Month: April 2011

Night Watch (2006), Timur Bekmanbetov, C+

Here’s what I wrote about Night Watch when I first saw it in 2006 and gave it a “D.” As if we needed more proof: cool special effects are fun to watch for a while, but if you don’t have an original or interesting story to tell, you have no movie. And even if the first half-hour is jaw-dropping, the remaining three half-hours simply hurt your ass. There is only one truly neato concept in “Night Watch,” but it hit me mid-way through that it is stolen from “Lord of the Rings” (how is entering “The Gloom” not the same as when Frodo puts on the Ring?) Some groovy shots, yeah — I certainly recommend this to anyone on drugs who wants to see cool images. And props must go out to whomever decided that the English subtitles should move around the screen, fade in and out, turn red, change size, etc. (I think using subtitles as a quasi-diagetic graphic element is basically without precedent.) But I won’t be lining up for the sequels. Watching it again last night, I was a little more accepting of the baffling plot (maybe because I knew what to expect, but probably because I peeked at Wikipedia for a “what the hell is happening?” break) and still wowed by the look. This picture was made for under five million bucks, if you can...

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Justice Society of America: Black Adam and Isis

What’s annoying about the (relatively) recent relaunch of the JSA is what’s annoying about all ongoing superhero comics. It always seems to be really building, building, building to something, but it never quite gets there. In this collection there’s an interesting tangent concerning the Batson family and the reemergence of Black Adam, but once that slugs itself out it is simply dropped. The continuing A-story lumbers on – a self-referential bit of business, mostly about just who should be allowed in this new JSA. Still, there is an indescribable charm in seeing young Stargirl complain about her braces as Grandfatherly Jay Garrick gives her a mock-punch in the arm. And Alan Scott in a paper birthday party hat. I read this stuff just before I fade off to sleep in my bed, once my wife is already in the Land of Nod and can’t judge...

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The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Lands

I’d been schlepping through this 700 page whopper for months. Some of it is a rip-roaring page-turner, some of it is as dull as a long march through the desert. The parts that are ceaselessly fascinating are the political machinations, the way the Crusades were sold to commoners and Kings alike, and how the Pontiff was able to mobilize thousands of people to travel across the globe on an impossible mission. Less interesting are the very detailed battle descriptions. Still, author Thomas Asbridge keeps it focused on the personalities and the cultural aspects of “taking the cross.” I wish I read this before I went to Israel – I’d be pretty stoked to see the city of Akko again now that I know some of the shit that went down...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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