Home

Face/Off

Leave a comment

**½

OK, then… plan B, why don’t we just kill each other?

face-off-cage-travolta.jpgJohn Woo is a great director. I can understand how American moviegoers from 1996 – 2003 might not have realized this, but I assure you that he is great. His American run for me started with Broken Arrow, a movie that reinvigorated Christian Slater’s career, by attaching himself to John Travolta’s reinvigorated career. A year later Woo teamed up again with John Travolta to make this movie. Three years after this he got hired to make Mission: Impossible II. Then came Paycheck in 2003. To describe these movies as critically panned would be accurate. But financially they all crushed it, except for Paycheck which was poorly marketed—how else can a John Woo adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story starring Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman and Paul Giamatti, with a score from John Powell not make money?

This is a long way of saying that I think that although Face/Off is over the top, self-seriously cheesy, and just plain ridiculous, I think it was well directed. There were so many stunts and so many action shots. Internationally this film made more than it did domestically, which makes sense considering how a functional understanding of English probably detracted from the enjoyment of the film. So if you want an exciting action movie directed by John Woo…you should probably watch Hard Boiled, but if that is not available, this one would do the trick.

Advertisements

Better than Dr. No?

Leave a comment

Was Sean Connery’s best Bond movie Dr. No? It would be pretty depressing if the most popular Bond’s best movie came out first and the series over 53 years failed to reach that level again. I am not actually ranking all of the Bond movies. I did that 6 years ago in 50 Years of Bond. Instead this looks at the 5 (of the 6) Bonds who got more than one movie. Each actor will have his movies compared, and then I will say that Martin Campbell was the best Bond director, because even though Guy Hamilton directed Goldfinger, he also directed Diamonds Are Forever.

Bond.jpeg Sean Connery – The original Bond has the distinction of having made 6 (7) Bond movies. He is the only Bond to have reprised the role (twice). And, if you count Never Say Never Again, he is the only one to have remade his own movie. Since From Russia with Love is one of the best two Bond movies of all-time, and Dr. No is not, that means that Connery surpassed Dr. No, and his first sequel was better! All of Connery’s sequels came out within 2 years of their prior films. And only From Russia with Love was better than its immediate predecessor. Also, Goldfinger is pretty uncomfortable to watch in 2018. The question is – is You Only Live Twice even more uncomfortable?

Roger Moore – The third Bond (yes, we can’t forget Lazenby, even if he does not count for this) started out hot with the now very racist Live and Let Die. 1 year later the even crazier Man with the Golden Gun came out, and was not as good, but I could watch that one over and over again. That quality misled me into thinking it was superior to its sequel, The Spy Who Loved Me, but it is not (3 years later). 2 years later a fast tracked Bond adaptation set in outer space (instead of Nazis operating in Southern England) mostly sucked. It should be forgotten, so that must be how I never ranked it for the 50 Years of Bond list I did—in fact I skipped the 12th through 16th best, which seems odd in hindsight. The back to basics For Your Eyes Only 2 years later was a welcome return to form for Moore. Then Octopussy was fully bananas 2 years later, and 2 years after that View to a Kill was the worst Bond movie of all-time. 6 sequels and only 1 improvement and 1 tie. Ouch.

Timothy Dalton – The Living Daylights was great and Licence to Kill pretty much sucked. They were made 2 years apart, and only 2 years after View to a Kill. Licence to Kill is why no other Bond movie has been R-rated (according to me and inductive reasoning from other people saying the same thing).

Pierce Brosnan – Goldeneye was great and Tomorrow Never Dies pretty much was not great. They were made 2 years apart, but after a 6 year gap—the longest in Bond history. As okay as Tomorrow Never Dies is, The World is Not Enough was not up to the level of okay. Then 3 years after that Die Another Day crapped out, making the most money of any Brosnan movie, but ending his career as Bond.

Daniel Craig – Just like with Dalton & Brosnan, Daniel Craig came out with a great Bond movie and dropped off sharply. It was 2 years for Quantum of Solace, which did not benefit from the writer’s strike, but was cranked out quickly regardless. Maybe that is why since Quantum the waits have been 4 years, 3 years, and hopefully only 5 years for “Bond 25”. Skyfall was better than Quantum of Solace, and I rated Spectre the same as Skyfall. That was a mistake and Skyfall was better.

As I noted above, with the exception of Sean Connery, each Bond peaked with his first Bond movie. Third movies have been very critically well received, and benefitted from generally weak second movies. Each series has ended weakly. So yeah…not exactly holding my breath from Bond 25. This pattern is why “who will be the next Bond” has been a story 5 times a year for the past 40 years. The median, mode and mean gap between films (even ignoring who was Bond) has been 2(.3) years. What a staggering fact for 24 blockbuster movies. Looking at these gaps actually suggests that Bond 25 has a shot to not suck, since the 4 & 6 year gap films have been great.

Oh and I almost forgot, Martin Campbell is the best Bond director of all-time.

This post is Part VI of my sequels series.
Part I is here, II here, III here, IV here and V here.

Ladybugs

Leave a comment

**

What’d you do? A girl doesn’t give the opposing team the finger and tell their coach, “Up yours!” A girl doesn’t refer to the referee a blind bastard. A girl doesn’t slap another girl on the ass and say, “You’re hot stuff!” And a girl doesn’t say “I gotta take a leak so bad I can taste it!”

Ladybugs(1).jpg

First off, let me say that “How Did This Get Made” deserves all the credit for getting me to watch this movie again. It is unlikely that anything I say here will be half as funny as what they said. So just click that link and be shocked at how disturbing and offensive this Rodney Dangerfield soccer comedy really is.

One thing their review touched on, but I do not think they connected it, was that the inappropriately sexualized teenage girl in this film was played by Vinessa Shaw, who was 17 when this was filmed. She was 16 when she was inappropriately sexualized in Hocus Pocus. Even under these conditions she seems like a solid actress, but it is still so gross to watch as an adult. As the podcast repeatedly hammers home — if this story were told from the point of view of the teenagers, this could have been different, but it was not, and that makes it far creepier. But hey, when I was 11 I thought this was funny, so if it were not full of awful life lessons and offensive stereotypes, I would say it’s just a movie for kids. But it is not. It definitely is not.

It was all downhill from there

1 Comment

If you thought that my last entry, Not better than the first two, was negative, then prepare yourself for the fun sledding since this is…all downhill from there. Often we will watch a movie and love it so much that we want more. And often we get something not as good, which is then followed up by something even worse. This looks at nine series where the first film was the best, and at worst had diminishing quality to the end (at least as far as I was willing to watch).

first-blood-poster.jpg

What do you call the movie series featuring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo? Regardless of what you call it, the original First Blood was a very good, intelligent film. Whereas the others were quite bad. The names were inconsistent, but that just makes them even more fun. First Blood came out in 1982, Rambo: First Blood Part II was released in 1985, and Rambo III grunted its way back to theaters in 1988. 20 years later Rambo was back. After such a good first movie it was all downhill from there.

Jaws – I have actually only seen the first two, unless you count clips used to demonstrate how bad 3 & 4 were. And I listened to all of the How Did This Get Made Podcast for 4 (The Revenge). Jaws is one of the greatest thrillers of all-time. 4 features a different shark who follows the family to get revenge? Even after something similar happened in 3-D?? Yeah, it was all downhill from Jaws and 2 was a major drop off to begin with. Unsurprisingly Spielberg only directed the original, which came out 3 years before the sequel, then 5 years passed for 3-D and 4 years for Revenge. The series’s star, Roy Scheider, left after 2, which can often be a bad sign.

The Transporter – It is okay to be a fan of someone yet acknowledge that the thing that made them famous was not exactly the best. The Transporter was not the best of Jason Statham, nor the best of Luc Besson. 3 years later Transporter 2 was okay, but not as okay as the original. Another 3 years later and Transporter 3 killed the franchise despite making the most money, more than double of the original. 7 years later the Transporter was back and no longer played by Jason Statham.

Jurassic Park – People disagree on which Transporter was the best, but literally no-one has ranked any Jurassic movie above Jurassic Park. I have not seen Lost World since it was in theaters, but I hated it. I rate it Steven Spielberg’s worst film. William H. Macy phoning in Jurassic Park 3 in all its easy to mock “aww shucks-ness” was less aggressively bad (each was separated by 4 years). Jurassic World came out 14 years later and was somehow an average movie.

Batman – Oh there was over a decade that I insisted that Batman Forever was the best of the original WB Batman series. That was the first movie I ever saw thrice in theaters. Rewatching it was a painful blow to my nostalgia. I stand by my assertions that Val Kilmer’s Batman was good, and that Jim Carrey’s Riddler was very good, but otherwise Joel Schumacher’s film deserves all the crap other people had given it. Batman and Batman Returns are overrated, but sequentially each 3 years the movies got worse until Batman and Robin…which only took 2 years to get much worse.

The Hunger Games – The term for when one singular item represents the whole is synecdoche. If only the series could have maintained the quality of its start. Also, the final 2 part installment was clearly a money grab. Each film was released one year apart, but the 2 parter must have been filmed together, yet it was somehow the worst.

Once Upon a Time in China – Also known as Wong Fei Hung this series was all downhill from its epic start. Thankfully it was a great start because it gave us Jet Li! The release dates were 1991, 1992, 1992, 1993, 1994 and then 1997 for one of the worst, most offensive movies I have ever seen. I finally understood somewhat how people from other cultures must feel when white English speakers portray non-white non-english speakers as Once Upon a Time in China and America featured lots and lots of Chinese people dressing up as Native Americans.

Lethal Weapon – Lethal Weapon 4 had Jet Li in it. Maybe that propelled it above 3. Otherwise the first two were the best, with the first one being just a little better but the sequel being more ironically amusing. Lastly, Mel Gibson is a bad person, but has been in several good movies. The gaps between these films were: 2, 3 & 6 years.

Rocky – It seems fitting to bookend this installment with more Sylvester Stallone. Rocky was so good that it won Best Picture at the Oscars. 3 years later Rocky 2 was so bad that the only highlights come in the recap montage at the start and the rematch of the fight from Rocky at the end. Another 3 years later and Rocky 3 went in a new sillier direction, but without any consistency. Bizarre as it seems, Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) was not a national icon when this film came out, but Mr. T was. Another 3 years later and people would now have you believe that an even dumber boxing movie somehow impacted geopolitics (it did not, but there is a great fake 30 for 30 pretending it was real). Lastly 5 years later Rocky has a street fight and America vows to never watch another Rocky movie again. 16 years later people have forgotten the greatest collapse in film history. This and Rambo basically ended the trend of putting numbers at the end of movie titles. With rose colored glasses people misremember 2 as being closer to 1, 3 being a classic, 4 being impactful and not totally cheesy, and totally forgetting 5. Unlike Rocky Balboa, I did watch Creed and it was excellent 9 years after Balboa. Go figure.

As promised, here are the current statistics after looking at the the four major permutations of sequels: sole sequels, trilogies in two ways, and series where the first movie was the best. Still to come are the popular series that fit into none of those paradigms. But here are the stats: 95 films counted. 61% have been worse, 14% have been equal, and 25% have been better. The most likely to be better are films released within 2 years of the original (36%). The most likely to be worse are films released 9 or more years later (79%), although 3-4 years later gets close with 70% and a sample size more than 3x larger (46 vs 14). Equally good is down to 14%, which makes more sense than the initial 20%. It looks like the conventional wisdom that sequels are worse tends to be true, and after looking at series that all went downhill there are plenty of examples of later sequels really stinking. Let’s take a look at the Bond movies first to push these worsening sequel statistics even higher!

This was Part V of the sequels series. If you stumbled across this and have somehow missed Parts IIV, feel free to read those.

Yeah, but…Amadeus

Leave a comment

When I first started tracking my movies I had 22 years of film viewing to find five star movies to rewatch and rate. Within the first year I had given 12 movies 5 stars. In the 13 years since then I have rated 32 more movies 5 stars, this being 1 of them. 8 years ago I ranked Amadeus the 2nd best movie from 1980–1984, behind only The Empire Strikes Back. Now I look at it again to see how holds up.

Amadeus.jpg

The things I loved about it then I love about it now: Three main characters who are not black & white. The music, oh that music. Some consider the music to be a main character in and of itself (thanks Mario for pointing this out). The music might be the best thing about this great movie, although F. Murray Abraham’s voiceover and performance as Salieri in general are amazing. Jeffrey Jones is a polarizing figure because of his legal troubles, but his performance as the emperor has always captivated me—I still like to say “well, there it is” as his character does and nobody ever gets it. The movie sucks me in so deeply. That Salieri’s old person makeup does not look entirely convincing doesn’t matter, or it wouldn’t really matter to me in a play. And a play could not go so many places for quick scenes, although on Broadway the costumes may have been on par with these Oscar award winning designs (I assume, I am not even checking to see if this is true). Truly everything about this movie is excellent, but what makes it excellent is not always as readily visible as the beauty of the costumes.

For instance, which character are you? Who is the audience? Put another way, through whose eyes are we meant to see things? Milos Forman, or Peter Shaffer adapting his own play, adds a priest who seeks Salieri’s confession in the insane asylum. Salieri’s story takes almost 24 hours to tell and basically rumples the priest before our eyes. So are we then rumpled and crushed by the film? Despite it having Mozart’s death and Salieri’s life in an asylum the film ends on a very high note as Salieri acts the part of a priest and pardons his fellow mediocrities. He labels himself their patron saint. In his mind G-d tormented him by giving him enough talent and skill to fully appreciate Mozart’s superiority over him. This ties into a fundamental problem that many films dealing with geniuses face—how do you demonstrate genius? One way is by having a lot of stuff on chalkboards and Russell Crowe acting weird, which was the A Beautiful Mind route, which works for some people. Amadeus presents a much more refined and elegant way. The prodigy montage was pretty standard, but even before that the film defines Salieri as well above average, but somehow forgotten; he was a fallible person who rose to astonishing heights, respected by seemingly everyone around him. In the first scene with the priest he plays two songs that he claims were very popular, which elicit no recollection from the younger priest. But when he plays Mozart the priest can recognize it and actually finish the song, calling it “charming”. Just like that Mozart’s work is timeless while Salieri’s is not. No offense, but most people are not doing timeless work, I certainly am not. Would I consider my work better than average? I would like to think so, which means I should relate far better to Salieri than Mozart. Next take this secretly relatable character and show him seem slow; have him show shock when confronted with Mozart. Even as Mozart seems hours from death, his mind can still work faster than Salieri’s brain or fingers. Lastly they reinforce this message with an incredible score. Jeffrey Jones’s emperor, who is very mediocre at everything avoids becoming the relatable character by virtue of him being a freaking emperor and thus out of touch with reality.

That was a lot for a review of this size. I did not include how Mozart’s wife Constanze fits into this, but I feel that her character does not see enough to be that anchor. Fortunately she is presented, as Mozart is as well, as human and flawed. She is neither an opportunistic gold digger, nor is she Virgin Mary meets pre-prison Martha Stewart.

While the movie is called Amadeus, as was the play it was based on, the artistic source for the Salieri-killed-Mozart theory comes from Pushkin, who almost certainly took a popular rumor and turned it into a much less subtle short play—Salieri openly poisons Mozart. But one thing that I have taken for granted, as most audiences have been trained to do, is that what I am being shown is true. Well, true within the confines of the world established by the film. For instance, when you feel annoyed at James Caan for not believing in Santa Claus in Elf that is because the movie presents Santa as factual. With that setup notice that 98% of this film is a presentation of Salieri’s memory. Or at least the way he chooses to relay this memory to a priest asking him to confess if he truly was responsible for Mozart’s death. Salieri is a man who thought G-d killed his father as a gift so he could make heavenly music. Why would you trust Salieri? Salieri is a man who maligned Mozart behind his back to the Emperor, and maligned the court behind their back to Mozart. Why would you trust Salieri?? Is the film even trying to posit what is being shown was factual by having such an unreliable and untrustworthy narrator? The film is historical FICTION, but as with Santa, in its world there must be some truth, but is Salieri’s version true even in those terms?

Lastly, you might wonder, why does a rich man like Salieri wind up in an asylum? The reason for this is that he had tried to commit suicide, which under Catholicism is a mortal sin and if successful lands you in hell. Only a crazy person would try to go to hell. And when I say crazy it is important to note that in the 18th century (and well into the 19th century) the prevailing theory of insanity and mental illness was that it was a choice. Thus the key to curing insanity was to present sanity as tolerable and insanity as intolerable. That is why you see someone in a tiny metal box and someone collared to a wall so that he could not sit. It is a small part of this movie, but I thought it was an interesting touch.

 

Not better than the first two

2 Comments

Better than the first two had seven entries. This list has more. The prevailing logic being that if the third movie was bad enough, or unprofitable enough, to end a series or at least get me to stop watching more of the series, then it is probably not a good movie. With that in mind, let’s see some confirmation bias in action!

godfather_part_3_1990_original_film_art_spo_2000x.jpg

The Godfather Part III – I wonder how many people expected to find this movie here. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It is still a good movie, but with The Godfather Parts I & II to live up to, it was doomed. I & II were 2 years apart and equally good, for our purposes. III came 16 years later, and was not equally good.

The Hangover Part III — It seemed appropriate to follow up some classics of American cinema with another classic hollywood trilogy. You have a surprisingly successful movie. There was no sequel planned, but this is easy money, so you try to remake the first one and it is almost as good, but infinitely less novel. And you get it out in 2 years because that way it is fresher in the minds of the fans who loved the first one. Since that makes a bunch of money you ask for a third installment, but this time none of the actors need the money and only sign on because it’s an homage to The Big Lebowski. And that comes out as bad as one might expect. This leaves us with the classic quick Hollywood trilogy of diminishing returns (both financially and in terms of quality).

Dark Knight Rises – Last time I used the average of the first two films to justify claiming a third installment was better than the first two. This time I will use different logic to come to the opposite conclusion. I think Rises was better than Batman Begins, but not also better than Dark Knight. Therefore Rises was not better than the first two. These each came out in the 3-5 year window, yet were all really good. This is David Goyer’s second appearance in a trilogy here.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – This was a very disappointing end to what started as a fun adaptation of a theme park ride. 3 years later Dead Man’s Chest came out and it was not as good, but could have been salvaged with a great payoff from At World’s End. There was no great payoff 1 year later, just lots of disappointment. 4 years later another sequel came out, but I did not care. I only realized the movie had come out when I was playing the video game. Fun fact – there was a fifth installment last year and I did not realize that either.

Naqoyqatsi – The first one in this trilogy is Koyaanisqatsi, which was followed 6 years later by Powaqqatsi. Then there was a 14 year gap before Naqoyqatsi came out. I love Philip Glass, and I admire Godfrey Reggio for making this trilogy, but it peaked with the first one. This answers my unasked question of do documentaries count for sequel purposes.

A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon – The first two in this series are classics. Movies that fans of Chow Yun Fat immediately point to for examples of his greatness. The first two, just 1 year apart, are excellent and the third movie, only 2 years later, is a big disappointment. And I think Chow Yun Fat plays his own twin in the 2nd movie, that’s how solid the film is — it overcomes that casting choice.

Underworld Awakening – Technically this is the fourth movie, but it was pretty crappy. Even crappier than Underworld 2. None of these are awful, but I do think they went downhill. It was 3 years between 1 & 2.

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult – These movies were 3 years apart. I was 12 when this one came out and the only one I saw in theaters. Even so, even at that age, I could tell it was not as funny. The whole OJ Simpson is in the first two is weird, but once you get past that, they’re great. 2 1/2 is really good, but the original is an utter classic.

Beverly Hills Cop 3 – This film series has the exact same trajectory as Naked Gun. The only difference is that 3 came out 7 years after 2. And was 4 years crappier. 12 year old me might have seen this in theaters too, but I do not remember clearly.

The Matrix Revolutions – Everything about Matrix 3 is depressing. When I think back to my dashed hopes when I was leaving the theater, I get sad. When I think about the precipitous dropoff in the score from the first two movies to this traditional dreck, I get annoyed. And when I think about how the first movie had a superman ending that should have precluded any sequels, I think of how much more fondly I would remember that first movie, had there been no sequels. 2 & 3 were filmed at the same time, which seemed novel to me then, even though Lord of the Rings did all 3 at the same time. So it was 4 years and then 1 year. Also, remember the Animatrix? What do we do with that?

Lady Vengeance – 1 year after Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance came Old Boy. Then 2 years later came Lady Vengeance. Sympathy is the weakest of the group, but probably necessary for the series to exist. If you’ve never seen a Korean revenge film, any of these will check that box. And teach you never ever to seek revenge.

Jackass 3D – The Jackass Trilogy may be better known than the Vengeance Trilogy, but it certainly gets less respect. In its own way, though, I would say it is equally good. Its second picture is also its best — on par with Borat. Each sequel took 4 years to come out, but sometimes quality takes time. Also, these are pretty much documentaries too.

Star Trek: Beyond – Pretty much mirrors the trajectory and scores of Jackass, but with only 3 years between Into Darkness and Beyond.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Does this qualify as a sequel? Blondie is kind of a name, but this is considered the third in the Man with No Name Trilogy. The score by itself would be the best of the lot, but as a film it’s less tight and precise as the first two. #2 being my favorite. Considering this is called “not better than the first two” there is almost a 50% chance #2 will be my favorite. Unless sequels in general are worse. But these are sequels that all begot another sequel, so that says something.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Clearly this movie was better than the Two Towers. I have that thing where I use Two Towers as synecdoche for misleadingly bad sequels. The extended editions of Fellowship and Two Towers are improvements, but I’m not sure if Return of the King’s was. All 3 were filmed together and released 1 year apart, with the best first, and second best last.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Unlike LOTR this one went 2-1-3. Each released 1 year apart. I’m not sure which is worse, peaking right away, or getting the viewer’s hopes up with a sequel that was better than the original.

Justice League – This one went 3 years then 2 years. This one went best, worst, middle. The series is maligned more than it should be, but with billions at the box office, my or your opinion does not seem to impact this series.

Clear and Present Danger – I read the book for this. It was very long. But Tom Clancy probably was daring people not to read his enthralling Jack Ryan books at that point. The Hunt for Red October is amazing both as a book and a film. Patriot Games was less so. And Clear and Present Danger is hard for me. I will say it was on par with Patriot Games, although I initially preferred Clear and Present Danger. Each released 2 years apart, and Harrison Ford took over the role for the latter two.

Full disclosure – No, that is not the third movie in an awful action franchise, what I am saying is that I forgot to check the tallies before going onto the next set. And I may have started with some 5 year films in the 3-4 count because in my head 5 years +1 day would be 5-8, but I do not remember if I actually kept that straight. Unfortunately this might invalidate some of the very scientific “research” I have been conducting here. This was a long list, so I will save my ongoing conclusions for Part V – It was all downhill from there.

This was Part IV of my sequels series. Here you can find Parts I, II & III.

Bright

Leave a comment

***

We are not in a prophecy. We are in a stolen Toyota Corolla.

bright-joel-edgerton-lucy-fry.jpg

People dislike this movie a lot. A lot lot. The reactions to it are such that I considered lowering my score to fit in. But honestly I thought it was pretty good. It wants to be part of a much larger saga, but it’s not. Not in the elves and orcs kind of way; it is a part of the L.A. saga that David Ayer has created and it continues to deal with the racial and class tensions of his other films. Even on cruise control Will Smith is a fine actor and Joel Edgerton’s performance as the only Orc police officer was nuanced in its simplicity. I could go on longer about how okay, but not great, this movie is, but I think my point has been made.

Older Entries