Unofficial Trilogy… Weird Reincarnations Edition

Nicole Kidman is the only one getting the look right. Or is she?

Nicole Kidman is the only one getting the look right. Or is she?

No one will ever argue that Hollywood is full of weirdos.  No one would ever argue that it’s chock full of weird ideas, either.  But pseudo-sentimental malarkey in the guise of an ancient religious philosophy?  That’s another story (or three), and it makes up this Unofficial Trilogy.

This is the classic story of Dad dies, Dad comes back as a dog, Dead Dad Dog escapes a dog pound then lives with a homeless woman then flees a testing lab then finds his old family then comes to terms with being a dog then lives the rest of his life on the road on his own.  Really.

Does that snowman in the above picture look like Michael Keaton?  Of course not!  Because George Clooney was originally slated to star in this clunker.  Wannabe rock star dad Keaton misses his son’s hockey game to chase his dream,  and full of guilt, he tries to return home to take his family to their cabin.  In a shocking! twist of fate, he dies trying to make it back.  Blah-blah-blah he returns a year later as a snowman!  The harmonica was magical!  His son’s bully becomes his son’s best friend because neither of them had dads!  Keaton’s character’s band’s name (that’s a lot of s‘s) was “The Jack Frost Band.”  Really.

At least this film set out to be creepy and awkward.  And its ending is ambiguous.  It’s definitely the most intriguing of the three in this Unofficial Trilogy.  That is if you’re into the Dead Husband is Now a Ten Year-Old Child So You Take a Bath Together genre of filmmaking.  Really.

Unofficial Trilogy… Filmic Comic Book Bookends Edition

(OPENING SIDENOTE: I like the title of this post.)

Today’s Unofficial Trilogy is about the nails in the coffin of comic book film series (or as in one case, a stake in the heart). Spider-Man 3 was saved by a summer reboot, otherwise this would have been an Unofficial Quadrilogy.

Oh, so dark these heroes..

Oh, so dark these heroes… except maybe the last one.

This movie was, um, weird.  It barely featured Wesley Snipes as Blade (was he out of the country evading taxes when this was made?), and the scene where John Michael Higgins interrogates him is laughable.  Gay subtext in a James Bond superhero/vampire  film?  Well I never!

Two words: Brett Ratner (wow, I haven’t bashed on him in a long while).  Two more words: cobbled mess.  Four more words: I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!  Two last words on The Last Stand: whiny Wolverine.

I was really upset with the lack of purpose this one seemed to have.  And critic Chris Gore made a good point about it by stating something like this (I’m poorly paraphrasing):

His parents’ death made Bruce Wayne become Batman, but Rachel Dawes death made him not be Batman?

But then I read this article, and something happened… my opinion kinda sorta changed.  I won’t go into too much detail, but the author basically regards the third film as a contradiction to the second film, and that in turn made me realize TDKR was the answer to the TDK problem that nobody asked.  What I always enjoyed about the first film’s ending was that it agreed with my theory:

If someone figures out how to be a superhero/villain, then someone will figure out how become its opposite.

The Dark Knight answered that question perfectly.  But what question did TDK ask?

Is a lie okay if it’s for the greater good?

TDK was all about bending means to certain ends.  TDKR was about the inevitable collapse of those well-intended lies.  Too bad it just felt shoddy and shitty.

(FYI: The above Batman poster was made by this guy.)

Unofficial Trilogy… That Future Looks A Lot Like Our Present Edition

Call me a sucker for good sci-fi.  Good thing I’m not that big a sucker, though, because good sci-fi is rare.  Rarer still is sci-fi that takes place in the future, yet looks like our present (or near present).  Here’s a nice slideshow of the films in this Unofficial Trilogy:

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This already feels like I’m entering film school snob territory.  This is a French sci-fi noir film starring an ex-patriot American as a secret agent that carries around an Instamatic camera.  Yeah.  The thing like the app.  Back when it was brand new and seemed futuristic.  Anykodak, I remember this film being really cool… so cool it was even referenced in an episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

I can tell I’ve lost you, so I won’t bring up that Alphaville’s Forever Young was my graduating class song, and I was pissed about that because I never heard of the group or the song, and then when I saw this film in college, it reminded me of how much I hated that song, and then The O.C. re-popularized it with a remake, and the rage returned, and…

When I first viewed this film, I had no expectations.  So my expectations weren’t blown away – my mind was.  I still maintain that this is the Citizen Kane of our time… an under-appreciated classic in every sense that will one day get its due.  It’s a film directed by a Mexican based on a book by a Brit about America now.  At least that’s what I thought when I watched it years ago.  Considering it’s about a world where no one can have children anymore, and Clive Owen has to protect a pregnant woman while wearing flip-flops, I don’t know why I thought that.  I really need to watch this film again.

Ever see Parts: The Clonus Horror The Island?  Well, this isn’t that movie.  But it’s similar, at least in its premise if not its time period.  The idea is simple – there’s a clone race of people who exist solely to provide organs for their original.  Where the similarities end is in the bittersweet acceptance of those fates.  Since The Island was directed by Michael Bay and Never Let Me Go is a British film, guess which one is about the clones fighting for their right to be free individuals and which one is a simple love story between people resigned to dying young?

(SIDENOTE: I just realized this are all technically foreign flicks.  Go figure.)

Unofficial Trilogy… Crappy Comic Book Movies That Were More Satisfying Than The Dark Knight Rises

These are not the brightest, but they are far from the worst.  To go even further, I enjoyed these three crappy comic book movies more than I enjoyed The Dark Knight (*yawn*Returns Rises.  See what you think about my Unofficial Trilogy:

Maybe I should have picked all DC/Vertigo adaptations… Would anyone have noticed?

CONSTANTINE (2005)

Based on the main character from Hellblazer, and released a year after Hellboy, this film at least benefited from a variety of baddies and demons.  All Hellboy faced was a multitude of Sammael’s (the devil squid-dog creature), but I digress.  Constantine was fun because the story was about heaven versus hell, Satan was played to hammy oddness by Peter Stormare, Shia LeBeouf dies (spoiler!), and it followed logic and a plot.  It was crappy because John Constantine was played by Keanu ReevesGavin Rossdale of Bush was in it, and Shia LeBeouf came back as an angel (double spoiler!). The rise of John Constantine felt much more natural than Bruce Wayne’s.

FANTASTIC FOUR (2005)

This was a breezy adaptation of a very old comic book.  To begin, Doctor Doom was nowhere near menacing and maniacal enough.  But they got the relationship stuff right, especially when it came to the pranks between The Thing and Johnny Storm.  Even the shout outs to Yancy Street and the inclusion of Alicia Masters were surprising.  But still… it was cheesy.  But I guess Fantastic Four should be cheesy.  TDKR shouldn’t, but you wouldn’t have known by the ending (which was the only thing I liked incidentally).

GREEN LANTERN (2011)

Greg Berlanti, one of the writers of this film, knows nothing about superheroes.  His TV shows, No Ordinary Family and Eli Stone (he had powers, sort of), were flimsy attempts at showing the extraordinary in the ordinary, and this film was no different.  So why did I like it better than TDKR?  Even though it had purple aliens and power lamps and magic rings and a killer cloud and Blake Lively’s cleavage, it still made more sense than all the loose story threads in The Dark Knight Rises.  Perhaps if The Dark Knight wasn’t so damn good…

Unofficial Trilogy… Wacky Films Of The 80’s Edition

The definition of a wacky film (according to me):

A movie that takes place in the real world, except it’s wacky.

These three fit that bill and ted:

We need more adjectives!

I’ve already brought this movie up quite recently, but I can’t get it out of my head (much like the Red Lectroid in Dr. Lizardo’s head!)… To break it down, Buckeroo Banzai is “a modern-day renaissance man, top neurosurgeon, particle physicist, race car driver, rock star and comic book hero” that starts a dimensional war when he successfully passes through a mountain.  I really can’t tell you more than that.  Well, I can also tell you that the ending credits scene is fantastic.  But that’s truly enough!

Just as with Buckeroo Banzai above, this experiment in genre mixing was a flop.  Director John Carpenter always wanted to film a martial arts flick, and this story about a trucker entering the mystical Chinatown underworld to rescue a kidnapped girl was it.  Is it fantastic?  Debatable.  Is it wacky?  A little China bit.

This might not seem to wacky at first glance, since it’s mostly a time-travel comedy.  But when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, protagonists Bill and Ted are supposed to write a song that will save the world, only if (!) they can pass their history class.  Enter time machine phone booth (calling Dr. Who) and the rest is, as they say, history.

A third film is supposedly in the works in which Bill and Ted must deal with the fact that even after the last twenty years, they still haven’t written that song!

Unofficial Trilogy… 80’s Movies That Will (Hopefully) Never Get Remade Edition

There was a time when it took some serious chops for a movie to get made.  Studios held all the cards, so they chose on what to gamble.  Here are some cringe-worthy gambles from the 80’s that I’d be shocked to see get remade these days:

These came out of Hollywood when P.C. just meant Pacific Coast…

For those of you unaware of the premise: a rich white guy rents an adult black man to be his son’s friend for a week.  I loved it as a kid, but in hind sight, how did it ever get made?  Who ever tricked Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, and director Richard Donner to get involved should get some kind of metal.  But then again, it was the 80’s.  Cocaine was probably somehow involved.

White Actor! C. Thomas Howell plays a student that takes tanning pills to get dark enough skin to appear black.  Your first instinct might be to ask “Huh?” but here’s the answer to why: so he can get a scholarship to Harvard specifically intended for African-American students.  Now you can ask the “Huh?”

This is the tamest of the three, but it’s seemingly the least credible.  How could Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy lug such a flexible deceased Bernie around all weekend without rigor mortis setting in?

Unofficial Trilogy… Movies You Will Likely Never See

Ahh, the 80's (and early 90's)...

You may already be in luck.  One of these is currently available for viewing on Netflix.  Remember… if you don’t have Netflix, you got Netdix™.  That’s their new slogan.

Anyhulu, on with this Unofficial Trilogy of Movies You Will Likely Never See.

In the 80’s, I  was a Touchstone Pictures junkie.  (They were Disney’s adult-fare division).  Anything they released, I would eventually see on DVD VHS.  Most were enjoyable, some were forgettable, and films like this one are long-lost.  (Click the Touchstone link to see an impressive list of hits.)

Tough Guys is basically about two old (tough) guys that finally get released from prison and “will they or won’t they?” integrate into the modern world.  Imagine if Brooks Hatlen, the old librarian with the bird in Shawshank Redemption, did the opposite of what he did… that’s this movie.

This film is where John Travolta found his beard true love, the exquisite Kelly Preston.  Upon seeing this film again on Netflix (damn there goes the secret), my old-school crush on one of the most beautiful women to ever exist was reignited.

Essentially, the USSR has built a dummy American town that’s styled like the 1950’s.  So they bring in Travolta and Arye Gross (remember him on Ellen?) to build a nightclub and unknowingly teach the spies how to live in the (then) present.  It’s dumb, but it’s fun.

Hollywood Pictures was another off-shoot from Disney, but it was nowhere near as successful as Touchstone.  Nonetheless, I still sought their films out, and this was their third release (Arachnophobia was their first).

This picture was made after Patrick Dempsey learned you could in fact buy love (that was the lesson, right?), but long before he was McDreamy, Dreamy King, or even Dreamy Castle.  And again, here we have my dear, sweet Kelly Preston co-starring.  In a word, this movie is about what the title is.  Not as in a marathon, but as in for your life.

Unofficial Trilogy… Adapted Screenplay Edition (Now In Theaters)

Mars needs women... and food.

This Unofficial Trilogy is a special one.  It contains three theatrical treats, as opposed to DVD releases.  (It might be a bit misleading to say treats, but I liked the alliteration of it all.)

What makes these three pieces of work work as a threesome is that they are all adapted, um, works.  John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars21 Jump Street is based on Stephen J. Cannell’s TV show, and kids TV show scripter Suzanne Collins wrote the book about kids killing each other for food.

So how do they stack up?

JOHN CARTER

Definitely the weakest of the bunch, and it’s a shame.  I had high hopes for this one despite its uninteresting previews, and I don’t even think the high hopes were what let me down.  Uneven pacing, too many plot points, no sense of wonder – these components were what let me down.  And it’s a shame, too.  This is director Andrew Stanton’s first foray into the real world.  He might be better off back behind an array of computers.  Compared to his Finding Nemo and Wall-E, John Carter doesn’t hold a CG-candle to them.

21 JUMP STREET

Often times, when cop comedies get stuck in their actual crime story, they lose some of their laughs (Hot Fuzz, The Other Guys, Police Academy series).  That is not the case with 21 Jump Street.  Adapted from a serious, and sometimes preachy, show, this flick is more about two buddies overcoming the differences in their past than anything else.  Who would have ever thought I’d enjoy a Channing Tatum film?

THE HUNGER GAMES

I don’t want to hype this movie up any more than it already is, but believe the hype.  This film is a winner.  I had no expectations or drive to see this film (since I’m not a teenager I didn’t read the books), and I think I was about an hour into it when I turned to someone with me and whispered:

I love this fucking film.

It might be too early to share this, but I’m looking more forward to Catching Fire (book two in The Hunger Games trilogy) than I am The Avengers.  And that’s saying a lot.

Unofficial Trilogy… Shott Gunnn! Kid Detective Edition

Ah, the good ol’ days.  But as Billy Joel once said:

The good ol’ days aren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.

The same could be said for this slightly different Unofficial Trilogy.  It’s unofficial for the simplest reason – they’re home videos.  A grouping of skits that I made with my kid brother starting back in 1991 (when he was around 7 and I was around 16) and ending the early winter of last year.

If you watch them, I hope you enjoy them.  If you don’t, don’t ever come looking for help from Shott Gunnn!

(SIDENOTE: Some history… the first two were filmed within rainy days of each other.  I started each with a basic idea, but we made the dialogue and action up as we went along.  I edited them both in camera, rewinding to erase takes, most times not successfully.  The last one was filmed on an iPhone 4s, which is a fraction of the size of a VHS tape.  It’s a worthy homage of the originals, including mistakes and all.  If you get through all three, I think you’d agree that it wraps things up nicely, bringing the Unofficial Trilogy full circle.)

Unofficial Trilogy… Unbelievably Wise Apes Edition

Rise of the Quality of the Ape Films

I love bad films; I love good films.  For this Unofficial Trilogy, it’s about as hot and cold as it gets.  Let’s jump into the premises, and you can determine which is which:

CARNIVAL MAGIC (1981)

A travelling carnival has reached the end of the line.  Nobody’s visiting anymore, and the tiger trainer – which used to be the big draw – is an abusive alcoholic.  Low and behold, the magician’s chimp – Alexander the Great – can talk, but he’s been keeping it under wraps.  Once word gets out, the carnival becomes a success, at what expense?  The drunk tiger trainer’s girlfriend’s safety?  The carnival owner’s daughter’s virginity?  Alexander the Great’s life?  All of the above in this children’s film.

Oh yeah, and this eventually happened to the director, Al Adamson (via Wikipedia):

Al Adamson was reported missing in 1995. Five weeks later, after law enforcement officials discovered his remains beneath the concrete and tile-covered whirlpool bath in his newly remodeled bathroom, his live-in contractor Fred Fulford was apprehended… He was charged with and convicted of murder, and sentenced to twenty-five-years-to-life in prison.

Magic!

PHENOMENA (1985)

The young daughter of an American movie star (Jennifer Connelly in her first major role) is sent to an all-girls school in Switzerland, and there’s a killer stalking the students.  That’s the boring part!  For some reason, Jennifer (that’s also the character’s name) can communicate with insects, and they become like the Watson to her Sherlock (that’s how her scientist friend puts it).  As for the ape – the less you know about him, the better.

(SIDENOTE: This film was known as Creepers when it was released in the US.  Oh yeah… it’s originally Italian.)

Jeepers, where'd you get that chewed up, mangled peeper?

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

We all should know about this one, and if you don’t, I won’t spoil it.  The worst thing about this film is that it wasn’t nominated as on the ten Best Picture Oscars, especially when only nine were chosen.  I thought this was the most surprisingly good film I saw last year.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close gets nominated?!  Please.  more like Extremely Dull & Incredibly Pretentious…