Tag Archives: Orson Welles

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 298: X-Men: Apocalypse and Supervillans

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My four-or-five-year tenure buying The Uncanny X-Men faithfully each month had expired by No. 298, cover-dated March 1993. Neither Daoud nor I could identify anyone on the cover with certainty save for Bishop and Gambit.

On this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, I join host Linda Holmes and regular panelist Stephen Thompson — and, I am excited to tell you, fellow guest-star Daoud Tyler-Ameen, who sounds and is smarter than any of us — to search or feelings in RE: X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s Bryan Singer’s fourth X-Men movie and third X-Men prequel and second trilogy capper, so no preamble required. I have done the math, and Apocalypse is the second-worst of the six X-Men features. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, even by the relaxed standards of coherence that govern superhero movies, but I didn’t hate it. Anyway, you can listen to the podcast here.

For more of my feelings, please see my NPR review of the film. And for a much longer discussion of do-overs in long-lived franchises, see this essay that I published on The Dissolve last year. I believe that The Dissolve shall, like Jean Grey, rise again. Continue reading

The Prince of Wails: Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2, reviewed.

Edward Gero as King Henry IV in the Shakespeare Theatre's repertory of "Henry IV, Part 1" and "Part 2," directed by Michael Kahn.

That’s Edward Gero as King Henry IV. I found out only the other day he was in Die Hard 2: Die Harder, a film I loved in 1990 but which has not aged as well as Die Hard or even Die Hard with a Vengeance. I probably didn’t talk about him enough in my tangled but enthusiastic Washington City Paper review of both parts of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Company’s new, Michael Kahn-directed repertory of Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. Continue reading

Radio Killed the Cinema Star: Scena’s The War of the Worlds

Orson Welles’s hour-long radio play The War of the Worlds was the greatest Halloween prank of the 20th century. Twelve million people tuned in for the original broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938 — about the same number as watch Glee now, but the population of the U.S. was only 40 percent of its current size back then. In a 1947 Princeton University survey, roughly one in 12 respondents said that upon first hearing Welles’s radio verite report of hostile Martians landing at Grover’s Mill, NJ, they had indeed believed it to be real news coverage of a frightening calamity. Continue reading

Watch-day!

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I’m going to see Watchmen at midnight , and I can’t wait. Actually, that statement is demonstrably false, because I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since I read (retired?) DC Comics Publisher Jeanette Kahn’s “Direct Currents” column about a potential film adaptation of Watchmen back in the late 80s.

I was excited when I read in the long-defunct Fantagraphics-published fanzine Amazing Heroes that Sam Haam had written a screenplay that actually improved upon the one (arguable) flaw of Moore and Gibbons’ 12-issue maxi-series: it’s 1950’s The Day the Earth Stood Still-style denouement. (I hear that an alteration to the ending has survived all the subsequent drafts and years of development hell, though only the Writers’ Guild knows whether the finished film’s ending was Haam’s.)

I was excited when Terry Gilliam was going to direct it, even though his own revision of the screenplay purportedly sucked worse than the film version of Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If anybody could get this thing onscreen intact, I figured, the guy who made Brazil could do it.

I was excited again, ten-plus years later, when Paul Greengrass was going to do it. (Though Cloverfield is probably a fair indication of what a Greengrass-shot Watchmen would have looked like.)

I was skeptical when I heard Zack Snyder, he of the-shot-by-shot adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, had won the gig. I haven’t seen 300, but I gather it was mostly about a bunch of CGI-hardbodies wrestling in Matrix-like slow-motion. But when I read about the faithfulness and commitment with which Snyder was translating Moore and Gibbons’ sprawling masterpiece for the movies — keeping it set in alternate 1985, casting non-stars, allowing for a near-three-hour theatrical-cut run time (three-plus for DVD) and, crucially, an R-rating — I began to get excited again.

In about seven hours, I’ll be watching the movie. Sometime after that, though possibly not right away, I’ll know whether Snyder and screenwriter David Hayter succeeded. I’ve tried to avoid reading the mainstream critics’ notices, though I did weaken and read David Edelstein’s review in New York, which articulated nicely my reservations about Snyder.

I believe this much, though: Snyder tried — really tried — to make something great. Or at least to be faithful to something great.

Orson Welles, who made three brilliant films and many more failures, said it takes as much hard work to make a bad movie as it does to make a good one. But William Goldman, who’s had more commercial success than Welles but never improved upon The Princess Bride, said that most movies aren’t even meant to be any good.

Watchmen, I have faith, was meant to be good. And now, we’ll see.