Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October 19th, 2009

Uh… it’s like candy coated vampire lore?

Dracula

Visually speaking, Dracula is a feast.   It’s beautifully lit and bathed in an aura of Victorian sensibilities drenched in crimson and black.    It has some stunning old-school sequences like in the beginning, where a beautiful opening montage explains how Dracula came to be a vampire.   The costumes are gorgeous; the sets are immaculate.

It’s too bad someone didn’t foist the same care upon the story.   What starts out as a feast becomes some sort of sugary confection, like eating a really long-lasting Starburst or something.

For all its pretty trappings, Dracula is threadbare as a movie.   We’re all familiar with the plot so I won’t rehash it here, but Dracula rests on Gary Oldman’s shoulders.   He does a remarkable job of injecting some measure of humanity and sympathy into a devilish beast, so snaps for you, Gary.    Anthony Hopkins shows up as Van Helsing to basically do a crazy old man jig all the way through the movie – watch Dracula and tell me he doesn’t look half-drunk.   No, it’s the appalling mix of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder that finally does the movie in.   Bless him, Keanu’s out of his depth in this one.   I’m pretty sure everyone knew it too; I don’t get the sense he’s helped any by direction or editing in the slightest.    A cringe-inducing attempt at an English accent sinks his already abysmal performance.   I adore Keanu, as we’ve previously established, but to watch Keanu try and play a naive man addled and terrified by Dracula is to feel embarrassment for him.

Winona Ryder has small moments of clarity, but Mina Harker is so braindead I’m not sure what Ryder could do except stand around and look pretty and/or horrified.   Since Mina is supposed to be the reincarnation of Dracula’s long dead wife, you have to wonder if Dracula loves her in spite of the fact that she’s a dim bulb or because of it.   Either way, my God, she gets tiresome quickly.

Much like in life, pretty can only carry you so far.    While Dracula starts out entertaining and moving, it loses steam in such a rapid fashion it leaves the viewer sucking on sugar for the next interminable hours.

Yea, verily, it’s like the cinematic equivalent of a damn Everlasting Gobstopper:   it feels like it’s never going to end.   And when it does, blessedly, you’re struck with the feeling that such a visually inspiring piece of film should at least have an equally moving story to match.

As they say:  no dice here.   … And it’s a shame.   But I enjoy watching it if only for all the neat visuals and beautiful sets.

A guilty pleasure?   Oh, sure.   Not one of Coppola’s finest cinematic achievements, though.

Read Full Post »

Fantastically bad!

Johnny Mnemonic

Watching Johnny Mnemonic is akin to watching a train wreck in the sense that the train goes off the rails, flips twelve or thirteen times and then explodes in a massive conflagration akin to the sum total of all explosions in Michael Bay flicks.   It’s that bad.

Based (and I use that term loosely) on the William Gibson story of the same name, the film takes all the good in Gibson’s story and scratches it out in favor of a Hollywood love story and corporate greed.    Johnny Mnemonic bears little resemblance to the story it sprang from, much to the film’s detriment.   (More on that later.)

Johnny (Keanu Reeves) is an information courier in the future.   Since this is a movie featuring Technologically Advanced Dystopia, Johnny has neural implants that allow him to upload data to his head.    He takes a job transporting data from Asia to Newark, New Jersey – insert your own Hell joke here – and manages to massively overload his implants.   He has 24 hours to extract the data or his neural implants will enter an advanced state of seepage and kill him.   It puts a major crimp in Johnny’s plans that the data he has stuffed in his brain is the cure for a deadly disease that’s infected mass amounts of the world population.   An evil corporation named PharmaCom realizes that the cure they were holding will diminish their profits, since curing a disease is cheaper than treating the symptoms.   They hire the Yakuza to cut off Johnny’s head.   Add in a bodyguard named Jane and Johnny’s adventures around town become the explosive, shoot-y variety.

mnem

The movie is gaudy by even the standards of the ’90’s.   The visual effects of what the Internet looks like are over the top even in those days, using bright neon colors and geometric shapes.   It looks and feels like someone’s interpretation of the Internet through the design aesthetic of Body Glove clothing.

What makes the movie truly memorable is the insane supporting cast it’s got going on.  Udo Kier, Dolph Lundgren (as a nutso street preacher!),  John Spencer, Ice T (!) and Henry Rollins (!!) are all there.   It’s downright bizarre.  Lundgren plays a crazy preacher on call for the Yakuza who wields weapons like a cross-knife.   No, really.   And Rollins, he of the screaming anger and years of tours with punk band Black Flag (and later, Rollins Band and spoken word), plays a doctor named Spider.    Ice-T plays the leader of a gang called the Lo-Teks who aren’t low-tech in the slightest.

It’s really Reeves and Dina Meyer as the bodyguard Jane who play their roles with such a serious bent that it’s unintentionally comic.   The screenwriting doesn’t help, because let’s face it:   Keanu Reeves will never be a world class actor.   A great guy, sure, but not a great actor.   And the following rant does him no favors at all:

What starts out as a futuristic thriller devolves into complete and total insanity.   Somehow, even though both characters are completely devoid of personality, Johnny and Jane fall in love.    Henry Rollins sacrifices his life so that Johnny and Jane can escape.   (That’s always where the movie lost me, when Dolph Lundgren takes out Henry Rollins.   Does. Not. Compute.)    Johnny and Jane make their way to Lo-Tek heaven where a Navy-trained dolphin helps Johnny hack his own brain to broadcast the cure for this terrible disease to everyone on the planet.

I repeat:

A NAVY-TRAINED DOLPHIN HELPS JOHNNY HACK HIS OWN BRAIN.

It’s like some sort of Hollywood exec had an acid-trip and watched Discovery Science and came up with this idea.   (Jones the Navy-trained dolphin is in the story, but it’s still weird.   Weirder, actually, since the dolphin’s addicted to smack, but it makes sense in the context of the actual story.)

The last twenty minutes or so come off as entirely bizarre, too bizarre to be real or imagined, and it doesn’t help that Ice-T is playing Ice-T and Dina Meyer and Keanu Reeves are running around, emoting like blocks of ice, or that you realize the sum total of your investment in this movie rests on whether or not a fucking dolphin can help Johnny out or not.

In the story, Johnny acknowledges that he’s like a “bucket of water” that’s constantly emptied and refilled.   He’s tired of that existence, so he goes to Jones to get the data out of his head and instead of sending it out, Johnny, Molly (the Jane character in the story) and Jones sit on it.   Instead, Johnny and Jones hack out faint traces of previous jobs Johnny took from his neural implants and blackmail his former clients with the data.    Johnny and Molly become Lo-Teks, do whatever they want and upgrade Jones to a better tank and score him some heroin whenever he needs it.   I’m not kidding in the slightest.   And it makes more sense than what the movie gives us.

Gibson’s story is a bleak and brutal piece of work and while I understand that movies are made all the time that don’t adhere to the original works they stemmed from, Johnny Mnemonic feels drastically incomplete and wrong for not incorporating a lot more of Gibson’s edge to it as well as shearing a lot of the good stuff from the work.

That being said, Mnemonic is a fun relic to watch for the overacting and the gaudy set pieces, the numerous strange and weird actors that pop up in odd places and the general cheesiness of it all.   It’s a major Hollywood production that’s cheese-laden and wallows in its own overblown grotesqueries and, if memory serves me correctly, bombed at the box office.   It’s a weird movie to watch and it’s quite a bit of fun to laugh at and enjoy in a hideous, post-mortem sense.

However, if there’s anyone out there that unironically enjoys this movie, I do not want to know.   Good heavens, let me remain ignorant.

Read Full Post »