Postmortem: Catwoman (2004)

If you’re expecting me to say something to the effect that Pitof’s 2004 super hero movie Catwoman is some sort of lost classic then you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree…because it’s not.

And while the buck usually stops with the director, I don’t think that that’s entirely fair in this case, mainly because the writing is so bad that not even Orson Welles could have saved it. Theresa Rebeck, Michael Brancato and Michael Ferris (the latter two are quite prolific writers for movies and television, though it’s telling that they also wrote Surrogates, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and Terminator: Salvation.  And as not-so-good as those three movies are, they also wrote The Game, which is awesome).

That being said, the pseudo-mystical angle the writers took is sort of clever in that it doesn’t necessarily invalidate other versions of the character, though it’s a perfect illustration of what happens when you don’t have knowledgable people overseeing development of a property.

That’s exactly why, no matter how much flak Kevin Feige gets from various quarters, no matter what you think about Marvel Studios or superheroes in general, having a unified voice as far as your characters go is pretty useful.
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Postmortem: Pacific Rim (2013)

Screenshot 2016-01-01 14.04.32.pngWelcome to the first post of the New Year!  I figured that I’d go back in time to rewatch Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots versus monsters epic, Pacific Rim.

If you ask me the true test of whether or not a movie is a good one is that of time, namely if it can stand up well to repeated viewings.

And despite the fact that del Toro’s Pacific Rim underwhelmed domestically–the bulk of its $400 billion dollar box office was due to its popularity internationally–it’s damn enjoyable and stands up to revisiting very well.

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Postmortem: The Thing (2011)

With John Carpenter’s The Thing–based on Christian Nyby’s 1951 movie The Thing From Another World and the original John Campbell short novel, Who Goes There?–we got to see a director at the peak of his powers.  Carpenter was able to combine Rob Bottin’s extraordinary creature effects with a taut story of an otherworldly threat that had the ability to mimic whomever it killed.

So you can imagine that when Universal Pictures decided to do a sequel in 2011–without Carpenter’s input–that fans would probably not be too keen on it.

And that’s a bit of an understatement, with many–myself included–hating the movie on general principal.

Having recently re-watched Matthijs van Heijningen’s prequel, it’s actually pretty good.  And while I wished that it had more in the way of practical effects–though as far as I can tell the CGI is based on designs from Alec Gillis and Bob Woodruff (who are credited) and while it’s not as innovative as the practical special effects of Rob Bottin, They’re okay.

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• Postmortem: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Screenshot 2015-12-14 00.01.59l admit that when I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey I thought that it was unwatchable.  And when I use the word ‘unwatchable’ I don’t mean on a technical basis–it’s a gorgeous movie with practical special effects that stand up well today–instead I mean I found it almost unwatchably boring.

 

Recently I gave it another chance and watched it in its entirely over two days, and have come to realize that what I originally saw as boring was Kubrick’s almost clinical approach to the material.

Today, in most science fiction when a spaceship moves through space, there’s lots of noise–which is impossible, since there’s not enough air to carry sound.
Kubrick would have none of this, and modeled the space scenes after what would actually happened when a craft moved from place to place, which essentially means, on a aural level, nothing at all.  I am unsure what’s behind the lack of visible propulsion, though you’d be surprised how quickly you notice the absence of all those sound effects.

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Postmortem: Robocop (2014)

RoboCopI caught the reboot of Robocop in theaters, and recall at the time thinking that it was a bit weak, especially compared to the original film. That being said, having watched it again my first impression was confirmed, namely that it’s not as as engaging or as fun as the1987 Paul Verhoeven movie.  And speaking of Verhoeven’s film, a lot of the credit goes to its rating, which was a well-deserved R. While Robocop’s most recent build is PG-13, which means that it can’t be seen by anyone under 13 years of age without a parent or guardian. So it should go without saying that none of the delightfully gratuitous violence that graced the original will be anywhere near the reboot. And it suffers for it, though it also lacks the gonzo tone of the first movie.  Luckily, some of the central themes (the privatization of public utilities, such as the police, where the man begins, and machine ends, etc) remain intact, though often not quite as clearly defined as in the first movie (the heads of Omnicorp–as opposed to Omni Consumer Products in the original–in the reboot aren’t necessarily evil more than greedy, while their counterparts in the original film gave the phrase ‘severance package’ an entirely new meaning). That being said, the reboot does have some advantages that the first film doesn’t.

One being that the reboot looks more cinematic, somehow bigger and more ambitious–considering that the original cost $13 million to produce, while the reboot cost $100 million, it aught to look better (even in 1980’s dollars).  Considering how attractive the movie is, it looks like money well-spent.  It also takes advantage of the latest in CGI and motion capture technologies, techniques which weren’t available when the original film was made. Another thing is that the chemistry between the main actors is significantly better this time around.  In reference to the original the relationship between Murphy (Peter Weller) and Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) was serviceable, but never particularly convincing, while that between 2014’s Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and Jack Lewis (Michael B. Williams) has much more in the way of camaraderie and comfort with each other, which is apparent on screen.

So if you go into Robocop (2014) and expecting the excesses of the original film–as I did when I first saw it–you’re going to be Robocop (1987)disappointed because there’re not too many directors that can beat Paul Verhoeven when it comes to over-the-top, subversive filmmaking. But if you haven’t seen the original film then José Padilha’s more conservative interpretation is actually pretty enjoyable. Robocop (1984) is currenty on Netflix

Postmortem: ‘Monsters’

Before Gareth Edwards directed Godzilla for Legendary and Warner Bros. he did a little (it cost $500,000, which is more in line with the catering budget of a movie these days) movie called Monsters, which was what put him on the map.  Seeing that the former has just been released on Netflix and I haven’t yet seen the latter, this is a good time as any to revisit that film.

It revolves around a NASA space probe that is sent to find signs of life in the universe.

Unfortunately, the probe finds what it’s looking for, though it breaks up in Earth’s atmosphere, spreading the aforementioned alien life them all over Mexico.  This results in half the county being quarantined, and the United States working with the Mexicans to destroy the aliens.

Unfortunately for the Mexican and American governments, the aliens have other ideas.

Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is a newspaper photographer, who’s trying to get pictures of the creatures that are apparently running rampant in Mexico, a task made more difficult by the fact that he also has to get the daughter of newspaper’s publisher, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) to the coast so that she can get out of the country before that particular route closes.

And as for leaving Mexico by water, they have only 48 hours till the boat leaves, or they’ll be stranded for the next six months.

Though that’s not quite true.  They could still go overland, though the Infected Zone to the border that separates Mexico from the United States.

Though they can only travel during the day because no one wants to be out at night, when the monsters are active.

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Postmortem: ‘Prometheus’

Ridley Scott, even when his films are sort of silly, like “Legend,” look absolutely remarkable.  He has an eye that manages to catch the smallest details, but his ear for nonsensical story beats is not quite so acute.

For instance, while “Prometheus” was gorgeous to look at, but if you give it any sort of consideration, it doesn’t necessarily collapse, though it does get a mite wobbly under the weight of scrutiny.

Whoever Cut This Trailer Deserves Some Sort Of Award Because It’s Awesome

  • Value

While I understand that, seeing that “Prometheus” is no longer in theaters seeing it in 3D isn’t really an option, I thought that it worked well for the movie.  It goes without saying that it was best in situations that were special effects-heavy, like when David accessed the star map of the Engineer spacecraft.

That being said, “Prometheus” is gorgeous to look at, and being in 3D only makes it more visually lush, but it’s hardly necessary.

Verdict:  I have yet to see a 3D movie–many of which are converted in post, as opposed to originally being filmed in the format–that was necessary in that the viewer is somehow missing something if it’s not in 3D.

  • Violence

“Prometheus” exists in the same universe as the “Alien” films (sort of) which means that violence is almost a prerequisite.  That being said, there’s nothing particularly shocking here.

Verdict: Violence goes with an ‘Alien’ film like Americans and firearms, and while “Prometheus” could have used a bit more, you don’t necessarily miss it.

  • Acting

Well done, because no matter how outlandish things get, everyone on screen takes it seriously.  And are there some high-powered actors here, like Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce.

Verdict: Acting matters, and typically for Ripley Scott, he chooses some of the best actors working today.  And he does so not in a Christopher Nolanesque fashion, which means that you don’t have Guy Pearce playing a butler or something silly like that.

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