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

Familiar (2012) Extreme Passive Aggression

Film Poster for Familiar
Written and Directed by Richard Powell, Familiar is a look at passive aggression in the extreme. Starring Robert Nolan (Worm, Heir), Astrida Auza (Feed the Devil, Return) and Cat Hostick (Ejecta, Three’s a Crowd) we learn that in the Dodd household, all is not well.

Rather interestingly, John is the twin brother of Geoffrey Dodd from Worm. In the earlier 2010 film, Geoffrey is portrayed as being psychotic; so in no small way this mental problem could be said to be a “family tradition.”

Powell (Consumption, Worm) is a master at showing the less pleasant things in life, whether it is a relationship gone sour (Familiar), dissatisfaction about the job (Worm) or hidden desires (Heir) he skews the material into moving and dark glimpses into the human psyche.

In this tale, John Dodd is a man fed up with his relationship; a wife he detests and a daughter whom he refers to as a “parasite,” this leaves him feeling trapped and desperate. Nolan, as Dodd, gives an exceptional performance as a man driven into apparent madness. His internal dialogues and the increasing panic at being unable to escape are brilliant.

Auza plays the passive aggressive partner to perfection. The whole film actually depicts this mental problem with disturbing reality. The long silences at meal times, the body language and having to “pry” information out of the non-communicative spouse are all experiences suffered by those who have been in this type of relationship.

Dodd decides that he must rid himself of the wife who is driving him insane and begins to work on removing her via drugs after successfully using steroids to solve another problem with the woman. After the steroid episode John begins to notice that what he thought was an internal dialogue is, in fact, more of a dictatorial rant.

The man’s battle then becomes focused on his sanity and the loss of control he believes has occurred. Powell’s tale feels like a Henry James plot. Think A Turn of the Screw here, and all the elements of the film click neatly into place like well crafted puzzle pieces. By the end we ask ourselves just how much of what happens is in John’s mind and how much may be real.

Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson once again shows the mastery of light and shadow which makes his work so brilliant. The contrasts of crisp clear camera work with the element of darkness applied are perfect as in his other films.

Familiar is available on iTunes right now and this is a short film not to be missed. Easily as powerful as any of Powell’s other films, but the title is evocative of the feeling one gets when watching the movie. Anyone who has been in a marriage like this empathizes with John Dodd immediately and the whole thing does indeed feel familiar. A 5 out of 5 stars for an excellent snapshot of the madness behind passive aggression.

29 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

YouTube Holds First Annual Music Awards Mainstream Vs Homegrown (Video)

YouTube Holds First Annual Music Awards Mainstream Vs Homegrown (Video)

Following hot on the heels of Google’s recent reveal that YouTube will start competing in the world of digital music, the media site has announced their first annual music awards event. The ceremony will take place on November 3 in a contest of mainstream music vs “homegrown” local, and not so local, internet artists. The video at the end of the article talks about the upcoming event.

Katy Perry Busy Birthday Girl Lets Prism out Early

Katy Perry Busy Birthday Girl Lets Prism out Early

October has been a very busy month for Katy Perry. This is the month where she will celebrate the day of her birth – on Oct. 25 – and she has just been named the new face of CoverGirl. This busy birthday girl is even hitting the promotional trail for her Prism album which, due to hackers leaking her tracks, she has let out early.

Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball Knocks Katy Perry Roar Off Number One Spot Thanks to iTunes

Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball Knocks Katy Perry Roar Off Number One Spot Thanks to iTunes