La chiesa (aka The Church, 1989)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on December 31, 2015. The rating was 4/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

EPSON MFP imageFollowing the completion of my Dario Argento project, I felt myself suffering from a distinct lack of Argento in my life. As such, I had to try and fill this lack with some of his other work. Upon beginning the retrospective, I decided not to include films that Argento had written but not directed, as this would have included a large body of films that were never released in the U.S. and would thus have been nearly impossible to track down. Most of the films to which he contributed a story or script idea in the heyday of his career did cross over, however, and I was able to track down a DVD copy of La chiesa (The Church). La chiesa was intended to be the third film in the series and is considered to be an official sequel according to some sources, but it’s unclear how it fits into that series.

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The Bride Wore Black (aka La Mariée était en noir, 1968)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on December 30, 2015. The rating was 5/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

EPSON MFP imageIn my reviews of The Legend of Boggy Creek and Anna to the Infinite Power, I mentioned my fascination with Maitland McDonough’s old TV Guide column “Ask Flick Chick,” in which she answered questions about films in general and provided readers with the titles of films that had haunted their subconsciouses for decades. Both Creek and Anna were films that were frequently asked about, as individual readers remembered disparate elements from each, and there were several other movies that would reappear as the answer to a new question with some regularity. Another such film was Francois Truffaut’s La Mariée était en noir (The Bride Wore Black), in which a woman whose husband was killed on their wedding day seeks out and visits revenge upon the five men responsible, crossing out their names one-by-one in her notebook. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There are certain obvious similarities to Kill Bill, although Quentin Tarantino is insistent that he has never seen the film. It’s not unreasonable that he plucked this idea from the ether, especially given his openness about the films from which he did draw ideas and images for Kill Bill, but I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not that was the case.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: Thor (2011)

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on December 30, 2015.

EPSON MFP imageBoomer: The ironic thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it owes so much to the success of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, but Thor owes its placement in the MCU to the failure of that series of films, although I’m getting ahead of myself. Sam Raimi initially conceived of making a Thor film after he finished production on 1990’s Darkman, one of the best films ever made about a costumed hero even before one takes into account that it was not based on a previous intellectual property. This project never got off the ground, but after the success of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film in 2000, interest in the potential of adapting Marvel’s Thunder God was renewed, although by that time it was being considered for a series adaptation for UPN. After a few years of discussion, the project was again tabled until Kevin Feige started dreaming up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Praying Mantis (1993)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on December 29, 2015. The rating was 3/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

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In a radio interview conducted earlier this year, Jane Seymour said that she took the title role in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman due to the fact that she had learned just the day before that her third husband, David Flynn, had spent all of her money and left her 9 million dollars in debt. Her agent informed her that it would be in her best interest to take the very next television role that came along, as this would allow her to earn a steady paycheck to support herself and her children and begin to pay off this deficit. The show ended up running for several years and was quite popular in its day, with an enduring legacy that brought us a television film wrap-up and a recent Funny or Die sketch that brought back many of the actors from the show’s run. Dr. Quinn also holds a special place in my heart as well, as it instigated the first argument I ever had with my family in which I knew I was morally correct: I was staying with my grandmother during the airing of an episode in which the town preacher wants to burn a book (presumably Faust) in which a man sells his soul to the devil. My grandmother was insistent that, for religious reasons, “we must be careful about what we put into our minds”; I was equally insistent at age 7 that burning books was a moral evil. I was punished pretty severely, but I knew I was right.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: Iron Man 2 (2010)

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on December 21, 2015.

EPSON MFP imageBoomer: After the somewhat surprising success of Iron Man and the mostly tepid response to The Incredible Hulk, Marvel Studios allowed their product line to lie fallow for 2009. Instead, they spent most of their behind the scenes time conceptualizing and drafting the growing interconnected universe and putting forth just enough information to whet the appetites of the general public. Iron Man 2 in 2010! Thor and Captain America (which would later have the silly, unwieldy subtitle The First Avenger added to it) in 2011! Avengers in 2012! Iron Man 2 was heavily marketed in the U.S., but there was a distinct decline in the attention from film and comic trade papers compared to the whirlwind of publicity that surrounded the first picture. If anything, most of the hard copy from trade journals was less about the film itself and more about notable lunatic Terrence Howard’s exit and replacement by prestige performer Don Cheadle. Howard has claimed on separate occasions that he left the film of his own volition and that he was let go, the former statement having only recently become part of his repertoire of stories. Lately, his claim is that his departure was due to a vast pay discrepancy between himself and Robert Downey, Jr., but Howard is also infamously difficult to work with—just look no further than the madness that was his September Rolling Stone interview for proof. Imagine what it must be like to work with someone whose conceptualization of mathematics makes Time Cube seem straightforward in comparison. I would prefer working with class act Don Cheadle, too.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on December 15, 2015.

EPSON MFP imageBoomer: In our previous installment, we talked about how Marvel managed to keep itself afloat in dark financial times by licensing its properties to other companies across different media platforms, which led to many Marvel characters being distributed to different film studios. This was a move that saved the company while causing other issues down the line, but even when playing from a disadvantage, Marvel’s lawyers knew how to build in failsafes. After the mixed box office reception to Ang Lee’s meditative but pretentious and reviled 2003 film Hulk, Universal Pictures failed to produce a sequel within the appropriate timeframe required to retain the rights to the character (which, as you may recall from Brandon’s Fantastic Four review, was the reason Roger Corman’s notorious FF film exists). The rights to the character reverted to Marvel, with Universal merely distributing. Writer Zak Penn, who had written a previous Hulk treatment script ten years before, was brought on to write the first draft of the script for The Incredible Hulk, which was initially planned as a sequel to Ang Lee’s film. The 2006 and 2007 trade papers referred to the film as such and stated that the character of Bruce Banner had been recast with Ed Norton, while heavily implying that everyone else would reprise their roles. The script Penn turned in was designed to begin welding together the larger interfilm universe, which means it was very nearly the case that the Lee Hulk was technically the first MCU film.

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Dracula 3D (2012)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on December 9, 2015. The rating was 2/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

EPSON MFP imageI have to admit, I was a little worried that by the time I finished watching and writing about all of Dario Argento’s movies, I would cause his death through some terrible accidental sympathetic magic problem. Luckily it looks like that is not going to be the case. Or, maybe fate’s planning to keep him going until I’ve finished my determination of which Argento is the most Argento is the most Argento. We’ll see.

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Agents of S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X.: Iron Man (2008) & The Rise of the MCU

In the words of Swampflix editor Brandon Ledet: “Superhero Watching: Alternating Marvel Perspectives, Fresh and Longterm, Ignoring X-Men, or S.W.A.M.P.F.L.I.X., is a feature in which Boomer (who reads superhero comics and is well versed in the MCU) & Brandon (who reads alternative comics and has thus far seen less than 25% of the MCU’s output) revisit the films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the perspective of someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who doesn’t have the slightest clue.” This article was first published on December 8, 2015.

EPSON MFP imageBoomer: It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when superhero films were considered box office poison, and Marvel wasn’t even thinking about producing live­action adaptations of its material for the big screen. I won’t get into all the gritty details of the rise and fall of the House of Ideas here, but suffice it to say that political machinations behind the scenes and creative differences abounded, meaning that one of the most recognizable brands in the world nearly went bankrupt many, many times. If you’re looking to take the equivalent of a capstone class in the history of Marvel Comics, I recommend a viewing of Chuck Sonnenberg’s “Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire” video series on his website SFDebris, which offers a fair and concise outlining of Marvel’s corporate shenanigans and infighting over the past four decades, and that series still clocks in at thirteen segments ranging from ten to thirty minutes in length. I’ll try to be more succinct here.

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Movie of the Month: The Independent (2000)

The post from which this was excerpted was originally published on Swampflix.com as part of that site’s “Movie of the Month” feature, in which one contributor makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and the staff discusses it afterwards. For December 2015, Brandon made me, Britnee, and Erin watch The Independent (2000).

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\When watching this movie, the thing that struck me most about it was, as you noted above, how ahead of its time it felt. Debuting a year before the original UK version of The Office, it was not the first mockumentary, but it was made during a time when the tropes and rhetorical shorthand methodologies of the genre were largely unknown by the general population. I’d wager that if The Independent were to have been made after the airings of Arrested Development and, to a much greater degree, the US version of The Office, then the film would have seen wider appeal. We live in a world full of sitcoms that use talking head confessionals as a quick and dirty way of telling jokes in a more succinct way, for better or worse, even when the show itself doesn’t lend itself to that (for instance, it works for The Office, and that show eventually incorporated the film crew as part of the action in its final season, but why exactly do the Dunphys and Pritchetts of Modern Family mug for–and talk directly to–the camera?). I think it’s safe to say that, should there be an interested producer looking for a project, a series adaptation of The Independent would not be out of place in today’s television landscape.

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Giallo (2009)

This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on December 1, 2015. The rating was 3/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.

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I don’t know if it’s fair to detract from this movie’s score based on what I learned about it after viewing it. I’m not talking about Adrien Brody’s high-profile lawsuit against the production company to block distribution of Giallo in the U.S. until he received the remainder of his paycheck; that sort of thing shouldn’t (and doesn’t) really affect an interpretation of the film’s quality. What I am talking about is the fact that I honestly thought Dario Argento had gone out and hired someone with an unusual, potentially deformed facial structure to portray the killer, much like he had hired an elderly prostitute to portray the briefly corporeal Helena Markos in the final moments of Suspiria, and it turns out I was very, very wrong. The prosthetics applied to the killer are hideous if you accept that this is the face of a real person, but, once their falsity is pointed out, they are embarrassingly obvious—in the sense that I’m embarrassed by the fact that I made it through the whole film without realizing that it was actually Brody under all that bulbous latex. So, completely outside the world of the film itself, I have to admit that this has the overall effect of making the film goofier in retrospect.

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