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Ultraviolet

tn_ultravioletI’m kind of interested in this Kurt Wimmer guy. My favorite movie by him is before he made it big, the first of his three directorial works so far, ONE TOUGH BASTARD a.k.a. ONE MAN’S JUSTICE (1996) starring Brian Bosworth and MC Hammer. And I just discovered that his first writing credit was DOUBLE TROUBLE starring the Barbarian Brothers. But since then he’s had some success in much bigger, studio-backed b-movies: he wrote LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, SALT and the remake of TOTAL RECALL. He also wrote the remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, which I liked.

But as a writer/director his best known movie is EQUILIBRIUM (2002), that sort of asinine dystopian one where Christian Bale rebels against A World Where Love Is Against The Law because they try to make him kill a puppy. ULTRAVIOLET (2006) is Wimmer’s only directing job since then, and his biggest budget one. I heard it was kind of dumb fun, so I rented it.

“Kind of” is right. The movie takes place in one of these dystopian vampire futures like PRIEST or DAYBREAKERS except way more cheapie video game looking. Well, I think they’re supposed to be like vampires. They’re called “hemophages,” they get a blood infection that makes them have sharp teeth and sometimes different abilities and then they die. Nothing with sunlight or garlic and I think the blood somebody’s trying to steal at the beginning is actually just for medical purposes, not refreshment, so I don’t know. Maybe they’re mummies.

mp_ultravioletMilla Jovovich plays Violet Song Jat Shariff (most people just call her “V”), who has the disease and is part of the resistance against the corporations that are trying to wipe them all out. V sees the world through rose-tinted glasses. I mean that only literally – she’s kind of a gloomy gus who uses the existence of bad things as an excuse not to be in love with William Fichtner – but in the opening her lenses match her pink hair.

She has some goofy fashion choices, actually. She wears all white to fight a bunch of guys in all white haz-mat suits. When she bleeds for some reason the whole outfit automatically changes to red. And she has leather shorts with a serious camel toe in one part. That takes balls. I’m for it.

She impersonates a messenger in order to steal a little case that looks like the head of a guitar and she thinks is a weapon but is actually some kind of dimension-warping box with a human child inside. He’s a creepy weird kid with unknown super-abilities, so obviously he’s played by Cameron Bright (X3, BIRTH).

The tyrannical head of the medical company she stole it from (Nick Chinlund from CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK SAGA: CHRONICLES OF RIDICK) comes after the kid, cue the shooting, slow motion, kicking, etc.

One thing you will notice if you have seen EQUILIBRIUM and then you see this: yep, Kurt Wimmer has still seen THE MATRIX. In particular he has seen that whole thing with the bullet time on the roof and the helicopter crashing into the building and all that. There’s a big chase scene where Ms. Song Jat Shariff comes across a bulldozer in traffic and uses it as a ramp to launch her motorcycle onto the side of the bus, then continues onto the sides of buildings, using a “gravity shifter” device to make this possible as bad guys shoot at her and explode all the mirrored windows of the buildings. These are the type of stupid ideas I love, but the digital effects in the movie are so primitive that I just couldn’t get into it. It seems like they were very ambitious but stretched their budget way too far because there’s a ton of effects and most of them are crappy. At times the look kind of reminded me of SPEED RACER, except it doesn’t seem like a deliberate stylistic fakeness. There’s a ton of distracting green screen and, worst of all by far, some kind of blur effect that they keep using to smooth out the character’s faces, but it looks like somebody got finger grease on the lens or something. (It’s possible this looks worse on the blu-ray than it did projected on film.)

ULTRAVIOLET doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be Important like EQUILIBRIUM, so it’s easier to forgive its sins. But it has that same tendency to do things for the sake of coolness that make no sense, which would be fine except come to think of it they’re not really that cool. For example, the building that she infiltrates in the opening scene is shaped like a giant biohazard symbol, and then there’s a hallway that from the correct camera angle forms the yellow and black triangles of a fallout shelter sign, and then there’s a vault door that looks like the radiation symbol, and another place that looks like a Christian cross when seen from the sky.

But why? Why would they do that? Why is it cool? I don’t know. No one does. How ’bout a sewer lid that looks like Mr. Yuck? A helicopter rotor that’s a skull and crossbones? An irrigation system that forms the Van Halen logo? A rich kid who has bushes and swimming pools shaped like dollar signs?

I think at some point somebody wondered how audiences were supposed to accept all this silliness, especially with visual effects that do not exactly put in a strong effort to sell it all, and they decided “it’s like a comic book.” So the opening credits is a montage of different covers for the non-existent ULTRAVIOLET comic book, and the end credits are done in a comic book font. Because hey everybody, imagine what it would be like if a comic book were made into a movie! This is what it would probly be like! ULTRAVIOLET!

I shouldn’t be making fun of the silliness though, because those are the things that make it watchable. Honestly if this was a DTV movie I would find it an impressive try. But as a theatrical release it seems more like a shitty movie that I kind of enjoyed. The cheesy look seems unacceptable and the combination of post-BLADE vampire-action, MATRIXy shit and Big Brother stuff doesn’t add up to anything very memorable.

But there are a bunch of gimmicks I liked: the (for some reason) glass armor that she shatters on the guards, the way she runs out of bullets and takes the rifle apart to use as a different type of weapon, the way some guys shoot themselves into the side of a building inside giant marbles, the paper disposable phone that prints out of a vending machine, the villain’s giant-steak-knife serrated sword. There’s an interesting but hard to follow visual storytelling bit that follows a series of reflections off of sunglasses in a Mexican standoff. Wimmer is really into CGI reflections, actually, so there’s a shot of a face reflected on a tear drop, even a victim’s face reflected on a bullet as it hurtles toward him.

There’s alot of ectro-music-and-martial-arts scenes (I hope Blade gets residuals every time this plays on cable) and they’re not the greatest but they’re cute. It’s funny that Milla has become so known for these things. She’s a waify little model but I guess THE FIFTH ELEMENT got her associated with sci-fi and she has fun pretending to be a futuristic tough girl in all these video game type movies now. Why not? In this one she has a crazy modern dance type fighting style, lots of spinning, flailing, and crouching down like a spider. She has some kind of thing that makes machine guns and swords appear in her hands like holograms. Because of… futuristic, you know.

There are a bunch of good gags in the fights. I like all the feet sliding around on the smooth floors. They oughta get better traction on their boots if they’re in these sterile futuristic buildings. There’s a scene where she’s surrounded by henchmen who all run at her at the same time and she takes them all out with one 360 degree sword slash. So remember that, all you wiseasses who always point out that the thugs take turns running at a guy in martial arts movies. Maybe they’re actually improving their odds that way.

My favorite move is when she takes out two cocky fighters with long hair. There’s a white guy with a long braid in the back, she grabs him and swings him by it! She does the same thing to the guy with the long dreads, but she also tears a couple of those off. These futuristic henchmen gotta learn the same thing they learned in the early UFC: if hair pulling is allowed you should probly have short hair.

And how ’bout this exchange:

“But Violet, I’m unarmed.”
(Gripping her sword and eyeing his limbs) “Not yet you’re not.”

See, she creates the Arnold-style pun in your head instead of saying it out loud. Very modern. I like it.

Chinlund’s character is kind of funny because he’s a total germophobe. He wears nostril-plugs, he handi-wipes his mug before he pours coffee in it, he even has guns in hermetically-sealed packages that he tears out when he needs them. Otherwise you don’t know where that thing’s been.

Of course she has the best way to deal with him during the climactic showdown: she splashes some of her own blood on his face. When he copies the bodily fluid idea and spits at her she blocks it with her hand, then slaps him.

The relationship with the kid is poorly developed, but I like the idea of it. At first she’s supposed to just treat him like treasure, so after dragging him through a gun fight she doesn’t ask him “Are you okay?” or “Are you hurt?”,” she yells “Damage! Are you damaged!?” But I didn’t really catch the transformation from that to her being the only one who cares that he’s “a human child” and wants to protect him. At the beginning they mention a terminated pregnancy as part of her origin story, which seems irrelevant at the time, then later you realize that it’s one of those things that’s supposed to explain that the kid is a surrogate son to her.

There’s a twist (SPOILER) that the kid is actually a clone of the villain, and I thought that was kind of a cool touch, because of how it leaves things at the end. She (SPOILER) kills the guy to rescue… a young version of the same guy. I don’t think I’ve seen that one before. Usually the bad guy gets to reveal that he’s the father, here the hero gets to become the villain’s mother. Take that, asshole.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, April 9th, 2012 at 1:24 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

64 Responses to “Ultraviolet”

  1. I think the reason the action in this movie didn’t work for me is that there are so many wacky sci-fi weapons and gadgets, and so many weird new rules about what people can and can’t do, that I couldn’t tell when the characters were supposed to be in some kind of danger or not.

    I mean, she can make infinite guns and ammo appear like magic, the kid has tears that bring people back from the dead, so how do I know that getting hit with bullets doesn’t just make her stronger? How do I know that she can’t survive a seven thousand foot fall? How do I know that being killed by the villain won’t just make her reincarnate in his stomach and crawl out his asshole? I don’t. And I don’t think Wimmer did, either.

  2. How can a camel toe take balls?

    Oh.

    I never watched that movie. I always see a few minutes of it on TV and think to myself: “Damn, one day I really have to watch it.”
    Also I would like to know what’s up with the legend of the “seriously good director’s cut”. There are reports out there from early test screenings, where people not just claimed that the movie was actually smart, but also ran a little bit more than two hours. (The theatrical version runs only less than 90.)

  3. There is some creativity in the action scenes, and he tries to do something new with the flaming sword fight. But the films design, poor visual effects and very poor storytelling makes this film rather poor. I got on blu-ray just because a couple of cool moments. There are some nice action towards the end, but the whole look of the film is ridiculous. With Equilibrium he showed how to make good action scenes with a $20 million budget, and for that price the production design and visual effects are pretty good. Most of the action seem to be done in camera. You kinda wish that Wimmer would rather go for a dark and gloomy look instead of a bright and colorful look at just makes the visual effects seem worse.

    Ultraviolet and Resident Evil Afterlife have made Milla Jovovich the actress with the highest body count on film. She kills over 200 people in both Ultraviolet and Afterlife. And she has like over 500 kills overall. The next Resident Evil might put her over 700 kills if she keeps up with the 200 + body counts. She probably will have killed more than Sly and Arnie on film.

  4. I kinda love this ridiculous movie. In fact reading this review and being reminded of all the wackiness just put a huge grin on my face. That scene where Chinlund rolls up in a van and matter-of-factly tells his guys to stop firing gets me every time for some reason. (you have to see it to know what i mean) And yeah, it’s the type of movie which is nothing but gimmicks and gadgets and showdowns vaguely strung together, but it worked for me. Plus it’s short and relatively uncomplicated, and alot of the action sequences are great, some even rewind-worthy. I’ll take it over post-action shit or any of the Resident Evil movies any day.

    One quick note: I thought the genius of the gun-kata in Equilibrium is that not only did it look cool, but it actually had a storyline reason for being – of course a totalitarian, emotionless society would teach a mathematics and probability/statistics-based martial art/shooting technique to its enforcers. There’s no reason for Ultraviolet to whip out the gun-kata in this one other than it looks cool, but I’m not complaining.

  5. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    April 9th, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Ok, I gotta admit it (and looking over the other comments, i’m not the first one to point it out) but this one line is one of the funniest things I have ever read…

    “And she has leather shorts with a serious camel toe in one part. That takes balls.”

    I gotta stop reading Vern’s reviews with drink in hand. They present a serious and immediate danger to my keyboard.

    I’m tempted to check this one out, because it looks like it might be bad-entertaining rather than bad-forgettable. This puts me off though:

    “But it has that same tendency to do things for the sake of coolness that make no sense, which would be fine except come to think of it they’re not really that cool.”

    Yeah, that kinda irritates me about a lot of films. So much so that this one line from Vern makes me more baffled than ever about his opinions of some of the films we disagree on (but for the sake of not taking this completely off-topic, I ain’t gonna go there!)

  6. This was awesome, though it was Direct-to-DVD here and I never knew otherwise. I watched it back-to-back with the similiar Aeon Flux which was equally awesome, and also Direct-to-DVD here but mebbe you guys got that at cinema too. Woulda made a great double-feature, I am jealous.

    Wimmer can do no wrong, I’ve seen everything he’s involved with at least a few times each, One Tough Bastard, Sphere, Law Abiding Citizen, Thomas Crown and Salt a whole bunch of times. Classic ‘guilty’ pleasures. His movies cop so much crap but when you see them they are all gems. Equilibriam I actually avoided for a few years cos of the heat but man it was fucking awesome too – before I understand Zimmer was the common link. Even Double Trouble is a gem and Barbarian Brothers is one of my all time favs.

    For bonus Barbarian Brothers watch a great but deleted scene on Natural Born Killers where Mickey & Malorie Knox are in the middle of chainsawing off the legs of the Barbarian Brothers when they realise who they are, and are fans, and they are the only case where they let two people live. Mickey is lookin down at the chainsawed knee going, I don’t think it went all the way through, might be okay you know, sorry bout that. Awesome scene but Stone knew what he was doing. Scene goes way too long so was gonna break tempo of the movie (a great Dennis Leary rant also cut from movie for same reason).

  7. CJ Holden, you’ve filled me with some serious mischief.

    Next time some really promising movie turns out to suck, I’m going to show up in a forum and go, “I have a friend who went to a test screening that was 30 minutes longer and excellent.” The malice of planting false hope.

    Although, I guess there’s an alternate universe out there where movies that were supposed to be good are actually good.

    Is that the afterlife?

  8. I was expecting a humorless piece of junk with bad acting when I saw this, but the blurry, soft-focus look of the movie makes it almost unwatchable. Also I thought the action was a step down from EQUILIBRIUM. Too much cg and greenscreen.

  9. thinking of this movie takes me back to the year 2006, which was a real watershed year for me because it was the first year I got a laptop and access to the internet, which was a 100% life changing thing

    but as for Ultraviolet, I never saw it, as a matter of fact I only saw a very small number of movies in theaters that year because I was so busy surfing the internet constantly

    I DID see V For Vendetta though, that was awesome

  10. by the way though, I assume that Ultraviolet has post-The Matrix style action scenes and post-action scenes? if so it’s hard to believe that it was only 6 years ago when an action movie could still get away with showing the action

  11. I remember seeing it back at the time, hated it, bitched about it at AICN chat that same night, and one of the site’s bigwigs at the time (Moriarty’s name is popping into my head) claimed that at some point in post-production, the studio took the movie away from Wimmer and effectively kicked him out of the editing bay, changing the locks.

    And to a degree, that made sense because that movie made no sense what so ever, almost like it got hacked and slacked to shit (that opening montage of exposition and exposition is one of those that ring my internal alarm for such violated narratives).

    Whatever, I remember giving it Two Can’t-Act-Millas out of 5.

  12. Yeah, like RRA said, apparently the studio did not like the whole “over the top” style that Wimmer was going for.

    I read that not only was Wimmer kicked out of the editing room, the studio pulled the plug completely. By that I mean that what you see is an unfinished version of Ultraviolet.

    The editing was not finished and the special effects weren’t finished either. They simply dumped this movie in cinemas (probably due to some contractual obligations) and that was it.

    I would have loved to see a completed version of this movie, because Wimmer does indeed have a cool visual flair, kind of like Paul “AVP” Anderson, but with brains, you know?

    Hollywood does have some history with taking away projects from their directors. A recent case is Babylon A.D. that Vin Diesel action-y take on a dystopia-ish future. Apparently the director did not have final cut and 20th Century Fox simply hacked together a cut of the movie and released it, the director even went to the media to announce that the released edit of the movie is not “his” movie.

    Also, this kind of thing is standard practice on DTV movies. That’s why some directors are called “guns for hire”. They shoot the movie, start to finish, but the editing is done by the studios. See Seagal’s Attack Force/Submerged, Van Damme’s The Shepherd, etc.

  13. Vern, do you know of a 1980 movie directed by John Cassavetes called GLORIA? It stared her wife Gena Rawlands. It’s no secret that ULTRAVIOLET is an hommage/unofficial remake of GLORIA, but as SF with futuristic high-tech vampires. There was an official remake, made in 1999, staring Sharon Stone and directed (of all people) by Sidney Lumet.

    I love GLORIA. It’s a really great movie, and Rawlands is suberb. So much so she earned an oscar nomination,and rightly deserved so. And she’s quite a badass in the movie. She plays to perfection of tough broad unaffraid of anything or anybody, very jadded by a life dealing with criminal types, being their moll in her younger years but now all but forgotten by her old lovers. And the score by Bill Conti is fantastic. I’m not a fan of Conti, but his work in GLORIA is great, probably his best ever.

    Vern, if you do not know GLORIA (1980), i think you would like to check it out. I think you would like it. Imagine, if you will, one of those old 70s gritty movies where action and real drama happen in the same movie, things are mostly portaited as realistic but with ocasional moments of badass violence, and where the main character is like a female version of a Charles Bronson character but played by one of the best american actresses that ever graced the silver screen. Good stuff. I would love to see your opinion of it.

  14. I’m completly unappologetic about my liking of EQUILIBRIUM. It’s a genuinely thinking man’s action movie. There is quite a lot of though put into that movie. It’s a movie that actually asks us to take notice and pay atention to the dialogues, because it does deliver some quite smart pieces.

    And the action is great. Inventive, thrilling, and it makes sense in-universe, which is more then can be said about most action movies.

    Aparently it was the movie that sold the WB guys that Christian Bale was a viable action actor to play lead for their reboot of the Batman franchise. And the rest is history.

    ULTRAVIOLET is not as good as EQUILIBRIUM, to put it nicely. But there are good ideas in it. I fight against it’s comic book look and over-the-top action, but there is an ocasional moment or character moment that wins me and counter-balances my reservations. I disliked the over-use of obvious CGI, but the actors, specially William Fitchner, elevate some of their scenes to genuine emotional moments. And the fact that Wimmer obviously knows the movie GLORIA and so unashamedly hommages/rips-off makes me want to sympathise with him and this movie. When so many action movie hackboys filmmakers homage Michael Bay with their movies, it’s nice to see one that hommages John Cassavettes.

    ULTRAVIOLET is flawed, but it has it’s heart in the right placed. That counts. Lots.

  15. Vlad M. – man, why are movie studios frequently such assholes? I doubt the “real” version of Ultraviolet could have been any worse than the chopped up version, so why not just let the director do what he wants?

  16. Griff, i think it’s the typical problem with investors, always affraid they will not get their return, so they try to go for the road more well travelled.

    Well, it’s a sentiment that makes sense… in all other type of industry. But the film industry is, by definition, made of high risk gamble. Holywood tries to predict trends and formulas for movies sucess. it tries to know what the public wants and love. And forgets that in entertaiment, the public is fickle.

    They must have though that the movie was too exotic for a mass audience, and tried to “correct” it. And failed. As it wont to do.

    I think many filmmakers, are somewhat aware that if their movie is not exactly mainstream material, they they embrace ther own movie’s exotic nature and try to go for a “making a future cult classic” approach. meaning, instead of their movie being an instant hit sprinter, they go for a marathon runner movie, making it’s money throghout the years. Sadly, studios are not friendly to such concept. Not that they are unwilling to reap the rewards years later. Meanwhgile the guy that did all the work has a career setback. It’s quite irritating, really.

  17. I saw this movie for free, when I was deployed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The three things that I loved about it are:
    1.) This culture ahs developed Bugs Bunny technology. You can just reach behind your back and pull out swords or guns or red barrels of TNT. (Probably.)
    2.) It teaches you colors and it almost teaches you shapes. I think that there are 4 times in this film where she is surrounded by guys and just swings her sword in a circle to kill them all. I feel like the director was going to try other shapes, and they would have had more bad guys survive. Maybe that was in the longer, director’s cut version. Maybe that’s why it was so smart.
    and 3.) I LOVED that they have no good reason for her to suddenly care about the kid. It made me wonder if her emotions changed because the colors changed.

  18. To Griff:

    I think with Ultraviolet, the studios wanted something more gritty and dark in terms of visuals. Milla Jovovich was doing well because of the Resident Evil movies and I bet the studio wanted something like that, but with the action of Equilibrium. Basically, I guess that the studio wanted a more simple Equilibrium (without the political side of the story), dark, gritty and with Milla as the lead actress. Wimmer wanted something hyper-realistic, over the top, colorful and cheesy/fun. I think that in the end, they really didn’t agree on things and they pushed Wimmer out of the project and just released it incomplete.

    The same story happened with Babylon A.D. The director wanted something along the lines of Blade Runner, but with more action. What the studio wanted was a simplistic action movie starring Vin Diesel.

    In the end, I think it’s down to what the studios assume will sell better.

    See the recent scandal about The Expendables 2. Sly wanted a hard R, the producers pushed for PG-13 because they thought it would get more people in cinemas. But the younger kids aren’t fans of the old school actors and if they are fans it is because of their classic R Rated stuff. When there was a massive push all across the internet to get it back to an R rating, the studio made it R again. And things were made worse when it was “leaked” by some stunt people that the movie was filmed as R from the start and the studio changed it to PG-13 in editing. They’re now making it R, just as it should be and are pretending that the whole PG-13 things was not such a big issue and mostly based on rumors.

    Look at Ridley Scott – the man is one of the great directors working today and one of the greatest ever. BUT, not even Ridley Scott has full power over his movies. Kingdom of Heaven was edited down to a short version for the cinema release and released the long director’s cut on Blu-Ray – and this version, which is 100% Ridley’s vision was FAR, FAR better. Look at Prometheus, Ridley Scott said he would love to have it R rated, but that the studio might go ahead and edit it to be released as PG-13.

    When not even someone on the caliber of Ridley Scott can have the power to make his movies the way he wants them made, you can guess that people like Wimmer won’t have the same power of decision either.

    A studio movie means most times that it is the studio’s movie. That’s just the way things are. The people with money always have more power.

    There are lucky situations when a producer will understand what his role is and what his audience wants and then we get movies that are very close to the director’s vision. Sometimes even the same director can have a movie butchered by the studio and another movie fully supported by the studio.

    EXAMPLE: David Fincher:
    20th Century Fox did NOT let Fincher finish his version of Alien 3, they made Fincher (at the time a young up and coming director) do what they wanted, thus sacrificing his vision.
    On the other hand, on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fincher was allowed to basically do whatever he wanted.

    C’est la vie.

  19. yeah, I know all about that and I know it’s not even close to being a new thing, but it’s still such bullshit, making a movie worse is not going to make it successful no matter what, you’d think Hollywood would figure that out, but time and time again they do it

    and while it’s not a new thing, it does seem like the studios have gotten more dictatorial about it over the last ten years

  20. Griff, the problem is that the majority of studio executives are not passionate about film the way many filmmakers are. Most executives came from law and economic schools, not film schools. They treat movies as if they are some product that needs law clearence or treat it as some market product. Now, moives are legal products and market products. But they can’t be handled like as if they are cheap shoes made in Malasya. Hell, the car industry could teach something about how to market a product as if it’s something with heart and soul. I wish holywood would treat movies as the car industry treat cars, since the general quality of cars have increased tremendously in the past decade.

    Forget it, just make Holywood treat their movies as HBO or SHOWTIME treats their shows. That would be great already.

  21. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    April 10th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I think the problem is simple. If a new filmmaker makes a great, interesting, well-rated film, the studios regard him as “worthy” to do a movie based on a fucking board game or something. This is why Hyams will probably end up doing “Mission: Impossible 7”.

    And Asimov, the thing about the car industry is that their products are basically the same. I mean, you have big cars that can seat seven people, and small ones that can only seat four. You’ve got big heavy offroad land rovers and light steerable town cars. And that’s about as much difference as you’re gonna get unless you start bringing in the kind of cars that nobody except enthusiasts actually drive (Formula 1, etc).

    There’s a “right” way to make cars, and everybody follows it, because who the fuck’s gonna make a car without an aerodynamic bumper or seatbelts or something? So the car marketers HAVE to find some way of differentiating their product from the millions upon millions of other functionally identical products out there. Hence the ad campaigns that talk about soul and sport and the like.

    What I’m saying is, films don’t have that. There are gazillions of different ways to make films, which creates risk, and unfortunately the easiest way to eliminate risk in a business like the movie business is to use what’s worked in the past. Hence the rise of celebrity directors, movie “stars”, brand tie-ins, and the like. Also the rise of “formula” trailers, where literally everything is scientifically designed to appeal to a specific “demographic”. Which I actually hate by the way. “Chronicle”‘s trailer was one of the worst I’ve ever seen – it looked appalling – but the movie was great. If it hadn’t have been for a good buzz about the movie on the ‘web, I would have avoided it.

  22. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    April 10th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Oh, and Griff, the problem isn’t exactly a new one. Go back to the 1940s or so and it was MUCH worse – and I’m not just talking about the “propaganda” aspect created by the war. “Casablanca”‘s nearly-used “happy” ending is pretty much legendary nowadays. And don’t get me started on “Bodysnatchers” or “Suspicion”. Even film noir – which was pretty much the equivalent back then of today’s straight-to-DVD market, it was the stuff they put on before the “real” films started – was subject to ridiculous changes at the whims of businessmen who knew very little about films, but a lot about the movie business.

  23. I feel like television cable television is in like a golden age, where creators are the ruling power and not the channels and their executives. It’s almost like what happened in the 70’s, when the director let young directors do what they want. The 70’s got The Godfather, HBo got the Sopranos, the 70’s got The French Connection, we got The Wire etc. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Justified etc. It’s on tv the creative renessance is happening.

    Also cable channels always let there show get one season. They will not get cancelled after a few episode because of ratings. Is all about subscribers, and in a lot of countries they also sell their show both to satellite/cable channels, and regular network channels. In my country, shows like Dexter, True Blood and Game of Thrones are being showed on a pay channel almost at the same time as it shown in America. Then a half year later (or even a year like with Dexter) you get to see the show on free channels, either commercial channels or our national broadcast channel. You can imagine how much money HBO gets from that. Also they sell well on DVD, so there is a lot of money in that.

    The cable is where you should go. You got no MPAA or FCC. You can pretty much do whatever you want, who doesn’t want that?

  24. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul, there’s a bit more nuance to the car industry then your post might indicate. Not every car manufacturer can produce a VW Golf as excelently as the Golf is (i think you guys in US call it the VW Rabbit), the Golf being the hatchback to end all hatchbacks. Why it’s great has lot to do with the details that make it right.

    I use to say that there are dozens of ways to mke a movie good… and hundreds on how to make them bad.

  25. One thing to remember on a deeper level is that most people are just worried about keeping their jobs. Except for a few raging A holes, most execs arent trying to make bad movies or ruin good ones. They’d love to be the exec that found the next PULP FICTION or discovered the next Will Smith. But the fear of getting in trouble is too great and daring films are scary. Doesn’t matter if you make BLADE RUNNER. by the time people appreciate it you’ve been replaced.

    Every once in a while something amazing slips through. At one time Bruce Willis was such a huge star he got to make HUDSON HAWK and now that exists. Michael Davis knew a producer who got SHOOT EM UP made. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD.

    But yeah I always thought if I were a studio exec I would just pick one script a year that i liked and make it no matter what. But that’s why they won’t let me be a studio exec.

  26. Ghost, isn’t freedom great? I mean, look at SPARTACUS. I can’t imagine the stuff that it shows, both in terms of violence and sex, would be aboe to in normal TV channels or movies. Cable TV is great!

  27. Knox Harrington

    April 11th, 2012 at 5:05 am

    This guy I know went to one of Robert McKee’s writing seminars a few years ago (McKee is the guy played by Brian Cox in Adaptation) and apparantly McKee said two things that I absolutely agree with.

    One, that the Koreans are making the best movies in the world right now.

    And Two, that the best screenwriting you’ll find these days is to be found in television.

    So true. TV writing still has that strong, old-fashioned focus on character and story. I really hope it stays that way and that television producers and networks don’t get obsessed with empty spectacle the way so many films are nowadays.

    Much as I enjoy the occasional bit of meaningless eye-candy, I find myself drawn to films like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Take Shelter more and more.

  28. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    April 11th, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I agree with you guys about the quality of writing on TV nowadays. The “idiot box” moniker is certainly starting to look pretty damn outdated. And the shows that come from cable that you mention, Ghost, at least of the ones I’ve seen, certainly take the prize.

    But I also gotta agree with Knox… I’ve already seen SO many excellent films already this year. (Actually I haven’t seen “Take Shelter” but I enjoyed the heck out of “MMMM”.) I don’t think cinema as an art is in any trouble but I do think that there’s two tiers of films, one made “for the masses”, and one made “for the cinephiles”, and rarely do the two ever meet. Which is a shame. There are some excellent populist films out there, but I wish the good stuff that was a little less so got as much attention as the blockbusters and the Oscar-bait.

  29. “The ‘idiot box’ moniker is certainly starting to look pretty damn outdated.”

    Especially since TVs aren’t really boxes anymore. They’re more like sideways trays.

  30. Mr. Majestyk, a box by another name. A thin box.

  31. I’ve heard a lot about the “tv renaissance”, but the problem is I’ve never been much of a tv watcher and the reason is very simple, there just aren’t enough hours in the day

    see, I’m a gamer and gaming is a very, very time consuming hobby, I could easily do nothing but play video games as my sole form of entertainment, but I don’t, instead my three pillars of entertainment are

    1. video games
    2. movies
    3. books

    video games take up the lion share of my free time and you add in movie and books and well, something has to get cut and that something for me is tv, when I watch tv it’s usually something like Mythbusters, Conan or Real Time With Bill Maher and only when I’m eating dinner or a snack or whatever, the only drama series I’m currently watching is Dexter (which has admittedly and unfortunately been on a steady downward spiral since the excellent season 4)

    so I just don’t have the time to tune in almost every day of the week to all of these shows, I sure wish movies were going through a renaissance

  32. I have another theory. Most people don’t see every movie that comes out. In fact they may only see one a year. So that’s why most movies are the same. They’re not for the people who compare them to each other. Theyre for the people for whom it’s the only movie they bothered to see,

    If you saw a rom com you expect it to deliver certain things and you’d feel ripped off if it tried to do something different. So each one follows the same pattern, so those folksl will get what they pay for.

    Though if NEW YEARS EVE were the only rom com I saw all year i’d still be pissed.

    Thats how I can appreciate the genre formula for the masses and relish the ones made for sophisticated niches. I actually wish people (in real life not on this board) woulld be less dismissive of films they didn’t like, because it probably speaks to someone else and.p means the world to them.

  33. Fred – I think that’s pretty much been the fundamental problem of every entertainment form is that most people just don’t take entertainment seriously at all, they treat it as something totally disposable, just a way to kill a little time and forgot about it 15 minutes later

  34. Griff I used to be a big gamer and eventually had to cut them to make more time for movies and tv. Also because games got too long and involving. I miss the pick up and play variety tho the guitar hero/rock band filled that for a few years. Also by the time I finish a day of writing my fingers are tired.

    I imagine the 12 year old me would flip over things like Kinect and MASS EFFECT.

  35. Griff, true but that’s the audience more than anything. I’ve been saying Hollywood needs to do something to make people want to watch movies more. Any business needs to reach new customers, not just keep selling to the old. They could certainly get 10 or 15% of the population to become more avid movie buffs by producing something that appeals to them. It may take a bit of research but find out why people feel movies aren’t a worthwhile hobby and create something that would excite them. You can’t get everyone but you can expand the base.

  36. Griff: I agree that there is just not enough time in the day to watch all the TV shows people go on and on about these days, especially when I’ve found a lot of the big ones (MAD MEN, WALKING DEAD, ROME, LOST, 24, etc.) to be pretty blah. I need something with a little more spark if I’m to be expected to watch it for dozens upon dozens of hours. But based on what I’ve been able to ascertain about your tastes, I think you should probably watch COMMUNITY. It’s funny and geeky without ever losing sight of the characters, who are played by probably the most diversely talented cast on TV. And every now and then they pull off an amazing concept episode that’s more cinematic and exciting than 90% of feature films. (Also, it’s entirely possible that Alison Brie is the most attractive person on earth.) I mean, they got Justin Lin to direct an episode about paintball and it had better action than the last three or four Jason Statham movies. I’d be really stunned if you didn’t like it.

  37. yes, I’ve been curious about Community for a while now

  38. Griff – to be fair, not all suits are “stupid” or corporately voided in that town. Sometimes they even make the right choices.

    Classic example, I remember Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary track for GODFATHER and he related of how Robert Evans wanted Robert Redford for Michael Corleone, all that Italian music from the opening wedding sequence replaced with contemporary pop music. He even insisted that the movie be cut down from the 3 hours cut down to more theatrically-suitable of 2 to 2 and a half hours. As that Cracked.com article the other day pointed out, GF was one of Evans’ hail mary projects to not just save his job, but Paramount as a movie studio.

    After FFC submitted his 140 minute cut (I can’t imagine that version), Evans said as much that the movie didn’t work as well as the 3 hour cut, so let’s release the 3 hour version. FFC by all indications hated Evans, but even he gave him credit where it was due.

    Of course, remember that public battle over BRAZIL? I always was aware of that piss fight, but recently I read the book BATTLE FOR BRAZIL (the author did the Criterion DVD commentary for the infamous “Love Conquers All” edit) and what shocked me was that the bone of contention between Gilliam and Sheinberg was (aside from the ending) that Sheinberg wanted 15 more mintues cut and Gilliam said the movie wouldn’t work. (and to be fair to Gilliam, where would that 15 minutes be chopped from?)

    I understand the commercial aspect. But sometimes sacrificing a greater if long movie in favor of a very sub-standard theatre owners-friendly cut (cough KINGDOM OF HEAVEN cough), you’re cutting your balls off just to be a dickish to the immediate zeroes on the Excel doc. Who knows if say KOH had been released in Ridley’s prefered version. Maybe not be a smash hit, but probably critical accolades? Who knows, with good critic buzz, it could’ve been a contender for the tech Oscars. Even do sustained, long enduring solid business on DVD.

    Fred Topel – Very true. Remember folks, the head of Fox who greenlighted FIGHT CLUB got fired because of it tanking. And now that’s considered a classic, right? I’m certain Fox has made their moneys back in the subsequent decade.

  39. I tend to multitask between watching tv online and browsing/playing a video game. Of course, some tv shows require full attention, but the Daily Show and Colbert Report work pretty well as something I mostly listen too.

    Also can you believe this? I convinced a guy I know to give Justified a try in exchange for me doing the same with Once Upon a Time Time(which is hit and miss, but Robert Carlyle’s pretty fantastic in it), and while finding parts of it fun he actually has a problem with all the shootouts/duel, because he says it’s contrived and unrealistic that a US Marshall would find himself in those situations so often. Though as a law major, he maybe can’t help it, and he did have a good point about how Ava was released without bail after shooting her husband and later got off with it pretty easily.

  40. well I have ADHD, so generally I can only concentrate on one thing at a time or else I get easily distracted

  41. RRA: The guy who greenlit FIGHT CLUB was actually fired over TITANIC. We all know how the budget on this one exploded and everybody expected it to become the new HEAVEN’S GATE. When it became the smash hit that it was, he got more something like a few days of grace, because in the eyes of the suits he still wasn’t “the guy who greenlit the biggest movie in history”, but “the guy who was unable to pull the plug in time and almost ruined 20th Century Fox”. So it wasn’t really important what the next flop under his management was, he would have been kicked out anyway and everybody knew it.

  42. ooh! a shiny thing!

  43. Griff, the day you discover such TV show jewels as ROME, BREAKING BAD, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES and SPARTACUS, you will forget about games as you watch them, full series, from start to finish. You’ll not regreat.

    In fact, it was the TV show ROME that brough me back to play games, the game ROME: TOTAL WAR, or to be more exact it’s mod EUROPA BARBARORUM.

  44. How to make time to watch good TV shows? Easy. Forget all that LOST crap, which lasts for 6 seasons. Then you can have time to watch the whole of CARNIVALE and ROME and SPARTACUS in the same time you need to watch the LOST crap. It’s economy of time. Thus for the price of one overrated mess crap like LOST you gain 3 badass great TV shows. Nothing to los(t)e, everything to gain.

  45. “you will forget about games”

    ha, I’m a guy who just a few weeks ago spent a few hundred dollars for a new graphics card for my PC, so I don’t think I’ll be giving up games anytime soon

    however I will put all those shows on my “to watch” list

  46. COMMUNITY may be the best TV show ever made. And I’m only half joking.

    Also, Griff, did you know there was a ULTRAVIOLET anime?

  47. BOARDWALK EMPIRE makes me wish that Rockstar made a GTA game set during early 1930s Prohibition era. To see Liberty City circa 1930s would be great. I’d love to see a GTA game that would be their homage to THE GODFATHER, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Would be fun like hell!

  48. no sitcom can ever hope to match in quality shows like Rome or Breaking Bad. Can’t happen.

    Though it would be histerical to see how a show like Rome or Spartacus would look like done in sitcom style.

  49. asimovlives – I actually have an idea for a GTA style game (but more like Saints Row in style and tone) set in a highly stylized 1930’s city like out of Dick Tracy or something where it’s old fashioned style gangsters, but done in a more over the top and ridiculous style than the genre has been depicted in games before

    I don’t have a title for this hypothetical video game though

  50. The one thing that really kept me away from COMMUNITY so far, is that it seems like the kind of referential nerd humor (Haha, he made a Star Wars joke. Look how clever we are.) that I hate so much. I still hope it will be more VENTURE BROS than ROBOT CHICKEN or THE BIG BANG THEORY, but for now I’m not in the mood to find out.

  51. The first ep of Community I ever saw was the paintball episode, which was extremely funny. So I watched a few more… but none of the others even came close to the quality of the paintball one. Eventually some of the cast members started to annoy me and now I’m not really interested anymore. It’s too bad, I can see why people love it but it doesn’t really click for me. Also, I may get killed for this, but the hotness of Alison Brie is severely overrated.

    Besides, I totally agree with asimovlives that no sitcom can ever match the quality of a Spartacus or Game Of Thrones. It’s just not possible.

  52. I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible for a comedy to be better or as good as the current drama shows. It’s just more difficult. You have to build a world, a story AND lots of jokes. I think ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT came pretty close to succeeding.

  53. CJ – Ouch.

    Ah, VENTURE BROS. A program so fucking good (and I mean fucking good) that fans are used to waiting years for new seasons. (Last season finale was December ’10, and they just started making season 5 at the beginning of this year.)

    That’s a weird one where the jokes in later seasons work if you’ve been there with it since episode 1, or caught them on reruns/DVD. Such a diverse mythology, and that background knowledge plays into the humor. And with new ideas and characters thrown in, it gets better. I’m not sure folks exposed only to later seasons would like the jokes as much. I don’t know.

    All I know is….Shore Leave is awesome.

  54. Jareth Cutestory

    April 12th, 2012 at 6:54 am

    asimovlives: I prefer ARRESTED DELEVOPMENT to both ROME and BREAKING BAD in every possible respect. Not only do I think it was better written and acted, but I think it’s more subversive.

    Except in the Sourpuss Department. BREAKING BAD wins that one.

    But I get your point. It’s a good time for cable drama, and comedies generally haven’t caught up yet.

    CJ Holden: The recurring STAR WARS joke on ARRESTED DELEVOPMENT is such a thing of beauty. Though I guess it’s more of a joke on fans of STAR WARS. “That kid’s got moves.”

  55. Personally, no show can ever be on my top ten list without it being funny, at least sometimes. It doesn’t have to be a straight comedy (my favorite show ever is BUFFY, which can get as depressing as any show ever made but never fully abandons its sense of humor), but there has to be some element of comedy for me to really love it. I know shit is real and all, and I want the drama to be taken seriously, but I don’t see why the two need be mutually exclusive. Personally, I’ve never gone through a day of my life without cracking a joke, including the days I got dumped, went to the hospital, or mourned the death of a loved one. Humor is the grease that keeps the wheel of life turning, and any show that doesn’t recognize that is not going to have a real prominent place in my heart. So I’m on board with Jareth that I got way more out of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT than any of the big cable dramas, and why MAD MEN can go fuck itself while JUSTIFIED reigns supreme.

    Also, TV shows take up a shitload of time. If I’m going to spend dozens of hours watching these characters, I’d rather spend some of them laughing.

    CJ: COMMUNITY is so much more than references. It’s about looking at the world through the lens of pop culture, the way we all do, and finding meaning in that. There’s always a story, not just a bunch of jokes. It’s more about how we relate to storytelling tropes and not just “Derp, I’m holding a stick like a lightsaber!” How many other pitch-perfect episode-length MY DINNER WITH ANDRE homages have you seen? And it’s not just movies. They did a D&D episode that was an intense dramatic adventure without a single fantasy cutaway. Eventually, they did do a kind of STAR WARS thing, but the joke was that STAR WARS is pretty much the elephant in the room when you’re considered a “geek” show, so they just half-assed it to get it out of the way. It wasn’t important because what you actually cared about was the drama of the storyline. (This was another paintball episode, a two-parter that started out the best non-Miike spaghetti western in 40 years and ended as a battle epic with the fate of the extended family of characters at stake.) You said that for a comedy to work “You have to build a world, a story AND lots of jokes.” That’s COMMUNITY.

  56. Also, I nominate this review as the new Potpourri, since it’s obvious nobody has shit to say about ULTRAVIOLET.

    (For the record, I liked it. It’s ridiculous and colorful and is one of the few movies that make bad CGI endearing. I like it a lot better than the po-faced seriousness of EQUILIBRIUM.)

  57. Majestyk, I really think it’s time you sit down and watch a whole season of Mad Men. That show is fucking hilarious, in much the same way that The Sopranos could be hilarious.

    I love the way that The Sopranos could find both humour and depth in stereotypes. Mad Men does the same thing with gender roles and the fragile male ego. I have waxed lyrical about Mad Men’s masterful writing before round these parts, so I won’t bother you with it again, but I will keep on recommending it as the great show that it is. I actually think that all the hype around it isn’t doing it any favours, since people start associating popular shows with a certain kind of person, movement or taste. Much like a lot of people thought that Buffy (a great show) was only for teenage girls, which obviously isn’t true.

    Anyway, I gotta agree with all the Community love. I don’t think it’s fair to say that comedies can’t be as great as epic dramas. Just look at the British series of The Office. That’s some of the most pitch-perfect storytelling ever committed to television.

  58. The extended Seagalogy thread is already the new Potpourri. Even with official Vern seal of approval.

  59. Also RE: Community pop culture. Good to know that it’s more than that, it’s just that whenever somebody praises that show, it usually goes like “Did you see that reference to some obscure 80’s geek movie, that they made last episode. wow, they are so clever.”

  60. I gave MAD MEN three episodes and violently hated it. I get that it can be funny sometimes, but I just found it so dull and depressing on the whole that I can’t imagine going back. I hated all those people, even the one played by my most virulent celebrity crush. I understand that it’s objectively a good show but subjectively I cannot abide it. It stimulates no pleasure in my brain, just pure stress. It’s like avant garde jazz: I appreciate the talent it takes to play it but I’d rather just rock out. Life’s too short to give myself pop culture homework when I could be watching stuff I love.

  61. Griff, how about GANGSTERS & DIAMONDS?

  62. HBO had this comedy series called FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. The should would be typical sitcom material, but instead was done as a series. And it was so much the better for it. Again, sitcom material turned into a series came better.

    maybe i’m just too burned u+ by sitcoms, but…. nah, no sitcom can ever match the quality of the series and shows like those made by HBO or Showtime.

  63. asimovlives – I like that title

    anyway Venture Brothers is indeed an excellent show, can’t wait for the next season

    I can’t believe it’s been going for almost EIGHT years now, isn’t that crazy? I still remember what the first episode I saw was (the one where they get trapped in that cylinder that makes your dreams come true)

  64. Have you guys been watching WHEEL OF FORTUNE lately? Because that right there is some good ass TV.

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