- The forbidden love between Dwarf and Elf. Oh, yeah the female Elf.
- Radagast the Brown and his Magical Bunny Sled. I don’t care if every child on the planet cries for a month there is no excuse for this Jar Jar-esque turd to be on the screen.
- Galadrial, Saruman, Elrond, and an epic battle against Sauron and the Nazgul. Um, if these three fought against Sauron like a mere 40 years before the events in the LOTR why is everyone so shocked in the Fellowship when he rears his ugly head? Image from the movie t shirt category.
- Legolas. Orlando Bloom is all over this film like a fly on fly food and has gone from a minor cameo scene in the last film to pretty much the protagonist. I guess the producers still lie awake at night in terror that we the idiot audience will forget that this film comes from the same people as the LOTR (actually based on quality and story that is a reasonably fair assumption to make) and need to be reminded every three minutes of its origin. In a rare example of artistic integrity Viggo Mortenson refused to do Aragorn for this film based on the fact that having any character in this film from the last series besides Gandalf, Bilbo, and Elrond was stupid but I guess Orlando was sick the day they did story continuity. As an aside they managed to shoehorn in a reference to Aragorn at the end with all the grace and subtlety of an M1 Abrams tank trying to fit into a compact parking space.
Yesterday I talked about what bugged me about the new trailer but today I want to talk about what I loved in it. The opening pan shot with the speeder traveling past a wrecked X-Wing and Star Destroyer was freaking awesome but more importantly showed a major flaw in Lucas’s last three excretions Episodes I-III. (Universe image from our movie t shirt category)
One of the great missed opportunities in the prequel series was actually showing the consequences of a galaxy wide war between the Separatists and the Republic. You know, wrecked buildings from orbital bombardments, hungry refugees desperate for a crust of bread, the steady decline of the infrastructure as more and more resources are diverted into this all encompassing war. However instead life on Couruscant continues as always with everyone living in luxury and enjoying all the food and high brow culture the French aristocracy held onto prior to the Revolution. At no point does it even seem like anyone is remotely inconvenienced by all the robots and clones dying in space.
However by showing the probably result of 30 years of fighting between the Rebellion and the remnants of the Empire the trailer made it look very much like they are going to keep the next film as gritty as possible, something I relish. Remember when Luke met Han in the seediest bar in the universe or how the Rebellion had to freeze their gonads (or what passes for gonads on aliens) on Hoth due to lack or resources? It’s that sort of struggle that makes a movie great, not watching sperm ballet in a lavish box seat. Well done thus far.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Unlike most of my generation, I didn’t grow up with Robocop in my nostalgia filter. I only saw the original 1987 film for the first time last year, around the same time the remake was coming out, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Joel Kinnaman, Omar from the Wire and Rorschach, plus of course, Michael Keaton. Notice something missing from that amazing cast? There are no women in it. In the original Robocop film, there were two important female leads: Robocop’s partner (who was replaced by Michael K. Williams) and Robocop’s Doctor (replaced by Gary Oldman). I love those actors and the new movie was available on Netflix, so I gave it a shot.
(Robocop Detroit Map T-Shirt from our vast Movie T-Shirt catalog.)
What made the original a classic and the remake suck? It’s certainly not the cast, as Michael Keaton gives a subtle but slimy performance as the corporate bad-guy and the lead, Joel who plays Murphy actually reminds me of a young Michael Bhein more than a young Peter Weller (not a bad thing, either way). If anything, they wasted a perfectly good cast.
The two problems I had with the structure of the remake were evident in the opening of it: there is no protagonist to root for (we meet Sam Jackson’s horrible TV personality first) and instead of focusing on a gang and drug war torn Detroit, we see a stereotypical depiction of war torn Middle East needing the US to save the day. Worst of all sins however is just the new Robocop is boring. It’s shiny plastic PG-13 crap with no blood, no bite and no wit. The Paul Verhoven headed original was an epic blood-caked parable of Christ in a drug apocalypse interwoven with scathing gallows humor and sly satire of commercialism, indoctrination and addiction. The new one had… Black armor and some sloppy, semi-racist talk about police militarization and privatization.
Just watch DREDD for the 1000th time instead.
But why is Destiel a thing? Or JohnLock? Or just everything about the character of Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman and star of both Doctor Who and his own spin-off show, Torchwood: why are gay (or bi or pansexual) men in fiction so appealing to straight (or bi or pan) women?
Sure, there’s something to be said for positive and diverse representation of sexual minorities in fictional worlds, especially Sc-Fi or fantastical ones, but that doesn’t seem to be where the vast appeal stems from. Straight men understand the idea of “lipstick lesbians” or of hot girl-on-girl action, but somehow we’ve evolved into a world where homosexual male subtext is the norm in genre fiction, especially if it wants to do well with both men and women. ( Iron Man T Shirt from our Avengers category, because Steve/Tony/Bruce Banner is my OT3).
But there’s a harsh side to that edgy ideal; fandom has dubbed this most dubious honor the dreaded “Queer-Baiting”; meaning to bait a gay/ bi/ pan/ questioning audience with stories full of sexual tension between supposedly straight (invariably male, with some exceptions such as Once Upon a Time and female detective shows) characters between them, only to never deliver sweet, sweaty cannon satisfaction. This is the story teller’s version of having one’s cake and eating it too: you get a straight audience that won’t be offended or scared off because of an unwillingness to see what’s there, and hook a periphery demographic of hip young queer folks with sexy, flirty, funny guys (and gals) in ambiguous situations.
Don’t go in there.
I think I have a love/hate relationship with studio marketing departments. I love them in that they always seem to be way smarter than the actual movie director, writers, or producers. They can sniff out a stinker and pick out the few gems like a smuggler who moves diamonds inside his digestive tract in order to compose a trailer that puts asses in theater seats. They are really, really good at that.
But I hate them because they suck me in every time. I have seen a lot of really craptacular movies in my time but I honestly can’t think of a single really bad trailer. Sure you can pick out subtle clues that the film is the movie equivalent of getting your manhood slammed in a car door several times (most of those clues usually rhyme with Bichael May, Cicholas Nage, or Orberto Rorci) but most times trailers are the Judas goat leading you up the ramp.
The point is I have seen the trailer for this film dozens of times and never once got the impression that it was a freaking awful musical. A lot of you might think that I have a thing against musicals but the truth is there are several I like a great deal. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast are all excellent examples of what a musical should be: a fun story with good dialog greatly enhanced by clever inspired original music destined to become iconic (I dare you to tell me you don’t know the words to the Time Warp. Image from the movie t shirt category).
The story. A flimsy pretext is found to connect a bunch of old fairy tales together. A witch curses a baker with infertility unless he can find a white cow, red hood, golden slipper, and blond hair (I hope you have your story decoding glasses on to unravel this plot). We then get mini versions of the stories. I’m going to assume you aren’t idiots and can figure out how the stories all connect at this point. There is a twist that might have added some drama had they not solved the dilemma 30 seconds later and a lady giant attacks who is slain when hit between the eyes with a rock the relative size of an ant from a sling by a young boy (oh yeah. In an attempt to remain as unoriginal as possible they ripped off David and Goliath too. Come to think of it the trap they used on the giant was the exact same trap the Prince used on Cinderella. Lame. Image courtesy of movie t shirt category).
So worth seeing? No, not really unless you are a huge fan of one of the many stars of this film or perhaps the repetitive nature of Stephen Sondheim songs helps sooth you to sleep. It is a rare occasion when I truly regret the time spent watching a film good or bad (I generally find things to enjoy in bad films) but I honestly wish I had my $11 and 125 minutes back. I was so uninspired that it took me almost a week to get around to writing this review. I know that this film has garnered praise by other critics (71% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes but only 59% from audience. America, I love you) but I think this is another Emperors Clothes situation where critics fear looking like an uncultured oaf for not paying tribute to a highly overrated Broadway play. I am an uncultured oaf and don’t care what Broadway thinks of me. 1 of 5 phasers.
I have a couple more 2014 movies to see before I do my annual best and worst lists. Check back soon.
the Infamous Dave Inman
The plot is a rich douchbag with a gambling problem (Mark Wahlberg) owes a ton of money to a Korean gangster. He borrows more money from a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams. He was in the Road and Robocop. Image courtesy of the movie t shirt collection) in order to lose even more. A waitress at the casino is actually the guys student (Brie Larson) in his literature class and according to Professor Bennett a genius of writing. Most of Bennetts classes are him bitching to his students about what untalented losers they all are and how writing at less then a genius level is a waste of time. Everyone within a 300 mile radius tries to bail Bennett out by giving or lending him money but he keeps on gambling it away. He gets another one of his students (Anthony Kelly) to throw a basketball game to pay off his loan shark and make a ton of money. In the end he still owes a ton to the Korean gangster (Alvin Ing) and Johnathon Goodman and bets it all on black on a roulette table like an ass.
So what did you think Dave? Honestly pass. If you are a huge Marky Mark fan you might enjoy seeing him in sunglasses but otherwise this is not a lot to hook you in. Rated R for language, some bizarre artistic drowning flashbacks a la Terrance Malick, and the tension of watching a character you hate throw his life away one card at a time. It is a character movie without any character. Maybe wait for NetFlix and see it on a Sunday morning while hung over. 1.5 of 5 phasers.
the Infamous Dave Inman
However for the hardcore fans of the book there was also a lot of really dumb stuff to annoy the crap out of you. Weirdest of all was the appearance of Shai Hulud for no apparent reason. Azog the Destroyer (another character featured heavily in the book-not) somehow managed to import some sandworms from Dune and have them do…nothing? They were digging tunnels or something but then before they could do anything fell back into the Well of Bad Ideas that Peter Jackson seems to drink from. In fact all the most annoying parts of the last two movies (from a book perspective) are here in force including:
Some new Bad Ideas included flying bats (who joined the sandworms in making like two appearances and then shuffling off the screen like a kid in a 3rd grade play who just wet himself on stage), goblins who are bigger and badder than the baddest Urik-Hai you’ve ever seen, cata-trolls, and a long lost elf treasure.
What came to pass…
Then came Attack of the Clones and I felt like maybe there was hope yet. No more dopey kids, what looked like Stormtroopers, and Natalie Portman’s midriff. I thought perhaps the Phantom Menace was just destined to be the one bad one so that when fans had to make a list of best to worst there would be no drama or nerd rage. I walked into the theater with both hope and fear. Of course Clones sucked as bad if not worse than Phantom Menace and I felt my respect for the entire franchise slip another 8 notches or so. I went back and rewatched the original series and came to the startling conclusion that Return of the Jedi is kind of a mediocre film and the only really good film in the series is the Empire Strikes Back (sorry fan boys. I admit the Vader/Luke/Palpatine scene is super cool but there isn’t enough coolness in the universe to make up for the inclusion of the Ewoks. ESB image from the movie t shirt category).
Finally we got Revenge of the Sith and by this point I was burnt out on hope. I had had my dreams squelched by Lucas too much already and really only went to see the film from some kind of nerd obligation. It’s was like looking for your missing dog and following a blood trail from the freeway to the bush where he died. You really don’t want to see the mangled remains of your dear pet but you have to be sure and take care of it. In this sense Revenge of the Sith did not disappoint. I expected it to suck and it did. I will agree it was the best of the three but winning that contest is like winning a self flagellation contest. Being the best of the worst is not the same as being good.
It could have been worse in so many ways.
Back in 2008 Hollywood conducted a mad science experiment and created the first film based on a crappy teenie bopper pseudo science or fantasy fiction book. Twilight stumbled around the local countryside wreaking up the place, terrorizing the local population, and infesting the world with sizzle chested man/boys, bland emotionless manikins masquerading as lead actresses, dialog that could be considered a crime against the spoken language, and glow-in-the-light vampires. Most thinking humans recoiled in horror at the abomination the film industry had created, but unfortunately a lot of really young, inexperienced, lonely, and/or just plain dumb girls with loads of disposable income fell in love with the creature and gave it money to make continuing the experiment worthwhile.
So the experiments continued in hopes of creating another perfectly horrible/lovable lab creature. Most failed miserably (cough cough the Host, Mortal Instruments cough cough) and ended up as a random slurry of bio-hazardous waste at the bottom of a noxious oubliette. A few proved relatively viable (Divergent) and stumbled around bumping into things and vomiting like the first cloned sheep after six hours in the Tilt-a-Whirl. It was inevitable that eventually Hollywood would come up with a creature stable, easy on the eyes, and capable of not only functioning in society but actually entertaining people who aren’t still wearing braces and that creature is the Hunger Games.
I can’t honestly say I am a fan of the Hunger Games. I appreciate what it is and where it fits in the landscape of the film experience and find the characters engaging and interesting, thus resulting in me caring about the action. Acting is good and the story doesn’t make me want to punch the writer. Production values very high and camera and editing spot on. However if Hollywood were suddenly sucked into a giant sarlacc (fingers crossed) and Part 2 were never made I don’t think I would lose a lot of sleep over it. Based on the fan base and their probably expectations I can use my magnificent brain to figure out how this series is likely to end even without having read the book. No one ever takes a chance in main stream film these days so unless I wake up in Bizarro world tomorrow I fully expect President Snow to have a date with the business end of one of Katniss’s arrows soon.
(As a side note, I know I’m not a teenage girl or even a little into men (all man here baby) but can anyone look at that Twilight poster from the movie t shirt collection and honestly say they don’t want to put their fist into that dudes face? Heck I almost want to punch out the girl just for showing up on the same poster. I think Mother Theresa would (and probably could) happily kick Edwards ass.)
Bad science is the least of this films problems.
I could go on about all the other bad science for the rest of this review but I don’t really need to when I have such campy mediocre dialog and gaping plot holes to party with. Even assuming Christopher Nolan didn’t hire a top scientist to consult with him (which he did incidentally) and learned all he ever need to know about science and astrophysics by watching old Space 1999 reruns I have to believe he knows how to make a decent film and not have the story stumble upon dopey plot holes and story pacing from hell. The dialog was very campy which would have worked brilliantly in a camp film but this film was supposed to be taken seriously (also I know this is my own personal bias but every time I heard Matthew McConaughey speak all I could see was him shirtless in Magic Mike saying “But I think I see a lotta lawbreakers up in this house tonight…”). Of course since this is a Nolan joint the soundtrack has to so overpower the dialog that you miss most of it. Good thing there weren’t about 3 billion different ideas he was trying to transmit with his dialog (oh wait there was…).
For all that if you dropped acid in a theater while watching the “My God! It’s full of stars!” scene from 2001 you will probably enjoy the hell out of the visuals (Image courtesy of the movie t shirt category). If you are not a fan of sci fi but want to be able to at least sound like you know a thing about it when talking to the tech geeks at work (you know, become a poser) this film will probably work very well for you. Like many of Christopher Nolan less than great films you can’t just hate this one completely. He is too talented to make absolute crap and I applaud a film that fails for trying to do too much rather than one that fails for trying to do too little. I can totally see why half the reviews are lauding this movie and the other half are lamenting it (including Jae, there girl who writes on our other blog. She thought it was great).