Lest you think quickie, cash-in sequels are something new, I have three words for you: Son of Kong. But if that only draws a blank look I can always hit you upside the head with this: the quickie, cash-in sequel producer Tomoyuki Tanaka churned out in the wake of Godzilla‘s 1954 box office success…without the original Godzilla‘s director or (with two notable exceptions) its cast.
Can you see the problem with that already? Ishiro Honda just had to go off and make Half Human. Half Human, for those unfamiliar, is a Yeti movie…’nough said. Whatever drove that monumentally bad decision on Honda’s part allowed director Motoyoshi Oda to win the big chair back in Godzilla land. Five months later he turned in a finished film…that almost sunk the franchise in its infancy. Why? Because – in spite of inspiring the “Godzilla vs.” formula that would go on to power the series for the next fifty-odd years – it’s just not very good. It came out wrong. Continue reading Godzilla Raids Again (1955)→
As I said in my Predators review, Robert Rodriquez earned the deserved love of millions for his quite bad ass, pseudo-mythic Mariachi films…though I only developed my man-crush on him after From Dusk Til Dawn, which is stillthe best vampire film of the last twenty years. (Yeah, that’s right. Eat it and like it,Twihards.) As a comic book fan, I’m supposed to have a similar man-crush on Frank Miller, but honestly I’ve hated everything with his name on it since about the mid-90s…round about the time he began publishing Sin City under the banner of Dark Horse Comics.
Even my love for Miller’s early superhero work is purely intellectual. I certainly appreciate its influence. Without The Dark Knight Returns, Batman as we know him would not exist…and neither would the rest of modern superhero film. Some might say that’s as good a reason as any to deploy a time-traveling cyborg with orders to kill Miller in infancy…but “some” might just be cynically stalling for time rather than actually talking about Sin City. Continue reading Sin City (2005)→
The first Nightmare on Elm Street is one of those remarkably few Slasher films where tacking on a cliffhanger ending actually worked. It felt like a thematically appropriate way to end that story because, as Tommy Wallace said to Laurie Strode all those years ago, “You can’t kill the bogeyman.” And what else is Fred Krueger?
The makers of Freddy’s Revenge obviously had no idea. So they just ripped-off Amityville II. Because what else can you do when a two million dollar picture pulls in twenty-five million at the box office? If you’re New Line, you let the writer/director responsible for everything good about the first film escape the reservation to go make The Hills Have Eyes II. The job of directing this homophobic little adventure fell to Jack Shoulder, who – to put it politely – lacks Wes Craven’s visual style. Continue reading A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)→
I’ve never liked Wolverine for the same reason I’ve don’t like most antiheroes: most of the time, he’s an asshole. Originally created by Len Wein so Bruce Banner could have someone to punch, Wolverine went to to be (arguably) the most popular and certainly the most recognizable asshole in the X-Men’s roster…for better or worse. Without him, odds are the X-Men books wouldn’t be nearly as popular as they are, and their three-and-counting films almost certainly wouldn’t exist.
That’s why the X-Men trilogy’s attempts to soften and humanize Wolverine always felt forced to me…a little too…disingenuous. True, apart from the occasional Odious Comic Relief piece, Logan’s softer side only surfaced when he was protecting The Children or trying to get into Jean Gray’s black leather pants. Both were noble goals that nevertheless annoyed me, bored me, and pulled the whole trilogy down into their gravity well. I spent three movies wondering just who this Hugh Jackman character was and why the films were trying so hard to convince me he was Wolverine? He was too damn nice, and his accent has a bad habit of shifting southwards. So for nine years I told Hollywood, “Quit pussyfooting around and give Wolverine his own film.”
When one looks at his early career it becomes extraordinarily evident John Carpenter wanted very much to be the Howard Hawks of his generation. Even at his lowest, Carpenter made sure to aim squarely for Hitchcock Territory. For one brief, shinning moment (called 1978), it looked like he’d succeeded.
Too bad nothing fails like success. And if your directorial debut happens to become the most popular, iconic and financially successful independent movie in history (at the time) you might as well just give up and die. Otherwise you’ll have to spend your entire subsequent career dealing with uppity assholes who insist nothing will ever be as good as your first film. The rest is frustration, aesthetic decay and silence. Though I’m just kidding about that “silence” part since we haven’t even started talking about Carpenter’s sophomore slump, The Fog. Continue reading The Fog (1980)→
You’ve gotta feel sorry for Satan. Back in the nineteenth century it took a whole host of angels, armed with Flaming Rose Pedals of Love, to keep Faust’s soul out of Hell. Before he could even think of redemption, Faust’s sinning ass required the intercession of a Divine Female Figure superstar tag team composed of St. Mary of Egypt, that chick who washed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50, that Samaritan lady from John 4:3-42, and Faust’s own dead girlfriend.
That’s the kind of firepower you needed to break a deal with the devil…200 years ago. Nowadays, any asshole with a recognizable face can punch, shoot, or simply glower his way out of Hell. Even Keanu Reeves has escaped the devil’s bargain twice now, and no loss stings as hard as a loss to Ted “Theodore” Logan (just ask Satan himself). Continue reading Ghost Rider (2007)→
I hate to admit this, but there’s a sad, small part of me trapped down in the basement of my mind that wants very much to like Daredevil. But what does that whinny little bastard know? I’m in charge here, and I say the film’s a mess. It’s an interesting mess with decent color sense and the occasional flair for high drama…but so are most of the drunken artists staggering home through every major city on any given night of the week.
Really, Daredevil is a case history in everything that can go wrong with film – any film, regardless of genre. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson tried to get this made back in 1997, but Marvel Comics’ bankruptcy, the collapse of the Batman and Superman franchises, and a widespread public disregard for superheros kept Daredevil in development hell until the turn of the millennium (or Willennium, as we said at the time). Continue reading Daredevil (2003)→
Now here’s a case study in adaption, a simultaneous example of how to successfully make a comic book movie and how to cock it up even as you’re supposedly doing “right” by both your fans and your studio backers. An unqualified box office success, X-Men ignited what I’ve come to call the Silver Age of Comic Book Movies, inaugurating trends and best practices that hamstring the genre to this day, despite elevating superhero flicks up to a level of respectability they’d never previously enjoyed…save, perhaps, for about a minute and a half there, after Tim Burton’s Batman.
Batman was a filmmaker’s film by a man who’s gone on to admit he’s never read a comic book in his life. (“Which,” as Kevin Smith put it, “explains Batman.”) At least X-Men‘s Bryan Singer had the good since to claim making his “comic book” movie helped him see the light. Before this, Singer was known for one decent thriller (Unusual Suspects) and one half-decent Stephen King adaption (Apt Pupil). Seeking to do a sci-fi picture, he nonetheless turned X-Men down three times…until producer Avi Arad convinced him to actually read the damn books…and watch some of the wonderful animated series Arad brought to Fox Kids for five season’s in the 90s. Continue reading X-Men (2000)→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss