I don’t want to break this whole scene to dollar signs, but when you’re dealing with a budget in the $250 million range you need to show us something great. Nothing else will do. Those who are familiar with some of the tenets of the Film Cynics will recall that a movie can be considered “great” if it does at least one thing better than any other film, or brings us something we have seen before. John Carter, despite it’s financial and computer generated efforts, does neither.
One of the key elements at play is that while the source material might have been the first out of the gate when it comes to certain sci-fi themes, many films have tread that ground since, so any hopes of novelty are long forgotten. If they hoped to cash in on some kind of nostalgia, they choosing a modern approach was the wrong way to go. Perhaps they could have taken a page out of Captain America’s playbook, and gone all nostalgia all the time. At the very least, Taylor Kitsch’s performance doesn’t engender any kind of reverence for the story’s classic origins.
As for Kitsch, it’s a shame. I’ve spoken with the man directly about the film, and you can see he clearly bought into it. His enthusiasm for the movie was practically dripping from his pores; unfortunately I couldn’t see that conviction on screen. He’s still got a ways to go before he can carry a picture on those British Columbian shoulders of his.
The movie has a number of impressive action set pieces, and the whole jumping around thing is fun to watch, even if the explanations didn’t make too much sense to me. (I mean, if he can jump really high because of a lack of bone density, how the hell was he going toe to toe in combat with the planet’s residents and not breaking his wrist?) In essence, the film had many of the same ingredients that many other scifi action-adventures have – all it was missing was the “secret” ingredient that movies of a certain budget should have: Greatness. And for this reason, it unfortunately defines itself as a failure.
Friday May 4th was supposed to be a normal day. I was getting dressed, getting ready to head to work and annoy my co-workers with incessant Star Wars references. Before I left, I checked twitter to see what people were talking about, just part of the routine of being a modern day man. Instantly I was floored with all the messages about the death of Adam “MCA” Yauch. What??? This can’t be true. Unfortunately it was. MCA had passed away.
This immediately changed my game plan. No longer in the mood to geek out about the force, I decided to hold my own private listening party at work. Luckily in my “office” I have internet access and a computer with decent speakers and a door that closes. I loaded up every Beastie Boys album on Grooveshark and let’er rip. Track after track I was reminded of the genius of not only MCA but Ad-Rock and Mike D as well. These three guys put out so many great albums, at the same time expanding their range and ideas. Licensed to Ill is far removed from Paul’s Boutique which was completely different the Check Your Head and Ill Communication. It always got better. Always.
I was making my way through Check Your Head when “Pass the mic” came on. MCA leads off that song with such a great verse that I had to stop listening for a second so I could take it in. Also to collect myself so that I wouldn’t completely lose it. It may not be the best verse that he has ever done, but at THAT moment it was. His raspy delivery and clever word play were all there, and then at the end, he passed it on, and the song kept going. It is a shame that it had to end like this, out of his hands and control. Never to take the stage again and perform with his life long friends and collaborators. He will never again pass the mic to Mike D for a fist full of truth. But we are lucky, not that he is gone, but lucky that he did what he did. And that we all got to appreciate it when he was here. The Beastie Boys defined the lives of many, many people over the last few decades. And for that, I just want to say, Thank you.
Rest in Peace.
If You Can Feel What I’m Feeling Then It’s A Musical Masterpiece
If You Can Hear What I’m Dealing With Then That’s Cool At Least
What’s Running Through My Mind Comes Through In My Walk
True Feelings Are Shown From The Way That I Talk
And This Is Me Y’All, I M.C. Y’All
My Name Is M.C.A. And I Still Do What I Please
And Now I’d Like To Introduce what’s up?
I’ll Pass The Mic To D. For A Fist Full Of Truth
The Avengers is classic Whedon, characterized by snappy dialogue and epic action sequences that a writer steeped in comic books like Joss could spend his entire career waiting for. It’s the culmination of several years of work behind the scenes by a number giant sized corporations and the result is a giant-sized film populated by larger-than-life characters.
For those who have been following Marvel Studios’ progress, The Avengers finally delivers on the promise being hinted at to fanboys everywhere, assembling the newly christened Avengers to fend off an extra-planetary attack led by a familiar villainous face from a previous film, Loki. All the heroes are pretty much where they were when we left them in their lead-up films, except for Bruce Banner, but given the actor swap out of Mark Ruffalo for Edward Norton, we can allow for a little latitude. At the heart of the story is the quandary that has been asked by fans and studio execs alike: How can we get these characters to work together effectively? Well, Joss Whedon has a knack for tossing diverse characters together, as seen from his scripts for Toy Story and Alien 4, and his impressive resurrection of his brainchild in Serenity, and the result is a script replete with both insightful dialogue and witty repartee.
To go with the diverse array of characters, we have an equally diverse collection of scenes, including a moody abandoned warehouse interrogation, a forest battleground, the desolate streets of Calcutta, the void of outer space, and inevitably the streets of New York City. The film literally grabbed a little something from everywhere to properly acknowledge the breadth of The Avengers’ epic scope.
As for the technical aspects of the film, it’s clear that Disney spared no expense, although I really could have done without the 3D. Too much of the film happens in the dark, and coupled with the umbrage of stereoscopic photography, it was tricky to make out some of the action.
There were some out there who wondered about how Whedon, who made a name for himself working with strong female characters, would fare with just one woman in the mix opposite of some of the manliest men in fiction. Scarlett Johansson definitely turns in a strong performance, but the truth is that she is sidelined in favour of those with super powers, resulting in less cross-character flirting than we might be used to, but the abundance of super-human feats fills that gap admirably.
If I was left with any pressing question, it would be “where do they go from here?” Even though the post/mid-credit sequence offers up a juicy morsel of what could be around the corner, the story elements used for each of the many characters are so on the money, that it has me scratching my head for what they’re going to be able to do differently next time and still keep the same balance. Although, I guess the important nugget in there is that I’m already wondering about next time, because even though I could stand to watch this movie another 5-10 times, I’m definitely hungry for more.
Scorsese creates a richly textured, barely fathomable, three dimensional world to compose a profoundly heartfelt elegy to the cinema and the masters that have come before him. And once you’ve let yourself be captivated by the film’s stunning imagery, nestled snugly within the spectacle is a compelling story performed by talented, charismatic actors – Don Logan never once entered my brain for the whole film.
What struck me most is Scorsese’s continuing reverence for the films that have come before him and how they inform the films of today – not by ripping them off, but by warmly suggesting them at the opportune moment. His gift is to remind us that there is an entire world of great films put there to be seen of only we go digging for them. It’s a message I hold dear to my heart as a guiding principle in my approach to the movies.
Posted by: Brian, on September 24, 2011, at 8:17 pm
Hello Internet, Its been a very long time since we last met. I almost forgot how to find you. I can make excuses for my absence, say I was too busy, blame Steve for moving, recount you with the tale of my abduction and imprisonment by radical anti-television anarchists, but truth be told, I was just being lazy. I just never felt like sharing my thoughts and opinions on film and TV anymore. I took some time and just went back to basics, where it was all about the experience and event and not about recapping that event for you. Then a funny thing happened; I watched season one of Mad Men on Netflix, and I liked it.
Those of you who are familiar with Steve and I and our much celebrated but woefully under appreciated radio show (R.I.P) know that we both made statements about Mad Men and how we just didn’t like it. I tried to watch it before but it just never gelled for me. I found it boring and slow and pointless. When you put it up against AMC’s other juggernaut, Breaking Bad, it was a no contest. There is a reason why Bryan Cranston won 3 emmys in a row. Its just that good. Mad Men never had that for me. Until now.
I will admit it, I am a big proponent of Netflix. Yes the selection is not as great as it could be and one day will be. But honestly, you do have access to HUNDREDS of movies that stream instantly to your TV. And the quality is nothing to sneeze at. Just give it time. Now every time I logged in and flicked around trying to find something to watch, Mad Men would be starting at me. It was like it was following me around, “hey, why not try us again? please? we promise you will like us this time” and yet I kept avoiding it. I would rather watch a movie I had already seen then give it a shot. The a funny thing happened. I found out that Jon Hamm is fucking hilarious.
Anyone who has seen Ham host SNL knows that he can hold his own on the sketch show, not an easy task since SNL’s writing mostly sucks (more on that another time) but it wasn’t until his turn in this summer’s funniest movie Bridesmaids and his 15 sec cameo in the live 30 rock that cemented his status as funniest handsome man on TV (sorry Alec Baldwin) . That made me think, maybe Mad Men is actually a comedy, the only thing is they don’t know it.
So with much dread and hesitation I dove back in to season 1 of Mad Men. And after the initial phase of getting accustomed to the show again, I actually quite liked it. Yes the detail is amazing, from the clothes to the furniture to the attitudes towards women. And the acting is top notch, you feel for Peggy, want to have a drink with Don and you want to punch Pete in his annoying little nose. It is a solid show from to bottom. I get it. okay? I get why people get so worked up when you say you don’t like it. Its that kind of show. And I am sorry internet, sorry that I ever doubted your opinions and sorry that I have been away for so long. Now get me a scotch and cigarette and if my wife calls, tell her I am in a meeting okay?
p.s. realizing that the lovely Allison Brie would be making random appearances throughout the season was also a selling point.
As I sat weeping over the new Spider-Man trailer, I had to ask myself this question: What’s the big deal about trailers anyway? Why do I get so giddy about what are essentially commercials put out by giant faceless corporations? And why am I constantly spoiling future moviegoing experiences for the fleeting joy of knowitallism?
What did I come up with? Hope. I think I am drawn to trailer sites to kindle the hope that something great is again on the horizon, the dazzling images and sketchy storyline fuel that conviction that a movie is just around the corner that might just make it onto the short list of the “great” films of our time.
So as I stare at the teaser for The Amazing Spider-Man and wipe away my tears of joy, it’s because I see a unique take on the Spider-Man legend presented in a way I haven’t seen before. And while that is the very definition of “novelty”, I think it’s something with a little more substance – it’s defiance in the face of cinematic mediocrity and that’s cause to be excited.
And now that I’ve rationalised my trailer obsession to my own satisfaction, why don’t you have a look at the teaser for The Amazing Spider-Man and keep your eyes peeled for Denis Leary.
Tweetnopsis: #XMen1stClass: Failed to impress with its revisionism, but I can’t help but admire Nick Hoult’s ability to claw his way back from obscurity.
This is without doubt Matthew Vaughn’s worst film, but I’m willing to give him a pass because this is probably most most studio interference he’s had to cope with on a film. Between the Fox people and the Marvel people and Lauren Schuler Donner and Bryan Singer, it would have been the first time he’d really been under someone’s thumb to make a film.
Cameo? More like “Can’t-eo”!
Despite some great cameos, some of which were definitely applause worthy, there was a gaping hole in this film where Stanley Leiber should have been. It’s a fact that he hasn’t been in every single Marvel adaptation, but if they’re trying for authenticity and crowd pleasing you have to give homage to Marvel’s chairman emeritus. Excelsior!
The Temple of James McAvoy
There hasn’t been a single performance of McAvoy’s that I haven’t enjoyed, and that includes Gnomeo & Juliet. It was his presence in this film, alongside Fassbender and under the direction of my hero Matthew Vaughn, that guaranteed my presence in the theatre, but his reliance on his fingers at his temple to illustrate the use of his powers seemed like a crutch beneath the likes of such an accomplished actor. I don’t even think the actor portraying the youngest version of himself used it to herald a “telepathic moment”. Truth be told, I also felt that his portrayal of Xavier seemed far too naive for character supposedly so brilliant. It reduces his contributions to the only role he played in founding the school was that he owned the property, and his only contribution to Cerebro was that he attached it to his head. At the very least, his idealistic naiveté is should have been vindicated somehow rather than being shunned on all sides by the loss of his friend and allies in the state department.
In their own world
I remember when I was a kid I used wonder why it was that Spider-Man never hung out with The Flash or why the Hulk never arm wrestled with Superman. The business-y response of how the heroes couldn’t be neighbors because they were owned by different companies was a lame enough concept to figure out as a kid, not to mention coming face to face with the commerce of imagination – two entities I thought were mutually exclusive up until then. Now I’m seeing it all over again in the movies with Marvel a house divided against itself with different movie studios owning different properties where never the twain shall meet so long as they keep making new movies every 2 years. Not that I’ve been a huge fan of how Marvel’s handled it’s intertextuality lately in terms of the lead-up to The Avengers, but I am fond of the idea that there’s a possibility of Tony Stark having a biscotti with the God of Thunder. Sadly, there’s no chance of that happening between Spider-Man and Wolverine though.
Wasn’t anybody listening to what Doc Brown said about going back in time and doing irreparable harm to the timeline? Smallville did enough of a number on the origins of Superman for me to cringe at the thought of what any other super-heroic revisionism might do to another dynasty. You wanna change the way their costumes look? Fine. You wanna turn Angel from the winged billionaire we barely got to see in X-Men 3 (well done, Ben Foster BTW) into a skanky version of Wasp? I dont think so! You wanna change Moira McTaggert from gifted Scottish researcher into an American CIA agent? Well, that I’m alright with – other than the fact that she already appeared in X-Men 3 as well. All of this retconning will eventually cause the mythology to collapse in on itself, although I’m sure they feel that they can muck about with it as much as they want until they decide to reboot it. Look, if you’re going to tell a story about a bunch of kids with superpowers and not make proper use of the X-Men property, well, you might as well make Misfits. Seriously, are we so bereft of ideas now that we have to jumble up old ones to make them seem new again?
A little light on details
Yeah, that’s right. I might not have had the greatest time, but I could have stood for it to have lasted a little longer. There were so many characters, and each of them had their own story to tell, but I’d say only about 70% of them got told. If you afforded everyone another 2-3 minutes to each of them just to reveal a little of what they were all about, it would have enriched the story and might have gone a long way to connecting together scenes that seemed disjointed and even out of context. I mean, I couldn’t see myself wanting to buy one of their action figures if I didn’t know anything about them. Did the guy with the whirlwinds even have a name? Was he a mute?
I have come to what some might call a “crossroads” in my life, I call it something more like “a train wreck”. Having shut down the Film Cynics on the radio and moved all the way across the country, my life has taken on a completely different shape from what it once was when I was able to sit at work and write a post or two a day, or spend my nights in front of a TV set, watching movies or TV shows. As such, my ability to do Film Cynics stuff has been compromised, preventing me from being able to post stuff up as regularly as I used to, not to say that I won’t be posting at all. (I’ve actually been stepping up my game on Twitter if you wanna check that out.)
In the meantime though, I’ve been invited to take part in a new venture where I can write in a more limited capacity, but still contribute to a robust discussion about movies, TV and pop-culture. It’s called Man, I Love Films and it’s a website founded by two colleagues of mine who have decided to up their movie blogging to the next level. Dylan, formerly of Blog Cabins and founder of the LAMB, and Kai, formerly of The List and creator of the MILFcast, have put together something really special and I think you should all drop by and check it out. With a veritable rogues’ gallery of contributing writers from all walks of life (even the mid-30′s married father-of-two set) concocting a great marketplace of discussion and ideas about movies.
I hoper you’ll drop by to check it out, and check out my weekly Vault Review column every Saturday, starting with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.