Friday, December 17, 2010

New Podcast: Best Films of the 2000s Decade

In this BONUS episode, directors Andrew James and Torben Bernhard help us list the very best films of the previous decade, listing them for each year from 2000 to 2009.

Listen here:

Don't worry, Patient Readers, we're going to be returning to our more consistent posts about unusual films.



Saturday, December 4, 2010

Join Us for Our LIVE Podcasts!

Hello Readers,

Starting Sunday, December 5, 2010, at 10 p.m. MST, we're going to broadcast LIVE via We'll be considering the "Mad Max" trilogy for this particular episode. We plan to broadcast the recording of each show —live — henceforth. Don't worry, we'll still post the recorded episode on and in iTunes a couple of weeks later.

But if you join us live, you can participate in the chat room and interact with us and our other listeners during the recording of the show. Please come and join us — this is how:


Friday, November 26, 2010

New Podcast Episode: AIRPORT

Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.

In Episode 6 we consider the “Airport” movies with special guest Eric Fichtner, First Officer for a regional airline and pilot of the ERJ 145. This episode also includes a concept discussion in which we list non-classic movies that have a holiday back-drop. And, as always, we each give mini reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.

Click here to listen: Episode 6

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ah 3D….The Little Engine that No One Wanted!

Greetings one and all! (Actually at this point that may be a redundant statement!) J

Jason Pyles – the host of this clever and original blog asked me if I might be interested in contributing my musings occasionally here from a slightly more technical side of the movie going experience. And like most of us who are in love with the sound of our own opinions – I thought: “A place to permanently plant my endless drivel? Woohoo!”

So before I begin my rants – a little about me so that you know I’m not completely talking out my arse. When I was 14 my mother and step father gave me my first Stereo Receiver. It was a Kenwood with an analog dial style tuner and pumped out a modest 60 watts per channel. It lasted me for 14 years! This included the first 2 years of my now 20 year old marriage! Thus began my love of audio equipment and would give rise to my love of video equipment as well.

I spent 10 years in TV News and continue to work in film as a part time actor. So over the last 30+ years I have become an “expert” in audio/video and Home Theater.

Let the whining begin!

You may have read on this blog a copy of a letter that I sent to the editor of Home Theater magazine of which I have been a subscriber since it began in the mid 90’s. I had noticed – not without some understanding – there recent gaga-like obsession with all things 3D. You can read my letter if you want to see why I hate 3D and fail to understand the attraction. Home Theater is a magazine that reviews audio and video equipment as well as movies on Blu Ray and DVD. So I get why they feel they have to cover this feverish attempt by Hollywood and the equipment manufacturers to shove a new/old technology down our throat even if nobody wants it!

I’m still wondering why Hollywood and the manufacturers feel that 3D is thing everyone wants? True some of the films released recently in 3D have done well but not a lot of them. More interesting is the fact that the one director who can claim to have actually pushed the technology forward – James Cameron (of Avatar fame) recently both praised and criticized Warner Brothers for their attempts at making the forthcoming (this Friday) Harry Potter movie a 3D affair.

The criticism came because WB didn’t shoot the film in 3D; they were attempting to make it a 3D film after the fact! A process which by all accounts ends up looking disastrous 9 times out of 10. Want to see an example? Check out the recent Clash of the Titans. It was a retroactive 3D attempt and although I only saw it in 2D – everyone I know that suffered through the 3D version said it was pathetic.

However, in the same interview Cameron went on to praise WB for their decision, at last, not to release the film at all in 3D because they realized that it was, in the end, just a gimmick.

Can someone please tell me who is really itching for this technology? And why they feel it adds to the story? At most, 3D is just the “neato” effect of objects coming out at you briefly, from the screen. What is the attraction? Are you really anxious to look like a dork in your own living room wearing those HUGE 3D glasses? Recently Costco has set up 2 or 3 demo stations in front of the 3D TV’s they’re selling where the 3D glasses are mounted on an adjustable stand that the viewer can raise or lower depending on their height to check out the 3D movie that is playing.

Sometimes I will stand there for several minutes, watching people walk by and check out the setup. Some will stop and look through the glasses for a bit while others just watch the whole station with a kind of bewildered awe of “would I really want that in my living room?” And even those that watch the film for a couple of minutes through the glasses never seem to get excited about it. When they’re done they just walk away with a kind of shrug saying “eh”.

Will this newest “craze” (if you believe Hollywood) take off to the levels that DVD and Hi Def movies did when they first came out? Personally, I doubt it. But you never know – I thought the “musical” was dead and buried but Zac Efron and his pals shut me up on that one. J

But if I’m right – I hope the manufacturers are ready to have one hell of a Black Friday type sale to flush out all of that shiny new 3D equipment that no one wants – after movie goers realize that adding a 3rd dimension visually can’t make up for story that has zero dimensions on the script.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"World's Greatest Dad" as reveiwed by Andy

Some "artsy" movies are fun to watch. Others are brilliant, but totally suck the life out of you. "World's Greatest Dad" is the latter. I'm not sure what terrible childhood Bobcat Goldthwait (writer/director) had to have given the inspiration for this film, but it must have been dark...

Here's the jist of the film: Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a single father with a 15 year old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Kyle is a terrible kid. He hates everyone and everything, and calling him a pervert is such an understatement that it perverts the word "pervert", if that even makes any sense. Lance tries to balance teaching school, where his talents as a writer go largely unappreciated and unknown, and trying to raise a well-adjusted son. He seems to fail at both, although he does have a very nice girlfriend. Then Kyle dies accidentally in a very foul way. In an attempt to save his son (and probably himself) further embarrassment and scorn, he fakes Kyle's death as a suicide. He writes a suicide note and even stages the body to look like a suicide. Initially everyone expresses sorrow for Lance, but then a student gets a copy of the suicide note from the police and publishes it in the school newspaper.

What then comes of this is instant popularity to both Lance and Kyle. Kyle becomes an instant celebrity where classmates who once hated Kyle now genuinely look to him as an example of "honesty," and Kyle's tragic story then inspires classmates and others to live better lives. Lance even uses Kyle's undeserved popularity to write a journal (attributing authorship to Kyle), and his life seems to finally take off positively. Publishers want to make a book deal, the school wants to rename the library in honor of Kyle, Lance's classes fill up, and his girlfriend becomes more committed to their relationship. Everything was going fine, but Lance's cognitive dissonance prevents him from continuing the lie, and he finally comes clean in a very dramatic way.

Great film, but damn what a sad story. Humor, love, and any other positive feelings are totally overshadowed by discomfort, awkwardness, deceit, and disturbing behavior. This is certainly not a good date movie, and all but a very few will hate this film. Shockingly, Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait are world class comedians, and you can see that they tried to be funny in this movie, and in other contexts they would have been successful, but for me the film is far too real and serious to take even the intentionally funny parts as humorous.

But very well done. Williams was fabulous, as was Sabara, who I didn't recognize (but starred in several well-known children's films). Just plan on doing something happy after you watch it. And remember that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.

thoughts by Andy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Introducing Karl's Corner

Well, I'm not sure that he's actually going to call his posts "Karl's Corner," but I'm here to ring out the news that Andy and I would like to introduce a new, regular writer posting on this site.

Our Considering the Sequels podcast co-host, Karl Huddleston, is going to be contributing a wide variety of home entertainment, Blu-ray, etc. — basically techy-related articles that I'm confident many of our readers will enjoy and find useful.

Karl has been published in legit periodicals like Home Theater Magazine, and a sample of one of his articles can be found here.

In short, from time to time, amid the discussions of unusual films that Andy and I post, you'll also be seeing interesting and educational articles written by Karl.

And if you'd like to listen to all three of us discuss various aspects of the cinema, listen to our podcasts at


Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Battle Royale" comments by Andy

The genesis of "Battle Royale" is quite fascinating. Wiki reports that the director, Kinji Fukasaku, was part of a class of kids that were enlisted in WWII to make munitions. Apparently the class was caught in artillery fire and had to hide under dead classmates. They then had to dispose of their fallen friends. This, combined with a new-found knowledge that their government lied about the reasons for WWII, caused a severe mistrust of adults, and inspired the film.

The essence of the film is that, at the turn of the century, Japan's economy collapses and employment skyrockets. Children become disillusioned with adults and start openly rebelling against teachers, police, parents, etc. The Government then creates and passes a law, commonly known as "BR." What the act provides for is that classes of 8th or 9th graders (I can't remember...) are taken to an island to fight to the death. And that's what happens in our film. It's "Lord of the Flies" meets "The Most Dangerous Game," meets "Pokemon."

A class boards a bus for a field trip, and after being drugged unconscious, arrives at an island. They realize that around their necks are metal collars with some sort of electronic device. They are greeted by a small group of armed infantry, and, to their unfortunate surprise, their teacher from the previous year. After reminding the class of how terrible they were to him, the teacher explains the situation. The kids are stuck on an island for the next three days. Only one kids will leave the island at the end of the contest, provided only that all the other kids are dead. If more than one kid is alive at the close of the contest, the collars will explode and kill all the kids. Any misdeed, tampering, etc., will cause the collar to explode. Each kid is issued a satchel with some provisions and a "weapon." I say "weapon" because the "weapon" each kid is issued is different. Some are issued a firearm, another a bow and arrow, the next a knife, and others were issued binoculars, and one kid got a gps unit.

Let the killing begin. There is a tender love story contained within the violence, but most of it is overshadowed with death and dismemberment. And it is very bloody. It's a slasher film at it's core, and I think it does an effective job at scaring the bejebbies out of you and providing realistic, yet stylized violence. Quentin Tarantino likes the film, to give you an idea. Very well done, very violent, very "not suitable for children."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bonus Podcast With Directors of Cleanflix

Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.

But this BONUS episode varies from our usual format and gives us the opportunity to discuss the new documentary, “Cleanflix,” with its directors, Andrew James and Josh Ligairi.

Your hosts are Andy Howell, Karl Huddleston and Jason Pyles. Download this episode to find out how you can win a free copy of Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2009.

Listen to the podcast here:

Read my written movie review of "Cleanflix" here:

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Podcast Episode Posted: Wall Street

Featuring special guest Rob Booker, currency trading money manager, registered commodities trading adviser

Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.

In Episode 5 we consider the “Wall Street” movies. This episode also includes a concept discussion in which we talk about guilty pleasure movies and list some of our favorites. And, as always, we each give mini reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.

To listen, go here:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adjective + “Porn” Suffix Is a Misnomer, Usually

by Jason Pyles

In Episode 4 of the Considering the Sequels podcast, we discussed modern film criticism with film critic Missy Thompson. At about the 25-minute mark, we talked about how innovative trailblazing is still possible in such an art as young as film criticism. We noted, as an example, the designation of the term “mumblecore” to describe the American independent film movement characterized by low-budget production values, generously improvisational scripts, naturalistic acting, lighting, etc. That term isn’t overly self-evident, but it does the job.

However, in our zeal to describe the cinema, we film writers sometimes settle upon coined terms that are incorrect, such as adding the pseudo-suffix “porn” to an adjective to describe a genre or sub-genre. As far as I know, this began with the phrase “torture porn,” which is most commonly meant to describe a film that’s replete with graphic torture scenes. Usually the usage of “torture porn” has nothing to do with explicit depictions of sexual behavior or organs. In this sense, the pseudo-suffix “porn” is intended to convey a gratuitous, graphic abundance of whatever adjective precedes it.

Another example I’ve heard is “disaster porn.” I’ve heard this used more than once to describe Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” for instance.

But as I’ve suggested above, there’s a problem. This practice is technically incorrect and should therefore be scrubbed from usage. It is incorrect because the official definition of the word “pornography” has a sexual affiliation. Here is the definition my iMac, desktop dictionary gives for pornography:

“Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

Ergo, “porn” is not a suitable synonym to be substituted for the phrase “gratuitous, graphic abundance.” No, the words “porn” or “pornography” are rooted in sexually explicit material.

Now, unfortunately, there are instances (so I’ve heard) where “torture porn” is exactly the correct phrase because it describes explicit sexual depictions — in conjunction with — physical torture. In this case, the phrase is acceptable, even though its manifestation isn’t.

So, in the spirit of advancing film criticism, what do I suggest to replace this imprecise phrase? I don’t know ... but what’s wrong with “torture flick” or “disaster flick”? It has always worked fine for “porno flick” or “chick flick."

Oct. 6 Addendum: It has been brought to my attention by The /Filmcast, as I feared it might, that there are some dictionaries that define pornography in the sense that I'm complaining about above (though, my up-to-date dictionaries do not), which would suggest a fatal blow to my argument. However, I still stand by my assertion that this usage is problematic, and therefore unusable, purely for its ambiguity: Pornography is universally understood to be sexual in nature. So, while I guess I can concede that there are flimsy grounds for this sort of usage, my personal, future film writing will not contain this phrase. Note: My exception found here was purposely intended as a segue to this article.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jason's Movie Reviews

Hi Friends,

My writing for this site is unstructured, casual discussion (contrasted with Andy's writing, which is more polished). I will continue posting my thoughts on unusual films here.

But I have resumed my formal movie review writing at this site:

Check out my new review on Michael Dougherty's "Trick `r Treat."


Friday, October 1, 2010

Listen to Episode 4 of our Sequels Podcast

In Episode 4 we consider the “Alien” franchise. This episode also includes a concept discussion in which we talk about the role and value of modern film criticism. And, as always, we each give mini reviews of recent film releases and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.

Click here: Episode 4

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thoughts on Top Secret! by Andy

"Wow. They'd have enough salt to last forever!"


"You must go now quickly. If they find out that you've seen this your life will be worth less than a truck-load of dead rats at a tampon factory."

These, and many other great quotes are yours for small price of enduring a ridiculous spoof film. Here are a few of the notably entertaining parts for me:

East Germany.
A stamp that prints: "Find him and kill him."

The catholic priest listing off gibberish (including pig-latin, and other ridiculous lawyerly latin phrases) prior to his own execution.

Making out in the park to avoid suspicion by the police.

People peeing on the statue of a pigeon.

An entire scene shot in reverse.

Nigel, "the torch."

Du Quois, Chevalier, Montage, De taunt, Avant gard, Deja Vu, Croissant, Souffle, Escargot, Chocolate Mousse, Latrine - french "resistance fighters" in East Germany.

Der Pizza Haus.

An homage to The Count of Monte Cristo.

"Let me know if his condition changes. He's dead."

"How do we know that he's not Mel Tormei?"

Cow in army boots.

"I was exposed to the world's great thinkers: Karl Marx, Lennin, Elron Hubbard, Freddie Laker."

Exploding Ford Pinto.

"The Great Escape" homage.

Underwater bar-brawl scene.

" long as an actor can be elected president, we must continue the struggle."

So what makes a spoof movie great? It's the etherial "funny" answer. If it makes us laugh, it's a good spoof. I'm not sure why some things are funny and some are not, and I'm guessing producers of such movies struggle with that question throughout.

There's not much more to say about "Top Secret." I enjoyed it, and I wouldn't say it was the funniest film I've ever seen, but maybe one of the best spoofs ever made. Frankly, the best parts for me were some of the obscure '80s references.

By the way, here are some spoof movies that I think are funny:

"Robin Hood: Men in Tights"
"Blazing Saddles"
"Young Frankenstein"
"This is Spinal Tap"
"The Naked Gun"

and my personal favorite:
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"The Good, The Bad, The Weird"

Director Ji-woon Kim would like us to refer to "The Good, The Bad, The Weird" as a "kimchee western." I'll make a deal - Mr. Kim, you keep pumping out awesome westerns and I'll call them whatever you want.

This film is probably one that most people won't see. It's a Korean film, set in 1930 Manchuria China, and deals quite a bit with then-current Asian politics. It's not heavy-handed, and it's easy to follow, but I think most Americans are not interested in seeing films with subtitles, even if it's a great film (we've reviewed several now for this site - "The Son," "Let the Right One In," "Delicatessen," to name a few). Anyway, it's too bad, because this is a great film for those who like westerns and light-hearted gun violence.

The plot is relatively simple, and is an homage to "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly." Someone sells a treasure map and two theives vye for map, in this case, "The Bad" and "The Weird." "The Good" is a bounty hunter after both men. And hilarity and violence ensue. It's not complicated, just good fun. It's set in typical American western genre (from the plot, costumes (with cowboy hats), horses, trains, motorcycles, etc.), but is supposed to be in Manchuria China. I don't know where, exactly, the filming occurred, but it certainly resembled some of the desolate desert scenes found in our hemisphere.

One of the many cool things about the film is that, as far as I can tell, the stars do their own stunts. On the bluray extras, there is a behind the scenes featurette that shows the filming of several of the actions scenes. Woo-sung jung ("The Good") rides a horse well enough to cock the 30-30 lever action rifle like a true western cowboy. And, apparently he broke his arm during the filming. Reckless abandon...?

Anyway, it a pretty good violent fun, and even funny in the translation.

"Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party," comments by Andy

"Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party" might be one of those films that really separates film junkies and Hollywood know-it-alls from those who are only pretending to be. I'm sorry to say that I fit squarely in the latter group. I'm embarrassed to say that until I saw this film, I did not know the name of one of Hollywood's most prolific actors, Stephen Tobolowsky. I certainly knew who he was, but he never rose to the level of someone whose name I should know. I know it now though.

Jason has a fine description of the film - watching Mr. Tobolowsky tell stories about himself. To me, the intriguing aspect to me is how the film came about. From what the director tells us, he cooked this film up after attending one of Mr. Tobolowsky's many parties. Apparently Mr. Tobolowsky is most noted among his friends for spinning yarn (story-telling, for those not in the know). We are told, and I believe it, that his parties always eventuate in everyone listening to him tell stories. The director was so intrigued and impressed that he decided to make a film of Tobolowsky telling his stories.

The film is probably a collection of his favorite stories. Interestingly enough, he's not a name dropper. He's worked with almost every A-list actor, yet his stories have nothing to do with any of them, nor does he generally even mention working with them. Classy, I think. More interestingly was who attends his parties. Sounds like some very well-known people attend his shindigs. For the film, there were at least two recognizable figures - Amy Adams (who had no speaking role whatsoever), and Mena Suvari (who only had a small comment to add).

Anyway, it's a terrific film if you are looking for interesting stories from one of the best story tellers around. I wish I could go to one of his parties.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Considering the Cinema Welcomes a New Writer

On July 15, 2008, Jason Pyles and Andy Howell began this Considering the Cinema discussion blog, where we watch and talk about unusual films. Neither this site nor its writers have any pretense of professionalism or profundity. This blog is simply friends talking about movies.

For the first couple of months, we had several exciting contributors — most of them filmmakers — but their hectic schedules pulled them in various directions, away from us. Only Andy and Jason have soldiered on, basically by themselves, to keep the discussion going.

In June 2010 this site spawned Considering the Sequels, a monthly podcast hosted by Jason, Andy and actor Karl Huddleston. If you like this site, you'll love our podcast. Please give us a listen.

And now, September 2010, marks another great milestone when we welcome the writing genius of our friend, Rachel Brown, an intelligent and insightful young woman whose occasional contributions to this site will add great value. We'll let her forthcoming submissions speak for themselves. It will be wonderful to add a female perspective to all this "boy talk."

So, we extend a warm welcome to Rachel Brown, and we thank our small but faithful readership for sticking with us.

His Gift That Keeps on Giving

by Jason Pyles

Since 1976, Actor Stephen Tobolowsky has been in about 200 films and television shows. His work is prolific and exceptional. You might not recognize his name, but you definitely know his face. Perhaps his best known role is “Ned Ryerson,” the annoying guy who afflicts Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” (1993).

My personal favorite Stephen Tobolowsky performances are those he gives during his storytelling podcast, The Tobolowsky Files, hosted by David Chen and / If you haven’t heard any of those episodes yet, it is a must. While his acting talent is notable, Tobolowsky’s remarkable stories — real-life stories — are even better. (They are so remarkable, in fact, it’s difficult not to be suspicious of some embellishment here and there. But I am told they are completely true.)

The Tobolowsky Files are just an extension of the magic captured in “Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party” (2005), an usual documentary whose attention is fixed on a guy telling his life’s tales while preparing for his birthday party and his subsequent entertainment at said party. I realize that must sound boring, but it’s almost edge-of-your-seat engaging. And to me it is requisite viewing.

As a true, professional storyteller, Tobolowsky relays his narratives in a specific way. To describe any of the 17-odd tales he tells during the film would be to spoil them, so I won’t even attempt it.

I’ve thought about this film and the way it serves as a video diary, of sorts. Indeed, since these stories about his life are told on his birthday, it’s a fitting, autobiographical celebration of the man.

It seems odd to shoot a documentary where its subject stares at the camera and intentionally reveals his past, unfolding his life before the filmmaker and his audience. But when you consider that most people love the cinema precisely because of its narrative construction and explorations about the human experience, this documentary seems a perfectly natural addition to filmdom. It makes me thankful for May 30, 1951, when the world was given a gift. Happy belated birthday, Stephen, and thanks for inviting all of us to your party.

Note: The deleted scenes on the DVD are essentially a second film shot under the same circumstances. I guess they had three hours of storytelling footage, and they basically had to cut it in half. If you watch the deleted stories, they’re just as good as the film itself.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hear Us Discuss the "Jaws" Franchise

Ep. 3 - Jaws - August 2010

Featuring special guest Luke Hickman, film critic for The Reel and host of the Talking Pictures Podcast

Considering the Sequels is a monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises.

In Episode 3 we consider the “Jaws” movies. This episode also includes a concept discussion in which we talk about creative sequel titling. And, as always, we each give mini reviews of recent film releases — including a mandatory “Inception” discussion — and whatever else we’ve been watching lately.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New CTS Podcast Host Comments on 3-D

Editor's Note: August's forthcoming episode of the Considering the Sequels podcast will reveal a new surprise host: actor Karl Huddleston. The following post found below is Karl's response to seeing his favorite magazine "going gaga" over 3-D. This is Karl's letter to the magazine's editor:

Dear Home Theater Magazine Editor,

I can't keep my pie-hole shut any longer on this whole 3-D fad. I found three separate online surveys that say the number of Americans that currently wear some type of eyeglasses is around 76 percent. I fall into that percentage (more on that in a moment). The last 3-D movie I went to was Scrooge ["A Christmas Carol"] last Christmas. And it was by accident — a friend bought the tickets.

I can't describe how much the picture sucked. Contrast and Brightness were pathetic, and the picture was so dark — add to that having to wear a pair of 3-D glasses on top of (in front of?) my regular glasses — it gave me a nice throbbing headache at the end. And this was in a new multiplex that had all DLP projectors. By the time I left I was Scrooge!

It seems to me that Hollywood is trying to shove down the public's throat, something that is not ready for prime time, whether we want it or not! I work in the film and TV industries and have many friends also that are in it ... Not a single one of them goes to 3-D movies; they all hate them for the same reasons I've described above.

I realize that the equipment manufacturers and magazines like yours feel compelled to chase the latest buzz item, but I really can't believe that many people are loving this. And despite what the pinhead at said about Roger Ebert living in 1999, Ebert nailed it right on the head when he basically said that if you know anything about the true purpose of what a motion picture is supposed to do, adding a third dimension is nothing more than pure gimmickry. It doesn't make a character more compelling, a story more moving or a picture more "watchable."

Until 3-D has as good a picture quality as a Blu-ray, like "Star Trek," without having to wear glasses (which the experts say is about five years out), I think it's going to rank up there with DIVX, the horrible "watch and toss" rental plan for DVDs, which incidentally, I think also came out in 1999.

I have never, in my life, seen a bigger case of "The Emperor Has No Clothes"! In fact, he's butt-naked — and in 3-D!


Karl Huddleston

Provo, Utah

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Danny the Drama

by Jason Pyles

Sure. Viewer expectations can make or break a movie.

Case in point: Ang Lee’s “Hulk” (2003). If we all weren’t expecting to see an action-packed superhero movie, it would have been fine; instead, it was an underrated, brooding character conflict whose subject also happened to transform into a bouncy green cartoon.

Minor spoiler follow for “Unleashed.”

So, in his post below, where Andy reasonably expected the Jet Li vehicle “Unleashed” (aka “Danny the Dog”) to be a martial arts film, I can see why he would be disgruntled by the lengthy, sentimental second act.

Indeed, this film is actually a drama masquerading as a martial arts action flick. The first act delivers Jet Li doing what he does best, as does the third act, to some extent. But the second act shifts from martial arts into drama, and it’s a cold shower in terms of pacing.

So I guess that’s problematic. I like the film, but since we’re on the subject of the film’s imperfections, I’ll list my criticisms first:

My biggest complaint is the impossibly inconsistent character of Danny. Jet Li’s dramatic performance is convincing enough, but the actual character himself could not exist as he is portrayed. I have lengthy arguments for this, but I’ll try to briefly describe a couple of instances below:

For example, his vocabulary and communication skills — not to mention his comprehension skills — vary drastically depending on what the plot requires.

And the collar prop does not function or affect Danny the same way during the course of the movie, either. (It was intended that Danny would change, but his behaviors associated with the collar vary in such a way that is inconsistent with the expected arc.)

Uncle Bart can touch the collar anytime without Danny flinching, but no one else can. Before Uncle Bart can remove the collar, at one point, Bart’s enemies get the upper hand and Danny seems to be oblivious to his caretaker’s pleas for help. Yet others can speak to him while he’s wearing the collar, and he understands them. Oh, and later we learn that Danny is completely aware of the brawl in the grocery store.

This really is a big deal because Danny’s collar is the linch pin of this film’s premise.

So, while this film is a great idea — as an action movie or a drama — its main character is poorly conceived and the premise is broken.

Speaking to Andy’s critique of the martial arts sequences, I see his point there, too. While some interactions really seem brutal — as in, the actors actually hit one another — most of the time, it looks like a dress rehearsal. Andy calls it “play fighting.”

But overall, I still enjoyed the film — perhaps because Andy primed my expectations. I was prepared and therefore more willing to slow down for the second act of the movie. And though I vowed to try to defend this film against Andy’s critique below, I’m having trouble articulating the undeserved affection I feel toward it. But I think it’s worth the time, and it’s far more tolerable than “The Forbidden Kingdom.”