Posts Tagged ‘robert rodriguez’

Pacific Rim (2013) – Guillermo Del Toro (Dir.), Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Idris “Charlie” Elba, Rinko “Chuck” Kikuchi, Burn “That is His ACTUAL Name; Also Charles” Gorman, Ron “Chaz, Chuckles, Charmeleon” Perlman

Jaegers vs. Kaiju. German vs. Japanese. It's like the opposite of World War II!

Jaegers vs. Kaiju. German vs. Japanese. It’s like the opposite of World War II!

I have a very tenuous and strange relationship with Guillermo Del Toro’s almost-pornographically eponymous epic of robots-battling-ocean-aliens, Pacific Rim. It has been years since the genius Mexican director (literally. IQ is off the charts) has been offered a chance to actually make a movie. Ever since Hellboy: The Golden Army, he has been flush with enough cinematic deals to make even Spielberg balk and, like Clint Eastwood’s erectile ability, his career has steadily deflated over the last five years. First it was Halo, the video-game adaptation that only the masculine-minded adolescent high-of-hormones and the verbally-flatulent begged for. That fell apart. Then there was The Hobbit. But, like some kind of Gollum, Peter Jackson kicked the hefty hispanic auteur from the project screaming “MY PRECIOUS!” and, like the Ring to Rule them All, it perverted something beautiful and delightful into a 3 hour tonally inconsistent J.R. Tolkcle-Jerk. Finally, Del Toro’s last attempt at salvaging what was once an Oscar nominated run in the Hollywood whore-dome, he was greenlit to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness with a $200 million budget, an R-rating and Tom Cruise. Guess which aspect of that fell apart? Oh, right, all of it. And so, the endlessly talented Mr. Del Toro has been wandering from studio to studio begging for work, a latter day Nikola Tesla, once a pioneer genius and now dying alone penniless in a New York hotel.

And now! Finally! He has returned! Pacific Rim uses up all of those pesky Cthulu drawings he did for the Lovecraft movie and transforms them into immense beasts labeled, according to the opening credits (sponsored by Merriam-Webnerd’s Dictionary), Kaiju. These things have come out of a dimensional rift in, you guessed it, the Pacific Ocean, and are gradually laying waste to the terrified citizenry of earth. To combat them, all of the nations of the world  came together (HA. Like that would ever happen) to build Jaegers, skyscraper-esque fully-loaded androids piloted by two people (I’ll get to that in a second). And that’s about it. I mean, there is a plot that extends past that…technically. But, in essence, it boils down to ROBOT SMASH. We have the deflated and utterly uncharismatic lead character, [INSERT WHITE MALE HERE] who is looking for a new co-pilot after his brother played by [INSERT ANOTHER WHITE MALE HERE] was killed in again, all the while butting heads with [INSERT YET ANOTHER WHITE MALE HERE]. Overseeing it all is Idris “If Morgan Freeman Ate Cigarettes” Elba, as the passionate and grumbly General (and this is not a joke, this is his actual name) Stacker Pentecost. Bang Bang from The Brothers Bloom (Rinko Kikuchi) shows up as the only character with even the most minute amount of depth and takes over as the emotionally questionable co-pilot for Charlie Hunnam, who you might recognize from shooting Julianne Moore in the throat during Children of Men (SPOILERS). Also, they find a feral Philly boy (Charlie Day), give him a medical degree and then link his brain into a Kaiju’s. Aaaaaaand no Del Toro movie is complete without Ron Perlman strutting in like some kind of heavenly pimp and shooting off the best lines in the fucking movie: “I’m Hannibal Chau. I took my first name from my favorite enemy of Rome and my last name from my second favorite Chinese restaurant.” People die, things explode, Charlie Day yells about things and the day is saved.

These are three of the leads. From left: Bland, Blander and Vanilla Ice

These are three of the male leads. From left: Bland, Blander and Vanilla Ice

How did this film come into being? The intrinsically cynical side of my movie adoration assumes that the studio meeting went a little like this: Mr. Del Toro, after months without work and eating nothing but stale popcorn and pasta with cheese, sat in the waiting room with the blueprint for a fantasy epic. It would be a tour de force, spanning both medieval and modern European history, pulling in mythology and thematic resonance from every possible culture, all coalescing into a beautiful whole before building to a thought-provoking and cathartic end. However, when he stepped into the room and, in moderately broken English, described what could be a latter day Jason and the Argonauts or perhaps a cinematic Ulysses, the executive, who, in my brain, is smoking a cocaine-laced cigar and his feet resting on an unpaid sex-tern (indeterminate gender) stops him mid-word and says, “That’s gay. Gimme something else.”

So, Del Toro, terrified he might have to return to his job of playing Michael Moore’s doppelganger at Bar Mitzvahs, looks around the room and says, “Um…how about…uh…robots…?”

Executive (chewing hemlock), “I LOVE IT. It’s like Transformers! Or Real Steel! Or Barbara Streisand’s face! Go on.

Del Toro, “And, uh, monsters…big ones…from outer…”

Executive (autoerotically asphyxiating), “Space? Boring. You’re losing me, SEÑOR.”

Del Toro, “From the ocean! And they fight! And the robots could be controlled by two pilots so that their dreams and memories are combined allowing us to explore…”

Executive, neck pulsing from an overdose of amphetamines, “IT’S LIKE POWER RANGERS THE MUTHERFUCKING MOVIE! WHY HASN’T ANYONE MADE THAT YET? TAKE ALL THE MONEY YOU NEED!”

Thus, Pacific Rim was born. Now, this may seem like I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did. Thoroughly.  It is, in essence, the culmination of a young child sitting in a toy box and smashing his plastic figurines about, a pint-sized wanton and ruthless god, torturing his minute Mattel minions. I was once that child. I was once the arbiter of imaginary obliteration for my army of defenseless Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes, and Barbies…I mean, not Barbies. I didn’t play with Barbies. And they totally didn’t have weddings to the G.I. Joes with 21-gun salutes. And military soirees. And they totally didn’t role-play the “Your Husband Died in Action Fighting Teddy Ruxpin”, which would have totally won the Andrew’s Imaginary Playground Oscars if My Little Pony hadn’t developed ovarian cancer while dealing with a fucking divorce from the Care Bears. NONE OF THAT EVER HAPPENED.

I wish I had more friends growing up.

"WHY WASN'T I IN A LOVECRAFT MOVIE? DAMN YOU STUDIO POLITICS!" ~ rough translation.

“WHY WASN’T I IN A LOVECRAFT MOVIE? DAMN YOU STUDIO POLITICS!” ~ rough Kaiju translation.

Anyhoo. The robots are big. The monsters are bigger. The explosions are eruptive and might jostle your bowels. And yes, that little boy that lives inside of us all (not literally…unless you’re pregnant) gets to rollick and roil in the theater seats as big things go boom. Even though, in some misguided attempt at thematic meteorological metaphor or pathetic fallacy (literary term. Ask my mom) or just because it’s cheaper, every fucking battle happens at night and in the rain. Am I to expect it’s ALWAYS monsoon season in Hong Kong? I’m pretty sure they have daylight at least 14 hours a day, but that’s just me. This movie, in the hands of a novice or an idiot, could have been essentially Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla 2: Hong Kong Boogaloo. Del Toro ain’t slow. In almost every aspect of this thing, his quality and creativity seeps through, whether he wants it to or not. While the characters are about as interesting as the climax of Drying Paint: The Motion Picture and the script was most likely, at one point, scribbled on the inside of a bathroom stall during a particularly strenuous coke-hooker-and-ass triumvirate, Del Toro holds this thing together, delivering an exciting and compelling piece of schlock. It’s dumb. But goddamn is it pretty. As always, the art direction is impeccable and the creature design is fancy enough to make Ray “Harry” Harryhausen suffer incontinence (but then again, everything does. Because he’s old. Or dead. One of the two).

Perhaps the most bemusing and delightful aspect of the movie is its utterly incongruous comedic subplot following the man simultaneously voted Least Likely to Get a PhD and Most Likely to Electrocute Himself, Charlie Day, as he sprints through Hong Kong hunting down an intact Kaiju brain in order to discover the ins and outs of their hive-mind-based species. While blandy Mc-Vanilla-face (Charlie Hunnam) beats the shit out of Cloverfield with a fucking freighter, Day’s antics both provide a respite from the visual over-stimulation and illuminates the intelligence subtly humming under this movie’s surface. Del Toro, like most boys with proclivities of the comic-book variety, are no strangers to sci-fi world building. In fact, I would guess that his favorite part of any new project isn’t necessarily Spielbergian emotional manipulation, but the world-crafting essentials. I’m willing to bet that he has notebooks filled with the history of the Kaiju, the details of their societal structure, the basics of their biology as well as the history of the Kaiju war in its totality. I mean, come on, the guy defines words in the first frame. He makes up dumb terms like “Neuro-Drifting” and “Shatterdome”. No great sci-fi can ever be without nonsense word-copulation and this does not disappoint. This feels like a fully-realized conflict, rather than the ho-hum idiocy of the Transformer movies.

Charlie: "Awww man, I wish I got to wear a crazy costume like you." Ron: "What costume?"

Charlie: “Awww man, I wish I got to wear a crazy costume like you.”
Ron: “Costume?”

It is a shame, however, that Del Toro is reduced to the Hollywood sidelines. He is quickly becoming analogous to the scarily phonetically-similar Terry Gilliam. Del Toro demonstrated with The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth that he is capable of brilliant historic and magically realistic storytelling that resonates on a pure, human level. It’s no secret that some of that emotional subtlety was lost on Pacific Rim. There are flashes, however. Perhaps the most compelling concept hiding under the smash and boom antics is the concept of ‘Drifting’, where two pilots, incapable of controlling a Jaeger by themselves, need to link neurally to share the load. All dreams and memories are melded and, if the link isn’t stable, the two can be caught in a maelstrom of mental disarray. In these moments, Del Toro’s narrative abilities shine through, tiny rays breaking out of the overwhelming clouds of AWESOME. If there was anyone who could bring pathos to a tale such as this, it is that man. He doesn’t quite overcome the limits of the passable script, but he makes the thing, for the most part, coherent (Some of the fight scenes were more confusing than a badger on acid…but, full disclosure, I watched this after seeing Despicable Me 2 and brought enough booze for myself, my girlfriend and another friend but, after my GF fell asleep and my friend bailed, I drank all of it myself. So…that might have contributed to the bemusement).

I beg the Hollywood Idiocracy to grant Del Toro the chance to flourish as the great filmmaker he’s meant to be. He could make something great, something new, something timeless. He could offer children the next Star Wars or Indiana Jones. J.J. Abrams is proving himself to be the Zooey Deschanel of directors, pretty and intriguing, but you kind of get sick of the shallowness after a while. GIVE DEL TORO A CHANCE, HOLLYWOOD!

Unless they hate Mexicans for some reason. I mean, they let Robert Rodriguez stick his thumb up his ass, why can’t they let Del Toro do something good?

Advertisements

The Faculty (1998) – Robert Rodriguez (Dir.), Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Famke Janssen, Clea Duvall, Robert Partick, Bebe Neuwirth, Jon Stewart, Usher, Salma Hayek, OMG everybody

Oh yes, Usher is in this. You know what no movie ever needs? Usher.

Apparently, Halloween is terrible for my personal growth, both the physical and the metaphysical. Every goddamn place has goddamn candy every goddamn where I goddamn go and I have to eat it. You know why? Because I have a soul, people. Also, the horror genre becomes required, repugnant viewing for the entirety of the October season. Thus more abject cinematic ass-sludge glosses across my gaze. All I can do is sigh and allow wave after wave of nonsensical plot twists, colon-based art direction, and massive blood-brazed breasts to wash over me. Yes, I was meant to watch The Blair Witch Project last night, according to the poll…but I decided to wait around to see it with my lady friend. Instead, I got trashed with a fellow lady-blogger (not that I’m a lady-blogger, that ‘fellow’ was only in reference to the ‘blogger’ part. I’m not insecure, I promise). Whilst in the throes of a madness brought about my mediocre Trader Joe’s wine, the Mark of the Maker and, of course, beer (the potatoes of alcohol, which are, in turn, the meat of vegetables – look it up), we scoured the ‘Horror’ tab of the Flix of Net. There, we discovered a gem, a time capsule if you will, an artifact from the nineties saved in pristine condition. Much like a mammoth dumb enough to stand in the same place long enough to be frozen and preserved like the asshole it is, we found this shiny little asshole glinting in the midst of genre-whorish nonsense. All we had to do was remember Josh Hartnett’s haircut and the decision to watch was unanimous.

Ah, the 90s. A simpler time. A gentler time. A time when all I had to worry about was good grades and not sticking my private parts in a blender (almost happened a surprising number of times). A time when girls had cooties and punches in the crotch were a commonplace condoned social activity. A time when Michael Bay could only boast The Rock and Bad Boys on his resume. A time of innocence. I wandered into The Faculty, not knowing my elbow from a specific area of my rectum and I was dazzled, enthralled, entranced, enraptured and enbiggened (I discovered the amazingness that is Famke Janssen…even when she has a decapitated squid-head). It was shiny, sweary, bloody, scary, pretty and goofy. Everything an 11-year-old could ever want. Does it hold up to the scrutiny of hindsight? Does it survive the test of time? Is it, in truth, a worthless collection of absurdities threaded together into a quilt of such horrifying incompetence that it literally causes momentary blood clots in the brain?

The answer might surprise you…but it probably won’t: This movie isn’t good.

Things no one is ever meant to see: the T-1000 mixed with alien squid monster. That is the stuff of bed-wetting nightmares.

BUT. And that’s a big ‘but’. Not like J-Lo big (you know, enough to have its own gravitational field) but maybe a Jessica Biel (shockingly large for a white girl with no talent). It ain’t that bad. This will take a lot of qualification. Let’s start at the beginning. This movie is about stars before they were famous doing things that they probably omit from their storied resumes. We have Josh Hartnett as the bad-boy genius drug-dealer wearing FAR too many t-shirts and sporting a haircut that, in silhouette, looks suspiciously like Daffy Duck’s behind (we later learned that ‘he cut it himself’ according to my lady-blogger’s far-too-Hartnett-informed friend. The 90s were a time of choices); there’s pre-Frodo Elijah “DOES THAT KID EVER AGE?” Wood as the nebbish newspaper photographer, Jordana “Why does her face look like it’s made of moldy clay?” Brewster as the hot one, Clea Duvall as the lesbian punk chick, some dude with pubic hair on his head as the jock, and the suspiciously new/naive/hot/apple-pie/oh-my-god-it’s-so-obvious-she’s-the-bad-guy girl. This rag-tag bunch of miscreants uncover a plot by the T-1000 (Robert “If He Were My Girlfriend’s Father I Would Jump Out a Window” Patrick) to infect the entirety of the school, Faculty first (eh? Eh? See what they did there?) with evil squid puppeteer monsters that turn the afflicted into invincible, serenely psychotic killing machines. It’s up to these idiots to find the queen (SPOILERS: it’s the new girl) and kill her with caffeine pills while classic rock songs of the 70s and 80s are cannibalized by Creed… Yes. Creed. Alice Cooper…by Creed. CREED! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? GODDAMN YOU! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (Not sure where that came from. I guess I have some unresolved issues with Creed. They are the Nickleback of Christian Rock…well all of Christian Rock is the Nickleback of Christian Rock. It has that je ne se pas…that sine qua non…that aurally-abortive quality we look for in all rage-inducing terribleness. *Shudder*).

“I’ve NEVER witnessed a milkshake explosion. I don’t think it’s even possible.” ~ Famous last words.

So…on the surface, this is a fairly by-the-numbers vehicle for a star who crashed and burned with the rest of the US fleet after Pearl Harbor (too soon?). However, beneath the sheen of awful late-century soundtrack choices there’s a little more humming under the hood. This was the first real studio picture after the nonsense that was From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (side note: everyone see that movie. It is terrible, batshit insane and one of the most beautiful acts of cinematic defecation you will ever witness) by Mr. Robert “Bitch, Please” Rodriguez. For all of his ridiculousness of sophomoric inclinations, the man knows how to construct a movie. For science-fiction/horror, this thing has more characters and relationships than a Shakespearean Key-Party (Benedick would totes do all the ladies). We’ve got satire tip-tapping it’s sneaky little digits across the piano of human distress and bleakness that is made of disenfranchised teachers, each of them stripped of their humanity one by one. We have the intersection of high school social strata, from the jock wishing to be reevaluated for his intelligence to the nerd falling for the hot girl. All things considered, Rodriguez achieves something almost fascinating. What seems to shallow on the surface, subtly subverts expectation, both of character and theme, and attempts to use its frame of an Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers-equse tale to unearth some uncomfortable truths pertaining to totalitarianism, gender relations and their place in our education system.

So, beyond the ear-bleedingly terrible covers of great songs, what is going on here? We’ve got ‘Every-School-Ever’ in ‘Some-Town’ Ohio. Now, based on the choice of our villain being a water-based, shape-shifting, tentacle-flinging, ear-rapey squid monster, it’s odd that its selected target is an almost land-locked state in the middle of fucking nowhere (and I know this because I went to school there. If Samuel Beckett’s plays could be a state, they’d be Ohio. Or Indiana. Seriously.) Though nerds would contend that this would be a lapse in logic on the part of the nefarious Squidworth, it seems that the selection is one that sets you off. This is meant to be any school anywhere. This thing could have appeared in the middle of Seattle (and murdered some Twilight suckers) or Nevada (squid-hookers anyone?) and the end result would have been the same. As someone who is deathly afraid of any kind of mental-nomming invasion (be it zombie, infection, pod-people, spores or herpes) that shit gives me the willies! The willies, I tell you!  In terms of the social commentary, we’ve got a few other minute threads caught in the Creed-tainted wind flittering about. Schools have no money. Teachers hate their jobs. Students hate school. Students and teachers have inappropriate relationships. PUBLIC SCHOOL IS MISERABLE. That is, until an overlord of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ ilk decides to give it a shot. And you know what? They look super happy! Suckin’ on their water bottles and vomiting parasites into ear-holes, they’re all just so content. It almost makes you question, is humanity really all that great? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just sacrifice ourselves to the placidity of a hive mind and relieve our lives of the burden of choice? Why can’t we all just become human batteries fueling a perpetual dream of awesome fight sequences with Hugo Weaving? I mean, come on, we are responsible for poverty, the collapse of public education, global warming, nuclear weapons, slavery and, of course, Creed. For the love of sweet baby Jesus, CREED.

And that was the moment Jon Stewart’s ‘Ping Pong’ demonstration took a dark and inappropriate turn…

Those odd musings aside, perhaps the must unsettling and perturbing element of this film involves a certain lifeless, talentless, goateed science teacher who gets his fingers removed with a paper cutter and his eye impaled with a caffeinated ball-point. Yes, that teacher is none other than Jon Fucking Stewart. It is so jarring, so unpleasant, so fucking strange to see him with facial hair that I felt the overwhelming liberal segment of my brain headdesk itself inside my own skull. It’s as though his evil twin had come through to this universe from one where Sarah Palin is president and Donald Trump’s antics go un-ridiculed to spread the malevolent nature of Jon Stewart’s acting career. Have you seen that guy try to say lines he hasn’t written? It’s like a stoned piece of wood deciding to play dead. It’s worse than Keanu Reeves. Consider that, plebs. The poor guy stumbles his way through scene after scene of not hosting his own show but rather saying words while pretending to be another human being who has a squid parasite living in his brain and making him invulnerable all Stepford Wife-ish. You know. ACTING. I love you Jon Stewart. I love how you make the political world made sense. You digest the swarming maelstroms of bovine crappery and distill it into a foul, yet funny, commentary on the disintegration of civil discourse and modern journalism. But please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is good in the world: the birds, the bees, babies giggling and farting at the same time, dogs chasing their own tails and that one video about a gentleman not sure about the things going into his butt…never, never, NEVER act in anything ever again. God, it’s almost as bad as Creed.

CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED! (Dramatic fist shake)

CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!