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Posts Tagged ‘David Koepp’

Death Becomes Her

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

“She’s dead, sir. They took her to the morgue.”
“The morgue? She’ll be furious!”

On July 31, 1992 we come to another one of those odd happenings that caused me to label this as Weird Summer. This is the time when an A-list director became enamored of a cynical black comedy and turned it into a big summer movie starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. Writers Martin Donovan (the Argentinian filmmaker who directed APARTMENT ZERO, not the guy from the Hal Hartley movies) and David Koepp (co-writer of APARTMENT ZERO – this was his movie after TOY SOLDIERS) saw it as a low budget indie, and then it got made with a budget bigger than ALIEN 3, and groundbreaking digital effects by Industrial Light and Magic. The effects ended up winning an Oscar and Koepp’s next gig was writing JURASSIC PARK.

Director Robert Zemeckis had put his name on the blockbuster map with ROMANCING THE STONE in 1984, and then triple circled, highlighted and put stars next to his name when BACK TO THE FUTURE was a surprise smash hit the following year. Since then he’d made my favorite of his movies, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988), followed by the BACK TO THE FUTURE sequels (1989 and 1990). Those were all rated PG, and most of them were produced by Steven Spielberg, so Zemeckis was generally thought of as that kind of family friendly whiz bang popcorn movie guy. And now here he comes with this mean-spirited PG-13 movie aimed at adults, its wider appeal coming from the genuinely envelope-pushing ways it depicts gruesome bodily mutilations. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kimi

Thursday, February 17th, 2022

KIMI is the new straight-to-HoBoMax Steven Soderbergh joint. This one is a tight little thriller written by David Koepp (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, SNAKE EYES, PANIC ROOM) with all the breeziness and smarts you expect from Soderbergh, plus that knack he has for style that simultaneously seems retro and more of-this-very-moment than anything anybody else is making. Like, it seems like it’s shot pretty run-and-gun with modern, lightweight digital cameras and natural lighting and stuff, but the staging, framing (and credits) sometimes remind you of how the ‘70s suspense classics were crafted.

We could call it a techno thriller because the titular “Kimi” is a Siri or Alexa type device through which our heroine, Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz, THE BRAVE ONE, ASSASSINATION OF A HIGH SCHOOL PRESIDENT), accidentally hears a murder. Her job is to listen to recordings of times Kimi didn’t understand what people were asking for, figure out what the miscommunication was (a regional term, a pop culture reference, a word used incorrectly) and add new information to improve the algorithm. When she hears something disturbing in the background of a recording she does some sleuthing, tries to navigate the company’s dense protocols for handling such a situation, and becomes a target. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man 2

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

Raimi started work on SPIDER-MAN 2 immediately after the first one, and had it ready to go two summers later. Since it really is about following up on the events of the first film, it starts by running the credits over some of them, as depicted in paintings by Alex Ross. (He’s celebrated for his realistic portraits of comic book super heroes, which are more impressive when they come from his imagination and not photography we’ve already seen, but still, it was cool that they got him). The end of the sequence reminds us that in SPIDER-MAN Peter chose not to be with Mary Jane, who he loves, so that he could be Spider-Man.

Which does not seem to be working out great so far. The painting of Mary Jane dissolves into a closeup of her face on a perfume billboard that Peter has to walk under every day, reminding him of his pain. Though he tries to hide it, it’s clear his world crumbles when she is not near. He’s in college now, and living on his own in a small apartment. Much like part 1’s opening about all the ways Peter can be humiliated on the way to school, this one piles it on real thick about what a shit sandwich life still hands to him every day. (read the rest of this shit…)

Spider-Man

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

“He had an uneventful childhood. He played baseball with the other kids on the block, became fascinated with the antics of what later became his heroes – The Three Stooges, read Spiderman comic books, thought Jerry Lewis was hilarious and the Little Rascals even more so. What influenced Raimi to become the ‘horror meister’ of slash and gore films is not found in his past.”

Dead Auteur: How a 20-year-old ex-college student carved out his horror niche in Hollywood by Sue Uram, Cinefantastique, August 1992

 

Immediately following Raimi’s very serious director period, his career changed drastically again. After so many stabs at the mainstream, he finally made the leap to genuine blockbuster filmmaking, bringing one of the most famous characters in the history of American pop culture to the big screen for the first time. This is not the use-Intro-Vision-to-stretch-the-budget-enough-to-try-to-compete-in-summer of DARKMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS, or the work-with-huge-stars-but-scare-off-boring-people-by-doing-something-different-with-them of THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. I’m talking a super hero event movie with ten times the budget of DARKMAN, working with Sony Digital Imageworks to pioneer effects techniques that nobody was even sure would be possible, and finally sharing his talents with pretty much the widest audience possible for a movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Snake Eyes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

August 7, 1998

There’s this conventional wisdom I’ve heard thrown around more than once that if you notice a shot being cool then it’s not really a good shot. Which is to deny the existence of Brian De Palma. SNAKE EYES is an underrated spot on the De Palma timeline when he had just made a huge hit with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and was able to cash in and get big studio resources for a much more purely DePalmian thriller that exhibits 36 chambers of filmatistic showboating.

Why not use the suspense thriller format to explore every new or uncommon use of cinematic language De Palma was interested in at the time? Additionally, why not use every new or uncommon use of cinematic language De Palma was interested in at the time to explore the suspense thriller format? There is no why not. This movie is great.

Nicolas Cage, not long after FACE/OFF, plays Rick Santoro, not the stick-up-his-ass homophobe former GOP senator and presidential candidate from Pennsylvania, but an obnoxious, bribe-taking bad lieutenant, port of call Atlantic City, who wears loud clothes, bets on boxing matches, and is gonna have to stop fucking around and be a hero this time. See, Santoro is standing close enough to get blood on him when the secretary of defense (Joel Fabiani, BRENDA STARR) gets shot at the fight. Santoro bulldozes his way into investigating so he can cover the ass of his old war hero buddy Gary Sinise, REINDEER GAMES), who was in charge of security. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Shadow

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

(NOTE: I’ve decided to go back to cover two Summer Flings that I regret having skipped.)

July 1, 1994

Look, I can’t say for sure what audiences were yearning for in the summer of ’94, but it might have been a cartoon about lions and it might not have been a super hero movie set in the 1930s, based on a character from serialized radio dramas. Here is yet another entry in my beloved genre of old-timey-super-hero-movie-that-totally-failed-at-the-box-office-but-I-thought-it-was-pretty-good. I suppose THE SHADOW seemed like a more sensible bet than some of them, because it was at least a character with vague name recognition and noir influences like BATMAN (in fact some believe the first Batman story was a rip-off of a Shadow story called “Partners of Peril”).

At first glance The Shadow (Alec Baldwin, THE GETAWAY) does seem like kind of a Batman-esque character. He’s a rich handsome guy named Lamont Cranston who lives a secret life, going out at night as a scary figure, fighting criminals. He doesn’t have a cape, but a black cloak that serves the same purpose, plus a hat and a mask over the mouth and two guns. And hidden in an alley is the entrance to his Batcave-like secret base. (read the rest of this shit…)

Toy Soldiers (1991)

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

TOY SOLDIERS is a kid’s movie clashing with an action movie. It’s rated-R and surprisingly legit, opening with chaos in Colombia, where Luis Cali (Andrew Divoff, WISHMASTER), the son of a captured narco-terrorist, has a court room held hostage. Within the first four minutes of the movie they throw a woman out of a high window and a judge out of a helicopter (an impressive skydiving stunt). Later they will take over a boarding school full of the children of American politicians and super-riches, and being that Columbine has not happened they will have no compunction about shooting the place up.

But when we meet our young protagonists jogging into The Regis School and spray painting it to say “The Rejects School”, Robert Folk (POLICE ACADEMY)’s score goes from sounding like a Chuck Norris movie to an episode of Amazing Stories or The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Oh, youth. They have self-owned themselves as rejects because they’re supposed to be the fuckup rich kids who got kicked out of every other prep school. Now they will endure the gauntlet of action-movie-scenario to prove their true worth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (revisit)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

tn_crystalskulllucasminusstarwarsor OUTLAW VERN AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE FORBIDDEN SEQUEL

“What exactly am I being accused of besides surviving a nuclear blast?”

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is the one movie in this Lucas Minus Star Wars survey that I actually reviewed on its original theatrical release, so you can see what I wrote about it at the time. I had already picked up on everybody hating it, but didn’t realize it would become one of those movies that is only ever brought up as an example of what is wrong with George Lucas, Hollywood, America, capitalism, technology, civilization, human life, etc. When people mention it they have to spit, like Indy when he mentions Victoriano Huerta in the movie. It is a universally agreed upon milestone in the degradation of our culture and past.

Well, almost universally. I really liked it at the time, as you can see. But it’s been a few years, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I encountered someone who thought it was any good. Watching it now, maybe I could finally be one of them. One of the beautiful people. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Monday, June 8th, 2015

tn_lostworldMan, this review has been in development almost as long as JURASSIC WORLD. After I typed this up I found an old version I wrote in a notebook a couple years ago, when I had mentioned liking THE LOST WORLD and readers wanted me to defend my position. I went in and stole a few phrases out of it, like I found them encased in amber.

I always thought THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK was a solid part 2 to a very enjoyable part 1. Maybe it helps that I didn’t consider the first one to be such a classic at the time. I loved it as a fun execution of a cool gimmick, but I was comparing it to JAWS and that’s a way to make it seem kinda dumb. Over the years, as it’s continued to hold up and be better than many similar movies that have come after, I respect it more. Even still, I enjoy watching part 2 and I think it’s miles better than Part three-claw-scratches. Much of the world disagrees with me, though, so here is my brilliant Perry Mason style defense. Or something.

This is the only non-INDIANA-JONES sequel that Mr. Spielberg has directed, and it opens with pure Spielberg filmatism. Ominously crashing waves intimidate the frame as a rich British couple, their young daughter (holy shit, I never realized that was 10,000 BC‘s Camilla Belle, in her movie before Seagal’s THE PATRIOT) and a pack of yacht crewmen stop for an impromptu picnic on the shore of an unsettled island. It must be nice to be rich, be able to do anything you want. But next time don’t do it on the island that Jurassic Park used to breed their dinosaurs. When Mom worries about the girl running off to play, an obvious concern would be the violent tides, but of course the real threat comes from within the island. She meets a tiny, quick-moving lizard. “What are you, a bird or something?” It’s a cute little thing, and she feeds it a piece of meat from her sandwich. But then all the sudden there are more of them, and they want some too. And next thing you know there’s a swarm, and they’re jumping onto her like piranhas on a cow, and she’s screaming…

Later in the movie Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm makes fun of the new characters being in awe of the dinosaurs. “Oh, yeah. Ooh, ahh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and, um, screaming.” But this scene zooms in on Mom’s face as she screams in terror… which dissolves into Malcolm on the subway yawning. I guess Sam Neill and Laura Dern probly turned the movie down, but it was a smart idea to turn the cynical wisecracker and chief-worrier into the lead. He wears a cool guy leather jacket, gets recognized on the subway, gets to tell off the new InGen head for covering up what happened, and Jurassic Park founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) when he tells him that dinosaurs have survived on one of the islands and become their own eco-system. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mission: Impossible

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

tn_m-iI don’t know about you guys, but I have found that it’s weird watching Brian DePalma’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE for the first time since the 1990s. Tom Cruise sure doesn’t look 52 now, but he does look a little younger here than he does now. I kinda forgot he used to be like this. More fidgety and cocky, kinda smarmy, playing it really different from in the other movies, because he’s newer. His Ethan Hunt is not the leader, he’s the apprentice of the original TV series hero Jim Phelps (now played by John Voight), forced to strike out on his own, without his mentor or his team, for the first time. Yeah, he seems much younger.

Holy shit, this movie is 19 years old. That’s almost 20 years old. Which is alot of years in my opinion. And alot has changed. I forgot how different this series got over time.

I think MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is unique among the summer blockbusters. It has a bunch of the usual qualities: it’s a big movie star vehicle, based on an existing “property,” climaxes in a noisy special effects-laden action spectacle, did end up becoming a franchise that’s still going today. At the same time it is a Brian DePalma movie, it doesn’t feel like he had to compromise anything. He got to take his style and his interests and experiment with them on a little larger canvas than usual. His gimmicky suspense sequences, twists and tricks are right at home with characters who elaborately deceive for a living. His POV shots put you right into the action when you enter a party as Hunt in disguise, but also they show up in the form of cameras actually worn by the agents to keep tabs on each other and, in one case, to mislead each other. (read the rest of this shit…)