There’s a scene early in Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road that sets both the tone and the theme of this peculiar little comedy. Ray, an eccentric doctor played by the eccentric Christopher Lloyd in a cameo, is administering a test of awareness to the film’s protagonist, who has just been concussed by a falling paint bucket. Rather than a standard test of awareness, Ray opts to test Neal with a card trick to see if Neal catches it. The trick is too clever for me to want to spoil it here, as a significant part of the delight of it is seeing it for yourself. Neal doesn’t pass, but as Ray notes, most people don’t. The trick demonstrates that most people see only what they expect to see… and that once you’ve seen the truth of a situation, you are more prepared to see what is actually there, no matter how odd or unexpected it is. But to see it, you have to be ready to see it. You have to be primed to look at things you never questioned, to look for things which — as far as you were aware — were never there.
There is no Interstate 60. This may not be readily apparent for people who aren’t intimately familiar with the Interstate Highway System, but the movie helpfully points this out early on. And yet, there is. Neal (James Marsden) finds himself traveling the rarely-traveled road when a birthday wish leads to unexpected opportunities. Neal is a struggling artist, working at a delivery warehouse by nights so he doesn’t have to have his father’s financial support. His father (John Bourgeois) is a high-power attorney who wants his son to follow in his footsteps, from career to car. Neal feels trapped by his life, and apathetic to making his own decisions; he makes major decisions by going to a website that’s a glorified magic 8-ball. For his birthday wish, Neal wishes for “an answer”; nothing more specific than that. And then he finds himself swept along in a road trip, instigated by Ray and accompanied by a strange fellow named O.W. Grant. Continue reading →
Science fiction is a genre that is known, especially nowadays, for presenting a “big idea” in the subtext that it’s trying to get across. Most of the critically acclaimed science fiction films, and most of the ones that are remembered for years past their release, have an element of this. But every so often it’s nice to be reminded that science fiction can just be fun as well, and The Fifth Element takes this approach while not completely ignoring the other.
Directed and written by Luc Besson, this film was reportedly his homage to the science fiction comic books he had grown up on. It doesn’t fall far from the source. The Fifth Element is fast-paced, colorful, and a lot of fun. Continue reading →
When I first saw the trailers for Batman Begins, I felt a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. I wanted a new Batman movie, one that would be true to the character as well as being a good movie overall. But there was a risk that a relaunch of the franchise would pander to the worst excesses of Tim Burton’s take on the character; it’s very easy to go overboard on the darkness and grimness with Batman, and the trailers for Batman Begins gave the impression it could happen again. And then the movie came out, and I loved it; it’s one of my favorite films.
When the trailers for The Dark Knight hit, I again felt that same mixture of emotions. Christopher Nolan had delivered a greater movie than I had anticipated before, but I knew from experience that sequels seldom held up to the original. And Heath Ledger didn’t look like what I think of when think of the Joker; in fact, his appearance would have fit in with the macabre and wretched appearance of the Penguin in Batman Returns. I had a legitimate concern that the sophomore effort for the franchise relaunch would fumble the ball. But Ledger turned out to be a fantastic Joker, and the movie was exceptionally good. It also would become one of my favorite films.
Four years later, and it’s 2012; trailers come out for The Dark Knight Rises. And again, the trailers seem a bit off, and don’t seem to generate excitement. (I know people were excited about The Dark Knight Rises, but my honest assessment is that the excitement existed independently of the trailers.) I had learned enough to not lose faith in Nolan, but I also knew it was still possible to flub the third act. And Bane has never been my favorite Bat-villain. But I shouldn’t have worried. Nolan has done it again. Continue reading →
This week’s dose of the Weekly Weblinks is coming a day later than normal, due to yesterday being Friday the 13th and thus having a film that demanded to be seen and reviewed. Fortunately for me, I didn’t title this series with a particular day in mind. Hooray for thinking ahead!
San Diego Comic-Con 2012 is in full swing as I write this, and various tidbits are just starting to come out of the convention. Chances are there will be quite a few items for next week’s entry, but there are already some pretty significant announcements in today’s edition. And on the blogging side of things, there’s a lot of talk about comic book movies, and a few cult classic films. So read on for the Weekly Weblinks! Continue reading →
“The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
With the blockbuster success of Batman Begins, anticipation was high for Christopher Nolan’s follow-up. Fans were excited. Even critics were looking forward to it. And Warner Brothers, of course, couldn’t have been more excited about the prospect of even more ticket sales. Most of the stars were returning. Christian Bale would don the Batsuit again, Michael Caine would again serve faithfully as Alfred. Morgan Freeman would return as Lucius Fox, and Gary Oldman would again put on the uniform of Gotham City detective Jim Gordon, now a Lieutenant. Even Cillian Murphy was coming back for a brief cameo as the Scarecrow. Of the major cast members of Batman Begins, the only ones not to return were Liam Neeson, as his character arc was done, and Katie Holmes, who had played Rachel Dawes in the first film but bowed out of the sequel to instead star in Mad Money (which may charitably be said to have been a questionable career decision.) Replacing her in the role was Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the transition went off without a hitch; many viewers considered the recast role to be an improvement. Continue reading →
“Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.”
By the end of the 20th century, the Batman film franchise had fallen quite far indeed. The 1989 film Batman, directed by Tim Burton, had been a massive success, finally establishing a successful serious superhero film other than fellow DC Comics title Superman, which by that time had fallen out of favor itself in the theatres. But Burton’s 1992 follow-up, Batman Returns, had a more mixed reception. Some loved the continuation of the darker themes of Batman; others hated it. Defenders and detractors both could be found among both audience members and critics… and in the upper echelons of Warner Brothers. It was felt that Burton’s vision for Batman was not marketable enough, especially to children. They brought in Joel Schumacher to direct the third film, 1995′s Batman Forever, and enforced a lighter tone on the picture. It was commercially successful, although not a critical darling, and the relative success of the merchandising led Warner Brothers to push things even further into lighthearted camp with the 1997′s Batman & Robin. But the fourth film did not appeal as strongly to the public, who reacted strongly against its campy tone; while it wasn’t the first time Batman had been campy, by any stretch, this time it was poorly-done camp. The critical thrashing and comparatively poor box office reception (it turned a profit, but not domestically) caused Warner Brothers to end the franchise, canceling plans for a fifth film, which would have been titled Batman Triumphant. A series that had started out with promise was now considered toxic. Continue reading →