Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Pop Culture Rant on What I Hate

This ... this I love.
It's strange that the genres I fell in love with are turning against me. If you allow me to digress for a paragraph or two ... or three, ah who knows. I tend to ramble. 

There is a strange three-way schism in pop culture. We are drowning in Apocalypses, Monsters, and Superheroes. Normally, these three things are at the top of my list, but in a day and age where what seems like more than 90% of pop culture has to be remakes, re-imaginings, and sequels, I just want to yell, "ENOUGH ALREADY!" 

I've noticed a steady downhill trend in my movie going, nerdy-excitement experience since about 2009. Media has turned to shit. I know this because I can go back and see why I was excited for these films. They were fairly novel concepts! 

Action was represented with Liam Neeson being terrifying on the phone and a bunch of Americans shooting Hitler in the face in Taken and Inglourius BasterdsSci-Fi did have the action packed Star Trek prequel, but it also had District 9, which knocked my socks off, as well as Pandorum, which carried flavors from the 90s Event HorizonTerry Gilliam knocked fantasy on its face with The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Superhero movies had Zack Snyder's love letter to Alan Moore's comic of the same name, WatchmenRomance kicked guys in the balls with (500) Days of Summer and nursed them back to health with I Love You, Man.

I loved all these movies, and partially cause I didn't see exactly where they were going. This year, I barely left my house to bother, and when I did, I was frustrated. I wrote long reviews denouncing Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises' quality. I did, admittedly enjoy Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers a lot. 

The only novel concepts this year were Chronicle and Cabin in the Woods. I admittedly need to see Cloud Atlas and I look forward to Lincoln

I'm just damned frustrated and you people all need to know it. I mean aren't you guys tired of tired tropes that media and pop culture is beating our creativity, integrity, and sense of quality to death with?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On Iron Man 3 & the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Well, big news on the Marvel Cinematic Universe! A trailer. Whoo.

But thankfully the revealed clips indicate that Tony Stark's trilogy will hopefully culminate in an emotionally satisfying and cathartic installment. That is what I'm hoping. The trailer for Iron Man 2 just looks shiny, and that movie was a big steaming pile of poo--shiny poo, but poo nonetheless.

So what do we see?

Well, Tony admits to not being able to sleep, referencing the events in New York during The Avengers, leading to the impression of a more emotionally vulnerable Tony Stark. Through the trailer we see Stark systematically stripped of his home and his Iron Man suits. It seems similar to the concepts behind The Dark Knight Rises, taking everything away and having the character come back ... or die. Either or.

If not for the scheduling of Avengers 2 (and the seemingly never-ending series that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is becoming, but I'll get to that), I'd be half expecting them to kill him off, especially after Downey's comment that he would like to "leave it all on the field."

Also worth comment is Stark's new suit, which reverses the red and gold motif, and takes inspiration from the Extremis storyline. We also see if moving on its own, which is a frightful concept. Stephen King would have a field day with a possessed, autonomous, evil Iron Man suit.

Also, excitingly, the villain, Mandarin, is being played by Ben Kingsley, and Guy Pearce will be geneticist Aldrich Killian, one of the creators of the Extremis technology. Marvel can, at the very least, never be faulted for their casting.

So, overall, I'm certainly far more excited for this film than I have been for most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other than Avengers, everything since the Incredible Hulk has been sub-par for a variety of reasons.

The unfortunate part, is I can't imagine what kind of resolution the character will meet in this film that won't leave him open to further exploitation in future films. Granted, being a long-time fan of Whedon, I'm not worried about Avengers 2 in terms of quality. I just like it when a series knows when and where to call it quits and actually end. 

But can I blame them? No. When you've got your hands on one of the most successful cash cows of cinema history I certainly wouldn't let it go either. 

Oh, and the film will be released May 3, 2013.

This leads me to my second point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If I didn't make it clear, LET IT DIE. We're now in phase two of the entire shebang. We culminated the 6 part series with the 2012 film Avengers, and Nerds wept/jizzed/raged across the globe, and it knocked the box-office out of the park. That was the climax to phase one. Where, I beg you, will it end? Phase three? Four? Five? Marvel doesn't have a great running streak of letting their comics end, and I wonder if they will continue these films until the actors actually get too old to play them anymore ... and then maybe they'll just Ruffalo in new actors.

So what do we have to look forward to beyond Iron Man 3? Well, Thor: The Dark WorldCaptain America: The Winter Soldier,The Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2, and Ant-Man all before the end of 2015.

So lets break it down.


Thor: The Dark World
The Thunder God (Chris Hemsworth) returns next in line, and 'will have to save the nine realms from an enemy older than the universe ... which begs the question, "How was the Big Bang?" Actually, the actor cast is Christopher Eccleston, which really begs the question, is Thor battling a Time Lord? 

Anywho, he will get to team up with his girlfriend, Padme (Natalie Portman) again, but what nerds really want to see (believe me, my school is crawling with them), is where Tom Hiddleston will next take Loki's character. He's stated he'd like to take him to rock bottom, and see where to go from there.

The film will be directed by Alan Taylor, who has worked on the television series Deadwood and Game of Thrones. Writers Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely will take over for the film, and since most of them don't have wikipedia pages, I don't think there's much I can even say about them.

The film will be released November 8, 2013

Captain America: the Winter Soldier
Cap (Chris Evans) will continue to struggle with living in the Modern world, and they will bring back his friend Bucky, who will now be a brainwashed Russian soldier. The plotline is near direct from the comics, which is cool, I like Bucky (moreso in the comics, but after the Covenant I'm a little overly harsh on Sebastian Stan).

Originally Rogers adjustment was to included in the Avengers, but it was deemed to fit better in the Captain America sequel. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely return as screenwriters for the film, but Joe Johnston will be replaced as director by Joe and Anthony Russo, who are best known for ... their ... work in sitcoms...

... Strange choice. 

The film is scheduled for release April 4, 2014.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Oh.....kay. This is about where they start losing me. I mean, I know I'm not an in depth comic book nerd but I thought I was well rounded (mostly read Batman comics), but I've never even heard of these dudes. In the concept art we see Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Gamora. I don't know them, but they look fucking weird. I mean ... Rocket Racoon? According to my quick glean from the interwebs there is a talking dog?

The only grace this film has is the soft spot James Gunn earned in my heart for Slither, who has been signed on to direct.

The film is scheduled for release August 1, 2014

The Avengers 2
Okay, so this I am excited for, but it's Joss Whedon, so if you couldn't have predicted that already, you really didn't pay attention to my Avengers review. He has signed on to return as writer/director, and I couldn't be happier about the choice.

He has promised a smaller Avengers, saying "Normally, a sequel is supposed to be bigger than the first film, but I actually think it should be smaller. In saying that though, people might ask 'Is the volume of the film going to decrease?' but that's not the case." He adds, "Of course, new characters will be added but presently we're still trying to figure out how they'll encounter our wonderful cast (referring to the actors from the first film). They all have tremendous respect for each other and how you work the new characters into that synergy is something I'm still trying to figure out. I think instead of how big of a scale the movie/story is, the most important thing is, how much devotion you can put forth. Films have an ability to be large in scale but also be personal. It's a godsend that makes the issue of adding characters irrelevant. The real question is how deep we can dig down into the story."

... I'll just leave it at that.

The film is scheduled for release May 1, 2015

And lastly, the last announced film is ... Ant-Man? Seriously, who cares? I mean, the guy grows giant. Cool. I'm not sure if the character still has fans out there. If you are an offended Ant-Man fan, sneak into my house and write your complaints in blood upon my wall. Or leave a comment cause you're probably a lazy wanker.

The film will be helmed by Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright, so at least their will a quality team at work in the development. I just don't know how much I will care.

The film is scheduled for release November 6, 2015

So! There you have it, my knowledge and expectations. Let's see how much changes and whether or not I'm forced to eat my words. Cause I totally know there will be one asshole out there who will remember everything I said today in late 2015 when Edgar Wright blows my mind (haha, not likely).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On the Evil Dead Remake

The biggest question this begs is "Why?" I don't understand why this film was made. I could say it's for the money, but at this point, I don't think Raimi or Campbell are particularly short on it, and the Evil Dead series wasn't exactly a cash-cow to begin with. It was a cult classic of a beloved loud-mouthed braggart, a boomstick, chainsaw, and his chin.

Just can't separate this man from this franchise.
Granted these elements weren't really in the first film at all, but it was what developed and what stayed with the fans, so much so that they created Evil Dead: The Musical.

Which was totally groovy live.
And I feel, based on the trailer, the musical is a much more rightful successor to the franchise than this .... thing.

Based on the trailer, certain elements are there. College kids, cabin in the woods, Deadites, Necronomicon, chainsaw, possessed hand, washed away bridge ... but none of the spirit. It just looks gory, and not in the enjoyable 80s low budget kind of way. I guess it's just a personal thing, but this trailer does little more than send my stomach into a series of gymnastic flipflops.

Here's my stance, I'm not thrilled by an Evil Dead remake in the slightest. My advice to you is conveniently already in the trailer though.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Disney's Star Wars Rant

The Kingdom Hearts guys just jizzed in their pants.
So right now the nerd kingdom is being polarized by the newest of juicy geekdom trivia. There are two very vocal groups, one who has their heads firmly embedded in their ass, and the other who is pissed that said space is already occupied because we are itching to ram a foot up that particular orifice. 

This momentous event that has Fanboys losing their freakin' minds is that Star Wars creator George Lucas, the guy who accidentally the whole Original Trilogy and, with God-like fanfare delivered the most anticipatory case of ED and anal leakage in all of cinema history. 

But fear not! For the minds behind the biggest franchise monopoly in Hollywood, Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Walt Disney Company, has come to sweep the beleaguered Lucasfilm from its erstwhile creator, who has locked it away in a tower with a avalanche of books, movies, video games, comics, and merchandise. So just what this franchise needs is more bloating, right?

Cause here is the thing, after spending $4.05 billion in cash and stock, we've been promised another home run from a dead horse. Hell, even Bioware, the guys who handed us the glory of RPG entertainment, Knights of the Old Republic, fell down on the job on The Old Republic. That one fell out of public eye in between blinks, and not a heart skipped a beat anywhere.

So, in 2015, we can expect the next cinema installment to the Star Wars Saga ... which I had rested comfortably knowing was dead and entombed under the weight of the infamous "Nooooooooo!" heard round the world, and it can go one of two ways, cause no matter how much I ramble on here in my widdle corner of the interwebs, something tells me my readers are not comprised of the Disney Development Team and that they are driven by a sensation of quality as opposed to this mythological substance always in short supply (especially to Disney execs) money. 

So I digress. It can go one of two ways. Tron: Legacy, which I thought rocked. It fell into the category with Star Trek '09. I recognized that it was not the original, and it was not trying to be. It took loved aspects and made them accessible to modern popcorn guzzling crowds. Cool.

The second option I call Iron Man 2 (lookup Ryan Wieber's review to see why). Now Marvel had a damn good thing going, and despite my love of Whedon and the Avengers, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk were the best films of the series. Then Disney came rolling in with its damn mouse, and the next thing we know, the left field house of cards got hit like the east coast by Sandy. (Too soon?)

Either way, I know for a simple and sad, possibly existential fact, that no one gives two flying shits about quality. It's about money, and brand recognition is the surest and easiest way to put fat asses in theater seats. (just wait till the torrenting/starving college kids actually grow up). So guess what, new Star Wars movies on the way.

All I know is that I miss the Disney that brought us Adventures in Babysitting, with the main line, "Don't fuck with the babysitter!

Friday, October 5, 2012

On "Star Wars 1313"

At the urging of a friend (aka the Druken Scotsman), I checked into a game called Star Wars 1313.

Suffice it to say ... I'm reserving my excitement for this game until a later date. So far as I can tell, this game is Mass Effect BUT, but there is no butt. This game looks like Mass Effect to me, and I don't need to beat the dead horse attached to the bandwagon that is bagging on ME, but my opinion of ME is fairly low. Dismissive even. Kinda like my feelings on this GAME! WHOO!
That said, Star Wars 1313, set on the planet city Coruscant involves conspiracy, intrigue  and adult themes .... whatever count as those these days. I will give them credit for bringing the whole team together on it; Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound. It's kinda like getting the band back together. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This book was fantastic (and I'm a whovian, so you know when I say fantastic, I f***ing mean it).

That said, I love Kevin Smith more than I do his films. The man is a natural born storyteller, but for a man who built his career around his love for movies ... he doesn't do much more than stick his actors in front of a camera and let them talk... and talk ... and talk.

But that's okay. If anyone has ever enjoyed a Kevin Smith interview or any of his many Q&As, this books is a must have. Even if not, he spins an amusing tail that is sincerely Kevin Smith. Of all the men I look up to, I cannot think of a more open and honest one than Kevin Smith. His diplomacy skills are "not giving a f***" and this book is no exception. 

I mean, I love his humor. It is dick and fart jokes, with this underlying intelligence that just because you say f*** and make dick and fart jokes, doesn't mean you can't articulate yourself intellectually. Like his films, Smith, the epitomeous Silent Bob, dishes out cold and honest, funny and hilarious, harsh truths about where he came from.

For those who haven't left us!

For anyone still hanging around, I cannot begin to describe how busy I have been.

I transferred colleges, moved across state lines, to a place where no heathen should go. Utah.

But hey, Shakespeare Festival here I come!

Till then, I am diligently working to stay up on my studies, and moving the ungodly number of boxes of books I own.

Friday, July 27, 2012


So while vacationing in San Diego the other week, I had the fortune of going to the San Diego Zoo, which was downright fantastic. I loved it, had a great time, and started planning for my retirement. Figure since I'm ginger I'll fit right in in the orangutan cage. On that note, you all need to spread the word that this blog is awesome so that I can make more money off it and retire and move to San Diego. You got that? Good.

Now while at the zoo, I was brought to a dead stop by a very strange sight.

Up on stage I saw a group of robots playing music.

Upon closer inspection, they were musical actors with obvious backgrounds in theatre performance and miming, cause damn were they good!

This band was Steam Powered Giraffe.

What is Steam Powered Giraffe? 

The band is comprised of the Spine, Rabbit, and the John, and their act is one part music, one part stand up comedy, all in the guise of 3 lovable, malfunctioning 'musical automatons'.

The band formed in 2008 and has been performing Southern California venues like the San Diego county fair and the (where I saw them) San Diego zoo. The band members, the Bennet twins and Jon Sprague met while studying Theatre arts (explaining not just the makeup and performance, but the diction). Originally the friends started street busking as 'quirky robot personalities' that eventually developed into the current incarnation of the show.

On their website their fictional backstory is explained. The three robots were invented by Colonel P. A. Walter in 1896 and kept in the family over the years as the 8th 1/2 Wonder of the World. The name was derived from Walter's first invention, a giant mechanical giraffe.

At the same time they have surprisingly dark histories, including involvement in Vietnam.

Now the instant I returned to my hotel room I spammed my friends (they do exist, I swear), I showed them to all my friends, to which one of them said, "This is a band you would listen to." I don't know if that was meant as an insult or not. Can never tell with her.

But the truth is ... it is. Simple as that. I'm a theatre major with a minor in creative writing who blogs. I'm a Whedonite and a Whovian, and these guys caught my eye in seconds. I was in love. Their music is simple, but charming and catchy, and their skill at physically portraying their characters is quite impressive.

So I don't have a lot else to really say about them. There is only so many ways one can sing praise, so I'll remain concise.

But come on! These guys are sooooo cool!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


In the infamous words of Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation, "Nobody likes me when I'm being nice, so let's talk shittiness!"

I will admit that my excitement for the Dark Knight Rises was a paltry comparison to my excitement for the Dark Knight. I couldn't have told you precisely what was prompting this reservation, but it was certainly there. I think that after Inception, I was beginning to see the grizzly underside of Christopher Nolan's shortcomings as a storyteller, which had clouded my view on all his previous work. Also, Terminator Salvation shook a lot of my faith in Christian Bale's abilities as an actor. 

Also, with Bane as the lead villain, I only imagined that whatever dialogue the two characters exchanged would sound like a rockslide yelling at itself, which it kinda did. 

But first let's focus on the head honcho, the big cheese, the one and only (out of half a dozen) Bruce Wayne. I was actually impressed with what Nolan did with Bruce Wayne. Taking inspiration from the Dark Knight Returns comic by Frank Miller, we see a seven years retired Bruce Wayne who is feelings the weakness of age and the loss of both the Batman persona and Rachel. He feels vulnerable, and by the time he dons the cowl, we are as fearful for him as we are excited. 

Nolan works very hard over the course of the film to break Bruce Wayne as a person, taking everything away from him. He loses Wayne Enterprises, Bane ransacks the R&D department, taking Tumblers and other various technology, and he is physically broken (Identical to the same events in the Knightfall comic, although nowhere near as severe). He also has to watch during his recovery as Bane sends Gotham descending into chaos. 

This all refers back to the title and Batman's inevitable rise. It was a nice change to see Bruce Wayne as an equally developed character for once.

Anne Hathaway received a ton of backlash upon her casting as Selina Kyle. I found myself in multiple arguments with people, friends even, about her talents as an actress, citing her performance in Love and Other Drugs alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. I was not disappointed and thought she did a fantastic job. I must take a moment though, and point out that one of the friends I argued with said that 'Halle Berry' was the quintessential Catwoman, so I must admit ... some of my friends have the inner brain capabilities of a cherry turnover.

Although never referred to by her title, usually referred to just as 'the Cat' as she is indeed a cat burglar, it was not the Selina Kyle I knew from either comics or films, but in the context of the Dark Knight Rises, I had no issue. Stylistically and thematically, this portrayal belongs completely to Nolan. The line "So that's what that feels like," from Batman when Selina Kyle disappears off a roof, according to what IMDB tells me, is lifted directly from the Kingdom Come comic. 

Also ... she looked damn good in the outfit. I'm jush sayin'.

Onward to an interesting introduction. To counterbalance both Bruce's retirement and Gordon's age, we are introduced to a young 'hothead' police officer, John Blake, played perfectly by the ever talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I loved Blake and what he was there for. There isn't a whole lot that I can really say other than he was a refreshing new face though ... which kinda makes me sad, cause I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and anyone who's seen Brick will know why.

And finally onto the other big guy, Bane. My opinions of this character and his portrayal are divided. The script, for the most part, seemed in line with the comics, the design of the face-mask was interesting, and Tom Hardy's physical presence was imposing but ... and here it comes, he sounded like Darth Vader mixed with Sean Connery. I understand that they wanted to create a "a contradiction between the voice and the body" but it came across as ... at times, incredibly hokey, and at others merely incomprehensible.

I understand that actor Tom Hardy was inspired by Barley Gorman, the Irish-grypsy-bare-knuckle boxer. Still, even though I understand the idea behind it... the execution was ultimately questionable.

The film also brought back the lineup of old faces, including Lucius Fox and Comissioner Gordon, played perfectly by Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman respectfully. Both characters are as much a part of Nolan's Batman universe as any. Michael Caine's Alfred had a mildly absent role in this film, in line with the theme of breaking Bruce Wayne by taking everything away from him, so even in his absence his presence was felt. Lastly, we had Cillian Murphy return for a brief cameo that I couldn't decide if I liked or ... if it really bothered me. It was fun to see Dr. Crane again, but it felt forced, in a way.

Also Marion Cotillard, while ever beautiful, still fails to wow me in a Nolan film. I enjoyed her in Big Fish, but since then, I've never connected with her performances. Maybe that's just me.

The story of the Dark Knight Rises draws heavily on three distinct Batman comics. We have Knightfall, which introduces the character of Bane, who, in the comics, nearly paralyzes Batman, breaking his back, we have the Dark Knight Returns, where an aged Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to save his city, and we have No Man's Land, where Gotham is rocked by an earthquake, and quarantined, and divided up by the rouges gallery.

This leads to Nolan walking a fine line, and honestly, moments in the film feel oddly paced as he goes from one bit to the next. It ultimately works, and fits, but it's still odd. Large portions of the film are just ... there, and honestly, I don't recall Batman being that memorable in this film. Where Bruce Wayne excelled, Batman felt ... lessened. At time this worked, especially when Bane comments on Bruce's fighting being akin to a younger man's, with nothing held back. We see Bruce Wayne in the suit for once, but for a film with the 'Dark Knight' in the title, we still don't see much of the Batman, and his rise seems to be rather fast.

Whereas everything in the beginning was meticulously planned out, that damn climax felt majorly rushed, at least to me. The final fight between Bane and Batman was, in my mind, cut short, and could have used more emotional beats to truly be satisfying.

The reasoning, I can only assume is the reveal that Miranda (Cotillard) was in fact Talia al Ghul. Now, the point of a false antagonist, in my mind, is to replace them with someone of greater interest. Now I liked the reveal of Talia ... saw it a mile away, but that's because I still read comics. What I didn't like was that the moment she showed up (and a little bit before) Bane was suddenly unimportant, and ... apparently in love with her? That whole bit had no bearing on the story, and hell, I can think of a few ways it could have been improved upon.

Bruce destroys Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins. League of Shadows disorganizes, Talia steps in with mercenary Bane as her muscle. Strict business transaction. She wants to destroy Gotham like her father before her and Bane gets to do his whole terrorist bit. There, much simpler, less betrayal of the source material. Everyone is happy.

Also, Bane's death was too fast. As was (shocker) Batman's. Both these are violent, brutal characters that deserved a fight that could only be described as epic. Batman and Bane are physical titans, and their final confrontation should have shaken mountaintops. Instead, Selina shoots him with the batpod in an incredibly anti-climactic moment followed by a cheesy one-liner. And so dies (off-camera) an un-sung villain with a funny voice.

So they catch Talia and cannot stop the bomb that is going to level Gotham. Batman has a flying Bat machine (that is pretty cool, but ... I still preferred the Tumbler in Batman Begins) and flies the bomb out over the bay, where it detonates and kills the Batman. This is established earlier in the film that Fox has not been able to perfect the auto-pilot on the damn thing.

Oh-kay. If there is one thing filmmakers need to learn is that Nuking the Hero is a bad idea. Fans reacted so badly when Indiana Jones did it, they came up with a term for it, Nuking the Fridge. Batman just did that. I have to quote my brother here, "That ending was really gay."
And it was. It was so BIG and FLASHY that it forgot what makes Batman so cool. When Batman fights, even if he's losing, he gives it his all. He isn't a man, he's an idea, a symbol. He does not compromise. He does not quit. AND HE SURE AS HELL DON'T GET NUKED.

That said, it was a twist. He's not really dead. He auto-piloted the Bat out there. He faked his death.

But again, going back to the the themes of Batman, he did something similar in the Dark Knight Returns comic, and it was so much cooler, simply because it was Batman going toe-to-toe with Superman, mano-a-mano, getting bloody, hurt, and beaten up, but still fighting a fight he cannot possibly win (not that Batman couldn't totally kick Superman's ass).

So the cowl goes onto John Blake, the cop. This is why it's hard for me to talk about Blake. He was Dick Grayson, no two ways about it. (Although how he learned of Batman's identity was utterly half-assed). But as a character, he felt like Dick Grayson. And the conversation he had with Bruce about "The batman is a symbol. He could be anyone," my suspicions were confirmed. The cowl would pass on to Dick--I mean Robin--I mean Blake. Which also leads me to the 'You should use your birth name, Robin,' bit was ... I dunno, at the least incredibly predictable.

Also, there was no way they'd end the film on any other note than Alfred's fantasy about seeing Bruce across the restaurant with a wife. NO WAY once that line was said that it *could* end any other way. So Talia, Alfred, and Blake, those three things were blatantly predictable. Now I will not say they were bad, just predictable. There is a difference. The Robin John Blake was a nice touch. Talia was a nice way to wrap-around plots from the first film with the League of Shadows and have Bruce confront his origins. But the Alfred bit ... I don't know. Any comic aficionado should have trouble with the idea of Bruce Wayne leaving Gotham behind. Perchance it's just my love of Batman Beyond that colors my opinion here. Bruce was trained by ninjas. Blake is a cop. Blake is gonna get his ass kicked, is all I'm saying.

Okay, so now that I have rambled incessantly (you guys remember when these reviews were relatively short?) 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


In the wake of the Dark Knight Rises release has prompted me to admit that once again I've fallen behind in my posts, so here we go with my 2nd retro review, Marc Webb's series reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. This film met with some harsh resistance in the wake of Sam Raimi's original trilogy which starred Tobey Maguire simply due to it's proximity to the last films. In all honesty, we didn't need a Spider-man reboot, but Sony did, and considering the franchise is probably Sony's biggest cash-cow, artistic integrity probably didn't factor into rebooting the series at all. Batman Begins, on the other hand, probably did.

This is a 'gritty' reboot, and in some ways more in touch with the source comics, although more in line with the Ultimate series of Spider-man. No matter. For me, anything that wasn't the originals is good in my books. I retain a nostalgic soft spot for at least the first two X-Men films. Spider-man, not so much. Not even Willem Dafoe's terrifying visage could save that film.

But instead of ripping on Maguire, the padded costume, horrible dialogue, and what strikes me as Raimi's inability to produce quality, let's focus on the good and shitty about the new film.

From my understanding, Garfield did the majority of
his own stunts.
It's first problem out of the gate is that it is rebooting a story that we already know. If you notice, they shorten, condense, and shine the light in different areas to tell the same story. Orphan-Peter, spider-bite, uncle Ben; all these events play out as expected, with little deviation, other than to hasten the process. They focus more on Peter being an orphan, and how that effects him growing up, as well as the struggles every teenager has with the adults of their lives. 

Now is as good a time as any to espouse Andrew Garfield as an actor. He does a fantastic job. He captures that on-edge feel that most of us have when we're deep into our teenage years, where everything is just a little heightened and tense emotionally. As someone who, within the last year, lost a father figure to pancreatic cancer, I related very much to his journey and his performance. 

It was also refreshing that Peter Parker was established as an outsider ... not a dweeb. This is the age of the nerd, as I talked about in my Avengers review, and he had to still reflect that outsider status that most if not all teenagers feel. I can actually point at Peter Parker now and go, "That. That is what I was like in High School....actually I think I own that jacket."

Seriously, the flirty scene with Gwen, I think I once had, just in my case the girl did not reciprocate, so there is that. 

Yeah, that scene ...
And lastly, what was seriously lacking in the other films was Parker's trademark wittiscm. I mean, half the reason his villains hated him so much in the comics is that he would beat them up and make fun of them. He really comes across, in this film, as an internet troll. Peter Parker gains the power of anonymity via the suit, and it shows. 

Ifans did in fact do all his own stunts while wearing
a ridiculous Lizard motion capture suit.
I can't say I was wowed by the Lizard, although I thought that Rhys Ifans did a fantastic job, the character seems a bit of a rehash of other villains, especially Doc Ock's "I'm going to better mankind," nuttiness. But it was done sincerely, which from Spider-man, is all I ask. The effects were fantastic.

Also, not bothered by the removal of the Lizard's snout. I preferred retaining a vestige of Ifans' face in the performance. Twas good.

Emma Stone was enjoyable, although I find myself hard pressed to find much more to say. She ... kinda played a similar character to the one she always does. Some might call her distinct, but well, I just kinda see her. Perchance this is a personal problem. The character worked in the context of the film, so that's all that matters. She's still inherently charming, with quite the girl-next-door vibe. More so than Kirsten Dunst did, at least in my opinion.

There are minor nitpicks I have overall, but I'll save them for my Brand New SPOILER SECTION!

But before I get to that, I wanna comment on how cool the suit looked. It had the look of something made at home, it was slim, and awesome. I loved it. I also loved that they took the middle ground with the web-shooters. It's such a classic bit of Spidey-lore that the Raimi films ... understandably opted out of. Well, Marc Webb, of (500) Days of Summer infamy, found a delightful middle ground. Parker didn't invent the technology, just modified it to his needs. It gives him the wiz-kid cred without making him Tony Stark.

Sally Field and Martin Sheen did a splendid job as Aunt May and Uncle Ben respectively, this film again playing the orphan-family dynamic more than the others, and impressing me with the weight placed on Aunt May after Uncle Ben's death. Also, I enjoyed Parker's vendetta in looking for the guy who did it. It gives his early period as Spider-man a less than altruistic angle, which works for an angry, hurt teenager.

Garfield worked to incorporate Spider-man's style of movements even when not in the suit.

Some, not a lot, but I do have to say that near the ending, the cheese factor got laid on Chicago Deepdish style and it was unbearable. In Raimi's film, we have Spider-man dangling from a web holding onto a cable to a tram-car with a bunch of kids in it, with Mary Jane. Goblin comes swinging around on his glider to finish our trapped hero once and for all. Then New Yorkers start barraging the Goblin with garbage, wrenches, and random debris. From what I recall, this is stereotypical New Yorker behavior anyways.

In Marc Webb's, Spider-man is shot in the leg, and half-a-dozen crane operators all the way to OsCorpe tower happen to be ignoring the evacuation warning so that they can reposition the cranes so that Spider-man can get his injured pussy-ass to the final fight.

For me, it was too big. It was too ... staged. It felt like the screen-writer was like, "Okay, we need something big and inspirational," and slapped this scene on us. Just too much for me, I was drowning in cheese.

Now the scene that immediately preceded it, was gold, where Parker get's tazed while swinging and then downs a group of cops before facing off with his girlfriend's father, Denis Leary--I mean, Captain Stacy. Now that scene worked. If anything, I thought Captain Stacy letting Spider-man go was enough of a small, inspirational moment for the character. Oh well.

Also, the Lizard's redemption moment was tacky as well. Oh look you're just saved the kid who can stick to f***ing walls that you've been trying to kill for half the film. Also, the bit with his learning Parker's identity was 'meh' in my mind. Although, the school fight was very well done, and Stan Lee's cameo did garner a laugh from me.


Anyone else thinking of the damage the moon
would do were it that close?
So, overall, was the film amazing? No. But it was damn good, and might more internally consistent than say Prometheus was, in my mind. There were just little moments that made me honestly shake my head. They had to pander to an audience that already knew the story and felt like they were hitting their marks with -- I dunno. The film ultimately suffered by just being so close to the others, even if it was infinitely improved. I think the film will improve with age, if anything.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Okay, so ... I've done my reading and studied for the test, and while many seem to share my opinions ... I am really divided on this movie. So, spoilers beware, cause I'm going in depth on this review. Like really. And you thought I wrote a lot about the Avengers.

Okay, so the film has Ridley Scott returning to the franchise that he started with the film Alien back in 1979 starring Sigourney Weaver as the iconic Ripley and introducing us to the spine chilling titular aliens, the Xenomorph. Prometheus is a prequel.

But before I drive anyone away, lemme go so far as to say (and I'll go pretty far), that almost every aspect of the film I found amazing. Where the film falls apart is on its delivery. Explanations seem shelved for the potential sequel that might not even come. But up and to that point, it's a pretty cool time.

We have an absolutely fantastic cast, helmed by Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender as David the android, who lead the ship Prometheus (named after the Greek Titan who stole fire and gave it to mankind and god knows if I honestly have to explain the symbolism to you people I'm gonna crack skulls) in search of mankind's makers (called Engineers), a race of aliens who, up and to 2000 years prior, were regular visitors to the planet Earth. 

Something obviously went wrong 2000 years ago. I blame the Christians. 

Anyone else thinking of Firefly?
Conceptually I love this movie. I have a possibly unhealthy adoration that has anything to do with where we came from, where we are going, where we have been, and what makes us who we are. I am paraphrasing my favorite author, Stephen R. Donaldson when I say, "Good science fiction and fantasy strike closer to the bone and blood of life than any other narrative medium for science fiction gives us hope for the future and fantasy gives us hope for who we are." 

So, Dr. Shaw and her lover, Charlie Holloway, played by Logan Marshall-Green, are driven to find our makers, one as a person of faith, and the other as an atheist. Also including Peter Weyland's (played by the ever talented Guy Pearce) drive not just to find the 'gods' but to ascend to their level. Every story needs a Lovecraftian mad scientist, I suppose.

This falls apart though, upon the discovery, upon moon LV-223 (which, mind you, is not the planet that the Nostromo, from the original film, Alien, landed upon, a fact which I didn't know until further reading), ... well, I don't really know. Let's delve into it, shall we?

On the scale from 1 to cuddly ....
They get there, and without any regard to the potential dangers of being on an alien planet, rush out, into the pyramid they find, skip on the weapons, even though there is a chance for animal life (I think), take their helmets off once inside without any foreknowledge of alien pathogens, and the biologist sticks his hand out toward an alien snake five minutes after panicking about a possible life form reading.

Anyone else getting the feeling that this multi-trillion dollar venture managed to wrangle together the scientific equivalent of the Scooby-Gang?

Okay, so I can buy that the characters are all lacking in higher brain function, including the Android who talks to himself.

Yeah, that pissed me off. 

"Big things have small beginnings ...."
Said the machine to itself like a weirdo.
We have a pretty cool line in the trailer, delivered superbly by Fassbender, "Big things have small beginnings," and we find out later that he was superbly delivering this pretty cool line to an empty room, with no real explanation as to why a robot talking to itself.

Moving on to my biggest grip with the plot. The black goo.

This shit ain't science fiction, brothers and sisters, it's frakking magic. Where everything else is just silly, this is downright insulting.

He's having a rough day.
This black goo, to start with disintegrates an Engineer in the opening scene, presumably to jump start life on Earth by injecting Engineer DNA into the environment, which, according to renowned Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, didn't make sense.
"The unrealistic part of it is that it’s a humanoid alien planting DNA seeds to seed all of life on Earth. And most life on Earth is not humanoid. In fact, most life on earth is plant and bacterial. So if they were to represent that accurately, it would be some kind of bacterium dropping its DNA into the oceans of Earth."
Now granted, the scene was frikkin awesome, but it's science-fiction, not fantasy, remember? If we were engineered by alien life, I would expect the actual engineering to happen in the Jurassic Park laboratory as designed by H.R. Gieger. And thematically, this is as if the Greek Titan gave fire to humanity by lighting himself on fire and running at them. It does not seem to be the most expedient method possible.

Now back to the black goo. 

    From a kickstarter of an opening, the black goo mutates two itty-bitty worms into something called a Hammerpede, a giant snake-like eel that seems to operate like a pre-stage Facehugger complete with throat fetish an acidic blood.   
    The black goo mutates Holloway after his drink is spiked with a mere droplet of the stuff ... somehow with a little tentacle thing coming out of his bloodshot eyes and then him kinda ... dying, I guess, although he makes like he's alright up to to the point he lets Vickers charbroil him.

    This poor thing is so inbred it's family tree looks like the Olympic Rings.
    The black goo turned a dead Fifield into a homicidal zombie with a taste for his former crewmates and a lack of need for oxygen to his huge melon.
    Oh, right, I almost forgot, before the whole Charlie-as-a-candle bit the black goo made him super-fertile which impregnated the barren Dr. Shaw, who, within 10 hours was 3 months pregnant with a squid called a Trilobite that grows up to facehug an Engineer whose chest bursts releasing a proto-xeno called the Deacon.
This is the literary equivalent of a Twinkie thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds. I mean, I'm sorry to offend any Ridley Scott fans out there that I haven't, but that ... is bad writing. It's lazy, and what's worse, is it doesn't even try to explain itself. The closest we're given to an explanation is that the captain, Janek, (played by Idris Elba) makes the assumption that the pyramid is a military base and that the black goo is some form of biological weaponry.

Yes, of course, the only conclusion is that they hate us.
For all we're told it might have been a pharmaceutical meant to promote hair growth that went horribly wrong. From there, because David activated the Engineer's holodeck and found that Earth was highlighted, Shaw comes to the conclusion that the Engineers want to destroy us. Okay ... as far as jumping to conclusions I feel she just made a long-jumping record, but I can roll with it.

And speaking of David. After a very interesting conversation about the nature of creators in relation to the created with Charlie Holloway, he spikes the man's drink with the black goo for the purpose of 'trying harder'. Why is this robot conniving? Robots don't connive! Still doesn't explain why he brought the goo on board in the first place. As far as finding a ticket for Weyland to immortality, it makes no rational sense. It could have done anything. There's no indication that anyone even did what could be considered a scientific analysis of the damn stuff. And Weyland may only have a few days remaining to live, but he's in cryo anyways, so you know what that means? NO RUSH!

Although Guy Pearce is awesome and the Viral
advertising had me super psyched.
And that twist was bullshit from the start. Oh, and the mad scientist is revealed to be on the ship because ... he's on the ship. Sweet. It couldn't have been established early on? No? Had to be a twist? Thanks Shyamalan. Vickers (Charlize Theron) is his daughter? Wow, now I feel a real emotional connection to the ice queen from the north now that you have revealed that inhumanity runs in her bloody family.

She did however look mighty fine in a skintight uniform ... crap, where was I going with this?

Oh right. Shaw's pregnancy. That scene was badass. I would consider it one of the best in the film, if only for the gore-factor. However, they must have some damn good drugs in the future, cause she spends the better portion of the remaining film running her ass off, getting knocked about, and falling off stuff. Every single time too I was thinking, 'Staples in the gut, staples in the gut'. Talk about brutal. Go to a Metal concert and do that in the mosh pit.

But the whole pregnancy cesarean, GIANT SQUID event goes unnoticed and for the most part un-commented upon save by the once-again conniving robot. Shaw never brings it up with anyone so far as I recall, and it is left on board (for later, but still). It is meant to be overshadowed by learning that there is still a living Engineer frozen in cryostasis, and Weyland's brilliant plan is to wake it up and ask for immortality.

So, they find an Engineer, wake him up, ask for immortality ... and he roars like a movie monster and rips David's head off before going on a murderous rampage.

It was at this point that any pretense of philosophical underpinnings are dropped entirely and the film slips almost too comfortably into the action/adventure genre. Shaw manages to escape to the surface and radios the Prometheus, telling them that they have to sacrifice themselves to stop the Engineer from flying to Earth and using the black goo to destroy the human race for reasons known only to those privy to movie-monster logic. 

We went from black goo to this in the course of a day.
Vickers flees to the escape pod moments before Janek crashes the Prometheus into the alien ship, sending them both plummeting to the ground. Vickers is crushed, and Shaw makes it to the escape pod, where she learns that the Trilobite has grown to ginormous size. David's decapitated-yet-still-functioning head radios her to warn her of the Engineer's survival and rampaging approach. She unleashes the Trilobite upon her maker and in a strange form of ancestral incest, the Trilobite facehugs the Engineer, which ultimately chestbursts something called a Deacon that kinda looks like a Xenomorph.

Just like riding a bike ... with a flute, through space. 
So Shaw and David take another ship (which David can fly) and head for the Engineer's homeworld (which David can find). When David asks why, Shaw's reply is that she wants to know why. 

And honestly, I can share her sentiment. As the credits rolled, that word echoed noisily in my mind, and much to my frustration, as I read more into it, the fewer satisfying answers I found. For me the three most glaring issues with this film revolve around the effects of the black goo, the motivation for David's behavior, and the validity of Shaw's assumptions that the Engineers want to destroy us, and despite the quality of the rest of the film, explanations for these three things could have elevated it far above what it is: a shiny sci-fi film, with great effects, a great cast, big questions, and a screenwriting mistep that ultimately crippled it.

Now, I've never actually said this before, but I implore anyone who has actually made it this far through this tome of a post to leave a comment below sharing your feelings on the matter. If you disagree with me, let me have it. If you have answers, hit me with them. If you agree, tell me how awesome and smart and handsome I am.

Cause here's the thing, and this'll really cook your noodle later, I really enjoyed this movie.