Dear Mr. Watterson (2013)
Directed by: Joel Allen Schroeder
Starring: Berkeley Breathed, Jef Mallett, Stephan Pastis
I guess it’s time for me to reveal that I’m a huge nerd. No wait, I’m not done yet: I’m a huge nerd who reads a lot of comic strips and who is very interested in the history and world of comic strips. Okay, now you can reel back in shock, clutching your heart, telling ‘Lizbeth that you’re comin’. Was growing up reading Calvin & Hobbes a big part of this? I dunno, maybe. It’s certainly an amazing comic strip, and one of the few that genuinely qualifies as art. So when I saw a documentary about it on Netflix, I just couldn’t resist, even knowing how much damage it might do to my image as a super-cool bad boy on a motorcycle wearing a jean jacket and smoking a corncob pipe or whatever it is you kids think is cool nowadays. I’m cool.
Dear Mr. Watterson is a documentary where the filmmaker explores the affect Calvin & Hobbes had on his childhood and on the newspaper comic industry. He talks to a bunch of contemporary comic authors and artists about Bill Watterson and his work and visits the town that could have conceivably been the inspiration for the strip. However, since Watterson himself has been living in seclusion since the strip ended in 1995 and he also didn’t show up for this documentary, it’s pretty light on information and just kinda wanders around in search of content. It didn’t really have a set goal in mind, but I think the eventual end message of the film is that Watterson was constrained by his publishers and fellow artists, made very few changes which only affected his own work, and after he left things went back to the way they were before, if not worse. Uplifting.
The biggest failing of this documentary is not the lack of information, that was pretty much going to happen no matter what, given the source material. The problem is that it’s so unfocused and spends way too much time about the filmmaker’s own personal experiences than I personally think is appropriate for a documentary. If it was about something that really affected this guy’s life in a major way, I could understand… I guess. Basically he’s just saying, “I liked Calvin & Hobbes when I was a kid, so I made a movie about me liking it.” I appreciate the sentiment, but the movie could’ve really benefited from a more in-depth look into the reclusive artist’s work.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy
When I was a kid, I HATED this movie. That’s right, I’ve always been a bitter old asshole. However, I think in this case the main reason I didn’t like it was because a friend and I always tried to play the tie-in NES game and god damn is that the most frustrating thing you can possibly try to do when you’re seven. Anyway, I figured I’d give it another chance now that I’m nearly 30 and I haven’t played that game in, oh, about a year or so. Still can’t beat the damn thing.
An alcoholic detective down on his luck (Hoskins) gets embroiled in a scheme way over his head, a la Chinatown. Only this scandal is about Christopher Lloyd wanting to build a highway through the town where cartoon characters live, and oh yes also cartoon characters are real and they live on Earth and nobody minds that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Okay, here’s the reason this movie exists in the pop culture conciousness at all: Technically speaking, the way they combined live action and animation is amazing. It’s still clearly very rough, but this is 1988 we’re talking about here. And hell, they do a better job in Roger Rabbit than they do in The Phantom Menace. Also, Bob Hoskins plays the role of the loser detective/ex-circus clown to a T, and it’s hard to imagine many other people being able to pull of an oddball character like that. The faults are a little more major, in my opinion. With all the effort spent on the effects, the story takes a far back seat, and it reads like the most generic possible detective story you can imagine. It’s like an episode of Police Squad! without the comedy. Also, Roger Rabbit is the most fucking obnoxious character and you can’t help but root for his death in every scene. But maybe that’s just me, I know I have a much lower tolerance for the “funny” annoying guy archetype than most.
Directed by: Jim Clark
Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry
The tagline to this film is, “If stark terror were ecstasy, living here would be sheer bliss!”, which is just about the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. You know, if blood was cheese, the hospital would be a restaurant! If the theory of relativity was the board game Monopoly, you’d get $200 for going faster than the speed of light! IF FROGS HAD WINGS THEY WOULDN’T BUMP THEIR BUTTS ON THE GROUND WHEN THEY JUMPED!!
A washed-up horror actor (Price) is haunted by the monster he played in his movies years later when similar murders begen to happen in real life. He lost his career after everyone thought he killed his wife and had gone crazy, and now they all suspect he might be schitzophrenic and the persona of the killer comes out when he’s asleep or something. It’s kinda like the plot to a Scooby-Doo episode, only with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.
Vincent Price was an amazing horror actor, and while he generally got known for his roles as the bad guy, I actually think he does a lot better when he plays a poor suffering victim. I mean, just look at the guy’s face, he’s got a permanent puppy dog look to him… he just also happens to have one of the most amazing voices ever recorded. This movie isn’t very remarkable amongst the other 60’s and 70’s horror movies, and the twist ending can be seen coming an hour and a half away. But still, VINCENT PRICE!
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Starring: Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson
The late 70’s and early 80’s were a popular time for high fantasy (for some weird reason who could possibly figure it out hmm), and there were a hundred movies just like Dragonslayer made around that time that nerds in my generation are all supposed to know of and have fond memories of, or else you get kicked out of the lazy remembering bus. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, there’s a kickass dragon in this movie.
A young wizard’s apprentice must go on a journey to save the kingdom after his wizard mentor dies a wizardly mentorish death. He’s young and impulsive and meets a girl and fights a dragon and saves the day. You know, all that “hero’s journey” stuff.
The plot is nothing to write home about, and neither is really anything except for the costumes until you get to the big dragon moneyshot at the end of the film, and god damn is that a nice-lookin’ dragon. ILM did the creature effects for this movie between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and it shows that crew of guys working at their peak. I’ve seen a lot of dragon movies with a lot of dragons in them, from shitty CGI spiky monstrosities voiced by Sean Connery to flimsy marionette puppets the camera doesn’t linger on too much or you’ll be able to see the puppeteer’s hand. And through all of them, basically none of them have good dragon effects. This movie ONLY has good dragon effects. I guess it’ll have to do.
Directed by: Vincent Kok
Starring: Jackie Chan, Qi Shu, Tony Chiu Wai Leung
This is kind of a weird movie, and it’s right at the edge of when Jackie Chan moved from Hong Kong cinema to mainstream American movies. Somehow this one managed to slip under my radar, which is kinda neat because it’s like finding another old Jackie Chan movie after I thought I’d already seen them all. It’s weird to be happy about making mistakes.
Jackie Chan plays a professional fighter who starts dating a girl under a false identity, and has to keep the relationship going at the same time as he’s dealing with some gang or other. As always. The gang hires some crazy white kickboxer guy who just loves fighting and who kicks Chan’s ass at first, then keeps coming back for more fights just because he enjoys it. A training montage later, Jackie Chan is able to beat the bad guy and get the girl. Aww.
As you may expect, the plot isn’t great (and is an awful lot like most of the movies Jackie Chan did in this time period), but the couple fight scenes with the kickboxer guy are pretty awesome, and full of the Jackie Chan goodness you’ve come to expect. If you’re into that sort of thing (and I assume you are, since you’re watching a Jackie Chan movie), then it’s worth watching just for that, though there are unfortunately not as many of the fight scenes as one might like. Otherwise, it falls a little flat, but whatever, this isn’t exactly Shakespeare. I mean, I don’t remember kickboxing in basically ANY of that guy’s plays. What a loser.