The Empty Balcony: The Equalizer

Once upon a time there was television show called The Equalizer that ran on CBS. It was successful enough to last for four seasons and 88 episodes. I don’t know if that’s significant. Any show that runs on American network television for four years and 88 episodes is a success, but it’s not a smash. In fact, The Equalizer was and is somewhat of an anonymous show. It’s curious that in the age of remakes and reboots, someone in Hollywood chose to resurrect this show and make it a movie. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: The Equalizer”

The Empty Balcony: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the GalaxyI think I may have seen too many movies. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why I did not like Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios’ 2014 money machine. It hit all the right notes when it comes to action, pacing, and story. It kept things simple, avoiding all pretension, and at no point did it strive to be something greater than it was. But...

I think the movie showed a profound disrespect for its audience. Big action movies aren’t just simple anymore. Rather, they have been simplified, stripped of any sort of nuance or individuality in the pursuit of massive box office receipts. There is nothing inherently wrong in trying to maximize profit. But what it does mean is that, in seeing a movie like this, no viewer can expect anything beyond superficial uniqueness. There are new stories out there. But new stories require an entrepreneurial spirit that Hollywood is currently anathema to. It’s hard to explain how much the studio system has changed in a generation, so I’ll just give this example: Taxi Driver was a Hollywood studio film. That’s right. Taxi Driver. A film featuring a violent psychopath, who develops a crush on an underage hooker, as a protagonist. These days, the talents of that film’s young director, Martin Scorcese, would be steered into projects that are designed from the very beginning to be sanitized versions of past successes. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Guardians of the Galaxy”

The Empty Balcony: Thief

Thief, the debut feature film from writer/director Michael Mann, is a bit of a relic. The 1980s were a weird time, when the progressions of style were suddenly upended and everything went day-glo. Even music changed, utilizing the cost-effective yet grating sound of synthesizers. Michael Mann embraced this decade with gusto, finding a ready home in all the glitz and glamour. His style of filmmaking is so intertwined with the 1980s that I can’t figure out which informed the other. The style is a distinctive one that viewers can readily recognize. But it all had to start somewhere. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Thief”

The Empty Balcony: The Rover

I love a good post-apocalyptic tale. I have a pessimist’s fascination with the myriad ways everything can go wrong. Global catastrophe for the human race holds the same place in my mind as standing at the edge of a precipice and picturing flying off into the void. This isn’t a sign of some psychological damage or misfiring neurons. This isn’t a mental illness or a death wish. It’s just human nature to be drawn in wonder to these things. Some of us feel the pull more than others, but that doesn’t mean we want it to happen. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: The Rover”