Friday, July 29, 2005

Death Becomes Her

I recently watched the DVD of Death Becomes Her, the 1992 dark comedy directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The movie introduces us to movie star Meryl Streep's Madeline and budding writer Goldie Hawn's Helen when Goldie brings her fiance', Bruce Willis, over to meet her "best friend," the friend "who stole every boyfriend I ever had" in school. Two beats later, Bruce and Meryl marry, and Goldie goes off the deep end. Cut to seven years later, and Meryl is a washed-up hasbeen who is quickly losing her movie-star beauty. Bruce, a brilliant plastic surgeon when they met, is now a drunk who doctors up cadavers to make them look nice in the casket. Goldie, now living in a psychiatric ward, has an epiphany and realizes what she must do to exact revenge. Both Meryl and Goldie approach Isabella Rossellini, in a rather revealing role, for the secret of eternal youth and beauty. However, things go awry as they learn you may be able to live forever but you can't always get new body parts.

I remember loving this film when it first came out. I was shocked, however, when Bruce Willis came onscreen. He played totally opposite his usual macho shoot-'em-up kind of guy. Bruce really hams it up in this movie, a move which seems wise as he tries valiantly to keep up with divas Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. One of the funniest moments is when Bruce confides that he uses car paint to give the dead that fresh look, and he's able to use that skill to great effect when Meryl's and Goldie's bodies don't hold up during their warfare. Apparently audiences didn't take to the switch, and Death Becomes Her quickly exited theatres. The audience for such a film would be hard to find under the best circumstances.

Despite audience wishes for their heroes, the comic timing of the Big Three in this film is flawless and hilarious. There are a couple of troublesome issues with the movie. For instance, the movie's pace slows considerably, and the plot wanders off, when the two women stop battling each other and try to join forces. And it's difficult to like anybody here, even for milquetoast Bruce, as both women are unethical, deceiving, horrible excuses for human beings. And it's awfully tough to have an ending when your characters are immortal. But don't worry about all that. Just sit back and laugh, and wonder how the hell Goldie is going to cover up that big hole where her stomach used to be.

Thumb's up.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Fantastic Four - Simply Fantastic

The Fantastic Four movie convinces us once again that superheroes can be miserable.

What we forget is the FF started this trend in Marvel comics more than 30 years ago, before Spider-Man took angst to its Nth degree.

The screenplay is superb. I noticed that little kids in the movie tended to be restless during much of the movie, as the film takes a real effort, and a lot of time, to explain who these people are. The moral of the Fantastic Four has always been, and should always be, that more gets accomplished when they work together than when they do things separately. And the screenplay subtly points this out.

I questioned the casting choices about a year ago when I heard who had been chosen for Dr. Doom, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, et al., but I am happy to say that these choices were superbly made. Julian McMahon of Nip/Tuck fame shows a quiet but forceful anger as Victor Von Doom. We can't exactly explain how Latveria fits into all this, but who cares. I have always believed that Dr. Doom was the prototype for Darth Vader but never got enough credit. Dr. Doom acquits himself well in the movie.

Ioan Gruffudd is masterful as the real backbone of the Fantastic Four, tentative to take a stand, intellectual instead of emotional when he should be. While the Invisible Girl has always been the weak point of the FF in the comic book, she turns out to be the emotional center point of the group in Jessica Alba. Sue Storm is written better in the movie than in the comic-- but, after all, Marvel scriptwriters did not know how to deal with women that well.

And Chris Evans was a brilliant choice as hotshot Johnny Storm, aka The Torch. He's the brash one, the young one, the guy you and I would probably be if we were turned into a powerful but freaky superhero.

Ben Grimm is the monster, the man we have all come to know as The Thing. He comes to understand what true love means through loss in the film, and grows in spite of his fears. He makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends, and the movie builds wonderfully to a conclusion that allows us to realize what this really means to him.

Together, these four personalities make up one complete person. They argue, they fight, but together they function. Without each other, they can't. It's a powerful lesson, even for a comic book film.

Thumb's up for the latest Marvel marvel.