Sunday, August 21, 2011
Princess of my Heart: The Princess Diaries 10th Anniversary retrospective
In August of 2001, this nation was blissfully unaware of how soon one of history’s greatest tragedies was going to befall them. RUSH HOUR 2 was released on August 3rd, 2001 to great success. The movie going audience came together as one to agree that yes, we understand the words coming out of Chris Tucker’s mouth. But another film was released that day that had far more impact than a mediocre east meets west fusion of fighting and sass back. That film introduced the world to a young Miss Annabelle Katrina Hathowitz. Better known under her stage name. Anne Hathaway.
THE PRINCESS DIARIES may not seem like it’s target audience was 14 year old boys, but it certainly targeted a 14 year old Derick Armijo with it’s trailer’s promise of panty hose humor, lipgloss hijinx and the most beautiful woman to ever step down from the heavens.
Watching the trailer again gives me the Phantom Menace bumps all over my arms. As I am sure none of you ever bothered, here comes my interpretation of the events of this landmark film. Young Mia Thermopolis is a dorky teenager who was cursed with the physical afflictions of frizzy hair and bespectacled eyeballs. For this, society has deemed her a monster. Her only friends seem to be a spunky loud mouth played by Weiner Dog and her garage band fronting brother who is the little brother of Jason Schwartzman and actual member of the band Rooney. They are the only solace she finds when being berated and humiliated by Mandy Moore. She wasn’t playing Mandy Moore but it would have been appropriately meta if she did. Mia is very much a female Peter Parker. A hapless schlub who was content with her life and her place in the world until her fate presents itself.
Having never known her father, her paternal family history always remained a mystery. Until her Grandmother shows up to town and reveals herself as Queen of the country of Genovia. And seeing as how her son and heir is dead, informs Mia that she is a Princess and is next in line for the throne. SHUT. UP.
How does a girl deal with this information? NO TIME FOR THAT, WE’VE GOT TO MAKE THIS UGMO OVER! In the grand tradition of Disney ruining the female perception of their own image, the Queen orders that they change everything about Mia. The way she walks. The way she talks. The way she eats. And various other ways to impress important white people. It was only a matter of time before they decided to tame Mia’s wild locks and throw some contacts on her so the emperor of Japan doesn’t throw the fuck up at important UN functions.
When something like this happens to a teenage girl, it’s bound to upset the pecking order in her high school. Again, perpetuating the best in women, the most popular girls take this as a threat of aggression and work further to destroy Mia. Unfortunately Facebook and sexting didn’t exist back then. In girl world, this is akin to a time before nuclear weapons when the only means of battle were with spears and swords. Now, the royals want all of this business kept under wraps so they can officially announce Mia as the future Queen of Genovia at the Genovian Independence Day Ball, conveniently held in San Francisco, California. Well, it leaks out anyway and everyone wants a piece of Mia. Especially Erik Von Detton, (THAT’S MOVIE VERSION OF WALLY CLEAVER TO YOU AND ME) who wants a piece of dat royal azz. He drops Mandy Moore to take Mia to a school sanctioned beach bash. Which is fine, because Mia ditched her best friend’s cable access show and her brother’s date to go. I would probably enjoy the beach more if there were the promise of bashes. But anyway, he takes her sailing and waltzes her around the dance floor a bit before he puts the moves in. The press finds her and Erik wants to kiss her in front of everyone, but she ain’t having it. In this scene, Mandy Moore and other bitches fake an attempt to help Mia evade the papa-paparazzi and end up leaving Mia with her cheese in the wind. This is really close to sexting everyone a picture of your naked body. Kudos Mandy Moore for being ahead of your time.
If Spider-Man had Green Goblin, then Princess Mia had tabloid photos of her making out with dudes and being nude on the beach. This kind of behavior being unprincesslike, the Queen chews her a new royal asshole. Mia decides she’s not up to the trials and tribulations of her title and decides to abstain from her royal duties. But that’s not all she loses. Her friends think she’s totally a b for blowing them off for the popular kids. Before the ball, the Queen gives Mia what I liken to He-Man’s power sword, Captain America’s shield or Thor’s hammer. She gives Mia the titular Princess Diaries, a gift from her late father to write down all her hilarious teenage thoughts. It’s here, that Mia has a serious crisis of faith and contemplates running away to avoid the disappointment of publicly renouncing her princess status at the ball. Mia finds a special message from her father (FROM BEYOND THE GRAAAAVE!) which is a true “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility” that lights a fire under her ass to face the music and accept her destiny as ruler of a small but sovereign nation.
This movie had me so hard at this point that her speech was the equivalent of Neo’s “I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end, I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin” speech at the end of THE MATRIX. But instead of hanging up a phone and flying into the sky like Neo to Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine, Mia does the robot to Myra’s Miracles Happen. And they do. When you believe.
And like the Matrix, the movie was followed by a disappointing sequel that I barely remember but it has the new Kirk in it.
THE POINT IS that this movie started a decade long crush with Miss Hathowitz that continues strong to this day. And what’s my 10 year anniversary present? She’s going to Catwoman next summer in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I must have pleased some sort of movie deity. She remains the most beautiful woman in the world and it’s going to take several sweatshop scandals and a hit and run infanticide for me to turn on her. Here’s to the next ten years, Anne. Hopefully by then we’ll be married and you’ll be blogging about me! Oh, Anne. you can wear as many stupid goggles as I want. You will always be first in my heart.
Friday, June 17, 2011
In Blackest Night: a GREEN LANTERN review
Okay, what is a super hero movie? Seemingly ordinary fellow with discernible potential is given great powers in order to strike a balance in the karmic forces of the universe (or specifically, their universe). Hero is reluctant to accept this task, as it comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. The encouragement from trustworthy supporting characters or foreboding circumstances forcing hero to act (or both) push the hero into action, and it is in battle he realizes that he has what it takes to overcome the threat of a central antagonist.
GREEN LANTERN has none of that.
If you choose to go see GREEN LANTERN this weekend, you are most likely doing it as some sort of gamble. Because you don’t know who Green Lantern is. Even comic book geeks who wear his symbol on their shirts don’t know who he is. I read comics all the time as a lad, and kind of still do. I couldn’t tell you my favorite Green Lantern story because I never really read it. Over the past few years, Green Lantern has gained a newfound popularity with comic book readers because of several label wide story arcs that featured a whole manner of colored lanterns.
It took Blue Lanterns and Red Lanterns and Orange Lanterns to finally get people to pay attention to it, so it really isn’t fair to say that the character is popular right now. Shirts with funny symbols are popular right now. So, let me give you a brief history on the kind of thing you might decide to watch this weekend.
Hal Jordan is a sassy test pilot with a tendency for reckless behavior. When a dying alien crash-lands on Earth, he seeks out Hal and bestows upon him, a ring of great power. His ring. With this alien’s death, he has bequeathed the duties and powers of the Green Lantern onto Hal. A replacement for his neck of the universe. The Green Lanterns are basically space cops, stationed all around outer space and Hal has been chosen to protect our solar system. The ring he is given gives him the power to dream up anything and make it come true via ring power. Great! The possibilities are endless! So, let’s get into the movie. I'm not sure what I'm about to post should be called spoilers since you've seen this movie in the trailers already. There isn't much more to it.
First off, Hollywood has been trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen for over a decade. They’ve tried making him a comedy star, but he’s not exactly funny. They’ve tried to make him a romantic lead, but he’s not exactly charming. And now they’re trying again with making him an action star in possibly his biggest role yet. But he’s not exactly exciting. The idea of Ryan Reynolds sounds good on paper. Look at that, name! Flashy! And I swear I’ve heard him say something funny once. Right? But the awful truth is. After many a year trying to make him fit in, it’s just not working. He’s just off. He’s enough so that you think that, any minute now, he’s going to do something worth putting him in a movie for but it just never happens. He even LOOKS a little off. Sure, he’s handsome but he’s noooooot quiiiiite Clooney or Pitt or Damon. Or any member of Ocean’s Eleven for that matter. For some reason, Hollywood keeps giving this guy another shot. But this time, he may have to cash out. He beat out Justin Timberlake (duh) and Bradley Cooper (snuh?) for this role, and while I am confidant that Cooper may have brought something to this role, he probably dodged a bullet. Now, I’m gonna try to recall the plot, right now. I just got home from seeing it, but I feel I’m forgetting more and more by the second.
The movie starts explaining why the Green Lanterns exist, and how old they are. We are told that their greatest weakness is the yellow energy of fear, which has manifested into this big face cloud called Parallax. Parallax joins the elite club of movie “bad juice” types like the mood slime in GHOSTBUSTERS II and the suicide wind from THE HAPPENING. It’s just bad, people! Concentrated badness. This alien named Abin Sur tries to stop it but gets injured and tries to seek out a replacement for himself before he dies. On Earth, guy named Hal Jordan is in bed with a hot lady and OH, NO! He’s late for something important! He says something dismissive to her and leaves. Everybody at Ferris Aircraft is waiting for him. He’s a test pilot, you see. It’s an important day. They’re bidding for an important contract and HAL IS LATE. Renegades never seem to have much respect for anybody’s schedule. Everyone is mad at him, but how can they stay mad for long? This is a guy named Hal Jordan we’re talking about. Blake Lively plays the love interest, Carol Ferris, daughter of the guy who owns the aircraft company. She’s a test pilot too and their job today is to beat these unbeatable drones. Hal manages to do it while sacrificing his partner and destroying his plane. Here is where they want to emulate Kirk’s victory over the Kobyashi Maru test in STAR TREK. Hal will do WHATEVER it takes to win. The perfect quality needed in a Starfleet captain. I mean, test pilot. What? Whatever, the government is still rewarding the contract to Ferris even though Hal’s a dick that doesn’t know how to work with others or treat the equipment with respect. We just nailed him as a sociopath. Quick, give him a god ring.
So, Hal’s actions have really no barring over the government contract. We just know that’s he’s crazy at this point. We then bring the movie to a grinding halt by having Hal attend his nephew’s birthday party. Hal Jordan’s dad died in a test pilot accident. His family likes to remind him of this a lot. Can Hal ever live up to his amazing (?) father’s legacy? Well, he’s alive. So, yes he can. Abin Sur shows up and gives Hal the ring. This is played out with zero sense of wonder or profundity. The first time he does the oath and powers up the ring, he stops everything to have a drink with Blake Lively. Which, if you ask me, is the true test of any man. Be a super hero, or get drunk with Blake Lively? I would love to hear the results of this poll. The answers will shock me. Meanwhile, the government contract dude has a son played by John Malkovich played by Peter Sarsgaard. He is called in to give the autopsy on Abin Sur because the government done found him dead in a swamp. He gets infected with the Parallax super fear that killed Abin Sur and starts to get a little NUTTY! We have no sort of context on what kind of person this character (Hector Hammond) is before he’s given a super brain other than he likes to put Tabasco sauce on his snacks. I feel in superhero movies, showing what a character is like before being thrust with greatness is crucial towards showing their motivations. The entire point of the character is who he was before and how it affects him now. NO TIME FOR THAT NOW, HIS HEAD IS GETTING BIG AND ENTERTAINING. The ring has been on Hal and charged up for the entire time he has been drinking with Lively, but decides to start working when a couple of drunks start messing with Hal. The first time we see Hal use his Green Lantern powers, it’s on a couple of DRUNK TOWNIES using a big green fist. Pretty amazing imagination on the filmmaker’s part. At this point, Hal is beamed up to Oa, the planet headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps. Here, Hal is taught what the audience has pretty much already figured out for themselves by a bird fish head alien who is also a Green Lantern. Okay, this might be fun. Seeing Hal train and all. Kilowag is a big alien Green Lantern who trains the rest of the Lanterns. But not today. Now, he’s just going to beat the shit out of Hal and call it training. Sinestro, one of the wisest and honored Green Lanterns also does this. Now, Sinesto doesn’t really have much to do and doesn’t really belong in this story. But he becomes Hal Jordan’s Arch Nemesis in the comics. And they want to establish that he was a good guy first in this movie, so that it will be some sort of a shocking notion that he’s the villain when they never make the second movie. They pretty much only set up that he exists, and that they didn’t have enough sense to make him not goofy looking.
Hal takes the training too hard and decides to quit. But the Lanterns never get the ring back. He flies back to Earth and shows off to Blake Lively that he gets to wear a CGI suit. She’s very impressed. A little too impressed. He never really does anything to show her what he can do. Or the audience. Or anybody. Everybody’s just really excited to be in the movie. At a big party celebrating the Ferris contract, Hector Hammond gets mad at his dad and uses psychic powers to damage his helicopter. Green Lantern decides it isn't enough to just stop the helicopter, but to put it on a Hot Wheels track, complete with toy car, and zip the helicopter around the party for a little bit. What a hero. Making a helicopter land. That is some exciting stuff.
Hammond returns to the lab where he examined the alien body because he isn’t feeling too well. His head is swelling and he’s starting to look goofy. He attacks all of his handlers when they defy him and Green Lantern shows up out of nowhere and they have a no-battle. Green Lantern leaves and even after killing a bunch of people in a government lab, Hammond makes it home to his apartment to have more night terrors. Back on Oa, Sinestro has convinced the blue yoda bosses that he must make a ring from yellow energy to combat Parallax and because they seem to not care about anything that happens in this movie at all, they let him. When Sinestro first told them that Parllax was coming, their response was “Damn. It’s all over, I guess”. Hal shows up and says “I unquit. Please help me because Parallax is in Peter Sarsgaard and he’s gonna eat my planet” and they say “do it yourself” even though the Lanterns' prime concern is Parallax and they need to stop him. They have the same problem and will not work together to solve it. Sad.
Hammond kidnaps Blake Lively because the movie decided that they all knew each other as kids and he’s jealous of Hal and her because sometimes they fuck. He stashes her in the super brilliant, highly elaborate death trap of “hanging in the air with his mind” with a syringe to her neck. His plan is to make her like him. It works two ways. She will be super brilliant and psychic like him and she’ll be so ugly and goofy looking that Hal wouldn’t want her anyway. That second thing is a real thing and probably the one Hammond cared about the most. Green Lantern shows up and fools Hammond into losing and then Hammond gets eaten by Parallax. Parallax is gonna eat the town next and Green Lantern shoots green at him until he decides to throw Parallax into the sun. Using the exact same green fist as he fought the drunk townies with. And the other Green Lanterns just watch and clap at the end when he’s done. Team work! Blake tells Hal that she’s very impressed that his mask disappears and reappears like an action figure in hot and cold water RIGHT AFTER HE THREW AN ALIEN CLOUD INTO THE SUN. Blake, she’s not so bright. The movie ends with a completely arbitrary scene of Sinestro putting on the yellow ring for no reason. The crowd ate it up. The posters are entirely made up of Hal Jordan and his fellow alien Green Lanterns and they were barely in it and refused to fight with him.
Hal Jordan’s presence in this movie is completely unnecessary as none of his actions affect the story or characters. Hell, there are literally 500 other Green Lanterns in this movie. All that could have done what he did, and probably much better. It’s a perfect mix of bad premise, bad filmmakers, bad actors and bad visual everything. The perfect mistake. Does it really make sense to make a movie about a super hero who has tons of other counterparts that can do the exact thing he can do? I just watched those Green Lantern cartoons that they made recently. And you can either make a Green Lantern movie where he’s protecting Earth or working together with the other Lanterns on some big space adventure. In this movie, the two don’t mix at all. It’s like two different horrible movies for the price of one ticket. This movie has zero energy or momentum or thought or effort or anything in it. It’s dead on arrival. Lifeless and pointless. I rarely do this, but I would recommend you avoid it all together. It’s not even worth being curious about. If I had to compare it to another superhero movie, I would compare it to 1990’s CAPTAIN AMERICA movie where they had a pointless villain and no money to do anything worthwhile so they just kind of stand around a lot. The difference being that this movie DID have money. Ryan Reynolds stood around A LOT in that CGI suit of his. Just burning off 200 million dollars. Every frame of the movie where he is in costume looks like a fan photoshop. Green Lantern hardly does a thing in this movie. It’s shocking. It's probably the worst superhero movie ever made with actual resources behind it. At least BATMAN & ROBIN had a Max Headroom version of Alfred. Okay, I’ve put more thought into this than any of the moviemakers did. Time to stop the madness.
GREEN LANTERN gets * out of ****
If that Jim Carrey penguin movie ends up being better than this, time will stand still.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
SUPER 8 thoughts!
I saw SUPER 8 tonight at a promotional screening with free popcorn, free soda, A FREE HAT and two of my favoritest movie geek friends. This was my most anticipated movie of the year and I had a great time. How was the movie? I posted some brief non-spoilery thoughts elsewhere, and I figure I'll post them here too.
Things I love about SUPER 8:
The kids are awesome.
Elle Fanning is especially awesome.
The SUPER 8 theme and the rest of the score was great.
The end credits are pretty genius.
Glynn Turman is back in a very similar to GREMLINS type role. (he's on that poster!)
After the train crash things slow down a bunch and things get aimless. There is a lot of JURASSIC PARK and a lot of CLOVERFIELD and E.T. going on, but the difference here is that those movies created genuine tension and you never knew when a character might meet their end and this never really has those moments. They try but I was too distracted (or bored) because I've seen all those moments before. The movie is at it's best when the awesome kids characters are together or Elle Fanning and the main kid are with each other. I wish these characters were dropped into a situation that was more interesting. The army stuff and the creature mystery was just sort of blah, and a lot of the middle is dedicated to it.
It sort of reminds me of WAR OF THE WORLDS, how it sets up all this family stuff and how much the kids resent their Tom Cruise dad. I was actually sort of interested in all that and then boring aliens appear and the focus goes to stuff that isn't as interesting. But we do get a bit of closure to it all in this one, which is one up on WORLDS. When the movie is good, it's great. Probably the most disappointing thing was...
SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
---the monster is actually General Grievous from REVENGE OF THE SITH. There was so little to be said about this monster, that it's sort of surprising how much of the story revolves around it. I think if J.J. got his usual writers on this, they could have done a better job killing the preamble on the creature that doesn't amount to much and focus more on the kids and their movie. He probably shouldn't write on his own. I did like the moment where the kid lets the necklace go, even though it's not quite earned. I gotta go with that when hero kid was grabbed by the alien that he was being told to move on through the alien, and not the other way around. Although both ways don't amount to much sense.
END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS
The bottom line is I enjoyed it, and it's worth a watch. I was way too excited for this movie though. I mean I was given a free hat and everything.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Summer 2011: May Recap!
All right youse mugs, we are one month into Summer Movie Season 2011. Let’s take a look at the month that was May and recap one or two movies you saw and a bunch you didn’t.
The God of Thunder proved to be mighty with an excellent debut and great kick off to the season. I have since seen the movie three times, and it was enjoyable each and every time. It’s unlike any comic book movie I’ve ever seen, but in simplistic ways. It takes some chances, but is anchored by a star making performance by Chris Hemsworth. He has the chops and the charm to blaze a path for a new generation of action heroes. I mean, I’m still laughing at his delivery of “I need a horse”. For the last ten years or so, wrestler after wrestler has been thrown in front of us to take the place of your Stallones, your Schwarzeneggers and your Willises. Hollywood, you should have just looked to Australia. There were gorgeous special effects and a controversial love story that people decided to pick apart like no other. I still don’t understand it, but that’s been the only thing people chose to whine about. I’m super excited for the upcoming Marvel movies and the return of Thor in THE AVENGERS.
This movie exhibits things we already knew. Ginnifer Goodwin is adorable. Kate Hudson is an annoying slink. John Krasinski’s schtick does not translate well to movies. There is a generic romantic comedy formula working here, but the last ten minutes are so shocking (for this kind of movie) that it’s almost worth sitting through watching white people get drunk on wine in the Hamptons for two hours.
Kristen Wiig finally gets her due by writing and starring in her own movie and it being a raging success. This one is a lot of fun, and is very funny, and even beyond “someone’s first screenplay” standards, is pretty solid writing. It’s Apatow’s most successful production in four years, and hopefully has secured his comedy kingdom reign for a little bit longer. There has been a buzz about this movie like I haven’t seen in awhile. It has been all over twitter (Michael Keaton tweeted about it, you guys) and I hear people talking about it in everyday life as well. It’s being hailed as the funniest comedies of the last few years. Now, I see more movies than most and NOBODY is more qualified to make this statement than moi. So I gave it some serious thought, and people are sort of right. I loved the movie but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything different beyond achieving genuine laughs. But that’s not bad at all. A little love for SEX DRIVE, though. Please.
Surprisingly almost decent for a rip off of JUDGE DREDD from the director of LEGION. Well, decent for about 30 minutes and then it’s a January Screen Gems movie for the rest of the time. How did anyone see this in 3D? It’s dark as shit already.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
This movie will make you sit there and wish you were watching the confusing and disappointing third movie. There’s nothing left in the tank, and Depp can’t carry a movie he isn’t interested in or his character is interested in or has any sort of involvement in at all. They were so bereft of ideas, that Disney bought this novel from 198fucking7 called “On Stranger Tides” as the basis for the story. It’s not like this novel was anything special or even a hit. It is every stupid sci-fi novel you ever read in middle school, they just added Jack Sparrow. It’s almost fan fiction. This one’s dead. The franchise is dead. We’re done. It’s over. Nothing to see here. Mermaid tears.
THE HANGOVER PART II
This movie is currently getting the business from every genius filmgoer with the criticism “It’s exactly like the first movie”. But what I don’t get is, if you were retarded enough to like the first movie, then shouldn’t you be stupid enough not to care if this is the same thing? I am obviously not a fan of the first, and actually found this movie superior. Call it the “Ghostbusters II” effect. I really don’t see what the difference between the two movies are beyond this one being slightly funnier than the last one, which is to say, at all. Also, kudos for bringing back the 80’s subtitle “Part II”.
KUNG FU PANDA 2
The first movie was one of the best movies of 2008, which is saying something. This one isn’t as good, but is still pretty great considering what Dreamworks Animation is capable of, terrible wise. It’s very funny, action packed and has some very touching moments as well. I want a Panda now. They are hilarious and can protect me from bandits.
May was not too shabby, and June raises the stakes. We’ve got:
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT SO BUMMER SUMMER
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Emotions are running high with that list. There are some serious gambles in there and some franchises in need of redemption. Also, some awesome slurpee cup contenders. Summer is starting to sizzle!
Monday, May 16, 2011
There’s Beauty in the Breakdown: GARDEN STATE Revisited
It was the summer of 2004. A young Derick Armijo had just graduated high school and procured his first job. Hocking key chains and t-shirts to tourists at Universal Studios in a denim shirt/khaki pant ensemble that was a galaxy away from resembling flattering. He was free for the first time in his life. No one told him where to go. No one told him want to do. He was charting his own path that would eventually lead to writing this blog. He had just figured out how to use the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit System and the world was his oyster. Access to buses and trains allowed him to travel to places that he never thought he could go on his own. The place was Hollywood. The theater was Arclight. Fancying himself a purveyor of independent cinema, he found himself traveling to this mythical city to watch a film called GARDEN STATE. It can’t be said for sure, what his initial interest in this film was. But he did like the posh demeanor of this theater. He was an adult now. He should act like it by paying way too much for a 1pm matinee. He was late for Arclight’s signature introduction of the film, coming in just at the end. He sat back, completely ignorant of the running time or the fact that his pager should be off, and was prepared to enjoy the film.
It was a little rocky from the start. Derick, to this day, is squeamish during scenes of simulated intoxication and early on in the movie, the characters partake in the party drug known as Ecstasy and gallivant around with young women of a questionable age. Derick rarely walks out of movies and gave it serious thought at this point.
This movie was too dark and depressing. That is, until the knight showed up. Once a comedic scene in which Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard, Jean Smart and future star of THE BIG BANG THEORY have a comical discussion about Medieval Times. The movie started being funny and he was instantly more comfortable. Forever more he would refer to the moment a seemingly bad movie turns good as “the knight showing up”.
Fast Food Knight sounds like the name of a Paula Cole album. He was charmed the rest of the way through. Natalie Portman was that fantasy maiden of a type he didn’t realize he was interested in. The existential dilemma of young and good looking people spoke to my young impressionable heart. And the music. My God, the music.
Like a young Knives Chou would lament six years later, he didn’t even realize good music existed when he was 17. He just consumed whatever songs were on soundtracks to his favorite movies and wore a ring into a Smash Mouth CD he received in the 7th grade. This was the first time he heard music like this and he loved it. Walking out of the theater, he got that special excitement that was similar to the way he would walk out of summer blockbusters when he was younger. Instead of “I want to BE Ethan Hunt!” he was saying “I want to BE Andrew Largeman!”. “I want to be a sad sack that complains too much and attracts damaged women! I want to whine about my parents and be numb to my future path! A new kind of hero to admire!”. The great Amoeba Records is right next door to the Arclight, so he ran right in and purchased the soundtrack and listened to it all the way to work and over and over and over after that. Okay, let’s drop the third person. I was very into this movie and so were a lot of others my age. That summer was also the summer I discovered Rilo Kiley and really felt what it was like to become emotionally attached to music. Later, that Christmas season, I worked at a Best Buy when the DVD came out and we sold out in a day. This was a generational phenomenon that had nothing to do with spaceships or capes. Since it was a small film, everybody felt that they had discovered it and needed to let others know about this gem. Every girl I knew told me “Wow, they finally got me right” when talking about themselves and Natalie Portman’s character. Which was a pretty amazing side effect, seeing as how none of them were anything like Portman’s character at all. People saw themselves in this movie, for better or worse and like me, felt a strong emotional connection to the characters and themes and the music.
Five years later, I was having a drink with some friends of a friend and we were having a pretty good time. The discussion was bordering on intellectual but in that fun three beers in kind of way. I felt very comfortable with these people, so when one of the girls asked me “Have you like GARDEN STATE?”, I felt totally fine with blurting out “Yeah, when I was fucking 12”. How the hell did I get there? Why did that come out of me? I found myself explaining how I was really into it at the time it came out but somehow, it doesn’t really rate with me right now. I might have hurt her feelings, she might still love this movie but it was at that moment that I realized that this movie didn’t mean anything for me anymore and I don’t know how that happened. So, like the tagline to the BACK TO THE FUTURE PART IV poster I photoshopped a few years ago for my myspace page states, “Sometimes in order to go forward, you must go back”.
The movie starts with Zach Braff (who I wasn't aware of at the time, I got into SCRUBS because of this movie) in a dream sequence where he’s in an airplane that’s going down and he doesn’t give a shit. He wakes up in his empty apartment and takes some of the medication out of the myriad of prescription bottles that line his bathroom cabinet. He lives in Los Angeles and he fights traffic to his shitty job in a trendy restaurant as a waiter. He gets hassled for being late and has to deal with bitchy customers but like the plane dream, he seems pretty numb to it all. His father calls letting him know that his mother had unexpectedly passed away and that he has to come back to his hometown of South Orange, New Jersey for the funeral. When he gets there, we find out that he’s an actor who’s actually showed up in a few things that people have seen. He runs into some old friends who invite him to a party and while he watches townies take drugs and drink alcohol to forget their daily grind, he continues not to feel anything.
At a doctor’s appointment waiting room, he meets the beautiful and incorrigible Sam, Natalie Portman’s character. She’s scatterbrained and annoying at first and desperately wants Braff to listen to her Shins album. A moment that every hipster douche guy would want to happen as he waits at the bus stop on a drunken Thursday night. She keeps saying she’s a pathological liar which here, is cute, but in real life is a giant red flag. Run, Zach Braff! This one is a drama powder keg just waiting to explode! He gives her a ride home and she tells him that she wears a helmet because she is prone to epileptic seizures. In this generation’s world, flaw is sexy. Especially when it’s a deadly flaw. If she had asthma, she would almost be too perfect. She invites him into her house where she has two gigantic dogs, a hamster habitat that trails around the entire house and the Christmas tree is still up in the middle of the summer. Red flag, red flag, red flag. She introduces her brother Titembay, a large African gentleman and they retreat to her room where they share some deeply personal issues.
So in one visit to Sam’s house we get a healthy dose of white guilt and inability to let go of childhood things. If only we had a sign that she was desperate to be unique than we would really have a ---
Yeah. We’ve got a fully formed Generation Y hipster girl on our hands. If Braff ever does a Special Edition, Lucas style, he should CG big box frame glasses on her face. I’m sure that was his original vision anyway. A little earlier we learn that Braff is on Lithium and other mood stabilizers and he decides to maybe stop taking them against the advice of his psychiatrist father who put him on them in the first place. He’s protecting his son from the terrible emotions that could have plagued him after he accidentally caused his mother’s paralysis when he pushed her and she tripped on an open dishwasher door and she hit her neck on the counter. Doesn’t sound like an accident to me, but that’s a matter for the courts to decide. He starts spending a lot more time with Portman and introduces her to his hometown friends. One of them got rich off of his silent Velcro idea and invites them to his mansion where they fire flaming arrows into the air and dodge them. Peter Sarsgaard spends time with them as well and strongly insists they they go with him on a hunt for a present for Braff. Braff wants to spend time with his new pretty lady alone, but Sarsgaard is pushy about it. They go to a local five and dime and this happens.
So what did we learn from that scene? Braff’s former classmates are either losers, scam artists or dead. Earlier in the movie, Braff gets stopped by a cop who happens to be a former classmate. He has a cocaine problem and is very comfortable with drawing his gun for show. With the exception of his lucky friend that made millions off of a stupid idea, everyone he knows has a horrible future ahead of them that is rapidly becoming their present. On their treasure hunt, they stop by a hotel where Method Man works and is charging perverts to watch through peepholes as johns take hookers into the rooms to fuck them. This is all very dark, but provides set up for the best line in the movie “Raise your hand if you just saw some titties? Now calm the fuck down”. Braff is starting to become very annoyed by all this because he’s wasting his final day in New Jersey. They finally end up at this giant pit, which is being guarded by a houseboat. Inside, are a married couple hired by a development company to watch the land they just purchased. It is here where Sarsgaard cuts a deal with these people for a necklace they have in their possession. You see, Sarsgaard is a gravedigger and he takes whatever jewels or valuables left on the dead to sell them. He did the same with Braff’s mom and now he’s getting the loot back. I don’t know whether to be happy about this or creeped out about this and neither does Braff. But the couple tells him a story about the pit and Braff is no stranger to pits of dispair so he compares the actual pit to his metaphorical one.
When they leave, it’s pouring rain outside. Braff climbs up some boxcars and screams into the pit as if to say “You don’t own me, sadness!” and tosses his hair around as if he’s being baptized by the rain. Symbolism! Character arc! This doesn't happen in movies! The next day, Braff is leaving to go back to LA and Portman is being a cry baby about it. They say goodbyes at the airport and then Braff realizes that he wants to stay and dramatically comes back to her and that’s the end. Braff's signature dramatic style of acting by talking quietly coupled with some very vague dialogue that only serves to prolong the inevitable helps the movie stumble to the finish line. As an older dude, I can't help but think that maybe the movie would have made more sense if he didn't go back to her and allowed his awfulness to consume him or never have gone to the airport in the first place. Anti-climactic maybe, but it seems more honest.
I’m not that much older from when I first saw the movie, but it feels like I’ve grown out of it. I’ve met a lot of people since then who either consciously or unconsciously play out the neurosis of the characters out in a very dramatic way, and it’s just not as cute when they do it. The most interesting thing to happen from the release of GARDEN STATE is how Zach Braff unwittingly out Crowe’d Cameron Crowe. At the same time he was making GARDEN STATE, Crowe was working on a movie about a young man who after some minor success and big failure, comes back to his hometown for the funeral of a parent and is bombarded with zany hometown characters and falls for a young strange girl who teaches him how to have fun. The exact same movie with the same big splashy soundtrack. It was released a year later to no acclaim or accolades and just faded into obscurity along with Crowe’s career. He hasn’t made another movie in six years, but I hear he’s finally rectifying that. This internet trailer, if you fast forward through the preamble to about a minute in, is mostly music and no dialogue, like the GARDEN STATE trailer. Kind of fools you into thinking it's good but I've learned to be weary of these kinds of trailers now.
In the end, GARDEN STATE is the same kind of message that a lot of films before it had made with some new flashy packaging. It’s a story about people who aren’t ready to be adults but this time, they’re Generation Y. A super annoying, whiny, apathetic, desperate to stand out while still being self loathing that aren’t even sure why they grew out their facial hair in the first place kind of people. In a way, every generation has the same kind of annoying traits but the sad truth is I CAN’T GROW A BEARD. Where does that leave me? I tried once a few years ago and it came out bright red and strange looking and the only picture I could find of it is, fittingly enough, a photoshopped REALITY BITES poster I put myself into.
That stunning lack of upper lip growth aside, I don’t feel close to this movie and it’s hard to remember why I ever did. Afterwards, I got really into SCRUBS and met Zach Braff at the Arclight and told him how much I enjoyed the movie and his show as he sleepily listened to me and signed a ticket stub while Mandy Moore tried to ignore what was happening. Years later, my entire corkboard full of Arclight signatures that included Christopher Nolan and Shane Black and Joe Dante were thrown away by family during some spring cleaning. I nearly had a heart attack over it. It wasn’t just the signatures but old bus passes and schedules and a button that said “Cite This!” I got from my high school English teacher for completing my senior thesis. Also a few pictures of old friends and some mementos. That corkboard was a physical representation of my first post-high school years. And in an instant, everything on it was thrown away so it could hang in the kitchen with a single business card for a plumber tacked onto it. A bitter reminder that all my memories only mean something to me and me alone. I was kind of crushed when this happened but it was also sort of liberating when I finally got over it. I was happier to realize I didn’t have to be angry about it then I was mad that it happened. And maybe if my generation has more moments like that, Hot Topic would disappear from our nation’s malls and perhaps I’d have a Suncoast again to browse through and never buy anything from. The one thing that does hold up is the music. I can still listen to that with a certain degree of enjoyment. Sure it reminds me of a more infantile time but you won’t see me jamming to Raffi or Baby Beluga as I drive down the street, so there’s that. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to Zero 7’s In the Waiting Line as I chugged up to the top of the hill in Universal City on their little pedestrian tram. In the first car that I ever owned, the GARDEN STATE soundtrack was in the CD player when it died for good. So it remained inside forever and is probably still there. The center of a crushed cube that slightly resembles what my car used to look like if it were a crushed cube. That Christmas, I received it again from Santa so now I have two boxes!
I was very excited to see what Braff directed next, but it wasn’t meant to be. He starred in a movie called THE LAST KISS that he polished the script on and contributed some soundtrack picks to. It didn’t light the young world on fire like GARDEN STATE did and Braff kind of let his career die a slow death with season after unwatched season of SCRUBS. Does this look familar?
Cool music and no dialogue again. Hmmm. In the end, I sort of feel a little sad that I don’t enjoy the movie like the girl I insulted does anymore. It’s like a little part of you dying, but it’s important to continue to move forward. But I still really dig the first TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie, so don’t listen to me about growing as a person.
Until next time.
PS: Another one! She runs a lot in this movie.
Friday, May 6, 2011
My Super Important Review of: Thor
Alright all of my craze has lead up to this moment. As I ran out of the Arclight, I sped passed a bunch of satisfied customers and screamed "I MUST GET HOME TO WRITE MY THOR REVIEW!" and I got massive applause by everyone. I have a feeling there's a lot of sweaty guys in stained Marvel t-shirts a-clickity-clacking at their keyboards right now to tell you what I'm about to tell you.
Very good in fact. Exceeded my expectations, which I have to be honest were fair to middling. Thor was never a favorite of mine or even a character I ever gave a fair shake to. Only when plans for his movie were made did I ever buy a Thor comic. I found a lot of the premise interesting, but the execution was lacking. "They certainly have their work cut out for them", I thought. Thor exists between two worlds. Asgard and Earth (or Midgard, if you are a norse). Juggling the tone between a bright and colorful fantasy epic and a real world America is no easy feat. The trailers and commercials worried me a bit with it's attempts at humor. Is Kenneth Branagh, famous Shakespearean so and so, not taking this seriously? The line "Oh God, this is Earth isn't it?" made me pray to Odin that it would be cut out of the movie (he answered my prayers. It isn't).
Branagh had never made a big sci-fi epic before (although he did play Dr. Arliss Loveless in WILD WILD WEST and looked like Francis Ford Coppola Dracula while doing it, so don't get him wrongo), but he's an actor's director. He can add an element to what is usually the weakest part of these of movies and the rest could take care of itself. His involvement definitely raised my brow. I think after the success of IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT, a lot of classy directors started to realize that these things can be done well and be entertaining. Only a few years earlier, Marvel scrambled to find a director for their Fantastic Four films and the best they could do was the guy who directed BARBERSHOP. You can never tell who is going to be the next Richard Donner or Tim Burton or Bryan Singer, so picking a director that's well known and good at what he does was incredibly difficult. Early scrips for THOR had the entire movie taking place in Asgard. No Earth. Which probably would have alienated it's audience who don't know who Thor is to begin with. He must go to Earth. He must have an Earthly hot love interest. These kind of studio notes could doom a project, but they made it work.
SPOILER TERRITORY (but since a lot of you don't plan to see it anyway, read and be convinced)
The movie starts out with an editing decision that had to be IRON MAN influenced. We see Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy (the amazing Kat Dennings) and the exact same character Stellan Sarsgaard played in GOOD WILL HUNTING, who are off in the middle of the desert chasing moon beams when they witness a bifrost deliver Thor to Earth. We then flashback to the real beginning. In IRON MAN, we see Tony Stark get kidnapped by the Ten Rings and it's exciting and shocking and then we go back to see how he got to Afghanistan. Here, we see that Thor was sent to Earth and then we go back to see why he was sent there. It's not a strong way to start the movie and there's really no reason why it shouldn't be linear. We are told a story by the King of the Gods, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) about how the frost giants tried to take over Earth once, but the Gods stopped it and now they are enemies with the frost people and even went to their planet to fuck shit up and take the Cosmic Cube from them (an object of much desire in the Marvel U). More presently, his son, Thor is about to be named King of Asgard because Odin is getting very old. During his coronation, an attempt to steal the cube is made and it riles up Thor enough to wage war on the frost dudes again. This beginning is very shaky and it gave me some worry. Things are supposed to be established during these opening 20 minutes and already there's a jumbled edit and a lot of complicated jabber going on with some scene chewing to boot. But once Thor takes his buddies to Frostland via an awesome people cannon run by IDRIS FUCKING ELBA, the movie really starts to take shape. The teleportation to the frost planet is very pretty and exciting and then a really cool battle happens on the planet. For his violent and headstrong ways, Odin banishes Thor to Earth and strips him of his powers. He also sends his hammer with him in case he decides to stop being an asshole.
We meet up with the humans again, and they take Thor into their custody. Now here's where that humor I was talking about was to be displayed front and center, but within the context of the scenes and the situation and without dwelling too much on camp, the humor works! After a bit of stuffy fluff on Asgard, some light ribbing really hits the spot. Kat Dennings is adorable and funny. NatPo also brings it and the chemistry when it comes to interacting with her co-star. And that Chris Hemsworth who got the part off of an amazing ten minute turn in 2009's STAR TREK really gets comfortable with the role here and does swimmingly. He becomes charming after all that yelling and fighting, which is not an easy transition to make but he does it. It's not easy to play a giant beautiful blonde model who is a God and also has the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. They do that post production eye color change to him, like Brandon Routh with SUPERMAN RETURNS but it kind of works. Makes him seem otherworldly. The townspeople try to lift Thor's hammer, but only someone WORTHY can pick it up. This leads to some of the funnest parts of the movie. SHIELD shows up and takes all of Jane's research. Thor promises to return it all once he gets his hammer back. He goes to retrieve it and the movie really starts to cook. He enters the SHIELD compound by ragdolling some motherfuckers and an amazing Hawkeye cameo happens which was totally done in post production but is blended in very well. Thor can't lift his hammer because he's still an asshole and it's very dramatic and done appropriately. Drama! Weight! Conflict!
Back on Asgard, Thor's brother Loki takes over as King and his dastardly plan is starting to come to light. Thor's buddies decide to go to Earth to tell him all the shit his bro is starting. Thor and Jane have some pretty awesome cuddle time when Thor starts to lighten up and tell her about his world in relation to hers. She's eating all this up because it's science shit and this guy is an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. It'd be like Anne Hathaway explaining Batman lore to me which she TOTALLY COULD NOW these days! His friends show up, but Loki sends the Destroyer with them to live up to his namesake by leveling New Mexico. Some really impressive action happens and Thor sacrifices himself to save the town. In doing so, he is deemed worthy of the hammer again and he gets his powers back. After hammering in an IOU for a future assbeating into the Destroyer's face, Thor and pals go back to Asgard to stop Loki. Thor promises to come back for Jane, as he has found an anchor to this realm of Earth. Thor and Loki battle, for he is opening up a portal that will destroy the frost world, for which Loki is actually one of. Turns out he's an adopted frost dude and now he wants to destroy his real home planet. In hopes to appease his father? In hopes to destroy his checkered past? It's never really clear with Loki, God of Mischief what his true agenda is. Right for the character I guess, but they could have fine tuned him a bit. Loki dispatches himself when his father and brother try to save him and Thor destroys the bridge to the other realms in an attempt to save the frost world. In doing so, he also destroys his only way back to Jane. He is a celebrated hero in his world, but his heart is left on Earth with Jane. She is feverishly surveying the heavens in hopes of finding him. And that's how it ends. How fucking beautiful is that? I am honestly pretty knocked out over how much they made me care about the love story. I was already won over and then they hit me with the new Foo Fighters song, WALK. If that isn't a cherry on top, I don't know what is. And it fits so perfectly.
THOR is a whole lot of fun and excitement and impressive action and performances. Characters you end up loving and relationships that stay with you. The action is no game changing Wachowski shit, this being Branagh's first time with this sort of thing, but I think there is enough effort and the other parts of the movie are strong enough that it all works out as a whole. There were a lot of dutch angles in this and at first I didn't know what to think of them. My final decision lands on "pretty cool". THOR is like nothing I've ever seen yet still establishes strong super hero thematic elements into the mix without seeming old hat. The tragic thing is the deck is stacked a little bit against THOR. There is a severe lack of interest in this character because nobody knows much about him. This movie needs people to give it a shot. Take a leap of faith. I trust that word of mouth is going to be on this movie's side. There were lots of females in the audience tonight. More than usual. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed themselves, too. The stakes are not too high with THOR. AVENGERS is already filming, so Hemsworth is already locked into returning to screens as Thor and Marvel has tons of other projects to keep them afloat. THOR seems to be like a bonus. It came at just the right time where they were comfortable enough to roll the dice with this weird concept between two successful IRON MAN films and a sure thing like THE AVENGERS. They kind of have nothing to lose with it. And neither do you. You will have a fun time and get to hear an Iron Man reference. I will be seeing it again. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I did back in those 90's summers. And that's a great feeling.
I give the mighty THOR three stars out of four.
*** out of ****
I saw the new GREEN LANTERN trailer today and...well, I'm glad I didn't use any disappointment on this one because something tells me I'm going to need more than I bargained for in June. Oh well. Big headed Peter Sarsgaard will be fun to chuckle at, I guess. Remember when he was a respected actor? Those were the days. I leave you with the Foo Fighter's new song WALK off their awesome new album. SOMEONE MADE A THOR MUSIC VIDEO! ANOTHER BONUS! CHIPS ON CHIPS, MOTHER FUCKERS!
Until next time!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Forsooth! Summer begins tonight! THOR!
I sit here on the eve of another summer movie season. Reflecting quietly with my final 7-11 THOR slurpee, and am enjoying the calm before the storm. The first movie out is the aforementioned God of Thunder's first foray into moving pictures. I will see this movie tonight at midnight. Over the past few weeks, I've heard from a lot of people expressing their complete and utter disinterest in this new chapter in Marvel's countdown to nerd nirvana, THE AVENGERS. As a completist, I feel that people should ignore their stupid opinions and interests and JUST SEE IT. It's like completely ignoring Christmas because you're averse to sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are fucking good, you idiots. Just have the fun that a major corporation has planned for you that appeals to your childhood nostalgia. *takes another sip of Thor slurpee*.
Mmmm. Tastes good.
Anyway, because I rule so hard, I recently re-watched all the Marvel films in the new continuity. I don't think they have figured out a good groove yet, but I think all of their movies are definitely entertaining in their own right. I tend to use these re-watch sessions to look at the films again subjectively. Without hype. Without the audience. Without any emotional attachments. Like I'm seeing them for the first time. I know most people can just do that anyway, but I am way too emotionally attached to these kinds of things. Here are my thoughts on the Avengers countdown as of yesterday:
EMOTION: SHUT OFF
IRON MAN: Perfect. Gold standard for not only Marvel films but of summer action tent poles in general. Amazing performances from talented yet cooled off actors probably purchased at bargain rates. Entertaining beyond big action set pieces. Fun and a wonderful kick off to Marvel's new continuity.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Pretty great model for a reboot only five years after the previous movie. The characters are in the same place they would have been had Ang Lee's HULK gotten a sequel yet they aren't tied to those events at all. The movie loses some points for having a significant amount of the movie take place in someplace other than my beloved United States of A. But they make the most of it by having this dirty foreign country action take place in mostly a soda factory. I love soda! Good on ya, Marvel. Norton is the lord's gift to acting, so he's always great. Liv Tyler mumbles her love for him and William Hurt kind of chews up the scenery. The action is adequate but sort of fails to do anything impressive. But I think the charm of the movie lies within it's unique superhero themes. Banner is on the run with a power he can not control or harness that does more harm than good. His life is dedicated to getting rid of it. A lot of Captain America preamble goes on here. It's enough of a solid effort to stand alone as a worthy night's entertainment and adds some mystique and allure to what's to come in the Marvel universe.
IRON MAN 2: This one received a lot of backlash for not being as good as the original. Disappointing, sure. But by itself, I think it can stand on it's own merits. Tony's ways are causing his physical body to deteriorate and he has to look towards his father's legacy to find way to survive. This hits me the hardest, because Tony is so much of a rogue that it's really interesting to me when he internalizes. I love his relationship with his dad in this and the Walt Disney imagery. The Monaco race circuit scene is better than anything in the first movie and shows how heroic the characters are without suits and powers. It has a great "You fucked up now" moment when Tony finally gets his Mark V armor on. Moments like that I don't get enough of from movies. It reminded me of that Whitest Kids U Know sketch with Abraham Lincoln telling John Wilkes Booth how much he fucked up.
I also like how steeped in Iron Man comics continuity the movie is. Whiplash, Justin Hammer and War Machine are staples of the book, and all work really well here. It has some obvious DARK KNIGHT influences it could have done without, but it's forgivable. I think in a few years this movie might get a better rap. As for it's Avengers wind up, there's a lot of Samuel L here surprisingly not a lot of SHIELD and a nice reference to INCREDIBLE HULK and THOR.
EMOTION: TURN ON
Listen, BATMAN made me not only in love with movies but also comic books. I grew up around Marvel gum ball machines and bed sheets and Pez dispensers and all manner of crap that made me a happy child. I know I'm not the only one. I would say that I'm more interested in the adaptations of the characters slightly more than the source material, though. I'm super excited that we get a Marvel movie universe that can cross over and interact with itself. Do you know how hard it was to do that? To wait for enough properties to come back into the fold and then plan and schedule all these talented people? DC and Warner Brothers are nowhere close to doing this, and next summer we're getting a movie where Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk are all going to be punching THE EXACT SAME THING? Directed by JOSS FUCKING WHEDON? What the fuck is wrong with you to ignore all this effort to give you fun? What a dipshit you are. See THOR, you idiot. Thank you.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I Am Number Four
I went to see SCREAM 4 at midnight and I'm not sure what I expected to see. When I was 8 years old, I watched BATMAN FOREVER in the theater and I remember thinking "This is going to be the last one, I better enjoy this". Because my little boy brain raised on movies thought that franchises end at trilogies. Part 4's were reserved for horror movies and pornography. And at the time, I was sort of right. Making a fourth film is pretty much always a cash grab. Nobody has ever set out to make a four part story. It's all about the three act structure. And almost any filmmaker that has told us about their plan for an epic trilogy was a fucking liar (Christopher Nolan, the jury is still out on you). George Lucas being public enemy #1. I know you guys think that I spent my middle school years learning how to french kiss with ladies, but I was actually in libraries reading every scrap of paper ever mass produced about the original Star Wars trilogy. The only clear idea that Lucas had from day one was that he wanted people to fight in space. The characters and over all story changed so much over the years. There were mystic crystals at one point. Luke Skywalker was a grandpa and I think Chewbacca was to played by baby triplets all stacked up in a furry suit. All this talk about a saga and expanded universe is just bullshit. Sometimes when you crank more out of your original story, it works out. Some characters and situations lead to endless possibilities. But that first bitter swallow from the Hollywood machine that gave one too many squeezes to the ol' cash cow is when dreams get shattered. Something you love is no longer perfect. Your emotions are tainted. Something you love has become shitty. This blog is going to be about giving a movie franchise one more college try and the results that changed the face of entertainment forever.
I was shocked and excited when they announced they were going to make a fourth Batman movie. To me, it meant that the future was paved with batarangs. There ain't no stopping this train, and it's gonna shit into our butts forever and ever. I knew the name of the movie before they even announced it, and hindsight being what it is, I should have realized if a 10 year old could figure out the moves of a major motion picture studio, that that was probably a really bad sign. My more level headed friends had the intelligence to question an Alicia Silverstone Batgirl. But this was Batman, they could do no wrong. Why were people being difficult? WHY DO THEY NOT WANT TO HAVE FUN?! We all know how it turned out. We all know how BATMAN & ROBIN single handedly ruined the relationship between fan and movie maker for all times to come. What did I think of it? I loved it! Ice skates in the boots? Inspired! Air surfing! Excitement! And all within the first 20 minutes too. This movie was tailor made for some idiot 10 year old who just wanted to buy the toys and play the scratch off games at Taco Bell. Not having proper access to the internet, I had no idea what kind of war was being waged on Hollywood at the time. All I knew is that the movie was leaving theaters way earlier that I thought it would. BATMAN & ROBIN was in the cheaper and rattier Alhambra Place 5 theater within two weeks. It was sort of heart breaking. I didn't understand. Batman faded away pretty quickly from the public consciousness. It was then I started to realize that four was one too many.
A few years later, Warner Brothers announced that it had finally had offered the right amount of money to the cast of the Lethal Weapon movies for them to want to do another one. Much like Batman, it was a top priority franchise for the studio but they wanted it out by July 1998 and this decision was made at Christmas 1997! LETHAL WEAPON 4 had one of the fastest turn-arounds in history for a movie of it's size. It started filming in late January and was released July 10th, 1998. Lethal Weapon being pretty much equal to Batman in my eyes, I was very excited about this as well. And through the years, I feel it holds up pretty well. The first one is about Riggs learning to let someone in to his life again. The second, learning to love again. The third, he found his match and in the fourth, he learns to fully move on from the tragedy that made him a weapon so lethal, and marry the mother of his brand new son. A Riggs completely rebuilt throughout the course of four films. They accidentally made it work! There is nothing wrong with Riggs anymore. He's complete. There's no reason to be lethal. They succeeded in closing the book on the characters and putting them in a good place. And even harder, they deliver some of the best action in any of the films. The car chase and final three-way battle with Jet Li are products of actual effort and desire to entertain. LW4 is definitely a far cry from the gritty original and definitely the softest of all of the films, but they seemed to stumble on a flow that makes the aging of the characters and result of the events in the series make sense to the audience. They say the pendulum swings both ways, and I think we really lucked out with this. For awhile, they wanted to make a part five which would probably seriously ruin everything, but Mel Gibson decided to ruin his real life instead of his movie life, so we win!
A prequel is a made up term created by Hollywood. There is no such thing as a prequel. No matter when the next movie takes place, no matter how much older or younger the characters are or what spin you want to put on the franchise, another movie is just that. "Another one". It's very important to remember this point when talking about STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE. That title makes me mad just typing it. It's full of trickery! Let's break it down. STAR WARS, a proven brand. It gets you in the door and gets your mouth salivating. EPISODE I, hey, this is the BEGINNING of something. I better sign up now. How did the characters I love get to become the characters I love? We didn't know at the time that this doesn't matter in the slightest, and that if we loved something already, the last thing we need was for it to be spelled out for us. THE PHANTOM MENACE. Here's the bullshit part, shoved way at the end, out of the way. Almost an afterthought. After you've read STAR WARS: EPISODE I, you've already made up your mind about the idea and have probably blown your wad. In fact, all of the merchandise only needed to have STAR WARS: EPISODE I on it. The title was completely arbitrary. THE PHANTOM MENACE. What does that mean? It's not as cool as Wars in the Stars, or Empires Striking BACK or the fucking RETURN of fucking JEDIS! THE PHANTOM MENACE tells you nothing about anything. It should actually be called THE VAGUE THING. The movie was none of those things, actually. It was STAR WARS 4. Plain and simple. Instead of sounding like "Star Wars Again" it tricks you into thinking it's within the realm of greatness of the first movies simply because it happens before the greatness. It's also tricking us into thinking we're going to see the original STAR WARS again because this is the start of a new trilogy. This was the first time, we, as a movie going audience, were expected to repeat a phenomenon again from the ground up. This was new Star Wars. It will be just as beloved and successful as old Star Wars. After all, it's Star Wars. There will never be a movie more disappointing than PHANTOM MENACE. We will never be that excited ever again because this movie added to our complete and utter distrust of Hollywood to ever treat us like thought processing human beings again. Every time we see a sequel or a "prequel" or a "reboot", we cover our balls and tense up, because we all saw PHANTOM MENACE and don't want to be hurt like that again. It sort of destroyed our faith, and that isn't exactly fair. We are now far too weary of what comes along the pike from our favorite characters and stories. We are overly defensive and it sometimes doesn't allow us to enjoy things properly. We're still suffering from Post Traumatic Midichlorean Disorder and while I think we can definitely heal, it's going to take some time.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD was one of the first movies to test the waters with making another movie to a trilogy that ended way long ago. At least Star Wars's angle could allow them to hire a younger cast. With this, you need John McClane out there putting bullets in everyone's faces, no matter how old or shriveled he is. ROCKY BALBOA, or ROCKY 6 came out the year before and told a sensible and worthwhile story about our aging hero. John McClane had a country to save. The stakes are the highest they've ever been and there is no room for speeches about how old you're getting. You just have to apply old school know-how to the situation and hope it works. And here's the theory I have that makes LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD work for me. McClane hurls a cop car at an enemy helicopter and rides a jet fighter during his adventures in this movie. With each film, I think John McClane gets THAT much better at defeating terrorists and surviving definite fatal situations. He just gets more powerful. He can do this in his sleep, keep throwing it harder at him, he's just going to throw it right back to you. If they get up to part 9, I would totally buy it if McClane had gained the ability to throw terrorists into the sun. Despite everything that had been taken away from the character, the core of the character still rang true. I guess it's easier when all you need for a Die Hard movie is John McClane being John McClane.
The next one is my own personal waterloo. I can't tell you how hard I fell for the Indiana Jones movies as a kid. It's kind of like the kid brother of Star Wars in that it never fully reached the levels of full on total fever blister madness in terms of popularity. Still radically loved and adored, it was more about the films that it was about being a pop culture movement. So, obviously another one was a huge deal to me. And when I left the theater, I couldn't help but ask my friends "that was good, right?" which is something that should have already told me something was wrong. Because I am thick, I saw it an additional two times in theaters. The opening scene should have clinched it for me. It immediately breaks the rules of the trilogy and it's been adr'd and cgi'd within an inch of it's life. More care and attention was paid towards covering things up than trying to have fun. They tried to fit a sci-fi b movie into an adventure serial model. It strayed too far from what it used to be, and what it actually was didn't make any sense. At least X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (which is another horrendous title, and again, is actually X-Men 4) had a horrible precursor to kill any sort of enthusiasm for an X-Men project I could possible have with X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. CRYSTAL SKULL had to be in the shadow of one of my favorite film serieses of all time and break the flawless streak. I tried really hard to love it, and at one point did. I actually loved INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL at one point, and that creeps me out. Remember in THE DARK KNIGHT (Batman 6), when Harvey Dent said you can either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain? That wasn't just some cutesy aside to the fans, it actually means something. George Lucas is a prime example of that. He was a dreamer with an amazing idea and he beat the odds making a movie no studio wanted to make. But he's been the boss for too long, and now instead of changing the game, he now is the game. He is the man. He is the evil empire that is telling you how it is and how it's going to be, and he's not gonna let anyone tell him that cgi fire ants are stupid and unexciting. We simply can not get over how amazing the 80's was for entertainment and we're going to be eating our own tails for many years to come. We're going to continue pretending that a 63 year old Indiana Jones is a thing we should all see. Because the 80's ruled and it will never be the same.
Okay, let's all take a breath and come down by remembering that even though Wolverine's origin was actually told in the comics in a really successful way, that X-MEN 4 decided to get rid of all that junk before the opening credits so we can watch will.i.am teleport around the screen while Ryan Reynolds gives him jibber jabber. They made it so Wolverine's origin wasn't even all that important to the story and then painted themselves into a corner and got out of the corner with adamantium bullets. I seriously think that if M. Night Shymalan were to make UNBREAKABLE 2 today, that A. it would suck and B. water bullets would come into play heavily in the film's third act. Also, remember "I'm drinking to remember?". Oh, ho, ho.
Ok, this has been a lot of rambling all to get to SCREAM 4. I watched the original SCREAM at a young age and as a non-horror fan, but could still appreciate what was going on. The 90's were a time to comment on things that happened in the 70's and 80's. Because people love the 70's and 80's, we accept this as entertainment. SCREAM is a fun mystery thriller by and for fans of movies. Any movies really. Because it's fun to consider whatever your situation is as a movie. In this case, some nut is killing a bunch of teenagers in a mask. We are in a horror movie! Our useless knowledge on cliche is now the key to our survival! Lots of fun. The audience gets to play Nancy Drew for a few hours as we keep guessing as to which character is the killer. SCREAM 2 and 3 had the same things going for it, but they are so afraid of failure that they never take the chances that the original film did. The writer's original visions were constantly changed because of massive concern over the film's ending being leaked onto the internet, leading to conclusions that are confusing or disappointing. The movies were still fun and worked as a trilogy, even though it was never planned out that way no matter what press releases tell you. SCREAM 4 suffers from the same things that INDY 4 did in that it kind of forgets it's part of a series. The mechanics that work in the previous films are forgotten, probably because they were lost in the shuffle of endless rewrites. The opening scene of a SCREAM movie is always exciting, but they didn't know what they wanted to do for it. It starts out fine with two young girls talking about facebook and being sarcastic. Two Ghostface killers murder them and I felt a rush of excitement. They were letting us know up front that they were at least two killers. If they are showing their cards this early, that must mean they have MORE secrets in store for us in the movie and ------ nope, it's a false beginning.
The opening of STAB 6 being watched by two other girls. Okay, that's kind of funny I guess until one stabs the other for talking during the movie and it's revealed that we're actually watching the opening to STAB 7. This makes no sense if you're watching STAB 7 in a world where STAB 7 exists. By now, we've wasted so much time that nothing goes into the real opening which involves two girls again and this time a Ghostface shows up and kills them. That's the opening. I figured that the opening to SCREAM 4 would either set up how the game has changed for the rules of the movie or establish why certain people are being killed. None of this happens. It's kind of a throwaway. They had even wasted all their good guest stars on false starts. I then thought "since the opening kills are always someone who's face is recognizable in one way or another, are they changing things up by killing nobodies? Is that the surprise?" Well, if that's the case, then I guess they established that all deaths will mean nothing and mission accomplished. Neve Campbell comes out of the hiding she went into in SCREAM 3 to write a book about surviving. Something she hated when Courtney Cox did it in the first SCREAM. Of course Ghostface returns when she does and is it really worth it? Even a successful book sells what? A couple of hundred thousand copies? It's not like she can sell the movie rights at this point, why all of a sudden the need to be a writer? Who is she, JK Rowling now? Okay, so Dewy is now the Sheriff and that makes sense and Dewy and Gale's relationship is in trouble AGAIN but this time, for no reason. You know, for a guy who lost his sister in all of this madness, Dewy is never as mopey as Sidney. That's not really a complaint, just an observation. Okay, so word gets out that Ghostface is back and Dewy puts his most incompetent officers in charge of protecting everybody.
We meet the new teens. Emma Roberts is the Sidney character, without the weight of tragedy or any back story or being the main character, so not Sidney at all. Her boyfriend, who is recently estranged for cheating on her. Hayden Panawhatever is a sassy best friend who is one of the only people who seems to be trying with this and having fun. No-name McGee, who gets killed next and never gets developed anyway. Rory Culkin and Friend, who are the resident film geeks and try to explain how the horror genre has changed (commenting on 90's comments!) yet don't really seem to know too much about it or try solving the mystery. I assume these characters got blanded out in rewrites, because in order to critique modern horror, you have to comment on certain things that Dimension Films (the studio that makes SCREAM) has been heavily criticized for. So that's out. There is Alison Bree, who is Neve's publicist and is much fun because Bree rules. She gets killed pretty early, which is regrettable. The killer is revealed to be Rory Culkin, who's ambition was to "remake" the original events but there is no connection to who was originally killed or why. It seems too vague and either over or under written. The second killer is Emma Roberts, which lead to the funniest mask pull off of all time. Her reason was that she hated all the attention she got as "the cousin of famous survivor" if that can even possibly be a thing, and then says she wants to be famous because of all this. "Horror movies rule" and "I'm mad at you, Sidney" have already been done in SCREAM 2 in the same way. And Emma Roberts being the killer is right up there with Jackie from Roseanne being Ghostface. You have to wonder how many times these plots can be foiled before some potential killer says "maybe these guys are too good at thwarting and I shouldn't try this" but that doesn't happen this time. Emma Roberts is successful at stabbing Sidney and then roughs herself up in an attempt to look like she is the lone survivor. For a good long time, the movie does a good job at making us believe that the killer might get away with it. Which if SCREAM 4 ended that way, so what? Is that so harmful? Something new! But no, Sidney is a survivor and isn't dead and Emma Roberts tries to kill her in the hospital and ends up getting thwarted by everyone just like the last three times. Thus killing every new character they created to relaunch the franchise. Sorry, SCREAM 5! It wouldn't hurt for them to keep some characters here and there from each movie. Parker Posey certainly didn't need to go in SCREAM 3 and Hayden Blahblah was actually really good. Neve, Arquette and Cox are so boring and unchanged by this point, that it's not even exciting to see them again. Because they don't do anything. So, what was the point of all this? Why bother if the original writer ends up leaving and the director publicly says "it's not my movie" and all your new characters are dead and nothing changes for the original three? Because the Weinstein Company is really hurting right now financially combined with the fact that they are total pussies. That's why fans must watch characters they love in something stupid. That's why SCREAM slowly crawls more into the category of "something I don't like" from "something I like". It becomes a little bit shittier and my fandom wains just a little bit more. Being chipped at like I was a god damn coal mine. I hate that. Did I ever even really care?
And there's the point in all of this rambling. When we go from "that fucking ruled" to "did I ever even really care?". When something awesome becomes something not. There are certain characters like Superman or Sherlock Holmes that have lasted for decades upon decades. The same story being told over and over but with different points of view. New perspectives and takes being added in to each new version. Variations on a theme. Adaptation. Star Wars and Indiana Jones aren't original. They're based on other things but done bigger and better and more sophisticated. Fear is the reason why movies get to a part 4, because studios are afraid of doing something that people won't want to see. We gotta know when to walk away. We must keep moving. In the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld "You MUST exercise the gaskets, George".
Okay, I've said so much on this that I officially have stopped caring. And that is probably the whole point of therapy.
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