1984 meets Brazil meets Independence Day meets Wall-E.
It had more twists than I expected, but also didn't do nearly the amount of cool things I expected. For a big-budget film with lots of tech and dramatic landscapes: it's a very, very, very, very narrow film.
The black box recorder starts and stops with exactly all the narrative information we need. That cracked me up. Also cracked me up: the fact the black box was recovered in the sleeper pod that was ejected from the rest of the ship. Which means there were a few minutes of conversation it couldn't have possibly recorded? Unless it was still linked to the main part of the ship and recording the conversation? And then there was one in the front and one in the sleeper compartment? That would make sense. Hm.
I do think the movie was worth seeing in theaters. There were some awesome shots and scenery. It's not really a movie I'd want to watch again.
The funniest part to me is very underplayed. Morgan Freeman tells Tom Cruise the bad ship came and landed and out poured thousands of Tom Cruises. Picturing an army of thousands of Tom Cruises under alien control and attacking and destroying humanity: absolutely hilarious.
It's insanely drawn out?
The title is way too awesome for the movie.
Is the entirety of the Empire State Building buried under sediment except for just the top?
Dragon Ball Z Kai:
53-68: Because I love thinking deeply about DBZ, let's look at this. What do we see with the first enemy of this saga? It's Frieza, again. He was saved and reconstructed with mechanical parts. He's part robot. Who is the next enemy (let's forget Frieza's father)? Androids 19 and 20. They're fucking part human, part robot. Androids 17 and 18? They're part human, part robot. Here Goku was the strongest person in the galaxy, and now he's defeated by Androids. Vegeta crushes Android 19 and is defeating 20. Then he's trounced by 18. TROUNCED. 17 demolishes the rest of the Z fighters, including Trunks (who diced and blasted Frieza and his father).
What's this all getting at? Artificial enhancement! Here we have those warriors who have trained and trained and grown through battle. And they're defeated by beings who have had no training, no growth. They're made that way. They don't grow stronger by learning. They suck the power from other people. It's awful and ugly. Going back to what we discussed last week, DBZ is a metaphor for mastery. The Saiyans are the equivalent of people who desire growth, who are the hardest workers, the high-achievers. They want nothing more than success. They're the career driven. Which makes the androids the equivalent of people who cheat to get ahead. Who are able to do spectacular things, but not because of skill or training. Which means they are, ultimately, limited. Androids 17 and 18 don't grow in strength. So while they're prodigious they're...capped. The Saiyans grow beyond them.
Then we have Cell. Oh boy. We'll get to that tomorrow.
69-74: Cell is not human, is, like 16, 17 ,18, 19 and 20, an android. What we've seen prior to Cell are two sets of androids. 1. Those who are weak and need to absorb energy from others to get stronger. 2. Those who have intense and endless energy, but who are capped--they don't gain in strength.
As we said, we can view these androids as people who cheat to get ahead. They haven't developed their own skills. They're artificially enhanced. Steroid users, those who cheat on tests: the androids represent them.
Cell is something different. Cell feeds off others. He doesn't just drain their energy. He takes their skills. He is the ultimate apprentice. He has the DNA from Goku, Piccolo, Vegeta, Gohan, Krillin, Frieza, etc. etc. He has their moves and abilities. He needs to devour other people in order to gain in strength. This is exactly what the apprentice does. In a less literal sense, the apprentice devours her or his masters, appropriating the strengths, casting out the weaknesses. The ideal apprentice transcends each master by synthesizing everything they've learned into a unique style. While Cell does transform, evolving from "Imperfect" to "Semi-perfect" to "Perfect" to "Super Perfect", he never CREATES. It's all derivation.
We'll explore this more as we finish the Android Saga and move into the Cell Saga.
"I'm ready. All or nothing. It's what I want, Dad, if I don't risk pushing myself too far, then there's no way I'm ever going to become a Super Saiyan."
This is what Gohan says to his dad, Goku, in the hyperbolic time chamber. Goku has switched to Super Saiyan, the goal Gohan is trying to obtain. He then blasts Gohan with his strongest attack: the Kamehameha. Gohan catches the blast. Is struggling against it. In this moment he remembers all his past failures. When Vegeta and Nappa attacked. When the Ginyu Force attacked. When Frieza attacked. Gohan could barely contribute. He knows how many people are depending on him. He knows he has potential that's untapped. The idea of failing again, of letting down, again, those he loves...Gohan can't stand the feeling of inferiority. He goes Super Saiyan.
Gohan pushes away the Kamehameha. Goku lands and is happy for Gohan. Gohan is hunched over, hands in fists, breathing heavily, yellow energy encompassing him, he's growling. He's emotional. We learned when Goku went Super Saiyan that a Super Saiyan has unmitigated rage. Each level of Super Saiyan is born from a combination of training and emotion. In order for Gohan or any of the Saiyans to use their powers properly...they must, as Goku tells Gohan: calm your mind, focus, bring your energy under control.
This is the tension for masters. If you lose the emotional edge, you're simply going through the motions. You have the skill to still perform at a high-level, but you lose grace and creativity, which means you lose your power. This is true in any field. But if you let your emotions overwhelm you: you're near useless, blinded. Again, grace is gone. Maybe you have power, but creativity is also hindered. Which means you have power without having true power.
We also see, with Vegeta, the failings of pride. Vegeta was bored fighting Semi-Perfect Cell. Thought he was the best. He allowed Cell to absorb 18 and reach the Perfect state. Then Cell smashes Vegeta. He risks everything by letting up. Vegeta could have won the battle and saved everyone. He would be hailed as a hero. Then he and Goku could fight. In the diagetic world of the show, was Vegeta's decision smart? No. But within the idea of this metaphor for mastery: what Vegeta did is perfect. Cell claimed to be better. Vegeta gave Cell the opportunity to prove it. Cell proves it. This means EVERYONE else must become stronger in order to compete. If we're looking at steroids in baseball. A player had three options: take steroids to keep up, or give up, or work even harder to not simply compete but to outperform the cheaters and win. Pitchers had to pitch better. Other hitters maybe couldn't hit as many home runs, but they could hit more line drives. They could place the ball better. They didn't have the massive size of the roided players, so they improved their speed and defense.
I'm never going to let someone mock Dragon Ball Z ever again. It is quite possibly one of the most important shows of all time.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation:
This movie was, I think, big and stupid in all the right ways. Way better than the first one. The first one is a piece of garbage. Some of the stupidest sequences and tensions I've ever seen. Especially the end. Yuck. When the second one was announced...I cringed. But when I saw the trailer..."There are...ninjas...fighting...on cliff faces?" Sold. I would have watched 90 minutes of that. There were only 10, but, still...that's 10 fucking minutes of ninjas fighting on a cliff face. Props to GIJR for giving that sequence duration and not just one or two minutes.
So there are more ninjas. Less stupidity. Adrianne Palicki. A major death. Humor. Win win win win.
Is it the best movie ever? Nope. Is it the best G.I. Joe movie ever? Yes. Is it dumb and fun and enjoyable? Yes.
What a stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid movie.
I'm not sure Predators requires much more analysis than that? '
It's got some noteworthy performances, like Adrien Brody playing a prick or Lawrence Fishburne forgetting he's in a movie in the first place...but otherwise, why does this exist?
Modigliani likes to talk about logical fallacies a lot. I usually don't care. But when your characters SUCK and the action SUCKS and there's not a single interesting shot/moment/idea in your film, I left with all of these damn questions:
1) The Predators suddenly want to kidnap and send their targets to an alien planet? Why? The point of the hunt in the original Predators was to best their prey in its own natural environment. Not to spend the effort drugging it and shipping it off to some unknown environment where it's scared and disoriented. This goes against the prime purpose of beating your target properly and thus rightfully earning the trophy.
2) The Predators use tricks and traps. Whaaaat? They never needed them on Earth; their style was stealthy observation and sneak attacks at close range without any need of minions or traps. This kept in line with the psychological, male dominance aspects of Predator. Apparently that means nothing if you're just trying to create something entertaining (AND FAILING).
3) Topher Grace's "twist" meant absolutely nothing. Just empty tension. All of the moments leading to this point become contrived, like the poison flower bit. And I wasn't impressed with his sarcastic personality here. It didn't do anything for his character. Just Topher Grace playing himself. The other actors aren't very good either.
4) So what's up with Lawrence Fishburne? For a second he's the only interesting character, even if his "invisible friend" pushes those psychological intentions over the edge. But...he survives for YEARS on this planet, and then dies within MINUTES of the new humans arriving? More bullshitting.
5) Brody does all the work, while all the others follow him like slaves. Almost as if he's the only one who matters in the whole film and all the rest are cannon fodder. This takes away their initial specialty in various forms of combat. They end up being just the rail gun guy, the yakuza guy, the sniper chick, etc. Other than this minor detail, they are completely worthless and empty and uninteresting.
6) The Predators have some sort of tribal disputes and they fight even amongst themselves? From what I've understood about the Predator mythology, this doesn't seem right. It's forced in order to create conflict that would otherwise never exist. They keep hunting the far inferior human species instead of their enemies, a much more potent and interesting prey. Furthermore, it makes no sense to be at war with the other tribes and yet keeping prisoners alive in a defenseless camp during a hunt and having their weapons and equipment sitting nicely right next to them. Fuck this movie.
7) I could buy the whole civil dispute if it was meant to build on the mythology, but the movie only uses it as a cheap method to have the humans befriending one from the other side and convincing him to return them home.
The credit music was funny. That's ALL I'm giving this movie.
All right. I think I've made this pretty well known to Modigliani: action has never been my genre. I don't mean that in any douchey sort of way--it's just a genre that's evaded me. I don't even think it's my fault. But. I'm trying. I LOOOOOOOOOVE Hard Boiled. Seven Samurai. Face/Off. Point Break. Escape from New York. Total Recall.
Predator, however, is a whole other universe. It's strangely mixed itself with another universe I'm fairly unfamiliar with--Alien. I mean, I've seen Alien, and it think it's great, but I don't hold it in a classic regard. I appreciate tick-tock precision filmmaking as much as the next guy, and the mythology is interesting, but honestly I think Predator does just as good of a job building the mystery around its central monster, and, in all honesty, I think there's more substance to director John McTiernan's camerawork (and the Thomas Brothers' screenplay) than Ridley Scott's. Scott paints pretty frames--McTiernan constructs interesting frames.
This gets into the reasons I like Alien that no fanboy I've ever met seems to share--the feminism. Alien is absolutely flooded with phallic imagery surrounding the hard-nosed, independent heroine. With that in mind, I see two visions from two different directors and how well it's executed. Scott does an admirable job with his feminist intentions, but it sorta begins and ends with his pretty images. They phallic imagery seems empty and simply invites us to form ideas that should be organic through the screenplay...through which Scott only does an OK job. Not great. But take Predator? Every character flaw advances the camaraderie and male dominance scenarios. The shots themselves are gritty and claustrophobic, enclosing the desk-job Dillon with the ruff-and-tuff Mac (Dillon's former self in combat) in a tight shot. The opening "arm wrestle" says more about these characters than any shot in Alien.
And, I'll also say, Predator puts Aliens to absolute fucking shame. I honestly like James Cameron and I think he's at the top of his game action-wise here, but the screenplay is horrendous. He constructed colorful characters, but not interesting ones. In Point Break he was able to write about two men who were antitheses of each other. In Aliens, he not only renders each character to a banal lump of bad-asses, while, in the process, committing his greatest crime by stripping Ripley of the personality that made her so unique and interesting.
Also, the Predator itself is the ultimate man! Consuming their abilities, attempting to beat these men on their home turf. It's the ultimate male dominance scenario--defeating an opponent who seemingly knows your every move. Defeating yourself. I didn't see the Alien gain this much psychological correlation to the characters until the birthing scene of Prometheus--a flawed film that I wholeheartedly believe is better than Aliens.
Trashy, sexy, unflinching, over-the-top, colorful, campy, vibrant--all reasons to love Showgirls. But more than anything, I love Showgirls for being honest.
I'll be writing more Showgirls here very shortly (in a comparison with Spring Breakers), but for now, I'd like to address how Showgirls (of all films!) raised my appreciation for acting more than any other film. Mostly because, at one time, there was no difference between hammy acting and bad acting for me. But for a film that is absolutely dripping with excess, Elizabeth Berkley gives one of the most excessively emotional, gun-ho, embracing, and honest performances of all time.
People don't normally embrace satire--especially when its presence isn't candidly announced. That's why people thought Total Recall was one of Verhoeven's weaker films, when actually its satire on American consumerism and Hollywood as an industry ran so deep that it simply became part of the film. The same problem plagued Showgirls: nobody saw a satire of the rise-and-fall stories Hollywood sells, but rather tits and ass and that chick from Saved by the Bell trying to act. People would much rather have their satire spoonfed to them. No thanks--I'll take Showgirls.
Sooooooooo yeah, I liked this.
"WAIT YOU DIDN'T LOVE IT AND THINK IT WAS THE BEST JAPANESE FILM EVER."
Nope, sorry. I thought The Human Condition was much better. Within those 574 minutes, I thought Masaki Kobayashi was a much more disciplined filmmaker. In Harakiri, the pacing is much quicker and intriguing, but the narrative is also slightly contrived and his shot selection becomes monotonous. His use of quick zoom-ins was honestly nothing more than amateur, only employing them to enhance "shocking" revelations that were occurring about every few minutes.
I've read ALL ABOUT Harakiri, so yes, I already know about the film's historical significance, its political ambitions, its exposing of the empty Samurai code. But as a film, I think it's run-of-the-mill compared to your average Kurosawa flick. Harakiri deserves comparisons to The Lower Depths and Sanjuro, not Rashomon and Yojimbo. It's competent--it's more than competent. It's very well made. But, filmmaking-wise, I don't see how this should serve as a cornerstone for Japanese cinema.
Harold and Maude:
As one of my friends put it about this movie: "The birth of douchey hipster cinema."
That's incredibly broad (and sorta douchey itself), but it's also sorta true.
I've also heard it said that "there just aren't love stories like Harold and Maude anymore."
That's also true.
I think my bullshit meter went off for this one. I'm not absolutely smitten by the suicidal Harold and the life-loving Maude as a couple, but I also don't believe the filmmakers are trying to pass off a quirky, pretentious mess as a substantial film. I think there are lovely imagery and themes beneath the eye-rolling pandering to the future Wes Andersons of the world, like how Maude re-plants trees in the forest (how she will invigorate life back into Harold), or how Harold's suicidal tendencies capture an angsty generation stumbling aimlessly in the wake of the Summer of Love.
My biggest beef is that Maude doesn't feel like a real person to me. She's just sort of there to counterbalance everything about Harold, until she eventually alters his outlook on life. I get it. It's nice. And I'd happily watch it again. Yay?
The Place Beyond the Pines:
I believe Mr. Modig will be writing more extensively on this film, but for me, I think I'm already through with Derek Cianfrance. I can be bullshitted no longer.
Now I KNOW that sounds bad...I don't have any ill feelings toward Cianfrance. I think his movies come from a heartfelt place. I think his movies will hit home with a lot of people. I think he creates intimate portraits that capture the heartbreak behind family drama...
But I can handle only so much somber music, tight camera play, melodramatic shouting, uncontrollable crying, deep stares, melodramatic shouting, meaningful walks/rides into the sunset, staring, shouting, staring, shouting...
More than anything, though, the OBVIOUS parallels. I understood the intention of The Place Beyond the Pines as soon as the story shifted from Luke to Avery...and then when it shifted to Jason, I nearly did a face-palm. I love the scope and the ambition for this kind of story, but I also don't see how Cianfrance is presenting me with anything to enhance it with beyond soap- opera-level melodrama. I mean, that's cool--I like me some melodrama. I mean, I love Magnolia. But I also need substance. Cianfrance isn't doing anything in between those gigantic, meaningful transitions. The parallels between father/son, greed/just getting by, envy/forgiveness...I don't see how they're enhanced by these empty characters. They've got problems like anybody else, and we can all relate to that--for sure! But I think the individual characters' progressions are super lame and point-by-point.
Luke is ready to leave town, but then sees the baby, and decides he must stay in town, but then realizes he'll need to rob banks, which is the antithesis of the caring father he needs to be, but then he's caring during that photo shoot, but then he's angry and punches Kofi, and it makes him go INSANE, and he goes on a suicidal robbing spree. This all happens in about 35 minutes. This should be an entire film, but instead we get the snippet so it can become a meaningful parallel for two other stories that also scratch the surface.
I liked Blue Valentine. It had a somewhat similar structure--paralleling two different situations. But both of those situations involved the same couple, and witnessing the new, happy couple vs. the old, worn-down couple had its advantages. They were able to build on one another. But even then, Cianfrance practiced the same sort of stand-off approach. But it's not an objective approach (which would be cool)--he's there at every camera turn dictating the somber mood (which is also cool...if, you know, your characters are well-developed). I like the idea for Pines, but I don't think it was executed very well.