March 13, 2014

The Apocalypse Is Brought to You by the Following Sponsors

You know how you can download an ad-supported app for free, but if you don’t want to be bombarded with constant appeals to buy something, you can pay a couple of bucks instead? By this model, my ticket to This Is the End should have been absolutely free. Hell, they should have paid me to watch advertisements for almost two hours.

I understand that product placement in movies is practically unavoidable and dates back to cinema of the 1920s, but some background shilling is forgivable if the main goal is to entertain. This Is the End is ostensibly entertainment, but it felt more like a commercial thinly veiled as a movie.



The product placement is not subtle, it’s not realistic, it’s shameless. There are literally jokes written around plugging a product by name.

Here are all the moments of product placement I can remember from This Is the End. These aren’t word for word--because my memory’s not that good--but I assure you they are not exaggerated and are as close to direct quotations as possible. I won't give these brands any more exposure so fake ALL CAPS brands have been substituted in place of actual named products/franchises:

JAY: Now that I’m here in L.A., I could really go for some FAST FOOD FRENZY.

SETH: Naw, man. I’m on a diet. No more gluten. No way I can eat FAST FOOD FRENZY.

[Gilligan Cut]

JAY and SETH sit in their car outside FAST FOOD FRENZY; at least two signs for the restaurant are framed in the shot.

SETH: Oh this FAST FOOD FRENZY is so good! It gets better with every bite!

___

[They arrive at Seth’s house, still conspicuously holding cups from FAST FOOD FRENZY]

SETH: Jay, I bought you all these treats you love! Like FRUITY CANDY and weed.

___

[At James Franco’s house]

JAY: I’m not a big fan of art.

JAMES: Every time you go to SANDWICH PALACE and they make you a sandwich, that’s art.

___

[At convenience store]

SETH buys AWESOME CHOCO (this makes several appearances) and JAY buys FIZZY DRINK.

___

[James’ house]

JAMES: (Holding FIZZY DRINK) Don’t worry, everyone, BURGER BARN will be here soon.

EVERYONE: *Cheers*

PAUL RUDD brings RED BOW WINE to the party and holds its label toward the camera even when fleeing for his life.

___

[Survivors divvy up remaining food items]

SETH: We have SUGAR CEREAL, YUMMY SPREAD, and one AWESOME CHOCO.

JONAH: I need the AWESOME CHOCO because I have low blood sugar.

SETH: If you get low blood sugar you can have a scoop of the YUMMY SPREAD, not the AWESOME CHOCO.

JAMES: I get the AWESOME CHOCO because I bought it to enjoy after the party.

JAY: No, it’s only fair if we each get one-fifth of the AWESOME CHOCO.

CRAIG: ...AWESOME CHOCO.

___

[SETH and JAY are digging to the basement. They, naturally, talk about...]

JAY: Hey, remember that time I bought you a $20 gift card for FIESTA FOOD and we went to see ACTION MOVIE?*

SETH: Oh yeah! And I thought, “How much can you really buy at FIESTA FOOD for $20?” Well, it turns out you can buy a lot!

___

DANNY: I really need more water to wash down this SUGAR CEREAL.

___

[JONAH passes out]

SETH: Oh no, his low blood sugar! Quick, get the AWESOME CHOCO! Chew it up and spit it in his mouth like a momma bird.

JAMES: (Takes a bite) Mmm, oh this AWESOME CHOCO is too good!

SETH: Hey you just swallowed it! Give the AWESOME CHOCO to me! (Also takes a bite) Mmmm!

___

JAMES: Quick, we can escape to my HIGH-QUALITY VEHICLE!

___

And those are only the parts I remember off the top of my head because they were so fucking egregious. I admit, I’m hyper-sensitive to product placement, so once I noticed it, I couldn’t stop noticing it and was entirely thrown out of the movie. Even Seth Rogen is quoted by an Australian news source as saying that the plentiful dirty jokes “probably cancel out the product-placement vibe.” Probably?! Rogen also claims that he hasn’t “heard shit” from the AWESOME CHOCO people. Yeah fucking right.

* So far I’ve talked about product placement of foods and beverages and all that standard stuff, but this film also unabashedly and only somewhat ironically sells the commodity of celebrity. On top of AWESOME CHOCO and FAST FOOD FRENZY, Seth Rogen is selling Seth Rogen: The Actor. And James Franco, and Jonah Hill, and every movie or franchise they have ever touched. Nearly every celeb who makes an appearance is introduced by their full name and followed with a reference to a movie or television show they are supposedly known for/currently want to plug. When someone remarks, “Hey it’s Mindy Kaling!” they might as well append it with, “Watch The Mindy Project, Tuesday nights on Fox!”

Most successful cameos, on the other hand, reference a beloved (or at least generally liked) intellectual property with a wink and a nod. Take Stan Lee in every single Marvel movie, for example. His appearances are fun, brief, and not punctuated with, “Oh hi, Stan Lee! Creator of Marvel Comics and producer of the hit summer blockbuster Iron Man 3! Check out these things and consume them, sheep!”

Sure, viewers have affection for Seth Rogen and James Franco--heck, this whole movie banks on the fact that you like to see them dicking around for hours--but they annoyingly advertise themselves just as much as they plug any other product. Grudgingly, I have to mention one of their former projects by name just to illustrate how not-for-the-audience this movie is. Seth and James jaw about how great it would be to make a sequel to Pineapple Express. They even film said sequel while waiting out the apocalypse. Honestly, who besides Seth and James want this to happen? Or, maybe they just want you to think, “Hey, I never saw Pineapple Express,” and then go to the nearest Redbox to send some royalties their way.

The really disappointing thing about This Is the End is that there is a lot of funny hidden under the AWESOME CHOCO wrappers. Still, the whole shtick behind Michael Cera’s cameo can pretty much be summed up as: “Hey, you know how this guy normally acts this way? Well now he’s acting this way! Haha!”

OK, yes, it’s funny. But it wears thin fast, especially when much of the remainder of the movie relies on this formula (I’m looking at you, Channing Tatum).

This Is the End could have easily lampooned celebrity/Hollywood culture and American consumerism. Rogen can try to convince me this is entirely satire, but I’m not buying it (or any AWESOME CHOCO, thank you very much). If the actors had played buffoonish stand-ins for the average Hollywood celebrity instead of themselves (like in Tropic Thunder) and plugged generic chocolate bars instead of AWESOME CHOCO, it might have made passable commentary instead of one giant sales pitch.

I also want to briefly talk about Zombieland, a movie that shares many themes with This Is the End but didn’t insult me while reaching for my wallet. Zombieland also has an apocalyptic setting, scenes in which a brand-name product is central, and an actor appearing as himself.

In Zombieland, Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee, is on a quest for Twinkies. Mentioning this name brand actually serves the movie and its setting. Twinkies hold a sort of lore in American culture that AWESOME CHOCO simply doesn’t. Surely you’ve heard urban legends about Twinkies’ unbelievably long shelf life or that this pertinacious snack cake can withstand nuclear fallout. Or, more recently, much-feared (yet greatly exaggerated) reports of the demise of the Twinkie likely crossed your news feed. Tallahassee’s quest for the indomitable Twinkie is a friendly wink to these cultural myths (and it’s product placement, yes, that too).

Bill Murray also makes an unforgettable appearance. Does Zombieland reference Murray’s previous films? Yes, but in a very tongue-in-cheek way (Garfield is Murray’s only regret in life, he says). The references are mostly reverential, but this one critique is enough to demonstrate that the players are willing to poke fun at themselves and--most importantly--that they want the audience to have just as much fun as they are.

___

I'm not giving This Is the End a rating because I realize my rant review is more subjective than usual and largely focused on only one aspect of the movie. Go forth and rent it, if you must.

(Images belong to Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures)


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January 4, 2012

The Game of Shadows is Afoot

Director Guy Ritchie’s latest foray into the Holmesian hemisphere pits the world’s most famous detective against his greatest nemesis, source material against reimaginings, and deductions against explosions, culminating in a sometimes problematic slant on “The Final Problem.” But what Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows lacks in canonicity it begins to make up for in chutzpah.


I will continue to defend Robert Downey Jr.’s initial portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 film as a unique performance that is closer to book-accurate than many viewers may realize. For some fans, Basil Rathbone is the Holmes-shaped yardstick by which all deerstalker-donning detectives are measured, while Jeremy Brett is the Sherlockian litmus for others; there’s a range of what constitutes “right” for Sherlock Holmes and Ritchie’s original movie fell somewhere in the margins. But in A Game of Shadows, RDJ doesn’t just stretch the tenuous ties to canon, he gleefully snaps them. This Sherlock Holmes is almost a parody of his own eccentric incarnation from two years before, verging on caricature and buffoonery. I’m trying to tamp down my inner purist, but Sherlock Holmes is not comic relief. Harrumph.

But, of course, Holmes is lost without his Boswell, and Jude Law performs admirably--yet again--as Dr. Watson. His portrayal is quiet compared to RDJ’s but builds an incredibly likable, rough-and-tumble Watson. The duo’s bromance--for lack of a better word--is touted as one of the film’s draws. Their sniping happily mellows somewhere in the middle of the movie and I was once again not only convinced of their friendship, but also reminded why I enjoy these two characters so much.

Much as Holmes thrills in the chase, Ritchie seems to relish thumbing his nose at the purists and at some moments all but eliminates the “bro” part of the bromance equation. Suggesting that Holmes and Watson are lovers is not a new interpretation, but this film’s stance is odd in that its subtext verges on outright text without ever truly making a statement. In 1891, there would likely be much fan waving and monocle popping at the sight of two men waltzing together, but the movie dances around their relationship in such a way that it fails to make any assertion and stumbles into an awkwardly anemic sort of homoeroticism.

To put a finer point on it: A Game of Shadows is hobbled by incongruity in tone, character, and theme. Some expressively melancholic moments in the final act are barely given time to breathe before jokes are cracked or hijinks ensue.

Then again, this film doesn’t take itself seriously, and perhaps I shouldn’t either. Rising alongside any pratfalls were scenes, exchanges, and characters I honestly loved. Hans Zimmer’s compositions and the Foley artists’ effects, especially during the chase through the forest, add an invigorating and atmospheric aural element. I always enjoy Ritchie’s unique cinematography (if frenetic and dripping with slo-mo), stark visuals, and plainly fun action sequences. Despite minor roles, Kelly Reilly and Rachel McAdams are welcome returnees and Stephen Fry is especially suited to play Mycroft Holmes. Though, he is tasked with some rather un-Mycrofty moments. Oh, hey again, inner purist. Didn’t see you creep up.

Jared Harris plays a fine Moriarty, at once a mild-mannered math professor and chillingly cruel villain, without being too mustache-twisty. Harris truly sold the icy tension, the carefully restrained yet intense feelings of rivalry sliding just below the surface. Even knowing how Reichenbach Falls would play out, the famous scene unfolded with an applaudable combination of tension, exposition, mental sparring, and physical action. I wasn’t entirely sold on either Holmes’ or Moriarty’s extraordinary cunning and wits in this film--largely because of the general emphasis on fisticuffs over sleuthing--so their conflict coming to a head through Holmes-o-vision felt appropriate.

One wonderful thing about the seminal stories is that they offer a deep well from which new details can be gleaned and new yarns can be spun, and I enjoy these films’ confident willingness to tread along the fringes of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work. Though Sherlock Holmes’ incarnations may don many new disguises, he must remain the famous consulting detective underneath. This film’s Sherlock Holmes comes close to being present only in name, but I’m cautiously hopeful for his return.



**Medium with a Refill**




Spoiler Rant:

What’s that sound?
Why, it’s the tooting of my own horn! I designed a Sherlock Holmes t-shirt; I hope you will wear it proudly with your iconic yet not really canonical deerstalker.

Holmes and Watson get steamy.
Steampunky, that is. But the automobiles and weapons are just close enough to being historically accurate that they seem unintentionally anachronistic. Feel free to correct me hotly, history buffs. One thing I do know: Watson did not invent CPR. I guess they couldn’t have the good doctor merely wring his hands and fret Holmes’ heart into resuscitating itself.

Cake or death?
So the cake bomb in the hotel was orchestrated to cover up a shooting? I believe the phrase, “What better way to disguise a killing than with an explosion” is uttered. Yes! Draw attention away from murder with a different manner of murder--ingenious!

Chekhov’s got a gun.
I love the notion of Chekhov’s gun, I really do. Playwright Anton Chekhov said that, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." In other words, any seemingly irrelevant detail that is introduced must later become significant to the narrative. It’s a sort of foreshadowing technique that discourages the inclusion of unnecessary elements. Holmes’ adrenaline experiment and Mycroft’s personal oxygen supply, for instance, follow this concept. How not to do it: The “twins” were incorporated so minutely that referencing them later was more of a “huh?” than an “ah ha!” moment.

Canon fodder.
The original stories are not without their less-than-awesome moments. Remember Colonel Sebastian Moran? Moriarty’s sidekick who is an expert sniper and marksman? Well, guess how he tries to take out Holmes as the detective struggles up the ledge at Reichenbach Falls. By throwing rocks at him. Mother. Flippin’. Rocks.

(Images courtesy of Warner Bros. and www.webweaver.nu)

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February 24, 2011

2010: Year in Review

How many movies did you watch last year? I saw 77. That’s about a week straight of movie-watching. Despite lo these many films, I failed to see all ten Best Picture nominees. So, from the slice I sampled, I offer you crumbs of the best and worst among last year’s new releases and films “new to me.”


Best of 2010
Inception
Inception is ambitious - narratively and visually - and brings something unique to a table sagging under the weight of remakes. The film’s complex dream within a dream story-telling could easily spiral into murky confusion, but Nolan leaves flying off the rails to trains instead of the narrative. Who knew repeatedly watching a van careen off a bridge in slo-mo (passengers snoozing away) would be gripping and somehow not silly?

Overall the movie is so refreshingly engaging, I soon forget its detractors, like few fleshed-out characters and ridiculously arbitrary dream rules. I’m training my subconscious security system to make intruders spontaneously combust or, say, implode instead of shooting at them willy-nilly whilst skiing.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Inception is the glorious slew of trailer mash-ups that sprung up thanks, once again, to the Internet. If you enjoyed Inception, I must recommend eXistenZ, which tackles similar ideas of reality in a campy, science fiction-y, and extremely successful way.

Worst of 2010
Clash of the Titans

I went into Clash of the Titans expecting stupid action, bad CGI, and even worse acting, and boy did it deliver. Delivered like a cold pizza. The only thing duller than this brainless adventure movie’s special effects is its characters. Sam Worthington is capable of two expressions: angry and yelly (see above). I’ll consider adding brow-furrowy to his repertoire...maybe.

The trailers for Clash of the Titans are easily more entertaining than the movie itself. Picture Liam Neeson, with his twinkling robes and becurled beard, ordering “Release the Kraken!” with dramaticism that vainly struggles against an indomitable flood of hokeyness. Then, a flurry of noise as the word “Titans” slams on the screen, followed by “Will” and finally...the suspense! “Clash”! Amazing. Who would’ve thought Titans will clash in a film entitled "Clash of the Titans"? If only every trailer were so luminous. Penguins will march! Jedi will return! Miss Daisy will be driven!

Best New-Old Movie
Up in the Air

Any film wherein George Clooney pulls off a character who is more than just a derivation of George Clooney has to be good. On top of that, Clooney (as Ryan Bingham) finds himself in equally good company. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick trot out solid performances as Bingham’s mercurial flame and his junior colleague/protégé, respectively. Clooney and Kendrick’s partnership drips with chemistry yet remains refreshingly platonic, promoting a male-female dynamic that Hollywood woefully underplays. This is what Up in the Air excels at: sometimes humorous, sometimes dramatic, but always honest human interaction. The viewer may occasionally desire Bingham’s plush first-class seats and estimable career, yet he is completely unenviable in his solitude.

If, years from now, we look to the cinema for an example of today’s financial incertitude and e-driven landscape, this film would be ideal. Though Bingham is largely moored in emotional isolation, the film closes with a sort of creeping cheerfulness, which left me looking up.

Worst New-Old Movie
Closer

Few things ruin a movie more than my expectations being crushed flatter than Sam Worthington’s acting range. Two things drew me closer (har har) to this film: Jude Law and Natalie Portman, actors whose performances I widely enjoy. And, hey, they’re easy on the eyes, am I right? Sadly, the strengths of Closer start and end there. The quartet (including Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) are capable artists, but their characters (no matter how well-acted) are spiteful and unsympathetic. Beautiful but ugly. Not only are the characters plainly unlikeable, but they feel more like caricatures than real people. The dialogue, while eloquent and enjoyable, enhances the characters’ inauthenticity. Who, after being hit by a car, still sprawled on the ground, calmly quips, “Hello, stranger” to the first person who rushes over? I mean really?

The characters’ motives are so incomprehensible, their reasoning so unbelievable, that I cared very little about them individually, much less about their muddled relationships and shared indiscretions. In fact, I nearly wished for them all to wind up miserable and alone. Is this what the film intended? Selfishness and deceit reap what they sow? Maybe. All told, Closer swallows fine performances, parades its self-importance, and rings utterly hollow.

And there you have it - Movie Meg’s 2010 review! Can I watch more than 77 films this year? Challenge accepted.


(Images courtesy of Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and www.webweaver.nu)

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May 17, 2010

Iron Man Deconstructed

As the wise Yahtzee once said of sequelitis, "A good sequel is one that uses the original as a jumping off point for a whole new story...while a bad sequel merely wallows in the original like a hippo." Iron Man 2 isn't a bad movie, but Iron Man set the bar so high that even if Robert Downey Jr. appeared naked in every scene, the sequel wouldn't vault past my expectations. It's not you, Iron Man, baby, it's me.

Read on, if you will, as I explore, dissect, applaud, nitpick, and otherwise discuss Iron Man 2. The following contains more spoilers than the Monaco Grand Prix. (Cut me some slack, I'm a little rusty.)


Arcs: For reactors only, no characters allowed

My biggest beef is that every character emerges the same person in the same situation as they were at the close of the first film; the sequel focuses on fluff and slick effects, leaving its characters to stagnate. Tony Stark is publicly Iron Man. Iron Man is (mostly) lauded as a hero. Pepper is Tony's assistant, again. Rhodey remains Tony's straight-laced friend. S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to vet Tony for the Avengers team. It's a series, not a campsite, we don't have to leave it how we found it.

The exploration of Tony's character is largely what endeared Iron Man to me and helped the original establish itself as a comic film a breed apart. Tony was an arrogant man humbled by a traumatic situation. He faced a crossroads, forced to humanize and personalize the consequences of his work, and strove to do right for perhaps the first time in his life. In Iron Man 2, Tony's progression is a flatline. Even faced with impending death, his personality scarcely changes in the long run. He does use his ego as a facade to hide his fears, which is an interesting, albeit brief, deviation for the cocksure hero.

As always, RDJ's performance as Tony Stark is the highlight of the film, delivered with verve and smarmy panache. Downey's Tony is quirky and completely endearing. Particularly enjoyable is his rapid-fire banter, especially opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Sam Rockwell (though the talking-over-each-other shtick does grow a bit tiresome).

It's my party and I'll pee in my suit if I want to

Besides "Robot Rock" and Paltrow's delivery of, "You just peed the suit," the birthday party scene really gets my goat. First, how does Rhodey even put on the Mark II armor? His access to the lab is established, OK, but anyone who strolls in can don a suit? Why would Tony build arc reactors to independently power each set of armor when he didn't intend for (and was adamantly against) others using his technology? How is Rhodey so expert at maneuvering the suit when it's his first time wearing it? Iron Man devoted a good chunk of time to Tony learning how to pilot the armor; Rhodey's ease flies in the face of the film's own canon. Is Jarvis assisting Rhodey too? Why do the repulsor beams look like a move straight out of Dragon Ball Z? How many questions can I fit in this segment?

Iron Man's a Man's Man

I'm not among Marvel's target demographic, I get that, but I'm convinced Jon Favreau sat down with a twelve-pack and "the guys" to compose a list of "Stuff Dudes Love," then included absolutely every item in the film: expensive cars, racing, cheerleaders, big guns, fighting robots, explosions, Jon Favreau, boxing, Scarlett Johansson's boobs. I don't know where I'm going with this except to say the testosterone baiting was a little excessive.

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Rourke?

Perhaps the Iron Man series' greatest weakness is its lack of a good arch-nemesis. When the comics give you Fin Fang Foom - an alien dragon from the planet Maklu IV - and this guy to choose from...well, they ain't exactly the Joker.

That being said, Mickey Rourke is entertaining as Ivan Vanko; he's imposing, slightly deranged, and majorly creepy. Vanko's clearly a cool guy too, as evidenced by the many explosions he did not look at. Despite Rourke's impressive presence, the narrative fails to maintain tension between the hero and the villain, especially considering Tony believes Vanko to be dead for the majority of the film. Iron Man 2 doesn't learn from its past mistakes and wraps up with another rushed and anti-climatic boss battle; even the lead-up to Justin Hammer's Expo reveal was meandering.

I must tip my hat to Rockwell's hilarious performance as Justin Hammer. Hammer's rivalry with Stark, his poorly received speeches, his pitch for the "Ex-Wife" - what's not to love?

Still, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane reigns supreme in the realm of awesome Iron Man baddies.

The spy who didn't do much

I was trepidatious about the addition of Scarlett Johansson as Natasha/Black Widow; there are few tropes I've grown more tired of than the ol' love triangle. Sometime mid-movie I realized Natasha's role wasn't as love rival and thought happily to myself, "ScarJo's not so bad. In fact, she's barely said a thing!..Wait, this is something to be happy about?" Truth is, Natasha doesn't play much of a part at all beyond eye candy. Her personality and contribution to the plot is so marginal, why include her in the first place?

Extra Pepperony

Enough complaining, I've saved the best for last. I love Tony Stark. I love Pepper Potts. I love 'em together. Honestly, I probably would've been happy if the entire movie was these two locked in a room bickering. Every scene with Tony and Pepper is sharp and delightful, both jockeying for the upper hand with their verbal sparring. Nothing made this fangirl quite as happy as them finally snogging...except maybe the omelette scene. Hey, where's my "You complete me" line from the trailer? Shenanigans!

Iron Man 2 may have fallen a little short of my lofty expectations, but far be it from me to turn my nose up at a perfectly good piece of pie simply because I was hoping for cake. No doubt I will want to see the film again (and again) and allow myself to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.





**Large**





(Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Marvel, and www.webweaver.nu)

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June 2, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: The Parody: Extraneous Colons

See that teeny heading in my blog banner that reads "movie reviews & parodies"? Not being one to let a perfectly good ampersand go to waste, I bring you the premier Movie Meg brand movie parody. Spoilers ahoy!

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE


[PROVINCE OF CANADA, EARLY 1800s]

BABY WOLVERINE
Hi! I'm Jimmy...apparently. I'm sick all the time but this is in no way relevant to the plot; I laugh at Chekhov's gun, ha HA!

WOLVERINE'S FATHER
*Killed by Dude*

WOLVERINE
Khaaan! I mean, Daaad!

DUDE
No. I am your father.

WOLVERINE
No. That's not true! That's impossible!
*Stabs Dude with bone claws*

VICTOR
Cool, I'm your brother! Let's have a montage.


[WOLVERINE AND VICTOR SLO-MO THROUGH LOTS OF WARS, INCLUDING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR]

VICTOR
Aren't we Canadian?

WOLVERINE
Only when it's funny.

VICTOR
Oh. Excuse me while I blatantly establish my role as the bad guy.

COLONEL STRYKER
So I hear you guys have mutant powers?

VICTOR
I can grow my nails really long.

STRYKER
Uh, cool...I guess that's better than marginally above-average marksmanship.

AGENT ZERO
Hey!

STRYKER
Join my team that was in no way chosen by picking leftover-mutants-yet-to-appear-in-a-film from a hat.

JOHN WRAITH
I have Nightcrawler's power but with low-budget CGI and no BAMPF! sound effect.

BOLT
I control electricity when I pretend to concentrate real hard and touch my fingers to my temples.

DEADPOOL
I make even the lamest lines initially seem funny only by virtue of being Ryan Reynolds.

ME
Ha ha...waaait.

BLOB
I get really fat later.

WOLVERINE
Damn, this is like the Celebrity Boxing of mutant teams. Peace out!

[CANADA, YEARS LATER]

WOLVERINE
Hey! I'm Logan now...apparently. I sleep all night and I work all day. I cut down trees, I skip and jump, I love to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing and-

ME
We get it, you're a lumberjack. Save the singing for the Academy Awards.

KAYLA
Hi, I'm the expendable love interest. Did you hear the Native tale of the wolverine and the moon as separated lovers? Isn't that tragic?

WOLVERINE
Yeah, tragic that my name has such a lame origin. I really hoped it had something to do with Red Dawn.

KAYLA
Gee, I wonder if I fall under the "Women in Refrigerators" trope?

VICTOR
Rawr!

KAYLA
Oh no! I'm totally dead now.

WOLVERINE
Khaaan! I mean, Kaaayla! I'll just leave your body to rot in the woods now.

KAYLA
Toootally dead.

WOLVERINE
Grrr! Fighting! Vengeance!

VICTOR
*Scratches Wolverine*

WOLVERINE
Ow! That kinda hurt. Is that bleeding? No, no I guess it's all right. Ouch though!

STRYKER
I can help you beat Victor by bonding adamantium to your bones. I'm completely trustworthy!

WOLVERINE
You know, I think the other three X-Men movies may have touched on this subject - seems like a bad idea. Then again, I've been through worse.

SCIENTIST LADY FROM TRAILER
No you haven't. Oooh menacing!

WOLVERINE
Nothing's worse than Swordfish.

[WOLVERINE AGREES TO THE EXPERIMENT AND IS STRAPPED INTO A TANK OF WATER FOR UNKNOWN, SCIENCEY REASONS]

EVERY FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER
Damn you, conveniently placed groin strap. Damn yoou!

STRYKER
Yay, it worked! Now kill him.

WOLVERINE
*Springs from the tank, naked. Nakedly fights off the bad guys, jumps naked into a waterfall, and finally escapes to a barn. Naked*

OLD MAN
Howdy, hairy naked stranger. Have my son's leather jacket.

PAUL HARVEY
And now you know the rest of the story.

ME
Not really, seeing as Wolverine's amnesic and not wearing the jacket at the end of the film.

WOLVERINE
Really? Of all the plot holes, that's the one you harp on?

OLD LADY
I've brought tea! And bullets...
*Dies*

OLD MAN
*Dies too*

WOLVERINE
Khaa- ah, forget it.

[INSERT ACTION SCENE OF WOLVERINE FIGHTING OFF STRYKER'S GOONS HERE]

ME
Let's see, on my "Cliche Action Sequence Bingo" card I've got: car chase, helicopter chase, "The Stormtrooper Effect," defying laws of physics, and walking away from an explosion in slo-mo. Damn, I only need "crappy one-liner for trailer/commercial fodder" to win.

WOLVERINE
You wanted the animal, Colonel. You got it.

ME
Yay!

DIRECTOR GAVIN HOOD
I know what this film's missing: a boxing match!

EVERYONE
No.

[BOXING SCENE REPRESSED]

[WOLVERINE HEADS TO NEW ORLEANS IN SEARCH OF GAMBIT, THE MUTANT WHO CAN LEAD HIM TO STRYKER'S SECRET HIDEOUT]

GAMBIT
Mon dieu! I say to you, homme, you're askin'-

WOLVERINE
Whoa whoa whoa, Gumbo! That's way too in-character; tone it down.

GAMBIT
OK, how about I use this vaguely hickish accent and a pimp cane?

VICTOR
Rawr!

[BURLY, HAIRY, CLAWY FISTICUFFS ENSUES. JUST AS WOLVERINE IS POISED TO DELIVER THE COUP DE GRACE...]

GAMBIT
I'm somehow convinced that you're working for Stryker despite actively combating my known enemy/Stryker lackey. Fear my twirly staff, Wolverine!

VICTOR
*Scampers away*

WOLVERINE
I'm a good guy.

GAMBIT
Cool. Then I'll help you get to Stryker's hideout to defeat him and Victor.

WOLVERINE
You want to help me kill Victor?

GAMBIT
Yep.

WOLVERINE
The guy I was just about to shish kebab before you stopped me?

GAMBIT
Yes.

WOLVERINE
...

[GAMBIT FLIES WOLVERINE TO STRYKER'S HIDEOUT ON THREE MILE ISLAND...IN A PLANE. FLYING’S NOT A POWER OF HIS OR ANYTHING, THAT WOULD BE TOO INTERESTING]

KAYLA
I'm alive! Now help me rescue Emma Frost and Cyclops from meaningless cameos.

EMMA
Since when does my "diamond-hard skin" equal "more diamond-encrusted than a rapper's grill"?

WEAPON XI
Rawr!

WOLVERINE
Who the hell are you?

STRYKER
Him? Oh, this is the super mutant I've created, aka Weapon XI, aka formerly Deadpool, aka character we fucked up so badly he gets a spin-off as an apology. Sorry, Gambit, you were a close second.

GAMBIT
Merde.

WOLVERINE
Are those retractable katanas? How do you bend your arms?!

WEAPON XI
*Shrugs*

[WOLVERINE AND WEAPON XI CROCHET MITTENS FOR THEIR SPIKEY APPENDAGES WHEN...THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT. OH YES...FIGHTING. THEY FIGHT.]

VICTOR
Rawr! I'm here to help you, bro, by luring Weapon XI to the most inconvenient, contrived fighting arena ever.

WOLVERINE
Sure, that makes sense. Nice character arc.

[WOLVERINE AND VICTOR CUT WEAPON XI DOWN TO SIZE. OH HO! PUNS!]

AUDIENCE
Can you put us out of our misery too?

STRYKER
Damn you, Logan! I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling mutants! Fine, I'll have to shoot you with this adamantium bullet.

SCIENTIST LADY FROM TRAILER
*Whispers*

STRYKER
What's that..? "Wolverine," "Were-wolverine," same difference.
*Shoots Wolverine in the head*

ABSOLUTELY NO ONE
Is he dead? Suspense!

KAYLA
Oh no, Wolvie! Stryker, using my mutant powers, I command you to walk away and keep walking until you reach X2.

STRYKER
On an island? Uh, OK. I'll get right on that.
*He does...somehow*

KAYLA
I'm dead, for reals this time.
*Dies*

WOLVERINE
Damn, I can't remember a thing about what just happened!

ME
You lucky, lucky bastard.


-END-



**Small**






(Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox and www.webweaver.nu)



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May 20, 2009

Lozenge?


I hear they have the same voice coach.


(Images courtesy of Warner Bros. and www.1001fonts.com)

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May 7, 2009

Watchmen: Graphic and Novel!

Meg's Journal. March 7th, 2009: Old popcorn in theater this evening, spilled soda on sticky floor. Watchmen is watched by me. I have seen its many hours. The scenes are extended slo-mo and the slo-mo is full of blood and when the credits finally roll, all the moviegoers will clamor. The accumulated hype of all the montages and monologues will foam up about their mouths and all the fanboys and critics will look up and shout "Frontal nudity!"...and I'll look down and whisper "Meh."

Yeah...guess who saw Watchmen.
Obligatory "Lower Manhattan" joke


Director Zack Snyder's latest venture adapts Alan Moore's nichely popular graphic novel of the same name to the silver screen. Boiled down, Watchmen follows a group of former superheroes (minus the superpowers) who find one of their own murdered. The threadbare heroes suspect further attacks on so-called "masks" but have bigger matters to worry about, namely, the escalation of a nuclear standoff between the U.S. and Russia.

Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn between the film and the graphic novel. Unlike standard novels adapted to film, graphic novels already visually interpret everything for the reader. So the movie becomes less about, "That's not how I imagined the Balrog!" and more a matter of: How faithfully is the story preserved, do the actors well-represent their characters, does the cinematography reflect the style of the art, and can the uninitiated viewer enjoy the film in and of itself? For the most part, Watchmen holds up on these counts, but the movie is only as good as its source; which is to say, the graphic novel's pedestal is debatable.

Visually, Watchmen is rather beautiful, in its own dreary, wow-that's-a-lot-of-blood kind of way. The opening credit sequence is perhaps the highlight of the film, providing richly colored, detailed tableaux that masterfully illustrate what would've otherwise been cumbersome exposition.

True to form, Snyder slathers on the slo-mo like it's going out of style, so much so that it becomes tedious and even dilutes the adrenaline of action scenes. I'd like to give Snyder the benefit of the doubt and say that utilizing slo-mo emulates the experience of reading a graphic novel by allowing the viewer to linger as they would on a comic panel...Nah. He's just really enamored with slo-mo.

Complementary to the hypnotizing visuals is an equally impressive soundtrack, from Jimi Hendrix to the Philip Glass Ensemble. In a way, the music borders on too remarkable, often interjecting and distracting from the substance of a scene. Much like-

♫ My backpack's got jets. I'm Boba the Fett. I bounty hunt for Jabba Hutt to finance my 'Vette♫

Hey, that's a good song! Waaait...knock it off, soundtrack! I'm trying to do a review here. Jeez.

Anyway. Alongside the ubiquitous smiley face, Rorschach is iconic of Watchmen: a fan-favorite atypical antihero. Not only does Jackie Earle Haley look the part, but also expertly breathes life into the integral character. Jackie delivers Rorschach's more memorable quotes with just the right emphasis, omitted articles and all. Rorschach's scenes with his therapist are somewhat truncated but even dyed-in-the-wool fans should be pleased with the performance. This is fortunate - the world can't take another fan uprising like "Jar Jar Binksgate." Jeffrey Dean Morgan also portrays the Comedian to a tee; his rakish countenance misled me to believe Robert Downey Jr. landed a role in Watchmen, but he still deserves props. Matthew Goode as Ozymandias is a bit too foppish and Malin Akerman's Silk Spectre is too I-can't-act-my-way-out-of-a-paper-bag, but the cast as a whole is fairly solid.

What remained on the cutting room floor-

♫ All right stop, collaborate, and listen, Ice is back with my brand new invention ♫

Dammit, soundtrack! See what I mean?

As I was saying. Many scenes of the 400-something-page graphic novel obviously didn't make it to the big screen, but the majority of edits were wisely chosen. Occasionally, dialogue seemed throwaway or offhanded to friends unfamiliar with the novel, and the revelation of the Comedian's relationship to a fellow mask came off as melodramatic without its developed back-story.

Ultimately, both incarnations of Watchmen have their own merits: it's not the end-all-be-all of comics as some would purport, but is a unique and refreshing alternative to the mainstream. Even comic non-enthusiasts may be inspired to pick up the graphic novel after viewing its film. As Moore would say, "There is something about the quality of comics that makes things possible that you couldn't do in any other medium. Things that we did in Watchmen on paper could be frankly horrible or sensationalist or unpleasant if you were to interpret them literally through the medium of cinema...It's not the same when you're being dragged through it at 24 frames per second."




**Medium with a refill (refill = 1/2 "star" on the scale, ha HA!)**



Spoiler Rant:


As for the oft-discussed Giant Squid ending, I absolutely prefer the movie's finale. Despite being a story about "super" heroes, Dr. Manhattan is the only character with actual superpowers. How he receives his abilities is about as far-fetched as a radioactive spider bite, but the story maintains a pseudo-scientific, non-magical explanation for its universe. Even Rorschach's shifting mask has no paranormal properties. Yet, I'm supposed to buy the idea that Ozy's DIY Catastrophic Calamari's destructive capabilities are thanks to a psychic? Sorry, but my Suspension of Disbelief Account has been overdrawn.

Yes, it really did take me two months to crank this out. Go me.


(Images courtesy of Warner Bros. and www.webweaver.nu)

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