The lovely CravenWild posted a lovely review blurb about Kingdom of Famine! Check out her website!
The lovely CravenWild posted a lovely review blurb about Kingdom of Famine! Check out her website!
So apparently Congo is a bad movie. I never understood this.
i wouldn’t call it great. It’s not Planet of the Apes. But they set out to make a cheesy tribute to old jungle adventure films, and that’s exactly what they did.
Was it bad because of the ape suits? How realistic were they supposed to be in 1995? Even the dinos in Jurassic Park, while amazing, were still obviously fake. The apes in Congo aren’t far beneath those dinos quality-wise, and they didnt rely on cg at all. The apes move like they should and have terrifically expressive faces. Did none of the critics who blasted those suits see Tarzan and the Lost City? THOSE were bad ape costumes. Getting real apes would be impossible and Crichton knew it. Between that and the fact that he was making a throwback to a genre that was cheesy and fake to begin with, i don’t get what his problem was OR the pretentious critics.
It couldn’t be the acting that puts people off. All the performances range from competent to wonderful. Tim Curry is a bad guy straight out of those old pulpy adventure flicks, and Ernie Hudson steals the show. I can’t imagine a Congo with Sean Connery instead of Hudson.
Is it because it’s not true enough to the book? I don’t see how that’s anything but an improvement. All of Crichton’s characters are unrelatable, unlikable shitheads. His female characters are hardcore inhuman bitches, cos apparently anything less is sexist and weak. I actually like most of the characters in the movie with the exception of the ape whisperer and his nonexistent learning curve. And Amy’s voice wasn’t unbearably annoying. Get over it.
I went into Congo expecting a killer ape flick and was surprised when i got a huge adventure instead. All kinds of crap happens in this movie and it’s almost never boring, with plenty of scenes with Hudson and Linney being badasses.
Maybe I’m just not as enlightened as a film critic. All i know is, anyone who went into this movie expecting high art is an idiot. Congo accomplished what it set out to be: a fun adventure pulp movie.
More lost “gems” from my Myspace blog archive. It’s funny how ten years later nothing has really changed in the realm of TV crime shows. A few people used to think my reviews were funny, mostly because of my idiotic MS Paint drawings I guess.
It’s funny to read my old writing and see how I’ve changed. I’m definitely not the sack of piss and vinegar I was in my twenties, probably because when you hit thirty you stop giving a shit. And yet the structure of my reviews and articles haven’t changed much since I first posted this review blog back in the early 2000’s. This may or may not be the first time I wrote a structured snarky review, so I guess I’ll keep it up on the site for now, MS Paint doodles and all.
Pent Up Frustration: Bones is a Shitty Show
Current mood: Bruckheimer’d
Guy Who Played Angel hasn’t seen many noteworthy roles since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were cancelled. He’s currently a lead player in the series Bones, yet another crime forensics drama using a specific gimmick to draw its audience in every week.
As you know, without a special gimmick, all these shows would literally be indiscernible from one-another. Jerry Bruckheimer kind of paved the way for this trend by having three CSI shows that take place in different cities. For example, CSI New York’s gimmick is that it takes place in New York, whereas CSI Miami takes place in Miami. A noble effort, but not quite enough to keep me interested or to convince me that switching casts randomly between these three shows would result in any noticeable difference.
Fortunately other producers and networks took the trend from there. Numbers features crime stories that are somehow always solved via mathematic algorithms. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrators are running around in a stolen ice cream truck selling black market Popcicles to kids, or if the FBI were on the trail of an elusive pair of shoplifters. The hero will find some kind of fucking algorithm that will somehow lead them to the criminals, like taking all the places they shoplifted on a map and plotting a curve and extrapolating where their next target will be, or studying the rhythm of the ice cream truck’s musical device to uncover their diabolical plot to rob a bank or something. It works without fail, and it’s usually ridiculous.
Then there’s Medium, which is about the exploits of an allegedly psychic woman who solves crimes by whining incessantly when people won’t let her read their minds. And of course there’s Cold Case, where the gimmick is that the heroes are investigating long closed cases nobody gives a shit about anymore. Hey, why don’t we make another show where the police investigate historical criminal cases where everybody involved has been dead for centuries? It could be called Why Not?
But I’m derailing myself. Bones has yet another gimmick to make it slightly unique from all these cookie cutter police forensics serials. In fact, it has several traits that make it stand out. And every one of them drives me nuts.
First, Guy Who Played Angel is in it, so you know it’s a winner off the bat.
Next, the main attraction. The heroine, Bones, is a boneologist or whatever the term is for someone who studies bones, and the crimes she faces all reach resolution through the analysis of a bone sample of some sort. It doesn’t matter what crime the asshole of the week pulled off, if this bitch gets her hands on his bone sample, he’s through. Arm bone with a slight scratch in it? Judging by the look of the scratch, this could only have been made by a serrated orcish battleaxe prop used in fantasy conventions. According to her skeletal structure, the victim also enjoyed playing tennis, was left handed, wore green apple lip gloss and had a big crush on Matthew Darling in her advanced biology class. The killer must have used his favorite prop to kill the girl after tennis practice because she liked Matthew more than him. Case kah-LOSED!
Another amazing ability the heroine has, other than being a more contemptuous bitch than Scully on X-Files, is that she apparently used to be an Olympian Amazonian princess like Wonder Woman, because it takes this scrawny twat zero effort to Steven Seagal a 500 pound thug through the floorboards. Aikido has taught me that you can be a scrawny princess and still subdue a giant beast of a man, but Bones’s martial arts prowess is never reinforced as part of her character except when it comes out of nowhere, so it’s cartoonish every time.
And lemme tell ya, the plot expositions aren’t that hot. I’ll give you an example of an episode I had the misfortune of watching.
Kid is found dead from a stab wound to the spine. Murder weapon nowhere to be found. Perfectly believable so far. The kid turns out to have been a comic writer, an employee at a bowling alley, and part of a band of role-playing geeks who like to pretend they’re super heroes. The kid’s comic features his own alter-ego as the hero. They question the nerds but get nowhere at first.
But then they find a chunk of bone. Hot damn, time to start fillin’ jail cells!
They try to match the bone sample to the kid’s own bone tissue and discover, lo and behold, he was suffering from a rare and highly lethal bone disease that he’d been keeping secret from his folks because he wanted to be a tough super hero. So they figure the fragment is from whoever killed the kid.
So now they start psychoanalyzing the comic the kid worked on. In it, his alter-ego keeps fighting this shadowy guy and trying to rescue a fair maiden who glows blue and whom he just can’t seem to have as his own. They figure all three characters are real people in his life, and start asking around again. While chatting with the bowling alley owner, Bones notices that his wife favors her left arm, a sign that she’s got broken ribs and is probably being slapped around by Hubby. Ah, but they can’t arrest someone on an assumption. They need proof. Just when they start wondering who to interrogate next, they make a shocking discovery.
The comic is written by the victim, but drawn by one of his friends.
Well, fuck me running, they’ve been on this case for a couple days now and looking in this self-published comic book for clues from the beginning and they never ONCE noticed the “Written By” and “Art By” section on the cover page? I hate this show already, but let’s see how it turns out.
So Bones and her pal, Guy Who Played Angel, question the artist as if he was being sneaky about it from the start — like it’s some kind of Scooby Doo plot twist that the writer and artist for a comic book weren’t the same person, unlike just about every other comic book ever put to print. With his insight they determine that the owner of the bowling alley was the shadowy guy, and his wife, whom he constantly abused, was the blue chick. Apparently, the victim saw an instance of abuse and tried to defend her with the weird triangular shank commonly used to clean bowling balls, jabbing the husband in the arm and chipping the bone (aha! our fragment!), but the kid was sick and weak and got pwned by the huge abusive pro-wrestler-looking asshole. So they go to the bowling alley and find the murder weapon, and hubby gets mad and throws a fit and gets Steven Seagal’d by Bones like he’s the size and weight of a toddler.
Bones could totally ruin Godzilla’s shit.
The epilogue would have been remotely touching had it any plausibility. Bones’s sketch artist makes a comic detailing the climactic struggle between the dead kid and the shadowy guy, and both of them vanquish each other, and the blue lady floats away to freedom saying “Thank you”. She gives this to the battered wife at the kid’s funeral, and had this miserable woman actually read any of his shit and understood the meaning behind his comics in the first place, which they never convey at any point in the episode, this might have had some kind of impact on her and on the audience.
I think in closing I’ll be brief and just state that television sucks. Go outside and do something productive.
I decided to revisit my review of A History of Violence after reading it cover-to-cover for the second time, producing this newer, more accurate, hopefully more insightful draft. This comic is actually worse than I remembered it, and I’m sure many people will hate on me for hating on this story. I’ll try not to lose too much sleep over it.
Spoilers ahoy, but trust me you aren’t missing anything if you haven’t seen or read A History of Violence prior to reading this review.
Two criminals kill a couple hitchhikers on their way into Smalltown, USA, and try to hold up Tom McKenna’s diner, but they end up with more than they bargained for when Tom kicks their asses in such a big way that only one of them leaves the scene alive. Naturally, this attracts a hefty bit o’ press, to the chagrin of the McKenna family.
The media coverage leads to more problems as a semi-retired one-eyed mob hitman and his two young cronies begin stalking Tom and pestering his family. The hitman, Torrino, swears he recognizes Tom from his past, but he isn’t sure, and the last thing he wants to do is take loads of heat for killing the wrong guy (and his family). When he sees Tom’s son, Buzz — pretty much a spitting image of Tom in his younger days — Torrino is convinced he’s after the right guy. He takes Buzz hostage and forces Tom into a standoff on his front lawn that ends very badly for the mobsters, leaving the cronies dead and Torrino in a coma. McKenna: 3, Criminal Element: 0.
From there it gets even worse, as Tom has no choice but to come clean with his wife and kids regarding his mysterious past. When he was young, his friend Ritchie suffered a tremendous loss: his brother was popped by Manzi (Torrino’s boss) for being a dumbshit, and Ritchie was pretty bitter about it.
Bitter about his brother getting killed, that is. He already knew he was a dumbshit.
He and Tom made a hearty purchase of tear gas and uzis, killed the crap out of Manzi and all his men on Extortion Money Collection Day, then jacked the money and split it between them. Torrino showed up too late to kick ass, but did manage to get a good look at the two kids. Torrino hunted down Ritchie and tortured him into giving up Tom, who was a little more slippery than his unfortunate pal. Tom lost a finger, Torrino lost an eye, and both lost track of each other for twenty years until the whole diner holdup thing at the beginning.
After telling his family about who he really is, Tom finds out Torrino was killed in his hospital bed, and he keeps getting calls from Torrino’s new boss, Manzi Jr. It turns out Ritchie is still alive, and Manzi has been torturing him for twenty years. Tom goes to Junior’s torture pit and kills his men in a series of out-of-left-field gruesome scenes I’d expect to see in a horror comic. One guy slowly and inexplicably gets his hand snipped off by an elevator, then runs out of the building and cusses at/bleeds on anyone who refuses to help him get to a hospital. Meanwhile Tom busies himself crushing another thug under a giant concrete pipe like a bug under his shoe. After getting an eyeful of the limbless, burn-covered horror show Ritchie has become, Tom gets the shit tortured out of him by Manzi Jr. before getting his second wind and causing Junior to accidentally chainsaw his own head off. Tom puts Ritchie out of his misery at long last, shortly before he’s wheeled away by the paramedics.
A History of Violence was written by John Wagner and drawn by Vince Locke. Unfortunately the story is a poorly executed neat idea and looks like a life drawing student’s sketchbook. Bad for the art, worse for the writing. Wagner also writes Judge Dredd, so it’s no wonder why I didn’t like this graphic novel. I find Judge Dredd to be asinine as well, but I can recognize and applaud all its good points — it’s classic literature compared to this brain-breaking waste of ink.
Other than the fact that he insists on starting each chapter with some pretentious philosophical quote just like every other goddamn “gourmet” comic person, here’s my major complaint: an excerpt from the book’s introduction, written by Wagner, word-for-word, that proves what a poor writer Mr. Wagner really is:
“Ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations. No muscled Arnies, no dirtied Harries, just normal people – you and me. The guy next door. That’s the fascination. Put yourself in their place, wonder what you’d do, how you’d react – and be grateful that particular bombshell didn’t fall your way. But it could have. Don’t kid yourself, it could happen to you, anytime. Right out of the blue.”
Yeah, don’t kid yourself, life’s unpredictable. One minute, you’re a regular person with a job and a family. Then right out of the blue, you suddenly discover that you’re a mass-murderer with the mob on your trail!
Let’s come back to reality for a second. If Wagner’s whole premise for this book was “ordinary folks in extraordinary situations”, that means Torrino should not have found the right guy — Tom McKenna should have suffered through terrible ordeals because of someone else’s past, a la El Mariachi or any number of Alfred Hitchcock films. The fact that Tom McKenna was the right guy after all mean he’s not so fuckin’ ordinary, and thus Wagner failed miserably at what he was trying to accomplish.
But taking the failed “mistaken identity” theme out of the picture, the story is still a ridiculous mess — three different comics from three different genres that Wagner crudely stapled together and called a graphic novel. It starts as a dull thriller with mob guys harassing McKenna, who may or may not even be the guy they’re looking for. Then as McKenna reveals his past it turns into “heist gone wrong” with the young boys running around town, buying uzis and planning their hit on Manzi Sr., then getting hunted down and punished for it. Finally it swan-dives into Eli Roth territory, with Ritchie having been tortured for twenty years and reduced to a quivering heap of meat, and Manzi Jr. being a big-time torture connoisseur, and the climax with all the laughably and unnecessarily gruesome gangster deaths at McKenna’s hands.
The art is often a problem while reading: sometimes it’s very hard to tell one character from another, unless they have a very distinct set of physical traits — sunglasses and black jacket, or devil goatee, or missing a fucking eye. I can read an Eastman and Laird Ninja Turtles comic and tell the turtles apart based on their personalities, despite their looking identical; in A History of Violence, I could never tell Young Ritchie and Young Tom apart unless they were referring to each other by name. A few faces were consistent enough to recognize easily, but this comic is hardly Locke’s finest work. Ultimately, though, the art is hardly the biggest issue with this comic: what sinks it is the general storytelling incompetence and side-order of pretentiousness.
Favorite Character – Torrino, the hatchet man. He’s really the only one that’s interesting and distinct, and he looks like Ed Harris mixed with Clint Eastwood. That’s the coolest DNA combo you could ask for.
Defining Plot Element – The fact that Ritchie was tortured for twenty years instead of being killed. Se7en barely kept me watching with the Sloth victim being tortured for one year. No other element killed the story faster than this one.
Final Thoughts – Stick to Judge Dredd or Sandman. This pile of slag doesn’t deserve the praise it gets.