The Name is Reacher

Seems like every Christmas Season in recent years offers long fantasy epics such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, mixed with a typical family Disney animation of some sort. Well for movie fans seeking something different with a great character story, Jack Reacher brings it in spades. Jack Reacher is based on the book One Shot about a former Army military police officer played by Tom Cruise who is in pursuit of a sniper responsible for a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, PA. This film was produced by Cruise and shot on location in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, which makes for a visually rich environment for this film noir.

Critics including Leonard Mauldin are giving Jack Reacher two stars or less which is disappointing for the critics. This is film is a great character piece for Tom Cruise whose on-screen presence is much more in-depth than the Mission Impossible or Bourne Identity movies. Robert Duvall’s character is beyond criticism with his supporting role as a rifle range owner. That being said, the Sandy Hook shooting occurred just two weeks prior to opening weekend for Jack Reacher, keeping many soccer moms away from the box office. This has had a real impact on the money it is taking in, which unfortunately means that there will be little to any chance of a sequel to this movie. The constant complaint from film critics and the public is that there are not enough new and inventive stories in Hollywood anymore, so Tom Cruise helps produce one and it gets crucified for their efforts. This film is rated PG-13 for the action content with a small amount of language to it which makes this a perfect movie for both teen and adult audiences. Critics say that Cabin in the Woods was 2012’s big movie that was missed and being a horror film enthusiast it was a good movie. Unfortunately, in all honesty it’s getting more praise simply because the Avengers director’s name Joss Whedon is tied to it. Jack Reacher is a film that will have a longer shelf life.

I fear this has become the normalcy in Hollywood where even great films such as Jack Reacher, Boondock Saints, even Cabin in the Woods get buried. Not because of their content or the performances, but because someone in corporate doesn’t think it fill their product mold. Granted this is nothing new coming from Hollywood, but many of their mass-produced movies did not do well this year. Most of the movies that are considered to be Oscar contenders are not great movies. That being said ignore critics and box office take and go see Jack Reacher. It was well worth the 10$ ticket.

Advertisements

From My Cold Dead Hands!


After enjoying all of the Halloween treats that the season has to offer, it is time to take stock in one of my favorite genres of film, the zombie/apocalypse.  Zombies, alien invasions, breakdown of society films all have a few things in common.  Each story is essentially a survival story where survivors have beaten the odds of disease, famine, occupation, genocide, nuclear annihilation and are trying to establish a new world in the ashes of the old.
This concept of building a new world out of the proverbial wilderness is something entirely unique to Americans.  Since the United States is a rather new to the world stage, it took over a century and a half for us to settle and establish American society.  It is due to our unique history and culture that we have created the modern zombie film.  Everyone knows that George A. Romero and John A. Russo created Night of the Living Dead propelling tales of a mysterious disease that animates the recently deceased back to life and craving human flesh, which in turn caused society and communication to break down.  That is until men and women pick up their weapons and band together fighting creatures and others who might transgress upon them.  This theme of guerrilla resistance saturates Romero’s blockbuster sequel Dawn of the Dead.  Another reason why this type of film is so popular and definitively American is that the United States of America is the only nation in the world that has written down in the Bill of Rights that the civilian population has a right to own military arms.  It is in our nation’s DNA to be the ”armed to the teeth” underdog, and our zombie films reflect that.  From Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series to Robert Kirkman’s very popular The Walking Dead the everyday use of firearms harkens back to pioneer days with musket, knife, and tomahawk strapped on every able-bodied person.


A great comparison is the remake of Dawn of the Dead and the British 28 Days Later.  In Dawn of the Dead a band of survivors shoot their way to a fortified position (the mall).  While in 28 Days Later, survivors barely make it to a military checkpoint in which they are subject to their abuse because in the real world the people with guns make the rules.
American survival not only permeates the horror genre, but sci-fi and action too.

TV shows such as Falling Skies and Revolution show America in two different circumstances.  One has us in a resistance against an alien occupation, Falling Skies, and the other tells the story of an America without electricity, which causes a breakdown in government.  Both shows display America’s will for armed resistance.  Even shows such as Jericho, Red DawnThe Terminator franchise, and Last Resort all display our romantic notion of defiance and our love for the rugged individual. Even with overwhelming odds and when all hope is lost there will always be that American who will cowboy up and give your enemies a little John Wayne.  To quote another apocalyptic movie Reign of Fire, “Envy the country that has heroes, I say pity the country that needs them.”

Falling to Pieces

Well summer has set and the cool breeze of fall has transformed our lush green landscape to beautiful red and orange colors of October.  This is my favorite season of the year, where everyone becomes a fan of the horror genre.  Fortunately, I am happy to report that the horror genre is alive and well all year round.  Instead of just having your basic monster movie marathon for Halloween night, the genre has spread through all mediums for different audiences and different sub-genres.  All genres of tv and film expand and contract through the decades.  For those of us who are children of the 1980’s, we grew up during the tidal wave of “slasher film” movies.  Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre are all heavy weight franchises that hit their stride in the 80’s.  Even with bad reviews and very thin plot mechanisms rubber latex and fake blood ruled the silver screen making these one man teenager garbage disposals into the new “Universal Monsters” for the next generation.

By the late 80’s into the early 90’s the slasher film died a slow painful death making way for more psychological/supernatural thrillers such as The Silence of the Lambs, Hideaway, The Prophecy, Hellraiser, Candyman, Seven, Village of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire, Lord of Illusions, and The Sixth Sense.  These films all had rather large production budgets, solid plot structures, and veteran actors.  Yet, with all the money spent on the pseudo horror genre films of the 90’s, horror was on the decline.  Until Wes Craven’s Scream was released which jump started the horror into the new millennium.  Throughout the 2000’s horror came roaring back with major studio slasher remakes Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween.  Horror sub-genres were brought front and center breaking box office records and is bringing flocks of people to the theaters.  All genres of horror are represented.  You have gory films like the Saw franchise.  Supernatural thrillers such as Paranormal Activity, The Skeleton Key, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Lost Souls, and Dead Silence.  Monster based horror using every creature possible; vampires, werewolves, zombies, and ghouls all earning major praise and box office credits.

Today we are still surfing the high tide of the horror genre, not only the big screen but with the invention of streaming media online via Netflix finding older genre films that are now getting a rebirth of interest from old fans and a younger new audience watching them for the first time.  Horror has also taken its popularity and transformed it to television with shows like Dexter, True Blood, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, Grimm, and Being Human to name a few.  Horror genre has even made a home in reality TV as well, making searching for the real sightings of the supernatural.  Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State are shows that try to give the viewer proof of an afterlife.

The question now is where does horror go from here?  Will this over saturation of the entire genre lead to a major decline?  Will audiences get tired of the same old clichéd archetypes?  My answer is yes there will come a time when horror  rescinds its bloody hands.  Even now with movie companies simply just remaking every genre film they can think of just to make a dollar is clearly killing audiences off.  At the same time new ideas are being cultivated sparking interest in more independent films bringing something fresh and new to the table.  Just as the summer descends into fall and into the depths of winter, so will horror.  And just when you think it’s over the seeds for a new spring will sprout bringing life back into the genre.  So to all you horror fans out there enjoy your day in the sun for it will soon turn into fall.

That’s the Truth! Truth!

If you are not sure where I got the title for this post. Here is the commercial that inspired me.

“Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.” Sir Winston Churchill. I fondly remember in my documentary film class having the discussion of truth in documentary film. What surprised my counterculture classmates was how the Dr. started this conversation. Our professor was a child of the 1960’s and he discussed how people violently attacked his anti-war friends in college. He had my classmates in awe of all his flower power days and rightly so, those were turbulent times and to be thought of a revolutionary is a romantic notion. Well as the saying goes, “Discretion is a better part of valor,” so I sunk a little lower in my seat preparing for a long course on liberalism. Then after a screening of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me our professor described how Moore rearranged some actual events in his film to fit the narrative that he was striving for. This was not a true documentary and all those sad hipster faces in the crowd felt a little betrayed by our professor and possibly by their own ideology. They had their Matrix moment where they wake up to reality. To this day this I have nothing but respect for this professor.
This backstory will help us discuss the state of documentary film today and as a genre of film, are we getting the truth? When Michael Moore accepts the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, a film that did not meet the requirements to be considered by the Academy Awards, truth comes into question. One of the requirements this documentary did not meet was the specific number of actual theaters it was screened in. For the 75th Academy Awards I believe it was rule 12 for documentary film. This film should have never been considered for nomination, yet it wins the Oscar. Then in typical fashion with all of Mr. Moore’s films, once people who are in his films see the final product they tend to find a lawyer and file charges for libel. And with a little bit of cinematic fairy dust, Moore’s films easily change from being under the respected description of “documentary” to your basic “fictional” genre in order to save face and charges. Yet, when you read reviews about these films it is nothing but unbridled praise as being the greatest documentary work without anyone asking is what I am seeing true? To quote Thomas Jefferson, “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” Our responsibility as the audience is to question what we are seeing.
Being a history buff I love watching The History Channel and they would have great shows such as Conquest where they would discuss and perform different military conquests throughout history. It had great historical value and small taste of reality thrown in. Today when you turn on The History Channel you get shows called Monster Quest and Swamp People programming that has nothing to do with history or documentary. I’m not saying these other shows are bad. I love Swamp People personally but it does not belong on this network. Even South Park used this as parody for one of their shows.

In the last five years or so, documentary films that try and uphold the pillars of truth do exist. If you don’t mind some profanity and a little nudity Penn & Teller’s Bullsh*t brings some truths to light. They are honest about who they are. Two atheist libertarians who strive to bring truths to social issues of the day. Another film which was inspired by the lack of truth in documentary film is Why Michael Moore Hates America. The filmmaker applied Michael Moore’s ambush style of interviewing to the man himself, Michael Moore.

Unfortunately, documentary films similar to Michael Moore Hates America, Indoctrinate U, and EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, receive very little review or critical praise not because of their lack of truth, but because of the critics’ personal beliefs. Is this the protocol on how documentary films should be judged on?
I remember an independent documentary in college called Human Remains where the creator used stock footage of some of the most horrible dictators in history and used direct quotes as a voiceover for each one of the dictators. It was compelling and true. “Getting it from the horse’s mouth.” Always makes for the best cinema, which brings me to Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2016 the highest grossing political documentary to date. A film that has nothing bad poor reviews by most film critics and disdain throughout Hollywood.

Yet, the facts of this film hold up. Not only by using interviews and actual facts in the right order, but by using President Obama’s words verbatim. Uncut video of the president speaking is impossible to deny. Of course this film will never make it to the Academy Awards even though it will meet all of their requirements and they will not be praised by pop culture or mainstream media, but it will be a keystone holding together the genre of documentary film, Oh and the money too. “And that’s the Truth! Truth!