Hello movie addicts, film buffs, culture vultures and compulsive spenders. This week ’s new home entertainment releases are a varied bunch to be sure but there’s probably something here for you, whatever floats your naughty little boat. First up is, yes, another superhero movie but this one comes with a green power ring, a naff suit and a lot of baggage.
GREEN LANTERN is only DC’s third foray onto the big screen since Christopher Nolan’s all-conquering THE DARK KNIGHT, following 2010’s disastrously received JONAH HEX and 2009‘s more respected but still cash-poor WATCHMEN. However, if they were hoping for this to turn their fortunes around, they missed again. Unanimously poor reviews and a rather unexciting advertising campaign resulted in a dismal showing at the box office. But what’s the film like? Well… Kind of like a film that deserved unanimously poor reviews and a dismal showing at the box office. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the worst superhero film ever made (hello Ghost Rider) it just, well, sits there. Ryan Reynolds is fine as Hal Jordan, the ace test pilot given an almighty power ring and the responsibility of being an interplanetary cop, but he doesn’t really shine. His natural charisma is slightly dampened down and if he is still playing the same character he’s always played, at least he doesn’t jabber on as compulsively as he did in Blade Trinity.
The real trouble is, it’s all just a bit ho-hum; the supporting cast is ok, the special effects will do and the script is fair to poor, but this is a superhero film and most of them – even the films that are better than this one – are the same in that regard. But there are no set pieces that excite, no real journey for any of the characters and – crucially – at no point are you made to wonder what might happen. We all know going in that in 99% of these films everything will work out fine but, come on, make us doubt it, you know? Put us through it. It feels like its on rails; you get on and you get off again, unchanged and a little short-changed. Also, and this is just my opinion, but this is one of the ugliest films I’ve seen in a while, design-wise. Everything off-world is bathed in a palette of vivid pinks, yellows and greens that haven’t been seen since Joel Schumacher pranced into Gotham with a bad script and a pair of nipple caps. I feel pretty sure that the look of the film, especially with its roster of bizarre, funny-looking aliens (a beak here, some purple skin there) was a big turn off for the general public; unsure what to make of it, beyond the fact that it looked kind of silly and, with a hero most of them had never heard of, they just stayed away… And the suit? Well, you’ve seen it in the trailer and it looked as poorly coloured in the film itself as it did there.
I would like to be kinder and I do feel that critics at the time got a little carried away with some of the scorn they poured on it (it’s still an infinitely better film than “Constantine”) but it’s just so uninspiring. And this could’ve been – should’ve been – like Superman but on a cosmic scale, the fate of planets hanging in the balance as a single flawed but plucky human being lays his life on the line while pulling off feats of astonishment and wonder. But no. He has the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, one that can create any form he can imagine to help him fight his foes and what does he make with it?
Now, a critical reception like this one had would normally scupper a film’s chances of getting a sequel but not this time; Warner have already green-lit a follow up. Common sense says that this is in preparation for a Justice League movie further on down the road, an Avengers-style superhero team-up using DC’s characters in place of Marvel’s. And it would make sense; both Batman and Superman are up for a re-boot and after a proposed Wonder Woman TV show never got past the pilot stage, rumour has it that Nicholas Winding Refn, director of the recent Ryan Gosling movie Drive, has his eyes on it as a future project to star Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks. So, the question is, what – Batman aside – are DC doing wrong? Frustratingly, I don’t know (and I figure I’d be a rich man if I did). Certainly, none of their films have captured the breezy, effortless nature of Marvel’s Iron Man and, it would seem, that this playful tone is how most people want to see these types of films played. Since The Dark Knight, both of DC’s films have been dark, violent affairs, at least on paper. Is DC trying to set themselves up as a kind of anti-Marvel? A darker, more mature outlet for people tired of run of the mill superhero films? If so, it’s not working. They have arguably the better characters (although – I know, I know – that will always be a matter of opinion) and yet the public don’t appear as eager to take them on and let them into their lives; comic readers aside, who had heard of Wolverine before Bryan Singer’s X-Men? And that’s not to say it’s the public’s fault, either; they’re not the ones who keep making the crappy movies. Warner need to decide what they want to do and who they want to be. Maybe start making some left field choices for director as Marvel have become famous for; I mean, come on, did anyone at Warner really think, once it became clear that the wheels on Jonah Hex were coming off, that Francis Lawrence – the hack responsible for the woeful I Am Legend and the huge, steaming pile of rancid baby shit that was Constantine – was really the man to save it? Come on Warner. You’ve got the heavy hitters. Now play the game. Put your balls in a wheelbarrow and go to work.
If you still need it in your life, Green Lantern is also available in 3D or extended version on Blu-Ray.
There’s a bunch of weird stuff out too, maybe most noticeably RETREAT in which Billy Elliot stalks Cillian Murphy and – no way! – Thandie Newton on a deserted island. It sounds like Dead Calm but off the boat. Which is a step backwards, if you really think about it. There’s also SET UP in which Bruce Willis seems intent on destroying his career in big screen movies by appearing with direct to DVD “stars” Ryan Phillippe (who once had a proper career as an actor) and 50 Cent (who didn’t). And no, not Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent. So there.
STAKE LAND is a low budget, apocalyptic vampire horror with strong anti-religion overtones, co-written by its star Nick Damici. If that sounds like your bag of spoons (and why wouldn’t it?) you should know that its been getting some pretty positive reviews with both actor and director labelled as ones to watch. Werner Herzog releases his 3D spelunking documentary CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, in which he gets limited and rare access to the Chauvet Cave in France. This is where the world’s earliest known human artwork (at 32,000 years old) was found, so join old Werner as he takes a 3D camera crew down there. If you’ve seen any of Herzog’s other documentaries – such as Grizzly Man or the excellent Encounters At The End Of The World – you’ll know to expect: thoughtful voice-over in his unique Germanic tones, bizarre insights, child-like glee and the odd scientist staring at him in disbelief as he asks astonishingly off the wall questions (such as Encounters… “Why don’t monkeys ride goats?”). He’s a one-off. Praise him.
From TV land we get the 2nd series of HUNG, Thomas Jane’s male ho show, series something ridiculous of BONES starring Angel and one of those hollow faced Deschanel girls and the rather wonderful animated Star Wars show THE CLONE WARS season 3. If you’ve a strong constitution and can stomach Jane Horrocks, TROLLIED is out too, a sit-com set in a supermarket. “She’s really brilliant that Jane Horrocks, she’s so talented but she’s just like us, she’s so normal and down to earth.” No. She’s horrible. She’s not like me, she’s like you and that makes you shit too. And if she’s down to earth, I’m going somewhere else. (Sorry, but that had been building up for a while now. I feel much better.)
There are a couple of big back catalogue titles out on Blu-Ray this week, too. Probably most anticipated of the bunch being Quentin Tarantino’s era-defining PULP FICTION. Ah, I remember it well. The film that made a megastar out of it’s director and went on to change everything; it made us non-starry normal people go fifties dancing and medieval on each others asses in the hope that just a little bit of its celluloid cool would rub off on us and enrich our pathetic and empty lives. It was all milkshakes, pop tarts, gold watches and gimp masks around here. People really thought indie cinema could change the world. And for a while young ones, just for a while, it did. Then he made JACKIE BROWN (also out this week) and people said things like “Why is it so long?” and “Why does he have to use that word so much?” It had been decided that Quentin was taking himself far too seriously and should be slapped back into line for daring to make a film about a relationship between an older couple that was mostly played out in long (read: “loooooooong”) takes of Pam Grier listening to music. Or walking. So we, the public, turned our backs on him hoping that he would think long and hard about what he had done and make it up to us by bringing us a film even more saturated in self conscious cool, maybe something containing a lot of martial arts, preferably in two parts. Still Grier and co-star Robert Forster are great and Samuel L. (stands for Leviathan, fact fans!) Jackson plays it darker than he had for a while, with less charm and more snake. Oh, and Chris Tucker shows up but don’t worry, he gets killed mega-early (during his death scene I like to scream, “And that’s for The Fifth Element, bitch!” in triumph). Also out is the Tarantino scripted FROM DUSK TIL DAWN starring George Clooney and Harvey Keitel and maybe – just maybe? – the most fun of the three. It’s certainly the only one where Salma Hayek does a scantily clad dance with a snake. The secret’s long out by now, but the way the film switches from crime movie to horror flick in the middle is still a thrill and Clooney plays a good bad-ass, something he hasn’t really allowed himself the opportunity to do since. It’s cheap, cheerful and probably a waste of time on Blu-Ray, (how good can it look, really?) but it’s awesome and you want it.
On a far lighter note (what a week it is for indie releases that were made a fuss of!) Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION finally makes it onto a big Blu disc this week. There was a lot of Oscar talk regarding Bill Murray when this first started playing at festivals and such but alas, no, he went unrewarded. This is a film that some adored and some mocked (but just what was whispered in that final blah, blah, blah) but the film’s opening, played out against Scarlet Johansson’s backside, was up there with the long tracking shot from Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil as a way of pulling you into a film. On an even lighter note still is AMELIE, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s light as air French confection starring the delightful Audrey Tautou. It really should make me want to puke but, goddamit, I love it and you should too. It looks incredible, has more ideas than Gandhi had extras and makes Paris look like a fantasy land (like The Shire but with a proper urban renewal plan).
There are loads more but we’ve just about run out of time. The dogs are barking and the old Bill are here to change the battery on my ankle bracelet.