Anyway, the set up of the Frighteners was SO good. It's too bad the punchline was such an overwrought mess.
If they had just resisted the urge to use so much CGI and hadn't produced so much totally unbelievable action, it would've been another classic of its kind. Not only is the CG are used to make the characters do things to hurt physically impossible, it is also not very good CGI with a fake green screen kind of look that I haven't seen for 30 years.
They should've just stayed totally practical use the old time effects.
Secondarily I was struck by the total lack of any actors of color. No black people Asian Indians no arabs. Nothing but white folk. None except "natives."
Might've been cool back in 1981 but now that just makes the film stick out. Any number of supporting characters could've been something other than white. I have to say that on the second viewing this kind of stuck in my craw.
But I doubt it. All I was seeing were some over-privileged boys who thought it'd be a lark to do this as a school project (and I'm sure the young filmmaking crew were doing the same).
The first thing that struck me, besides the OVERWHELMING shallowness and self absorption of the kids involved (probably normal for their age) was that their premise WAS STUPID. They were going to rural Guatemala with enough money already in pocket to average out at a daily allowance of $1 a day each. That is NOTHING LIKE having to WORK and EARN at least a dollar a day in rural Guatemala and THEN live on it.
So basically what they were doing was living on $1 of WELFARE a day--an option the working Guatemalans did not have.
The whole thing--at least in the first 20 minutes that I was able to stomach--was so glib, condescending and self-congratulatory that I can't really think of an ending that would make me hate it less.
How do people get the money to make and distribute stuff like this? Trust fund?
There is one thing I want to clear up though--the "boom mic mistakes: so many folks mention. The boom mic that intrudes in to several shots in the home video version (which is the only version we have, unfortunately)is NOT A MISTAKE BY THE DIRECTOR OR THE CINEMATOGRAPHER. It is an error in the transfer of the film to the home video format.
Many 1.85:1 widescreen films shot in the 80s and 90s were really shot at 1.33:1, non-anamorphic. The "widescreen" effect was then achieved by masking off the top and bottom of the image. Sometimes the studios did this on the print itself, but sometimes they would leave it to the projectionist in the theater--if he/she projected it so that each side reached the edge of the screen and centered the imaged vertically, the "masking" was achieved simply because the top and bottom of the image was bleeding off the screen. I know that was done because back in the day I saw several films where the projectionist did not center the image vertically and all kinds of stuff the audience was never meant to see would be visible--boom mics, lights, rigging, and etc. I have specific memories of seeing this in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" and Richard Pryor's "Busting Loose." So, if the folks who released "The Dark Wind" to home video back in the day had given a crap, they'd have either 1) masked the film to 1.85:1 or cropped it in on ALL sides for a proper old-type TV 1.33:1 ratio.
Anyway, if you have a widescreen TV (and wide is the norm now) all you have to do is blow up the image so that the right and left sides of the image go all the way to the edge and the tops and bottoms get cut off(on my Samsung it's the "Zoom 1" setting). THEN you'll see the image as it was meant to be framed, with no boom mics in sight. AND, I might add, the landscapes and other scenes will look much more impressive as well, as it emphasizes the wide horizons.
From the fast paced preview I saw on YouTube, I was expecting the series to be more quickly paced and relentlessly foul (in a funny way) than the movie. But it's really pretty much exactly the same style as the original movie. In fact you could edit all 8 episodes of the series together and make one 4 hour film that would actually be more cohesive than the the original movie. And if not for the fact that the cast (who were all too old for their parts in 2001) are all 15 years older, you'd think this was made in 2002. And whether you think that's good or bad news depends on your love of the original film
The main drama in XF3 arises from the relationship between Muldar and Scully, which is the kind of intimate, small stuff that television can excel in (especially when it has 9 years to develop the relationship in the first place). It is interesting to see how the two characters have changed. (and, it is worth noting that while Anderson is till three times the actor Duchovny is, he holds his own in this one, instead of being outacted to a distracting degree as in the first theatrical effort).
Secondary are the themes of faith and belief that were the bread and butter of the series (they weren't deep, but they were there).
If the movie had been from a foreign director or an indie, and had not been tied to an iconic pop culture phenomenon, it is ironic that it probably would have been more successful at the box office (partly because much less money would have been spent making it, partly because of lowered expectation).
So, I challenge anyone who is a fan of the old series, and who may not have enjoyed XF2 when it first came out, refresh yourself on the series on Netflix or DVD and then watch this movie again, but just think of it as an extended episode. I think you'll find you really enjoy it. It won't blow your mind, but you will enjoy it.
It's an OK movie, but it suffers in comparison with the best of the TV episodes. The story isn't as interesting, crazy or scary as many in the series, the pace of the story is much slower (whole film should have been at least 15 minutes shorter), and the banter between the main characters is not as sharp.
And since ALL of this is also true of the later "I Want to Believe" feature film--except even more so-- then the only conclusion I can come to is that Chris Carter should stick to TV. At least as far as X-Files goes. A genius at TV, he just doesn't seem to get what works in movies.
I hope they revive the series with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in the leads. It would actually make more sense for experienced FBI agents to be in their mid 40s to early 50s, in my opinion. (of course, it helps that Duchovny is still quire handsome and Anderson has gotten even hotter in her mid years). If they do it as a limited series,like House of Cards or American Horror Story, I think it could be a big hit.
But, seriously, it's not a particularly good film overall. It starts strong--the scenes in the religious country home all ring true. I think that's because this is the part that the writer-director was actually familiar with in real life. Once Racheal gets to Vegas, however, the movie falls apart into random, loosely connected scenes that feature what seems to be very, very poorly improvised dialog. The poor actors just seem to be at a loss as to what they are supposed to be saying or doing. And the effect isn't "natural," it's just the opposite. You are totally aware that these are actors trying to think of what to say and do, not real people who just don't know what to say. Like a bad home movie or a the plot part of a porno. Incongruities abound as Racheal, who was so sheltered that she had never heard pop music, talked on a cell phone, and didn't even know what a tape recorder was all the sudden starts tossing around terms she would never have heard before like "rock and roll" and "cell phone." And the revelatory scene (can't tell you what it is)is implausible beyond belief. It, and many other parts of the Vegas section, was an interesting idea that the filmmaker apparently just didn't have time to work out in a way that worked.
The acting was pretty good, when dialog was scripted. Billy Zane as the religious nut dad was smooth and professional, but seemed way too nice and reasonable to be the relative heavy of the piece; a hint of darkness in dad would have made the whole movie a bit better. The woman who played the mom was very good too, in a limited role.
The guy who played Racheal's newly found boy friend was easily the most accomplished young performer in the movie, even handling his part in the pointless, rambling Vegas scenes as though he actually knew what was going on (I don't think anyone else did).
But I have to say that, when they were given written dialog, the other young performers were for the most part very appealing. The girl who played Racheal was quite charming. She drifted from sheltered religious cult girl to valley girl without warning, but she was very expressive and had a good presence.
But overall, what we have is a very good 20 minute short film about a girl in an isolated Mormon cult who discovers rock and roll. And that is followed by over an hour of what seems like a first draft of a story that the filmmaker hoped would come together as they went along.
And who knows? If she had been afforded the time and resources of even a low budget Hollywood film, maybe she could have brought it together at that. There is obvious talent there!
The story starts as a variation on Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" with some "Tucker and Dale vs Evil" overtones. However, Young's screenplay is all set up and no follow through and degenerates from quirky to sub-par dull about ¾ of the way through. IMDb shows that Young's previous films and videos have been shorts, and the construction of this story bears that out—there's only about 45 minutes of story crammed into this hour and a half.
It's not mentioned on IMDb, but I'd bet that the majority of Young's experience is in live theatre and not film. I say this because he obviously has a talent for working with actors and getting the best out of them—this is an area where low budget films are usually at their weakest, but it is HH's greatest strength. Young also seems uncomfortable with film editing, which makes much of the movie seem like an adapted stage play. He prefers very long, static shots, as though the camera was set up at the edge of a stage and just left to run while the actors stand or sit in one spot and talk. While this does often show off the skills of the actors-- who interact in these dialog-heavy sequences with a rhythm and naturalness that rarely rings false— it doesn't allow the protracted scenes to be edited for pace and is undeniably boring from a visual standpoint. And when young does employ standard editing—over the shoulder shots or povs—they are clumsily handled, as if he didn't really want to insert them, but felt he had no choice. Also, when locations shift between sequences, the screen simply fades to black and then back up again, like a curtain falling and rising. However this technique seems less like a stylistic choice and more like an "I'm doing it this way because I don't know another way to get from here to there."
Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on the film. Young does many, many things right. As I said before, he gets very good performances out of his actors (and we all know that horrible acting is usually a low budget film's major weakness).
This movie was just a third of a screenplay and one professional editor away from being a classic indie comedy-horror flick along the lines of Ti West's "The Innkeepers." I look forward to more from all the folks involved in "The Happy House."
Also, why did they waste Jennifer Lopez in the female lead? The way they used her, that part could've been played by any competent Hollywood actress who was good looking and the right age. Lopez was natural in the part, and very good looking, of course. But she was given practically nothing to do. Come on! If you're going to cast J Lo, make her character interesting. And bring her in earlier! And while you're at it give her some personality other than being attractive. They should have either hired a lesser actress and made the part much smaller, or written a decent part for Lopez and beefed her part up. As it is, I kept asking myself-- why is Jennifer Lopez in this at all?
Bad screenplay and weak editing.
There are a lot of good ideas here, but this is strictly first draft stuff. Rogan and company should have worked with a REAL screenwriter who could give the movie a real story and help to flesh the characters out a bit (I mean, are we really to believe that not ONE of these successful GROWN UP male comic actors has a wife or girlfriend? That THEIR ONLY relationships are with each other, like they are all 15?). This is the rare occasion when at least SOME studio intervention would have helped, as Rogan is apparently too inexperienced a story teller to know what to keep and what to toss.
The middle sags especially, with one disconnected, overlong improvisation after another doing little more than filling time. Only Danny McBride really excels at this type of thing, and he's kind of the "Richard Pryor in Silver Streak" element in this--not really the star, but easily the most memorable player).
The offhand comments by Rogan and Craig Robinson are funny, but are better used to complement actual dialog, not replace it. And the over-reliance on this kind of dick-joke mumblecore is what almost kills the movie.
But if you're a huge fan of even half of these guys, the movie is worth it. I watched many a bad flick back in the old days just because it starred John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Cheech and Chong or one of the Monty Python gang. But this should have really gone the direct-to-video fans only route.
Is there anyone else out there who saw the shoot in FTW, or perhaps acted in the film or was an extra? What are your memories?
This movie shares all the great features and all of the flaws of Chan's self produced and/or directed films. They have a great sense of humor and the stunt/action sequences are quite inventive. But they are also quite cartoony--the acting is VERY broad--and there's quite a bit in it that defies any common sense. But who really cares, right? This is Chan unfiltered.
The only REAL flaw to the film is the clumsy way Chan keeps inserting his moral messages. He has characters tell us what's right and wrong in very stilted dialog instead of creating situations that demonstrate his points. (not to mention that a few of his morals seem to have been government imposed--"we are not to interfere with the social structure in any way" a protest leader incongruously says as Chan nods wisely and says "That's right!") But I think this will make a fine home video release for the US audience, once they edit out some of the more China-centric chit chat, re-dub the dialog (or at least all the English, which is horribly spoken by the international cast) and replace a couple of oddly inappropriate pop tunes).
I'll be buying it for my JC collection!
So, with that caveat out of the way, let me say this: I just don't like films about spoiled, whiny, wealthy white kids who can't figure out what to do after college. It's a world I (a) don't "get" and (b) don't care to "get." I mean, maybe the pointlessness of that kind of life was the point of the film—but I can't honestly say for sure because the movie seems to be as listless as its main character. There are a few funny moments (all from Ms. Kirke), but there's also an awful lot of staring into space.
But still, a pretty amazing job for a zero-budget comedy.
UPDATE: I just watched the DVD with the commentary and learned that just such an opening sequence as I described above was filmed--one that showed the Mystery Team as kids, wearing the same clothes and everything. The Derrik people explained that "it just didn't work." Now I'm even more disappointed! It's even worse that this CRUCIAL SEQUENCE did indeed exist, and they actually edited it out! That's right--they purposely edited out the set-up to the high-concept joke that is the basis for the entire story! It's tantamount to editing out the first 30 minutes of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" because you don't think it's all that important to show the audience that he was a wacky guy who time traveled from the sixties. (he's still funny, right?)
Mystery Team would have made TWICE as much money ($10k?) if they had included the set up to their hour and a half joke. Coulda been a "10" instead of a "7." What an f up!
I just didn't see anything special here. I mean, they filmmakers did a fairly good job of recreating a silent film, but they didn't take it any further than that. The plot, acting, etc, was no better or worse than a real silent film. I've seen many much, much better silent films on TCM's Silent Sundays each weekend. Those who are gushing over this movie have apparently not seen very many real silent films from the 20s. If they had, I think they'd have found this film kind of a "been there, seen that" kind of experience as I did. Or maybe this Artist-Praise-Hysteria is mostly the result of folks desperately wanting to jump onto the bandwagon of the newest "cool" thing.
The thing that bothered me most (besides the stretches of tedium) was that the cinematography was distractingly flat and gray--there were no real blacks and no real whites. I understand from articles I've read that this low-contrast, glowy B&W was intentional. But I didn't like it. Just looked like it was poorly shot with a bad video camera with the contrast turned all the way down. (this wasn't helped by the fact that the theatre I saw it in now presents all their "films" via digital projection--a process that, in my opinion, has NOT been perfected yet and is still too "low res" for cinema).
All in all, "The Artist" should be nothing more than a minor, vaguely interesting experiment that would have had a better home on video. How it has become an indie sensation with Oscar nominations is a totally mysterious to me. Wonder how much money it took to convince us all that is was a masterpiece?
The culture clash plus the language barrier plus the really poor taste plus the ultra lameness of the comedy bits, mixed in with the super-peppy, semi-sexy disco performances (in English and Japanese) by the perky, super happy Pink Lady makes for a late 70s Variety Show parody you could not make up today. It is a time capsule of stupid fun that makes me nostalgic for the days when "crap TV" was good natured goofiness instead of "reality" show meanness.
Screw the 21st century! BRING BACK PINK LADY AND JEFF!