Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Steven Soderbergh's Haywire follows a plot so thin that it's almost barely worth mentioning. The nuts and bolts of the story boils down to this: after being betrayed during a mission, a female special ops soldier (played by Gina Carano) is forced to take revenge on the people who set her up. It's the type of plot that would appear to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to play as a vehicle for some action tough guy (or in this case, tough girl) to knock a few blocks off. Meat and potatoes action, and nothing more. Such simplistic cinema needn't rely on any sort of depth, as such films exist simply as mindlessly fun action flicks meant to entertain our primordial instinct to watch people get their heads bashed in.
Instead of delivering an action platter served over a bed of bodies, Soderbergh, unsurprisingly, goes for a more artistic approach. As a result, much of the action you would come to expect from a plotless film built around a rookie actress whose selling point is the fact that she's a successful female MMA fighter is all left by the wayside in an attempt to do something more important. It's an odd choice bringing on a professional fighter in Carano to play a role where her screen presence is dictated more by her acting and charisma rather than her physical abilities. Even stranger is sticking her in the ring with actors who are, for the most part, some of the best working today, while Carano is barely at the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin level. As a result, Carano is completely left out to dry, playing big league ball with little league abilities.
It's unfortunate, really, because when Carano is given the chance to show off her stuff, she's quite brilliant. Her Mixed Martial Arts style of fighting translates well to screen, and Soderbergh does a fairly decent job of capturing some of these moments. Much like the film's big name actors diminish her acting skills to that of a grade school level church play, Carano makes a handful of those same actors look about as tough as Rudy Ray Moore pitted up against Bruce Lee. I wish I could say it was a fair trade off, but for Carano, it's not. Unfortunately, she had no business playing a role of this stature because she's simply just not qualified, and I think it shows a complete lack of respect for her on Soderbergh's part to put her in a position in which she cannot escape from (and I certainly cannot blame her for taking the role).
While I take issue with Gina Carano's acting ability and, more so, how she is utilized by her director, that's only the beginning when it comes to the issues that Haywire has as a film. One of the biggest problems that faces Haywire is the fact that there's no real care behind it. The film is essentially a mishmash of underdeveloped characters and a handful of poorly conceived filtered shots that come to be plundered by an obtrusively ill fitting and genuinely confused score that has no place in any film past 2002. Though, it should be said that this is a bigger issue in the first half, as the latter portion of Haywire plays slightly better in terms of a consistent style. Regardless, this only proves to me that Soderbergh has no sense of cohesion, or at least no care to try to put something together with any sort of thought, let alone heart.
Soderbergh's lack of passion is shown in how he pollutes both Haywire (and a number of his other films) with an inordinate amount of useless characters; character who only seem to exist as a reason for him to get one of his many Hollywood friends involved. Not one single character in Haywire has even the slightest ounce of meat to chew on. Each character is one dimensional, uninspiring and flat out boring, and no matter which one of these great actors fills the role, there is nothing to take away from the lot of them. I almost feel as if Soderbergh knows he can get whoever he wants to play whatever role, regardless of how lackluster the character is, so he simply doesn't even bother to put in any effort, and it shows. That, or he's incapable of writing good characters, which isn't hard to believe, either. To put it bluntly, there's no possible way that anyone will ever walk away from a film like Haywire with a single memory of any character or performance, save for Carano's, but that's for the completely wrong reasons.
With the kinds of films that he's been putting out over the past few years, Soderbergh seems to have set his directing sites on literally cranking out easy to digest, artistic laced genre films that significantly suffer from both a lack of competent style and ability as well as lack what makes a genre film fun or enjoyable. Instead of making a basic action flick staring a female MMA fighter, which is what he wrote and cast his lead for, Soderbergh attempted to make a classy, stylish action film. Now, I have no problem with that, so long as the movie is actually solid; however, the end result here is simply not very good, let alone competent or interesting. And no amount of attempt at style, groovy music or fantastic Hollywood actors will ever change that. Some might call Steven Soderbergh a risk taker. I simply call him lazy and boring, much like Haywire.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
You may *ahem* recall me doing a few posts back in June concerning the much beloved Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley, doing some puppeteer work for the Kauto puppet in Paul Verhoeven's Sci-Fi Actioner, Total Recall. It all started when I was watching the "Imagining Total Recall" DVD featurette, and for a brief second I spotted (or at least I thought I spotted) one Linnea Quigley doing some puppeteer work on Mr. Lumpy Butt himself, Kuato. Here's that post as well as my photographic evidence below:
Looks just like her, right?! At least I thought so. Anyway, shortly after I did that post, I reached out to Miss Quigley via email and received an answer back that wasn't exactly definite, but it certainly didn't hurt my case (you can read more right here!). In any event, I considered this Quigley/Kuato mystery to be solved, that is, until about a month later when I received a very interesting email from someone who does seem to have a definitive answer in this matter.
Here's the email:
"In my opinion Linnea did not puppeteer Kuato and that is not her in the photo. I know both Steve Johnson and Linnea personally, was working with Johnson when Total Recall was being made and the lead up to it coming out... I am quite sure I would have known had she puppeteered Kuato for Bottin. Nor does it really look like Linnea in the picture to me, and I worked with her a lot. I recall to this day being in Johnson's shop when Rob Bottin was being interviewed by a local radio station about his work on Total Recall, certainly Linnea puppeteering for Bottin would have been discussed in shop had it somehow happened.
Kuato was a sophisticated puppet, and Bottin being a perfectionist, would be more likely to enlist either the mechanics who built Kuato or more bonified "puppeteers" (you know, the folks who can put a sock on their hand and create an entertaining character with it) and not "Scream Queens". Total Recall was shot in Mexico, at a minimum, Bottin would have used his regular crew people to puppeteer, Linnea was not on his crew and bringing Linnea in to do this makes no sense.
From what I heard at the time, Kuato had problems getting through Mexican customs, was supposedly cut into by officials (looking for contraband?) and that it was essentially held ransom awaiting a payoff to government officials by production. I was told at one point that Kuato got really goofed up by customs and had to be put back together or otherwise assembled or re-assembled after the fact. Whether this is true or not, it was put out there at one time by a Bottin crew member and was discussed within the make-up effects community.
Whoever did puppeteer Kuato was probably down there for most of the show as it had numerous puppeteered elements. I would have recalled Linnea not being in town and traveling to Mexico to work with Bottin. Even had it been shot in the states, Steve certainly would have told me of such.
Also, Bottin and Johnson were from different camps and those camps didn't really mix. Bottin kept to himself (his shop was out in the boondocks) and few people at that time that worked for Bottin, really intermingled with the rest of the FX shops. Most people who worked in make-up effects (the regular shops in the Valley) kind of thought of Bottin as a mystery man, wondering what it would be like to work with him. Also, at the time, a few of the shops were at odds with each other, and it is my recollection, at that time, that Bottin and Johnson didn't really talk to each other. For this reason alone, I don't think Bottin would have had Steve Johnson's girlfriend / wife to work on his project."
The person who sent this had no problem with me sharing a slightly edited version of the email, but he did ask to remain anonymous, which I can completely understand. I will say that this mystery man is indeed a make-up effects artist who has some seriously rad credentials listed on his impressive IMDB page, and it was pretty cool getting an email from him. There's certainly some very fascinating behind the scenes information here, and it's nice to finally have an answer to the question that has been nagging at Total Recall fans across the globe:
Linnea Quigley did not do any puppeteer work on Kuato for Total Recall.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
The Chucktober decorations have been taken down and Halloween has done left the building for yet another season. By the time Halloween day comes, I often feel sort of empty about the whole thing. I suppose I get a little bummed out that all the fun leading up to the big day has to end in such anticlimactic fashion. However, this year was a little different; instead of being bummed out as the final days counted down, I felt satisfied, and I think I can attribute that to having a fantastic Halloween weekend in Columbus and a genuinely satisfying Halloween overall. I don't want to get too detail heavy here, as the purpose of this post is to share with you my rocking Halloween weekend in a way that won't take up too much of your time. With that said, as Jello once belted, LET'S MOVE 'EM OUT!!
On Friday night, we went to The Scare-A-Torium, a haunted attraction in Dublin, OH. Ye ol' lady and I had a total blast at this place, as it delivered the haunted horror goods on all levels. Definitely a recommend if you're ever in the area around Halloween time.
This meatball pizza from Pizza Rustica was pretty much off the chain, and the owner touched my shoulder as he made a joke. By doing that, and by providing me with such a tasty treat, he has made a friend for life.
Sometime after my touching pizza moment, we went to see a special little film on the big screen in THE COOLEST THEATER EVER, Gateway Film Center. Any film fan, especially a genre fan such as myself, would blow rope at this place, and I did, all while enjoying an afternoon spent with Psycho on the big screen. For me, it was the highlight of the entire weekend, and it was made even better by the fact that my wife, who had never Psycho before, seemed to absolutely love it.
Speaking of my wife, I dumped her for some chick dressed up as a Wu-Tang killer bee. She kept saying that she wanted me to swarm her nest… I wasn't sure what that meant, but I played along with it.
Things got a little hairy when Chance Boudreaux from Hard Target showed up, stole my new dime piece from me, and then bit the rattle off of a rattlesnake. It was weird, but I sort of dug it since he was so handsome and all.
Later on, Chance and the killer bee chick made me go to some amazing party called Highball Halloween, where something like 10,000 people, all dressed up in awesome costumes, partied the night away. I didn't have much fun, as Chance and the killer bee girl kept yelling at me to get them beers and take pictures of them groping. At one point, Chance was repeatedly screaming, "We are the John Woo-Tang!" It wasn't even funny, but they wouldn't stop laughing and yelling at me. I hate them both.
Oh well, it was still a great Halloween weekend and certainly one of the best that I've had in a very long time, and I'm happy to have been able to share some of it with all of eww. So for now, I suppose I can chill out and recuperate for most of November, and then I need to start gearing up for this certain little thing known as Death-cember!