Archive for June, 2013

Is Raising Cain a good movie or not?

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

I came across Jack “Jackula” Shen’s video review of the Brian De Palma movie “Raising Cain” and I had to agree with him that I’ve never been able to tell if it’s a good movie or not. It has a LOT of dumb bits, like the shocker moment where a sudden switch of a TV screen to security camera footage reveals Lolita Davidovich’s character (who is supposed to be dead) staring into the camera with murder in her eyes.  “I’m gonna get ya for trying to kill me!” is the obvious meaning. That’s a real shocker. It makes you jump, and it’s well done. And then you give it a moment’s thought and realize that::

  1. She has no clue where her murdering husband is, which means…
  2. …she couldn’t possibly know if he was watching the security footage at that exact second, which means…
  3. …she’s just staring daggers at a camera for no reason and got way lucky.

Yeah, this movie has a lot of that.  A lot of blatant foreshadowing, sudden narration, explanations of plot to the viewer and tons of exposition, including a lot of verbal diarrhea by a psychologist that just goes on and on for minutes.  And yet (as Jack shows here), that scene is brilliantly done in a continuous 5-minute walk-and-talk that is pulled off in a single take.  It ends with a shocking reveal of a drowned woman that is shown to the camera for a solitary second.

Problem is, it’s too quick for the audience to realize the identity of the drowned woman (there have been several).  See, the entire conversation leads you to think that the body of Lollita Davidovich has been found, and then the sheet is removed and, if you had the presence of mind and the time to study it, you’d say, “Oh, what a twist.  It’s actually the earlier murdered woman.”  But we’re talking about the twisted blue corpse of a bedraggled drowned woman glaring in a frightening rictus right into your eyes.  You’re too busy wiping up the new stain on your theater chair (or for 99% of America, the couch) to say, “Hey, that was a different woman.”  And the two women look a lot alike when they’re not drowned.  To make this work, de Palma should have made the first woman African American or 300 pounds, because that’s about the only way  he could achieve a shocker AND get that point across in one second.

Just when we’re all ready to write this off as a mediocre shocker with a couple legitimate scares and intelligent twists…Jackula hits on how brilliant this movie is.  It’s certainly nothing I’d have ever been able to pick up on, so this review has to be seen.  Take it away, Jackula!

(Note: Language warning.)

TMNT Entity, as a blog of note

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

In my ongoing pedantry I’ve been stuck on the idea (since I learned of it, probably from Elliot S. Maggin’s Superman novel Miracle Monday, I think) that the word “fan” meant “fanatic”, which meant there was a distinct difference between “I like this” and “I am a fan”.

So while I’ve certainly watched most of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon shows, and a high percentage of the episodes I can definitely tell you that I am not a fan, as I never watched all of them.  I really really like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It’s a great concept and it sprung from a comic book back in the early 1980s and from there it because three live action films from New Line, a cartoon from Fred Wolf Films that was both UHF syndicated and aired on CBS in later seasons simultaneously, a FOX children’s cartoon show made with non-union voice actors whose primary jobs were dubbing Japanese anime released in this country, a FOX Kids live-action television series made by the producers of the Power Rangers, a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip, a comic book series from Archie Comics spinning off of the 1980s cartoon series, an anime, a comic book series from IDW, a CGI-animated film, a straight-to-television animated film, prose novels for children, a Nickelodeon-owned CGI-animated cartoon series, a ton of action figure sets, each released for a different children’s cartoon series,  and that does not include all of the licensed merchandise like lunch boxes, mugs, t-shirts, tooth brushes, underpants, etc. Knowing that sounds like obsession.  Sadly remembering that information off the top of my head is how my brain works.  It collects and retains knowledge of useless stuff I learned decades ago with amazing retention of detail.  I think it’s a learning disorder because I’ve been meeting people lately and I swear that despite the familiarity they show I don’t even remember their faces (it’s probably less rude to be honest and ask how we last met rather than lie to them even convincingly).

Now because I like TMNT, a lot, but am not an actual honest to goodness fan, I only read TMNT Entity on occasion.  Mark Pellegrini is a fan, as in fanatic, and I will not fault him for it.  (And why should I fault him for it?  I’m a fan of Spider-Man and Batman, and certain eras of Star Wars and Transformers).  The man seems to have taste and his knowledge of the subject seems immense.  He is also extremely well-read in terms of the given material, as well as enough other things that we don’t have to worry about him not knowing if something is based off of something else.

I’m holding back a little, in part because there’s something else of his I want to praise later and give that more time.

As it is while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a franchise is certainly well-known among cable-watching children today, and adults who were children in the eighties and nineties, with a viewing audience that sadly dwarfs the reading audiences of major comic book series, it is all still based on an series of comic books that were published by Mirage Comics. They were created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, at first as a spoof of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and then as an action adventure series with a side of comedy.  The average intended output was six issues a year and whose average actual output was four issues a year.  I’m fairly certain that as it was an independent comic book with that distinct flavor it sold less than Superman and X-Men and perhaps the people that were readers of only the Big Two back in the early eighties did not know it existed.  Or maybe they did.  I was born in 1981, what do I remember?

From the Mirage Comic was licensed a cartoon series and spun from that cartoon series was a comic book series published by Archie Comics, licensed from Mirage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.  So an independent comic with an erratic output beget a daily cartoon show beget a monthly comic book.  I’m fairly certain that the audiences for the two comics were such that it was not an actual competitive product, any more than the Super Friends comic was a competitor of the Justice League of America.

The Mirage Universe version of the Turtles made many many canonical appearances not simply in their own regular comic book (of which there were three volumes, or four depending on who you ask), but in various anthologies and Micro-Series one-shots, as well as numerous back-up stories.  In fact whenever Mirage published a reprinting of one of their issues they made certain that new material was included, usually back-up stories which fit into the overall continuity.

This makes recognizing/establishing a continuity of these characters a formidable task at best.  But the writer of TMNT Entity did it, right here.  Now as fascinating as I find the whole story, both of how the comic was made, how the company worked, and the events of the characters themselves, I still am not a fan of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, or any of the franchise as a whole.

But I liked it a lot.  I watched every episode I could as a kid. I thought the action figures were cool.  And so the TMNT burnt into my brain.