October Extras 2: Armageddon (1998)

OCTOBER 31, 2008

GENRE: OCTOBER EXTRAS 2
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)
LAST SEEN: 2008 (DVD)

Last year on Halloween I did a sort of running commentary “review” of, well, Halloween, to close out my October Extras series. So to close off the 2nd (and final) round of OE, in which I’ve been sticking to NON-horror movies, I felt that the only way to go would be to give the same treatment to my beloved Armageddon. Of all the things I love, I get the most shit for this one, and hopefully by the end of the review, you will understand why I hold it so dear, if not actually agree with my sentiment. Since it’s not as beloved as Halloween (and thus readers won’t know it well enough to know what I am referring to), I will give a timecode so you can sort of understand what scenes I am talking about.

Please note – this is based on the director’s cut, available from Criterion. The timecode won’t really match up after the “last night on Earth” scene, which is where the bulk of the additions lie, if you are using the theatrical version.

EAT IT, FILM SNOBS!

00:00:12 Ah, the Bruckheimer logo. Still in its infancy, as it was only the 2nd film he released without Don Simpson (the other was Con Air – so this was the moment he became a hero. Sadly it’s been pretty much downhill since).

00:00:53 Heston has spoken! Already, people were bitching about the movie’s accuracy, because the Asteroid hit that Heston describes happened millions of years ago and yet the Earth model shows the current configuration. Hey guess what? FUCK THE FUCK YOU! IT’S A FUCKING BRUCE WILLIS MOVIE ABOUT BLOWING UP AN ASTEROID! Jesus assraping Christ, I can’t stand people who watch movies with idiotic plots and bitch about inaccuracy. Like the movie was this pinnacle of intelligence and logic, and it was all blown because the CGI planet had the wrong design. Shut the fuck up and eat your popcorn.

00:03:54 OK I’ll give em this one though – the shuttle blows up, Truman asks to play the tape back... and it’s edited together. Not even Bay could edit that fast!

00:04:26 The only minimal thing about this entire movie is the font on the credits. Seems like they should be exploding or in a “cool” font or something, but it’s like a standard 18 point Times New Roman deal.

00:05:32 Keith David! Five minutes in and our badass count is at two (other being Billy Bob). Actually three if you count Heston.

00:06:09 “Adaptation by” is one writing credit I have never understood. This isn’t based on a book. What did they adapt?

00:06:45 Hey allright, making fun of Godzilla. It came out the same summer and featured some of the same shit being destroyed, and it was boring. Why does Armageddon still get shit but not that goddamn movie? At least Armageddon wasn’t bastardizing a beloved character. Unless you count America as a character.

00:08:17 Suddam Hussein is dead, my friend. Way to date the movie.

00:08:31 Heh, the “I Love NY” guy getting killed tickles me. Bay has a bit of a mean streak that he’s sort of abandoned (other than Bad Boys II and his horror productions) since this movie.

00:10:10 Dottie! I love this line. In the original(ish) script, instead of Carl the ex navy guy, it was a couple of computer hacker guys. They would more or less resurface in Transformers. Bay never wastes an idea!

00:10:49 It’s the same president from The Rock! As the two films only share secondary actors (various military/NASA personnel) I like to think they are in the same universe.

00:11:31 The trailer actually sells this concept better than the movie. In the trailer, he says the basketballs and Volkswagens line BEFORE the “It’s the size of Texas” one. Way more powerful. Bad editing choice!

00:11:51 At long last, WILLIS!!! You can’t help but love a movie that introduces its hero as a guy who endangers the lives of Greenpeace hippies by hitting golf balls at them.

00:12:20 Will Patton too! Badass count is what, 5 now?

00:12:51 Well, Affleck sort of negates one of them. He’s OK in this movie, but he was still in his prettyboy phase. He’s much more interesting now.

00:14:15 My lady Liv Tyler. Part of why Willis is my hero? He totally boinked her during filming. And she plays his daughter. Man, that is hot.

00:14:47 A Bay tradition! Swirling the camera around during a scene with some dialogue to make it seem exciting. Totally works.

00:15:20 And now Willis runs around with a shotgun. I think this is the moment most douchebags in the audience gave up on the movie entirely. I think the scene is funny. Shows that they’re all immature (Willis purposely misses! He’s not really trying to kill him, Christ.), introduces a bunch of the guys... it’s nonsensical, sure, but beats him and Affleck talking it out like normal people. Again – the movie is dragon-less fantasy.

00:17:04 OK this scene bugs me. The last time we saw Billy Bob, he was telling everyone to give them any ideas they had, even if it was a doodle on a pizza box. Now they are presenting some ideas that seem OK by me and he’s shooting them all down instantly, and then he yells at them for presenting him with stupid ideas! Billy Bob, you can’t have your cake and eat it too man! Though he DID cheat on Angelina so much that she made him go to sex therapy, and then he fucked his sex therapist, so I dunno, maybe he can.

00:17:53 OK freeze it here – there’s a sign in the background that says “If you’re swearing, you’re swimming”. It was thrown up to provide a reason why none of these guys swear (PG-13), but you can barely see the damn thing. Also, back when Bruce had his own messageboard, I got reprimanded for swearing, and I brought the sign up. No one knew what the fuck I was talking about.

00:19:33 Billy Bob has one of the best lines here. “Pretty much the smartest man in the world, you might wanna listen to him.” Heh.

00:20:33 Here we go! “WE DRILL” FUCK YES. I have to pause here so I can write, because I’ll miss other shit. Look, 20 minutes into the movie they tell you everything you need to know. They are going to send oil drillers (possibly the same nuts we just met!) into space to blow up an asteroid. That is the most gung-ho, silly/awesome plot in the history of movies. All this other shit about the wrong Earth models or sound in space or any of that doesn’t fucking matter, because the movie is about OIL DRILLERS GOING INTO SPACE TO BLOW UP AN ASTEROID. Why bother making everything else accurate when the basic plot of the movie is ridiculous? It’s a summer popcorn movie. You know they won’t all die at the end and that the Earth will be saved. You know shit will blow up. Why the fuck do people give this movie such a hard time? I just don’t understand it at all. Its as if it was the only action movie to have questionable logic. Christ.

Also, and I’ve said this before – I judge a movie on how well the idea is presented. The idea itself is not of concern, so long as the cast and filmmakers stay true to that idea. This movie’s concept (oil drillers in space) is one of excess and silliness, and at no point, manipulative heart-tugging aside, do they abandon that idea. In short – if you can make a BETTER version of a movie in which oil drillers fly into space to blow up an asteroid, then let’s fucking see it, right now!

Also, spoiler alert, the closest thing we have to someone that lives up to the legend of John Wayne, one Mr. Walter Bruce Willis, blows himself up to save the entire fucking world at the end of this movie. That is like, cinematic perfection.

That’s it for ranting. You can stop reading now if you’re still on the “this movie makes no sense and therefore it sucks” team. Resume play!

00:21:00 Lot of drilling terms being tossed around; I bet I could work on an oil drill at this point, being that this is probably the 40th time I’ve watched this movie in the past 10 years.

Hey I just thought of something – I almost saw this for a FIFTH time in theaters on Halloween in 1998! I was in Salem MA and we wanted to kill some time, and it was playing at the dollar theater. We opted for more people watching though.

00:22:28 I wonder who Crazy Willy is. We need a prequel to this movie.

00:22:41 Hey allright, a completely unnecessary statutory rape joke.

00:23:19 Why are the NASA vans from California?

00:23:49 A rogue comet! Maybe the rogue oceanographer from Brucky’s unmade tidal wave movie can take it out.

00:24:26 Billy Bob’s commenting on the script here I think.

00:24:46 “Not a soul on earth can hide from it.” The irony of this movie is that if an asteroid DID hit, Willis would probably be the only one left standing, far as I’m concerned. Maybe Dolph too.

00:25:26 “Six billion people in the world, why you call me?” Well, Twelve Monkeys, Fifth Element... you’re pretty good at this “world saving” stuff, B.

00:26:27 Here we go, giant leap of faith time, even by this movie’s standards. Why can’t NASA guys build a drill? I can almost buy the “you need to trust the guys you’re with to be a good driller” nonsense, but I can’t quite figure out why they wouldn’t know forward from reverse.

00:27:14 If you DO have the Criterion, definitely listen to Affleck’s commentary over this scene. It’s fucking amazing.

00:27:30 No backup plan! Keep that in mind, I guess there will be one more rant in a bit.

00:28:10 OK, one other one besides that one. Folks bitched about the “it’s easy to train drillers to be an astronaut” shit, but like, they’re not actually flying the shuttle or anything. They sit there and do nothing for the entire trip until they land and begin to drill. I don’t see how that’s an issue.

00:29:30 The always beautiful Shawnee Smith... she was in The Island too, as another one of Buscemi’s conquests.

00:30:04 Hahaha, I love how they skip over Noonan in this “rounding up the guys” sequence. Noonan is such a great non-character.

00:30:33 Moment I don’t quite buy #2. It’s been like, a day, but AJ already has his own drill company?

Bruce is fiddling with a circular thing on a chain during this scene. I actually know what that thing is and what it means, even though everything about it has been removed from the movie (I don’t know if it was ever even filmed). It’s a piece of the first pipe he ever laid, and there was this going to be this thing where he split it in half and gave half to Affleck, and they’d like, put it back together when the job was done or something. Kind of corny, but I like that they bothered to give Bruce the prop for it.

00:32:38 Noonan! “Guess I can’t let you go up there alone.” Well, who the fuck are you? I’m probably the only person who even knows this guy’s name.

00:33:36 I wonder which one is the one that works for the mob? I bet it’s Noonan. Guy’s gotta have SOMETHING going on in his life.

00:34:40 Heh, Keith David actually nods a bit when Willis asks if they can tell them who killed Kennedy.

00:35:12 How would the whole “not paying for taxes” thing work? When they buy shit at the store, would they flash a card or something? “Oh no, see, I blew up the asteroid, so that will be 19.99, not 21.64. Thanks.”

00:35:45 Noonan’s 2nd line (of 4)! He’s also MIA from the scenes with the shrink for some reason. Maybe he doesn’t like Udo Kier.

00:38:00 Does Bruce not have to take any of the tests? Later on he doesn’t need to practice with the simulator either. Is he just that awesome or does Bruce (the actor) just not want to bother?

00:38:40 Colonel Willie Sharp! Aka William Fichtner. Aka the first actor I met when I moved to LA. I called him Willie Sharp and his wife laughed at me. I was sad.

00:39:35 This Jessica Steen chick is beautiful. Why didn’t she have a bigger career? Or, any? I don’t think I ever saw her in anything else.

00:40:13 Heh, I love this part, they throw out all the useless shit inside the Armadillo. The eight million writers on this movie (one of which is the over-beloved JJ Abrams) did a good job of selling their blue collar, good ol’ boy attitude.

00:41:30 OK, Willis has to take the breathing and eye exams I guess.

00:42:02 Buscemi’s nod here is hilarious. I actually try to emulate it when required to nod in real life.

00:42:40 All this stuff about putting them in zero G and weightlessness and they don’t even show it!

00:43:18 I like how Oscar is taking notes here. I hope he makes copies for Noonan, since I don’t think they bothered putting him in the scene.

00:44:18 I want that model of the asteroid.

00:44:27 OK pause again, cuz here’s what I think will be my final rant/explanation for why no one should ever give this movie any shit about its silliness. This NASA guy breaks into the scene to explain that they are taking two shuttles because “At NASA we don’t take chances, we double up on everything!” Just 17 minutes ago (thanks, timecode!) we were told that oil drillers blowing up the asteroid is THEIR ONLY PLAN. Now, none of them might be rocket scientists (though they did have some on the movie for advisors, and there’s a commentary track with a few of them explaining how all of their advice was ignored), but I would think that if they were making any sort of intelligent movie, they wouldn’t let this line stay in the movie when it basically contradicts the plot of the damn thing. So for the last time people – THIS MOVIE IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOFY FUN AND NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY. EVER. NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND. NO, NOT EVEN THAT PART. Its unabashed silliness is the very thing that makes me love it so. Its 150 minutes of entertainment. And screw anyone who says Bay edits so fast that they can’t follow it. If you ask me, that makes YOU the dumb one, not Bay/the writers/Bruckheimer/me

00:44:32 Only 800 feet? They shoulda done 1000.

00:45:03 When I first saw this in theaters, this is when I got up to go to the bathroom. I only remember that because two days later when I went to see it again (I saw it 3x on opening weekend), I realized that I had missed one of my favorite lines at 45:42. “Did you say Grace? OK I thought you said Bear!”

00:46:50 Another “Everyone’s here except Noonan” scene. Where the hell is he?

00:47:20 Bruce says Oscar is the same age as Grace, but earlier he claimed the only reason she liked Affleck is because he was the only one in her age bracket. Seems she had a pretty decent group to choose from. AJ, Oscar, Noonan...

00:48:25 Heh, Willis is explaining how they will save the world. Noonan is MIA and Liv is there. Why does she need to know? SOMEONE GET NOONAN ON THE SET!

00:51:20 Here’s some of the new stuff. The loan shark says "Fuck" and then Oscar goes to church.

00:52:00 Ugh. The most maligned moment in the film, and rightfully so. The only reason all this shit is in the movie (it’s not in the draft I have) is because Titanic made 600 million fucking dollars. Suddenly, having a strong love story in the middle of a disaster movie seemed like a good idea. But this movie’s fun and goofy, so the love scene has to follow suit. And somehow, the best they came up with was having Affleck get cookie crumbs all over Liv’s impossibly amazing torso.

Bay fans will probably recognize this goddamn tree. It’s in Transformers.

00:54:00 Tears moment #1! Chick is my favorite non-Willis character in the movie, and the look on his face when his ex tells their kid that he’s a salesman fucking killed me the first couple times. I’ve since grown up and only get slightly teary eyed. I think it’s because I noticed that it’s sunny on his wife and dark on him.

00:55:25 The biggest addition to the director’s cut. Willis (his name is Harry, but come on, it’s Willis) goes to see his dad. I guess Lawrence Tierney wasn’t aware his scene was cut until he saw the movie at the premiere. Kind of a bummer, and he died a bit later. I’m glad Bay put it back, even though it sticks out like a sore thumb, especially since Willis is back at NASA two scenes later. Did his dad just happen to live nearby? Actually, come to think of it, I guess Chick’s wife is in the area too.

00:57:00 Noonan’s third line! One more to go!

00:58:15 Is it just me or does this random Asian town look a lot like the town at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII where you have to have Cloud dress up like a woman for some reason?

00:59:00 This movie introduced me to text messaging!

00:59:20 Willis’ last night on Earth.... and he’s in a dark room with another man. Huh.

01:01:12 Tear moment #2! Actually this one only got me the 2nd time, because Willis is all “I promise I will come back” and now I know he doesn’t. Man, if I made this movie, Affleck would die. Willis would still rip the air tube out, but he’d leave him behind as well.

01:02:55 Everyone’s getting ready... except Noonan of course. Maybe he woke up early and is already on the shuttle.

01:03:38 More “make it romantic!” shit. Of course, since teenage girls are pretty much the only other people on my side for this movie, I guess I shouldn’t complain. Plus, Michael Clarke Duncan’s rendition of "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" is pretty spectacular.

01:05:51 There’s a guy on the far left of the frame here that kills me. He looks like he’s having an epileptic fit as he cheers.

01:06:05 It’s always daylight on Bay Earth! Nighttime is for assholes!

01:06:59 Tears #3! Happy tears tho. “That’s your DADDY!” Fuck yeah. Good thing that a 3 or 4 year old kid has a photographic memory for random strangers. Also that he’d rather watch shuttle coverage than a cartoon.

01:09:44 And so begins my favorite music cue in the movie, just called "Launch" on the score CD (which I own in both single disc official and 2-disc bootleg form!). I even have it as a ringtone now, which sucks for people calling me because I just listen to it rather than pick up. Like any asshole calling me has something I’d rather hear than Trevor Rabin’s amazing music?

01:11:00 Heh, the original teaser was just these shots of the shuttles taking off. “Man, that looks dull” I said. Stupid BC.

01:12:43 Owen Wilson is obviously out of character here, just laughing at something in the background.

01:13:08 Peter Stormare! I’ve lost the count for badasses. Let’s call it an even ten and move along. But really, this movie has a pretty fucking awesome cast. Other than Willis, at the time they were all pretty much indie guys, and now they’re all in the most Hollywood movie ever made. I like that. Never quite understood why they would need to refuel an hour after takeoff, but his addition to the film is welcome.

01:14:33 Wilson is STILL laughing about something!

01:15:18 Even Stormare agrees. “I am not gas station!” And why did HE have so much extra fuel that the Americans couldn’t scrape together? Let’s call this #3 for moments I don’t buy. Also, he’s completely batshit here, but in 20 minutes he’s fine.

01:17:00 I think this is new too, Wilson telling Stormare that they’re all brothers or whatever. It’s been so long since I have watched the theatrical I don’t remember.

01:18:20 This is a pretty fucking impressive tracking shot through the shuttle. It’s like a 6x6 corridor!

01:18:55 Killing Affleck off here would have been pretty ballsy too. Again, if not for Titanic, and given Brucky’s legendary rewriting process, I wonder how different this movie could have turned out if they were taking inspiration from a different movie. Deep Impact killed off almost everyone!

01:20:42 Willis is fucking awesome here. “WE’RE NOT LEAVING WITHOUT AJ!” You fuckin tell em, B! I bet he’d be OK if it was Noonan. Probably wouldn’t even notice.

01:21:42 Hey, Lev has a family! Who knew?

01:22:05 Billy Bob seems pretty OK with the idea of losing two men.

01:22:15 Key moment in the “they’re not stupid, they are just out to make a fun movie” gallery – a giant piece of the space station FALLS IN SPACE toward their shuttle, and they get away by... well, peeling out. In a shuttle. In space.

I love this movie.

01:22:50 Noonan’s fourth and final line. Take care, pal.

01:23:20 This bums me out. They have a 2.5 day trip to the asteroid, and we see none of it. I’d be interested in what they did the whole time. The French would probably make that the entire movie.

01:24:40 Not the best time to take off your engagement ring, Liv.

01:26:00 I dunno if the CG is just off or what, but that thing doesn’t look like the size of Texas compared to the shuttle.

01:27:40 Billy Bob’s such a bureaucrat... 10 min ago he was OK with possibly losing 2 men, but now that his shuttle is damaged he panics. And wastes a perfectly nice coffee mug.

01:28:00 This music is really sad too.

01:28:55 And, somewhere in this sequence, Noonan is killed. Wilson gets a death scene, Noonan, true to form, just disappears.

01:29:30 Bay really likes to show bodies being flung around to their death.

01:31:06 Heh, one time my blue (or green, or red, I forget) wire on my component TV connection was loose, and I didn’t notice until this scene, because I knew it was supposed to be all blue and it was all green instead. From then on, whenever I had to test the color on my TV, I’d put the DVD in and cue it up to this scene. Incoherent lighting does have its purposes after all!

01:33:02 I love the random NASA guy (Gruber) just wandering into the shot here. “By all means!” Yeah, we know you’re there. This movie only has one Noonan; you’re safe.

01:34:00 In theaters, my friend was pissed that Affleck and the others survived.

Also, Affleck finds Wilson’s body and weeps. The NASA guys are seen being sucked out of the shuttle, and Bear/Lev are alive as well. Gee, who’s not accounted for?

01:35:38 Some people don’t understand the “Dr Seuss’ worst nightmare” line. Made sense to me; there’s a bunch of random jaggles and joogles everywhere, except they’re not whimsical, they are scary. Christ, people.

01:37:25 More “oil driller” talk. They name their drill heads? No way NASA would know what to do here.

01:38:30 There was a deleted scene that explained why the Armadillo had a goddamn turret gun on it (to blast away debris and other such stuff that would keep the thing from driving forward, which I had figured out for myself anyway) but since it was cut and people need to bitch, this became one of the most maligned moments in the film.

01:39:52 Will Patton blew a tranny? Well that’s great, but he might want to focus on the job at hand.

01:41:00 The asteroid is pretty scenic here.

01:41:14 The only time Noonan’s death is acknowledged. AJ says he lost “two of his friends”. Hey Noonan – at least you’re considered a friend. AJ doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the three NASA folks who just bought it.

01:42:30 Green, blue, green, blue... no wonder all the “around the world” scenes are set at sundown. Bay was probably feeling that no one would recognize the film as his own unless he got to use his orange filters SOMEWHERE.

01:44:20 Hahahaha this extra kills me. He wants to get in the movie, so he needlessly wheels his chair out into the walkway, and then wheels it back.

01:45:46 Liv’s line is different in the trailer. She says “family” in the trailer but “father” in the movie. I like family better, it pays off Bear's “We all feel like a bunch of daddies” line from before. Man, everyone that complains that this movie is the longest trailer ever should at least point out that the trailer itself has better character development!

Also, Billy’s F bomb was in the theatrical cut. I was initially bummed that this movie was PG-13, but it was worth it for the power of that one line!

01:47:34 Aw yeah, an override the override action typing sequence!

01:48:12 “What are you doing with a gun in space?” BEING AWESOME, THAT’S WHAT! Actually I have no excuse/defense for this one. Interior debris?

01:48:50 I bet it’s hard to fight in those bulky spacesuits.

01:49:20 I love the look on Buscemi’s face here. “What did we miss?” Hahahah, I love him.

01:49:51 They have like 1.5 minutes to unload a nuke and fly away. If Willis didn’t pull off his “I never fail” speech then they’d all be dead and the asteroid wouldn’t even be damaged.

01:50:56 I WILL MAKE 800 FEET! should replace “Let’s win one for the Gipper”, if you ask me.

01:51:21 15 seconds left.

01:51:30 8 seconds left

01:51:34 6 seconds left

01:51:39 3 seconds left

01:51:44 The bomb is stopped, with only 2 (but really negative 8) seconds left to spare!

01:52:13 Good way to work in the obligatory “Houston we have a problem” reference.

01:52:38 Dude, the idea of just sitting on an asteroid watching it/yourself hurtle toward Earth is fucking freaky.

01:53:38 Stormare is fine, but now Buscemi is crazy. It’s what they call “Coen Brothers Regular Transference”

01:55:52 This is even scarier, the idea that you might just float around in space until you die. Because they have oxygen and maybe even some candy bars in there, so they’d probably live for a while, floating endlessly in an Armadillo tomb.

01:59:03 Dude! That’s so awesome. The change in gravity means that when you tackle a dude, you both fly like 30 feet. That or Bay/Brucky thought it would look cool.

02:00:08 MAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX! :( I liked him.

02:01:12 Into the storm cellar, morons!

02:02:03 Sacre bleu!

02:02:26 There’s another French movie. The asteroid has 4 hrs to hit after zero barrier. They could make an art film about a bunch of pretentious snobs arguing about the meaning of it all, and then end it before it actually hits.

02:03:30 AJ!

02:04:30 I like Willis summing up for all of us. “We got 250 feet, last transmission, last drill head!’ And no more continues.

02:05:17 Uh oh. Shit’s going wrong! Again! My friend (same one who was pissed Affleck didn’t die when the shuttle crashed) was angry that seemingly nothing worked in this movie. And to an extent, he’s right – this movie has the most amount of problems in a movie ever. In the next 15 minutes, the shuttle will fail to start, the remote detonator will break, a pipe will snap, Bruce will drop the detonator...

02:07:25 Why is he cutting a giant pipe with an electric turkey knife?

02:09:00 “What’s going on up there?” The Armageddon law of shit going wrong every 2 minutes, dude! Plus the law of killing someone off every 10 (adieu, Gruber). Get with it!

Gruber I think gets it worse than anyone in the movie. A fucking mini asteroid hits him right in the goddamn balls.

02:09:55 Again, when a NASA guy dies no one seems too concerned.

02:10:46 OK, “It takes two people to fly this thing”, Sharp says, effectively taking him and the hot girl out of it. But Lev seems pretty qualified, so I think Sharp was just being kind of a dick here.

02:11:03 Willis is so laid back about his offer. “I’ll stay and take care of it,” he says, as if he was offering to watch someone’s cats.

02:11:26 Why don’t they let Buscemi do it, exactly? What, he’s crazy, so he won’t hit the button and save his friends/get out of paying back the loan shark?

02:11:35 People also mocked that Sharp had “straws” already. Ever hear of a jump cut, assholes? It’s a few minutes later.

02:12:37 It bums me out that Willis doesn’t say bye to Chick’s face.

02:13:04 Here we go!!!

02:13:23 BAD. FUCKING. ASS.

02:13:48 “You gotta take care of my little girl now. That’s your job.” Oh man. Until my dad died I don’t think I ever bawled so hard (and, it should go without saying, that event doesn’t exactly make this part any easier to take). And fuck you. It’s SAD.

I think it’s mainly cuz Willis essentially just plays Willis in the movie. Like, he’s died in other movies and I never really cared, but here it’s like the actual Willis dying (to save ME, an Earth resident!). Which would make me sad. You know how they say giving a kid a goldfish or a hamster (something that dies pretty quickly) prepares them for when they lose an actual loved one (i.e. a person) later in life? I have Armageddon to prepare me for when Willis dies for real. Assuming he does (I’m pretty sure he won’t).

But true to form, it’s actually kind of hilarious too, because he’s like “I think of you as my son. Go marry my daughter.”

02:14:08 I think Affleck really does love Bruce. He was at his Hollywood star unveiling, and even spoke before Bruce took the stage (actually, so did Billy Bob – I think it’s safe to say that Armageddon is important to Bruce too).

02:15:51 I don’t cry at this part at least. Well, not anymore.

02:16:34 OK the shot of Chick crying kinda gets me. It’s his best pal! Could have at least given him a wink or a nod to let him know he was about to sacrifice himself for the good of Affleck’s cock.

02:17:20 For your consideration...

02:17:35 We haven’t had any actual problems for a few minutes, so they need to double up!

02:18:21 ALL MADE IN TAIWAN! This movie’s pretty good at combining laughs, sadness, and nonsense.

02:19:09 Well, maybe if you didn’t fix all of the problems in the Russian space station like that, it wouldn’t have blown up.

02:19:35 I’m no shuttlologist, but can a shuttle just sort of take off like that?

02:19:50 “Thank you, Harry”. Yeah, fuck you, Sharp, you non-volunteer.

02:20:34 “Come on Harry, push the button!” Yeah, blow yourself up man! What are you waiting for?

02:21:00 Harry may not know how to fail, but movies don’t know how to ever stop a bomb with plenty of time left.

02:21:10 I like to think that Bruce survived and is on one half of the asteroid. A sequel would find the other guys going to rescue him. Because really, if there’s anything more hilariously awesome than a bunch of guys going into space to blow up an asteroid, it’s a bunch of guys going into space to rescue their buddy.

02:22:30 Good to see Billy Bob and Keith David have put aside their differences in time to hug it out.

02:22:56 At long last, some Bay style orange!

02:23:28 They land rather smoothly. What the hell’s up with that? They could have had failed landing gear or maybe missed the runway or something. It seems anticlimactic.

02:24:25 OK this shot is kind of sad, because there’s a lot less folks getting off than got on. BUT, they are in different places. They should have lined up the same way to really sell the tragic loss.

02:24:41 “My dad and half of my honorary uncles are dead! Yay!”

02:25:00 BC’s final tears, the kid being reunited with Chick. Oh wait, the wedding got me too, when they show Willis’ photo.

02:25:40 Strippers get level 5 clearance, I guess.

02:26:30 This is a nice church.

02:26:45 The final fuck you to Noonan; if you watch the movie fullscreen (you son of a bitch!) you never see his photo.

Also, who the hell are the people in the front row? That one guy looks like the loan shark!

02:27:00 I like that Lev, Truman and Sharp went to the wedding.

Well, it’s done, 11 word doc pages later. I think I’ve said all I need to say on the subject.

Oh wait, there’s another disc!

It’s actually kind of slim, considering the movie itself. There’s a few deleted scenes (one including what would have been a fifth line for Noonan, and also the only time in the movie he was seen interacting with the characters when not all of them were required to be in the scene) and some funny outtakes. Billy Bob in particular doesn’t seem to be taking any of the movie seriously, plus they joke about putting Costner in the role instead of Willis (which I’d be ALMOST as OK with – and I still dream of a Willis/Costner buddy movie). There are also a few brief looks at key effects sequences, but nothing of major substance. There are also a whole bunch of trailers/TV spots, but the awesome original 3 minute trailer is NOT included, which pisses me off. I have it on my PC somewhere, but it’s a lo-quality QuickTime. I wanted it for two reasons; one that it’s awesome, and two it was the first trailer I ever downloaded, back in 1998. Still, the Super Bowl ad is included, so that’s cool (it was a pretty awesome teaser). A lot of these trailers feature stuff that isn’t in the movie or deleted scenes (Bruce apparently had a lot more dialogue on the asteroid). The Aerosmith video is on there too, but come on. There is also a pair of commentaries that I’ve already mentioned. The scientific advisor one is pretty hilarious due to how many times they point out how they were ignored, and Affleck’s comments alone make the other one worth listening to (Willis, Bay, and Brucky also contribute, though Willis is barely heard).

Also included is an essay by a film studies professor, defending the film’s inclusion in the Criterion lineup. I have no use for it (like I needed a reason?) but some of you folks may be interested to read it; I believe you can read the whole thing on the Criterion site.

All in all, a pretty good, if not spectacular package to celebrate the finest oil drillers in space movie of all time. I hope you enjoyed this running commentary. If you didn’t, I hope you don’t hold it against me.

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Teenage Zombies (1959)

OCTOBER 31, 2008

GENRE: MAD SCIENTIST
SOURCE: DVD (BUDGET PACK 4!!!)

OK, you might notice that the movie is called Teenage Zombies and yet “zombie” isn’t listed as one of the genre tags. Now, I know that pre-Romero, zombie movies had an entirely different meaning, but even by those standards this isn’t a fucking zombie. There’s a mad scientist who has rounded up a few girls and given them some sort of mind control shit, but they don’t goddamn DO anything in the movie, so it doesn’t count.

So what DOES happen in this movie? Well, let’s see.... nothing. Nothing at all. Near the end of the movie there is a hilariously inept “fight” sequence in which three of our good guys begin rolling around with three of the bad guys, but it looks like a bunch of drunks playing Twister more than any sort of combat. The closest it gets to actually being violent is when our heroine (the term being used looser than a stool after a metric ton of Olean Cheez-its) suddenly runs over and strangles the mad scientist chick. It’s hilarious, because the other folks are already “fighting”, so it just looks like she’s jealous of the other actors and decides to have some fun for herself.

Making this scene even more inert is the fact that it, like the 60 minutes before, is filmed entirely in one or two shots. At one point we watch what seems like 30 unbroken seconds of the three mini-fights. Entire scenes will go by in one master shot, even when only one person speaks throughout the whole thing. Occasional (VERY occasional) close-ups seem jarringly out of place on the rare times they occur, and you get the impression that they are being used to hide edits than the result of any sort of creative decision. I think there are about 100 cuts in the entire movie.

So is there anything to enjoy in this thing? Well, if you have the Mill Creek version (why in god’s name would you have any other?), you might like to know that for what I think is the first time ever, a chapter break (between ch. 2 and 3) actually occurs in between scenes! Most of the time they fall right in the middle of a scene (hell, a chapter starting in the middle of a line of dialogue isn’t unheard of on these things), so it’s cool that the stars aligned for this terrible film.

The only other thing I enjoyed (for lack of a better word) is when the “hero” is telling the cops about how his friend disappeared while water skiing. “Where was he heading?” the cop asked, and the kid replies that they were just water skiing without any destination, as if this was a critical character flaw. As opposed to all of the folks who use water skiing as a primary mode of transportation to get somewhere? “They were going to the mall, sir!”

So that’s about it. DVD mastering coincidences and one mildly amusing line of dialogue provides the extent of this movie’s worth. Otherwise, if you simply must watch a 1950’s “bunch of kids take on a villain” movie, stick with the vastly superior (if hardly what I would call GOOD) Bloodlust. At least that has Mr. Brady and a bow and arrow death.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Beyond (1981)

OCTOBER 30, 2008

GENRE: ITALIAN, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

And so, around 11:50 (cutting it WAY too close for my taste; I actually pondered leaving after Gates of Hell so I could run home and put something on before midnight), the third film of the triple feature finally began: The Beyond (Italian: E tu vivrai nel terrore - L'aldilĂ ; aka The Seven Doors Of Death), which was the only one of the three that I never saw in its entirety. I had gone to see it at the New Bev sometime ago (pre HMAD anyway), and dozed through about half. But even though I stayed awake tonight, it didn’t help much: this movie doesn’t make a lick of sense.

I mean sure, you can follow what is happening to a degree, but WHY anything is happening is beyond me, and things just seem to happen for the hell of it, rather than the result of any plot machinations. Like when the zombies surround the blind girl in her house. They don’t DO anything, they just stand there like mannequins. So she has her dog attack one of them, and just screams KILL! (or something to that effect) over and over. Then I guess the dog gets zombified too (it’s all offscreen), because then, after 30 seconds of him enjoying a nice backrub, he suddenly goes apeshit and eats her face off.

Non-humans are particularly vicious in this movie. There’s also a scene where a few spiders also eat a guy’s face off. Why would they do this? When did spiders decide that stinging/biting a guy wasn’t enough, and that they had to actually devour him? And then there is also a painting of a Rhinoceros. Not sure what the fuck that’s about, but it’s a nice painting. Or was that in Gates of Hell? This is the problem with being half-drunk and watching three zombie movies from the same director in a row; they all blend together. Oh well. It’s definitely not from Zombi, I know that much.

There was some unexpected hilarity to tonight’s viewing though, courtesy of a loud crowd mishearing a guy’s name. The hero’s name is John McCabe, but of course we all heard McCAIN when it was first said. This wouldn’t have been too much of an issue if not for a scene roughly 2 minutes later when a truck pulls up with “Joe’s Plumbing” written on the side. Yes, Joe the Plumber has a cinematic legacy, that of a bearded moron plumber who I think is the one to actually cause all these problems, as he goes into a flooded basement and begins knocking down entire walls, and is the first to die. Anyway, this caused a near riot in the theater. It’s too bad that Sarah Keller’s character didn’t share her first name; it’s possible that we would have collectively began to spontaneously combust.

This one doesn’t have as many memorable gore gags as the other two. There’s the aforementioned face-rippings, but they are nothing spectacular for Fulci. The best is a ridiculous bit where a woman, after unclogging a drain by pulling out a hairball bigger than her fist, is killed by a zombie who was in the tub (how she didn’t nudge him while feeling around for the hairball is anyone’s guess). He pushes the back of her head against a nail that is extruding for no reason other than to provide a gore highlight; this results in her eye flying out (this portion of the gag was ripped off in Friday the 13th 3, but at least they made it 3D so it’s not an exact copy).

The funny thing about this movie is that I actually own a copy on DVD, along with House By The Cemetery (it’s dubbed “Fulci Collection Volume 1”). I won it at Comic Con last year (2007) for being one of the guys who were parading around yelling "CROWLEY LIVES!" or something in support of Hatchet. It’s been out of print for years, so it was a nice get (and makes me suspect just HOW out of print these DVDs really are, if they can just hand em out to morons at Comic Con). I still haven’t opened it, and now that I see used copies going for 80 bucks or so on Ebay (and I am currently on the brink of unemployment), I don’t think I will be. The damn thing might have to be used to pay my electric bill in a few weeks. But I guess Grindhouse has just re-released it on their DVD label, with all the same extras, so maybe it’s not worth as much now anyway. Oh well. I’m still not opening it; there are a lot of features but I’m way behind on stuff as it is. Tomorrow is Halloween! You know what that means... 150 minutes’ worth of asteroid-drilling awesomeness! Plus a horror movie. Plus dressing up. Plus hopefully a Halloween movie. Plus...

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Non Canon Review: The Gates Of Hell (1980)

OCTOBER 30, 2008

GENRE: ITALIAN, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

Next up in the Fulci triple feature, after Zombi, was The Gates of Hell (Italian: Paura Nella CittĂ  Dei Morti Viventi), aka City of the Living Dead. This was one of the first movies I saw at the New Bev, so it holds a special place in my heart. Plus, it has Giovanni Lombardo Radice, so I automatically love it, even if his role makes absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of things, and his death scene may be the most extraneous in horror movie history.

Radice plays Bob, a guy without any seeming motive or backstory to explain why he appears to be a zombie himself, why he has no home, and why his best option for a place to sleep is in the backseat of a car belonging to a guy who hates him. The rest of the movie is about a priest’s suicide opening a gate to hell and besieging a few folks around town (including another English journalist named Peter; apparently a Fulci theme), but Radice’s scenes don’t seem to have any connection to any of that. Then the guy who owns the car sees him, and despite being a seemingly reasonable man and upstanding citizen, he immediately shoves Radice’s head into a goddamn power drill. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome scene, but you could cut the end credits or maybe the production company logo out of the film and it would have more of a narrative impact than if any of this stuff was removed.

The drill scene is one of two great gore highlights in the film. The other finds a girl suddenly puking up her insides. And I mean all of em: her intestines, her spleen... it all comes up, as a young Michele Soavi looks on in horror. Again, not quite sure what the scene has to do with anything (no one else has this reaction, sadly) but also again, it’s fucking awesome.

The story itself is fine. I like that it takes place on the “ruins of Salem” (Massachusetts), since Salem was never destroyed. Fulci apparently liked my home state; his House by the Cemetery (itself with a memorable character named Bob) also took place there. This led to my being confused by a joke; when the heroes discover that everyone in the cemetery where the priest killed himself is coming back to life, Peter says “Luckily he didn’t hang himself in Arlington!”. There is a MA town called Arlington (it’s where I lived before I moved to LA), so I thought he was inexplicably referring to it, but then my buddy explained he meant the Arlington National Cemetery. Yeah, I’m dumb.

This movie also has the most inexplicable ending in horror movie history. Our heroes escape the pit or whatever the hell they are stuck in for the finale, and as they do, they see a little kid named John-John (who kept loosely fitting into the plot throughout the film) standing a hundred feet or so away. They call to him, and he begins to run over. Suddenly, our heroes scream! Why? No idea. Fulci cuts back to the kid and everything looks normal to me, but there’s a freeze-frame and then the movie ends. Huh? Anyone catch what we’re supposed to be afraid of here, exactly?

Oh well, good movie.

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Non Canon Review: Zombi (1979)

OCTOBER 30, 2008

GENRE: ITALIAN, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

The funny thing about Lucio Fulci’s Zombi (aka Zombie, aka Zombi 2, aka probably like nine thousand other titles) is that this was the third or fourth time I have gone to see it in theaters and the only time I managed to stay awake. At the recent all nighter at the Bev, I think I saw maybe 12 minutes of it (luckily, 3 of those were the zombie vs. shark scene). So even though The Beyond, which I had never seen in its entirety, was the last movie of the night (and thus most susceptible to my narcolepsy), I am glad Zombi was first, because I’m pretty sure it was my first complete viewing since I was 15.

See, Suncoast had this “dump bin” of budget titles, and one night I bought Zombi (called Zombi 2 on that VHS release), in an early attempt to “see more classic horror movies”, the very thing that led to my starting HMAD some 11-12 years later. And the back of the tape sold it as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, so I was intrigued. And then annoyed, because I watched it and realized it had no relation to Romero’s film. Of course, this was like 1995, so I couldn’t just hop on the IMDb or Wikipedia and find out what the fuck was going on (especially since I didn’t have a computer at all until 1997). I was thinking about this a lot last night; it’s weird to think how relatively little time has gone by and yet my whole movie-watching experience has changed. Used to be, I’d watch the movie and be done with it, unless I happened to know of a Fango article in one of the issues I had. Now I watch the movie, the commentary, the deleted scenes, a making of, and then go online and read more trivia and such on the IMDb and Wiki, then read a few other reviews... it takes a lot of time to watch a movie!

Anyway, despite not having a goddamn thing to do with Dawn (which, we all know now, was never the intent anyway), it’s a fun zombie movie, and one of Fulci’s better films. It’s certainly the most coherent of the ones I’ve seen (which are sadly few, though now that I’m pretty much done with going through Argento, I’ll move on to Fulci), and while slow at times, has some top notch setpieces and amazing makeup effects to marvel at.

Plus, again, a zombie fights a goddamn shark! He bites it, punches it, rides it for a bit... it’s fucking insane! On the whole, actually, the zombies here do more cool stuff. The eyeball scene is more like something out of a Giallo than a zombie movie, and the rising from the grave scene is just plain great. Plus, they actually look DEAD, not just sick as some zombies do. They are rotted and filthy and they look like they have already started to turn into dust. Again, when I first saw the film, this annoyed me. “Why aren’t they green? Why doesn’t the blood look like pink paint?” But older, wiser me appreciates it all the more, because so many of the zombie films that followed these two go for a more Romero-y look than Fulci’s.

Back to the eyeball scene – this resulted in my being afraid to wear contact lenses, despite having glasses thicker than the glass on the Popemobile. When the splinter goes into the girl’s eye, it appears as if her eye is very soft, almost like tapioca pudding. Naturally, I thought this was what an eyeball actually felt like, and thus when I finally decided to get contacts, I was petrified to touch my eye, afraid I would “smush” it. It took me like three or four trips back to the optometrist before I was finally able to overcome this fear and get the damn things in and out. Thanks a lot, Fulci.

I also love how the hero totally gets a pair of innocent people killed. Ian McCulloch’s character (Peter) hitches a ride with a couple (the girl looks like Kristen Wiig’s “Aunt Judy” character) who are in the middle of their vacation, and by the end of the film they are both dead. Thanks for ruining our vacation, Pete! This was particularly amusing to me due to last night’s South Park, which had a lot of meta-comedy stemming from Craig’s wishes that the main guys would stop being so adventurous and getting everyone around them killed and/or in trouble. “This is why no one likes you. You go off on these stupid plans, and then you end up in a foreign country or outer space or something.” Oh man, awesome.

And being an Italian movie, there’s a lot of odd little bits that just send drunken horror revival crowds into hysterics, like when the girl removes her top in order to scuba dive. Or when the guy says “We’re gonna check up ahead!” and then proceeds to walk about six steps before beginning his investigation. And then, my personal favorite: Tisa Farrow is sneaking around a dock, trying to get on her dad’s boat, and she “hides” behind a barrel about half her size, pauses for less than 1 second, and continues on her way. It’s such a useless maneuver, I couldn’t help but cheer.

The next two movies are more fast paced and ridiculous, but this one is a better place to start for Fulci n00bs, I think. It’s got just enough of his “whatever” storytelling style to set up the other films, but on the whole it makes sense while retaining his signature gore scenes. Also: a girl showering has a mirror behind her, so we can see her front and back. Now I'll say it non-sarcastically: Thanks a lot, Fulci!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

October Extras 2: Hart's War (2002)

OCTOBER 30, 2008

GENRE: OCTOBER EXTRAS 2
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)
LAST SEEN: 2002 (THEATRICAL)

My streak of seeing all of the master’s (that’s Bruce, not director Gregory Hoblit) films in theaters was nearly broken by Hart’s War. It came out during a heavy post production time on my student film, and tanked so badly that two weeks later it was already reduced to dollar theaters. I had to drive about 30 miles to see the damn thing. Since then, I’ve always made sure to see all Willis films on their opening weekend, just in case one tanks as bad as this one did (to date, it’s actually his biggest bomb – it cost more than Hudson Hawk and actually made less).

And that is a shame, because it’s also his most underrated movie besides Unbreakable (which is beloved, but not by enough people! Armageddon is a lost cause, but I can’t see why Unbreakable gets the occasional trashing). It’s not the most original movie, but I kind of like how they combine so many subgenres into one movie. It’s a mano y mano movie, the old veteran vs. the new guy type thing! No, it’s a war/POW escape movie! No, it’s a courtroom drama! How about a look on race relations? I’m surprised they didn’t throw a slasher or maybe a ragtag sports team turning their dismal season around while they are at it.

But surprisingly, all of the elements come together pretty well. It never FEELS like an over-plotted movie, and on top of that, it’s got some top notch acting. Willis is sort of on autopilot, but he’s also really not the main star of the movie (despite his top billing, he’s actually off-screen for large chunks of it and the bulk of his scenes have him sitting in a courtroom doing nothing). Colin Farrell is good despite his variable accent, and this was also the first big role for Terrence Howard, who is always interesting and is terrific here. The guy playing the Nazi colonel is also pretty great, and he has an interesting character to play. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him “sympathetic”, but he’s certainly not the same sort of cartoon villain one might expect. The film’s best scene concerns him and Willis having a sort of passive aggressive chat over a few drinks (I like how Willis’ character barely seems to be imprisoned; seems like he could just leave if he wanted to).

And in the end, it’s all about being a good American and all that, which makes its failure even more surprising (it was released 6 months after 9/11). You’d think a pro-America; our enemies can’t break our spirit type movie would go over well. But that weekend everyone went to go see Crossroads instead. Good choice.

The DVD has two commentaries (...), and also about a dozen deleted scenes that you can watch with commentary by Hoblit, who doesn’t say much other than “Oh, I hated to cut this.” Since only one of them has Willis, they are obviously not missed, but it’s interesting to note that one has a speaking line from Jonathan Brandis, who is pretty much MIA from the finished film (if you look carefully you can see him hanging out in a few shots). Apparently, being all but completely cut from the film was one of the things that led to his suicide, so nice job, Hobby!

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

The Devil's Messenger (1961)

OCTOBER 29, 2008

GENRE: ANTHOLOGY
SOURCE: DVD (BUDGET PACK 4!!!)

It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that The Devil’s Messenger was not an anthology film by design, but something that was assembled. And sure enough, an IMDb research session revealed that the three stories were just episodes of a failed Twilight Zone wannabe called 13 Demon Street, and then they filmed a wraparound with Lon Chaney to package it as a movie. Nice try, er, whoever did that!

Since they are from TV episodes, you can guess that nothing fucking happens in the entire movie. No violence, no cool monster, no nudity... nothing. And it’s easy to see why the show failed; the stories (which I assume were the pick of the litter) all suck! One’s about a guy who finds a girl in the ice. He... really likes her! So he knocks out his buddy and thaws her, but she dies anyway. The end. Another one (which also has a guy knocking out his buddy for no real reason) was ripped off by Stephen King ("The Road Virus Travels North"), but his was a hell of a lot better. I can’t even tell what happened at the end of this one; the guy rips the photo in half, but then he dies. Or something.

The only one that was marginally entertaining was the third one. It’s a familiar story; a fortune teller tells a guy that he’s going to die at a specific time (midnight; which is convenient) and he tries to figure out how to prevent that. He doesn’t, of course, but seeing his attempts to do so were marginally amusing, and even though the twist end doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s kind of funny to me. Also, this one has one of the best lines ever: “You never used to drink before six!”. I myself never drink before 8:45 mountain time; this guy must be a real lush.

The best parts, naturally, are the wraparound segments with ol Larry Talbot. He’s supposed to be the devil I guess, and he’s having a grand old time. Unlike Karloff and Lugosi, I haven’t seen too many of these paycheck roles for Chaney, and it’s nice to see him in good spirits. The end of the movie is particularly great, as Chaney starts talking to “us” (that is, the presumed audience) and then nukes the entire world for some reason. We see that one house from the nuclear blast stock footage get blown apart for the 80 millionth time, and then the movie just ends. Kind of awesome. Why he decides to do this, I have no idea, but hey, points for originality.

Also, this was the most interesting-sounding of the Tales of Terror pack (not counting ones I’ve already seen anyway). If anyone else has this set, feel free to recommend a few, because I’m pretty disappointed with it thus far. Cabinet of Dr Caligari is on there, but I assume it’s a piss-poor transfer, so I’d rather get a traditional DVD for that one.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

October Extras 2: Primer (2004)

OCTOBER 29, 2008

GENRE: OCTOBER EXTRAS 2
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)
LAST SEEN: 2005 (DVD)

As I pointed out in my Twelve Monkeys review, I am very nitpicky when it comes to time travel movies, particularly when things don’t line up properly after a guy goes back in time to change things. The movie A Sound Of Thunder was a huge source of frustration for me because of this (also because it was fucking terrible). So part of why I love Primer so much is that after 5 or 6 viewings, I am not only still figuring shit out, but I have also yet to see any real holes in the time travel logic.

The most original thing about Shane Carruth’s script is that, for the first time in time travel movie history, our POV is with people who are already in the “past”, as it were, of the time traveling versions of themselves. Before the main character is even aware that his device can be used to send people through time, his buddy takes him to a storage location, where he sees a version of himself from a day or two later. That’s awesome! Sure, it may make the movie even more impenetrable than it already is, but still, A+ for bringing something new to the table.

The most head-scratching element of the film, oddly, has nothing to do with time travel. It’s just the first 15 min of the movie, which are loaded with a bunch of technical jargon and a plan to build something that I’m still not quite sure I understand (something about making objects weigh less, I think?). None of it is really crucial to the plot, so it’s a shame that some folks tune out before they even get to the good stuff because they assume the movie is too over their head. Not that the time travel element is exactly dumbed down for Joe sixpack (who probably wouldn’t have rented the movie anyway), but it can be followed without needing a “Technical Manuals for Dummies” book. It’s like the first 15 min are a crossword, and the rest is a sudoku – you can’t be an idiot, but you don’t need prior knowledge either. I had the same issue with Crimson Tide; they spend like 20 minutes rambling about all this dry military/war/treaty stuff and then the rest of the movie is pretty simplistic and awesome.

I also love how low-key it is. Granted, the budget made that a requirement (this movie cost less than even Blair Witch), but the sort of “do it yourself” nature of the machine itself is pretty sweet; the thing is made out of refrigerator parts and a Catalytic Converter. I tried making one myself, but it didn’t work. And then I couldn’t drive to Best Buy for a new fridge because my car wouldn’t run.

The movie is a lot funnier than one might think too. It’s all dry humor, but that’s the best kind, IMO. The only thing in the first 15 min that I actually understand is when Aaron tells the story about how NASA spent millions developing a pen that would write in space, but the Russians solved the same problem by using a pencil. Also, the best line in any time travel movie ever: “I haven’t eaten since later this afternoon.”

But the funniest thing about the movie is that there are websites that are designed to help you understand the timelines and specify which character we are watching (i..e. “Present Abe” or “Future Abe”), and they are even harder to follow than the movie itself. I actually understood LESS about the movie after reading one.

The DVD has a pair of commentaries, which I listened to back in the day and recall enjoying. There are no deleted scenes or making of type things, which is fine by me. I kind of like having to figure it out for myself. And someday I will, dammit! I think I’m pretty close. They’re all jerks and the “rat in the attic” is actually just him from a few days later. Or earlier. Right? No, it was-

Fuck!

What say you?


PLEASE, GO ON...

Trackman (2007)

OCTOBER 28, 2008

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

Other than the Night/Day Watch movies, I can’t think of too many Russian horror films (and those are barely horror), but I hope that Trackman (Russian: Putevoy Obkhodchik) isn’t indicative of their quality. While competently made and all, it’s one of the dullest and least imaginative slasher movies I’ve seen in quite some time. And I’ve recently seen The Gates Of Hell.

Basically, every single scene in the film was done, and better, in Scarecrows (Bank robbers hiding out somewhere with a monster), My Bloody Valentine (the killer looks almost identical), Creep*/Raw Meat (the locale, similar situations), and any horror movie in which hostages eventually align with their captors to fight off their common enemy (take your pick). I’m ok with “paying homage” to older films, but in order to keep my interest, you gotta do something new on the creative or the visual side of things. Neither writer (Valeriy Krechetov, who also produced) or director Igor Shavlak deliver on that end.

To be fair, it’s not a gorefest, and Krechetov’s script attempts to wring some suspense out of the proceedings; the body count is rather low and it takes a while to get to any of the carnage. But again, with a story this generic, anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie before (not just the ones I mentioned) won’t really believe that all of these guys are going to make it out OK, and you can pretty much peg the two survivors before the bank robbery that sets everything in motion occurs. And the reveal of the killer’s “identity” is pretty ridiculous. If you’re gonna swipe from old slashers, why not take a cue from Halloween and just leave it up to our imagination?

The DVD has no extras to speak of (it was actually the reason I chose it over some of the other Ghost House movies), but I do have to give thanks to Sony (or whoever it was) for providing an English language dub. While I used the Russian track for a while, it was nice to be able to switch over to English once it became clear that this one wasn’t going to hold my undivided attention; I could go into the kitchen and stir my rice without missing a single uninteresting word! I noticed that foreign films (particularly Asian ones) are increasingly lax in providing dubbed trucks for us idiots, so this was a nice little surprise. It’s also a damn fine transfer; lot of detail in the image, despite being very dark throughout almost the entire film (they enter the sewer in like the first 10 minutes), which makes 2 for 2 for this set after Reeker 2.

What say you?

*I saw Creep at the same festival that I saw Reeker, and now I have watched the Reeker sequel and a Creep ripoff back to back!


PLEASE, GO ON...

October Extras 2: Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

OCTOBER 28, 2008

GENRE: OCTOBER EXTRAS 2
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)
LAST SEEN: 2005 (THEATRICAL)

AKA the movie that made me decide to always see a movie first*, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy was pretty disappointing to me when I saw it during its theatrical run, and even though I picked up the DVD, hadn’t really planned on watching it again anytime soon. On a 2nd view, I’ve come around to a lot of it, but there are still two big problems that keep it from being the classic that I had hoped for.

The biggest problem is Mos Def as Ford. I usually like Mos, but he seems lost here, and fails to get any laughs out of what is, for my money, the novels’ funniest character. His mumbling delivery doesn’t help matters either. When I read some of the names that were tossed around as potential Zaphods (Robert Downey Jr, Johnny Depp), I can’t help but wonder how much better the film might be if Sam Rockwell, who was good at Zaphod but would have been a great Ford, was given the Ford role with one of those other guys as Zaphod instead. The rest of the cast is great (Bill Nighy is about as perfect a Slartibartfast as I could hope for), but this odd casting decision dampened a lot of the film's potential.

The other problem was that they mined too much from the book. It’s odd that the things that were invented specifically for the movie turn out to be the things that feel the most in line with the series’ sense of humor and wonder, but that’s exactly the case. Turning everyone into yarn for a few minutes, the point of view gun, etc... all these things, brand new to the mythology, work perfectly and feel very much from the universe I know and love. But things like the Vogons, the bypass, and even “42”, I dunno, they just don’t play as well onscreen as they do on the page. I found myself incredibly bored, which is something kind of odd when you’re talking about the destruction of Earth.

But maybe HG2TG was just never meant to be made into a film. It’s no secret that the first book has almost no actual story, so trying to shoehorn one into the events might just be too high an obstacle to overcome. It’s a shame that the film wasn’t more of a success, as the next four books in the “trilogy” were far more cinematic-ready (and just as funny). I am curious how many people saw the film without ever having read the book and fully enjoyed it, and then went out and bought the book(s). I hope many.

Like I said, I’ve come around a bit on it. There’s definitely some treasure to be found in here. The guide entries are hilarious, as is the opening song. And the scenes with Slartibartfast are the rare ones that are taken almost verbatim from the book and yet still retain both the humor and the genius inventiveness of it all; the shot of a guy painting a cliff-face on the “backup Earth” is priceless. And while I’m sick of it by now, Zooey Deschanel’s typically detached, almost autistic performance (drink every time she looks adorably bored!) was perfect for Trillian. Likewise, Martin Freeman made an ideal Arthur Dent, and Alan Rickman doing Martin’s voice is another stroke of genius. Again, with so much done right, I can’t help but wonder how I’d feel about the film as a whole if I never read the book.

The DVD has two audio commentaries, but, say it with me, “no time to watch them.” I did look at the rest of the extras, which are pretty slim: a few deleted scenes of no real interest, a generic “making of” that runs 7 minutes (insightful!), and a hangman game with Marvin. Why the incredible teaser trailer, or Zaphod’s “music video” which was used in the film’s marketing are not included, I don’t know, but the DVD is the poorer for it.

The death of Douglas Adams was one of the few celebrity deaths that really upset me. I had only gotten into his work about a year before, and felt that he had a lot more to say. His other series, Dirk Gently, had nearly unlimited potential, and he was working on a new book in the series when he died (his work-in-progress was released posthumously; the most frustrating thing I’ve ever read as it stops just as the plot is kicking in). And while I may have had problems with it, I know many fans love it, and thus it’s a shame he never got to see his baby translated into the last medium it had to conquer (having already been a book, album, radio show, tv show, play, and video game). On the plus note, he died at the gym, which gives me the best excuse ever not to go.

What say you?

*As long as I know a movie is being made. See, I know “the book is better”, which means that if I see the movie first, I can enjoy the basic story twice. I see the movie, and have fun, and then read the book, which has all the extra character and subplots to enjoy. But if I read the book first, I end up getting bored with the movie, because it’s just a stripped down version of a series of events I am already familiar with. I proved this; I stopped reading the Harry Potter books after the third one, and got bored with the first three movies. But I really enjoyed the 4th and 5th films, because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Then I go back and read the book, and it’s an even more rewarding experience. But again: this only applies to books that will likely be turned into a movie. I’m reading Clive Barker’s "Coldheart Canyon" right now; there’s no way in hell that will ever be a movie. But “Dread”, which I haven’t read yet and is being filmed as we speak? That one can wait.



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