent. And then gold! Leprechauns’ gold. Based on what we know, and the lightning, this is not going to end well.

Say what you will, this is actually very professionally edited. The camera isn’t awful and direction isn’t enough to make me gag. We have our first death within the first six minutes, when, posing as a child, the leprechaun bursts out of the suitcase (posing as a suffocating child) and knocks the lady down a flight of stairs.

It turns out the lady is his wife, although I realize this wasn’t well-established. But we do set up some good facts about the leprechaun’s limitations: it’s afraid of four leaf clovers but can only be temporarily stopped by bullets. Putting a clover on the crate, however, seems enough to hold it in a crate.

Now (pre-nose job) Jennifer Aniston is in a jeep with her “hick father” in North Dakota when she’d rather spend the summer in LA. I am aware Jennifer Aniston’s character has a name (Tori,) but I’m just going to call her by name. They happen to stay in the house where the Leprechaun’s being kept. Wait. What were a pair of stereotypically Irish people doing in North Dakota? Where did he find the leprechaun? Is it an American leprechaun? Have leprechauns followed the Irish diaspora? How in the world is any of this plausible? There’s also a tarantula. North Dakota is known for its massive tarantula populations. They also call this the “O’Grady Place,” which doesn’t answer the question at all.

Everything starts falling together: there’s a theme about Jennifer Aniston being materialistic, and she has a love subplot with a Joey Lawrence lookalike who is very much a salt-of-the-earth blue collar guy. For convenience, instead of calling him by his character’s name (Nathan,) I’ll call him “Joey Lawrence lookalike.”


Joey Lawrence lookalike convinces Jennifer Aniston to stay, although, even after rewatching it I’m not entirely sure how.

I’m trying to pick out just who the leprechaun is going to kill. My money’s on the painter (Ozzy) they just introduced and the dad. The skeptical little kid hanging out with the painter, Jennifer Aniston, and Joey Lawrence lookalike may all very well live.

There’s some more awkward flirting between Jennifer Aniston and Joey Lawrence lookalike.

Of course the leprechaun gets out, and he still wants his pot o’gold. He tricks the dumb painter guy into knocking off the four-leaf clover using the same “fake voice” trick. I wonder if this is the only gag in the Leprechaun’s playbook: hiding in something, using a different voice, then bursting out and killing someone.

The lighting is generally awful when they try to light the leprechaun. This is probably to conceal the makeup work, which seems passable at best. Best line in the movie: “There’s a leprechaun in the basement! Oh there’s a leprechaun in the basement!”

Another leprechaun rule: uncontrollable compulsion to polish shoes. Nathan grabs a ridiculously thin twin to defend himself from the leprechaun when investigating. “It was just a rat.” Lame, but could be worse. This would be my general review of the film, I suppose.

About twenty minutes in, and near the end of the first act, begin greatly regretting decision to watch movie.

Ozzy, however, is the best part of the movie, he has the best lines: “Hey, hey look up in the sky!... It’s a magic rainbow! Leprechauns and rainbows! It’s a sign! … No, no, no, no, we gotta go, gotta go see what’s at the end … C’mon, go with me, we gotta get to the end of the rainbow! There’s always a pot of gold!”

Half an hour in: leprechaun follows people on truck on tricycle in high speed. This shot somehow comforts me for a while.

Ozzy and the little kid find the leprechaun’s gold. The Leprechaun attacks Jennifer Aniston for some reason. Ozzy and his little brother get the gold appraised, and the appraiser keeps a coin. The Leprechaun somehow leaps out of a safe to attack him. This strategy seems to work for the little guy, so I can see why he keeps using it. He then kills on him by jumping on him with a pogo stick singing a version of “This Old Man.” I now somehow simultaneously hate and love this movie. He later attacks a state trooper by first ripping into his face then snapping his neck. If he can do this, why does he rely on his “hide in container and surprise people” strategy?

Over halfway through, not writing so much as being kind of bored. The film’s trying really hard to remind us of the leprechaun’s OCD urge to polish shoes, so that’ll definitely be relevant later. He hates Lucky Charms (easy joke.) He also uses a bear trap on Joey Lawrence lookalike, but he survives (everyone in this movie survives.) Somebody needs to light this movie better.

They call the police, but the police don’t believe it. Duh.

Leprechaun bleeds green blood. They think they killed him with a shotgun, but the Leprechaun jumps out of the hood of the car and then punches through the car windshield. Again, I must question the leprechaun’s tactics. It seems like he could easily force his way to his gold, if he didn’t have to rely on this ridiculous method.

Later, when Jennifer Aniston finds the gold as part of a plan to appease the Leprechaun, he teleports out of nowhere to claim it. Again, if he can do this, why in the world does he rely on the same “hide in OBJECT X and ambush them“ tactic? He’s upset because he has all but one coin, the one Ozzy accidentally swallowed earlier. I suppose he couldn’t just cut his losses and let them keep one gold coin. But meh.

“High diddly dee, a Leprechaun is me!” This is part of the way I can simultaneously love and hate this movie.

They pull the shoe trick, distracting him with polishing shoes.

I sincerely wish I’d watch this movie on fast forward. Cool shot of Jennifer Aniston walking down a hallway in the hospital.

After watching him chase Jennifer Aniston in a wheelchair I have a thought: for a guy with limitless magical powers, the Leprechaun’s primary tricks are using unusual vehicles and jumping out of tiny spaces. That is, of course, when he isn’t using superhuman strength and teleportation.

Suddenly, it’s just Jennifer Aniston running around being chased by the Leprechaun, appropriate for the “final girl” (per Carol Clover.)

Think they kill it, of course, Leprechaun comes back for one last scare. They think they kill it again, but of course not.

As to my predictions: The dad doesn’t die, but is hurt, but then again everyone is to a minor degree, but there are very few actual fatalities (by my count 3, 2 in the beginning, the sherrif’s deputy. For shame Leprechaun. That is not a respectable kill total.)

I was going to propose a Leprechaun-Chucky crossover but the end result would be so one-sided (say what you will about Chucky the Killer Doll, but at least he’s creative.)

Overall, the script is a solid C from director Jones. It’s got a couple of good lines, like “I traded me soul for me gold, you’ll trade ye life!” It’s definitely self-aware of what it is, but doesn’t cross the line into enjoyable self-parody (like it’s closest competitor, the Child’s Play/…Of Chucky series.) Direction closer to a C+, but still not exactly great.

I’d give this movie a C. It’s not great, but I really can’t say I hated it. That’s not true. But there are parts I definitely didn’t really really hate, and I was generally more bored than angry, and I’ll admit, I laughed a few times. You are not missing out for missing it.

So, this is Son of Double Feature, wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and High Diddly Dee, a Leprechaun is me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Big Honking Nerd Review: Watchmen (Snyder, 2009)


If you continued reading comics past the age of 17 one of two things likely happened: 1) you have deep suited emotional problems rooted in some kind of abuse and deep-seated anger that resolves itself in some kind of vicarious vigilantism, or 2) you read Alan Moore’s groundbreaking 1987 deconstruction of the superhero genre Watchmen. Possibly both. Anyway, Watchmen is the reason why Alan Moore is given license to be such a gigantic prick, because it is one of the best comics, quite possibly ever.


I’m definitely more a Marvel Zombie than a DC Drone, but many of my favorite comics do happen to come out of the Hallowed House of Superman and Batman than the Mighty House of Ideas (especially considering current editorial decisions, long story short, Joe Quesada sucks.) Watchmen is an incredible graphic novel, and if you liked the movie, definitely go and read the graphic novel.

Watchmen has been in development hell for 27 years (Terry Gilliam famously called it “unfilmable,”) and finally saw the light of day thanks to 300 director Zach Snyder. This is where I say how this movie is madness and we type in all capital letters about how this is not madness, and is in fact Sparta. Pretend that just happened.


So, for those uninitiated, Watchmen centers on a murder mystery, a conspiracy caper centering on the murder of G. Gordon Liddy stand-in and psychopath superhero The Comedian. Along the way, barring a few minor changes here and there and subplot or two dropped, it follows the general trajectory of the miniseries. How they managed to fit in the sheer amount they did was, in and of itself, rather impressive.

However, a couple of telling changes. The first involves the non-presence of cigarettes. I understand Hollywood’s intent here, trying to keep suggestible kids from thinking that smoking is cool or glamorous. But for a movie that has full frontal nudity and bone-splitting gore, preventing the representation of smoking on the off chance that someone will be influenced into thinking it’s cool somehow seems almost laughable. For that matter, the two scenes that come to mind are worse off because of it. In one, a character searching for a cigarette lighter on a high-tech ship accidentally activates the flamethrower, which, without her smoking, is just ridiculous and makes her character suffer because of it. The other, where in the comic a young Rorschach sticks a cigarette into another kid’s eye and proceeds to beat him mercilessly now ends with him ripping a huge bloody chunk out of his cheek.

If that last sentence didn’t warn you, this movie is gory. I recently reread the comic, and although it is certainly bloody and violent, I feel as though in this it gets amped up to a degree that is almost grotesque. I got the sneaking sensation that, given the sheer volume of Doctor Manhattan’s blue wang, we get more than a few hints of female nudity, an as-graphic-as-you-can-get-in-an-R-rating sex scene that drags on for ever, and excessive gore to try and have the movie convince us its not gay.

Which brings me to another point, very closely related to the last two paragraphs: DO NOT bring your children to this movie. No matter how they plead or beg, do not take them. Anyone under the age of 16 watching this movie is really, most likely, a bad idea. It’s an R-rated movie, and a hard R at that, and I don’t care how much they whine or what a cool parent you’d seem like for dong it, it is an awful idea.

And barring the ending (for the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it, but needless to say it’s slightly different,) I actually rather liked this movie. The casting and acting were great, good production design, good costumes, great music (even discounting the completely unnecessary MCR cover of Desolation Row,) generally this was a well-crafted film. It was fun, and I generally liked it, although it could have been better, and the main flaws were in the story changes and the adaptation. That wouldn’t keep me from discouraging this for anyone. And, at almost 3 hours, if you have to pay 10 dollars to go see it, at least you’ll get your money’s worth.


Overall, I give Watchmen a B+. Fun, decently made, but way too long, and is most likely the wrong medium to be made in. Had the deal gone through for a 12-episode animated hour-long miniseries (which is, in my opinion, probably the perfect medium for it outside of the comics themselves,) that would probably be A+ material, even with the story changes.

But, on the bright side, it was not this.