Tuesday, January 17, 2006

From the Vault

Welcome to my latest attempt at having a semi-regular feature here on the Opiate. I have not really discussed it much here, but I have a rather large collection of DVDs. Amongst the movies you would expect, such as everything Kevin Smith has produced and an ever –growing library of Kurosawa, I have some really obscure movies. Movies such as Six String Samurai, Time and Tide, Gen-X Cops, Volcano High (pre-MTV hip-hop remix version), Returner, Avalon, and on and on.

I am not sure how I hear about these movies, and my friend Tami is convinced that tracking them down is my super-power. I attribute it to an odd confluence of impulse buying and the social circles in which I run. Anyways, From the Vault will be my intermittent movie reviews. Some of them will be movies that have received more mainstream attention (such as Layer Cake, which is next up) and some of them will be the weird stuff I find on eBay when feeding my wuxia/jidaigeki/anime movie habit.

So, without further ado, I present the inaugural movie from the vault:

Comic Book Villains
Directed & Written By: James Robinson
Starring: Donal Logue, Cary Elwes, Michael Rapaport, Natasha Lyonne, D.J. Qualls, Danny Masterson

I am not sure where I first heard about this movie. I think it was a post over at the ISB, but I haven’t been able to track the post down. Once I read the title, and found out that James Robinson had written the Starman comics during the ‘90s, a run which has been mentioned as some critics as being one of the bright spots of the decade as far as the comics world is concerned, I decided I had to have this movie and check it out. I did not expect much, and once I found the movie on eBay for about $6.00 (shipping included) my meager expectations for the movie went even lower.

I was pleasantly surprised. While I am glad I did not waste the money on seeing this movie in the theater, it is not something I am embarrassed to cop to owning. Archie, played by D.J. Qualls (who bugs me to no end), relates the story of what happens in his sleepy, generic mid-America town when Conan, portrayed by a creepy, fuzzy Danny Masterson, brings news of the death of a local comic collector to the proprietors of the two local comic book stores. The quickly confirmed rumor is that this collector had been collecting his entire life and that the collection contained some of the rarest comics. Raymond McGillicudy, played by Donal Logue, proprietor of the seedy, geek-friendly comic book store in town, wants the collection primarily for the notoriety it would bring him in the comics world as he is able to bring all of these ultra-rare issues to the collector’s market. Norman and Judy Link, played by Michael Rapaport and Natasha Lyonne (who I find strangely attractive), own the well-lit, mall-esque comic store in town. Of course they want the collection for the money it would bring in. The problem? The collector’s mother does not want to sell the collection.

With this set up, the movie had the potential to be a comic geek’s Holy Grail of cinema, however it quickly degenerates into a formulaic heist movie. I was expecting something akin to Mallrats and ended up getting a bastard brother of Blood Simple. This is not to say that I did not like the movie. It was well acted, with Cary Elwes taking a particularly creepy turn as an ex-con who is brought in by a maniacally desperate Donal Logue, and the voice-over from Archie almost works as a noir-esque element, but the story was just flat. I never really cared about the characters, although Natasha Lyonne yelling for Michael Rapaport to fuck her made me tingly for some reason, and the plot twists were predictable.

Overall this was an enjoyable waste of 92 minutes, but for anyone looking for the second coming of the geek-god Kevin Smith should look elsewhere. And a warning, there is a scene where Donal Logue is ranting while in his boxers. There is a disturbing lump, as seen below:

Dammit Donal! (I would like to take this chance to apologize to anyone who had to put up with me when I thought boxer shorts were lounge wear. As we all know Donal is Canadian and suffers from what we kindly refer to as the Canadian curse, so when I went through this phase it must have looked like I was smuggling koalas. God am I sorry for putting some of you through that.)

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