November 30, 2014

Remaking THE STAND as Four Movies is a Terrible Idea

I'm not prone to ranting, but in the case of the greatest story ever told, I must take exception...

Like many die hard fans, The Stand is my favorite Stephen King novel. Its epic scope, apocalyptic setting and dynamic characters (both heroic and villainous) are brilliantly thrown together for the ultimate showdown between good and evil. The original novel was a whopping 800+ pages, yet was a constant page turner worth revisiting again and again. You’d be hard-pressed to meet a King fan content to read it only once.

For the longest time, nearly everything King belched from his typewriter was adapted into a film before the ink on the original manuscript was dry. But The Stand, despite the overwhelming opinion among fans that it was his greatest work, proved to be too daunting. The general consensus was the story was simply too big to be distilled into a single film while still remaining faithful to the novel.

Oops...bad idea.
So we eventually got a four-part TV miniseries instead, first broadcast on ABC in 1994. While certainly watchable and more-or-less faithful to the story, this was a watered-down, de-fanged version of The Stand. Though adapted by King himself, it never quite transcended its made-for-TV origins (these were the days when language, extreme violence and expensive visual effects were still frowned upon by network television). The performances by an all-star cast ranged from great (Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg) to terrible (Molly Ringwald as Frannie Goldsmith).

When a theatrical remake was announced in 2011, fans were hopeful they’d finally see a full-blooded, unrestrained R-rated version that the novel deserves. Several directors were tentatively attached, such as David Yates, Scott Cooper and Ben Affleck. Warner Brothers (who own the film rights) have-since gone back and forth over how The Stand should be presented, first as a three-part film, then a two-part, then a single three-hour epic to be written & directed by Josh Boone. Most recently, Boone announced Warner now wants The Stand to be divided into four separate films.

As much as I love The Stand and feel Hollywood has-yet to do the novel justice, this is a terrible idea, one I fear is doomed to fail. Personally speaking, they would have been better off adapting it into a single film. Before die-hard King fans come screaming for my head, allow me to explain my reasons:

Chopping up popular novels into two-or-more separate films may be a current trend, but mostly done with young adult novels which appeal to an audience with the most discretionary income…teenagers. Even then, two-parters have been regulated to the final entry of a novel series, after the franchise has already proven to be lucrative. While this practice is obviously a cynical cash-grab in the eyes of the wise, it hooks legions of fans into paying twice the price for a completed story. But The Stand (a 35 year old novel) is not going to have the advantage of a built-in fan base of a previous installment.

The Stand isn’t Harry Potter or Twilight, nor is it part of a series. It’s a dark, violent, stand-alone adult story which, while enduringly popular, was never a pop culture phenomenon on the level of those novels. To do the novel right definitely means earning an R-rating, which eliminates a large portion of those who made even the most blatant example of money-milking, The Hobbit, a successful trilogy. The only way The Stand has a chance to enjoy the same box office numbers over four films is to water the story down to drag in the PG-13 crowd, which ultimately defeats the purpose of remaking it in the first place. And all of this is assuming…

The original paperback cover art, along with
the promise of a film directed by George A. Romero.
How cool would THAT have been?
…that Part One will even be any good. A great novel doesn’t always turn out to be a great film (The Bonfire of the Vanities taught us that). The decision to break-up The Stand into four films is based on the conceit that the first one will hit a box-office homerun. But what if it turns out to be terrible and audiences stay away in droves? Or worse yet, what if it’s a masterpiece and audiences still stay away? Either way, where does that leave the remaining three-quarters of the story, at whatever stage of production they’re in at the time? It seems unlikely Warner Brothers would follow through with the saga if the first movie tanks. Speaking of which…

Tentatively, this saga is being placed in the hands of writer/director Josh Boone, best-known for the teen tear-jerker, The Fault in Our Stars. Not to belittle Boone’s talent, but he’s only directed two films (the other being Stuck in Love, a romantic dramedy) and has no experience in the horror genre, let-alone something as epic in scale as The Stand. Granted, none of us have read his screenplay (Warner Brothers allegedly loved his single-film treatment enough to demand a multi-part film), but it’s actually rather shocking a project this ambitious is being entrusted to a relatively unknown director.

If The Stand truly needs to be a multi-part epic, doesn’t it make more sense to go the cable route with HBO, Showtime or AMC? If The Walking Dead taught us nothing else, it’s that the boundaries of acceptable TV violence have effectively been erased. Not only that, one could easily argue that some of the best screen horror in recent years has been on television (American Horror Story, Hannibal, etc). At this point, couldn’t a full-blooded, unadulterated version of The Stand be just as faithfully rendered as a cable series?

As great as the novel is, I’ll be the first to concede it’s arguably a hundred pages too long (and I’m talking about the original 800 page story, not the bloated 1,100 page expanded edition published a decade later). For example, those of you who read the book might remember that it keeps going long after the primary conflict has been resolved. It kind-of peters out with endless chapters of Stu Redman being nursed back to health by Tom Cullen on their long journey back to Boulder. If Warner Brothers follows through on their threat of four films, this means at least the last hour of Part Four would be an anti-climactic bore. As long as the novel is, there’s still not enough material to justify four movies. Which ultimately means…

The Stand really doesn’t really need to be any more than a single stand-alone film. We must remember that novels and cinema are two completely different mediums, regardless of the influence one has over the other. As evidence, I offer Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. That novel was well-over a thousand pages, yet Hollywood managed to adapt it into a single three-and-a-half hour epic that perfectly captured its essence. How artfully a story is interpreted is far more important than a scene-for-scene checklist of events (Jaws is another perfect example of this). In the right hands, The Stand would benefit from a similar treatment.

November 29, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL

Starring Jim Caviezel, Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Gavin Casalegno, Clancy Brown. Directed by Thomas Carter. (2014, 115 min).
Sony

While we’re used to sports movies where an underdog emerges triumphant against all odds, When the Game Stands Tall gives us a team who aren’t used to losing. In fact, the De La Salle High School Spartans haven’t lost a game in 12 years.

Then three events occur which have a devastating effect on the team and community. Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) suffers a heart attack, and their star senior, just offered a full ride to play for the Oregon Ducks, is killed in a drive-by shooting. Worst of all, the Spartans' 151 game winning streak is broken. These first 30 minutes make it pretty obvious where the next 90 are heading.

Ladouceur, who’s turned down lucrative offers to coach at colleges, has always believed football is more about brotherhood, trustworthiness and character building than winning football games, a philosophy he tries to instill in his latest batch of players (including his son). One major subplot involves running back Chris Ryan (Alexander Lidwig), pressured by his overbearing father (Clancy Brown) to break the season touchdown record, the antithesis of everything Ladouceur stands for. You’ll be able to guess the outcome of this conflict long before it plays out, but there’s comfort in predictability when it comes to inspirational sports movies, especially those based on true stories (which is just about all of them).

"I already told you...you put your left foot in, you put
your left foot out! That's what it's all about!"
Storywise, When the Game Stands All is a bit meandering. The shooting of T.K. (Stephan James) is indeed tragic, but from a narrative standpoint, his death has little impact on the plot. In fact, he’s largely forgotten until the climactic game when a banner is raised in his honor. Additionally, the strained relationship between Ladouceur and his son doesn’t really resonate because the kid is a self-centered jerk (berating Dad for having the nerve to suffer a massive heart attack just before football season).

Speaking of which, there’s a surprising lack of characters we actually empathize with. Ladouceur is certainly likable (and solidly played by Caviezel), but more of a symbol of righteousness than a fallible human being. The opposite can be said for Mickey Ryan, the abusive dad. Clancy Brown is well-cast because all he’s required to do is be blatantly hateful (which he’s good at), but few fathers (even in sports films) are this one-dimensional. Laura Dern is wasted as Bob’s wife, doing little-more than applauding the awesomeness of her husband. And I would have appreciated seeing more of Michael Chiklis as the assistant coach; he’s terrific, but aside from a few inspirational speeches, is criminally underused.

Still, there are some rousing moments in the film, particularly in the final act, when the team finally learns to selflessly depend on each other both on and off the field. The game scenes are suitably exciting, and each major character on the team gets their individual moment of glory, including Bob’s jackass son. I suppose, since overcoming your first high school defeat in 12 years is decidedly a first-world problem, it’s a credit to director Thomas Carter that his dramatic flourishes make the situation seem more life-and-death than it probably warrants.

EXTRAS:

  • Director commentary
  • Scenes commentary by Bob Ladouceur
  • Deleted/extended scenes
  • Featurettes: Undefeated - Making When the Game Stands Tall; Gridiron Action - Filming the Football Scenes; The Heart and Soul of a Program - Bob Ladouceur


FKMG RATING:
1/2
(OUT OF 5)

November 26, 2014

Movie Haiku of the Week: AVATAR


A 3-D wonder,
But I'm feeling deja-vu...
Oh, yeah...Ferngully.

November 25, 2014

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR: "Art of the Sell" Clip Released

Learn the “Art of the Sell” from Oscar Isaac in this clip from A MOST VIOLENT YEARwritten and directed byJ.C. Chandor and co-starring Jessica Chastain.

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a searing crime drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the city’s history. From acclaimed writer/director J.C. Chandor, and starring Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY), this gripping story plays out within a maze of rampant political and industry corruption plaguing the streets of a city in decay.

J.C. Chandor’s third feature examines one immigrant’s determined climb up a morally crooked ladder, where simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks threaten his business, family, and - above all - his own unwavering belief in the righteousness of his path. With A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, Chandor journeys in a bold new direction, toward the place where best intentions yield to raw instinct, and where we are most vulnerable to compromise what we know to be right.

The Ultimate ADVENTURE TIME Prize Pack Contest!


In celebration of the release of ADVENTURE TIME: FINN THE HUMAN (out now on DVD), Free Kittens Movie Guide invites you to GUESS HOW MANY CANDY CANES CAN FIT IN FINN'S BACKPACK! 

The entry with the closest guess will receive the GRAND PRIZE consisting of:


Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom (Nintendo 3DS version Out Now)
Munchkin Adventure Time (Out Now) 





Adventure Time Crafts from Potter Craft (Out Now) 






Adventure Time: Finn the Human DVD (Out Now)







Runners-up will receive a copy of Adventure Time: Finn the Human on DVD (including a Finn Backpack). 

TO ENTER: Leave a comment with your guess. Contest ends December 9th, and the winner will be notified December 10th, so be sure to check back! In the unlikely event of a tie, we will randomly select a winner from those with the most accurate guesses. Good luck!

November 24, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. (2014, 122 min).
Touchstone/Disney

In the right hands, it's amazing how cinematic something as seemingly mundane as cooking can be, and we’ve gotten two such movies this year. Jon Favreau’s Chef was a surprising - and welcome - return to his indie roots. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a bit more ambitious, but what both pictures do very well is present flawed-yet-likeable characters, a supreme knowledge of the restaurant business and, at least while we’re watching, stories which seem deceptively simple, when in reality there’s a great deal going on. And yeah, you’ll likely be hungry as hell afterwards. These two films would make a great snuggle-on-the-couch double feature with your significant other.

In The Hundred-Foot Journey, Papa Kadam (Om Puri) is the patriarch of an Indian family forced to abandon their restaurant after it is firebombed due to political unrest. After a brief period wandering Europe, they end up in a French village when their van breaks down. Impressed by the amount of fresh food available at the local markets, Papa decides to buy an abandoned old restaurant right across the street from Le Saule Pleureur, a prestigious French eatery run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), a snobbish widow who doesn’t like their presence one bit. She attempts to sabotage their Kadam’s efforts to get their restaurant off the ground, which becomes complicated, not only by Papa’s tenacity (he’s as stubborn as she is), but by her sous chef, Marguerite, who’s taken a liking to Hassan (Manish Dayal), one of the Kadam boys being groomed to take his mother’s place as their head chef. However, Hassan himself is ambitious beyond the family business, which Mallory recognizes when he demonstrates the capability of being a world class chef.

Not everyone is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
But that’s just the story on the surface. Ultimately, The Hundred-Foot Journey is about tearing down prejudicial walls, acceptance, empathy and, of course, love. Mallory may come across as a cold-hearted bitch when we first meet her (seeing the Kadams as classless), but her epiphany after an act of vandalism on the Kadam’s place renders her a wonderfully-dynamic character (and Mirren plays her perfectly as usual). The same goes for Papa, who’s initially just as pig-headed and set in his ways. The evolving relationship between these two is easily the crux of the movie, providing a majority of the humor and audience-rousing moments. The interaction between Mirren & Puri is about as charming and entertaining as movies get without explosions.

The subplot of Hassan’s quest to be a renowned chef, and how it affects his relationship with Marguerite, is a bit more predictable and not quite as compelling. Still, these two are essential to the overall story, especially during the closing scenes.

I suppose The Hundred-Foot Journey is just a tad ‘artier’ than Chef, but that shouldn’t disuade anyone from checking it out. It’s a film stuffed with great characters we care about and a theme most of us could benefit from seeing more often. Most importantly, this movie is a lot of fun.

EXTRAS:

  • The Hundred-Foot Journey (discussion with producers Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey)
  • The Recipe, the Ingredients, the Journey (making-of featurette)
  • On Set with Oprah Winfrey
  • Coconut Chicken (short recipe video)

FKMG RATING:
(OUT OF 5)

November 23, 2014

FKMG presents WHO FARTED?*

*Another cheap laugh from the good folks at FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE. You're welcome.

DVD Review: ADVENTURE TIME: FINN THE HUMAN (with Finn Backpack)

Starring the voices of Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, niki Yang, Tom Kenny, Olivia Olson. Various directors. (2011-14, 176 min).
Warner Bros.

It’s hard not to appreciate a comedic cartoon series populated mostly by mutants in a post-apocalyptic setting. This show is yet another example that television animation aimed at kids is better now than it ever was when I was young. Like the best shows on Nickelodeon, Disney Channel or Cartoon Network, there’s a level of sophisticated, subversive humor in Adventure Time that, while perhaps lost on little kids, has earned the show a deserved cult following.

This single disc is another collection of 16 episodes selected from various seasons (mostly 3 through 6). Though about a third of the episodes have been previously released in season-long boxed sets, it’s a decent, reasonably-priced collection. But the main selling point is, of course, the free nylon backpack included. It looks just like the one Finn wears and is sure to please any young fan of the show.

EXTRAS:
The aforementioned backpack

FKMG RATING:
(OUT OF 5)

November 22, 2014

JOHN WICK and the Passing of the Pooch

Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe. Directed by Chad Stahelski. (2014, 101 min).

In terms of pure audience manipulation, John Wick might just be the greatest tale of revenge ever made. The best ones (from the artistic to the exploitative) all have one thing in common: they make vengeance seem like a totally justifiable course of action. Who didn’t cheer-on Charles Bronson’s mugger-murdering rampage in Death Wish, Clint Eastwood’s cold, calculated retribution in High Plains Drifter or Uma Thurman’s bloody wrath in Kill Bill?

Violent payback seldom works out how we’d like it to in the real world, but it’s damn fun to watch, which is obviously why tales of revenge - both calculated and reactionary - have been mainstays of popular entertainment ever since Shakespeare scribbled Hamlet.

But John Wick may trump them all. Not because of its kinetic action scenes (which are truly exciting), not because of Keanu Reeves as the title character (even though he’s seldom been more brutal-yet-likable), and certainly not because of the complexity of the story (this might be the most simple tale of revenge since the original Mad Max). John Wick manages to get the audience totally onboard because director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad know what will truly rouse us into a state of bloodthirsty vengeance…

...killing this girl:

We never want animals to die, do we? Man, that’s tough to take. Case in point…in Independence Day, even though millions of people around the world have been incinerated during the alien attack, the most suspenseful moment comes when a beloved hound manages to escape a rolling fireball at the very last second. And what about Dances with Wolves? Despite the historical atrocities committed on Native Americans, the most tear-jerking scenes are those where Kevin Costner’s horse - and later his wolf companion, Two Socks - are unceremoniously killed by Union soldiers.

You gotta be one steel-hearted bastard not to be moved by the passing of a pooch. Dog deaths are often the equivalent of Spock’s demise at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Cat deaths, on the other hand, are more like those nameless red-shirted rubes who die within minutes of beaming down to an uncharted planet; their untimely fates simply move the story along. Not to belittle cats or anything. I have two myself and would be truly saddened if they suddenly passed away. But the fact remains Hollywood has never made a worthwhile film where a cat’s death was the emotional crux of the story.

But doggy death? Where do I start? There’s Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Marley & Me, Turner and Hooch, Sounder, I Am Legend and The Road Warrior, to name a few. Then there’s the Schindler’s List of dog movies, The Plague Dogs…trust me, if you’ve ever expressed even a single iota of affection for our canine companions, that movie will fuck you up for life.

In John Wick, the title character (Keanu Reeves) is a legendary hitman who retires from the business to take care of his cancer-stricken wife. Her last act before dying was sending John a gift, a puppy named Daisy, so he wouldn’t have to grieve alone. John forms an immediate attachment to Daisy and takes her everywhere. Then a couple of Russian thugs, ignorant of who he is and simply want his classic ‘69 Mustang, break into his house, beat him up and kill Daisy. That’s all it takes for Wick to unleash the fury and hunt them down. Complicating matters is the fact one of those thugs is the son of Viggo Tarsov (Michael Nyqvist), who once hired Wick to kill everyone who stood in the way of his quest to be the most powerful leader of the Russian mob.

But really, John Wick grabbed us at Daisy’s death, because…

...well, just look at her!

Sure, Wick’s revenge is based more by what Daisy represents (his wife’s dying symbol of love) than Daisy herself, but the fact she’s just a puppy (the cutest movie puppy ever) makes his systematic slaughter all the more righteous. Would we feel the same way if his dying wife sent him a cat? I doubt it, because unless they’re hungry, cats generally don’t give a shit about us.

But there’s something about the untimely screen death of a pooch which, no matter how many people have been shot, stabbed, blown-up, crushed, devoured or disemboweled, has most of us crying, “Oh no! Not the dog!” Which is why John Wick, despite its simplistic story, is such a satisfying tale of revenge. Shamelessly manipulative? Absolutely, but supremely effective nonetheless. Perhaps this is because, unless the dog’s name is Cujo, they never deserve their fate. Sure, Daisy’s untimely death is little more than a plot point to justify the ensuing mayhem, but anyone who ever grew up with animals can relate to the untimely loss of one. Who wouldn't want to blow away the bastard who killed our dog?

November 20, 2014

Hear "I Am Groot" in 15 Languages

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Digital HD and for you to take anywhere when you sign up for Disney Movies Anywhere. To celebrate the release, you can watch a video featuring Groot’s famous catchphrase in multiple languages across the galaxy!


LUCY Is Coming Home This January

ON DIGITAL HD JANUARY 6, 2015
AND BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK AND DVD ON JANUARY 20, 2015 
FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT 

In Lucy, the “exciting and smart” (San Francisco Examiner) #1 action blockbuster by visionary director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element), starring Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers) and Academy Award® winner Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises, Oblivion), a woman altered by a dangerous drug that allows her to use 100% of her brain, transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.  Lucy debuts on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, including Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet™, and On Demand on January 20, 2015 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.  Lucy will also be available on Digital HD two weeks earlier on January 6, 2015.

Also featuring Choi Min-Sik (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and Amr Waked (Syriana, “House of Saddam”), Lucy is a “heart-pounding, 100% entertaining” (The Wall Street Journal) thriller that explores the possibility of what one person can truly do when the furthest reaches of the mind are accessed.   

Bonus Features on Blu-Ray™ and DVD
CEREBRAL CAPACITY – THE TRUE SCIENCE OF LUCY:  Morgan Freeman serves as guide for fans to dive into the world of Lucy.

Bonus Features Exclusively on Blu-Ray™ 
THE EVOLUTION OF LUCY – Follow Lucy’s transformation through the eyes of Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman and Director Luc Besson.

November 18, 2014

Movie Haiku of the Week: LAST TANGO IN PARIS

There are better ways
To use that stick of butter
Than baking a cake.

DEEP IMPACT: Still Timely After All These Years

Starring Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Tea Lioni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximillian Schell. Directed by Mimi Leder. (1998, 121 min.)

Deep Impact, the first disaster movie with a real message. And a good one, too, which is hammered home in one of the very first scenes. Astronomer Marcus Wolf, upon realizing a giant comet is on a collision course with Earth, rushes from his observatory to warn authorities. Speeding down the mountain in his Jeep, he’s involved in a fatal, fiery accident while fumbling with his cell phone.

Let that be a lesson to all you motherfuckers yakking on your cell phones behind the wheel!

How do we know this is the message? Because this scene has absolutely no impact (deep or otherwise) on the plot. Nowhere is it indicated that Wolf’s untimely death prevents his ominous discovery from being shared with the world. The film simply picks up a year later, when the government is now well-aware the comet is heading towards Earth, and taking steps to make sure we're not globally screwed.

When you realize this, it is obvious at least one of Deep Impact's screenwriters (Bruce Joel Rubin & Michael Tolkin) must have had a recent encounter with a dumbass motorist and decided to vicariously kill them. And I can relate to that, which is why, just ten minutes into the film, although I don't condone road rage but certainly understand it, I knew I was gonna love Deep Impact.

I truly admired this opening sequence. I hate cell phones. As technology advances to the point where you can do almost everything on a tiny screen, cell phones are rendering people dumber, unable to spell or construct complete sentences. And I’m sorry, unless you are the President of the United States of America, you are not so important that people need to reach you 24/7. And before you offer the argument that Wolf’s doomsday discovery is a damned good excuse for phoning while driving, remember this...the time it would have taken him to drive safely into town and find a working phone would have no impact on whether or not the comet was gonna hit.

As it stands, Deep Impact is a story that’s been told before, but not on this scale, with pretty damn good writing and acting for a disaster movie. Earth is given about a year to live unless something can be done to divert the comet, so they send a crew of astronauts into space (led by Robert Duvall) to land on the surface and plant thermonuclear charges which will hopefully change its course. But they only succeed into blowing off one chunk, so now there are two comets hurling toward the Earth (yep...pink slips all-around to everybody on the shuttle). But for the viewer, this is actually a good thing, because now we are assured that at least one of them is gonna hit (hey, we pay our hard-earned cash to see cities get pummeled, not watch everyone breathe a collective sigh of relief after a near miss).


Finally put out of their misery,
New York Jets fans rejoice.
Back on Earth, everyone prepares for the worst. A million people are selected by a national lottery to seek refuge in underground caves, where they will have to live for two years before being able to return to the surface to rebuild. Everyone else is pretty much screwed. When the back-up plan of launching Titan missiles into space to destroy the comet fails, for a brief second, one thinks maybeDeep Impact will be every disaster fan’s wet dream, a flick with the balls to kill everybody. After all, each cast member is given ample screen time to give their weepy goodbyes to loved ones, and the consistently somber tone throughout the entire film suggests the end of the world is inevitable.

Alas, the end is not near, but the movie still offers a big payoff when the smaller of the two comets finally hits the Atlantic Ocean. It creates a massive tidal wave that takes out the coast of North America, the raging water flooding inland up to 600 miles. Tens of millions die, but the onscreen mayhem is pretty much restricted to New York City, which is fine, because who really gives a damn about watchingCharleston go down? New York has the tall buildings, giant suspension bridges and the Statue of Liberty, all of which get obliterated by the wave. The special effects are outstanding, and we get a good long look as skyscrapers topple like dominoes and the head of Lady Liberty bobbles through the streets of Manhattan like a bath toy.

It’s also obvious from the get-go that the creators of Deep Impact set out to make a smart disaster film...by smart, I mean that the events at least seem plausible, and the film is extremely well-acted by an good cast (though Tea Leoni is in over her head as a TV anchorperson; she sometimes looks like she’s got something stuck in her eye) playing real people rather than stock disaster movie characters. In a sense, they almost succeed too well. Part of me sort of misses some of those stock characters, whom often make disaster movies so much goofy fun. There aren’t any bad guys ready to put someone else’s life in jeopardy to save their own asses, no idiots who exist to deny anything is wrong, no hordes of extras reacting in blind panic while practicing the time-honored tradition of self-preservation. Still, there’s a lot to appreciate. Morgan Freeman oozes authority as the president, and the film is pretty light on needless subplots - those that remain are more-or-less necessary for us to care whether or not these characters survive. But even if you don’t care about the characters, the climactic comet impact is worth waiting for. Deep Impactis arguably the one of the best disaster movies ever made, certainly better than the cinema suppository released that same year with the same plot, Armageddon.


"How dare you question my authority. I'm
Morgan fucking Freeman."
Still, as good as Deep Impact is, I’m still somewhat troubled by that awesome-but-pointless opening scene, which makes me lament that Rubin & Tolkin didn’t follow-through with their rage and make the astronomer’s death more central to the story. If you are going to take the time and budget to include a scene so obviously-directed at cell-phone abusers, why not go the distance and make the character’s carelessness cause the end of the world? If Wolf’s death prevented live-saving information from getting out to the masses, we could all gasp at the irony of it all. One man is able to save the world, but instead chooses to mess with his phone while driving. Wouldn't it be cool to see a movie where the end of civilization was the result of a single dumbshit?

Such a plot element would probably deliver the screenwriters’ anti-cell phone message with even more (deep) impact. Who knows how many viewers would wonder if the next irrelevant call or text they feel like they just have to make (while driving at 60 mph) could have consequences resulting in the death of billions?

November 17, 2014

More GREAT POSTERS FOR BAD MOVIES

Movie posters are a dying art. Today, most are little more than quickly slapped-together Photoshopped montages. But back in the days before the internet, posters really had to sell movies, which meant hiring artists and photographers with enough creativity to (sometimes deviously) get butts planted in theater seats. In the tradition of P.T. Barnum, sometimes the best posters were used to entice moviegoers into seeing the worst movies...

FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND
Schlockmeister Roger Corman's return to the director's chair after a decades-long absence was heralded by this gorgeously-disturbing piece of movie art. Sure, the film was his usual B-movie junk, albeit B-movie junk featuring such A-list stars as Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda & John Hurt. As for the poster...couldn't this image have been better-utilized as a heavy metal album cover?



THE FOOD OF THE GODS
Corman-wannabe Bert I. Gordon threw together this amusingly awful bastardization of an H.G. Wells story, complete with special effects which would have been laughable in the 1950s. So what does a hack mini-mogul do to get people to check it out? The promise of a giant chicken, of course, widely-considered the most terrifying beast ever to stalk the screen.

COBRA
This poster may actually be the ultimate example of truth in advertising. Stallone shoots guns. Stallone kills people. Stallone wears sunglasses in the dark. Stallone shows no remorse. Stallone chews a toothpick. Stallone has awesome hair. Stallone emotes even less than he did as Rambo. 






BEYOND THE DOOR
Personally speaking, this poster (along with the equally-terrifying TV spot) scared the living shit out of me as a kid. Not only that, it starred Juliet Mills, best-known to us young'uns as the star of the whimsical 70's series, Nanny and the Professor. Little did I know the film was such a blatant rip-off of The Exorcist that Warner Brothers threatened to sue the Italian studio which originally released it.



THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT
Today, this godawful, 3-hour, sex-loaded soap opera is best-remembered for its dubious connection to Star Wars. At the time, 20th Century Fox was convinced that, not only would this film be a hit, but feared Star Wars would totally bomb, so they only granted permission for theater chains to book Midnight under the proviso that they'd show Star Wars as well. Midnight tanked, of course, but you have to admit the poster painting is absolutely beautiful. I'd frame and mount it on my living room wall right now if I could find a good print.

THE BLACK HOLE
Back in 1979, this was Disney's misguided attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars. Despite the dark and ominous story promised by this poster (featuring one of the greatest title-logos of all time), the movie itself is slow, boring, terribly-acted and often unintentionally funny, with lapses in scientific plausibility even a kindergartner could see through. The presence of "funny" robots further render this ambitious failure worthy of MST3K ridicule, but at least we can find comfort knowing all good robots go the Heaven.