Film Review: Watchmen (2009)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2009 (London premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse
Based on: Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore (uncredited)
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer

Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lawrence Gordon Productions, 162 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 215 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!” – Rorschach

When Watchmen first came out, I was super excited just based off of the trailer alone and having just come off the greatness that was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, once seeing the film, I was pretty disappointed. Because of that, I never watched it again until now, ten years later, shy of two months.

I really wanted to give this another shot but if I was going to watch it, it had to be the Ultimate Cut. I needed to see the director’s complete vision and adaptation of the comic, which I have loved since first picking it up in the early ’90s.

I don’t know if it’s because I finally watched the Ultimate Cut or because all those years ago, I saw this three hour epic at a midnight showing and grew dead tired but this was not the same experience. This was something much greater and even closer to what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great comic was supposed to be. I’ve been hard on Zack Snyder before and while this isn’t perfection, it’s still a stupendous adaptation that hits the right notes narrative wise and tonally.

I think that one major issue I had with it initially, is that it is almost a panel to shot recreation of the comic. I thought that it should have taken a bit more creative license but seeing the complete version, I’m glad that they didn’t and my initial assessment was wrong.

It’s been so long since I saw the theatrical version, so it’s hard for me to tell what wasn’t in that one and what was added to this version but the most notable addition is the inclusion of the animated bits, which tell the story of The Black Freighter, which had its story sprinkled throughout the original comic. The movie felt like it was missing that in the original version and the way that they use it here is really cool. Also, the animation was incredible and also matched the tone of the comic quite well.

The only big difference between this and the comic is the omission of the giant kaiju monster that wrecked New York City. It’s replaced here with a more realistic threat but I felt like the kaiju thing was always really cool and I feel like it would have worked in the film. But it’s exclusion doesn’t really hurt the movie. I’m just baffled as to why it was changed when everything else is so damn close to the source material. Plus, kaiju make everything better.

I thought that the acting in the film was exceptional and as great as it is, there are two people who really stole the show: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian. These two guys had an incredible presence when they were on the screen. This was also the first time I noticed Morgan and I’m glad to see him carve out a fine career since this picture.

Malin Åkerman and Patrick Wilson carry the bulk of the acting duties, as the story seems to feature them the most, even though it balances all these characters very well. I thought both of them put in solid performances. But I can’t really knock anyone in the movie for not carrying their weight and doing the source material justice.

This was and still is the greatest thing that Zack Snyder has ever directed. I’m not trying to knock his more recent work but I feel like he’s always trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that he had here and it just isn’t working on the same level for him.

The Ultimate Cut is very long, almost four hours. However, it moves swiftly and a lot of ground is covered in that time. As I get older, I don’t have the attention span to sit and watch long movies like this in one sitting but the length didn’t bother me here. I was glued to the screen and sucked into this universe.

I’m glad that I finally got to revisit Watchmen and that I went with the Ultimate Cut. This should be the version that everyone watches and the only one that exists.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s pretty damn unique but I guess if you needed to pair it with something, Blade Runner or The Dark Knight.

Comic Review: Daredevil: Yellow

Published: June 15th, 2011
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Tim Sale

Marvel Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super keen on Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s take on the Hulk, which I read before this. However, I was really impressed with this story, as it seemed much closer to what made me love this pair and that’s the Batman story The Long Halloween.

This just felt right, looked right and hit all the notes perfectly.

First off, I love that this takes Daredevil back to his early era with the yellow suit. It works really well with this story and it made for a beautiful use of colors throughout the book.

The narrative is told in the form of Daredevil writing a series of letters to the deceased Karen Page. Each issue of the six that make up this arc are fairly self-contained, even though they are all sewn together with a common thread.

In some ways, this goes through a summarized retelling of Daredevil’s early years. In that regard, this reminds me of the fantastic X-Men: Grand Design comics.

We also get all sorts of cameos in this, as it is a story told through flashback and recollection. We get to see Daredevil meet the Fantastic Four, as well as his first meetings with The Owl, the Purple Man and Electro. Plus, it is refreshing reading a Daredevil comic that isn’t centered around the ongoing war for Hell’s Kitchen between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk.

If you really loved The Long Halloween, then this is definitely something that you need to check out. This is also, I would assume, very much the type of story and style that Marvel wanted out of Loeb and Sale when they brought them on to do four projects: this, Hulk: GraySpider-Man: Blue and Captain America: White.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The other color themed books that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Release Date: September 27th, 2018 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Drew Goddard
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman

Goddard Textiles, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 141 Minutes

Review:

“Shit happens, get the whisky.” – Father Daniel Flynn

I’m glad that I went into this not knowing much about it. I saw one trailer, awhile ago, but my memory sucks because I’m getting old and I probably rival Roger Ebert in his prime for the amount of films that I watch. But I did know that this was a neo-noir, written and directed by Drew Goddard and starring a bunch of people I like.

Well, this is one of the top films I’ve seen in 2018. That being said, I’ve been to the theater less this year than any other because we had a terrible summer and even most of the indie stuff isn’t motivating me to get out there. But man, my FireStick probably deserves a break, as I’ve ran it through the wringer.

If you haven’t seen this, I don’t want to give away too much. The less you know, the better. This is the sort of film that takes you on a real journey with twists and turns and big reveals, curveballs and surprises. The real highlight though, is seeing these great talents together, playing off of each other and playing each other.

The story takes place at the El Royale, a nearly defunct hotel literally split in half by the California-Nevada border. It’s a place that used to be frequented by big wig celebrities and politicians. Now a group of strangers are staying there and their lives all become intertwined, as each brings their own baggage into the situation.

Some of the film is told in flashback to show you what led each character to the hotel. This isn’t a movie bogged down by flashbacks though, as they all happen pretty quickly and are just there to fill in some context and add some seasoning to the larger narrative.

The first act of the film actually reminded me of Clue, not that this was a comedy but you witness a bunch of strangers meet in a lobby at a place they are spending the night. Each seems to have a secret and to not be who they seem. But once the plot gets rolling, this isn’t a whodunit murder mystery, it’s more complex than that.

The one thing that really stands out about this film apart from the great story and the great acting is the cinematography. The lighting is superb and the shots are great. Being that this hotel is equally split by the state border, a lot of shots take advantage of this and showcase this symmetry or dichotomy. The California side of the lobby has the bar, the Nevada side has slot machines and each half of the room has a different color scheme. I also loved the use of fire in the climax, as it made everything feel truly Hellish.

While this isn’t a massive Hollywood blockbuster, this is something that should be seen on the big screen. So you should probably get out and see it while it is still in theaters. As of right now, this is definitely a frontrunner for my personal favorite film of the year.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other notable neo-noirs: Blood Simple., The American FriendBlue Velvet, No Country for Old Men, Fargo and Lost Highway.

Film Review: Gemini (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Aaron Katz
Written by: Aaron Katz
Music by: Keegan DeWitt
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney, Jessica Parker Kennedy, James Ransone, Ricki Lake, John Cho

Film Science, Rough House Pictures, Syncopated Films, Pastel Productions, Neon, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You know how you said you don’t feel safe? I feel like that all the time.” – Heather Anderson

Have you ever heard the saying “style over substance”? Well, this is a perfect example of that.

This is a film that looks really damn good with top notch cinematography, a strong understanding of mise-en-scène and stellar lighting. It also has better than decent acting but that’s about it for the positives.

This tries to be a modern film-noir but it fails in most ways. Just jumping right into the deep end of the pool, the ending of this movie is fucking terrible and it makes it so that the film doesn’t really have much of a point or a point within the framework that it seemed to be building. Like a noir, it had a twist. The twist, however, is that this movie was a waste of your time. It exists more as a critique of fame than a solid mystery crime thriller.

Zoë Kravitz’s character is killed in her home with the gun of her personal assistant. The assistant discovers her body, she becomes the prime suspect but like a typical noir, she goes on the run from the law, trying to figure out who murdered her boss. Spoiler alert: her boss is alive and the body belonged to a crazy fan that looked a lot like her.

That being said, the title of the film pretty much gives away the fucking ending! But even then, I figured this mystery out in one regard. I knew that the title would obviously be important. So when you meet the psycho fan and see that she looks an awful lot like the starlet, it was a dead giveaway that she would be the murderer or that she would be tied into the sorry excuse for this film’s twist. And when I saw the dead body, which is just shown from behind while on the floor, I thought it might be the psycho fan. Boy, was I right! But I hoped that this film was smarter than that and I kept watching, waiting for something profound that never came.

When you get to the end, the assistant finds the starlet hiding out in her other house. Then it’s like “Yeah, I’m alive. Sorry you went through all that shit with the cops. Let’s go talk to the press now and clear things up.” And that’s the end. Seriously, that’t the fucking end.

This is a film that was made with a lot of technical prowess but tried so hard to be artsy and a critique on fame that it just looked like every other self-obsessed Hollywood schlock that gets pumped out on a regular basis. I’m just sick of these type of films where Hollywood thinks its the most interesting thing in the world and where famous people are sick of being famous. Hollywood takes itself way too fucking seriously. This movie also took itself way too fucking seriously, which is laughable, considering that it was devoid of soul or real purpose.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Vodka and Valley girl pills.

TV Review: Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Original Run: March 4th, 2013 – April 17th, 2017
Created by: Chris Chinball
Directed by: James Strong, Euros Lyn, various
Written by: Chris Chinball, Louise Fox
Music by: Ólafur Arnalds, Arnór Dan
Cast: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvill, Andrew Buchan, Carolyn Pickles, Charlotte Beaumont, Charlotte Rampling, Eve Myles

Kudos Film and Television, Shine Group, Imaginary Friends, ITV, 24 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

ITV’s Broadchurch is one of the top five shows I have watched in recent memory. A bold statement, sure, but in a world full of crime dramas, this show is a big step above what is currently on television.

The showrunners must be big Doctor Who fans, as it features David Tennant in the lead role as DI Alec Hardy, Arthur Darvill as Rev. Paul Coates and Olivia Colman (who appeared in one episode of Doctor Who) as the other lead, DS Ellie Miller. Eve Myles from the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood shows up as a regular in the second series. (Updated note: Jodie Whittaker would go on to be the first female version of the Doctor after this show.)

Jodie Whittaker (Attack The Block) plays the mother of a murdered boy. Solving the mystery of the boy’s murder is what drives the plot of series one, while the trial of the murderer drives some of the plot of series two. Series two also focuses on a case that Hardy was unable to solve before he moved to Broadchurch.

This show, unlike many other crime dramas, is not predictable. There are a lot of layers, twists and turns and while that is a typical formula of these shows, the execution of it on Broadchurch is not only stellar, it is refreshing.

The show is also beautiful to look at. Filmed in Dorset, many shots are full of the iconic coastal cliffs, grassy hills and beaches of that area. The geography of the show enhances the tone greatly and while it feels warm and inviting at first, it is also cold and in someways, desolate.

The acting is top notch and this may be David Tennant’s greatest work, even considering his run as the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who and his role as the villainous Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. Olivia Colman has never been better and she is an actress that I have loved since first seeing her work with Mitchel and Webb in their sketch comedy shows, as well as Peep Show. The rest of the cast is equally fantastic.

There is a lot of shit on television today but Broadchurch is the antithesis of that norm.

Each series is also only eight episodes, which allow this masterpiece to be binge watched quite quickly.

Both of the series to date are now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Doctor Who and Torchwood for all the shared actors, the American remake Gracepoint and the BBC crime show Luther.

Film Review: Get Carter (1971)

Release Date: February 3rd, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Mike Hodges
Based on: Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis
Music by: Roy Budd
Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland

MGM-EMI, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 112 Minutes

Review:

“You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.” – Jack Carter

I can’t believe I never watched this film until now. It’s a cool ass motion picture. Now I did see the remake with Stallone from 2000 but that one left a bad taste in my mouth. This however, was a balls out revenge fest.

Michael Caine plays Jack Carter. He discovers that his deceased brother was murdered by some mobsters. He then spends the rest of the movie on a revenge quest, knocking off the scum that were behind his brother’s death.

There are also a lot of babes and Caine gets to toy around with several, most notably the incredibly sexy Britt Ekland, who gets naked. She would go on to be a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun and would get even more naked in The Wicker Man.

I loved Caine in this and it is so cool seeing him kick serious ass in his younger days. Sure, he kicks ass as an older man too but he just had a presence here that made him debonair, dangerous and pretty fucking sexy, if I do say so myself. I’m not gay but I can appreciate a masculine dime piece through straight eyes.

This film also had film-noir elements to it, which pulled me in right away. This is more of a neo-noir, as it has that sort of style to it. The tone reminds me of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.

The plot has noir styled twists and turns and it throws femme fatales into the mix but you never really feel like Caine’s Carter could be outwitted by them.

There really isn’t anything negative I can say about the picture. It was well acted, well directed and had some stupendous camera work and cinematography.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other old school Michael Caine movies: The Italian Job, PulpThe Ipcress FileFuneral In Berlin.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Five: Curse the Demon

Published: September 24th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was an immediate fan of Fatale when I read the first book and then that love just solidified as I read the second and third. I didn’t like the fourth story, however, and it took some of the wind out of the sails. By that point, I wasn’t sure how all of this would come together and end.

This book was a step up from the fourth but it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion. I felt like there was a lot of build up with several story arcs from different periods throughout time but now that this has wrapped up, a lot of it seemed pointless.

I like the character of Josephine and her strange powers. But I don’t feel like the backstory behind it all was thoroughly examined enough. This series presents a lot of questions but doesn’t do much in giving you the answers you want. Kind of like the television show Lost.

What attracted me to this was the fact that it was written by Ed Brubaker and had elements of classic film-noir, as well as Lovecraftian horror. If that combination doesn’t sound interesting on its own, then we can’t be friends.

The mystery is never really solved or unraveled in any sort of satisfactory way. I feel like this was just to show the wreckage caused by Josephine, mostly unintentionally, and didn’t have much else to offer other than really great art and cool visuals.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something but by the time I closed the final book, I felt empty.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.