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Dumb, stupid, and ridiculous
Ridiculously over-the-top, featuring dull performances and ludicrous action sequences taken to such impossible extremes that they lose any value they might otherwise have, WANTED wraps up with a massive action sequence that looks like a live-action version of 'Itchy & Scratchy'...though even someone making that cartoon would have stopped themselves when things looked like they were getting 'too unbelievable.' Funnier than any deliberate comedy this year, filled with overwrought comic-book fanboy angst and brimming with absurd action, WANTED will be forgotten in theaters before I've finished typing this review and really doesn't merit another line of commentary.
Comedy is apparently dead
It appears that comedy is a lost art to Hollywood. Watching Ferrell and the rest of the cast flounder their way through this scriptless mess, it's hard to believe that this same Hollywood produced Blazing Saddles, My Favorite Year, Roxanne and a long list of laughers that weren't really made all that long ago.
This film tries, tries, tries so hard, but it's obvious that no one really had any ideas for humor before they went before the cameras. The basic premise is 'act stupid and the jokes will create themselves,' but, alas, they don't. Characters that are beyond caricatures are not a good place to start-- the only person who comes out of this mess with a measure of dignity is Christina Applegate, who at least has a character that seems slightly real at least part of the time. The rest of the 'characters' are just wigs and costumes and so horribly written that the actors can't do anything to fill the time, other than make faces and try to say things that show desperation rather than inspiration. The entire world depicted in this film is so senseless and ungrounded in reality that nothing CAN be funny, it's just Bizzaroland, and an unamusing one at that.
Funniest recent movie? Kung Fu Hustle. Maybe the Chinese can take over our comedy industry along with manufacturing. Hollywood apparently is no longer up to the job...
The Starlost (1973)
After many years of not being able to see this program, but only being able to hear the scathing opinions of others about it, in particular those of the series' originator, noted SF writer Harlan Ellison, I was anxious to actually see it for myself.
And when I finally did...? Well, I actually enjoyed the 10 or so episodes I could see. Yes, the production values were very small, but shows like 'Land of the Lost' or 'Doctor Who' (which Ellison has said he actually likes) have made very enjoyable, watchable programs on similar budgets. Frankly, an interesting story is the first requirement, and trivia like sets and special effects are, at best, secondary. Castigating the show for a low budget is easy. But the shows I saw were primarily enjoyable, and I liked watching them even with particular flaws here or there or a less enjoyable episode now and again.
How much of this reputation for the show is of people simply jumping on Ellison's bandwagon? He has famously trashed the series, and has every right to whatever feelings he has on the subject. But his opinion is formed on the basis of what he originally wanted, and the experiences he had while working on the project (which, as much as they are known, are simply HIS versions of events). What effect could that whole experience have had on his opinion of the show? And why should his opinion have any effect on mine, formed simply on the basis of the program itself? I wonder how many people have formed their perspective of the series based on Ellison's recounting of events and his own view of the series. How much of Ellison's opinion has built those of others? Does it have its flaws? Most certainly, sizable ones. And it is certainly a low-budget production with poor episodes. But is it the worst show of all time, as many people seem to see it? I don't think so. It is, in many ways, enjoyable.
Alternately brilliant and Dull
While a brilliant skewering of the vapidity of American television and the lengths to which soulless people will go in that industry, the film wastes significant time in the seemingly tacked-on affair between Holden and Dunaway. While the segments of Howard Beal's rantings are riveting, the film slows as we are forced to endure the mid-life crisis of Holden's character and his involvement with the thoroughly revolting character played by Dunaway. This seemed a needless distraction, perhaps inserted to keep Holden's character throughout the film and to pad it's length-- otherwise, there seems little need to waste so much time jumping from commentary on the media to character drama.
That said, Chayefsky's dialogue is always brilliant and savory, even when they may be more stagey than realistic. The humor is intelligent, even subtle, and there is no funnier scene in most movies than the communist revolutionary screaming "Keep your hands off my distribution deal!"
The Thing (1982)
An ultimately bland, dull, and pointless exercise. As slow moving as 'The Big Chill,' John Carpenter's version of Campbell's classic 'Who Goes There?' is more faithful to the monster but ultimately as thrilling as a term paper.
While the Howard Hawks film re-wrote the monster into a simple marauding, though intelligent being, at least that film built a sense of menace and a hurtling momentum to its story. Carpenter's version is slow, talky, dull, and punctuated only by over-the-top silliness that shows his puerile obsession with gore-puppets. The 'paranoia' of people who may not be who they seem plays much better in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' or 'Planet of the Vampires,' or even in Campbell's own story. This version is simply so slow, the characters so stilted, the story so jumpy and plodding that the final act of the film is a relief, not an experience.
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Marylin, feh, IT'S EWELL'S MOVIE!
All the comments about Marylin Monroe for this film miss the point--the whole film is about Tom Ewell's character's wild imaginations and absurd twists colored by his constant immersion in his job in the field of dime pulp novels. If this movie moves at all, it's because of Ewell's performance as the husband who has been completely domesticated except for his uncontrollable imagination. Monroe's 'characteristics' drive some of the plot, but Ewell's fantasies are getting out of control before she even enters the film. It's a wonderful peek into that largely unspoken-of psyche of the American family man.
This movie tanked hideously at the box office, and for good reason...despite all the very good contributions from most of the production, Robert Altman's directing style (rough and verite, almost documentarian) doomed this to an unengaging set piece. With a warmer directorial style, one that involves the viewer rather than simply lets them remotely observe, would have better suited the comic strip material. Why on Earth did this project go to Altman instead of someone like Richard Lester???
Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)
Mike Myers is an untalented hack
Not only does Myers have the habit of writing approximately twenty minutes of tepid material for every ninety minute movie, he also STEALS from people far more talented than himself!
For those of who who think Myers is a genius and the Nathan Lane bit in this 'comedy' was funny, go dig up a copy of AFTER THE FOX, starring Peter Sellers and written by Neil Simon. You will see that Myers theft of this gag is an absolute sham and less than a pale imitation. In the original, it's clever, surreal, and very very funny. In Myers', it's turned senselessly around, badly done, and in such a way that it destroys the entire premise of the gag! Does Myers even know how to write comedy?
Myers' best work was the first half of SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, he should have quit back then.
Stylish adaptation of a popular Euro Comic
Another great visual piece by the great Bava, this film is a faithful adaptation of the popular European comic about the anti-hero master criminal Diabolik. Almost overdosing on intense 60s color and style, the film moves through comic-style adventures with considerable European flair and well captures the atmosphere of the original material and the time.
(Yes, I understand that this made the last installment of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I'm a MiSTie myself. But Diabolik is a good film, whether it has riffing potential or not.
Say you never heard a thing about Batman (as so many seem to never have heard a thing about Diabolik)--if you saw the 1988 Batman film, you'd think it was pretty stupid and over the top, wouldn't you? Unrealistic? Stupid, even? Maybe even think that the main character wasn't much of a hero, so dark, so sinister? And if you think that a lot of 'stylish' 90's films with their music-video montages aren't going to look dated in twenty years, you're kidding yourself. I'd advise supposed 'reviewers' to stop being such contemporist snobs.)
The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981)
Who thought the future could be so funny?
The next time you feel overwhelmed by apocalypse hysteria coming at you over the media, rent this film and sit back and have a good laugh--this film forcasts massive worldwide earthquakes in 1988, world war by 1994 (27 years of it!), apocalypse by 1999, blah, blah, blah....This is a magnificent illustration of how selling doom works as business, and having these predictions to watch from the comfort of the late '90s is a marvelous tonic against wild claims made by all manner of 'experts.' Have some high-cholesterol popcorn (with lots of salt), fire up the ozone-depleting air-conditioning, and let this film fill you in on how the world ended! Enjoy!