The Best Movie Critic + review

The Couchman Cometh

Hi, my name's Justin Couch. For some reason Ben decided to give me a regular slot to write about whatever I want within reason that's movie related. The joke's on him. So join me each week for my loosely structured, meandering musings.

If you have an HD TV and a Blu-Ray player, you need to go buy the recently released African Queen restoration. It is truly amazing. Jack Cardiff’s amazing Technicolor cinematography has never looked better. If you’re concerned that this movie may be too serious or heavy, you’re wrong. In spite of its prestige and Oscars and crap, it’s just a fun adventure movie about a crusty ne’er do-well and a puritanical old maid ripe for corruption going down a scary-ass river to blow up a bigger boat. Trust me. I commandeered my Dad’s new 55” LCD for an afternoon. Wow. The day before that, I watched the regular DVD on my tiny-ass TV and couldn’t stop myself from picking it up on Blu the next day. The making of feature on the disc is also quite good.

Teen Witch at the Watching Hour last week was way too much fun. It was awesome seeing my wife, Miranda (who wrote the preview for TMA), introduce the movie. Someday I wish I could write as well as she can. During the scene where the Teen Witch absconds with Brad Powers to (as our friend Eric described it) his “rape-shack” I was struck by how much a movie’s score can affect a scene. In the movie, some soft jazz with a Kenny G sax played as Brad played scary hide-and-go-seek. I’d love to re-cut that scene with music from Johnny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood.

Also, I’d like to give a big congratulations to Keith Garcia for his well-deserved Best of Westword awards for programming.

Kick-Ass comes out in America on April 16th, it’s with cautious optimism that I wait for it. Truth is I’m as much a comic book guy as a movie guy. And the Kick-Ass comic holds a weird place in my history in that regard. I was part of the contingent of 20-somethings nowadays that was totally infatuated with Marvel comics in the bad old days of the 1990’s. The 90’s are widely regarded as a terrible time for mainstream comics; without getting too far into it, the main problems were: rampant speculation, holo-foil variant covers, cross-overs, the “Image” style, over-emphasis on art as opposed to writing. The worst parts of this era can actually be encapsulated by looking at Superman:

1. His publicity grabbing and ridiculous “death.”

2. His return with a mullet.

3. The consequential decision to give him stupid electric powers and turn him blue.

I didn’t read any mainstream comics for about 10 years. When I was pulled back into superhero comics 3 years ago by a friend giving me a collection of rad Silver Surfer comics as a wedding present, one of the first comics I bought was Kick-Ass.

As you probably know, the premise of Kick-Ass is that a kid decides to become a superhero but since this ain’t the movies, he mostly just gets the shit kicked out of him a bunch of times. It’s a great premise.

I got the first few issues of Kick-Ass at the store and then due to publication delays, I lost interest. I did, however, pick up the collected edition that came out a couple of months ago. I thought the comic was OK. 3/5. It had moments, but I didn’t really care at all about the main character, Dave, and I thought the writing was uniformly annoying. I couldn’t help but think of Dave as being a younger version of the dude from Wanted, also written by Mark Millar. I never read Wanted, but I didn’t care for the movie.

I have more hope for Kick-Ass, mostly because Ben has seen it and says that it’s very good. But I can also see Kick-Ass working better as a movie, and in fact being one of those rare movies like Silence of the Lambs, Clockwork Orange, or The Maltese Falcon that basically make the source material irrelevant because it was adapted so well. Also, the comic is more of a big dumb action movie than most big dumb action movies are. We shall see.

I tend to think that comic adaptations work better when they are not completely faithful. Ghostworld was one of my favorite movies of the last decade, and though that had the advantage of being written by the author/illustrator of the comic, Dan Clowes, it did more to keep with the spirit of the comic than to just put it on screen. Case and point, last year’s abominable Watchmen was incredibly true to the book’s plot points and visual look. However, it completely missed the boat with regard to the things that made the comic work, like subtlety. Comics are largely an imaginative medium. When you read a comic, the left and right sides of your brain are firing like crazy trying to put together visual and aural data while also figuring out what happens between panels. Movies for the most part are less involved. Film makers need to realize this when making a straight adaptation. Comics adaptations are going through the same growing pains that plays went through when being adapted back in the early days of film. I just hope that more people can figure this out before the public is completely burnt out on the idea of comics movies.

Speaking of, I watched the new DC Direct To Video PG-13 offering this week, Justice League: Crisis on 2 Earths. It was decent, much better than Superman/Batman: Public Enemies or Wonder Woman, but not nearly as good as Green Lantern: First Flight or Justice League: The New Frontier. The movie felt more like a really long episode of Batman the Animated Series or its sister Superman title. I was hoping that this was a set-up for an animated Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that is probably wishful thinking. The problem with using the good Justice League vs. the evil alternate earth Justice League is that it must reconcile itself with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s incomparable Justice League: Earth-2 comic, which was the best telling of this story that there will ever be for its inventive meta-textual examination. JL: Crisis on 2 Earths works well as a brainless baby sitter movie though.

Street Fighter with JCVD holds up surprisingly well. I watched this with my buddy Crawford at the tail end of an ill-advised video game-to-movie adaptation festival. I was concerned that this wouldn’t be as ridiculously fun when not viewed after Mortal Kombat 2: Annihilation and Super Mario Bros: The Movie. Surprise, it is. Plus 1990’s Kylie Minogue! It may be time for a second round of that fest considering the new gems like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Along those same lines, I’ll leave you with the Youtube for the amazing Street Fighter homage from Jackie Chan’s supremely weird City Hunter.

-Justin

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The Couchman Cometh + review