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Aug. 1st, 2010

Installment 4 of "Watching the Future" Is Up

Installment Four of my monthly column "Watching the Future" is up at SF Site. This time, I talk about Inception and its seemingly anomalous success among the recent plague of remakes infecting multiplexes.

Though remakes have a long history, their recent sheer numbers appear to border on epidemic. One cannot hear of movies currently in production without learning that it is a remake of this work or that. Indeed, at the recent Comic-Con director Matt Reeves defended his recent remake of Tomas Alfredson's masterful Let the Right One In, and I have heard many fans of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy breathe a sigh of relief at the casting of Daniel Craig in the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though I immediately wondered why it needed to be remade in the first place. I cannot bear reading of some young auteur daring to remake Escape from New York, Red Dawn or Total Recall without groaning. (Total Recall, especially, was bad enough the first time; do I have the stomach to try to sit through another go?)

Read the rest here.

Jul. 16th, 2010

Review of Inception up at SF Signal

My review of Christopher Nolan's science fiction thriller Inception is up at SF Signal, and for a change I'm actually quite positive.

Early in director Christopher Nolan's Inception, dream extractor Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) asks architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page) to design a maze in two minutes that would take someone one minute to solve. Cobb is an extractor; along with his point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he enters a subject's dreams in order to extract information, a kind of Parker (from Richard Stark's outstanding crime series) of the id and superego. In order to do so successfully, they need an individual who can not only craft the world of the subject's dream but also maintain its balance. And they need that stability for the dream heist that drives Inception's main plot because Cobb not only needs to enter his subject's dream but create a dream within that dream, a feat which Cobb's chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) believes too unstable.

Dreams and the architecture of dreams are the subjects of Inception, and it's to Nolan's considerable credit that he builds the movie's dream worlds with the care and intricacy of an architect. No surprise, then, that buildings and cityscapes feature prominently: as Ariadne designs her initial dream landscapes, cities fold themselves at right angles, stairways in corporate buildings fold onto themselves in an infinite loop (calling to mind M.C. Escher's painting "Ascending and Descending"), and two mirror cast reflections that create additional streets (reminiscent of passages in Jorge Luis Borges's story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"). No surprise, either, that Nolan's spends so much time taking the viewer on a tour of dream worlds and their logic that the viewer begins to worry that Nolan has not bothered to populate his own dream with interesting characters, thus dampening the viewer's involvement with Inception's story.

Read the rest here.

May. 5th, 2010

If It Only Had a Heart: Iron Man 2 Reviewed

My review of Iron Man 2 is up at Moving Pictures. Would that I could have liked it more.

“Iron Man” caught everybody off guard when it was released two years ago. Directed by Jon Favreau, who was best known for small independent gems, it turned out to be one of the most witty, deft superhero movies since Tobey Maguire squeezed into Spider-Man’s tights. Though it lacked the depths explored by “The Dark Knight” (which was released later that summer), it nonetheless managed to linger in the viewer’s imagination long after the credits rolled. A sequel was inevitable. “Iron Man 2” brings back most of the original cast and director Favreau and adds screenwriter Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”), but doesn’t capture the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of the original.

Read the rest here.

Apr. 23rd, 2010

Review of The Losers (2010)

My review of the adaptation of The Losers has just been posted at SF Signal.

You would think, given the genre (spy-fi) and the introduction of a nifty skiffy superweapon, that I'd be all over this one. Sadly, you'd be wrong.

Movies and comics share several conventions, but the paramount element of both is visual. Like comics, the appeal of movies is, first and foremost, in the images they present to their audience. This is not to say that any of the other pieces - character, story, ideas - are unimportant, but that what a moviegoer sees is what provides the thrill and joy. No matter how many other similarities they share, however, movies are not comics. The language is different, and in adapting a comic to screen one has to understand the difference for an effective translation. Richard Donner understood this when he directed Superman; Christopher Nolan knew the difference when he directed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The Losers, by contrast, suffers the fate of actually being too faithful to the comic, embracing not only its best elements but also its worst.

Sadly, that's the good news.

Read the rest here.

Apr. 19th, 2010

Review of Kick-Ass

My review of Kick-Ass is up at SF Signal.

Well, why not? As Dave Livewski (Aaron Johnson) muses with his friends in the too hip Atomic Comics shop with his friends at the beginning of Kick-Ass, with all of the superhero comics available, with comic book heroes finding themselves in hundred-million-dollar features every major movie season and developing a cachet of cool that, frankly, did not exist when I filled Dave Livewski's shoes more than twenty-five years ago (hell, I pretty much was Dave Livewski in high school), why hasn't somebody just put on a costume and become a superhero? His friends Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters) lay it out easily: superpowers don't exist, and heroes without powers, like Batman, need enormous amounts of capital. (There's also the fact that comic book readers tend to understand that what they are reading is in fact fantasy.)

Catch the full review here.

June 2012




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