Dear Mr Watterson – An Exploration of Calvin and Hobbes: a Calvin and Hobbes enthusiast tries to figure out what makes the comic so enduring. To boil this down; it’s 60 minutes of fans absolutely gushing over Calvin and Hobbes and 30 minutes of people debating whether or not the refusal to licence merchandise was a bad idea. That’s about it. For a Doc on such an abundant and much-loved subject there’s a couple of major flaws: firstly, for being about a living person’s greatest work, the fact that there’s nothing but old quotes from Watterson is crushingly disappointing. One of the main players is a guy who’s written a book about Watterson, and that’s as close as we’re getting here. Secondly, this is a strip that everyone loves, so to hear one person nostalgically navel-gaze and deliberate over his memories and favourite strips totally undercuts the movie. On the plus side, if you read, re-read, and re-re-read the books as a kid, there’s a lot of loving footage of the best and brightest cartoons – and some close-ups of original strips. Even when rapidly flipping through “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” volumes you can pick out all of your favourites. Stylistically, if you imagine a Kickstarter-funded indie documentary… yup… you’ve got it! Cutesy, offensively inoffensive indie music, and blurry-as-shit visuals. As someone who grew up with their dad’s hand-me-down books listed below (and even knifed a couple to create a comic strip border for my bedroom) there’s absolutely nothing new to be found in here, a cynic may even say it’s leeching off of a popular franchise. May be of more interest to C&H newcomers – if there are any out there.
WARNING: Contains traces of interesting content. Made and packaged in a Bill Watterson free environment.
LOOK AT MY CRAZY WIDE APERTURE!!!
- Calvin and Hobbes
- Something Under the Bed Is Drooling
- Yukon Ho!
- Weirdos from Another Planet!
- The Revenge of the Baby-Sat
- Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”
- Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
- The Days Are Just Packed
- Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat
- There’s Treasure Everywhere
The Frozen Ground: when an upstanding citizen is accused of kidnapping, torturing and raping a ‘lying’ prostitute the case is immediately dropped, but lands on the desk of a diligent detective. The first-time director coaxes solid performances from an impressive cast: Con Air’s Cage and Cusack are always welcome (and Cage looks like he actually wants to be here!), supported by the likes of Vanessa Hudgens, Dean Norris, Kurt Fuller, Brad Henke, and 50 Cent’s teeth. Unlike 99% of serial killer films, this is different because you know very quickly who the baddie is – it’s not a random character added in the last act – so we see the cop stalking the killer, while the he tries to evade detection, not unlike Insomnia (in setting / location too). In fact the only real mis-step is the clichéd ‘over-committed-detective-with-suffering-family’ trope, but it’s a minor part of the picture. As great as this is, it’s a tough one to recommend because it’s pretty grim viewing in parts, but I’d put this as being head and shoulders above your average movie in the burgeoning ‘true crime / serial killer’ genre.
Porky’s [Steelbook] a group of teenagers in 1950s Florida head to Porky’s strip club to get some action, but nothing goes to plan with this – or any of their sexual misadventures. Undoubtedly one of the most (in)famous coming-of-age teen-sex comedy flicks, Porky’s is less of a “film” and more of a bunch of individual scenes edited together to form a loose plot. There are so many side-stories like the jew-hater, bad biker dad, and horny P.E. teachers that really have nothing to do with the premise. There’s also far too many characters, none of which are the central focus, which makes it all seem even more tangential. But Porky’s was never trying to woo the critics, and for a sex-comedy there’s enough of both to make it a genre-classic, from the infamous voyeuristic shower scene to the 5-minute penis report (not to mention that it’s a High School where they only seem to teach sports classes and playground hijinks) it’s packed with entertaining stuff. While it’s a little dated (and even timid) compared to teen movies these days Porky’s is the definitive blueprint / Supertext for the genre; opening the door for films like American Pie, Superbad, Van Wilder, Road Trip… It’s good, it’s funny and the Blu Ray looks lovely. Great little Mr Skin feature about 80s skin-flicks too!
Homefront: when an undercover narc is re-located his past eventually comes back to bite him, and his daughter. I was really looking forward to this: Statham playing Statham in an action film, James Franco as the baddie, and Wynona Rider… things were looking up; then I saw this phrase in the credits “written and produced by Stallone” and my heart just sank. We know Statham’s a badass (he’s Jason Statham), we know Franco is the baddie, we know the cop is bent, we know the revenge story… don’t spend over an hour backgrounding these basic characters, and genre plot. And don’t sell it as a non-stop action-fest when it’s only really the finale that’s action-heavy. And don’t cast a young girl with an old-lady’s face! (She was like ‘Chloe from Vine’). And don’t be so loose with your accent, Statham. While this isn’t a completely terrible film it just feels like nobody’s really trying: not the writers, not the director, not even the actors… everyone involved is better than this. Distressingly average.
White House Down: a group of mercenaries storm the White House leaving an aspiring Secret Serviceman as the President’s – and America’s – only hope. They’ve only gone and made “Die Hard in the White House”, again! It’s easy to confuse this with Olympus has Fallen, but in a duel for the oval office this one wins hands-down, mostly due to the entertainment-factor; it’s the true embodiment of the term ‘action romp’. Everything that can do so, explodes during big set pieces that punctuate the movie, and is generously littered with laughs too – by the end I was even guilty of a few fist-pumps. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the kind of movie that – at least on paper – we should all hate: big, loud, dumb, derivative, but the director seems to know this, and fully embraces it – cheesing everything up to 11. The only real downside is that it’s a tad on the long side (for the kind of film it is). If you want a cheesy 80s/90s big-budget one-man-army taking on waves of despicable henchmen, look no further. Fly this DVD up your flagpoles, ‘MURICA!
Red 2: a Retired, Extremely Dangerous (RED) agent Frank Moses is back on the radar when an APB goes out to every contract killer in the world, with a tasty bounty on his head. First off, although he’s in a restrictive role (and – skeptically – probably only to sell tickets in Asia) I like the gamble of casting a Korean megastar that is relatively unknown in the West. Even delivering phonetic/over-dubbed lines Lee Byung-Hun steals his scenes, and raises the action bar – peaking in the impressive and innovative fridge-door fight in Moscow. It’s also as funny as RED was, but every single laugh is John Malkovich – “If there’s one thing I know, it’s women and covert operations”. Hopkins is entertaining, Louise-Parker & Zeta-Jones are both hyphenated surnames, and dame Mirren also enjoyable company. The setup is rrrrrather contemporary for a comic – a’la WikiLeaks, but the overall story (and film) don’t flow particularly well as they’re determined to have a James Bond style travelogue element – popping up here, there, and everywhere for no real reason: London, Moscow, Paris, America… despite this, it’s hard not to switch off by the end as the required ‘twisty-turny’ but overall a fairly predictable story arc plays out – what’s wrong with goodies being good and baddies staying bad?!?!? Basically, Bruce Willis doing a dialed-in ‘wise guy’ with diluted attitude, surrounded by people you’d rather be watching – all reminding you of that film ‘Paycheck’, but for the wrong reasons. Less Die Hard, more Die Soft and wrinkly.
Cobra: Marion Cobretti – essentially a paramilitary policeman – comes across his scummiest scumbag yet, but he believes this is more than just a one-off. This is a spin-off from when Stallone walked away from Beverly Hills Cop to make something more violent! It’s essentially an ‘Arnie Film’ but with a different star, and more than most of the Arnie movies around this era, this has a really nasty streak through it – the baddies are a fairly nihilistic, ruthless bunch working under the name “Night Slasher” – although their back-story & motives could have done with fleshing out. Stallone’s Cobretti is unnecessarily cool – Car, Shades, clothes, attitude – it’s laughable at times, but Sly always does this. The action scenes are all pretty good – including a superb car chase that feels straight out of the Fast franchise, a lot of shooting, a boss fight in a suitably 1980s industrial setting (a foundry) and even a cheeky homage to the Shining’s famous door-smashing scene. There’s also flakes of social commentary (particularly the failing justice system), and an under-appreciated ‘anti Christmas movie’ vibe throughout. While Cobra is absolutely nothing new, it’s all fairly enjoyable if you appreciate cheese, big action, and lots of hard-18 violence – although if it does require subtitles to comprehend Sly.