This isn’t going to be one of the fun reviews, with lots of screen caps and funny captions that people can put on pintrest. I’m going to take this thing to task, but not in a fun way. I didn’t even want to do it, but I came across something I wrote in a piece of fiction a few years back.
“If you have a talent, you’re responsible for how, or if you use it. Letting it go to waste is as bad as misusing it.” And I have a talent for explaining why things are bad. As far as I can tell, I’ve never been able to convince someone that a movie is good, but I can convince them something is shit! Not an enviable position, perhaps, but I’ve got a talent and I’m going to try to use it for good this time.

I’ve decided we’ve got to talk about this, we have to have a conversation about this thing because it’s evil and wrong and if I don’t warn people, I might feel responsible later. Let me be frank about this, so that we don’t misunderstand things. This is not a fun little cartoon, it is harmful, it is DANGEROUS! You should not watch this damn thing, no one should watch this thing. This is less a review and more of a warning, because watching this could drive someone to suicide. I’m going to discuss this in personal terms, since that last sentence seem hyperbolic, so I’ll explain….

Read the rest of this entry »

Behind the curtian…

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’m not sure kids… this review is having some problems. This special is makes me genuinely and legitimately angry. Like, red mist angry. Like, spitting nails angry. Now, I know, some people like it when I get angry, but I’ve felt lately that I’ve passed that phase. I’ll still post the links for the Rudolph and Charlie Brown reviews, but I’m not sure I have it in me anymore.

On the other hand, the world needs to be told why this is making me angry. On yet another hand, certain events in the lives of some friends would make the review hit way to close to home. And yet, there is a truth to be told and a personal struggle to expose.

Sooo, yeah… I honestly don’t know. You may end up reading about how The Bourne Identity and The French Connection TOTALLY count as Christmas movies come Sunday.

1
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978/ Children’s Television Workshop/ Dir. Jon Stone)

Friends, Interneters, Countrymen? Look, lend me your eyes okay? I come not to bury Big Bird, but to praise him. The good men do, may sometimes live after then, while what little evils the commited may be interred with their bones. So let it be with Big Bird. Many hath told you Henson was ambitious? If it were so, it was a magnificent joy; and Henson hath answer’d it. You all did love him once,–not without cause: what cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him? O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason!–Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Henson, and I must pause till it come back to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

The “Why Did You Do That” Moment

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Article
Tags:

I’ve got a thing about movies, and stories in general. I like things to be logically consistent. I don’t need everything to follow real world rules for everything, but I need a touch of verisimilitude to run through the tale. It’s okay for Batman to run around with a cartoon bomb over his head and have to stop for a moment and say “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” because it follows the rules the world has set. Batman doesn’t want to endanger anyone else, or even risk endangering them, so he runs away from anyone walking towards him when he tries to dispose of the explosive. Yes, to humorous results, but the ’66 Batman was a comedy after all. There is a consistent through line and I don’t find myself asking why he’s acting the way he is.

That’s one of the things that will always pull me right out of a movie, if the actions of someone make no damn sense. If I find myself asking “Why did you do that?” or “Why would anyone ever do that? Like, ever?” then I am pulled out of the movie and my enjoyment tends to suffer. I can get to a point where I’ll just start shouting my questions at the screen, which annoys some people because they’re enjoying the movie and annoys others because they hadn’t seen the problem until I mention it. I’ve ruined Batman Begins for at least two people I know because I pointed out all the problems I had with the movie and now when they try and watch it, all those problems leap out at them. For all Batman Begins did right, it’s loaded with “Why did you do that?” moments and they piled up so high it killed any enjoyment I had from the movie.

This can become a real problem for something that moves slowly, like Game of Thrones, where I’ve been informed that some of my “How does that work?” questions are answered. The problem is those problems are going to be addressed in book/season 4. Sadly, I am not willing to wait the 5 years it’s going to take HBO to get to that point. One assumes it will take as long to get to their 4th season as they did with Deadwood and The Sopranos.

Now there are ways around this issue. One of them is through simple lamp shading. In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise is trapped in a car that’s upside down in a river with guys shooting machine guns at him for reasons too complicated to go into here. In order to escape, he grabs a corpse, lights a road flare and sticks it in the sleeve of the dead man, shoving him down river. The soldiers shooting see the light of the red flare and start shooting at it allowing Cruise and Jeremy Renner to escape. Now, watching this I was saying to myself “How the hell does that work?” and about three seconds later, Jeremy Renner turns to Tom Cruise and in the first lines anyone has spoken since the flare incident says “How the did that work?” which leads to a conversation of all the questions someone might ask and Tom Cruise blowing it off saying he played a hunch that it might attract their attention long enough for them to get away. I laughed at the end of that scene because it was just after I had asked those questions that the movie addressed it. Ghost Protocol was great for that by the way, a smart movie that didn’t have to devolve into stupid exposition and plot movement based on questionable logic.

The other way is to deal with the issue simply and easily by having something not work and having the character say something like “Well, that didn’t work” or “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” which isn’t perfect in all situations, but it can help. Sometimes, it’s interesting mistakes made in the heat of the moment that can drive a story towards an unexpected conclusion. Just so long as it makes sense that it’s a heat of the moment mistake, or a logical idea, or something that could possibly be planned. Bat-Shark Repellent only works in a comedy where the joke is “Yeah, right, he has Bat-Shark Repellent in the helicopter for just such an occasion.” Anywhere else, and you’re left asking “Am I really supposed to believe that Q knew damn well Bond would need an inflating jacket or a buzz-saw wristwatch?” Bond is rarely questioned as all the gadgets get used and as such lead to the answer “Well, he needed them.” Except we do question it later, at least in some small way.

Not everyone notices these things, some people never see the problems I do until I point them out. If that helps them enjoy a movie/book more, I shouldn’t complain, but sometimes it really bugs me. I keep wanting to demand why they didn’t notice the problem, why it doesn’t affect their enjoyment, how can they just let so much crap slide. Of course, the answer is that people are bothered by different things at different times. Lots of people don’t get how I can enjoy the Batman TV show, particularly given its incredible flaws in logic. I’ll only state that A) The flaws in logic are sometimes the point of the joke and B) Those do bug me, but I forgive a joke that fails when there are henchmen doing Brooklyn accents so badly that you wonder if they actually know that Brooklyn is a real place and not some made up shit like Narnia or Belgium.

World War Z mini-review

Posted: June 21, 2013 in Movie Review
Tags: ,

So we saw World War Z and I actually liked it. I read the book about a year ago (maybe more, hard to tell these days) and I liked that too. I recognize that the movie is not the book though, it’s sort of inspired by the book.

It’s not a bad little zombie movie, but it’s only tangentially based on the book of the same title. That didn’t bother me, because if they really did exactly the book, it would be either an anthology of stories, or a Ken Burns Documentary. Either of those could be interesting, but would fail to catch the summer blockbuster crowd. I did miss the Battle of Yonkers, and some of the more interesting concepts and ideas went the wayside. I think they want a sequel, and if they get one they’ll do some of the later half of the book stuff. It really felt like someone wrote a global zombie movie, then someone pointed out the book existed, and they bought the rights to the book to cover their butts. I say this because some five writers (including Brooks) are credited in the opening titles. It felt like this went through a LOT of re-writes, and the internet says I’m right about that one.

Shall we do bullet points? We’ll try for spoiler free…

Forget the book, this isn’t the book. If you can divorce yourself from the book, you might enjoy it.

The family story didn’t work for me after the first act, but it didn’t hurt things either.

The movie made running zombies interesting to me for the first time.

The suggested solution to the whole zombie thing is… actually pretty interesting.

Oh man, then you sort-of kind-of tried to set up for a sequel, and I’m not sure that’s gonna work babe.

Because of a scheduling issue we saw it in 3D, which is… whatev. Didn’t hurt, didn’t help.

Can I be the only one who heard that speech about Mother Nature being a serial killer and perked up thinking “Oh! So some of what J. Michael Straczynski wrote made it to the screen!” as that speech was unraveling? I can’t say that was for certain his work, but it sounds like him.

Also, alternate title for the movie – “Ain’t Shit Gonna Go Right For Brad Pitt Today.”

Noir Needs Context

Posted: June 19, 2013 in Article, Movie
Tags: , ,

There is a genre, called Film Noir. It’s awesome stuff. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either a shooting style filled with shadows and somewhat stark camera work, or it’s a story style. As a story style, its hallmarks are usually agreed to be crime, moral ambiguity, social isolation, the attempt to be a good person and a search for some kind of justice. There is also something about women in the form of femme fatales, and the corruption of authority figures, but we’re going to get to that at a later date. Go watch The Dark Corner or The Big Sleep some time, you’ll see what I mean. Or maybe you won’t, because I’ve noticed that a lot of people who make another connected genre haven’t seen the awesome or are unable to replicate it. They clearly see the good man in a hard world and nothing else. See, there is a genre called Neo-Noir, and it kind of sucks. Technically, neo-noir is just later day stuff, made after a completely arbitrary cut off date.

There are problems with Neo-Noir though, and for me they’re pretty big. Problem number one is context. See, most of these movies were made in the post war era of the 40s and 50s. So, they exist in a world where Doris Day was tearing up the charts and blowing up the box office. America was kind of exuberant about having punched Hitler in the face and won World War II single handedly with just good old fashioned Know-How! We were busy having Technicolor romantic comedies, and an economic boom, and white picket fences, and everything was rosey and there would never be hippies, or punk rock, or even a president who wasn’t so white he was practically phosphorescent.

Now of course, a lot of that wasn’t true, and some people knew it. They rejected, or simply weren’t allowed to be part of this new world. That world existed, but they couldn’t have status in it. And you kind of have to understand that Doris Day was doing her thing while these movies were being made. When Humphrey Bogart was playing a detective who leaned alone and unloved in a doorway, he was existing in the same movie world as Doris Day was, he just didn’t get more than a moment in the light. Social Isolation is a big part of the classic film noir, but you need a connected world to be isolated from. There is also a world of art, of beauty, of light haired girls tripping lightly through fields of wildflowers and having nothing worse happen to her than a bit of a grass stain when she and her lover go for a tumble on the ground. These are all things that exist in that world, they just don’t exist for the hero of a film noir.

That’s one of the major problems I have with Neo-Noir, they often lack context. The make the detective the everyman, instead of the outsider. Watching Bladerunner, Momento, Year of The Dragon, Miller’s Crossing, Se7en, or Bound (that list can go on and on) you are never given to understand that this isn’t the entire world. There is no art, no music, no theater, that isn’t slave to the dark, gritty, greasy aesthetic that’s being manufactured. There is quite frankly, no outside for our hero to be looking in from. Everyone lives in Gotham City and it’s horrible all the time, filled with awful people who are mean spirited and/or weak. Even with long form TV shows like Deadwood and Game of Thrones, it’s just horrible people, living in a horrible world, where all sorts of horrible things happen to everyone, all the time because it’s all so horrible and if that pretty girl I mentioned earlier tried to trip through the daisies in one of these shows she’d have been raped and murdered by now.

It’s odd, because the makers of these movies seem to have grasped the emotions behind the isolation, but without the context of the brighter world it makes them just another cog in a terrible world. Failing to understand that Sin City is a funhouse mirror, they seem determined to come as close to reality as they can. The problem is that a seedy underbelly has to be the underbelly, it can’t be everything or your world makes no sense. Most of it comes off as posturing, the image of the tough guy shot through a child’s filter, through lack of understanding why people need to be tough. It’s as if they understand so little of how the world works, that they imagine it must all be corrupt and awful, which is why they’re childish fantasies about monye and power haven’t become true yet. Maybe that’s what they’re going for, to show that the whole world is awful and you have to be an awful person to contend and get along.

If I may posit an objection, that is utter, complete, and total bullshit.

It’s nothing more than a bullshit attempt at the same sort of mass-marketed ultra-conformist non-conformity garbage that they tried to feed us in the Post-Grunge era of the 90s and it was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now. Only now they’ve added a layer of sleaze to let the people who are taken in by this crap to believe they’re somehow clever and seeing past the glitz and understanding the world better because instead of fighting and trying to rise above the mud, they’re slamming themselves in face-first. There is art and light and joy in the world and if you raise your head up from your attempts to sink deeper into the mud than your neighbor (because the good mud is at the bottom), you will notice a whole world of light and beauty and joy.

That’s not to say that there isn’t good Neo-Noir out there. Brick is a masterful example of showing the real world. A segment with one of the few adults in the movie trying to find something for the hero to drink while he eats some cereal is both funny and contextual. Veronica Mars is another good example. The context of the real world is often see on the edges of the show, even though the show itself focuses on the dark side of the world they’ve built for obvious reasons. Both those products contain the social isolation, they contain the mistrust of authority figures, the world having a seedy underbelly, the moral ambiguity, and the good person looking for justice. They also have an understanding that there is more to the world than this little patch of dark and shadow, which is important because otherwise you can’t go on.

Context is always important to me, I will always look for the context of the world a story exists in. If the world contains no good, it is has no possibility for the good guy to win, then it’s no more interesting than a world where you know the good guy will win no matter what. Neither situation works for me. The world where we will always fail is as bad as the one where we always win.

Maybe one or the other story works for you, maybe you get into the constant loss or the constant win. Maybe you like the predictability of it all. I don’t, it doesn’t work for me. When I can predict things before they happen on the screen/page, I tend to get angry. I’m usually already bored, which is why I’m thinking and predicting what’ll happen next. We’ll talk more about that next time.

1. I liked it! I really liked it. It might be the best Iron Man movie, but I’ll have to watch the first one to make sure. Still, very good. Shane Black knows what the he’s doing.

2. The tone is darker, more serious, but it’s still a light hearted movie you can take the kids to see.

3. What the hell is it with Shane Black and Christmas? SRSLY!

4. This had a way better roll for Pepper than anything else the character has been in.

5. I think some people suffering from PDST (or atleast major anxiety issues) can point to this movie and say “Yeah, that’s what it’s like.” without having to worry about things being triggery. The end of The Avengers is his trigger, the rest of us don’t need to worry.

Minor spoilers below the cut…
Read the rest of this entry »