Blade

Blade. New Line Cinema 1998.

Before watching the movie:

I have no familiarity with the Marvel comics this is based on. For all I know, this movie was made because New Line had bought a package of cheap comics properties to turn a fast profit on. I don’t like to be so dismissive, but Blade is one of the most prominent notably black superheroes I can think of who aren’t carrying a legacy mantle, and I wouldn’t know that the book exists without this movie that exemplifies an era of moviemaking where “based on a comic book” was something to hide.

Lacking any of the brand recognition and shared continuity that makes comic book stories enticing now, this is essentially sold on the strength of Wesley Snipes slaying vampires with martial arts for two hours. Which is exciting enough if you’re into that sort of thing.

After watching the movie:

Thirty years ago, a baby was born to a woman dying of a vampire bite. Now, Blade is a Daywalker, a being without the vulnerabilities of vampires, but with many of the advantages, including super strength and speed and decreased aging. Blade and his partner Whistler save Dr. Karen Jenson from a vampire that eluded Blade’s assault on a vampire-owned rave, and they introduce Karen to the secret war to free human society from the elite order of vampires that secretly rule. As Blade fights vampire activity, a vampire named Frost manages to translate one of the ancient texts of the vampires, unlocking plans for a ceremony to bring about the age of the Blood Gods.

In the time this was made, comic book movies were often trying to be mature and serious while at the same time providing spectacular violence shows. This created a lot of movies that seem afraid to have fun, even as the stunt sequences the plots excuse are really fun and cartoonish. This has some really fun fight scenes, and the plot is pretty cartoonish, but the story and the fights often seem to belong to different movies because of how different they are in tone.

Most of the effects are highly effective. There’s a lot of work with prosthetics and practical creature effects that create convincing looks, and probably a lot of background CG that’s not noticeable. The disintegration of silver-stabbed vampires is really good for the time. The only time I was really taken out of the scene by bad effects was in the finale, with the demonic vampire souls flying around. That might have been partially caused by a frame rate mismatch, like how jarring the ED-209 was in RoboCop.

Even though there have been over 20 more years of superhero movies and Hero’s Journey plots further wearing out their cliches since Blade, the tropes this plot leans on seem particularly lazy. Developments in act one set up developments in act three with a megaphone. At least this movie introduces the character already established and just recaps the origin story, which is a rare approach. 

I have to respect that this was one of the vanguards of the modern rebirth of superhero movies, but it’s not a part of it. The success of movies like Blade and Spawn demonstrated that the market was safe for comic book movies again, but they didn’t do it by revolutionizing or commenting upon the genre, just by playing it straight. Often too straight, but I have to keep in mind how early this was. This is still a fun movie that doesn’t need too much of an excuse to explode some vampires, and that’s really all it had to be.

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Ed and his Dead Mother

Ed and his Dead Mother. ITC Entertainment 1993.

Before watching the movie:

This was not well-released, not well-received, and perhaps not well made. But it looks fun enough, unless they managed to choke the fun out of it in the poor execution.

Steve Buscemi seems to be intended to be the most normal character in the story, which is a strange concept to me. He’s long been leaning into the eccentric roles his features attract, but I think he might be the straight man here.

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Rockula

Rockula. Cannon Films 1990

Before watching the movie:

I just learned that Dean Cameron is not Dean Cain or Kirk Cameron, so I don’t have as much to say as I thought. Dean Cameron doesn’t seem to have achieved the celebrity status as the others, and appears to be what’s called a “working actor”, despite having led a feature film of moderate success as a young man.

Anyway, he plays a young man cursed to watch his one true love die and be reincarnated and die over and over, and this time his chance to break the cycle involves becoming a rock star.

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Bio-Dome

Bio-Dome. Weasel Productions 1996.

Before watching the movie:

Every now and then, comedians get famous for being annoying, and even though no one will admit to liking annoying comics, they seem to stay far longer than their welcome. From what I recall, I wouldn’t consider Pauly Shore the worst offender, but he’s certainly one of the most infamous. For my own taste, I can tolerate annoying humor fine, it’s just not my favorite. It’s awkward comedy that I can’t stand.

Anyway, I think that Shore and Baldwin are normies accidentally sealed into the dome with the scientists here, rather than frustratingly eccentric but indispensable like the character in Rocket Man. I can’t really picture a Baldwin brother being annoying, but that seems to be what’s about to happen.

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The Mighty

The Mighty. Scholastic Productions 1998.

Before watching the movie:

All of the summaries I can see point to the story being about the two boys who form a friendship of outsiders, but Sharon Stone, the sick boy’s mother, seems to be featured even more prominently than it seems like she would just because she’s the biggest name in the cast. I get the sense that she’s the viewpoint character.

The story being around a boy with Morquio Syndrome and his parent puts me in mind of Lorenzo’s Oil, which is all about the parents trying to keep their son alive. It’s also a movie I was shown in high school, and another reason this makes me think of that is because my friend Kellie recently rediscovered it as a movie she was shown in grade school. This post was suggested by Kellie and has input from her. She has agreed that I may limit mentions of how hot she is for Gillian Anderson to two (this one might not count).

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Captain Ron

Captain Ron. Touchstone Pictures 1992.

Before watching the movie:

Full disclosure: I went and found this movie because it was mentioned on an episode My Brother, My Brother, and Me. I don’t recall what question led one of the brothers to bring up “when Martin Short inherited a boat and knew nothing about sailing in Captain Ron, he went out and found Kurt Russell”, but all I needed to hear to be interested was “Martin Short inherited a boat knowing nothing about sailing”.

I wasn’t entirely prepared for the personality clash set up here, but it’s not terribly surprising. Martin is a straight-laced man dumbfounded by Ron’s party animal ways. That’s a pretty standard setup, and those are types they slot into well.

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Balto

Balto. Amblin Entertainment 1995.

Before watching the movie:

When I was very young, I had a book about Balto, the heroic sled dog that saved the diptheria inoculation run from Anchorage to Nome that the Iditarod race commemorates.  I don’t really recall why Balto was particularly celebrated as the hero of the relay, and it looks like this movie will not be very concerned with that.

The summary seems to indicate that the main conflict comes from how the other characters treat Balto because he is a wolfdog, but that’s not a detail I recall from the history.  Apparently, the real Balto was a purebred husky, so I guess the movie’s main concern was a clumsy message about race.

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