Sunday, August 28, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 17: Blade: Trinity

Wesley Snipes is currently imprisoned, ostensibly because of tax evasion, the same charge that brought down Al Capone. We are certain that, had they been able to prosecute Snipes for his involvement in Blade: Trinity, the FBI would certainly have done so. At least justice is served, albeit on a technicality.

The main problem with Blade Trinity is that Blade one and two were actually good movies - very good, in fact. And number three just doesn't live up to expectations. When the best thing about your movie is Ryan Reynolds auditioning to be Deadpool, you've got a problem.

There's a lot wrong with Trinity. The movie elevates insulting its audience's intelligence almost to an art form. This is a film where humans engage in fist fights with vampires and win, despite the fact the entire series has been spent establishing that vampires are superhumanly strong and fast. People literally shrug off punches which should be able to pulverize concrete - was anyone thinking while they were filming this?

And then there's Whistler. Both Whistlers, in fact. When the second installment bent over backwards to retcon Abraham Whistler's death in the first movie, we accepted it on principle (comic books have been retconning away deaths almost since their invention). But why resurrect the series' most interesting character in the second movie only to kill him at the start of the third? His death here didn't seem to have any real lasting consequences or impact.

Then there's his daughter, Abigail, who regularly beats up vampires while listening to her iPod. While driving to seek vengeance on a group of vampires who just murdered her friends, she spends her time assembling a set list to listen to. We are unclear whether this was supposed to be funny, whimsical, or perhaps gritty and realistic. Whatever the intent, the end result is simply bewildering.

But none of this compares with the movie's villain, who is (after a fashion) supposed to be Dracula. If you were to actively go out and try to cast the least appropriate actor alive for the role, we suspect you'd wind up choosing someone like Macaulay Culkin or Jason Alexander, and either would have made for a more entertaining Dracula than Dominic Purcell, best known for starring in the short-lived Fox show John Doe. Describing him as non-threatening is an understatement. When Purcell is stalking or killing his victims, it's incredibly challenging to stay awake.

It's unclear whether Blade: Trinity is supposed to be more horror or action, an important distinction, as we don't know whether to call it one of the least interesting horror movies of the past decade or one of the most boring action movies we've ever seen. Perhaps it can be both.

Regardless, this is a movie lacking impact. It's slow, pointless, and completely inoffensive. Pull out the harsh language, and we doubt there's enough gore or violence to even warrant an R rating. This isn't sickening, like Punisher: War Zone, nor is the embodiment of sleaze, like Frank Miller's The Spirit. In the end, it's just a tedious exercise that lacks the thrills of your average made-for-TV movie. What a waste of time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 16: Electra

Electra ultimately only has two flaws; unfortunately, they are not minor: 1. the movie ultimately misses the point, and 2. it is dull. That The Middle Room remains divided over which is the more serious infraction should serve to illustrate just how completely the film misses said point.

We are not experts on the comics Electra springs from, however we have some familiarity with the character. The movie portrays Electra as something of a reluctant assassin who kills because she's good at it, though the film strongly implies she hates the work.

This is, in a word, wrong.

It is our understanding that Electra does not generally do things she does not enjoy. She seems to be largely portrayed as something of psychotic killer, albeit a fairly affable one. She is, in some ways, a female counterpart to Wolverine.

To tedious effect, the movie attempts to explore Electra's deep seated psychological state, particularly her emotional state. This is, once more, a mistake. In fact, it's more or less the exact mistake made in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

It is important to appreciate the fact that Electra is a character created by Frank Miller, a man who does not write female characters with complex psychological states (he tried once, and within 24 hours, three prostitutes were found dead and a large sum of hush money was trading hands).

While we appreciate the sentiment of wanting to add some substance to the character, it ultimately eliminates the point of the film altogether. Electra exists to be a ridiculous ninja assassin who assassinates ridiculous ninjas. That's what makes her fun: attempting to add gravitas will not end well.

In the movie's defense, there were a handful of fight sequences which were kind of fun, as well as a number of interesting supernatural supervillains for Electra to kill. The cold opening was a decent enough depiction of the character - likely as accurate as anything we'll ever see on the screen - and Jennifer Gardner certainly looks the part when she's not sniffling or crying (pity that eliminates most of the movie).

Despite making many of the same mistakes as Wolverine, this was ultimately far less offensive. But don't expect even something on the level of Ghost Rider.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 15: Catwoman

We saw this in the theater. Yes, it's true. We did not pay for the experience - a box set of Batman the Animated Series contained a free pass, and we used it.

We hated this movie, despising it for mismanaging the concept. And we swore to never watch it again.

Be did we not also swear to track down and watch - or re-watch - the worst of the worst superhero movies ever made? How is one to weigh oaths?

Well, we found an old scale in the back of The Middle Room and set our promises upon it. It turned out our promise to you outweighed the one we'd sworn to ourselves, so onto our Netflix queue it went.

This next part is difficult for us. Do not think we didn't debate the merits of keeping this to ourselves, of neither speaking nor writing the truth.

But that's just it, isn't it? The truth is the lifeblood of The Middle Room. Without a belief in the Universal concept of truth, what is an icosahedron but a three-dimensional, twenty sided polygonal device? Are we to believe it's turning is random?

No - it cannot be so. Truth exists, and the icosahedron exists to reveal it. And so must we.

We watched Catwoman for a second time. And we kind of enjoyed it.

It was bad; to be sure, a wasted opportunity to use a fantastic actress to explore one of DC's most misunderstood characters. Halle Berry could have made an excellent Selina Kyle, and instead they recast her as Peter Parker.

In structure, this was an attempt to recreate the success of Spiderman. And everything about the movie was bad - the writing, the direction, and especially the effects.

But it was gloriously bad, hilariously bad. It wasn't so bad as to be good, but it was so bad it was interesting and funny. Really funny. And actually kind of fun, provided you know what you're getting into.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 14: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

We could have skipped this - perhaps we should have - since this is a relatively new movie. We went when it was released in 2009, seeing and reviewing it on its opening day.

We remember thinking it was bad. In fact, we remember considering it awful. But when we came across a copy at the library, we felt we owed it to you to give it another shot.

We actually thought this time might be different. After all, we went in the first time not knowing what to expect and saw it on the big screen, which can sometimes be unforgiving. Now, re-watching it at home, we allowed ourselves to imagine it might not be so bad.

Our delusions were soon shattered. X-Men: Origins: Wolverine is, if anything, worse than we'd remembered it. After the film ended, we checked our initial review and saw we'd given it 1.5 stars. Chalk that up to weakness: this was a one star film if ever there was one.

What's baffling about Wolverine is that it ever came into being. Were a team of master filmmakers to set out with an unlimited budget and the express goal of producing a Wolverine movie that boring, they would have no doubt returned humiliated with a far more interesting picture than this. Producing a bad Wolverine movie is easy to imagine, but a boring one: how does that happen?

The movie's dull pacing and melodramatic storyline are draining, and the fact that Jackman and Schreiber are well cast only means there are good actors meandering through the pointless and meaningless drivel that form the backbone of the picture. Nothing begins to make sense: the villain's plans are so inanely overcomplicated, it's all but impossible to comprehend a scenario where he could have won. The minor characters are at best vague reflections of their comic counterparts. And the action sequences oscillate between being garish and boring.

The most shocking aspect of this movie may be that there's little indication the filmmakers realized they were producing something this bad. The direction suggests they believed they were making an epic, a dramatic tragedy that would appease its audience and critics both. It's a pity they didn't realize the truth: if they'd dropped some of the pretense and embraced camp it may actually have relieved some of the tedium that permeates this movie.

Not much, but anything would have helped.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 13: Supergirl

Supergirl first appeared in comics in 1959. For years she was a popular and iconic character. In 1984, she got her own movie. One year later, in 1985, DC Comics killed her. Having just seen said movie, we suspect the timing wasn't entirely coincidental.

That Supergirl is a dull, stupid, poorly made movie is hardly surprising. After all, the basis of this experiment requires us to track down the worst of the worst and examine them. And Supergirl is brimming with many of the same flaws we've seen a dozen times: bad script, bad directing, and bad acting, to name a few.

But the long list of things Supergirl does wrong is fundamentally less interesting that the shorter list of things the movie does right. The character is, for the most part, a decent adaptation of her comic origin, and - unlike the Superman movies - she actually faces off against a few giant monsters reminiscent of the type that plagued her and her cousin back in the golden age. The monsters were quite a bit cooler than we would have expected, given every other aspect of the movie. One, a giant, invisible beast, involved some outright impressive model work, and the other, a more traditional demon, had a fantastic design.
Never mind that the fights themselves were pitifully inadequate.

In addition, while Superman himself fails to appear in person (apparently due to scheduling conflicts), the movie does a good job of maintaining the presence of his legacy. From posters of The Man of Steel to supporting roles for Lois's cousin and even Jimmy Olsen, this feels solidly in continuity with the Reeve movies.

Finally, the movie actually bothers to explore the Phantom Zone, even if the portrayal offered is wanting.
Before we give the impression that all of this makes up for the film's flaws, however, we assure you this was as bad - if not worse - than either Superman III or IV.

There are dozens of problems with this movie, but the worst is pacing. The film spends an absurd amount of time on Supergirl's secret identity, friends, and her would-be boyfriend. None of it is remotely interesting.

Adding insult to injury, none of it makes sense, either. The premise of the movie is that the power source of Argo City (which survived the destruction of Krypton somehow) is lost. Without this, her family and neighbors will die in a matter of days, so Supergirl runs off to Earth to get it back. She brings a bracelet with her which functions as a homing device.

Remember, she has mere days to locate the device or everyone she cares about will perish.

So she enrolls in school, plays field hockey, and hangs out with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane's niece. At one point, she allows a lead towards the energy source to get away rather than endangering her completely superfluous secret identity.

But that's all par for the course, because absolutely nothing in this movie makes sense. The most telling scene may be one of the first. Upon arriving to Earth, Supergirl sets out in search of the missing McGuffin. She winds up talking to a pair of lecherous truckers, clearly intent on assaulting (and likely raping) her.

Let's set aside the fact the movie plays this for comedy.

She's wearing a suit like Superman's, and she identifies herself as his cousin. Her attackers don't believe her - fair enough: why would they? They make their intentions clear, and she promptly lifts one of them into the air by his chin before using her Superbreath to blow him through the wall of a construction site.
The other trucker then draws a knife and says, "You shouldn't have done that," because evidently he's the second stupidest person to exist in any of the myriad parallel Earths. We say second because someone on Earth Prime had to write that scene.

The entire movie plays out like this. If the movie had been less boring, some of these sequences might have qualified for an exemption under the "so bad it's good" clause of film quality. But, as it was, there was little redemption.

It's a bad movie - a very bad one, in fact - with a few scenes and concepts showing real potential. But, when all was said and done, the things the movie did competently may have made it worse: there was a clear blueprint stamped across the screen for how Supergirl could have been a worthwhile movie - even a great one. Knowing that makes the end result all the more painful to behold. It's like they were taunting us.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Give Us Your Worst, Part 12: Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone is the most recent of the Punisher films, and is the only one we in The Middle Room have actually seen. There have been three made to date; one released back in 1989, and two more recent. We would have taken any of the movies for this project, had they been readily available. As it is, we stumbled across this at our local library, where some sadistic person appears to have "donated" it.

Normally, we wouldn't watch a movie that was part of a series out of order, but every Punisher movie made to date has been a reboot. This, we understand, is due to the fact that every Punisher movie made to date has been an abysmal failure.

Before we go on, we feel it's important to stress that there was nothing remotely redeeming about this movie. Like many of the movies we've seen in this experiment, it was unclear what the movie was trying to be. The direction felt like it was intended for kids, with comedic jokes and over-the-top delivery. Several characters were played purely for slapstick. However, seeing as the "R" rating was attached for grotesque scenes of gore, young audiences were more or less out of the question.

If anything, War Zone felt like it was trying to be Robocop. However, it failed to deliver comedy that was actually funny, violence that was actually shocking, characters who were actually interesting, or any kind of subversive message. Instead, it was a tedious exercise in gore and badly-staged action sequences.

This wasn't the worst movie we've seen in the "Give Us Your Worst" series. But it's definitely in the lower half. If this doesn't immediately come off as sufficiently negative, we suggest you review our previous installments.