The Portland Press Herald’s Justin Ellis and I run down the week’s new releases (7/21/09)

As the saying goes, The Honeymoon is over. And a re-energized and freshly nuptialed Videoport Jones is back and ready for duty. Which is good, because this week we have to talk about “Watchmen.”

Watchmen

"We're not very good, are we?"

"We're not very good, are we?"

Wideoport Jones: “I’m a comics dork. And a film dork, of course. Oh, and I get pretty obsessive about baseball. And certain TV shows. Man, sometimes I lose track of the sheer variety of dork I be. Yowch. Anyway, as a comics dork, I was, no doubt, expected to approach this megabudgeted adaptation of the most beloved and revered accomplishment in the comics field with slavering, anticipatory hatred. But I am a professional (sorta). And I reserved judgment until the hype died down, someone hosed down the intra-nets, and, well, I’d actually seen it. So…I didn’t like it. Directed by the whiz-bang gimmick-boy Zach Snyder who helmed the ludicrously-silly and soulless (and pretty racist) ‘300,’ ‘Watchmen’ has that film’s CGI artifice and meticulous, droolingly-lingered-upon violence, coupled with an almost George Lucas-like inattention to performance (‘Okay, cut, print!’…’But George, I forgot my lines in the middle there…’…’Don’t worry about it; we’ll get it in post…NEXT!’). I dunno, I can’t say I was often bored (the underlying story remains pretty damned compelling), but it was like one step forward, a step and a half back the whole way. Forward: Billy Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan is truly mesmerizing and, well, he acts like a godlike being losing touch with his humanity, if I’m any judge of such things. And the resurgent Jackie Earle Haley makes a good Rorschach. The Comedian has a few moments. Backward: What is a Malin Akerman, exactly? And all the other performances have a nice, flat, drama club stiffness to them, customary in most literary adaptations. Forward: Watchmen as a source, is pretty much un-screwuppable. Backward: Snyder pretty much screws it up; along with the aforementioned flaws, almost everything about the film is rushed, tinny, and second rate, from the transitions, to the script (some lines, faithful though they may be to the comic, come off as painfully dumb on screen), to the shiny computerized sets, to even the truly amateurish old age makeup. Alan Moore’s a professional grump, but he was right about this one – I honestly don’t know who could have pulled off the massive visionary feat of adapting Watchmen, but it sure wasn’t this crew.”

Justin: “Man am I happy to hear you say that. I really, really wanted to give this movie a shot. We’re cut from pretty much the same cloth when it comes from comics and movies. This is hands down one of my favorite comic stories of all time. It’s a story that seems to have endless layers and is so ridiculously rich with characters and nods to current history. I look at it and see how it should be made into a movie. But despite the spectacle and the insane devotion to the source material, I cannot give this movie a pass. It’s just that bad. It’s bad on many, many levels. He was faithful to the story in some areas, and not in one. The casting seemed inspired on one hand (Crudup, Haley and I was surprisingly enthralled by Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian), and preposterous on the other. It completely betrays the movie. I can’t take it seriously if you’ve got Malin Akerman’s zombie like performance or Matthew Goode trying to convince the audience to take him seriously as the pivotal character Ozymandias. And yes, I agree with you 100 percent on the script – there were points in this movie when I just stared at random parts of the screen as the dialogue just droned on. Also, I feel the need to try and explain what I’ve said to many friends about this flick: It’s violent to begin with. This is accepted. But what Snyder did with this movie was just short of torture porn. It went way beyond gratuitous at certain points. Overall I don’t even know if it makes me mad that the final product turned out the way it did. All I know is that Snyder took comic book-related movies a big step back with this one. Which considering this is one of the best comic stories ever (seriously, I re-read it at least once a year.).”

Coraline

VPJ: “Speaking of comics gods, this stop-motion animated fantasy film springs from the fertile imagination of ‘The Sandman’s’ Neil Gaiman, and this one’s a lot more successful. A nicely-dark-tinged fairy tale about a plucky little girl discovering that her home and family harbor some unsettling secrets, Coraline, in addition to the imagination of Gaiman, can boast the director of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ and it’s similarly spellbinding and weird. Plus, the odd little puppet people are better actors (voiced by people like Ian McShane and Keith David) than most of the Watchmen cast.”

JE: “But seriously though, I can’t say this enough, ‘Watchmen’ is really bad. How do you somehow make a three hour movie plod along, yet get no where? How do you spend that much money and have a crap end product? I just don’t get it! What I do get, is ‘Coraline.’ You want a feature with beautiful, yet unearthly looks and a inventive story? This is it. Unlike ‘Watchmen,’ the team behind ‘Coraline’ crafted something that is at times familiar and unique, but ultimately just a treat to look at. If you dug the creepy-cute story and aesthetic of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ then you should put ‘Coraline’ on your rental list immediately.”

Visioneers

VPJ: “People have finally discovered Zach Galifianakis (‘cause of ‘The Hangover’), which is good (although, of course, all the cool kids have known about his standup prowess for ages ‘cause we’re, well, the cool kids). It’s good for Zach, it’s good for Videoport (‘cause we’ve got a couple of his hilarious standup DVDs), and it’s good for this weird little movie, a satire about a shlumphy office worker (Zach) who finds himself in the midst of a mysterious plague affecting office workers which causes them to, well, explode. Z.G. is a solid, affecting lead in this black comedy, and it bodes well for his career of getting cast as leads in little-seen indies.”

JE: “That is, of course, unless he turns up in movies like Disney’s ‘G-Force.’ Oh, wait…he does? Oh yikes. But in seriousness, if you have taken a look at Zach’s career you’ll find a guy who has shrewdly created two different personas, the guy who’s undefinable, bizarre comedy makes him one of the funniest guys doing stand-up, and the guy who does TV and movie work that often wouldn’t fit with his own comedic world view. I think after watching ‘The Comedians of Comedy’ I came around to the realization that you just gotta go where Zach’s talent takes him and keep watching. That and pray it doesn’t lead him to more movies playing second fiddle to talking hamsters. Oh wait…”

Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2

"Hey Jonesey, wanna go catch a ball game?"

"Hey Jonesey, wanna go catch a ball game?"

VPJ: “Seth Green once again opens up his childhood toybox and makes his action figures do funny, dirty things with each other. Just like when he was a kid, no doubt, except now he gets paid a lot of money and it’s probably a lot funnier now. It’s a pretty funny show, and Seth remains one of my hetero man crushes.”

JE: “The thing that I think is the funniest about the whole ‘Robot Chicken’ phenomenon is that despite modest success and attention (proven by the increase in celebrities willing to do voices), Seth Green and his crew stay pretty much true to their own geek vision. And in the first ‘Star Wars’ special that meant the hilarious ‘Admiral Ackbar cereal’ commercial. Here it’s the made-me-laugh-till-I-cried ‘Brunch with Vader’ bit. Go rent this. Now.”

The Great Buck Howard

VPJ: “John Malkovich stars in this comedy about a washed-up TV magician making a comeback. Tom Hanks and his kid are along for the ride. People didn’t seem to care much (I confess to having a tough time myself), but when I described the premise and the cast to the lovely Mrs. Videoport Jones, she let out a ‘squeee’ and asked how soon we could watch it. So I guess there’s a target market after all.”

JE: “Well I guess we know who has control over the remote in that household. Luckily for you she has good taste. Hence the marriage-thing I’m guessing. ANYHOO, you give me a flick with Malkovich, Tom Hanks and Jr. Hanks? Sold. I don’t even care what it’s about. They could be putting up drywall and I’d watch it. Actually, having said that, I think a John Malkovich home improvement show could be off the charts. Wouldn’t you want to see him tell you how to grout the bathtub, add crown molding to the living room or redesign the family room? Imagine a Malkovich-ian freak-out over the wrong throw pillows or…wow, went off on a tangent on that one. Uh, go rent this.”

The Mighty Boosh

VPJ: “This cult BBC series is finally out on the DVD, and I couldn’t be more excited, especially considering that I still don’t exactly know what it’s about. I’ve actually spoken to some even more excited fans, and I still don’t know what it’s about. But I’m still excited. Over to you, Justin…”

JE: “I…uh. Yeah. So The Mighty Boosh is…, uh, British. And…funny? OK, look, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve caught a few episodes on Adult Swim and it seems to fit in with that crowd quite nicely. Not quite as far out and mind hurty as ‘Tim and Eric’ (yes, I said ‘mind-hurty’), or as rough as ‘Metalocolypse.’ It’s just funny. Warning: If you have an issue with British humor (or humour) and accents, then this is not for you.”

A programming note from Mr. Videoport Jones: Videoport’s TV bonanza this week includes new seasons of ‘Pushing Daisies’, ‘Monk’, ‘Psych’, ‘Leverage’, and, of course, the all-out brilliant sketch comedy ‘The State’! YEAHHHH!

Today’s parting shots:

– What did you think about “Watchmen?”
– Best comic-to-screen adaptation?
– What do you make of Zach Galifianakis’ career choices?

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Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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