Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why We Never Needed The Interview

And so the holiday weekend comes to a close, and I am still not sure who the much debated Rogen/Franco comedy vehicle, The Interview was ultimately made for. While I found myself indirectly swept up into the controversy surrounding the film in the weeks pre-release, a part of me was probably akin to so many others, only curious on some minute, morbid level. And after having seen it, the word "sucker" does come to mind, even if evidence has been abundantly clear that the devastating attack on Sony Studios' servers was a very real thing. Suspicion notwithstanding, what the world stage has witnessed yet again via this film, is that there is no accounting for ego, nor taste when regarding any kind of comedy. And what I witnessed via the near two-hours of excruciating dearth of laughs, was that pandering is indeed alive and well. And that no amount of marketing and bad press can wash away cheap, myopic art.

There is a part of me that is now morbidly curious about how studios like Sony intend to survive into an already uncertain future for film when their green lights tend to lean on the cheapness of their bottom line. This is a film that starts in one place, flirts with change, only to swing right back to where it begins. It's bad enough that we are host to a story where noone actually learns anything, but that the so-called complication turns out to be exactly as advertised, rendering the whole affair meaningless. If this is what it takes to get the public on board with your films, I suppose its clear that management has virtually no faith left in the viewer to chart new courses.

Is it a complete suckers game though? I mean, one should consider not merely North Korea in regards to an aggressively changing world. There is certainly room for it. This just feels like a dated, underthought, and overall cheap means of milking that issue in an era where one might see this approach to be a little..dated. Something smarter could have been composed here. But Rogen and Evan Goldberg, took the easy road, and cranked out something both regressive, and ultimately underwhelming. It's a real shame considering Randall Park, and Diana Bang in the film. They deserve much better considering their work in this. Which brings full circle that the film feels like a rush job that only serves its stars, and much less the world at large. Much like the campaign, the whole thing feels cheap in a way only comedic superstars could conjure with their desperate attempts to feel topical, and their combined egoes squatting out half-baked product. Their Adam Sandler fate, at least to me, feels complete.

There's truly nothing new, let alone interesting here. Move along.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nightbreed: The Director's Cut Hits Netflix

"Take me to Midian.."

It has been nearly 25 years since Clive Barker's much-anticipated monster epic faceplanted onto screens, bearing marks of studio tampering, leaving the celebrated maven of the fantastic unsure of his place in the horror pantheon. Cabal Cut, aside, his tale of one man's destiny as the leader of a lost civilization of monsters has long been held as one of the great missed opportunities in the genre world. And thankfully due to the efforts of Mark Miller and friends, the cut finally hit video outlets via Shout! Factory, and is now streaming via Netflix. And after years of lamenting what could have been, this teenage admirer of the film can finally rest easy in knowing that NIGHTBREED is as close to its initial vision as possible. And what comes of it, while still bearing the at-times dreadfully awkward mark of Barker's direction, it finally feels like a legitimate film.

Boone, is a hunky welder guy who's been suffering with years of bad dreams of a mythical realm where monsters reside. How little he is prepared to discover, that this haven for freaks and shapeshifters is in fact no myth. Unbeknownst to him, his current psychiatrist, Dr. Decker (a really creepy David Cronenberg) is less interested in treating him so much as taking him at his word as he plans to find this very real place, and let our hero take the fall for his own wave of grisly family murders. And despite the outside world's assumption that he has been killed as part of the mad doctor's plan, Boone's supportive singer girlfriend tracks him down to the abandoned graveyard that serves as the gateway to this shangri la for the unusual.

Poised to be the Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings of monster pics, we can at least now see what was intended, as we get more love story, and less leaping I
in and about within the narrative.

It's especially fun to watch within today's context of superhero film fever, this tale of ordinary beings regarding the unusual with both fear and envy. Despite the film's often clumsy story propulsion,  it's made pretty explicit, Barker's love for outsiders was powerful, and something to be celebrated. We get a great array of creatures and assorted exotic types living this idyllic harmony whilst hiding from a world that continues to judge them. And like any society,  there are always reluctant members. As well as those wishing they were part of it. Much like an X-Men tale, we are at the center of a comic struggle for identification in an era punctuated by intolerance.

As for the newly restored footage, at least half of it feels criminally missing from the theatrical cut. In tradition of major cuts being made to big pieces like these, much of it involves either a subplot, or a seemingly arbitrary element. And yet, a bulk of this material involves Boone, and his best lady, Lori. Much of it quite welcome, but in deep need of focus. When talking about prophetic nightmares, or about a destiny apart as hordes of "naturals" threaten the future, it works quite well. Now if only the awkward club scene, and drugged hallucinations went over as well. We even get a surprise death that almost renders a certain character  superfluous. While they are definitely welcome additions, they often feel like classic placeholders for richer, more nuanced moments.

But again, it's the unsettling visage of Cronenberg's twisted antagonist that echoes long after the piece ends. Those familiar with the legendary auteur, know how congenial and almost doctor-like he actually is. So his turn as what is a pretty nasty response to a decades worth of slasher film, is an indelible one.

Also worthy of consideration, is the dramatically recalibrated finale. While one could definitely feel it being hasty, it's an ending that gains one emotional victory over another. While we lose the cheap shock of the previous, we get an almost operatic denouement centering on the core relationship. It's a charming switch that feels like a dry run at a center that required a few more impassioned iterations.

While not the fantasy classic it could have been, Clive Barker's NIGHTBREED, remains a startling window into the possibilities of genre. And even as the superpowered gain ground on the mainstream, it's heartening to look back at a time when the geeks, the quiet, the odd, the nerdy actually carried weight within a certain community. And his CABAL book and film remain an important, and occasionally thrilling window into that era.

I'm happy it's back.