The Forbidden Kingdom

Before watching the movie:

The Forbidden Kingdom.
Relativity Media 2008.

I barely remember this being a thing when it came out. Maybe martial arts movies were especially common at the time, but they never interested me much, and I completely ignored whatever I might have seen advertising this movie.

I was so ignorant about it that, no doubt thanks to how hyped up the Jackie Chan and Jet Li pairing is, when I saw the description saying that a modern-day martial arts movie fan gets stuck in ancient China to have adventures, I wondered which of them would be the modern-day character with no direct fighting experience, which is a silly question because that would be a comedy slapstick fish out of water role that Jackie Chan would be attracted to like a magnet. However, they’re both masters of ancient China and the modern-day protagonist is a white American the domestic marketing doesn’t seem to want you to know about. I feel like this poster comes closer to telling the story I’m now prepared to see, but it’s not in English, so I didn’t use it.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: Howard the Duck

This is a little later than most My Yesterdays selections, but it’s still formative. I first saw this movie shortly before starting Yesterday’s Movies and I had Opinions, and at the same time I was looking for an internet project I could add to on a regular basis. And now it’s been ten years of putting my unsolicited thoughts about movies people have forgotten about into the void.

Howard the Duck. Lucasfilm 1986.

On one night of his perfectly ordinary life in a world run by humanoid ducks, Howard is suddenly sucked into space by an interdimensional portal, and lands on our Earth. Stuck in a world that finds him weird, freakish, and otherwise a magnet for harassment, Howard quickly gets mixed up with Beverly, singer for a great girl band with a bad manager, and helps her out. As romance kindles, suddenly a group of scientists arrive and explain that Howard was brought here by an accident with a “laser spectroscope”. Before Howard has a chance to get them to reverse the beam and send him home, there’s another accident with the machine, the police show up and arrest Howard, and the lead scientist, Dr. Jennings, has a Dark Overlord of the Universe taking over his body.

This still seems like two incompatible movies to me. The first act and the epilogue are a very upbeat music-filled story that’s almost a romantic comedy, but once Howard and Beverly are starting to settle into a relationship, an entirely different movie, and not a better one, crashes the party and takes the plot in a completely different direction. It felt like half and half originally, but the space alien section seems much longer now, mostly due to the action scenes that last three times as long as they need to.

I guess the point of that turn was to spend some time establishing a status quo before getting on with a surreal adventure, but Howard still just got there and wants to leave. Nothing is normal for him and Beverly. They’re just interrupted as they’re beginning to figure out what to do with themselves.

The swift escalation of a lot of confrontations between Howard and people who don’t get him is still cartoonish. There are the people who assume he’s a human in a costume or some kind of puppet, and the people who think he’s a deformed human or animal, but somehow, way too many of them, when they find out he’s not what they think, go straight to “picking a fight”. To the point that he practically almost gets lynched at least once. If duck people were common and a lot of humans knew them as a race they wanted to subjugate, that would make more sense than “thing I can’t identify is giving me some lip”.

The filmmakers wanted to “have fun with it”, but the main part of the movie is not much fun. There are some scenes that are trying to be comedic and muddying the tone, but the overall way the Dark Overlord story is handled is a slog of bad to mediocre ideas. It’s not a complete travesty of a movie, but it really doesn’t have much understanding of how to handle itself.

The Lake House

The Lake House. Vertigo Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

This seems like a strange pairing for a movie that seems to want to be known as a pensive romance. Reeves and Bullock headlined Speed as well, but that was an action blockbuster, which they’re both better known for.

Similarly to how I was wondering how the original source of You’ve Got Mail got things going without the weird social construct of anonymous chat rooms, it’s my understanding that the central concept here is that they send letters to each other, but they’re in the same place a few years apart. I’m again curious to see how that gets started, but also how it can be sustained.

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The Bishop’s Wife

The Bishop’s Wife. RKO Radio Pictures 1948.

Before watching the movie:

Cary Grant and David Niven are an unexpected pairing. Grant gets all the focus, so I saw Cary Grant and that it’s a romance and assumed that Grant is the Bishop. But it turns out that he’s an alleged angel and Niven is the Bishop, which makes more sense for their types.

Grant’s character inveigle his way into the Bishop’s life claiming to be an angel here to help with a challenging renovation, but mostly imposes upon him and attracts the attentions of his wife, hence the title. Sounds like an unusual setup for a screwball comedy.

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The Monster Club

The Monster Club. Sword and Sorcery Productions 1981.

Before watching the movie:

This is three horror stories as framed by a vampire and the actual author of those stories going to a dance club. The packaged stories could be anything, but that frame sounds bonkers, and they seem to be positioning the rest of the movie as a bit of a spoof too.

It looks like a pretty minor cult classic that didn’t get much outside of the UK, but it features some pretty big names in monster movies, so I’m interested in seeing how this goes.

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Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk. Exclusive Productions 1952.

Before watching the movie:

I wouldn’t say that a written script is improvisation, though I have known jazz musicians to plan out the “improvised” solos they intend to play. However, I think “improvising around the fairy tale” is a good way to describe what I expect to see here.

A movie centered around a big green thing and a golden thing (unless the only treasure in this version is the woman) seems like a good choice for an early commercial color film.

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Masters of the Universe

Before watching the movie:

This is a movie based on a set of toys designed by adults trying to come up with what kind of story would feel most empowering to five year old boys in the 80s. That is the standard it should be held to.

I’m not directly familiar with the Masters of the Universe franchise. I mostly know it through osmosis, but apparently Eternia being a planet distinct from Earth is not a concept unique to this movie. I always considered MOTU a pure fantasy setting, but it seems to take whatever elements make exciting stories, and again, the core concept is for five year olds, so the mashup isn’t inappropriate. I’m still not fully comfortable with Skeletor being a spacefaring warlord subsuming planets into his empire, but this can’t go as poorly as Highlander 2 did.

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