Posts Tagged ‘graphic novel


Movie Review: Surrogates



It’s an eminence front

Starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Ving Rhames, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Based on the graphic novels by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele

NOTE: I have never read the graphic novels.

I never thought I would be saying this, but this movie needed to be 30 minutes longer.

Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, a cop in the future. What is the future you ask? Surrogates. Paraplegic scientist Canter (Cromwell) invents a robot that enables those who are disabled to be normal. Per se, a disabled person can sit in a chair and plug into a “Surrogate” which gives them the ability to experience life as any normal walking, talking person can. Over a period of time the Surrogates become more advanced gaining the ability to “look” like the person who is controlling/plugged into the surrogate. VSI, a corporation for the mass production of Surrogates, is created because if the disabled can get a robot version of themselves to experience life without the hassles of aging, getting hurt, or being sick, why can’t everybody else? Soon everyone signs up for a hot, youthful, athletic robot version of themselves.

A human resistance is formed and many cities have “dread areas” where humans live but Surrogates are not allowed. One area is ran by The Prophet (Ving Rhames), who prophecizes about the coming day when humans will revolt against the Surrogates. Incidentally, Surrogate creator Canter disagreed with the idea of Surrogates for the populace and is fired and humiliated for it; he now lives in seclusion.

Back to Greer. He and his wife, Maggie (Mitchell), share an apartment but never truly see each other. After a car accident killed their only son Greer delved into his work while his wife, scarred from the wreck, decides to live through her Surrogate. The world is now became 97% Surrogates and more image-based than before (actual humans are nicknamed “meatbags”). When Canter’s son’s Surrogate is executed by a weapon that not only destroys the Surrogate but its controller as well, Greer steps into a plot that involves Canter, the Prophet, an abandoned military project and the possible death/destruction of billions of people.

2009 has inevitably became the year in which science fiction movies have returned. Maybe not the best of science fiction movies, but better than I’ve seen in a while and scores better than anything the SyFy (shudder) network can offer up on a good day. While it may not be “District 9,” or even “9,” “Surrogates” does provide some interesting ideas and tries to deliver a social message about reliance on computers and the ongoing argument of image versus substance. In a day and age in which we’re on the third incarnation of “The Sims,” or the online game “Second Life,” or even the Facebook/MySpace apps of Farrmville and YoVille, it’s easy to imagine people wanting to live vicariously through an attractive and nearly indestructible version of themselves. If you were given the opportunity to live life lying back in a chair while controlling a robotic version of yourself that could do or say anything you ever dreamed of, would you take it?

Alas, the questions and social commentary the film tries to make are brushed aside for action sequences and plot points that feel like they’re in a race for the finish. At 89 minutes, “Surrogates” feels like a sci-fi picture rushed in order to get it out and on the screen. A good chunk of characterization is sacrificed in order to keep the plot going when it doesn’t need to be. The questions regarding humanity losing itself behind a robotic facade, or what being human really means, or even how far is too far are glossed-over as if the director is too afraid to be labeled “heavy-handed” or to have his work called a “morality play.”

Speaking of direction, it could have been far worse. If Michael Bay had tackled this movie it would have been more useless than “The Island.” Mostow shows capability but not the heart for sci-fi and that’s really unfortunate because this movie could’ve been great. I liked it, but if more characterization had been thrown in it would have been good competition against “District 9.”

At best you may want to set this one on “Rental.” The premise is what sells this movie because, frankly, Bruce Willis playing a cop is about as new as James Cromwell playing a scientist. This has slightly more intelligence than “Die Hard” but less plot and characterization than “I, Robot.” It is worth checking out for robotic Californization (perfect hair, body, etc.) as well as its dark humor (“for all I know you could be a fat guy, naked in his house…”) and while I saw it matinee, I can only suggest Rental or Cable.

My grade: B


Movie Review: Watchmen



Who watches the “Watchmen?” I did…


Stars Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earl Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, and Matt Frewer. Directed by Zack Snyder. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.


Loud, brash, abrasive, violent, brutal, gorey, slick, sexy, and a bit underwhelming.


“Watchmen” (based on the graphic novel I previously reviewed) is set in alternate 1985. The U.S. won the Vietnam War (with the help of Dr. Manhattan). Richard Nixon is on his fifth term of office. At any moment we could be swapping nukes with the Russians. And in New York City, a Comedian dies…


So goes “Watchmen,” the latest superhero/graphic novel adaptation from acclaimed graphic novel adapting filmmaker, Zack Snyder. For those who don’t know (or read the title cards in the trailers) Snyder is responsible for the film adaptation of “300,” a graphic novel by Frank Miller. Ever the technical director, Snyder ups the ante with his take on the acclaimed Moore/Gibbons series.


Before I go too much further, I finally figured out what a “fanboy” or “fangirl” is. These are the people who turn out to see these movies on the sheer fact that what they’re watching is based on the comic book/graphic novel. This is ultimately their movie.


And for them Snyder delivers. Snyder takes literal adaptation to the next level by making sure that the film looks EXACTLY like the graphic novel in every frame possible. If you just wanted to see this achieved, then here you go.


If you liked “300,” or Zack Snyder as a director, or love comic book movies no matter what (and I cannot stress that enough), then this is your movie. Have at it. Enjoy.


Still reading? Good.


“Watchmen” fails on the account that Snyder doesn’t understand nuance. Or breathing room. Or the fact that just because you wanna make a carbon copy of something the acclaim of the source material will shine down upon you, because it won’t (see: Gus Van Sant version of “Psycho”) Through this movie I have learned the reason why the “boring parts” in books and movies exist: because we, the audience, need a moment to process what just happened.


For those who have read the graphic novel, do this: take out all scenes centering around the man and his newsstand. Take out all of the “Tales of the Black Freighter.” Take out all the newsclippings, sections from “Hooded Justice,” and anything remotely literary. What you have left is the “Watchmen” movie.


And on that note Snyder is a success, although I think that removing allegory, nuance, paranoia and subtlety in favor of slick brutality and violence isn’t much of a success, but then again I don’t have his bank account. The one thing I will give him credit for is the opening; a montage of events surrounding superheroes caught in 3-D slow-mo. I also thought his ending worked better than the “giant psychic squid” of the graphic novel.


As for the rest, it was difficult for me to care. I loved Rorschach in the graphic novel; a post-40’s detective that nobody likes solving a murder no one cares about and finding the answers reveal something more sinister. While the same is achieved in the movie, Snyder does not allow for the same breathing room as the comics and forgoes the noir tone for action/adventure. Imagine a movie like, “Chinatown,” with most of the investigating removed.


“Watchmen” writer Alan Moore had his name taken off of this and refuses to acknowledge the movie, citing it as “unfilmable.” Maybe it’s because previous works, “From Hell,” and “V for Vendetta,” weren’t faithful to his vision. Having read the graphic novel, I entirely understand. But I hope he gets some of the royalties…


My grade :B (based on technical achievement)




Book Review: Watchmen

A review of the “Watchmen” graphic novel.

See more at



Movie Review: The Spirit




My movie screens and I am her reviewer.


Starring Gabriel Macht, Jaime King, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Frank Miller. Based on the graphic novel by Will Eisner.


I expected it to be stylized, but didn’t expect it to get boring.


Story: It’s Central City. Think Basin City from “Sin City,” but with no anima. Denny Colt (Macht) is a cop who is shot in the chest and dies, only to be miraculously resurrected and take the form of masked crime-fighter “The Spirit.” His arch-nemesis is “The Octopus” (Jackson), a former coroner turned mad scientist/ criminal mastermind. When a cop is all but murdered “The Spirit” is on the case: a case of switched cases. He soon runs into old flame-turned-jewel heist queen Sand Seref who got the box containing a vase holding blood of Heracles (or Hercules, if you will) when she wanted the case with the “bling”: Jason’s Golden Fleece. Eventually this all gets sorted out. Eventually.


I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, but even with lowered expectations this movie slips under the bar. For what it’s worth the movie isn’t so much bad as it is boring. We’re treated to an alternate-now detective story where the characters act as if they were plucked straight from a 1940’s film noir. Or maybe it IS the 1940’s and some dimensional portal gave them cellphones, copiers, assault rifles, and helicopters. Either way, “The Spirit” takes place in this world and apparently people are few and far between. Aside from cops and crooks, very few people seem to exist in the sprawling mecca of Central City.


“Spirit” himself comes off as Clint Eastwood when he narrates but when he’s doing his job is basically no more than what he was when he died: a rookie cop. Only now he can get shot, hit, hurt, etc. and heal from the wounds. How is this possible especially when every time he thinks back, every time he blacks out, death/ Lorelei (King) is waiting to claim him? Well, that’s all due to the Octopus.


And The Octopus is busy finding the key to immortality (the blood of Heracles). With the help of his assistant Silken Floss (Johansson) and always-replenishing clones Pathos, Logos, etc. (Louis Lombardi) he plans on achieving it. Problem is that his henchmen are morons that he keeps killing off only to create more. Oh yeah, and believability.


This is the type of movie that I wonder if the actors involved even bothered watching it. There’s one point in the film where The Spirit is tied-up and The Octopus and Silken Floss are marching around in Nazi uniforms. And The Octopus’ ensemble is complete with a monocle. Seriously. Jackson has done worse I suppose but I wonder if Johansson watched it and thought, “maybe ‘Eight-Legged Freaks’ wasn’t as bad as I thought.”


Note: The above scene also contains a line where the Spirit asks, “I can be bored, can’t I?” Well yes you can. But I paid $9 and it wasn’t expecting to be.


For the most part, Miller did a good job on the “look” of the film. Yes, it does feel a little like “Sin City.” Yes, you made the actors and CG look nearly seamless. Yes, Eva Mendes is hot while she is scantily clad when everyone else in the scene is dressed for below-zero temperatures.


My grade: C