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by Bill Gibron

27 Mar 2009

It’s a part of life we generally don’t think about - mostly because it reminds us of our own morality, and because of the gruesome nature of the business. For most, we didn’t even know it existed. Yet every time a crime occurs, every time a person, famous or forgotten, takes their own life or that of another, someone has to come along and clean up the mess. No, the police don’t do it, and local law enforcement doesn’t typically provide post-investigation housekeeping under the “serve and protect” slogan. Someone has to come along and dispose of the debris and make something civilized out of an event horrific. For the characters in the new indie comedy Sunshine Cleaning, working the post-mortem detail is kind of a happy accident. Unfortunately, it’s about the only joy these individuals, or this movie, manages to harbor.

You see, Rose is a single mother raising a confused and complicated kid named Oscar. She was once the head cheerleader in high school. Now she’s a maid working for the same classmates she used to hang out with. She also maintains a relationship with BMOC turned married police officer Mac. He has promised a divorce, but his ever increasing family seems to suggest otherwise. Desperate to raise enough money to send her son to a fancy private school, Rose decides to get into the business of mopping up crime scenes. Mac helps her with a few connections, and local supply clerk Winston shows her the ropes. Rose then hires on her troubled sister Norah, and together they begin their death-based endeavor. As the jobs get messier and messier, the girls are reminded of the pain they experienced when their mother committed suicide. Another tragic accident will have them questioning their commitment to the business, and each other. 

Sunshine Cleaning is a slice of life carved so thinly it can barely stand up on its own. Without the amazing support of actors Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, this minor microcosm of New Mexican fringe dwelling would fall apart from outright narrative apathy. While many would have you believe this is some amazing indie treasure, sitting right along side Little Miss Sunshine and Juno as grrrl power gems, in reality, this is navel-gazing non-action that only perks up when the obvious is avoided and the truly unusual is explored. This is a movie with many intriguing elements: the burgeoning relationship between Rose and supply store clerk Winston; the tormented past of the girls’ mother; little Oscar’s obvious emotional problems. Yet director Christine Jeffs and screenwriter Megan Holley keep meandering back to material we don’t care about. As a result, the film feels like a lost opportunity.

Even the premise gets underplayed. Crime scene clean-up has got to be a very demanding, very high stress, and very disturbing job, no matter how desensitized you become to the carnage. The sights, the sounds, the significance would be the override theme of any story centering on it. Sunshine Cleaning does pay lip service to the meaning of going from maid to residential mortician, but it’s not enough. Adams talks about “being connected”, while Blunt is more prosaic about removing the last vestiges of a human being from the Earth. Of course all of this based around their own parent’s suicide, but the reality of their reactions remains mute. Only once, where Rose sits and comforts an elderly woman who just lost her husband, does the movie have the kind of emotional impact we’re looking for. The rest of the time, this job simple exists for its inherent quirk value.

As do many of the side characters. Alan Arkin’s presence will remind many of his Oscar winning work in Little Miss, though his flim-flamming figure father here is very poorly defined. So is former football player/boyfriend/police officer Steve Zahn. There is an entire movie to be made about the post-high school downfall of both Mac and Rose, something hinted at during our heroine’s ill-fated reunion with her ex-classmates at a baby shower. But just like the logistics of situations, Sunshine Cleaning pulls back on the personal reigns as well, leaving us frustrated and wanting much, much more. There’s also too much grandstanding obviousness, as when Norah goes “trestling” - which is nothing more than an excuse for getting drunk, climbing a train bridge, and crying as her past washes by in locomotive fueled flashbacks.

This is a movie unsure of its symbolism, unaware of what to do with Winston’s one armed model making, or Oscar’s obsession with binoculars. There is a CB radio that acts as a conduit to the characters’ desire to communicate with the other side, but for the most part, Jeffs makes a joke of such searching. And then there is the last act reveal. In essence, without giving much away, a character creates a situation that he or she could have stepped up and offered early on. It would have probably solved a great many problems for everyone involved, and taken the burden of business acumen away from those unfamiliar with such real world needs. But yet, the script waits until the last ten minutes to pull this plot point out, manipulating the audience into a false sense of affection while creating complicated narrative entanglements that never come loose.

Still, Adams and Blunt make this a brisk, breezy two hours. The chemistry they offer and the performances they deliver act as a buffer for Sunshine Cleaning‘s many misgivings. Had the oddball been tossed aside in favor of more family strife, had the unnecessary subplots been shorn of their overall import, had things been simplified to suggest legitimate desperation instead of the manufactured movie kind, we’d appreciate the effort even more. But sans all these suggested changes, what we wind up with is a pleasant experience marred by little lasting impact. As with many movies that come out each year, Sunshine Cleaning begs the question of whom the intended audience is. Lovers of art house fair will probably feel shorted. Mainstream moviegoers won’t appreciate the overeager eccentricity. The result is a wash - not the best way to judge a potential entertainment.

by Bill Gibron

25 Mar 2009

Stephen King has said that he’s often shocked by people’s initial reaction to him in person. Since he creates horrific nightmares of blood curdling and spine chilling terror, tales that traumatize the very marrow in your bones and scar the substance of your soul, fans assume that he is an equally dark, diabolic person. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, whether or not his imagination holds such demonic thoughts. Making people frightened is merely his job, as it is for writers like Clive Barker, or filmmakers like Wes Craven or Dario Argento. They all suffer from a contextual confusion which suggests what they create is the same as who they are.

Lucio Fulci clearly felt a similar sense of personal misrepresentation. As the man infamous for putting more arterial spray than art on the silver screen, the mind behind such blood-soaked epics as Zombi, The Beyond, and City of the Living Dead was, by 1990, in the twilight of his career. And yet even during these final, inconsistent years, a new fanbase devoted to his guts and grue dynamic were clamoring for more. In the mesmerizing meta-experience, Cat in the Brain (released as Nightmare Concert internationally, and back on DVD from Grindhouse Releasing), the glorious goremeister takes said reputation as a splatter savage and literally turns it upside down and sideways. The results speak volumes for how we watch scary movies, and how we view those who make them. 

While working on his latest film, Fulci finds himself slowly coming unglued. At his usual lunching spot, a suggestion of steak tartar makes him physically ill. Upon returning home, a gardener with a chainsaw causes him concern. Convinced he is losing his mind, he visits Professor Egon Schwarz, a psychiatrist with a knack for hypnosis. As part of the proposed cure, Fulci will let himself be “put under”. Unfortunately, Professor Schwarz is a psychopath who wants to go on his own sinister killing spree. Tricking Fulci into thinking that he himself is committing the crimes, the maniac medico begins murdering hookers with unhinged abandon. All the while, our flustered filmmaker experiences visions from his past films, disgusting, gruesome hallucinations that convince him he’s a monster.

Cat in the Brain is either the laziest excuse for a movie ever made by a true Italian giant, or one of the most unusual and unique films ever crafted by a fading cinematic icon. By utilizing clips from movies he either directed or produced, including The Ghosts of Sodom (1988), Don’t Be Afraid of Aunt Martha (1988), Touch of Death (1988), Bloody Psycho (1989), Escape from Death (1989), Massacre (1998), and Hansel e Gretel (1990), Fulci fashions a formidable tale of personal torment and professional assessment. Convinced he is nothing more than a cinematic circus geek, the filmmaker puts himself in the place of his audience and stands in revulsion over what he sees. To witness a man who makes atrocities for a living play at being equally insulted by their outright repugnance is a bit disconcerting at first. It’s like watching your favorite chef gag on his own cooking.

But Fulci knows that’s how we’ll react, and he keeps driving home the point to make sure it sticks. There are disturbing murders - including a couple involving Leatherface’s favorite power tool - that are simply nauseating in their cruelty. At other instances, we laugh as holdover actor Brett Halsey (he’s featured prominently in the clips) plays lethal lothario, killing various women with a combination of sadism and satire. In fact, the material that’s the least effective here revolves around Professor Schwarz and his wide-eyed, over the top sense of slaughter. When actor David L. Thompson puts on his murder’s mug, we’re not sure if he’s crazy, or just advertising the dentist who polished those sparkling pearly whites. It’s as gratuitous as the Nazi orgy sequence which goes on for far too long.

As a result, it would be easy to consider Cat in the Brain to be self-indulgent, self-centered, and self-aggrandizing. This is Fulci paying tribute to his forgotten legacy, the later period films long after The Beyond, Zombie, and The House by the Cemetery created a firestorm of loyal fans. Indeed, many of the movie reference will be completely foreign to even the most dedicated lover of the Italian icon. Still, there’s no denying the man’s way with special effects. While some of the sequences seem dated by today’s standards (Fulci even rejects an eyeball gag which he professes still fails to look “real” to him), the brutal natural of their visual aggression cannot be denied. Sure, the bodies look like latex and stage blood, but what Fulci does to them is beyond belief.

As part of the new DVD from Grindhouse Releasing, we get a chance to hear Fulci defend himself in a rare and very revealing interview. The man is very open about his career and very candid about his work within the genre (i.e. - would people go to his films if he made comedies, he wonders out loud). There is also a chat with actor Halsey that’s a lot of fun, as well as a look at Fulci’s appearance to the 1996 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. Just watching him bathe in the warmth of his frenzied fanbase is reason enough to check out this intriguing featurette. Toss in a wealth of additional content, including a few more Q&As, a bunch of stills and poster art, the original theatrical trailer, and a collection of liner notes penned by Antonella Fulci, novelist David Schow, and director Eli Roth, and you’ve got a wonderful digital presentation of a complicated, controversial film.

by Bill Gibron

24 Mar 2009

It was one of last year’s best films - foreign or otherwise. It was unceremoniously snubbed for Oscar consideration (favoritism found Sweden submitting another, lesser effort). It’s been praised as one of the best genre titles in the last ten years, and definitely one of the best vampire films in quite a long time. So how does Magnolia, the company responsible for releasing the mandatory home video version of the critically acclaimed Let the Right One In respond to the challenge of maintaining the magic in Tomas Alfredson subtle masterpiece? They mangle the subtitle translation so badly that some of the most important elements of the narrative are damaged - sometimes, irreparably.

A bit of background. Most fans found this film as part of the annual awards season struggle for recognition. Critics groups, like the ones yours truly belongs to, received a screener copy of the movie, complete with a set of burned in translations and the typical “do not duplicate” warnings. No bonus features, no anamorphic widescreen transfers - just the movie and its many allegorical delights. As with many year end evaluations, Let the Right One In snuck up silently, taking over many a press organization with its indelible combination of visual flair, storytelling finesse, and premise fulfillment. It was a literal joy to behold, a smart horror film that wore its metaphoric menace on its brittle, beautiful sleeves.

Of course, newfound devotees were looking forward to the day when the DVD would be released. Even more so, individuals unable to see the film during its festival runs and Best Of ballyhoo could now cuddle up with a copy of the title and be whisked away to a frozen world of suspicions, innuendo, and sly, sinister terror. Initial reviews of the package were favorable, if not completely enamored of the lack of added content, and few mentioned problems with the transfer or subtitles. Then a website known as Icons of began a campaign of complaining. Some chalked it up to fanboy geek grumbling. Others argued that the author of the post was making a mountain out of a multicultural molehill. Once the evidence was made available, however, the truth threw everyone for a loop.

As anyone who reads the image-laden article can see, Magnolia has made a mess of the Let the Right One In translation. Certain important scenes have been robbed of all their context, while slight word changes turn characters from martyrs to meaningless. It’s worth the time to traipse over the site and check it out. The modifications will stun you. More importantly, they beg a question that has plagued most film fans since the VCR made movies a viable source of personal ownership and enjoyment. How reverent must a studio be when distributing a foreign title to US viewers? For decades, supporters have laughed at poorly dubbed martial arts epics and the awkwardly worded comic conversations. This is especially true of horror films which, notoriously, have suffered through numerous video translations and debates over the proper source language (Dario Argento, for instance, shoots all his films without sound then dubs in the region appropriate track).

So it’s really no surprise that the DVD of Let the Right One In suffers from this flaw. It happens all the time. But what is stunning is the high profile nature of such a slight. When a Lucio Fulci gore-a-thon or a forgotten bit of Shaw Brothers archeology get short shrift in the transfer department, it’s par for the course. After all, no upstart distributor is going to take the time to turn a washed out, mono mixed bit of exploitation into a top rate, reference quality presentation - and no one is suggesting that Magnolia didn’t have the best interests of Let the Right One In and its admirers at heart. But when you see the pitiful excuse for subtitles here, it does make one wonder (and to make matters worse, there are rumors that the Blu-ray offers the proper dialogue, over the English dub version of the film, Huh?).

Let’s extrapolate for a moment. Studio frequently announce the release of “Unrated” or “Director’s Cut” DVDs, including material in the movie that wasn’t in the original theatrical version. Typically, there’s more blood, breasts, and borderline unnecessary dialogue scenes, all earning the special label because the MPAA didn’t have a chance to evaluate the print as pass their questionable judgment. Remember, the tag “Unrated” is different from “Not Rated”. The former once had the approval of the suspect ratings board. The other didn’t even bother to show up and screen it. This is significant because marketers want you to believe you are getting something “better” when you buy the non-theatrical edition of a favorite film. The truth is, however, that you’re only getting something different.

So why not label the new Let the Right One In in the same manner? Companies specializing in foreign films - like Criterion - frequently advertise that a newly remastered classic also contains “new translation by…”. If you don’t mind letting buyers know that you’ve altered a movie visually, or plotwise, why not mention the fact that this newest release will featuring a brand new interpretation of the script. In the Icons of Fright piece, the writer suggests that money may be involved in Magnolia’s decision. Rights over the original subtitles (and the comparative cost of creating new ones) may have been the biggest factor in why we have this new version. And isn’t that just like the TV on DVD debate, when musical cues and era-appropriate songs were replaced by different tunes in order to avoid massing monetary payouts?

Such a decision, naturally could lead to a few disgruntled customers, but wouldn’t such anger be better than the current belief that Magnolia just didn’t care about the release? And there’s the sneaking suspicion that, beyond all the initial hand wringing and kvetching, many in the moviegoing public wouldn’t know about the change, and therefore wouldn’t care that they’re missing the movie as it was meant to be seen. While it sounds cynical, filmmaking and the distribution of same is still a business, and driven by commerce as well as art. While it’s clear that Let the Right One In deserves better, we can at least be glad it’s available at all. Every year, hundreds of worthy offerings never even get a chance to shine for an audience eager for something new. Here’s hoping Magnolia answers the communal call and corrects the problem. As of now, they have definitely let the wrong one out. 

by Bill Gibron

24 Mar 2009

Filmmakers are funny people. The movies they make are a lot like their children, and as with most good parents, they are reluctant to consider said offspring anything other than perfect. Even when their big screen brat runs around shrieking like a reject and shows as much brainpower as an inbred hillbilly homunculus, they put their aesthetic arm around their pointed little profit margin and kiss the box office boo-boo until it’s all better. In the grand pantheon of blind bat guardians, Lexi Alexander has to be the most baffled of them all. Throughout the comical commentary track she shares with cinematographer Steve Gainer, she tries to convince us that Punisher: War Zone is one of the best, most faithful comic book adaptations ever. Even if she’s right (or partially so), she’s still playing Mom to one mess of a motion picture.

After his family is killed by a mob hit gone wrong, Frank Castle, also known as vigilante crime fighter The Punisher, decides to go on a one man criminal killing spree. Taking out mafia families one by one, he’s responsible for hundreds of deaths. The police turn a blind eye to much of his activity because Castle can do what they legally and Constitutionally can’t. His current target is the Russotis, including the clan’s Narcissistic lieutenant, Billy. A stand-off in a glass factory leaves Castle with undercover cop blood on his hands, and the bad guy with a face full of deadly shards.

After some botched plastic surgery, Billy becomes “Jigsaw” and devises a plan to get back at the dead officer’s family and the man who mangled him. Freeing his insane brother James (otherwise known as “Loony Bin Jim”) from the asylum, they seek out the wife and daughter of the downed agent. All the while, Castle’s guilty conscious over the killing has him trying to help the wounded widow and child. Rallying his weapons expert Linus “Microchip” Lieberman, our street savor gets the arsenal necessary to take out these monsters once and for all.

With the Marvel imprint MAX as her constant mantra, and a bubbly personality that betrays a wealth of pre-release publicity on her “happiness” with the film’s final cut, listening to Lexi Alexander wax warmly about the movie she supposed abandoned over “creative differences” is reason enough to give Punisher: War Zone a spin. This is a filmmaker who can excuse away anything, from wooden performances (“this is exactly how the character acts in the comic”) to blowing off half of an old lady’s head (“it’s great”). There is no denying the fact that if you like bullets and lots and lots of them, this version of the second-tier antihero will definitely satiate your ammunition jones. More poorly aimed artillery rounds are expended here than in an entire season of a ‘70s crime drama. Utilizing the stylized approach to atrocity made famous by Hong Kong and indie Hollywood, Alexander tries to paint a graphic novel vista loaded with pain, anger, and wall-to-wall violence. What we get instead is the firefight equivalent of a gang bang.

Granted, this is a lot better than the Thomas Jane joke that Jonathan Hensleigh made out of the material. So Lionsgate has to be thanked for getting their head out of their horror films long enough to realize a new direction was needed. But what should we make of the reports circa July of 2008 that claimed Alexander was kicked off the film for delivering a blood spattered send-up of all things gun and gun-like. Obviously, arguments over the dollar sign differences between an R and a PG-13 rating were part of the process. But nowhere on this DVD do we hear about the supposed spat. It’s important to note, however, that the disc carries over the original theatrical cut of the film. Anyone hoping to get their hands on the “Unrated” brains and body parts edition of the title will be very disappointed indeed (if one even exists, that is).

That being said, Punisher: War Zone can be called a groveling guilty pleasure. It’s not in the same league as The Spirit, or Crank, or Ultraviolet, but it’s just bugnuts enough to find a place in the less discriminating facets of your movie loving logistics. As our corpse grinding “good” guy, Ray Stevenson puts on his best Brit glower and gives the Queen’s English the heave-ho for lots of guttural grunting. He’s matched in UK jive by the paisan paltriness of Dominic West’s Jigsaw. So stereotyped he might as well be eating dinga-magoo off the back of a bearded Italian grandmother, he gives the entire Mediterranean a bad name. About the only actor surviving this surreal shoot ‘em up is Percy Wetmore himself, Doug Hutchinson - and to hear Alexander tell it, he found his inner psycho all by himself.

As for the rest of the digital package, we are once again fooled by the so-called “two disc” tag. The second DVD is reserved for a downloadable copy of the film only. Talk about a big shrug of the shoulders. Elsewhere, we get the standard EPK material, puff pieces on casting, make-up, behind the scenes scuttlebutt, and that incredibly cockeyed alternate narrative track. When you consider that Alexander and Gainer get a chance to, more or less, “set the record straight”, the rest of this material is meaningless. Still, it’s fun to hear actors who basically know better explaining the motives beyond earning a big fat paycheck.

And you have to remember that, no matter the good/bad karma, no matter the kiss and make-up quality of this presentation, no matter the lack of butts in seats or total disrespect from critics (Rotten Tomatoes has this at 25% and dropping), what matters in the end is the movie. Fans have spoken, and they seem to like that Alexander mimicked the pen and ink publication they loved so well. For those outside the comic cult, this will be some hard media mindlessness to swallow. Sure, there’s a lonely Saturday night out there somewhere just waiting for you to rent this title and take a break from using your brain, and if you’re in the right mood, you may actually enjoy yourself. But don’t be fooled by Alexander and her unrealistic mother and child reunion. This is one cinematic kid that deserves a good spanking.

by Bill Gibron

23 Mar 2009

As it continues to underperform at the box office, it’s obvious now that the entire Watchmen phenomenon was one magical adventure that few were prepared to meet head on - or even halfway. Audiences apparently want things spelled out for them in abject specifics, or they’ll simply meanderer down the Cineplex hall to see what Tyler Perry or The Rock is up to. Even worse, as a result of this lack of appreciation, some of the smarter marketing angles invested in by the filmmakers are now seeing their possible payoffs weakened by a less than excited public. This makes the DVD release of necessary supplements Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood that much more arresting. These provocative puzzle pieces, meant to complement and complete (for now) the faithful adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel vision now feel like afterthoughts. Too bad all postscripts aren’t this provocative.

Tales gets its EC Comics kick from an unexplored storyline from the book involving a mysterious writer, artists with a knack for creating the gruesome, and the infamous funny book they forge. Read by Bernie, an African American kid sitting on the New York City street corner where some of the later action in the plot takes place, “Marooned” (as the specific story is labeled) centers on a sunken schooner, the Captain (voiced by 300‘s Gerard Butler) and his crew left for dead. Washing up on a deserted island, our delirious sailor tries to return to his home of Davidstown. He’s convinced the sinister Black Freighter is headed there, bloodthirsty ghost pirates bent on taking the entire village - including the Captain’s wife and daughters - to Hell. Fashioning a raft made of the bloated corpses of the dead, he traverses dangerous seas. Once he arrives back home however, the horror final begins.

On the other hand, Under the Hood, a memoir written by original Nite Owl Hollis Mason, has been made over into a 60 Minutes like news special (complete with era appropriate commercials). In the book, we saw excerpts of the actual text. Here, a typical talking head named Larry Culpeper hosts The Culpeper Minute. For this 10 year retrospective, we are whisked back to 1975, before the Keene Act, before masks were outlawed, before the events in Watchmen literally change the fate of the entire world. In a series of exclusive interviews and archival footage flashbacks, Culpeper talks to Mason, original Silk Spectre Sally Jupiter, and a few more fringe characters from the surreal subtextual history of the avengers. We discover links to the McCarthy hearings, the hints at Ms. Jupiter’s assault at the hands of the Comedian, and lots of mea culpas from agent (and former husband to Silk herself), Laurence Schexnayder.

Like Alice tumbling head over heels deeper and deeper into her own special rabbit hole, Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood are destined to overfeed a fanbase already rabid for anything Watchmen related. For them, this is the final visual epiphany, the moment when the promise Zack Snyder exhibited all throughout the feature film is fully realized and expanded. Granted, the “visionary” director is not on hand to helm either project, so it goes without saying that there’s some palpable pizzazz missing. But for the most part, this daunting double feature reminds us why Moore and Gibbons are so revered, and why so few outside their skewed sphere of influence “get” their incredible accomplishment.

Indeed, to the outsider looking in, Black Freighter will feel like a failed episode of Tales from the Crypt, The Animated Series, while Hood will have little relevance if any. They’ll question the importance of these supposedly significant parts and wonder why they weren’t given a place somewhere within the features already daunting two hour plus running time. For some, the allure of Black Freighter‘s Grand Guignol anime take will be too much to take. Others will see the stilted nature of Mason, Jupiter and the others and argue that everything about Watchmen plays that way. What this means of course is that the doubters are simply jealous for being left out of the creative clique. When this material works - and it does so in any medium - it’s mesmerizing to behold.

The best moments in Black Freighter come toward the middle, when the Captain’s madness finds him talking to the decomposing head of his shipmate Ripley. As voiced by the always recognizable Jared Harris, the exchange sparkles with sinister allure. Equally endemic are the times when Hood traces the rise and rapid stardom of the original hooded crusaders. While the footage may not look “found” enough, it’s great to see these often overlooked characters getting some necessary live action due. Indeed, those suggesting that Snyder and company helm a prequel dealing with the original Minutemen are totally misguided. As Hood illustrates, there really not much more to it than a 30 minute overview can’t cover.

Sure, there’s some material missing. The lesbian inspired hate crime death of Silhouette is never even mentioned, while Dollar Bill’s demise is given equally short shrift. Black Freighter is far more true to its source, since there’s not much more to Moore and Gibbons tie-in than narration and nasty action. What would have been nice, however, is a nod to the whole underlying intrigue involving author Max Shea and artists Joe Orlando and Walt Feinberg. Their subplot helps explain Ozymandias’ plot, as well as the reasons he resorts to the scheme he eventually follows. Maybe it was left out since the movie changed the way in which the last act Apocalypse occurs. After all - no squid, no need for Shea and the gang.

As a DVD, Tales of the Black Freighter feels like a sensational stopgap between the present and the future fleshed out digital package that will surely follow Watchmen‘s release on the home video format. The only intriguing bonus feature is a fine making-of that manages to explain both the creation of these narrative complements as well as why they are important to the overall storyline. Certainly, more could have been done to make this a must-own stand alone item. Perhaps a collection of other missing elements from the novel itself, or a catalog of items from Veidt Industries (also hinted at in the book) could have been included. Of course, once the super colossal X disc special editions come out, complete with everything you ever wanted to know about Watchmen and its various interconnected facets, these qualms may be appeased.

Still, one has to wonder why Watchmen wasn’t more popular? Granted, it’s a wholly insular experience, but then again, isn’t any superhero effort? After all, it was more than just fans of a certain caped crusader that drove dollars to The Dark Knight‘s eventual box office supremacy. So apparently, this long held holy grail of comic book classicism just didn’t appeal to the mainstream loving masses - and that’s too bad. Zack Snyder’s film is a fascinating, flawed masterwork, and these ingenious add-ons make the experience all the more meaningful. If they reach beyond the believers, great. If not, the reasons why will remain a motion picture mystery for decades to come.

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