Super (2010): A Critique of Vigilantism

SUPER-box-art-1

 

James Gunn is great. After watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the celebration of super heroes and vigilantes it is great to see such an excellent critique of vigilantes…not quite “Watchmen” level critique, but still a pretty amazing deconstruction.

“Super” is directed by James Gunn as well as written by James Gunn. The film was produced by Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey.

The story is about Frank (Rainn Wilson) who is a character with mental issues who becomes a vigilante calling himself the Crimson Bolt after his wife gets involved with a drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he becomes a vigilante after a vision of the Finger of God touching him and the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) telling him he is chosen to be the hero, along the way he picks up Libby (Ellen Page) who works at the comic book store and becomes his sidekick Boltie. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – James Gunn knows how to capture a scene. There are beautiful visuals in this. From the comic sans words of POW during certain violent fight scenes, to the picturesque image at the end…the film is beautiful to look at.

Music – Much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Super” has an amazing soundtrack. The songs and music are catchy and bring a raw energy to the film. Tyler Bates did an amazing job with it.

Abe – Michael Rooker is one of the guys that Gunn uses in a lot of his films. He was Star-Lord’s adopted mercenary Father in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and here he is Abe, Jacques head bodyguard. He’s always eating sweets and even though he’s a thug he has some tender moments, you wonder why he’s doing the job in the end as he appears conflicted in quite a few scenes.

Sarah – Liv Tyler plays the wife of Frank and she is the one who the movie is really about. She is the “Chosen One” that Frank believes God called as she starts a family and moves on after all the events of being pimped out by Jacques, she moves on fully…both from her relationship with Frank and how tied down she was by the past. Her story is beautiful. Her family gives Frank meaning beyond the vigilantism that he grows past.

Jacques – Kevin Bacon makes a great bad guy. I’d like to see him play more villains after this. He’s a drug dealer and pimp who emotionally manipulates Sarah and tries out new drugs on her. He is also presented as smooth, suave and comes off as one of the normal characters. He is the one who calls out Frank on his Crimson Bolt persona and how he’s crazy…which he’s right. Frank took the black and white world to the extreme, which I’ll go into later.

Libby / Boltie – Ellen Page is nuts. When she is killing or beating up people she laughs maniacally. She is also the one who critiques Frank as she beats up someone who may have keyed someone’s car. Her death by Jacques’s thugs shows Frank the cost of what he is doing and how there could have been another way, as Libby would still be alive. She also has one of the darker scenes in this as as rapes Frank as the Crimson Bolt…

Frank / The Crimson Bolt – The protagonist isn’t all there. He watches tentacle porn and that is how God touches his brain making him believe he was the Chosen One to enforce the rules when The Holy Avenger speaks to him. He sees people as literal demons and acts on it. This leads to him taking out some bad people, but also a lot of innocents as people who but in line are also targets to be abused. He does eventually grow past his identity, largely because Libby shows him how he’s taken it too far. The Super Hero persona consumes her identity to the point where she thinks Frank will consent to sex if she makes him the Crimson Bolt, much like he thinks what he does is right if it is in the form of the Crimson Bolt. In the end he find his reasons to live and you get that he may have fully registered the amount of damage that was done to psyche when he went on the rampage to save Sarah, as well as the actions he’d done prior as the Crimson Bolt. For him it was worth it because Sarah was able to move on finally though, that was what helped him grow beyond his own reasons for taking the identity in the first place.

Deconstruction of Super Heroes – This movie does a great job deconstructing vigilantes and the super hero genre. Frank is really violent, even though he doesn’t kill, and he never seeks outside help which leads to his kid sidekick Libby getting killed. It can do good, which is recognized but to do it in the first place you have to have some mental issues for the world to be in such clear good and evil terms. Frank does…from his visions of the Holy Avenger and people as demons, to his targeting all people who are jerks or disobey the rules. For him everything is so stark and it has taken a tole on his psyche.

The Ending – Sarah’s kids send him pictures and he buys the bunny he’d been thinking about at the beginning of the film. What we see at the end is a man trying to move on who is grateful that he was able to help another move on and may be able to finally let himself move on too in the process. One of the best visuals in the film.

Cons: The Rape of Frank – This didn’t need to happen for Frank to wake up. It isn’t shown as positive thankfully, but there could have been another way for Frank to realize what he’d become. That his violence on others was similar to what had been done to him and how his identity allowed him to mask himself from responsibility.

Libby’s motivation – I wish we’d gotten more of Libby’s backstory. The reasons why she is the way she is and super violent are never explored…which I wish we could have got. She’s a fascinating character and Ellen Page does a great job in this role.

Would I recommend this movie? For sure, it is a great deconstruction and all the actors do an amazing job. James Gunn also shows why he was chosen to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t wait to see more of his work that he does later and has made it big…I also can’t wait to look back at more of his work.

Final Score is 9 / 10. Another favorite.

The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 3 – The Protoss Campaign – The Journey of Tassadar

Protoss Campaign

“You speak of knowledge, Judicator? You speak of experience? I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities… Unto my experience, Aldaris, all that you’ve built here on Aiur is but a fleeting dream. A dream from which your precious Conclave shall awaken, finding themselves drowned in a greater nightmare.” -Zeratul

We continue the “Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews” with the final episode in Original Starcraft. The episode picks up where the Zerg campaign left off with the Overmind established on Aiur and how the protoss try to defeat it.

The story begins with the Judicator ordering you and Fenix to protect Antioch, after your defense Tassadar appears and tells you and the Judicator that the Cerebrates control the Zerg. You as Fenix attack but are unable to defeat it as it reincarnates. Fenix is left to defend Antioch as you are asked to free Scion as Fenix falls in Antioch. There is a cinematic here of the Fall of Antioch of Fenix standing alone against the swarm.

Feeling comfortable in their power the Conclave (the Religious Order who runs the Protoss Government) asks you to hunt down Tassadar and bring him to justice. You find Tassadar on Char with Raynor and join with them in order to find and free Zeratul and his Dark Templar who are being held captive by the Zerg in an infested Terran facility. After you save him you are attacked by the Conclave and denounced for siding with the heretics as Raynor and Fenix who has been put into a Dragoon shell fight with you agains the Conclave. After a fight with the Conclave Tassadar gives himself up for justice to stop the Civil War.

After the fight Fenix and Raynor rescue Tassadar from execution with Zeratul and his people arriving at the end to facilitate the rescue and to show Judicator Aldaris how blinded he and the conclave are by tradition. For Zeratul is ancient and has seen the darkness between the stars and the full danger of what the Overmind has planned.

Next is preparation for the final assault, you, Zeratul and Fenix are tasked with killing two Cerebrates with Zeratul’s Dark Templar energy (the only thing that can kill them) to weaken the Overmind’s defenses. After you do this it is the final assault.

It is here we learn more of the mythos and the Xel’Naga quest for the perfect life form which the Overmind plans to become by consuming the Protoss and after consuming all sentient life in the Universe. Judicator Aldaris calls you to apologize as he saw how the Dark Templar destroyed the Cerebrates and only wishes that he and the Conclave had been smarter sooner as they call Tassadar the best of them. This is the last stand to stop it as it has established itself as the greatest threat. In order to defeat it Tassadar uses his Templar and Dark Templar energy to kill it after your assault destroys it’s outer shell. From here there is an awesome cinematic and we are left with the epilogue.

The epilogue says that Aiur is destroyed even though the Overmind is stopped and that the Queen of Blades Kerrigan now sees this opportunity to rise in power. Setting up “Starcraft: Brood War.”

Protoss Campaign Mission Screen

Here is the assessment of the campaign:

The Pros: The cinematography – This one has the best cinematography, largely because we get character moments…from Fenix’s fall at Antioch or Tassadar’s sacrifice to destroy the Overmind. We also see Fenix and his fleet working with Raynor and his Raiders at one point too during the quest to free Tassadar.

Gameplay: The is the most difficult campaign up to this point, which is good. It lets you feel the full threat of the Conclave and the Overmind and each mission provides unique challenges and resource management in order to defeat the larger more powerful enemy.

Judicator Aldaris – The Judicator is awesome as the voice of the Conclave, he is a traditionalist who believes in the assigned roles within Protoss society, and truly cares for Aiur and his people. We see that he is capable of growth too as he realizes he was wrong about the Dark Templar and Tassadar at the end and sends his wishes with them. Tassadar is always a counter to him throughout most of the missions as he sees the bigger picture and Zeratul is there to how just how out of his depth this character is as he has no retort against everything Zeratul has seen in his travels. I liked this character as he wasn’t a villain, he was your ally, antagonist and once again ally at the end in the fight against the Overmind.

Raynor – Joins with Tassadar to save Zeratul and later with Fenix to save Tassadar. You get the feeling that after being used by Mengsk he was looking for a higher calling and he found it in the fight to save the Universe. He has his Battlecruiser at this point too and it is great to see his friendship and respect grow through working with the Protoss. He is the only human  we’ve seen so far to do so.

Fenix – Fenix is the soldier and grunt who is one of the military leaders on Aiur. He is noble but has an open mind as he becomes friends with Raynor after fighting with him against the Conclave and the Zerg and works with the Dark Templar even though they’ve been deemed heretics by his religion. He has a great design too, in both his zealot and dragoon form.

The Overmind – We never see it’s perspective but we feel the threat of it, as well as learning of it’s quest to become Perfect by consuming the Protoss and later consuming the Universe. It is pretty awesome and gives us even more of a reason to fear and respect it than we did playing for it during the Zerg campaign. It is for this reason it’s defeat feels real and Tassadar’s sacrifice actually means something.

Zeratul – Zeratul is the dark wizard of this mission. Which is interesting since when you meet him he needs to be rescued from Kerrigan’s Zerg assault we witnessed last campaign. He is a rogue element to the protoss but always comes through. He believes that the Dark Templar need to protect the world that was once their home even though it is painful in the process. He is also the only one who can kill Cerebrates and is the one responsible for training Tassadar how to use both Dark and Light Templar energies. He is one of my favorite characters for sure. By his nature he is the refugee trying to survive, but he is able to be more as it is thanks to him they can defeat the Overmind, and sadly thanks to him the Overmind discover Auir in the first place when they shared minds when he killed his first cerebrate.

Tassadar – There is a reason I made Tassadar part of the title. This is his story. We saw him the Zerg campaign learning the ways of the Dark Templar, we saw him in the Terran campaign destroying infested planets and learn later he chose not to destroy ones that could fight back on their own…both of which got him blacklisted by the Conclave. From here he is seeking balance. He wants so badly for there to be peace on Aiur but is attacked by the Conclave up until Zeratul, Fenix and Raynor free Tassadar from them and they defeat two of the Cerebrates together. You see his sadness at what the Civil War in his people wrought and the loss of his planet of Aiur. It is for this reason you can understand his sacrifice. He cares for those who persecuted him and he isn’t perfect…as he thought any protoss could defeat the Cerebrates at first (didn’t realize until later only Dark Templar energies could) and he gives himself up for justice, which almost leads to the cost of the Universe as he is the only one who wields both Dark and Light energies.

Okay: General Duke – He appears on Char and says that it is Dominion Space. Tassadar threatens him and comes off pretty cruel as he says he maybe should have glassed some planets if there were people like General Duke around. They fight and you don’t see him again, there isn’t much there.

I can’t think of any cons to this campaign beyond Duke not getting much character time. There is politics via the Conclave versus Tassadar in the Civil War on Aiur as Aiur burns…there is the mythos of the Xel’Naga and the Overmind’s quest for perfection in order to consume all (and the fact that the Xel’Naga are not recognized as good since they were trying to create the perfect life forms (their elevating of the Protoss), and Raynor, Fenix, Tassadar, Zeratul and the Judicator are amazing characters…and the Overmind is the biggest threat. You understand why it was the end boss fight after everything it destroys in the Terran, Zerg and Protoss campaigns. It is the only consistently valid threat that has Universe changing consequences. Character actions mean something and characters change. Zeratul stands in the light, Tassadar stops running, Judicator stand with the Heretics and Jim finds a reason to fight.

Final Score for this campaign is 10 / 10. Does everything it needs to do and what I want out of a story…as well as establishing a future threat via the loss of Aiur and the rise of Kerrigan.

“En Taro Adun!”

Tassadar_SC1_CineDeathOvermind2

The 12th Doctor – Series 8, Episode 2 – “Into the Dalek” – Of Soldiers and the Soul of the Doctor

Into the Dalek

 

“Into the Dalek” feels the like the sequel to “Dalek,” one of my favorite episodes back in Series 1 where a Dalek was changed by Rose’s DNA and the Doctor is forced to confront his PTSD from the Time War and his Dalek prejudice. I’ll get into more details in the assessment, suffice to say I was impressed though with this episode.

The episode was written by Steven Moffat and Phil Ford, and directed by Ben Wheatley.

The story involves the Doctor and Clara going inside a Dalek in order to help it, since it is the only good Dalek in the Universe. From here the story unfolds as more of Clara’s life at school is revealed and the story of the rebels fight against the Daleks and the Doctor’s relationship to his past and the Daleks.

WARNING – Spoilers ahead 

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The New Intro – Lots of clocks and time…the music also fits the theme of the show during the introductory credits. Also introducing us to Journey Blue (our face in the Resistance against the Daleks) by the Doctor saving her after she loses her brother and takes him to the injured Dalek is a great hook.

Danny Pink – I’m glad this guy is going to be a reoccurring character and possibly a new companion. The man is a soldier who is dealing with PSTD from the war he fought in and is Clara’s colleague. He loves reading and dislikes how everyone judges him before getting to know him. He has an awkward relationship with Clara as she brings up his past and jokes about him crying after killing people. Samuel Anderson brings a lot of depth to this role and I can’t wait to see more.

The Rebels – Whether it’s Uncle, Journey Blue or Gretchen, none of the named resistance get wasted. Uncle is there to help Journey through helping heal the Dalek (Rusty) and fighting the enemy Daleks when they board the ship. Gretchen sacrafices herself to help the Rusty find his soul through Clara and the Doctor’s help and Journey Blue defends and fights for them all the way, as well as making the choice to trust the Doctor. They are a great group of characters.

Inside Rusty – From the anti-bodies that are like tiny Dalek eye sockets, to the mixture of metal and organic…the inside of the Dalek is done well and really creatively. It’s a shame “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” didn’t receive this much effort and creative thought.

Rusty – Rusty is the Dalek who Clara, Gretchen, Journey Blue and the Doctor are shrunk to go inside of in order to help it heal. He is the Dalek who found beauty in life and with it an extreme hatred for the Daleks. After he is healed he represses his memories and summons the Daleks to aid him until Clara, Gretchen, The Doctor and Journey help it get the memories it repressed back. The Doctor than tries to get it beyond hatred of it’s own kind but cannot find anything but hate for the Daleks in the Doctor’s mind so embraces it to defend the rebels before going back to continue the hunt against the Daleks.

Missy – Appears again in “Heaven: after Gretchen sacrifices herself. I’m curious where this is going, so far she’s collecting characters…for what purpose remains to be seen.

Clara – Get’s fleshed out as a person…we see her relationship to her colleagues and students and why she is a teacher. She helps teach the Doctor to look beyond his ego and his limited scope of physical healing and is the one who gives the Doctor the idea of trying to change Rusty back to good through his memories and to make him truly good. She’s honest with the Doctor and more than a plot device, I love it. Why couldn’t we have got this Clara last season? Jenna Coleman deserved this great level of writing much earlier.

The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor – The 12th Doctor is once again fantastic. We see how his ego and prejudice blind him to the fact that Rusty (the name he gives the Dalek) beauty and he scoffed at it…and when he does get over his assumption it is too late as he has held hatred for all Daleks for so long that Rusty once more latches on to that and becomes the War Doctor of old. He is now a weapon against his people living in self hatred…much like the Tenth Doctor, the War Doctor and the Ninth Doctor to different degrees. It is tragic and fits the theme of the season. Because of this the Doctor doesn’t want soldiers with him, he realized he still carries the war still so close and doesn’t want to have to kill again. Capaldi shows the layers of this, and still having a sense of humor along the way.

Okay: The Daleks – The Daleks are there as a force of nature, but there is nothing to show them as unique, you can’t even tell command positions…they are all just golden. Still an awesome threat in this episode but rank is part of what made the Daleks unique. There wasn’t enough, “I OBEY.”

Con: The Doctor’s Pep Talk to Rusty – It was a great pep talk but how it was directed was kind of awkward. The Doctor is staring right at us, which was meant to be dramatic, but after a time kind of comes off as funny.

Boyfriend – Once again annoying. Stop telling us that Clara has a crush on Danny and that it might be mutual and let it unfold on it’s own. Good God, The Tenth Doctor and Rose had more subtlety.

This episode is worth watching for sure. One of the better Dalek Episodes and a good exploration of the Doctor and Clara’s characters. I’m hoping we see more of the Daleks and Rusty and that Missy isn’t just dropped. Stop having the myseterious woman appear unless she actually gets fleshed out. Madam Kovarian didn’t get any fleshing out and could have been an amazing antagonist because of the mysterious set-up. Moffat you need more than mystery, please deliver this season. This was an amazing episode though and one of my favorites.

Final Score is 9.6 / 10

 

 

The Fisher King (1991): A Surrealist Fantasy Romance of Healing

fisherking

Terry Gilliam is a director whose style has slowly grown on me over time. My introduction to him was through a friend when he showed me “Brazil” a movie that now since I have a great appreciation for his style and storytelling, plan on seeing (and this time reviewing) again.

This is also a film starring two of my favorite actors. Jeff Bridges who is the master of drama and playing a wide array of roles, and Robin Williams…who I’ll be honoring in more of my reviews. He really needs no introduction and in this movie he captures both the manic humor and the intense loss and drama beautifully. I will get into the details in the assessment.

“The Fisher King” was directed by Terry Gilliam and was written by Richard LaGravenese.

The story revolves around Jack (Jeff Bridges) who is a shock jock on the radio who inspires a man to do a mass killing. After a falling off the map for a while Jack is pulled back into the world through his interactions with Parry (Robin Williams) a man who has created a fantasy world to deal with the fact that his wife was killed by the man Jack inspired. From here story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – There are a lot of great visuals in this movie. From the Red Knight who is Jack and Perry’s demons given form, to the boiler room that Parry is living in where he talks to the little people. The world feels gritty and fantastical and it is here the good as, as everytime it goes real world (mostly corporate) you see how people don’t care and how everything is metaphorically dead in how black and bare everything is. The visuals of the Red Knight as a devil figure are amazing too. The knight is large, breathes fire and has a horse that does the same. The killer also makes an appearance too, both in the flashback, in Jack’s mind when he is getting the Grail and his agent is made to look like the killer.

The Writing – LaGravenese did a great job writing this. He captures the characters so starkly. Each of them feels real and none of them are prefect. They are all contradictions in their own ways (the selfish and selflessness of all of them at different parts). Which makes it really enjoyable to listen to as well as watch.

The Symbolism – The symbolism is in the story of the title. The Fisher King is a grail legend with a few variations. The one that Parry tells in the film is of a King who was asked to protect the grail. He is than wounded by the sin of pride and he says he is thirsty. When the Fool gives him his cup he realizes it is the grail and that none of his heroes could find it, but the fool only gave it to him because he was thirsty. This applies mostly to Jack whose pride blinds him from Anne’s and Parry’s love which allow him to heal and get out of the environment that fed his selfish instincts. He learns to let go of pride and Parry is the fool who gives him the water from the grail.

This is also in how a child gives him a Pinocchio doll and how both he and Parry becomes real people over the course of the film and beyond the doll state of their selfishness (Jack) and denial (Parry).

The Characters

Parry – Robin Williams is fantastic in this role. Parry is a man who has created a fantasy world (he is a Knight seeking the Holy Grail for the Little People and God) to live with the loss of his wife and her murder right before his eyes. You get glimpses of that night when he is beginning to find happiness and the demons in the form of the Red Knight return. He also became broken as he stalks a women and never really faces the actions from that since she falls in love and is flattered by everything he knows about her (What?). His arc is still really good though, and he never is able to deal with his past identity but he is able to finally morn what happened that night when he experiences it as a dream after Jeff gets the Holy Grail for him.

Jack – Jeff Bridges does an amazing job as the man seeking redemption. He knows that his selfishness and looking down on others inspired a monster, so doesn’t allow himself to feel love or connection to anyone. It takes Parry saving his life in order for him to begin to change, and it takes the loss of Parry (when Parry gets attacked by his demons, thugs and goes catatonic) that he is finally able to admit his love for his girlfriend Anne and leaving the industry after he breaks into a millionaires castle to steal a grail for Perry.

Anne – Mercedes Ruehl plays the only character who holds Jack accountable, and she does a good job. I wish we’d seen more of the reasons that she loves Jack though, considering he does take her for granted in most of the scenes until the end (with exceptions here and there). She is the one who supports him with Parry getting together with Lydia.

Lydia – Lydia is awkward and clumsy, much like Parry. They also are very alone and don’t know how to connect with people. It takes Anne and Jack to help them do so. Lydia learns that she can have a mean personality and is able to face her inadequacy of fear of being used by Jack and ends up taking care of him when he goes catatonic. She is a great character who could have only been a plot device. Thank God, she was not and actually grew over the course of the movie. Her sparring with Lydia was fantastic as she is pretty cheap and Lydia is a business owner. She was played by Amanda Plummer.

The Homeless Cabaret Singer – This is a bit part that is played by Michael Jeter, and he does great. He sings a song for Lydia for her to pick up her reward at Anne’s movie shop as part Jack and her’s plot to hook her up with Parry and it is his heart and soul that help open Jack up. Jeter is wonderful in this role and I wish he’d gotten more scenes.

John De Lancie – He appears as a corporate big wig wanting to make tv show mocking the homeless as them living in a fantasy world, which is the final straw that wakes Jack up. He is good at playing the selfish git in the few scenes he has.

Cons: Parry’s Stalking of Lydia – I don’t get why this wasn’t shown to be a bad thing in the film. I get that Parry’s gone through trauma but that doesn’t justify stalking, nothing does. i wish Gilliam and shown this is bad rather than rewarding it by her seeing that as love. What is this “Twilight?”

Would I recommend this film? Yes, it makes me want to see more Terry Gilliam and is a favorite. Minus the fact that Parry’s stalking of Lydia is never seen as bad, he is good at helping people see the good in themselves and his fantasy world and visions enrich the film as his and Jack’s demons are given form in the forever stalking Red Knight. I highly recommend this film.

Final Score is 9 / 10

 

Gummo (1997): Desolation of a Small Town

gummo-movie-poster-1997-1020236356

“Gummo” was a film that a friend recommended and let me borrow. Suffice to say, it definitely impressed me. The feel and tone of the film never change and the characters are human. I’ll go into more of what I mean in the assessment.

“Gummo” was written and directed by Harmony Korine and produced by Cary Woods, Scott Macaulay and Robin O’Hara.

The story takes place in Xenia, Ohio sometimes after a tornado destroys the town. The story revolves around a few characters, the key ones being Bunny Boy, Solomon, Tummler and the sisters and their stories of dealing with the desolation and the self destruction inflicted on themselves and around them.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Tone – The tone is great in this. There is no joy in this film and that is kind of the point. Most moments of joy are contrasted by the destruction being wrought. One of the biggest scenes of this is happy music being played while Bunny Boy (the character in the poster) making out with the sisters, while the Tummler and Solomon kill their cat that they’d been looking for, and later the tornado and a character with special needs singing a song about how Jesus loves her right after Bunny Boy brings the dead cat to the camera.

The Introduction – The introduction captures the bleakness of the picture. Solomon is the narrator and he tells about how the tornado destroyed everything and how people’s bones were sticking of their bodies and how he saw up a girls skirt when she got pulled away, also how one death was funny. You get the trauma and the caring which leads into Bunny Boy on the overpass and later getting “killed” by two hooligan kids who mock him for his pink ears.

The characters – The characters are human, which should be a given in a film but with so much bad writing and/or acting it is hard to really capture this sometimes. “Gummo” does it really well. We see Tummler drinking and arm wresting his dad and Tummler’s carrying for Solomon contrasted with him having sex with a down syndrome girl who is being pimped out by her brother, and getting high off glue.

The Relationships – Tummler and his dad, you see how his dad feels desperate but still cares for his son as best he can…same with Solomon and his mother who just wants him to smile again. The sisters also have a great relationship as they look out for each other after one goes through breast surgery because of cancer and fighting off a molester who says he found their cat. The movie is bleak and dark, but the relationships are strong.

The Cats – So many cats were poached, mostly by Tummler and Solomon, but also their rival who is caring for his grandmother on life support. You get the feeling the cats represent some level of innocence as the girls, who are the only real kind people in the film have a pet cat, the rest are prayed upon by the boys. Pretty much summing up the stories of the victims in the town (molestation(a few characters), lonliness (most if not all), repressed sexuality (a gay relationship that isn’t able to happen because of gay dwarf in denial) throughout the film.

Okay: the Music – This film would have almost worked better without music or a soundtrack. The music that is played in certain scenes gets the job done. So it isn’t really at that strong overall.

The Cinematography – There were some great moments of cinemography and some bad moments. I wish the uglyness had been more raw or stylized throughout. There isn’t a real focus with it, which contributed to the problem of lack of focus.

Cons: Lack of focus – I wish it had just focused on the core groups. Making it about everyone in the town took away from their narratives and character development. For example, when did they start killing cats and sniffing glue (Tummler and Solomon). Do they have any hopes or dreams? Do any of the characters? If so, show us more of why.

“Gummo” is a film I would definitely recommend. It is a cult classic for a reason and I can’t wait to see more of Harmony Korine’s work. The writing and acting is fantastic and the tone is consistent and powerful throughout.

Final Score is 8.5 / 10

Definitely a favorite film.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008): Almost a Satire of a Romantic Comedy

Zach and Miri Make a Porno

Kevin Smith is a director whose work I have yet to review, until today. Most of my experience with him is with “Dogma” since I haven’t reviewed and of the “Clerks” films yet, but definitely will at some point. He has a certain style though, that I noticed that still comes out in this film, even if it fees more like a Judd Apatow movie at times (the leads as a good example, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks).

“Zack and Miri make a Porno” was directed and written by Kevin Smith, and produced by Scott Mosier.

The story involves Zack and Miri who are two roommates and friends living together who are so far in debt working jobs they don’t like when they get an idea after a video of Miri in her underwear goes viral and one of the guys in their school is dating a Gay Porn Star to make a porno together. From here the story involves them getting the team together and the drama that ensues from there.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The humanity – No character is a caricature. This is one thing I was worried about when they were going about casting for their porno, but all the side characters and the leads are treated with respect. They have pros and cons and are human like everyone else. No character is just played for laughs, it is more the situations that create the laughs.

The Music – The music is wonderful, James L. Venable did a good job. At times it has a rock star feel, other times a bluegrass feel, but in every situation it enhances the scene, which is one thing good soundtracks can do.

Zack and Miri – I actually liked these characters. When you first meet them they are horrible people who only want sex and to avoid paying their bills and in forming any kind of meaningful relationship, but after hte High School Reunion and power and water getting cut they are forced to by circumstances. They both do a good job playing the lovable losers and I wish their responsibility arc had finished up and not been undercut by turning their pretty neat relationship into a romance. For much of the film their relationship satires a romantic comedy…which I’ll go into later. Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen play their roles very well.

Satire of a Romantic Comedy – At times this film feels like a satire of romantic comedies, and it is in those moments it works. An example would be them growing closer in filming the porno while still having so much focus on the work even as relationship grows. It is done in such a way they could have kept that and ended the relationship with them having community (the cast and crew) responsibility and success and left the romance open. The parts were all there to make it work. Some of the best humor was here, especially in their interactions with the porn stars and making the costumes and set.

Star Whores – Kevin Smith loves “Star Wars” them making a porno and doing the photo shoot for it before the place got torn down in the film was funny. You could see the actors and actresses really got into it and the dialogue was funny too such as the names of the Sequels and “The Prequels Trilogy.”

Con: Magic Sex – Everything changes when they have sex in their porno scene. I don’t deny this happens or could happen, but in this it felt that it was given more power than it deserved, given that both of them had already been with so many people and that hadn’t made them jealous or possessive with one another. It was part of what made it work.

Zack’s Possessiveness – Dude, she is your friend…act like it. When he wrote the script he has it so he has sex with two people while she only does him. The silver lining in this is she stands up to him and says it isn’t okay. Miri is a great character…and Zack get’s over his possessiveness by the end thankfully.

Delaney’s Marriage – Delaney’s marriage is made to show that relationships don’t always work. He is in a loveless marriage with his wife and when you first see her all they do is fight. Hell, a big part of why he helps make the porno is he wants to see breasts. I would have liked to see some positives in how the relationship was done. Craig Robinson is good at playing the friend though, it’s just his character’s marriage that is poorly written. I get the fighting, would have liked to see some reason why they were together still.

So, how did the film hold up? It had the seeds for greatness here, but only ended up being a movie I liked. The comedy for the most part, worked. The story…by turning it into a straight up romantic comedy, cheapened how great romantic comedies were being satired in the piece. I’m curious if Kevin Smith changed his mind partway through, since the first 2 acts really promote the satire and build the friendship and getting out of circumstances thing…while the 3rd Act is them becoming romantically involved, which really was the weakest part of the movie because it shifted the tone so drastically.

Would I still recommend it? If you like romantic comedies and are down with the subject matter, yes. If you like Kevin Smith, I’d also say yes. Just know in both cases it isn’t great. It is okay/good.

Final score for the film is 7 / 10

The Doctors’ First Adventures – Worst to Best

12-doctors_492px

We end the 12 Days of Doctors Series with rating the Doctors’ First Adventures, Worst to Best. This was a fun thing to do, though when “Doctor Who” was bad it was pretty obvious. I’ll post my original reviews under the summary as well as have some contrasting in the summary on why they are rated where they are. “Doctor Who” is one of my favorite shows and it is great looking back again and seeing how each actor approached the role. So without further ado, lets look back on the episodes from worst to best:

12th Place

Twin Dilemma

The 6th Doctor – “The Twin Dilemma”

This episode is pretty insulting on a lot of levels (The 6th Doctor’s physical abuse of his companion) and there is not really anything good to say about it beyond the fact that it sucks less later on. The villain is also one of the stupidist bad guys in “Doctor Who” and believe me, that is saying something. He doesn’t ever feel threatening and is a complete joke, also we have two Wonder Boy/Wesley Crusher type characters we’re supposed to sympathize with, and who can’t act. Yep…this episode is one of the worst of the worst in “Doctor Who.”

1 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/12-days-of-doctors-the-6th-doctor-season-21-episode-7-the-twin-dilemma-everyone-is-terrible-or-boring/

11th Place

doctor-who-96-tv-movie-cast

The 8th Doctor – “Doctor Who the Movie”

So, after the show was off the air, they tried to bring it back with a movie. “Doctor Who the Movie.” It is pretty bad, pretty much the only redeeming qualities of this film are Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor and Sylvester McCoy appearing before he gets killed as the 7th Doctor. The Master is the bad kind of hammy and none of the Doctor’s companions are worth mentioning in this, beyond the fact that they are terrible people. This is a tragedy too given that Paul McGann owns this role and really deserved a series as the Eighth Doctor.

5 / 10. Was a bad action movie elevated by Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy.

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/12-days-of-doctors-the-8th-doctor-doctor-who-the-movie-paul-mcgann-should-have-got-a-series/

10th Place

An Unearthly Child 13

The 1st Doctor – “An Unearthly Child”

Things didn’t start out well for this series, they started out okay, but not great. The “Doctor Who” Pilot begins with two teachers talking their student Susan until they meet her strange Grandfather who kidnaps them because he doesn’t want to be revealed to Earth. He is great as the gruff Professor type but the teachers and Susan aren’t very good and the Doctor played by William Hartnell isn’t given enough to do. This should have been a longer episode.

6 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-1st-doctor-an-unearthly-child-season-1-episode-1-12-days-of-doctors/

9th Place

Robot 4

The 4th Doctor – “The Robot”

Tom Baker is a fantastic Doctor, and Sarah Jane Smith is a great companion…it is a shame the episode they appear in together for the first time doesn’t get to use their talents fully. The episode tries to be a morality play with The Robot of the title but the organization that wants to kill everyone is not fleshed out really well and in the process, the Robot they created isn’t either. There are a lot of good ideas here, they just aren’t fully realized. Seeing the Brigadier in action along with Harry is another plus though.

7.4 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/12-days-of-doctors-the-4th-doctor-the-robot-an-attempt-to-explore-the-formation-of-morality-through-a-robot-season-12-episode-1/

8th Place

christmas_invasion-1

The 10th Doctor – “The Christmas Invasion”

David Tennant was my first Doctor and the one who got me into my love of “Doctor Who” as a whole, both the new and the classic. His episode is good but it has a major problem. The companions are useless and the Doctor is a super hero who must save them and the world. I hate this…part of what makes “Doctor Who” so great is the fact that the Doctor needs his companions, if they aren’t used, it would be better if they never appeared in the episode at all. I still recommend this episode though, even with this big problem.

7.8 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/12-days-of-doctors-the-10th-doctor-series-2-episode-1-the-christmas-invasion-the-doctor-as-a-super-hero/

7th Place

Castrovalva

The 5th Doctor – “Castrovalva”

This is an episode where the biggest issues are too many companions (Mostly Adric) and the fact that the Doctor is out of it for most of it. The Master is great though with his two plots to try and destroy the Doctor, especially in how his creations are actually interesting compelling beings who are related to the world that is the title. Nyssa and Tegan are great companions too. Could do without Adric though, even though he isn’t as bad as he is in later episodes. Kids who can fly the TARDIS and know everything don’t lend themselves well to good stories…

8.5 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/12-days-of-doctors-the-5th-doctor-castrovalva-the-manipulations-of-the-master-season-19-episode-1/

6th Place

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space

The 3rd Doctor – “The Spearhead From Space”

This episode for me, had the same score has “Castrovalva.” What makes it better slightly and why it rated higher on this list is the lack of Adric and a slightly more coherent plot. In this episode we see the Doctor with UNIT face off against the Autons sent by the Nesetene Consciousness to take over the world. It is here we see him with the Brig and Liz having to invent things to stop the Nestene and to investigate to find out that the Nestene is behind all the issues in the first place. It is a lot of fun and well worth a watch. Jon Pertwee is amazing.

8.5 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/12-days-of-doctors-the-3rd-doctor-the-spearhead-from-space-the-beginning-of-an-exile-season-7-episode-1/

5th Place

doctor-rose1280

The 9th Doctor – “Rose”

Christopher Eccleston is fantastic and Rose is a great companion on her first outing. She works with the Doctor and we get to see a great Doctor and companion dynamic. This is also the first Post-Time War Doctor, and it shows. Eccleston does the PTSD Doctor so well that you can see how driven he is to save lives. He gives the Nestene Consciousness a chance and he has some great strategies for trying to stop the Auton invasion from the Nestene. Also Rose is a great character and very worthy of the companion role. She embraces the adventure, even with having a life and reasons to stay. I highly recommend this episode.

9 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/12-days-of-doctors-the-9th-doctor-series-1-episode-1-rose-the-consequences-of-the-time-war/

4th Place

time_and_the_rani

The 7th Doctor – “Time and the Rani”

This was an episode that nearly made the Top 3. There is only one factor that keeps it from being there, and that is the consequences the Rani forcing a regeneration into the 7th aren’t fully explored. It is a great episode, and one of my all time favorite “Doctor Who” episodes…both because of the Rani played by Kate O’Mara and Sylvester McCoy owning the role as the more wizard like Doctor (and the costume designs and alien civilizations are fantastic). Her plan is pretty cool and it takes a lot to defeat her in the episode. The thing that doesn’t really help it though is the fact that Mel isn’t all that memorable as companion. She is okay and has personality but isn’t as memorable as some of the ones before. Still a favorite that I very much recommend.

9.2 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/12-days-of-doctors-the-7th-doctor-season-24-episode-1-time-and-the-rani-the-rani-is-awesome/

3rd Place

Deep Breath

The 12th Doctor – “Deep Breath”

This is the episode I just saw today, and it is amazing. It makes the top 3 for a few reasons. The biggest being Clara is finally a human being and an interesting companion (we see her trials as a teacher and trials with the Doctor), the Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Strax and Jenny) are great and we get to see more of their dynamic and how they grow with Clara and the Doctor, the villain of The Half-Face Man and Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. There is a lot to love, the only issue is how everyone keeps bringing up Clara and having a romantic partner. How many times does she have to say she wasn’t and isn’t interested? Can’t that be respected and why was that written in? Besides that, great story and one of the Top 3 First Adventures of the Doctors.

9.3 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/12-days-of-doctors-the-12th-doctor-series-8-episode-1-deep-breath-finding-the-doctor/

2nd Place

Power_of_the_Daleks

The 2nd Doctor – “The Power of the Daleks”

This is one of my favorite episodes for a reason, and it’s one that you can only watch via audio, pictures and what little film remains…it is worth it though. In the link I post you can see some of the recreations that fans did. This episode is great because it shows the Daleks manipulating humans against each other and only arriving when they’ve pretty much won anyway…Polly and Ben each help the Doctor in their own ways and the Patrick Troughton is a great Loki like Doctor. He is the trickster who manages to manipulate his way in a position to help by playing the buffoon. This is one of the best “Doctor Who” episodes and one of the best Dalek Episodes as well. This episode really establishes why they are so dangerous. I highly recommend watching the footage and audio of the full episode to really get apprecation for this Doctor, the Daleks, Polly and Ben and this story.

9.5 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-2nd-doctor-the-power-of-the-daleks-season-4-episode-3-the-daleks-manipulation-12-days-of-doctors/

1st Place

Doctor and Amy

The 11th Doctor – “The Eleventh Hour”

This is the episode that is the best of the First Adventures. The reasons for this are it establishes the Doctor as a Time Lord and time traveler (visiting Amy as a child and an adult and not being aware of the time change) a great baddie who plays with your mind (Prisoner Zero in the corner of your eye…the boogey man of childhood) and continuity (when facing the Atraxi they can the Doctor and find all his past numbered incarnations in their data bank as defenders of the Earth). It is wonderful and Rory and Amy are great companions. The Doctor isn’t a super hero and actually needs their help since it is only together they win. For people new to “Doctor Who” this is generally the episode I recommend. It is also visually amazing. This Doctor, is pretty cool.

10 / 10

http://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/12-days-of-doctors-the-11th-doctor-series-5-episode-1-the-eleventh-hour-the-time-traveler/

“Doctor Who” both Classic and New is an amazing series and many of these episodes capture the good that this show can bring…whether it is wrestling with morality, showing us the good in ourselves or just being fun it is a series that I believe will remain timeless. I look forward to reviewing more “Doctor Who” episodes later on, but until than it was fantastic and I can’t wait to see what the new Series 8 brings to this very rich universe.