Tuesday, October 2, 2012


*The following is two thirds of a review for The Avengers that I never finished almost 5 months ago. It didn't feel right finishing it now and it was long enough that I felt I should still publish it. So there you go..... Final line is a little ironic.

Almost exactly four year ago, I was sitting in a movie theater waiting for something I wasn't quite sure I believed. My friends and I had just watched Iron Man, an accomplishment of sorts itself. It had been fun and energetic, faithful to the character and Robert Downey Jr.'s unbelievably charismatic portrayal had been a game changer in the world of super hero movies. Now we were sitting through the credits, as we always do, to show our appreciation for the film as well as hopefully waiting for whatever tacked on little teaser scene the filmmakers had seen fit to add. We had all read on the internet about what we were most likely about to see but like I said, I wasn't sure I believed it. The credits faded out. Everything was quite. Then the scene started. Tony Stark is walking through the darkened halls of his home. Jarvis' security systems seem to have been overridden somehow. He discovers Nick Fury in his living room. Fury is cryptic of course, asking Stark if he thinks he is the "only super hero in the world" and saying that he wants to talk to him about the "Avengers Initiative". That's it, short and sweet but somehow opening up an entire world to all of us. The first thing I thought, the first thing I said to my friends was " This is actually happening. In our lifetimes this is happening". I know, sounds like something someone should be saying about the cure for cancer or legalized same-sex marriage. I don't think anyone other than serious super hero comic book fans will ever be able to understand the feeling we all had at that moment. A feeling that you knew well if you had spent your childhood reading Marvel and DC (and to a small degree Image) comics universes. The feeling that these are actual worlds, with characters that have their own development but often interact with one another. That interaction being one of the most intriguing things to read in modern comics. The closest comparison I can make to a non-fan is if you like a television show and it ends up having a spin-off and they do crossovers. If it's done well, it makes you feel good, feel like you're being rewarded for being a fan, for being loyal.

 I just got home from seeing The Avengers for the second time. I'm going to see it a third, maybe a forth. Anyone who knows me knows how much of a Joss Whedon fan I am and I could probably write a million words just about him and his work so we won't focus on that. We'll focus on the biggest things that make this movie as good as it is.
 First let's look at The Avengers in relation to the high water mark in the comic book movie world, The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's calling card is his ability to take larger than life materiel and bring it back down to our level. Making it feel like it could exist in our world, like we could hear about it on the news. With The Avengers, Joss has mastered the other end of the spectrum. Years ago, Joss wrote the introduction for the hardcover collection of the DC comics limited series Identity Crisis. Something he wrote has always stayed with me. He referred to the "matter of fact absurdity that is the life of a super-powered person". He put in perfect words there what he has so perfectly accomplished here. The Avengers features high-tech weaponry, monsters, invading alien armies and gods. So many different larger than life elements that don't feel silly, don't feel absurd or overwhelming. This is simply how this world works. Other comic book movies have attempted to pull off being "comic booky" and failed because they made the mistake of blatantly asking their audience to take it seriously. The Avengers doesn't ask, it doesn't need to. It knows that it is absurd, can still be serious about it and doesn't need to pander to anyone. "The matter of fact absurdity"
 Many people were apprehensive about this movie because they didn't think that is was possibly to have six super heroes in one movie and it not be a narrative mess. This was another reason why Whedon was the perfect choice for this job. He has spent his career writing engaging ensembles. Firefly starred nine character for goodness sake. Halfway through the first episode you felt like you had a good handle on all of them. It's no different here. Each hero has just the right amount of scenes bursting at the seams with character development. Everyone has their scene with everyone else as well as several amazing scenes all together. The only problem I had was that there are some gaps in terms of bridging from everyone's individual movies to how they arrived where they are in The Avenger but, realistically , not everything was going to fit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Fire.

Ghost Rider sucks.

Not just Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance or 2007's Ghost Rider but the comics too. The character sucks. It's a tough realization to come to. Ghost Rider, like many heroes (usually antiheroes actually) created in the 70's and the 90's were pretty one dimensional. There was a reason I feel that the first series run of the comic ran from '72 to '83 and then a new series started in '90. The 80's was this little oasis between two (mostly) barren wastelands of decades. The '80 were dark for comics but darkness with depth. That was not Ghost Rider. In my opinion, He was born out of late/post Vietnam War motorcycle gang image and worship. The idea of a biker superhero sounds pretty good but other than the image (along with a half hearted origin and motive) there wasn't much else to the character. It's no better today. Even popular and gritty writers of the present such as Garth Ennis, Daniel Way and Jason Aaron have taken a crack at making Ghost Rider relevant again. None of them succeeded even though their stories were pretty interesting. The bottom line is, once you spend 3 seconds saying to yourself "oh cool, he's got a flaming skull and chains" there isn't anything deeper to hit on.
So why does Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance suck? Well, first we'll start with Nicholas Cage, who's strategy for the past several years seems to have been "I'll just act crazy on camera and they'll think it's good right?". Wrong. Then there are the directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who have previously been the writer/directors of the Crank films as well as Gamer. When it was first announced they were directing, many were excited about them bringing their manic style action to the franchise. Instead, the film is for lack of better word, boring. There are so many shots within action scenes that are held and focused on for way too long, almost as if they were trying to fill space.
The two things this movie has going for it are the bleak but beautiful stretches of Eastern European highway that are featured in an action sequence or two. Also Idris Elba's portrayal of Moreau, a heavy drinking french monk who convinces Cage's Johnny Blaze to help protect a young boy from evil forces. Yes, that small bit of plot I described there is exactly as recycled and bullshit as it sounds.

So to sum up: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance sucks.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dollar Day Double Feature 2/7/12

Went to Movie Magic and caught a double feature of Sherlock Holmes 2 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. Not much to say here so i'll be quick.

Sherlock Holmes 2: I really enjoyed the first one. Cast was great, Richie's manic directing created an incredibly fun atmosphere and it all didn't come off too gimmicky. Second time around however, it kinda comes off gimmicky. Especially the beginning. I am happy to say that it does finish stronger than it starts. Refreshing, considering how many movies like this go the opposite way. It wasn't at all bad. I just think that maybe the formula only works once.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1: Ok, i'm kinda pissed at myself for not having more to say here, or at least to rant about. It's just bad and there aren't a lot of ways to say it. All of the Twilight movies have been the same. Capable films made using horrendous source material. It's that simple. When I saw it, I thought Eclipse was the best so far and was therefor hoping the last two would continue the trend upward. Breaking Dawn part 1 however is the worst yet, mostly thanks to it being one half of what should have been one whole movie. The ONLY action scene in the whole movie is in the last 20 minutes. Not that the series has been known for the quality of it's action beats but that is just rediculess. The first half is some kind of bizarre interior design wet dream (which to be fair, all the Twilight films have been), the second half is a David Cronenberg movie. If David Cronenberg sucked, which he does not. It's all pretty awful.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Live and die on this day.

Why can't it be snowing softly in every scene of every movie ever?
I'm not the biggest Liam Neeson fan. He's good at delivering menacing or poetical lines but there has always been something about how he delivers those lines and holds himself that i've found off-putting. As if there's no actual emotional weight behind any of it. His choices of roles in the past several years have annoyed me as well. "Yeah, i'll be a Lion who is actually Jesus and Zeus. Sure." I was also not as enthralled by Taken as most were. There was definitely some good bad-assary but the script was just not there. Especially considering the entire movie was marketed and sold on a single line of dialogue. That bugs the crap out of me.
I loved The Grey though. The story of a group of oil company employees whose plane crashes on their way home from working in northern Alaska. Neeson's character Ottway uses his superior knowhow to assume leadership of the group and together they try to survive in a frozen wasteland with almost no food or water to speak of. Oh right, and the wolves. There are wolves. A bunch of them. They are an ever-present danger. Just outside the group's range of sight for almost the entire film. Created using an extremely subtle combination of CGI and Animatronics, the wolves look great and are more than suitably intimidating.
This movie has come under a lot of fire from animal rights groups for portraying wolves in a negative light, as bloodthirsty man-eating monsters. I don't believe that's true. There are comments made in the film about how wolves normally avoid all contact with humans but if any intruders, human or not, are within a 30 mile radius of their den the wolves will flat out kill all of them. I don't know if this is true or not. However if it isn't I still don't see the problem. The wolves are still being portrayed as following their nature and defending their territory. I never once felt as though any of the animals were "evil" or attempting to kill the humans out of malice or for pleasure.
This is the first of directer Joe Carnahan's films to really hit me. 2010's The A-Team was a ton of fun, just like it's predecessor Smokin' Aces. The Grey goes much deeper than either however. There is action and adventure. But there is also a group of men finding out who they really are and how they view our world, nature and faith. And then one by one dying horribly.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extraterrestrials In The Trees.

I just watched a movie. I do this a lot. Ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you it's one of the very few things that i'm very good at. This particular film was the debut feature film by Writer/Director Gareth Edwards. "Monsters".
The film takes place six years after extraterrestrial life is discovered in our own solar system and the probe sent to collect samples breaks up and crashes upon reentry. Alien life-forms begin to appear and spread outward from the crash site and the entire area of the U.S./Mexican border is declared an infected zone. The American and Mexican militaries are in a constant struggle with the "creatures", attempting to stop them from spreading any further. Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist, is documenting the devastation in Central America. He is ordered to escort Samantha, his wealthy employer's daughter, home to the United States. The film follows their journey as they slowly make their way out of Central America and through Mexico, attempting to reach the U.S. border.
As well as writing and directing Edwards also shot, co-edited AND was the visual effects artist on the movie. Very much a one man show kinda guy, which has always been my favorite type of filmmaker for some reason. It's most of the reason I love Robert Rodriquez as much as a I do. I think it's that slightly roguish attitude. "Hey, i'm gonna make the movie I wanna make, for very little money and i'm gonna employ some really unique methods in order to do so". Everything was shot entirely on location in Guatemala and Mexico. There was apparently no script per se, simply a collection of paragraphs with general themes for certain scenes that Edwards wanted. The crew was tiny. Around 7 people including the two main actors and they traveled in a van shooting at different locations. They would simply drive until they found a site they liked or thought worked for a scene and would then film multiple versions of that scene with a huge array of improvised lines. All other characters in the film other than the two leads were allegedly persuaded extras. Edwards also filmed as many of the dialogue shots as he could with the actor's back's to the camera or at an angle in which their lips could not be seen. This enabled him to dub in whatever dialogue he wanted later on the editing process, thereby syncing different dialogue with certain takes.
The film was shot for about $500,000 with Edwards doing all of the visual effects himself with home bought software. This is obvious when watching the film. There is very little action and very few sighting of the actual creatures. This movie is first and foremost a love story, with the creatures and the infected zone simply creating the world it exists in. The two lead actors, Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were dating at the time and are now married. Edwards wanted the relationship between the two characters to be as realistic as possible so he insisted on using an actual couple.
This movie really spoke to me for some reason. It wasn't even the story or the characters, neither were extraordinary. It was everything I just described. How it was made is what I loved most about it. I watch a movie like this and think "I could do this. I could sell everything I own, get a bunch of credit cards and max them out. I could find some people and a good idea and I could go out and make a film. I could". It's how some of the most interesting movies in history have been made. As long as you have an actual good idea and you're dedicated it has a good chance of working. Who wants to go out into the wilderness of the world with me and make a movie?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just two dudes.

My roommate and I went to Target the other day. I didn't really need anything. I was driving Colin there so that he could pick up a few items that one usually goes to Target to get. Soap, cat litter, sox, poster hangers. We were also there to get a frame for a signed Flogging Molly poster we had each obtained while at a signing/concert the night before in Portland. We got those things. But as is usually also the case when visiting Target, we got some other things. Things that you don't actually need. Now, Colin and I are by several technical and sociological definitions, men. We are both in our mid to late 20s. We live on our own (depending on how you look at it) make our own money, drive cars, have bills and other responsibilities. However in many ways and perspectives (most notably that of women and boring people) we are still very much boys. We have hobbies and obsessions. Colin is the biggest sports fan that I know and has collected countless items of clothing and memorabilia. I collect Comic Books, Records and Movies. We both spend alarmingly irresponsible amounts of money on said items. Most of our free time is spent watching t.v. and discussing either zombie apocalypse escape scenarios, top 5 lists for everything in our lives or who would win in various super-hero fights. Like so many our age we are also obsessed with our own childhood's pop culture history. We think back fondly on cartoons, movies and toys from when we were young. When thinking of toys I had when I was a child, most of the memories (other than actually playing with them) are of being in a store somewhere and begging my mother or father to buy it for me. When most people think of becoming an adult, they think of responsibility, self-reliance and a certain degree of confidence. These are all required for adulthood. However I believe that one of the most important moments on the road to becoming a grown-up is the moment that you realize that you can buy your own toys. The best part is that I still forget this sometimes. I'll be standing in a store looking at something and i'll realize that i'm my own damn person and I have money and I can buy this for myself because I want it. That's an great feeling. Some of you may be saying to yourselves "Um. That's shopping addiction." but it's only because you're cynical.
And so, we were looking for poster hangers, which happen to right next to the electronics department. It was there that we happened upon the Walkie Talkies. The cheapest set was $20 and said they had a range of up to 8 miles. We spent a few seconds discussing whether or not we could use them between the apartment and my work and then decided that it didn't matter and that we were too much of a sitcom duo to not own Walkie Talkies.
We walked a little further and that's when it happened. That's when we found ourselves standing the toy section, staring at Nerf guns, deciding which ones we were going to get. We were in the aisle for something like twenty minutes. We compared features, ammo capacity, color. Colin got a pump action rifle with a rotary clip an ammo belt. I got a simple six shooter and an extra pack of whistling darts. Don't get me wrong. I'm for gun control. But at the same time I will insist to the grave that plastic guns and violent video games have almost zero effect on actual gun violence. If you shoot people because either of those things somehow disconnected you from reality then there are two possibilities. You were either born a psychopath or you were raised wrong. That may seem harsh but I firmly believe in nurture over nature. We can blame movies and t.v., first-person shooters and the current state of society. It's just parents. It's just us.
Jeez, got serious there for a minute. Sorry.
My point is, most males belonging to the human race have a need to shoot each other with guns. It's written into our CPUs. We don't actually want to hurt or kill each other. We simply want to take cover behind walls and turned over tables and shoot at each other. Is that too much to ask without someone calling me immature or violent? I don't think so.
So find me a Wendy Lady to scwunch, some lost boys to play with and a hand full of pixie dust. Go straight to hell boring people. I'm never growing up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You love a stone.

Love stinks. But it's also really nice some days. For some us this was just another day. An unforgivable ploy by big business to make us buy chocolate, flowers and paper. A forced obligation to express affection for our significant others when we should be expressing it all the time. Pressure. To others it's day to be romantic, to give yourself over to the fun of it all. To let flowers and cards and little romantic gestures make you feel special. Make you feel loved and wanted. Even if you feel this all the time in your relationship it's a nice way to bring special attention to it. A simultaneous national date night. No matter which side of the issue you're on it's rare that this day doesn't affect you in some way. Whether you're up in arms about it, excited for a special day with a special person or sad as fuck because you don't have anyone. I've always been a little bit of all three. I've never been in a relationship on valentine's day and although I do feel a little down when it comes around I also enjoy it a little. I don't get depressed seeing people walking around town hand in hand with their sweethearts. I love seeing people happy. Seeing them enjoying the ultimate prize. Even if it's fleeting it's still worth it. Even if it's a silly little fling that will never go anywhere it doesn't make the moment any less perfect and important.

Today I had three very different valentine's day experiences in my life. My good friends the married couple, who's love is something I can always look on and not feel envious of but inspired by. My friends starting a new relationship with all the anxiousness, hope and adorability that comes with it. Finally, a friend and co-worker of mine had his girlfriend dump him. Today. Probably one of the most heinous, intentionally hurtful things someone could do. Who fucking does that? People with a special place in hell reserved for them. A place in hell with the people who give you exact change after you've already tendered a twenty in the register or people who don't like the Beatles. That's who.

Today I spent time with people who couldn't stop smiling and people who were probably the saddest a human being can be and it made me think about how this "holiday" is just about emotion. Be it good or bad, blissful contentment or aching loneliness. Today, no matter who you are, you cannot help but feel.