I’ve been dreading this. Re-examining Armageddonall but killed me, though that’s partially my own fault. I was the one playing that drinking game. Incidentally, Googling “Michael Bay Drinking Game” yields up some dangerous results. But while individual drinking games exist for individual films, apparently no drunk has the courage to construct a game applicable to Bay’s entire oeuvre. As that great old drunk Stephen Hopkins (my favorite character from 1776) once said, “So it’s up to me, eh?” That’s what you get for falling down on the job, fellow rummies.
Since Pearl Harbor bored me so damn much, my mind savored any distraction. I spent a good thirty minutes contemplating how hard I’d need to throw this movie off my balcony in order to ensure its disc would land at the optimum place in the street where it was sure to be run over by as many cars as possible. After I filled half a page with geometric calculations, constructing the Ultimate Michael Bay Drinking Game seemed a much more utilitarian distraction. I figured it would do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Throwing Pearl Harbor at passing cars would only annoy their drivers…who’d go on to annoy the cops…who’d go on to annoy me. Continue reading Pearl Harbor (2001)→
You know what’s really hard? Trying to tell when Frank Miller’s kidding. Does he take us all for suckers? Is his latter-day career just an extended practical joke? Or – like all good artists stewing in their own pretensions – does he take himself and his work 100%, no-holds-barred seriously? Honestly, Frank…why so serious?
The Spirit is one of those movies that got lost in the shadow of that other superhero flick from the summer of 2008. And that’s really too bad. Sooner or later, someone’s going to “rediscover” it and label it a cult classic. We’ve got to be prepared for that, and prepare to fight against it, because this movie is everything hateful and wrong about modern superhero stories. Continue reading The Spirit (2008)→
Even the simplest of superhero sequels can be its own kind of hell. Sagas about superhero teams are even easier to screw up. At worst, they end up looking like an amateur plate-spinning performance at some lame high school talent show. Ultimate Avengers 2 isn’t quite that bad…but it’s verging on territory the Fantastic Four films would explore at length to their (and our) eternal detriment. For thirty minutes Ultimate Avengers 2 held me. Then it all fell apart in the act of wrapping itself up. There’s some irony in there somewhere.
Animated direct-to-DVD superhero movies have this bad habit of taking on more water than they can reasonably carry through their truncated running time. It’s an old story but I’ll tell it again: when you have seven characters with seven back stories, seven arcs with seven conclusions, and only a hundred and nine minutes to run them all…you get a disappointing sequel. Continue reading Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)→
If you’re at all like me, you probably received Rodan for Christmas at some point in the early 1990s. You dutifully spent the rest of the day ignoring your family in favor of traveling back to the middle 1950s, when giant monsters roamed the Earth and Scientists were heroes. You may not remember a damn thing about this film, but I’ll bet you remember that Video Treasure’s box art. Even the back of the box reads like a memorable relic from another time, letting us know in no uncertain terms that,
“This is the original thriller that delighted monster fans for years, starring the legendary RODAN, disturbed from his prehistoric slumber to wreck havoc on civilization.”
If you’re like me, reading this is the equivalent of ringing your personal dinner bell. If you’re not like me…well, I’ve just given you a taste of how it was for me. Now let’s see how it is. Continue reading Rodan (1956)→
Here’s something else from the Things That Scarred Me in Childhood Department. Keep your Disney and your Dreamworks. Screw Pixar and, apart from the teams responsible for Animaniacs andBatman: The Animated Series, screw Warner Brothers animation too. In my eyes, none of them are fit to lick the boots of Rankin/Bass Productions.
Originally formed in the early 1960s, the studio achieved lasting fame with a little 1964 stop-motion Christmas special/gigantic commercial for General Electric called Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Over the next decade, Rankin/Bass churned out Christmas scholck like clockwork, and their most famous specials (Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman) are still in syndication today. The secret to their success was outsourcing, making Rankin/Bass one of the earliest American companies to exploit the third world for their own gain.
Thankfully, at the time, “the third world” pretty much included Japan. So when Rankin/Bass began to branch out into more traditional cartoon fare it found a ready partner in future-House of Dragonball Toei Animation. This partnership produced a crop of feature-length cartoons still remembered by all the good little children of the 70s and 80s…because they scared the shit out of us. Continue reading The Last Unicorn (1982)→
Forget Akira. Forget Ghost in the Shell. Forget Evangelion, Gundam and GTO. Forget all the titles otaku mention when they grip you by the lapels and insist “You have to see this!” This was my introduction to anime and I found it in the same place I found everything else: my long-vanished, small town video store. And like many a film that traumatized me in early childhood, I’d managed to almost completely forget about Sea Prince and the Fire Child.
Then little over a month ago my best friend’s wife and I got to talking about movies that traumatized us as children. Despite growing up half a continent away, both of us managed to find this film at exactly the same time. As usual, sheremembered, I repressed, with the repression manifesting itself as an irrational hatred of The Little Mermaid I could never really explain…until now. Continue reading Sea Prince and the Fire Child (1981)→
Michael Bay has survived every epithet in the Movie Critic’s Mean Word Handbook. We’ve called him a “hack” and a “bullshit artist.” We’ve called him “the Devil,” “the Antichrist,” and even honored him with the title “American Uwe Boll.” All of these characterizations are false, missing the quintessence of Bay. In their rush to (rightly) condemn the man’s aesthetic failings, critics have miss the essential and obvious point: Like a great many evil things, Bay is first and foremost a creature of the late 1990s, an artistic distillation of that time, with all the glory and the horror that implies. Continue reading Armageddon (1998)→
In spite of all the horrible things I’ve said about him over the years, I can’t really find it in myself to hate Zack Snyder. He is, in many ways, what we’ve always hoped for: a director who stood by his promise to faithful translate one of his favorite comic books to the screen…and succeeded. Unfortunately, he chose to translate this one, and I’ve got more than enough hate in me to spare some for Frank Miller. Despite everything he’s done to change the face of modern comic books, the man’s creative juices just don’t flow the way they used to, and there’s no better picture of the arid waste that lives in Miller’s head than this: his fantastical re-imagining of the battle of Thermopylae.
300 begins with an extended bit of ancient Spartan propaganda, following the long journey of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) from birth to adulthood, narrated (like the rest of the film) by Leonidas’ friend and comrade-in-arms, Delios (David Wenham). Delios’ narrative selectively edits any embarrassingly-accurate pederasty or slave-killing out of the Spartan agoge in favor of gratuitous slow-motion wolf-killing. Because that’s really so muchbetter. More dramatic than slave-killing, really…especially when the wolf is safely CGI. Continue reading 300 (2006)→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss