R.I.P.D. (2013) Howard the Duck Dressed as Jonah Hex?

Film poster for RIPDThere are many reasons that R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), the Dark Horse limited edition comic-based film died a dismal death on screen and Jeff Bridges announced that the “suits” screwed the whole thing up after the movie got panned universally and was even compared at one point to Howard the Duck. Critic Roger Moore also blasted the film and called it the worst comic book adaptation since Jonah Hex.

Ouch.

A trifle unfair of Moore as at least R.I.P.D. did not have Megan Fox in it. Although the film is a stinker overall despite having a good cast to work with. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon and Stephanie Szostak the film should have entertained with so much talent shoved into one film.

Directed by Richard Schwentke (RED, Insurgent) the film confuses more than it entertains and spends far too much time on the James Hong, Marisa Miller gag which appears to be a lift from Dead Like Me where the returned deceased look different from when they were alive. Having said that, the joke could have been used to much better effect with a little more emphasis on the interaction of the two “avatars.”

The comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics; who published, amongst other cult favorites, Hellboy and Sin City, ran for four issues. Not unusual for the comic publisher who seems to specialize in “one-offs” and limited editions of comics. In the comic, the joke includes the fact that Nick Cruz and Roy’s big boss is indeed “God” and that there is a heaven and a hell. While the film skirts around this issue by referring to “judgement” and they mention hell, Nick’s old partner Bobby Hayes (Bacon) mentions that he refuses to go there, the big boss thing aka, God, is shuffled off to the side.

*To be fair, however, I have never read the comics and apart from the odd synopsis of the short-lived series, can only guess at the “God angle,” although it does seem that this was part and parcel of the wry tongue-in-cheek delivery of the comic.*

The plot of the film, which apparently does follow the comic’s main premise, has Nick Cruz being killed, although in the Dark Horse publication he does not know who killed him and in the film Nick knows his crooked partner did him in.

*A major complaint that I had with the film was the whole “shot in the face” schtick that is mentioned several times in the movie and the scene where Reynolds as Cruz is pumped full of lead, not one of the bullets hits him in the face. Was this considered too graphic or horrid for the film’s PG-13 rating or just on oversight?*

Watching the film one cannot help but have a sort of Deja Vu feeling. It is not too dissimilar to Last Action Hero; the Arnold Schwarzenegger hodgepodge where the comedy made no real sense, such as the inclusion of a cartoon cat as cop, and the producers used a “kitchen sink” approach to the comedic mix. R.I.P.D. feels much the same. The biggest difference between the two films is reception, Roger Ebert actually admitted to liking parts of the Schwarzenegger film.

It should be pointed out that Bridges got a chance to pay respect to his late father Lloyd Bridges with a visual lifted straight from Airplane!. Father Lloyd played a character named McCroskey in the 1980 film who had “picked the wrong time” to stop a number of things, including sniffing glue. At one point in the hysterically funny film, Bridges Senior has a close up of his wildly smiling face and his hair is standing straight up. The camera repositions and the audience can see that McCroskey is upside down. Jeff Bridges replicates that shot as his Sheriff Roy hangs upside down under a building overhang holding a rope attached to a “dead-o.” Complete with wild smile and long hair dangling Bridges does the shot, although without the camera repositioning.

R.I.P.D. iS just not as entertaining as it could have been. The lack of direction, the kitchen sink attitude towards its comedy and the missing coherency hurts the film overall. Bridges and Reynolds fail to mesh as the former seems to be channeling his Rooster Cogburn and the latter plays it all too serious. The two styles never quite fit together.

Watching the film, I kept wanting to see more of Miller and Hong in action and wondered how Mary Louise Parker could still look so young and attractive. This is a 2 out of 5 star film with little to recommend it except for the presence of the beautiful Parker and Szostak who each brighten up the film with their performances. The chaps in the movie are never really given a chance to shine.

Sorry fellas.

While the film is not really Howard the Duck dressed as Jonah Hex, it is a curious blend of both these misbegotten films where direction and focus were both lost by those making the film and the actors never stood a chance. Wait for this one to show up on telly.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: Sleeping in a Cloudy Oven

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZThe real desert is cloudy today. It has a solid covering of dark hues which cries occasionally and lets a few dry tears plummet to earth. Striking tin roofs with a clunky, non-melodic rhythm that is short lived yet oddly comforting. The covering floated in yesterday, slowly filling the vast Arizona sky with something that resembled peaceful candy floss (cotton candy) with varying tints of color. The temperature was a cool 106 degrees Fahrenheit despite the lack of direct sun and sleeping in this stuporous heat felt like being in a cloudy oven.

I tweeted, at half 10 last night, that the temperature was a staggering 91 degrees. I watched RIPD, with Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker (whom I have a huge schoolboy crush on, sorry Mary) and Kevin Bacon while baking on high for the duration. The heat from my laptop was a little worrying on top of all that external heat. I checked and the mercury inside the house was standing at 99 degrees and I switched the thing off afterward.

Until then, I sat with all windows open and a pedestal fan scant inches from my face and the laptop. I sat oozing sweat and battled the elements in order to be fair to the comedy action film. (After all that “suffering” I found I did enjoy the film after all.)

Around midnight I gave up waiting for the heat to drop much further, the gauge outside on the porch read 82, and I crawled, sans PJs into bed. I lay on top of the sheets with fluid leaking in a steady stream from the back of my neck. By the time morning came, a cool 78 degrees for around two minutes, I was semi-rested from sleeping in a giant Arizona-sized oven and my top pillow was drenched.

I have been told that July and August resemble hell on earth and I must agree with that description after living in Vegas last year and seeing that Quartzsite is hotter than the casino town on a regular basis. Still what does not kill you, or dehydrate you, makes you stronger they say and after last night’s turbulent sleep I am not too tired this morning.

Unfortunately I will not be heading to town today as thunderstorms have been forecast and I do not want to cross the desert on a metal bike inviting lightning to strike me and my Schwinn. Of course there is the paranoia that my MacBookPro gets soaking wet thereby stopping my sporadic memoir writing and the chances of being paid by another content mill for journo pieces. I do have a waterproof bit of stuff that I wrap the thing in, but between the wind, rain and lightning, sitting today out seems wise.

It was interesting, and not a little disturbing, to see that the cloud cover kept the heat in over night. Generally on a clear day, besides being able to see “forever” the heat dissipates once the sun goes down. By half 11 or so the temperature has lowered enough to allow something resembling sleep. Even on the hottest clear day, the mornings are pleasantly cool.

Sitting here now, in the Arizona room, I can see the wind pick up. The sound of rain hitting the roof is slowly increasing in volume, not of a decibel level but amount, and the sky is becoming a more uniform color, grey without so much black mixed in. Rather interestingly there has been a lot of rain since my arrival.

Meanwhile, life in the real desert goes on and tonight I’ll wager that sleeping in a cloudy oven will not be an issue since the weather has driven the mercury down for the day. Looking at the forecast, the average temperature will be around 106 over the next week or so which means spending a lot of time in Burger King and the public library. An unexpected bonus of living in this environment is that I’ve met some lovely folks at the local eatery and managed to lose most of the tummy pod that I’ve carried with me for years.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Friday the 13th Is 35 Today: Happy Birthday Jason

Poster from original Friday the 13th
Adrienne King shared a post on Facebook from Jon Bassuk, film aficionado extraordinaire, where he pointed out that 35 years ago on this date Friday the 13th premiered on cinema screens across the US. Ms. King played the lone survivor of that film, if that is a spoiler I apologize but really you should have seen the film by now, who has Jason come up from the lake to scare the bejesus out of her and the audience.

While many who are fans of the movie, “Kill her mommy, kiiilllll her!” saw the film in theaters surrounded by other patrons and a darkened room, many more watched the slasher film that killed off Kevin Bacon with an arrow through the throat, via the good old Drive-In.

A friend of mine watched the film at the “walk-in” cinema and came to work the next day telling me all about it. A true cinephile he had managed to, quite admirably, memorize huge chunks of dialogue as well as the “kill, kill, kill, ah, ah, ah” sound whenever the hockey mask-wearing killer appeared, or was about to appear.

Recounting the events he had witnessed on the movie screen, which in those days was huge as this was before the downsizing that came with multiplex cinemas, he hesitated when he got to the film’s climax. “I don’t want to tell you in case it spoils the ending for you,” he said. “That’s okay,” I replied, “by the time I see it I’ll have forgotten it anyway.”

He then went on to describe the peaceful scene in the lake. Adrienne King’s character, the virginal good girl Alice, has dispatched the maniacal machete-wielding mother of Jason (a wonderfully cast-against type Betsy Palmer who I remember watching on I’ve Got a Secret when I was a wee lad) and then pushed a rowboat, that she clambered into, out towards the middle of Crystal Lake.

Alice in Friday the 13th,
Alice, calm before the storm…

She drifts peacefully on the water trailing her hand along the lake’s surface with a contented look of relief on her face. Suddenly, and here we’ll go into my friend’s brilliant description: “This bald kid who’s all rotting and shit leaps up out of the water behind the boat and and grabs her. He is the ugliest little f***er you ever saw and he drags her kicking and screaming out of the rowboat and into the lake. Man! I screamed like a little girl!”

We both laughed at the idea of this ugly little sucker grabbing the heroine and his screaming like a girl. I was right about the amount of time it took me to see Friday the 13th but I was wrong about forgetting the ending. When the film finally got around to the Drive-In, where I saw it, I still remembered that ending, although I had forgotten how good old Kevin Bacon bought it.

So there I sat at the 71 Drive-In with a giant bag of Doritos and a huge Dr. Pepper. I’d just finished snorting double streams of fizzy soda out of my nose at Betsy Palmer’s “kill her mommy” line (that line never fails to send me into gales of laughter) and was mopping up the mess from the front of my shirt. I had enough time to wait patiently for the bald kid to pop up like a wet and terrible Jack-in-the-box which was, my friend assured me, the final act.

I sat there for what seemed like ages and had just decided that the dead Jason Voorhies was not going to jump up and that my good friend had been telling porkies when, BOOM! The ugly bald and rotting sucker shot up from behind the boat amid a gush of lake water, that you just knew smelled like rotting fish and rotting Jason, and I swear that not only did I scream like a “little girl” but I nearly knocked myself out on the roof of the car.

Friday the 13th was the film that set the bar for all the slasher films that followed. Despite having enough sequels to sink Alice’s rowboat, Jason never got old and Betsy Palmer went down in history as the first killer in one of the longest running horror franchises in cinema history. It also had what I consider one of the best “kill scenes” ever set up by the legendary Tom Savini who “shoved” an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat.

Happy 35th birthday to Friday the 13th and happy birthday Jason.

9 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

The Following Season 2 Finale: Bodies Everywhere and Bromance in the Air

The Following Season 2 Finale: Bodies Everywhere and Bromance in the Air

After waiting, in vain, to see Joe Carroll die in a hail of bullets from the trio gunning for him, the season 2 finale of The Following can be summed up with bodies being left everywhere, but where you want them and there was a hint of bromance in the air. Brotherly love aside, it has to be said, when the overweight blond Carroll follower got punched twice by Hardy and then anonymously shot in the dark by the storming SWAT members, it was hard to not “punch” the air in victory. Not because she was overweight, but because she was a nasty bit of work.

The Following Silence: Death Via Twin? (Recap/Review)

The Following Silence: Death Via Twin? (Recap/Review)

*Contains Spoilers*

After the shocking, or perhaps not so shocking to those who’ve been watching The Following from season one, death of Lily in last week’s episode; last night’s show,Silence, ends on a clear cliffhanger moment and it looks like Ryan may die via one of the twins if not both of them. This penultimate episode shows events barrelling down a path so steep that nothing anyone does will stop, seemingly, the vicious slaughter that Joe Carroll has planned for his last stand.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Following and Fargo Catching Up and Intro

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Following and Fargo Catching Up and Intro

Television this week has been a sharp divide of action, pathos, and more action and slow paced oddness, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Following and Fargo fall into two distinct categories of excitement. S.H.I.E.L.D and The Following are moving on an ever increasing plot escalation where it looks like some series favorites may not make it through the season finale and Fargo looks infinitely interesting, strange and chaotic. In other words a lot like a Coen Bros feature film but on television.

The Following: Teachers Pet the Joe Carroll Dead Club (Recap/Review)

The Following: Teachers Pet the Joe Carroll Dead Club (Recap/Review)

Within minutes of this episode of The Following: Teachers Pet the list that makes up the we want Joe Carroll dead club has grown by one. Turns out that Claire is not dead and that Mike Weston knew all along. So while Ryan Hardy was torturing himself with alcohol over his guilt, Weston could have stopped it at anytime with the truth.