Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the much-loved graphic novel of the same name, was released theatrically on Friday. Having not read the graphic novel, all I knew about the film going in was what I saw in the previews.

The opening credits sequence in Watchmen sucked me into the film, and I was hooked for the first thirty minutes. Through the historical montage, complete with living photographs and revisionist events, I felt like I had a decent grasp of the universe that Watchmen took place in. It’s a rare feat to accomplish this with such a sweeping story. That said, there were times when the multiple narratives felt disjointed and episodic. And while the film is largely about The Watchmen themselves, I would have liked to see more in regards to the societal look on things.

There was also a lot of pop music that was included in the film, ranging from Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The integration of the music with the visuals worked well for a while, but soon became more of a distraction than a complementation of the film.

Watchmen is an ensemble piece at heart, housing a horde of different characters, but the two that interested me the most were Rorschach, played perfectly by Jackie Earle Haley, and Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), who comes across as Clark Kent with Batman’s toys. In some ways I would consider him to be the main character of the film, although there wasn’t much of a resolution for him at the end of the film.

Billy Crudup also made an appearance in the film as Dr. Manhattan, the God-like character in the film. His personal dilemmas and choices were a much-needed intellectual boost in the film, resulting in a cool ending. And while the character of Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) wasn’t in the film nearly enough, what glimpses we saw of him were intriguing to say the least. I would love to read Watchmen if only to learn more about him.

Sadly, however, director Zack Snyder tends to put more emphasis on “graphic” than “novel”. Starting out as a serious, gritty epic, I was surprised at the change in tone partway through the film and Snyder’s self-referential winks and personal fetishes. (At least there weren’t any drugs in the film)

I’m certainly not opposed to violence in film if the story calls for it and is used well. But to quote Alfred Hitchcock, “There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” And on a similar note, Roger Ebert wrote in his review of The Winslow Boy that, “Sixty seconds of wondering if someone is about to kiss you is more entertaining than 60 minutes of kissing.” Whatever happened to suspense, subtlety, and the imagination? There are better ways to show violence in a film. And in the case of Rorschach’s back-story, some well-placed shadows would have been far more effective, stylistically and emotionally, and would have fit with his film noir presence.

As an extra tidbit, I noticed a similarity between 300 (Also directed by Snyder) and Watchmen. The former ends with Dilios telling the story of the 300 Spartans in the oral tradition of story telling, while Watchmen ends in a similar way, but with the written tradition. Perhaps Snyder’s next film will end with a typewriter…or maybe I’ve just been a communications major too long.

In any case, Watchmen, while having some interesting characters, cool visuals, and a promising story, fails to tell that story well. Instead of getting a developed character-driven epic about humanity, we’re left with an adolescent storyteller infatuated with gratuitous sex and violence. And we’re left wanting more.

Horror Fest: Day 1

These are the films that I watched today as a part of my “Horror Fest” this week. I will be posting my initial ratings each day and will make a larger post when the week is done and talk about the films. Looking forward to tomorrow’s crop…

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins / Janet Leigh

Directed By: Tod Browning
Starring: Bela Lugosi

The Phantom of the Opera
Directed By: Rupert Julian
Starring: Lon Chaney / Mary Philbin

Attack of the Meme

You can blame this on MovieMan0283 at The Dancing Image for starting this up and T.S. at Screen Savour for tagging me. 😉 So before we get to the goodies, here are the rules for the latest Internet fad:

1. You must not have seen any of the films on your list, either in theatres or on video.

2. The films on your list should not be available on Netflix (this will be the criteria for “availability” since it’s too hard to track down what’s available where, to who, etc.)

3. You can organize the list however you want, in themed couplets like Piper’s original list, or just as twelve semi-random films.

4. You must credit and link to my blog, Piper’s blog for getting the original ball rolling, and for good measure, the guys at Out 1 for planting the seed.

5. Tag five people to keep the meme going.

6. If you’re too lazy to follow all of these rules, but still want to participate, you have my blessing (the more the merrier). Except for the rule about linking to my blog. That you still have to obey.

This time around I decided to break the films up into pairs of two, mostly by director. At first I thought that this would be too hard to accomplish (while abiding by the rules, that is), but then I remembered that there were quite a few Italian films that I couldn’t find on NetFlix. So doing some backtracking, and aided by a few bouts of genius, let’s get this party started:

Theme: Vittorio De Sica (Director)
Films: Shoe Shine / The Gold of Naples

Theme: Roberto Rossellini (Director) / Ingrid Bergman (Actor)
Films: Stromboli / Journey to Italy

Theme: Luchino Visconti (Director)
Films: Senso / Days of Glory

Theme: Abel Gance (Director)
Films: Napoleon / I Accuse

Theme: Miscellaneous
Films: Chaplin / Sleuth (1972)


Theme: Hitchcock Films that NEED to Be More Available
Films: Notorious / Rebecca

Honorable Mention:
War of the Buttons (Why is this gem not on DVD yet?)

Obligatory Tags:

Movie Reviews By CaptainD

The Kinetoscope Parlor

YDKS Movies

Celluloid Fire


(EDIT: Just found out that this is my 100th post. Yay)

The Happening

The Happening: 2.5/5 Stars

The Happening is the latest from director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense). I’ve enjoyed most of his past work (including Lady in the Water). I wanted to see this without knowing too much about the film. So on Thursday afternoon I turned off my RSS feeder and pretty much avoided the Internet like a plague. Armed only with the knowledge of the previews, I watched The Happening Saturday afternoon.

The story follows Elliot and Alma Moore (played by Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel), a couple living in Philadelphia, the setting of most of Shyamalan’s films. A catastrophe strikes in New York, causing large numbers of people to commit suicide. Fearing the growing threat, Elliot and Alma flee Philadelphia in an attempt to escape the attack.

The Happening has a peculiar balance between humor, seriousness, and the morbid. The film was advertised as M. Night Shyamalan’s first film with an R-rating (“for violent and disturbing images”), which I think ended up being a problem for the film. Many people have compared him to Alfred Hitchcock (“the master of suspense”), and rightly so. In previous films, Shyamalan has worked well in the PG-13-rating. He’s great at introducing suspense and startling the audience. Think of the sprinklers in Lady in the Water. With his latest film, however, the horror is just…there. There were suspensful moments that I liked (the trees, he tracking shot with the policeman and the cars, etc.), but a good deal of it seemed there just to justify the rating than advance the story.

The acting in the film didn’t do it for me, either. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, two good actors I might add (Think The Depareted and All the Real Girls), just didn’t seem to fit. Should we blame the acting or the script? I don’t know. Coupled with that is the on-the-nose dialgue.

I liked the relationship between their characters. The change in Zooey’s character from the beginning to the end is especially intriging to me. I would have loved to see more development between their characters.

Now I loved the concept of the film. The idea behind the film. It’s so fantastic, but it’s also somewhat believable, which is a feat in itself. As far as the story is concerned, I also loved the way it ended. A really nice touch.

I guess it boils down to how much M. Night Shyamalan was trying to make The Happening feel like a classic “B” disaster flick and how much of it just didn’t work. Maybe I need to watch more movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing.