Film Review: Blade (1998)

Also known as: Blade, the Vampire Slayer (working title), Blade: The Daywalker (Norway, Denmark, Finland), Blade: Cazador de vampiros (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil)
Release Date: August 19th, 1998 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Sanaa Lathan, Arly Jover, Traci Lords

Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, Marvel Enterprises, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes, 110 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.” – Blade

Revisiting Blade has been long overdue but I’m glad that I finally did.

While I loved this movie, back in the day, I think I like it even more now. Maybe that’s because it is the least formulaic Marvel movie ever made and because it is just so balls to the wall badass that every time I watch it, I sprout another testicle.

Wesley Snipes is a man’s man and he’s got no time for some prissy ass bullshit. He just fucks shit up, does a cool pose, fucks up more shit, smiles and then fucks up whatever shit he hasn’t yet fucked up.

Also, this stars another man’s man in the legendary Kris Kristofferson. Add in Udo Kier, Donal Logue and Stephen Dorff being the best he’s ever been and you’ve got one hell of a cast. I also love the small role for Traci Lords, the coolness of Arly Jover and the loveliness of N’Bushe Wright.

Almost everything in this film feels right. The only real hiccup is some of the really dated CGI effects that didn’t look great even in 1998. But I can look past that, as this flick is one of the coolest comic book movies ever put to celluloid.

The script is great, the characters have real depth and the movie has perfect pacing.

There aren’t any dull moments and the action is aplenty, even with the story itself being pretty rich and layered.

Although, I don’t entirely understand Duncan Frost’s evil plan to turn the entire population of Earth into vampires because that would leave them without food. But hey, maybe the high tech vampires have a lab where they can clone and mass produce human blood. So my brain can just file that away as a plot point from a deleted scene I’ll never see.

One thing that really works well in this movie is the music. It hits the right notes, provides the right tone and propels the action sequences to another level. The soundtrack is mostly made up of hip-hop and techno or a hybrid of the two. In fact, I feel like this may have had an effect on the production of The Matrix, which came out a year later.

All in all, Blade is a fantastic comic book adaptation and in a lot of ways, I think it exceeds the source material, as the Blade character wasn’t all that popular before the movie and his interpretation in the film would go on to alter him in the comics themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Blade sequels, as well as other ’90s action films with Snipes.

Film Review: American Splendor (2003)

Release Date: January 20th, 2003 (Sundance)
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Written by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Based on: American Splendor and Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar
Music by: Mark Suozzo
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak, Donal Logue, Molly Shannon, Josh Hutcherson, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, Toby Radloff

Good Machine, Dark Horse Entertainment, Fine Line Features, HBO Films, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?” – Joyce Brabner

Even though I grew up burying my head in comic books, I wasn’t really aware of Harvey Pekar until my late ’20s. Initially, his comic book style wasn’t something I sought out. I was more into superhero comics and sword and sorcery style fantasy epics.

However, I would say that I found Pekar (and Robert Crumb) at the right time in my life. Both men’s work captivated me and spoke to me in a very human but amusing way. Crumb was attractive to my deviant sensibilities, while Pekar spoke to that cynical observational part of myself that’s always watching and analyzing the shit show around me.

I’ve seen a lot of Pekar in interviews and things over the years and I’ve got to say that Paul Giamatti’s performance as Harvey Pekar is fantastic. While he might not exactly look like Harvey, which is actually joked about within this film in a fourth wall breaking critique by Pekar himself, Giamatti just captured the right type of charm and charisma and did this role justice.

Additionally, Judah Friedlander was absolutely spectacular as Pekar’s best bud Toby Radloff. Friedlander was so good, in fact, that even though I saw his name in the credits, I didn’t realize that it was him playing Toby until really late in the film.

All the other performances are also great. Especially Hope Davis as Joyce, Harvey’s wife, and James Urbaniak, who played Robert Crumb in a few key scenes.

The film covers the important parts of Pekar’s adult life quite well. It’s a film that has a lot of time pass in its 101 minutes but nothing feels rushed and every scene seems pretty vital, as the narrative hits the points it needs to in showcasing what was most important.

For someone that’s a professional creative and pretty grumpy on most days, it was easy for me to relate to Pekar and this film. It was a moving picture that tells a sweet story, even if the main character isn’t someone that would be likable by most people on a first impression.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Crumb and Basquiat.

Film Review: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Release Date: February 4th, 2018
Directed by: Julius Onah
Written by: Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi, Donal Logue, Simon Pegg (voice), Greg Grunberg (voice)

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, Netflix, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Logic doesn’t apply to any of this.” – Tam

I’m not really sure what this jumbled mess was that I just watched but it’s presumably connected to those two previous films with “Cloverfield” in their title. Additionally, it’s supposed to explain how the stories in those films came to be. Yet, this film didn’t even do an effective job at explaining itself, so putting three films and what’s probably going to be an ongoing franchise on it’s back is one hell of a production misfire.

To be brutally blunt, his is a pretty idiotic and pointless film. It has a pretty amazing cast, in all honesty, but everything feels dull and emotionless and it is mindbogglingly stupid.

From a scientific standpoint, this picture has the acumen of a loaf of Wonder bread. It’s got an alluring crust but has nothing inside but flavorless, soft, weightless, bleached material and empty carbohydrates. It’s the basic white bitch of science movies. Granted, so many “science” films are basic white bitches these days. However, The Cloverfield Paradox is the type of movie that will seem profound to people who just fill their news feed on Facebook and Twitter with science articles featuring clickbait headlines yet when you try to talk to them about the article, it’s immediately apparent that they just read the headline and clicked “share”. It’s also apparent that they think science “isn’t settled”, crystals have magic powers, the Earth is flat and gravity is poison created by demonic energy to spoil avocados.

From start to finish, this film is hard to follow. I was never really clear what the hell they were doing in space in the first place. Some crazy insane experiment with a laser beam that fucks up space and time because the Earth has some sort of energy crisis. All the while, this laser is incredibly un-fucking-stable. But yeah, let’s keep firing this thing up right above Earth. Then you have Donal Logue’s character, an author who is on television warning people that this experiment will rip everything apart and fill every Earth in every dimension with monsters and demons. And then “BOOM!” that’s what actually happens because “science, y’all!!!”

A bunch of other weird shit happens and this becomes a movie of WTFs where each one is more baffling and stupid than the one before it. At one point, Chris O’Dowd’s character loses his arm when it is eaten by the ship’s wall. He’s not in pain, it’s just gone. Then it comes crawling back from around the corner and starts giving the crew clues on what to do. Yes, this is really something that happens in this movie.

This film hurt my head. I mean, I felt like a drunk person that was also tripping but not a cool trip. No, it was one of those trips that isn’t horrible but it’s like your whole body feels fussy and irritated and your brain gets all heavy like cement and and just kind of makes you sit, motionless, accepting your fate until the trip finally passes in what seems like days but was actually less than two hours.

Also, this film’s script felt like it was written as something else and then it was retrofitted to “explain” the Cloverfield universe. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t written as a Cloverfield movie when it started, it reminded me of those later Hellraiser films where the studio just altered failed horror scripts into pointless sequels to make a quick buck. The thing is, the Cloverfield universe doesn’t need to be explained. I don’t need the movies to connect or even exist in the same space. They could have all been separate films that just followed a sort of connected theme or style.

As we’ve seen so far, a Cloverfield movie can’t be complete without a monster. We do get one in this film but it is literally just for the last two seconds of the movie, before the credits role. It’s also not a very creative beast, at least to the standard established by the previous two films, which both had interesting creatures.

Despite this film being a total pile of shit, I’m sure everyone watched it on Netflix this week and it will justify a sequel. But that’s Netflix’s formula, they translate views to quality and that’s why their productions aren’t what they used to be. Netflix movies are this generation’s version of “straight to video”.

In the end, this must be put through the unforgiving but always accurate Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Cloverfield films.

TV Review: Terriers (2010)

Original Run: September 8th, 2010 – December 1st, 2010
Created by: Ted Griffin
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Robert Duncan
Cast: Donal Logue, Michael Raymond-James, Laura Allen, Kimberly Quinn, Jamie Denbo, Rockmond Dunbar

MiddKid Productions, Rickshaw Productions, Fox 21, 20th Century Fox, 13 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2014.

Terriers was on for only one season during 2010. When it aired on FX, I never saw it. In fact, despite the fact that it starred two guys that I really like, I didn’t even know about its existence until recently.

I read a blog somewhere that talked about the best shows available on Netflix that you could binge watch in one sitting. Terriers topped that list and once I saw that it starred Donal Logue (Grounded For Life, Blade, Gotham) and Michael Raymond-James (best known as Rene Lenier from the first season of True Blood), I had to check it out.

The premise is pretty simple, Logue plays an ex-alcoholic/ex-detective that teams up with an ex-thief to be P.I.’s in southern California. The formula is straightforward but with these two guys leading this show, we’ve got one of the best buddy crime shows I’ve ever seen. It’s witty, it’s lovable and it has this sort of magical quality that causes the show to grow more endearing as one progresses through the episodes.

Terriers was hurt by bad marketing and possibly a bad name and thus, it was the lowest rated show in FX history. In fact, even if the ratings doubled, it would have still been the lowest rated show. That’s unfortunate, and it led to it being canceled after one season. I get the business side of things but I feel like this show could’ve picked up steam, had more people been exposed to it. I hope that in years to come, as all 13 episodes are on Netflix, that it builds a sort of cult following.

In the end, I really wish there were more than 13 episodes because just when I fell in love with the show, it was over.

Film Review: The Tao of Steve (2000)

Release Date: January 26th, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jenniphr Goodman
Written by: Duncan North, Greer Goodman, Jenniphr Goodman
Music by: Joe Delia
Cast: Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, James ‘Kimo’ Willis, David Aaron Baker

Good Machine, Sony Pictures Classics, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Both men and women want to have sex. It’s natural, except we’re on different timetables. Women want to have sex, like, y’know, fifteen minutes after us, so alright, if you hold out for twenty she’ll be chasing you for five.” – Dex

I never saw the Tao of Steve until now. However, throughout the years since it came out, I heard many people talk about it with enthusiasm. Leonard Maltin even devotes a chapter to it in his book 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen. Plus, I have always been a fan of Donal Logue.

Unfortunately, this movie didn’t resonate with me like it did with other people. Maybe it’s because I watched it now, seventeen years after its release. So it doesn’t tap into nostalgia but instead feels like a film full of some of the worst 1990s romantic comedy cliches.

It is enjoyable in the fact that Logue is as charismatic as ever but even then his presence is bogged down by less talented actors and a script that feels like it was written by philosophy majors that were only one semester deep but thought they had reached some sort of twenty-something enlightenment.

Additionally, the music is dated in a bad way. Yes, there are great tunes from the late 90s but The Tao of Steve uses some lowest common denominator safe pop rock dreck that needs to just stay in the 90s and not venture out into the year 2000 (or beyond), when this film was released.

I don’t know if it’s a Santa Fe thing but the fashion in the film feels incredibly dated, even for 2000. In fact, the guys all look slobbish and the girls all look like tomboys at a Smash Mouth concert.

The Tao of Steve is not as interesting as you would think. His zen philosophy on picking up women has more holes in it than Swiss cheese but then again, that is part of the plot. Still, you can see the holes from a mile away but this film tries to play it up a lot more than it should.

It feels like this film tried to use Donal Logue in a way to create their own version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. However, despite Logue’s strong performance, the script isn’t even a tenth as brilliant as the Coen’s Lebowski script.

I don’t want to hate on this film, I went into it expecting to like it. For me, it just failed in all the parts that aren’t Donal Logue.

TV Review: Gotham (2014-2019)

Original Run: September 22nd, 2014 – current
Created by: Bruno Heller, Danny Cannon
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Zabryna Guevara, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Victoria Cartagena, Andrew Stewart-Jones, John Doman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Morena Baccarin, BD Wong, James Frain, Jessica Lucas, Chris Chalk, Drew Powell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Michael Chiklis, Maggie Geha, Benedict Samuel, David Zayas, Cameron Monaghan, Richard Kind, Natalie Alyn Lind, Peyton List, Crystal Reed

Primrose Hill Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 66 Episodes (thus far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2015, near the end of season 1, plus additional updates written later.

I was going to wait until the end of the first season before reviewing this show, as I do with most new shows. I just can’t get that far and don’t think that waiting till the season ends will change my assessment. I’ve tried desperately to get this to work for me. I’ve tried a hell of a lot harder than most of my friends and Batman fans, who all gave up on this a long time ago. I saw some promise here and there but this show fails in just about every way. In short: it is pretty goddamned awful (*note: I no longer feel this way as revealed in the final update).

There are actually only a few things that this show has going for it but I’ll get to those shortly.

If you barely know anything about the Batman mythos and you find pleasure in watching mediocre cookie cutter detective shows, I can see where you might find this watchable. However, if you are a Batman fan and love and respect the franchise, this is a very painful experience.

On one hand, the producers are trying to spoon feed the audience with fan service in every episode but it is forced, poorly executed and unnecessary. In fact, it feels as if the producers read a couple Wikipedia articles about Batman and thought they had an intimate grasp. And the way they handle certain characters, goes to show that they don’t understand them at all.  At times it just feels like a cruel joke and it is Fox trolling the shit out of their audience.

For instance, Edward Nygma doesn’t need to speak in riddles every scene, Harvey Dent doesn’t need to display a split personality every other appearance, you don’t need to have constant Joker teases across multiple unrelated scenarios, you don’t need to show a little ginger girl playing with plants every time she’s on screen and Selina Kyle doesn’t need to parkour off of every object whenever she makes an entrance. I also don’t need to be reminded every five minutes about how Jim Gordon is a good cop and every other cop on the force is tainted by something. It is fucking overkill.

The acting is questionable, the writing is more often than not atrocious and despite the over abundance of horribly executed fan service, the show is just plain stupid on its own. It is an obvious attempt at being a cash cow and a ratings grabber and somehow it has worked in that regard, as it is coming back for a second season.

The whole premise of the show makes it a failure from the get-go.

To start, the worst part about most live-action superhero adaptations is the origin. The audience usually finds themselves roughing it through the early bits in an effort to get to the comic book action. Also, how many times has Batman’s origin been told? Now we are given a show that is an overly extended version of the lamest part of Batman’s tale. Who knows how long this could stretch: ten seasons, maybe? Hell, one has been enough.

The other main part of the show, is Jim Gordon trying to “save the city” and destroy corruption. Well, he’s doomed to fail because if he were to succeed, why would Gotham City need the Batman?

As far as characters, Bruce Wayne is okay and I like him being a little shit challenging authority and taking on the evil adults of his world but it isn’t enough to anchor a need for him on this show. Selina Kyle is awful and pretty much a caricature that just happens to look like a young Michelle Pfeiffer. The Poison Ivy character is unimportant and so far useless. All the villains who show up are poorly done and easily defeated. Barbara Kean is the worst character on television. Where did Renee Montoya go? Fish Mooney is sometimes great but mostly terrible. However, I don’t blame these actors, I blame the atrocious writing.

When it comes to positives, Robin Lord Taylor is amazing as the Penguin. In fact, at first, I hated that he was way too skinny to be the Penguin but he’s so good in the role that I don’t care. He is by far, the most interesting part of the show. Almost as good as Taylor is Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock. Then again, when isn’t Logue anything short of great? Ben McKenzie does a solid job as Jim Gordon and I do like Cory Michael Smith as Nygma, the man who will become the Riddler – even though the writers force riddles into every situation he finds himself in. Lastly, Sean Pertwee makes a fine Alfred Pennyworth and is my favorite live action incarnation of the character. Pertwee also looks a lot like his father in his older age and seeing him in action reminds me of the Third Doctor from the classic Doctor Who series.

The show is often times too distracted by its own mess and diverts away from characters with potential to focus on too many small parts in a machine that is too large for its own good. When the show is at its strongest is when the Penguin is on screen, Alfred is kicking ass or when it focuses more heavily on the crime families of Gotham City. The episodes pitting Sal Maroni against Carmine Falcone with a little Fish Mooney and the Penguin mixed in are the best that this series has offered up so far.

I still watch this show because I want to buy into it, I just can’t. The good parts keep me engaged but they are too far and few between. I don’t believe that the show will get better but there is enough good stuff to expand on and save it from being the generally uninteresting mess it is currently. But I probably won’t watch the second season on a weekly basis, as I do now. I’ll wait a year for it to be over with and then binge watch it over a weekend. If it picks up steam and corrects itself, consider me reinvested. If not, I’ll find better ways to spend my time.

Update:

Season 2 of Gotham has been infinitely better than the first. The shows is finding its footing and it now knows what it is trying to be. I like that it is creating its own world and veering away from being trapped by the expectations from an already established Batman mythos. The show is doing its own thing and honestly, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce Wayne is killed off before even becoming Batman.

Update 2:

At the end of Season 3, the show has corrected a lot of its early mistakes.

Cameron Monaghan, who plays Jerome Valeska, who may or may not be the Joker but is probably the Joker, is the best version of Batman’s greatest villain I have ever seen in a live-action story. The kid is magnificent and really captures the magic of the comic book version of the legendary character better than anyone I have ever seen. Yes, he’s better than Heath Ledger and he has the same spirit as Mark Hamill who has voiced the character for decades.

Additionally, the show just becomes more interesting as it rolls on, even though it has some dumb plot threads. But when you don’t take this show seriously and just embrace its insanity, it works.

Most of the villains have evolved solidly, especially the Penguin and the Riddler. I also really liked the Mad Hatter story, as well as the plots that focus on Hugo Strange.

Gotham is far from a perfect show but it bounced back, in my opinion. It also works if you just take it for what it is and don’t try to force it into the box that is the already established comic book mythos. I see it now as an Elseworlds Tale, which is a title DC Comics gives to their stories that take place in different realities.

I’m glad I stuck with it as long as I did. For others who have, their dedication has paid off.