Friday, January 13, 2012

They Made An R-Rated Batman Movie In 1995

It was called VIRTUOSITY.


Haha, 1995, when Kelly Lynch got a higher credit than Russell Crowe. But bear with me here! Now, the Batman analogue in Denzel is pretty flimsy – it doesn’t hold up past him being a tortured, dark (not in that way!), brooding hero with a tragedy who has a personal grudge against the villain and is hunted by the authorities. Russell Crowe as SID 6.7, however, is so Joker it hurts. I mean, at one point the dude is strutting around in a purple suit, for Jerry Robinson’s sake!

SID 6.7 is a virtual training program for police officers of the future, whose “mental algorithms” are comprised of an amalgam of those of 183 serial killers. Denzel is PARKER BARNES (a comic book tough guy name if there ever was one), ex-cop and current convict. He is tormented because he has a hobo beard and Hermes Conrad style dreadlocks. Also, a biotic arm. So basically, our hero is:


Which of course equates to Batman in any sane mind.

Barnes is the only guy who can go ten rounds with SID (an acronym never explained, but I guess it sounds inSIDious or something). But since his fellow convict got brain-fried in the test run, the mayor (played by Louise Fletcher, Nurse Ratched herself) wants to shut this damn program down to the great dismay of the movie’s Asshole CEO (William Fichtner) and SID creator Darryl (played by a guy called Stephen Spinella whom I don’t really know).

In the aftermath of what essentially boils down to a session of Kinect turning into the Ark of the Covenant, Barnes is let back into genpop at the prison. Instead of guards escorting him to his cell, he has to walk there by himself! The future prison is a weird palace of kabuki, where every inmate is a shadow behind an opaque white surface. They still manage to taunt him and throw stuff at him for being a former cop though, somehow! Parker is confronted by a big blonde guy with a “white power” tattoo who wants to kick his ass. He even gives a Hitler salute with his left arm. That’s either a Future Hitler Salute, or this guy is so right wing he turns all the way around to left wing. The scene comes outta nowhere and is generally just there to add a fight scene and also show the audience how cool Barnes’ robot arm is.

Meanwhile, SID is taunting Darryl about how he should stop acting like such a fucking pussy and transplant his programming into some physical vessel before funding gets cut. Why Darryl wants this, I have no idea. The movie never really gives him anything to do but stare wide-eyed at giant computer screens in a vaguely lecherous fashion. Darryl tricks robotics guy Clyde (Kevin O’Connor, aka BENI from THE MUMMY!) into thinking they’re gonna turn SHEILA 3.2 into a real sex lady for the IT guys to sex with. But little does poor Clyde know that Darryl has switched SHEILA and SID’s crystal cubes*!

After a while, SID’s brainwaves are done downloading into the goop o’ nannerbots Clyde set aside for him, and he crawls out of a weird xenomorph-like egg, causing Darryl and Clyde to turn away from their game of chess and gaze in awe at naked Russell Crowe. Seriously, the way it’s shot makes it look like the two geeks had just not been paying any attention whatsoever to the formation of (presumably) the world’s first nanorobot. They’re like “OH SHIT look at that!” when they see the egg.

(video = NSFW due to Crowebutt)


SID goes on a rampage of murder, mayhem and buffoonery perfectly exemplified when he holds a dance club (such a NINETIES dance club, too) hostage, and starts recording the patrons’ screams for his SYMPHONY OF TERROR, conducting their output like some sort of deranged maestro. How Joker can you get!

Since Parker is the only guy who could do the training program, he’s reinstated and the chase is on. Kelly Lynch is the single mom criminal psychologist who is to accompany him and give the movie a female presence, but they don’t kiss or anything, because, you know…

Parker being let out of jail is actually the first time we get to see the outside world of this particular future. Before that it had always been labs and hangars and a weird prison, but now we get our first glimpse of the crazy future director Brett Leonard and his team have cooked up for us! And it is…

A bunch of hobos loitering around the prison entrance! You know, a couple push around a shopping cart, a few around a barrel. I guess it’s meant to be DYSTOPIAN but after that wide shot? It’s seriously just L.A. all movie.

Barnes finds out that one of SID’s personalities** is one “Matthew Grimes”, the guy who killed his wife and daughter. He emphatically communicates to his DUMB SUPERIORS (William Forsythe being the one chief with a lick o’sense) that

“You don’t understand! Matthew Grimes was a POLITICAL TURRIST! He would strike at any public display of democracy, as long as there were lots of people! A big audience!”

Well jeez, Parker, that literally sounds like the least-politically motivated terrorist ever maybe? So, it follows logically that SID goes to fuck up a UFC match (on account of his being so political and all) with lots of big screens so he can watch himself lethally troll the audience. He throws a guy super far, and jumps down a balcony a hundred feet and lands flat on his back with a wide grin. SID occasionally does that, but not too often. This movie is quite budget conscious.

Hey, look, I’m not trying to convince anyone to see it here, but Crowe really does turn in a rather hilarious/awesome Joker performance. So if that is your cuppa, by all means go ahead.

If not, let me leave you with this:


*Crystal cubes are the USB sticks of the future. They are much more powerful and are able to carry complex artificial intelligences in their vast memory banks of 50TB -- which is actually a pretty respectable number for a 1995 movie! They can only be transported with golden wands.

**Among the KILLAS used for SID’s programming: Hitler, “Jack the Ripper” (whose identity I guess we figured out by then?), John Wayne Gacy. CGI Gacy is actually programmed into SID’s mind with clown make-up and all. And Hitler shoots little swastikas into SID’s brain.

(This blog post was inspired by the hilarious and informative What's A Nice Actor Like You Doing In A Movie Like This? by the inimitable Dan Whitehead.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Turtleneck & Chain: Mad Men, v.4

Here’s a pretty good visual representation of the fourth season of Mad Men:


I had never liked Don Draper as much as I did at the new offices of Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce. Maybe it had to do with his not having to keep up two façades anymore, what with the nuclear Draper family unit having disintegrated. Maybe it had to do with his sudden loss of mojo, resulting in steady frequenting of hookers.

This containment of Hurricane Don and its reduction to fart-in-the-bathtub Don lessened the negative impact he had on those around him. For instance, doing the occasional nice thing for the kids and being lauded for it while his wife has to take care of them 24/7 is now a bit more justified, as he can only see them on certain dates and times. Casual sex with hookers is okay since they don’t really expect anything but reimbursement (and are probably happy to have a client that looks like Jon Hamm for the evening). Of course, Don being Don he manages to hurt at least two women (Fay and Alison) by season’s end, and has to cancel a few visitations due to work.

But hey! He bonds with Peggy in one of the sweetest subplots of the entire series so far (see above screenshot), he takes Lane out to go see some classic kaiju and loses the one woman that knew his entire story – and accepted him as a person – to bone cancer he didn’t even know of.

Yes, 1965 puts Don Draper through the wringer. And the firm as well! After Lucky Strike pulls out, SCDP comes in serious financial dire straits. New accounts are needed, and fast! Unfortunately, no company wants to hitch their wagon to a sinking ship! So Don does a very Don thing and takes a full page ad out in the New Yorker, proudly, opportunistically, desperately proclaiming that SCDP won’t be taking tobacco accounts. Surely this is the superhero move that gets ‘em out of their slump!

Actually it just gets ‘em a non-paying American Cancer Association gig, and Peggy and Ken manage to reel in a small-time stockings manufacturer through good ole gumption ‘n grit. People need to be laid off still. Joan gets a promotion, but no raise to go with it. It’s time to tighten dat belt a few notches!

On a personal level, however, this season, Don came out on top. The season-ending proposal to his heretofore rather peripheral secretary Megan was an unexpected turn to a lot of people, I imagine. Pondering this, I decided it made sense in the end. Here’s a woman that sees him at his absolute lowest point both professionally and personally and still admires and respects him for what little good he occasionally manages to squeeze out (case in point, an example that nearly brought me to tears: Don fronting the $50,000 for Pete when the partners needed to pony up for a new loan). The weirdly angelic shot of Megan picking up freaked-out-and-tripped Sally in an SCDP hallway must have been some sort of precursor to this whose significance I did not yet understand at the time.

Wanna give a shout-out to a seemingly little loved character on the show, the ever-mature and occasionally surprisingly badass Henry Francis!

Betty: “I hate [Don].”

Henry: “Hate’s a strong word, Betty. I hate nazis. My ex-wife bothers me, I don’t like it when she shows up, but I don’t hate her.”

Betty: “You’re horrible.”

Henry: “I’m an adult.”

Coupled with his fairly constant defending of Sally, Henry is (to me, at least) an unsung hero of this crazy show.

I’m hoping for the next season(s?) to focus on the youth culture that has been steadily developing in Peggy’s social circles, and the reactions of people such as Roger Sterling (an increasingly “outdated” feeling guy!) to Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the like. Get Quarterback Glenn and Flower Power Sally to Woodstock! I want Pete’s reaction to PLANET OF THE APES! More plaid ‘n pastel on the work floor!

God, this show’s turned me into a fanboy.

Here’s Chekov’s music video.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Mad Men, v.3

The myth of America: that simple, honest men born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right.

Under harsh light it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.

-- some guy in Preacher who is later suggested he hang himself for actually believing it


I’ll admit it. I was wrong. I was wrong for trying to make out whether or not Don Draper was an asshole or a cool guy. YOU AIN’T SEEN HALF OF IT, indeed!

The third season of Mad Men is all about growing up. About kids who come to realize that their parents are fallible. On the most personal level, Sally Draper had grampa Gene pass away and then later both Bobby and her were confronted with Don and Betty’s divorce. In the greater scheme of things, well, it’s 1963. Take a look at the picture up there. They’re not watching a Mets game. The great disillusionment has begun.

It was funny (not in a ha-ha way, but you know what I mean) watching the JFK episode from a Belgian point of view. Our monarchy was instated in 1831 when our government invited some German nobleman to be our first king. There’s not that supremely American (and I imagine pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate) ideal that The President is the guy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become The Numba One Representative Of The Nation. To most Belgians (and not even really radical ones), the king is just a guy we have to pay for.

There is a great risk of sounding patronizing here, which I don’t really want to do, but by the time I got to season three’s penultimate episode and It Happened… I felt so sorry for all of these characters for having their collective parents split up. MLK’s assassination and Vietnam alone are going to make sure it’ll be an ugly divorce. I felt sorry for America having to turn into Europe.

Now, I realize that Mad Men is all about showing that America’s Golden Years weren’t all dat but for a privileged elite, but Civil Rights would have come anyway. Vietnam wasn’t like the Civil War (and if you open a book, the Civil War wasn’t really much like “the Civil War” either) where something like abolition happened. It was just Mom and Dad fucking up all around.

Which brings us to Don and Betty, of course. In a cruel twist of irony, Betty ultimately left Don not for his myriad philanderings (his latest one actually spurred on by fatherly Conrad Hilton’s disappointment in him), but because she found a man that fit the daddy archetype better. Hoo boy, nobody can accuse this show of being subtle, huh?

I hear a lot of anti-Betty murmurings (even if I try to stay spoiler-free) on the interwebs. She definitely has her bad sides – vanity, self-centeredness, shallowness… but nobody’s a saint on Mad Men. Betty’s bad luck is just not being “evil” in a FUN way, like Roger. That guy’s a piece of shit most of the time but who cares? He’s hilarious! Additionally, Betty is kind of a princess forced into the role of housewife, and princesses are usually hated by either those who can’t have them or those who can’t be them. I’m looking forward to eating these words next season once more!

I still hope the kids end up at Don’s. Nobody really knows what makes Betty happy, but I’m pretty sure that, again in a shocking parallel with Rusty Venture, it ain’t them kids. Oh man, and Sal being fired for being one of YOU PEOPLE >:[ and that poor German nanny having to take Pete’s peter for helping her out cuz no way was she getting out of that one with her reputation intact.

It’s enough to get you to drink.

But hey, this show ain’t all doom ‘n gloom!

He’ll never golf again! But I will! See you next time, when I’ll pitch ya the (for now) last season of this donnybrook of a show called Mad Men! Very well! Happy Christmas!