Jester and Don signed up for two different mystery box services: Nerd Block and Loot Crate. See which one wins...
Monday, July 28, 2014
I'm not really a fan of weird movies by avant-garde directors, so while I had heard of Alejandro Jodorowsky and his notoriously weird films like El Topo, I had never seen any of them, and to be sure the clips of those films shown in this documentary left me feeling no regrets about that decision, although they did look fascinatingly bizarre. I have read Frank Herbert's Dune, however, about a couple dozen times, as well as all the sequels and all of the various film and TV adaptations. Dune is probably my favorite novel, and it stands alongside the Lord of the Rings as the work of literature I've reread most frequently, probably at least once a year for the past decade. I love Dune so much I've even read a bunch of those awful Dune novels by his son Brian. Even bad Dune novels are fun to read.
Bad Dune movies, however, are borderline unwatchable, and I offer the David Lynch adaptation as proof of this claim Jodorowsky's Dune adaptation probably would have been awful as well, but at least it would have been awful in a truly fascinating way. Although it tried its best, this documentary didn't really sell me on the idea that Jodorowsky losing his funding and thus being unable to finish his film was a tragedy on bar with the burning of the Library of Alexandria, but it certainly looked like it would have been something special.
I mean, what is there to say about a film that envisioned a scene where a castrati and a sorceress fall in love, but since they are unable to mate she takes a drop of his blood, transforms it into semen, and then inserts it into her vagina, as the camera follows it through her body as it fertilizes one of her eggs. Well, I can think of one to say about it: Huh?!
Oh, and it was also going to be 12 hours long, end with the death of Paul Atreides, whose soul is then transferred into the planet itself, causing it to become self-aware as it travels through the galaxy unfettered by gravitational fields or other such scientific nonsense. And in case you're wondering, no... none of that happens in the books. So it's easy to understand why no major studio wanted to throw millions of dollars into this film's production.
It's a wonderful documentary, however, and definitely worth watching if you are at all interested in Dune, existentialist art, or just film production in general. Unfortunately this film never got past the pre-production stage, so no footage was ever actually filmed, but there are thousands of pages of incredibly gorgeous storyboards by legendary French comic book artist Moebius, which this film actually animates to simulate how some of the sequences would have appeared in the finished film. It's really well done, and the long-tracking shot that travels through the entire galaxy is stunning, even though it's just a bunch of black and white sketches done in pencil. We also get to see the character and production designs created by Moebius, as well as those by H.R. Giger, and Chris Foss.
Jodorowsky himself seems like a really charming, passionate filmmaker. Most artists tend to come across as pretentious jerks -- such as the footage and anecdotes about Salvador Dali, who was slated to play the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV -- but Jadorowsky is articulate, funny, and lucid. I liked him, and really enjoyed and appreciated everything he had to say about his Dune project and about film -- and life -- in general, and I'm interested in checking out his other films, even though I know I'll hate them. There's one particularly great bit where he talks about how heart-broken he was when a studio actually produced the David Lynch adaptation, but then was overjoyed when he watched it and saw how awful it was.
The film ends with a montage of sequences from the never-filmed storyboards alongside nearly identical sequences from such films as Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others. The storyboards were given to every major studio in Hollywood back when they were looking for funding in the mid 70s, and this documentary makes a pretty strong case that many of its ideas were either stolen or merely served as the inspiration for countless films that went on to be popular hits.
The film isn't perfect, however, since it has a couple glaringly missed opportunities. We learn all about the designs for Duke Leto and the Harkonnens, but there is no mention of the Fremen, arguably the most important culture in the entire series. There is also no real mention or look at the sandworms, other than a brief shot of a single storyboard panel. And while I know this was a film about Jodorowsky's Dune and not so much the source material, but the film could have at least mentioned Frank Herbert's thoughts on this adaptation. I'm sure some interviews or letters exist. Did Jodorowsky even meet him? We hear more about potential stars Mick Jagger and Orson Welles (!!) in this documentary than we do the guy who wrote the actual novel. At the very least they could have interviewed Frank Herbert's son Brian.
But, anyway, those mild complaints aside, this was a really fun, enthralling look at a film that was never meant to be. Jodorowsky at one point says that after he dies he hopes somebody takes the script and storyboards and turns it into an animated film. I think that sounds brilliant and it's probably the only way to really film that sequences where a woman transforms the Duke's blood into semen and then inserts it into her vagina. Perfect for Pixar.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
But actually, don't. I just wanted to shoe-horn that joke into my review, sort of how it was shoe-horned into this remake of the classic film from 1987. All things considered, my joke was funnier. This remake wasn't a terrible movie -- in fact, in many ways it's a thoughtful, intelligent, emotional look at the nature of humanity -- but I don't watch Robocop movies to find epiphanies on human nature. I watch Robocop movies to watch people get dipped into vats of toxic waste and then smushed on the windshield of some guy's car.
Now, I'm not saying that films shouldn't strive to be intelligent and thoughtful -- of course they should -- just that they should be selective in the ways they are being intelligent and thoughtful. The original Robocop was a smart movie, but it was smart as an over the top satire of the greed and corporate culture of the 80s. It had a point and a serious commentary on our culture, but as a parable, not an actual story about a man who is turned into a machine. This remake offers no real satire (except for the inclusion of Sam Jackson as a Fox News type news host, but that felt tacked on and fell completely flat), nor does it offer any real commentary beyond: Being turned into a robot would totally suck.
This movie takes that entire concept and really explores it to the fullest, and it's absolutely horrific. You really feel for the character and his family in this film far more than you did in the original, which I suppose is a compliment in terms of writing and acting and direction, but as an overall concept it was so off-putting it made it nearly impossible to be entertained. I spent the entire movie wanting them to deactivate Robocop and put him out of his misery. There's actually a scene where we just see his head and his lungs attached to a bunch of cords while he begs the scientists to kill him. Who thought that would be a good idea? Who thought audiences wanted to see that?
So the entire concept was just muddy, which made the entire plot confusing and hard to follow, both intellectually and emotionally. I never really knew what was going on, who I was rooting for, or why the villains were supposed to be villains. There is some reveal toward the end, but I didn't get it. What made Gary Oldman's scientist character a good guy while Michael Keaton's CEO character was supposed to be a villain? None of it worked, and every character was pretty much unlikable and boring, except for the guy who played Robocop and the gal who played his wife. They both did a god job, although not so much that the dude got out of the shadow of Peter Weller's original iconic performance.
Visually, the film had some nice special effects and some cool action sequences, especially the training set piece that pit Robocop up against a hundred or so robots. The look of Robocop himself left a lot to be desired, however, and it was such an odd choice to start the film out with him looking so much like the original, only to later paint him black and making him completely bland and boring. In the original film, and at the beginning of this remake, he looks like a robot. In this new design, he actually just looks like a guy in black body armor. That's not cool.
Anyway, that was the Robocop sequence, which was a failure for me, but at least it was a noble failure. It attempted something new and tried to tell a wholly different story than the original, but unfortunately the story it choose to tell wasn't interesting, and the characters populating it were all boring. I say... skip it.