A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Green Lantern (dir. by Martin Campbell)

So, earlier tonight, I was sitting in a dark theater watching the latest super hero film, Green Lantern.  Now, Green Lantern is getting some terrible reviews right now and having seen it, I can understand why.  That said, Green Lantern is not an offensively terrible movie in the way that Priest, The Beaver, or The Conspirator were terrible films.  Instead, Green Lantern’s main problem is that it’s just so freaking forgettable.  To be honest, I found myself forgetting about it while I was watching it.  So, this isn’t going to be an easy review to write.

(This is also why this is a quickie review.  I mean, I’ll make some noise for a few minutes and I’ll try to come up with something halfway neat for the end of it but don’t ask me if I really felt anything.)

Since I realized I was forgetting about the movie even as I was watching it, I decided to use social media to help me out.  Blatantly ignoring the rules (but that’s why you love me, baby), I spent most of the film texting and tweeting.  I’m pretty sure I heard the people sitting behind me whining about it but who cares?  I did what I had to do.

Anyway, checking my texts, I find the following conversation:

Text from LMB (that’s me) to ENB (that’s my sister, Erin): Hey bitch where you at?

ENB to LMB: WTF, bitch?  I’m sitting next to you in the theater.

LMB to ENB: Hi, Erin!  lol. : )

Okay, so that’s not much help but it does tell you just how engaging this film is.  I had the choice of either watching Green Lantern or sending text messages to my sister who was sitting right next to me and I chose to send text messages.

I also resorted to posting a few cryptic messages to twitter, with the hope that they would serve to remind  me of what I was watching.  Here they are:

Tweet #1: About to see Green Lantern. : ) — See, I didn’t start this film out with a bad attitude.  I was looking forward to it.

Tweet #2: Old ppl always take forever buying tickets — What’s up with that?  I would think they would be in a hurry seeing as how they’ve got less time to see a movie than I do.  Just saying.

Tweet #3: We need a super hero named Red Herring — I sent this tweet just 15 minutes into the film but it shows that I had already picked up on the main problem with this film.  There’s a lot going on but it all feels like it’s just been spit out by some script-o-matic sitting hidden behind the Hollywood sign.  It just doesn’t ever really add up to anything beyond a sinking feeling of been there, done that. 

Ryan Reynolds is haunted by flashbacks of his father dying.  Why?  Because Scriptwriting 101 says that the hero has to have some sort of self-doubt to overcome. 

When we first see Ryan Reynolds, he’s lying in bed with a naked blonde.  Who is she?  What happens to her?  Why does Reynolds, at no other point in the film, seem to be the type who would have a one night stand with some anonymous blonde?

Reynolds joins the Green Lantern Corp. when he gets a glowing green ring.  All the other members of the Corp. doubt him because he’s human but then they say that the ring never makes a mistake.  Okay, so if the ring is incapable of making a mistake and the ring chose Reynolds than why is everyone so convinced that Reynolds can’t cut it as the Green Lantern?

Seriously, it’s as if someone just wrote out a list of plot points and some anonymous script doctor just went down the list, checking off everything as he tossed it into the mix.

Plus, I think Red Herring would be a cool super hero.  He could have the power of creating mass distraction and he could be the sidekick of my super heroine alter ego, Lady Verbose.

Tweet #4: Lol, cockpit is a funny word — I believe the exact line that inspired this tweet was something like: “And I still get into a cockpit occasionally.”  It just made me laugh because cockpit is a funny word, largely because it’s a combination of cock and pit.  Anyway, that is honestly the only line of dialogue that I actually remember from the film.  As action and comic book movies tend to live and die on the basis of the quotable one-liner, that’s not a good sign.

Tweet #5: Green Lantern kinda bleh but Ryan Reynolds is mancandy — And you know what?  He is.  Green Lantern may have been forgettable but Ryan Reynolds made a likable hero and he brought some much-needed humor to the role.  To be honest, as I look back at the various Green super hero movies, I can’t help but wonder how much better Green Hornet would have been if it had starred Ryan Reynolds as opposed to Seth Rogen.  (I love you, Seth, but the super hero thing just isn’t for you.)

Also, Peter Sarsgaard did a pretty good job playing a surprisingly sympathetic villain.  Both he and Reynolds deserved a better film. 

Other than Sarsgaard and Reynolds, the cast was pretty forgettable but then again, it’s not like they really had much to work with.  I have to be honest, though, that I am now officially bored with Tim Robbins.  He shows up here playing yet another insensitive rich white guy.  As usual, you don’t really buy him as the character because he’s just too obviously Tim Robbins.

Tweet 6: Lets not go to Camelot. Its a silly place. — I think this was inspired by all the scenes that were set on the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps.  (That’s the group that Reynolds becomes a member of.)  These scenes were obviously meant to inspire awe but they just felt silly.  In the film’s defense, some of the special effects — particularly the evil entity known as Parallax — are impressive but, for almost every impressive special effect, there was another that just fell flat (which is never a good thing for a 3-D film).

Tweet #7: Sinestro is a silly name. — Sinestro, played by Mark Strong, is the leader of the Green Lantern Corp.  And Sinestro is a really silly name.

Tweet #8: Why not just call him Eviltro? — Well, why not?

Quickie Review: Black Death (dir. by Christopher Smith)

British filmmaker Christopher Smith has been flying under the radar of most of the film-going public. He’s already a filmmaker with five films to his credit of varying quality, but each showing his growth as a director with each successive release. In 2010, Christopher Smith released his sixth film in the UK with some film festival showings in the US soon thereafter. Black Death continues Smith’s work in the horror genre with this latest film a historical horror piece which tries to take a look at the subject matter of the Black Death of medieval Europe in a realistic, gritty light.

The film is set during in 1348 plague-ravaged England where a Osmund, a young monk, has a crisis of faith as he agonizes over his celibate vows to God and his love for Avrill, a young woman in town who also has feelings for Osmund. Avrill gives Osmund a week to find the answer to his dilemma and will wait for him at the marshes in that alloted time. Osmund finds his answer as templar knight Ulric (played by Sean Bean) and a group of his soldiers arrive at the monastery on a mission to find a village said to be untouched by the plague and one which might be providing a safe haven for a necromancer who has brought the dead back to life. Osmund seizes on this chance to leave the monastery and lead Ulric and his men through the marshes and to this village.

During their travel the group loses a couple men to bandit attacks and to the plague itself. They also come across a band of villagers about to burn a young woman for witchcraft. At first, Ulric seems to take pity and show compassion to this young woman, but instead kills her himself for the crime she is accused of. Ulric reminds Osmund and his men that they have no time for such distractions as they a much more important task ahead of them. A task which soon brings them to the very village which seem to be free from the plague many attribute to God punishing the sinners and other’s as the Devil tormenting the faithful.

It’s this ambiguous theme of how the Black Death was seen by villagers, soldiers and faithful which becomes an overriding theme in the film. Smith, using Dario Poloni’s screenplay, goes about exploring how those in power on both sides of the question — of whether God or the Devil was responsible for the plague — hold such a major influence on the minds of the uneducated populace. Ulric, Osmund and the group do find their necromancer, but it’s not all what they’ve expected and, for Osmund, this mission becomes a tragic one which tests his faith in God, his church and all that he’d been taught (indoctrinated some would call it) to believe. Osmund becomes the spiritual battleground from which Ulric and the necromancer fight over his eternal soul and the effect this has on the young monk turns out a surprising fashion which brings to mind Michael Reeves own historical piece and one of the greatest horror films of all-time in Witchfinder General.

Christopher Smith’s direction continues to improve and shows in Black Death as he’s able to make not just the subject of this horrific era in Europe’s medieval past, but at the same time use a deft hand to explore themes of faith, spirituality, role of religion as control and how fundamentalism doesn’t just affect those with religious conviction but also those who follow the secular path. It helps that Smith had a capable ensemble cast led by Sean Bean’s usual strong performance. Eddie Redmayne as Osmund seemed to be a one-note cipher through the first-half of the film, but once he arrives in the village his character begins to open up in complex ways that we’re never sure if he’ll fall on the side of the angels or the demons even right up to the end and even then it’s left ambiguous.

Black Death marks the latest in Christopher Smith’s tour of the horror genre and it’s many varying subjects to hone his growing craft as a filmmaker. The film ended up being entertaining despite having such an oppressive atmosphere and tone to not just the story, but to the very setting. There’s enough blood and gore spilled (using practical effects and not a sign of CGI to be seen) during scenes of fighting and torture to satisfy gorehounds who might come across the film. It also should work the mind of those also looking not just for the grue but also something to stimulate the mind. It’ll be interesting to see what Christopher Smith has next to follow-up this well-done and executed historical horror film.