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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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Four Square Productions 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I always knew that this was a horror spoof, but I didn’t realize it was a musical. It’s already under 90 minutes, and there are songs in it, so the plot will probably be very thin. But how much plot can be gotten out of running from murderous fruiting vines? Three sequels and a cartoon series, apparently.

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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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Saturday the 14th

Before watching the movie:

Mel Brooks, early Zuckers, and the Scream movies. Those are the successful genre parodies I can think of right now. This one, I think mainly lasts because it’s an accessory to the Friday the 13th legacy (or a remora on it).

Reviews I’ve seen are mixed and polar. The biggest name now isn’t the lead. I’m thinking maybe this will be a decent cult movie, but almost definitely no classic.

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Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams. Gordon Company 1989.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure how this is an inspiring movie about following your dreams and not an inspiring movie about how listening to the voices in your head can work out sometimes, but when I try to anticipate what this movie will be, I think of The Astronaut Farmer with baseball instead of spaceflight. But anyway, family man tears his family apart doing crazy things and then there’s a happy ending. Apparently this time James Earl Jones is involved.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Filmauro 2004.

Before watching the movie:

This is such a bizarre movie on the face of it. It ostensibly takes its influences from pulp adventure and German Expressionism, but it comes off like it’s part of a franchise that doesn’t exist (which may be part of the artistic intent of imitating pulp serials), and the audacious scope has a hint of Anime plotting to me (as well as the man being called “Sky Captain” sounding like a translation beating out the subtlety of it).

The origins remind me of how Lucas created Star Wars because he wanted to do a Buck Rodgers movie, only this looks more successful at that idea in some ways. This seems like more of an update of the pulp feel than Star Wars achieved. (Perhaps it’s because I’ve always lived in a world where it existed, but that franchise has always seemed more like its own thing of its own time than something that could screen next to Buck Rodgers, but I’ve already digressed too much.)

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