seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
Okay, I went into this movie basically spoiler-free except for seeing the unavoidable trailers, and they pretty much give away the whole movie, but still, to be safe, I'm going to put most of this stuff under a cut just in case, like, you're actually waiting in line at the theater right now and you don't want me to ruin it. It's okay, it'll keep. Point is, it is pretty dumb…

Spoilers. )
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
I'm of two minds on the recent Tomb Raider reboot. On the one hand, I found it an enjoyable game in its own right. On the other hand, it was presented as a Tomb Raider origin story and I can't help but think it fails on that count.

I guess the thing itself is that the game's thesis is throwing the previous games under the bus as, pretty much, sexist tripe and now, finally, they're doing Lara Croft as a strong, independent woman who don't need no man. And I'm no scholar and I'm not a Tomb Raider mega-fan, but I did play a few of the old games and I don't think they're the most problematic things in the world. I know, I know, Lara Croft in a wetsuit or a tanktop and shorts, but is that so out of line? I know Tomb Raider: Underworld gave players the option to choose Lara Croft's costume, so she could be in the iconic outfit or in long pants and a jacket. So is Tomb Raider suddenly feminist, just because they removed the option of shorts altogether?

I think that's a bit of a gray area of game design social justice. I know there's been some resentment of Batman games where Catwoman has her costume unzipped, and it does get pretty ridiculous. However, what if the default option was for her to be zipped up to the neck, Brubaker style, and the game gave you the option to show some cleav, the way some fighting games have alternate costumes for the characters? Would it be sexist just having the option?

Anyway, the new Tomb Raider goes to almost ridiculous lengths in the opposite direction. "So, won't take Lara seriously because she's hot, huh? Well what if we just COVER HER IN SHIT FOR THE ENTIRE GAME!" No, seriously, pretty much the entire game. Which sorta short-circuits the whole "hero's journey" thing since she starts out the game beat to shit and pretty much just gets beat to shit in other ways. Imagine if John McClane had started Die Hard with his feet cut up and his wifebeater covered in blood. Honestly, I'd be more impressed if Lara had taken a jacket off a dead nogoodnik before she climbed one of the snow-capped mountains instead of staying in her grimy tanktop throughout. Maybe all the blood and shit on it provides insulation.

Speaking of nogoodniks, I can't help but be unimpressed. The game's villains are a cult of strange, woman-hating assholes, but they come across as the same Eastern European terrorist mercenaries you'd find in any other game, chatting about who stole whose lasagna out of the fridge and whatnot. They're a strange, woman-hating cult! Can't they talk about something more interesting, dare I say creepy? The extent of their religion seems to be having candles everywhere, so I have no way to prove they're not worshipping a love scene in a Cinemax movie. And the Big Bad has the most obnoxious voice actor. When he first shows up, he does everything but yell at Starscream to identify himself as absolutely being the villain. Alright, I get it, yous evil. Tone it down a notch. I would've been more impressed if he actually conducted himself like someone who truly believed his shit, like a youth pastor for Darken Rahl, instead of having an Evil League of Evil union card.

As I was saying, I don't buy this as an origin for the Lara Croft we know and are aware of. I suppose that's nothing new; could you see Casino Royale leading to anything Roger Moore does? But there's a certain commonality to all the Bonds. This Lara Croft doesn't feel at all Croftian; she feels like generic Nolanism. I played a few of the games and I watched the movies, and Lara always came off as a thrill-seeking adventurer who raided tombs for fun and excitement. I don't see anything particularly wrong with that characterization; why can't a heroine be cool and sassy without having standard-issue secret pain and survivor's guilt and parental issues?

I suppose the answer is that explaining how Lara, however she started off, could go from that to a cool, nigh-invincible tomb raider was too hard. It's far easier to turn her into Ripley, even if it doesn't fit the character. After Batman Begins, I could kinda see Christian Bale as Michael Keaton's Batman, in a rough sort of way. But I couldn't ever see this Lara going on another "adventure." She'd be like the final girl after a slasher movie; popping pills and having nightmares and possibly cutting herself.

Really, the problem goes all the way to the logline of the project. "A survivor is born." Would "survivor" be anyone's first choice to describe Lara Croft? Adventuress, maybe, thrill-seeker, daredevil, etc etc. Survivor—every action hero is a survivor! John McClane is a survivor, but we don't watch his movies because he happens to be really good at not dying from being shot, stabbed, and blown up. Making Croft's defining characteristic "she doesn't die" is like Casino Royale's tagline being "A wine snob is born."

Now, there are some good moments where you can believe that Lara is transitioning into a badass and not just someone with a high tolerance for horrible things happening to her. After she gets a machine gun, she basically runs around yelling for everyone to LICK IT UP BABY. But those are few and far between, which is weird, because it seems like they're the entire point of the exercise.

Also, the QTEs pissed me off. Sorry I didn't hit the arbitrary button in a half-second, I'll just watch Lara Croft get strangled again, that's fine.
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
-So, as it turns out, they didn’t reshoot the film to add more Channing Tatum (a “re-C-Tate” in biz lingo), because he still dies. Doesn’t end up in a coma or anything, just gets blown the fuck up. So basically they delayed a movie people were actually looking forward to for an entire year just to cut out all the characterization stuff and make it crappy 3D. Good job, Hasbro, well-done.

-Seriously, the Rock plays Roadblock, Adrianne Palicki plays Lady Jaye, and some dude plays Flint or Flynn? I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THAT’S HIS CODENAME. I mean, Roadblock—he’s a big guy. Lady Jaye—she’s a lady. Why is he Flynn? Is he really in? Is he a big Tron fan? His only distinguishing characteristics seem to be that he thinks Adrianne Palicki is hot (and c’mon, who doesn’t?) and that he does Parkour a few times. So wouldn’t a better codename be something like ‘Free-Run’ or ‘that first bad guy in Casino Royale’ or ‘Parkour Douche’?

-Someone must’ve realized giving Adrianne Palicki three separate “OH NO SHE’S HOT” scenes would look sexist, so Storm Shadow pretty much spends the entire movie with his shirt off. And not dead.

-They took out a lot of the dumber stuff from Rise of Cobra (mech suits, Brain-Wash Baroness, Date-Rape Destro), but didn’t really replace it with much. Some of the sense of fun is just… missing. Sure, people escaping via jet-pack and having huge undersea battles in RoC weren’t exactly executed well, but they pulled off the right atmosphere (“The world’s in danger? Sure, perfect time for a training montage WHICH IS ALSO a recruitment test. You passed. Now for a speech from Dennis Quaid!”). This is a bit more generic in comparison, or at least as generic as a movie can be when the Rock says “Damn ninjas!”

-The RZA plays, I think it was the Soft Master? This Japanese sensei who trained Snake Eyes. Which is surprisingly progressive, considering traditional Japanese views on foreigners and black people—and I figure you have to be pretty conservative to favor throwing stars over machine guns. Then again, they’re ninjas. Maybe the true ninja magic isn’t vanishing in a puff of smoke—it’s EQUALITY. Also, he delivers 90% of the exposition. “SNAKE EYES, YOU HAVE A GIRL NINJA SIDEKICK NOW AND STORM SHADOW IS ALIVE AGAIN AND HE’S GOING TO A NINJA SPA FULL OF EVIL NINJAS AND YOU HAVE TO GET HIM BECAUSE OUR PLAN IS COUNTING ON THE FACT THAT EVIL NINJAS ARE SURPRISINGLY EASY TO INTERROGATE.” I don’t know, I barely remember all this ninja stuff from the comics, just that at one point there was an entire ninja UNIT of G.I. Joe and that was so lame. Like the X-Men having an All-Wolverine Squad (wait… Wolverine, Daken, X-23… shit, they have that now, don’t they?). But it just seems like GI Joe happens to have its own ninja clan.

-Walton Goggins in this as, basically, the warden of sci-fi Gitmo. And yes, I do want to see a whole movie about him. I pretty much always want to see a whole movie about any character Walton Goggins plays. Even when he played a white supremacist rapist in Predators. Take out the rape jokes and you’ve got Justified, so there, my instincts are correct.

-I can’t believe they cast an actual pro wrestler as Roadblock and didn’t do a joke about Sergeant Slaughter being a member of GI Joe. I mean, c’mon, it was right there!

-Considering Cobra in the comics and cartoon and all has everyone down to an accountant in a birdsuit, they’re really stingy on henchmen here. Bruce Willis and Adrianne Palicki end up facing off with a dickhead Secret Service agent. It wasn’t until pretty much the end that I realized our heavy was supposed to be Firefly. I can see how they almost tried to amp him up—I remember reading that he was supposed to be an ex-Joe, so there’d be a betrayal angle—but we never see him even participate in the mass slaughter of the Joes, so there’s no real catharsis in his take-down.

-Speaking of Palicki, she’s been in this, Red Dawn, and she was almost Wonder Woman. I realize that’s not batting a thousand, but still, I nominate her for probationary member of the Ladypendables. C’mon, Hollywood, don’t make her start doing romantic comedies. Let her pretend to shoot people for a living.

-So I guess Dennis Quaid is out and Bruce Willis is in? I guess that’s a fair trade. Still, I’ll miss you, Quaid. You’re like a Harrison Ford who still cares.
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
Yes, I know. We all wanted Air Force One 2: The White House, where, for some reason, Harrison Ford has been elected President five consecutive times (or just re-elected after four other terms) and he has to tell Gary Oldman's twin brother "Get out of my House." But it was not to be, and Olympus Has Fallen is actually a decent substitute. It's pretty much a remake of Die Hard, and not as good as Die Hard, but it's a decent Air Force One.

Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a Service Service agent with ex-Special Forces training (as you do). He's introduced boxing with the President (Aaron Eckhart). That is the kind of movie you are in for, and if you can pull a Community and pretend March 22 is July 4th (the movie actually takes places on July 5th), you'll have a red, white, and blue time.

In short order, the First Lady (Ashley Judd) is killed in a car accident; now she's free to do season two of Missing or not. Mike, of course, has guilt because, ehh, character arc. And despite what happened the last time Aaron Eckhart's lady died, eighteen months later, he's about to meet with a South Korean delegation to tell the North Koreans to knock off their shit before we remake Red Dawn with them as the bad guys. But, with resources not wholly explained (maybe they won the Mega-Lotto?), North Korean terrorists have infiltrated the delegation and set up an attack on Washington involving a C-130, suicide vests, bus bombings, scary face-masks, and garbage trucks (a scrolling news ticker later reads "Sanitation Union denies involvement"). Luckily, Mike Banning was in the White House following a "Need redemption? Inquire within!" sign and, as he himself notes, is the President, indeed America's, only hope.

And yes, things do get silly. There's a better Lincoln-kill then the movie Lincoln ever offered; hang your head in shame, Daniel Day-Lewis. And, to give you one non-spoilery example, the Secret Service has a bomb-sniffing dog at their disposal. When fifty (!) terrorists invade the White House lawn, the dog goes out to bite some North Korean (there's a truly tasteless 'revenge' joke in there somewhere). And the terrorists shoot him. Look, occupying the White House, taking the President hostage, and lowering the flag was one thing, but shooting the dog? Now we're sending King Leonidas after you.

And in a move I know will make you wacky libertarians happy, a movie set in the White House is actually pro-American. Banning isn't a cowboy cop, he's a Service Service agent doing his job, and the people he (naturally) gets into radio contact with on the outside are reasonable authority figures who he mostly gets on well with. Even the villain isn't some sympathetic terrorist whose mother was raped by Marines because she wouldn't tell them where her oil was (OIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!). He's just a prick. And instead of an ee-vil corporation backing him, he has help from a dickhead ex-Serviceman who spouts Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. It's a nice change of pace.

I do think, since they lift whole subplots from Die Hard, they should've given Bruce Willis a cameo, the same way Source Code did with Scott Bakula to acknowledge they were lifting from Quantum Leap. You know, make Bruno one of the Army Generals Morgan Freeman has to dicker with. Maybe let him shoot Karl after he pops up at the last moment, when everyone thinks he's dead.

Bonus points: The script had a part for a white man, but it was eventually cast with a black woman. Or, as it's called in the biz, they pulled a Reverse DC Comics.
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
So I've seen a quote going around by Joe Roth, producer of Oz The Great And Powerful, about how Disney has been looking for a "boys' fairy tale" and said movie fits the criteria. Naturally, this has given tumblr opportunity to do the two things it loves best: observing that life isn't fair, and complaining about it. However! I have actually been reading a book on this very subject, so let me explain you a few things.

Read more... )

But enough about all that. How is Oz The Great And Powerful, the movie itself? Well, that's more of a mixed bag. While I completely support Sam Raimi's decision to make a movie about a white male huckster WHO MANAGED TO MAKE HIMSELF GOD OF A MAGICAL KINGDOM, since that's slightly interesting (and c'mon, there've been how many 'feminist reimaginings' of everything under the sun? It cuts both ways), the actual product is hamstrung by having to be Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland Part 2: How Can You BE SURE Johnny Depp Isn't Under Make-Up Somewhere? for the Disney Overlords and not Sam Raimi Presents: Charming Douches And A-Team Inventions.

So there has to be some lip service epic fantasy bullshit, like a prophecy foretelling James Franco doing stuff. To its credit, the movie never shoves his character into armor and demands an epic CGI battle scene, instead having a finale where the hero—gosh!—uses his wits and cunning to defeat the bad guys instead of just carving them up with a big honking sword. But it also tries to have it both ways, which renders the movie almost meaningless. I'm going to get into some spoiler territory, because this has to do with the Wicked Witch of the West.

Alright, so in the opening it's made clear that James Franco is a poonhound, so you'd think this would end up being considered a character flaw, cause trouble for him, and he'd learn his lesson. And it… really doesn't. Instead, this happens.

Franco: Man oh man, do I love pussy.

Mila Kunis: Hello, I am an innocent and emotionally callow young woman who is into you.

Franco: Man, I'm such a man-slut, I am going to… use a lame pick-up line on you!

Franco: Would you like to dance?


Franco: Ho shit, LEVEL FIVE CLINGER!

Audience: Ah, I see, he's going to cheat on her and that's going to make her turn into the Wicked Witch.

Franco: Actually, I'm a hundred percent faithful to her.

Rachel Weisz: And I'm just going to lie about James Franco being a giant cock-ho, even though he is, to get Mila Kunis to turn evil.

Mila Kunis: James Franco cheated on me? Quick, give me the apple that turns me irredeemably evil!

Rachel Weisz: Here ya go, sis.


Rachel Weisz: Yeah. In this movie, good is literally equated with dumb. So, now that you know James Franco really didn't do anything wrong--


Sidenote—I know Robert Downey Jr. was up for the same role Franco got, but I'm pretty glad they didn't go that route. It'd be hard to see fifty-something RTD seduce a specifically young and impressionable Mila Kunis and not get real uncomfortable.

It's the same problem with Once Upon A Time, another Disney product, where they want the villain to be sympathetic and have an understandable position, but they don't want them to have actually been wronged by the hero, since that would mean the hero did something WRONG. Just like in Super 8, where the guy that Kyle Chandler blames for killing his wife did nothing more than call in sick to work. I guess it's meant to make the heroes more sympathetic, but if we're expected to feel sympathy for the villains despite the MANY HORRIBLE, EVIL THINGS THEY DO, you think we could be trusted to feel sympathy for a hero even if he or she makes a mistake or does something wrong, then tries to make amends.

By the way, considering how insane Disney is about copyright, how hypocritical is it that they're basically doing a fan film prequel to an entirely different company's Wizard of Oz? I doubt they'd be so understanding if, fifty years from now, someone made 'Captain Jack Sparrow' about how a charming huckster became captain of a pirate ship BASED ENTIRELY OFF THE ACTUAL PIRATES WHO COMMITED CRIMES IN THE CARIBBEAN SEA with some coincidental similarities to previous cinematic portrayals of said pirates.

There is some hinky sexual politics, which is to be expected of Raimi, since that dude confuses the shit out of me. Okay, you make Drag Me To Hell, all about how a woman deserves to be condemned to hell for a mistake she was pressured to make and acknowledges is wrong, then you make twenty movies about men who make far worse mistakes and get happy endings? Then you also make a bunch of TV shows about badass women with agency and ass-kicking and sisterhood? Damnit, can you either be misogynistic or feminist? Just pick one!

But, just to point out how fickle this can be, I think most of the criticism would go away if the (never seen and rarely mentioned) king who prophesized Franco showing up had instead been a queen. You could make the change entirely in ADR and all the "loaded symbolism" would just disappear. Besides which, Franco actually ends up a figurehead to Glinda's government.

Hmm… a charming but inexperienced 'ruler' who has no real aptitude except for a nebulous ability to inspire 'hope', which is to say he's just not the wicked witch that is the only other option. Wonder if there's meant to be a political subtext there.

Probably not.

Now I'm just going to note that when the trailers came out, I wrote a fanfic where Evanora was domming the hell out of Theodora, despite the fact that they're sisters, under the impression that of course a Disney movie would never have something that perverted. And, uh… somehow that fic got transported back in time to Rachel Weisz's copy of the script, because she absolutely plays the entire movie like she's enormously gay for her sisters. Not even kidding a little.

Rachel Weisz on Theodora: Eat this delicious apple and you can be queen at my side. Then I'll lick it after you take a bite of it. SUBTEXT MOTHERFUCKER.

Rachel Weisz on Glinda: I will take all of your light and replace it with my darkness. My big, black, vibrating darkness with the ridged head that feels so good.


I'm serious now. Evanora's entire motivation is power, to the extent that she's willing to kill her father and sister to be king of the hill—except for her other sister, Theodora, who she specifically asks to rule at her side. It basically took my ridiculously perverted hopes for how femslashy a children's movie could be and said "No, no. GAYER." So if you see this movie, I'm expecting you to write fic where the ladies give each other quick magical makeovers and then broom sex. And possibly dub-conned Glinda.


Anyway, I have to do a stupid online defensive driving course (that baby swerved in front of ME, everyone saw it), so if you want to hit me up to discuss Evanora's incredible gayness, I'm at Sirius12xxln on AIM.
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
Well, here's a pleasant surprise. Like most people, I was turned off by the "Simply Adorkable" marketing campaign, but after a shaky few episodes, that aspect of the show quits being an issue. At first, I was worried that Zooey Deschaniel, who was basically playing "wacky neighbor" character and yet was also the viewpoint character, would be like having a steak served inside a bowl of barbecue sauce--just too much of something. But as the season progresses, they tone her down from (as xkcd would put it) "silly and entertaining on command" to someone who might potentially exist on planet Earth. But yeah, that pilot where she sings at random and dances for no reason? Fucking grueling.

Although there is a weird subplot where they try to make A Point by comparing Quirky! Cutie-pie! Zooey Deschaniel to 'humorless feminist' Lizzy Caplan. Look, I like Taylor Swift and everything, but there's nothing to be proud of in (for instance) not being able to say penis in your twenties. And I realize that's an over-the-top example, but as an instance of the mindset they're glorifying (vs. 'stuck-up, serious lawyer person who works for a living'), I'm like "that shit ain't cute."

I mean, I'm down with a woman saying "it's okay to be girly," but by having the issue be that Caplan accuses Jess of doing an act, the metafictional take-away is that Jess is an honest reflection of who Zooey Deschaniel really is and--c'mon. I refuse to believe that there are really people who ask their Smartphones if it's raining. And I'm sure Lizzy Caplan isn't cool and snarky and beautiful and just a little bit tender underneath her tough exterior all the time either, but don't tell me Zooey Deschaniel isn't doing "Zooey Deschaniel" to some extent because it's commercial. For God's sake, she was born Nora Taylor (not really, but were you surprised just then?)

Also, for some reason it takes them a while to break from the formula of "Jess is annoying, the guys are annoyed by her, then they sacrifice doing something they really wanted to do to show her they really do care. Heart warmage!" I think that's pretty much the entire first disc.

But damn, they've got some sharp performers on this. During the credits, they tend to show deleted improv bits, and one of Nick goofing around behind a rich guy desk isn't just comedy gold, it's comedy platinum. I can't really think of a weak link in the cast, although just a personal impression, but it seems like Winston doesn't get as much business as anyone else? Maybe it's just that his character of "hotshot sports pro in a small foreign country who comes back to America in disgrace" seems less universal than "professional dumpee" or "douchebag".

Funnily enough, the douchebag character pretty quickly moves from being a Lothario into a rather sweet committed relationship instead of, I don't know, wallowing in one-episode hook-ups. I know every sitcom that runs long enough sorts even the most devoted poonhound into a real relationship, but I can't off-hand think of one that strikes when the iron is this hot. Although, the resolution to the plot, as of the season finale, smirks of unasked-for drama.

Oh, and between this, Happy Endings, The Mindy Project, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and probably a few other sitcoms I'm not watching, can we put a stopper on any projects with a female character who was raised on rom-coms and believes that's how the world really works and then her expectations clash humorously with reality? I gotta think most women have realized by now that rom-coms are basically porn for women. Ryan Gosling is not going to fill a swimming pool with your favorite flavor of Jell-O to apologize for a misunderstanding anymore than two double-D blondes are going to pay for pizza with a thirty-minute threesome and situational bisexuality.

"I never knew that Italy was so much more than pizza, Schmitty! It's so much more!"
seriousfic: (Default)
Bullet In The Head

In case you don't know, director Walter Hill is an action movie legend who, unlikely enough, never made a movie with action movie legend Sylvester Stallone. So this is something of an event. Unfortunately, like The Expendables and a Bruno/Jimmy/Ah-Nuld, I think this team-up is past its sell-by date.

The whole thing is streamlined enough to get by on B-movie charm. There's a simple story—Sly's Jimmy Bobo (why does everyone he play now have a weird name?) a hitman with a heart of gold whose partner is killed, so he's out for revenge against the guy who killed his partner. However, Jimmy's last target was a cop's partner, who is also out for revenge—conveniently, not against Jimmy, but against the shotcaller, who also called the shot on Jimmy and his partner. Jimmy doesn't really share that philosophy, since the hitman's hitman is Jason Momoa and they're out to rumble. So the cop's working to avenge his partner with the man who killed his partner because the man who killed his partner had his partner killed by the man who killed his partner.

The movie is similarly simple: Jimmy and cop go from place to place, beating up people and shooting the occasional henchmen until they reach the final boss. Now, Hill does unleash a bit of the kraken—nothing as great as Diane Lane playing a punk rocker in Streets of Fire, but there is a New Orleans orgy with naked chicks ballroom dancing, ax fights to the death, and Sarah Shahi as Sly's daughter/a punksy tattoo artist who the cop has a thing with (Tango & Cash rules: If one of the buddies has a hot family relative, the other buddy will be into them).

The problem is the buddy of this buddy movie. Sung Kang (Han Seoul-Oh in The Fast And The Furious) plays the cop who objects to Jimmy killing his way to the bottom of this mystery. Okay, conflict, right, good? Only Kang is completely neutered. I mean, it's to such an extent that it's borderline racist. He's totally ineffectual, can't do anything right, isn't respected at all. He gets, like, five shots in, but it's seriously bare minimum for an action movie character. Matt Ferrell got in more in Live Free Or Die Hard, and he was supposed to be an omega male. Kang's meant to be Jimmy's equal, but he comes across more as a nagging sitcom housewife for Jimmy to make Asian jokes about.

As the movie was being developed, Tom Jane (the Official Punisher of, says I) was meant as the cop character. It's really hard to see him eating as much shit as Kang; I could see him earning Jimmy's respect or registering as a threat to his hitman livelihood. Joel Silver eighty-sixed him because part of his buddy movie formula is an interracial partnership and Jane made a joke about Jimmy wanting a partner “whose penis is smaller than his.” And I know it's a dick joke, but that's really how it comes off, like Sly was too much of a prima donna to have a co-star who could stand up to him.

So, it's a fun DTV-level ride, but it's strictly The Sly Stallone show and that keeps it from being one to remember.

Stand-Up Guys

Here's a weird one. Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin play old-time mob guys. Pacino's been in the clink for twenty-eight years after taking the fall for a robbery where he accidentally killed a crime lord's son. Now that he's out, Walken's been told to kill him. However, he doesn't have to do it immediately, so they bust Arkin out of a retirement home to have one last night on the town. So basically, it's the three old-timers playing themselves. Really reminds me of Tough Guys, an underrated eighties comedy with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as retired gangsters.

This time around, Lucy Punch (the Ultimate universe Catherine Tate) plays a whoremonger who wears giant glasses and speaks in a Minnesota accent. I smell spin-off!

However, I liked Tough Guys a bit more because it kept an even keel. Stand-Up Guys has a much darker premise, but it plays things so light that it makes for some weird-ass tonal shifts. The sadistic gangster who's forcing Walken to kill his best friend, the old men laying to rest a dead friend, and even a weird second-act rape-revenge plot—it's all treated with the same jokey irrelevance. The old guys steal a gang's car for a joy ride, find a naked girl tied up in the trunk, Pacino gives her his jacket, then there's some banter about who's going to give her a pair of pants to wear.

And this woman, who as it turns out was gang-raped, treats it just like she had a bad date. She's bantering right back with them and ends up making jokes about the Nutcracker as they tie the bad guys up and let her have at their groins with a baseball bat. So that's fine and all, but still... gang rape. I don't think there should be “he took too much Viagra!” jokes and gang rape in the same movie. Just me. It just seems really unnecessary. What would've worked a lot better is if she just had an abusive boyfriend who locked her in his trunk and they taught him a lesson. You'd still have the same contrast between the old omerta gangsters and the new asshole gangsters, you'd still have the same white knighting, hell, even domestic abuse is still pretty borderline as far as being played for laughs (or at least it's comeuppance being played for laughs), but it would go down a bit easier.


Another weird one. One part of it is Jason Statham out for revenge and being Jason Statham. That's fine. Generic, but fine. The books are supposed to be classics, but then, I've heard the same thing about Trav McGee, and those books had him beating up lesbians because they resented him for being an "authentic male." But as I haven't read them and can't judge either way, I'll just rate this as a Statham movie.

The thing is, Jennifer Lopez is... not the love interest, that's another character. More like the other woman in a love triangle, only Parker clearly doesn't give a shit about her. Like, there's this scene where he makes her strip down to check for a wire and she gets all breathy and flustered, and later makes a flirty reference to it. Yeah, a violent criminal makes you strip down to your underwear—so hot, right?

And they're supposed to team-up because she knows the area and Parker doesn't, but she doesn't come in that handy at all. Yet she's the female lead. She could've been in one or two scenes, Statham does a Texas accent, that's all, but no, she's in the whole thing. She has a backstory about a jerk boyfriend and we see her steal Statham's commission from her real estate co-workers and be rude to her mother (none of which is making her very sympathetic). And I'm not blaming all this on the script; Lopez plays it like she's in The Wedding Planner and this is a gritty crime drama! Jason Statham gets stabbed through the hand! And she's practically ready to burst into song.

So, stick with the book. You know it's better.
seriousfic: (Default)
Well, first off, stupid enough that it's called "Texas Chainsaw 3D" like it's an Asylum mockbuster instead of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D," which would point out that it's part of a series with one of the most iconic titles of the last century, and that it's in 3D.

*For added fun, read the rest of this in the bemusedly indignant tones of Brian Williams. I know I am*

Second, the movie begins hours after the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (ignoring that there were several sequels that would contradict this, making this a remake of the sequel to the original--a seboot, if you will). The authorities are called, and Sheriff Hooper--you can tell he's a good guy, despite being a Texan, because he's black--goes in to deal with the Sawyers alone. Here we find that the Sawyers are not a family of sick fucks that collectively tied up, terrorized, and tried to murder a young woman, but just a band of misunderstood underdogs--noble savages, if you will--defending their land from young people. You know. Like Liz Lemon.

Or Martin Zimmerman. Anyway, the movie's theme is that the Sawyers' family loyalty makes them morally superior to people who don't skin and eat teenagers, but despite this, after a stern talking-to from Hooper, they decide to give up Leatherface--or Jed, as he's been renamed here for some reason. But then, a bunch of Texans show up, and decide to lynch and/or burn and/or shoot all the Sawyers to death (they're admirably flexible on that point).

Now, I've got to think most people would say a mass execution is letting the Sawyers off easy, having seen the first movie, or even just the bits post-converted to 3D for this movie's credits. We are talking about a family that regularly killed people, barbecued them, and then sold their meat on the open market (assuming TCM2 is still in continuity, and that is where the name Sawyer came from in the first place, so it has to be).

But no! In the movie's universe, mob justice is a far worse crime than cannibalism and wearing people. The Sawyers are massacred, but one baby survives, and a vigilante takes the baby and does the mother in with a boot to the head. Which seems like a pretty lazy way to kill someone and steal their baby to me. What if she was just stunned? What if she gets up later and starts asking "Where's my baby?" But apparently that one kick was it for her, so on with the plot!

The Littlest Sawyer is raised in... Arkansas, apparently, because I guess her adopted parents traveled all the way into Texas to be part of a lynch mob. I mean, it's Texas. Not like it's a big state or anything. "Yeah, just gonna pop down to Texas, kill some cannibals, see if I can score a baby." Happens all the time. And despite her adopto-parents being willing to literally kill a woman to have a child, now they're negligent parents who don't seem to love or care about her at all, or vice versa, so there's no interesting thematic material at all and they end up getting comeuppance-killed by Leatherface after the credits because Lil Sawyer doesn't give a shit about the people who raised her?

??? )

ETA: At one point The Slutty One grabs a conveniently working and loaded shotgun from a pick-up truck that no one possibly could've been maintaining and takes a shot at Leatherface, screaming "Welcome to Texas, motherfucker!" But... he lives in Texas. You're the one who came to Texas from another state. You can't be welcoming him ANYWHERE YOU IDIOTS--ALL YOU OF EARTH ARE IDIOTS!
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Okay, so it's not quite the disaster we might've been worried about, or even hoping. It's a touch generic, but I think the MVP here is Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun, The Usual Suspects), directing and writing, who takes the usual tropes of wrong men accused, damsels in distress, and beating up petty methheads... but does it with style. Tom Cruise is... game, but you never feel like you're watching Jack Reacher. More like Tom Cruise is hosting Saturday Night Live and doing a very subtle parody of himself and some alternate-universe Jack Reacher movie where they actually cast someone who fit the character's description, even if it's (gasp) a black guy.

Part of it, being a little unfair to Cruise, is that he's pretty much the movie stariest of all movie stars, so he can't disappear into the role any more than Britney Spears could play Batman. And he does try. I don't think Cruise even does any sprinting in this movie. But Cruise is also, ya know, something of a robot, so his Reacher comes off as a bit of a 'hole. Like when the villain has sent a local girl and some thugs to start a barfight with Reacher, he takes the opportunity to drop several bon mots about what a slut the girl is. Headcanon: Sure, Jack Reacher's a drifting badass-paladin, but he really wanted to be... an insult comic.

Also, the female lead is pretty weak. Getting into mild spoilers...Read more... )

Oh, and Werner Herzog is the villain, no real backstory, he's pretty much just playing himself as a Russian crime lord. It's delicious. "Always the bullet-I don't understand." If not for Bane, he'd be a sure shot at Best Ungodly Villain Voice Of The Year.
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I actually heard about this one from reading a review by Film Critic Hulk, who had a poor opinion of it. I had the exact opposite reaction, though, and I think it's because I came in with less expectations. FCH, I think, went in expecting an Oscar-worthy look at mental illness and, partly, that's not what it is. It's sort of like how if you just see The Artist, you'll think "Oh, that was fun," but if you hear it won the Oscar for Best Picture, you go "holy shit, are you fucking kidding? That's a goddamn Youtube video about a silent film star stretched out to movie length. Not even an original Youtube video. More of a Singing In The Rain fanfilm."

At the end of the day, Silver Linings Playbook is pretty much a romantic comedy. But it's kind of the same thing director David O. Russell did with The Fighter, where, yeah, it's a sports movie, but it's also a hard-hitting look at drug addiction.

If this whole genre business has any worth at all, it's as categorizing movies in terms of what the audience is looking for. Sometimes, you're in the mood for a comedy, other times a drama; you don't just want to reach into a sack and pull out Platoon when you and your date want to watch something romantic. So SLP is trying to be a romantic comedy and it sets out to do what a romantic comedy does, but it doesn't shit the bed and wag its flaccid dick in your face like a lot of rom-coms do, which is what gives the genre a bad name.

It's like if Warrior and Here Comes The Boom were both contractors you could hire to fix your kitchen. Sure, they're both in the same business, they're both trying to do the same thing, but one comes in, fixes your sink, then goes on to teach your wayward son martial arts to defend against bullies, saves your marriage, even rescues your cat from a house fire. And the other one (the one with Paul Blart) comes in, takes a crap in the sink, swipes some of your Blu-Rays, leers at your teenage daughter, steps on the cat's tail, just all sorts of things going wrong.

By the way, both of the contractors are race-neutral in this example, whatever races you're picturing them as, I don't want you to think it has anything to do with their professionalism.

So, yeah, Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy, but it's a damned good romantic comedy that strives for excellence, and I think tumblr will like it because a substantial amount of the plot is sex-obsessed bisexual Jennifer Lawrence literally chasing down the hero, which is pretty much the only thing fandom could want more than another Harry Potter book. And not monotone Katniss Everdeen J-Law either. The J-Law who talks about peeing.

Some things:

1. I like how, since Bradley Cooper is ridiculously good-looking but is in serious actor mode here, they give him a backstory where he used to look like a human being, but got into great shape. Then Jennifer Lawrence comes in, the woman who according to X-Men canon is literally a younger version of Rebecca Romijin, and just goes "Sup?"

2. Like I said, rom-com, but while no one is a saint, they also don't make anyone a jackass just for E-Z Riting. The worst people in the movie are the guys who are interested in Jennifer Lawrence's character, Tiffany, because she's a nymphomaniac, and none of them are Hollywood jerks who get handsy with her so Bradley Cooper can punch them out and make the audience swoon.

3. If there's a caveat I have, it's that the film pushes down a little hard on the drama button for my taste. I think there's a long stretch of movie where it seems like every conversation leads to a big! dramatic! confrontation! Even a innocuous bit of character-building like Tiffany joking with Bradley Cooper about sleeping with women becomes a big hairy deal five minutes later because she was opening up to him, man! It's like the movie isn't giving itself time to breathe, so I could see that as the film abusing the rom-com license to play things broad. Of course, the hero is suffering from bipolar disorder and interacting with people who have their own issues, so it makes sense.

4. My dad's a big Browns fan, so he's inclined to like any movie where the hero lives in dire fear of being sent to (a mental hospital in) Baltimore.

5. Sophie's Choice for men - dirty dancing with Jennifer Lawrence or going to see the home team play with your family?

ETA: I know Russell was supposed to do an Uncharted movie a while back that sounded very Tim Burton in terms of accuracy, but given the way he's managed to fulfill genre expectations while also giving bonus Oscarness, maybe it would've been good. Still, I can't imagine why he thought Mark Wahlberg would make a good Nate. Bradley Cooper here would be lightyears better.
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The Good - Peter's storyline, where he gets into an expensive-looking brawl with Mega-Observer Windmark and the bastard shows him his daughter's last thoughts before she was killed. For all the Observers lack as villains, they're pretty great as douchebags. That was a legit "oh no you dinnit" moment.

Also, the latter part of Olivia's story, where she MacGyvers her way into killing a bounty hunter with the bullet keepsake that Etta gave her. THE DUNHAM FAMILY IS SO BADASS THAT OLIVIA WILL USE A GIFT FROM HER DAUGHTER TO MURDER YOU.

The Bad - The first part of Olivia's story--yikes. Olivia meets up with a literal Magic Negro who hands her the latest plot coupon and diagnoses that Olivia's problem is a lack of faith and not, say, seemingly being given the run-around by a woman she's known for five minutes and has no reason to trust. Olivia, for her part, says effectively "Look, time travel, alternate dimensions, porcupine monsters--totally real. But religion? C'mon, be serious." This, of course, being the woman who un-erased her lover from time because she really wanted to kiss him.

Look, I know sci-fi usually has the opposite problem, of depicting every religious person as an ignorant savage or a bunch of fundamentalist marauders, but Fringe reducing everything to "religion good, being too smart am evil" is equally bad. Especially since religion ended having smack-all to do with the story. Olivia's problem was dealing with Etta's death, not a crisis of faith.

The Ugly - Olivia gets the perfect opportunity for a kiss-off line when she has a gun on a young Christian Bale. She's already killed his associate, so when he asks "Where's Briggs?" and goes for his gun, she's well within her rights to shoot him and say "Where you're going" or "Go look for him" or "In line for Hell, right in front of you." Instead, she just shoots him. Look, Olivia, you're on Fox and you need the occasional kiss-off line. C'mon, make Jack Bauer proud.
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Okay, so for a good movie (better than Quantum of Solace, worse than Casino Royale), this felt very… underwritten. Maybe it's just that it's been six years since the last Bond movie, so you'd expect someone would show the script to their roommate and he'd go "Wait a minute… none of the new characters ever say their names." Am I the only one who thought that was weird? Naomie Harris shows up, goes with Bond into action, fucks him, and apparently they never know each others' names? There's this big scene where M identifies the villain for the first time; "ah yes, Arturo Rodriguez, I remember him;" and then everyone starts calling him Silva for some reason? And when someone asks Daniel Craig his name, he just goes "The name's…" and trails off.

Well, that last one didn't happen, but it totally could've.

When you think abut it, the entire second act of this movie is the villain plotting to board a subway train. )


M: You heartless bureaucrats may want to shut MI6 down, but have you considered this? *fearmongering, fearmongering, fearmongering!*

Helen McCrory: Actually, I just wanted to know why you would make a list of every undercover agent in the world, then send it to Turkey.

M: ...hold on, there's a really good Tennyson quote for this situation.
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Well, that was surprisingly good. I mean, a movie with a musician-turned-actor, wrestler-turned-actor, Real World contestant-turned-actor, Russell Crowe hamming it up, and Lucy Liu fake-laughing at race jokes was never going to be The Dark Knight, but it absolutely features Lucy Liu talking to her harem squadron stable of assassin-hookers in a bathhouse about how they're going to kill all the men and invent feminism. I'll tell you that much, if she did that on Elementary, none of the Sherlock fandom would be complaining.

It's shocking how many of the plot threads work. RZA isn't quite 'acting' when he plays the Blacksmith (who has a name, but it has Thaddeus in it, so no wonder he goes by 'the Blacksmith'), but then, neither is anyone else. The story is told through his eyes, though he's pretty much the Lando Calrissian of the plot, so there's anachronistic rap music and voiceover narration where he refers to Imperial China as motherfuckers, although that's about as far as it goes. Understandable, since if you 'blaxploit' the kung-fu movies too much it turns into a joke and becomes The Last Dragon, but I actually like the cross-cultural weirdness of an old-fashioned Shaw Brothers film somehow being seen through the eyes of a modern-day rap star (slash freed slave slash blacksmith slash Zen acolyte slash superhero), so they could've pushed that a little further in my opinion.

Also, although the action is pretty good, when you get to the four Final Fights, there's a distinct... lacking. Obviously, I don't expect "second breakfast and elevensies" Russell Crowe to do backflips like Jet Li, but some of the people who are established as knowing what they're doing when it comes to martial arts have short and unsatisfying duels anyway. Some of it comes down to the staging and storytelling of the fights even, rather than the choreography (imagine if Die Hard's climax had been McClane just dominating Hans before busting out the duct-taped pistol, instead of it being a reversal). But it's a sad day when side-character Lucy Liu has a better fight against a tertiary henchmen than any of the Main Guys.

In fact, my biggest caveat with the film is that there seem to be more than a few pulled punches. Some spoilers. )

But anyway, Lucy Liu and her prostitute death squad. Your call, guys.
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Pitch Perfect has been getting rave reviews for being like but not quite as good as Bring It On. But what if you, like 70% of Americans whose fathers did not drink, cannot listen to the acapella cover songs? How will you participate in the national conversation when you can't quote Stick It v2.0? It's not like most of the good one-liners are in the trailer (it is exactly like that). Well, don't you fret, because over the next five minutes, we'll go over Pitch Perfect in an academic, easy-to-read style—a Cliff's Notes if you will, but don't because their copyright lawyers are Rottweilers. Let's begin, shall we?

Spoilers: There's female bonding. )
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This weekend, both End of Watch and Dredd 3D came out. End of Watch is about LA cops going about their duties in a professional, calm, and courteous manner, while Dredd is about a post-apocalyptic world where a city stretches from Boston to Washington, an overcrowded eight hundred million people exist in a state of perpetual anarchy, and police officers have been given the power to make summary executions. So at least one of those is science fiction.

But which should you, the hard-working theater-goer, see? Let's find out.

(I know House At The End Of The Street came out this weekend too, and it has Jennifer Lawrence in it, she's in my heart just as much as she's in yours, but a PG-13 slasher movie? Look, there's loving someone and then there's loving someone after they sleep with your sister. I think we should let someone sleep on the couch a few nights while we get to know Karl Urban a little better. WE HAVE OPTIONS, JEN.)

Mismatched partner quotient: The mark of any good buddy cop movie is how crazily mismatched the partners are. First off, we have Dredd 3D, which scores high with an impressive 7 out of 10 rating. Dredd is a faceless instrument of fascist justice, while his partner Anderson is a rookie who scraped by in the academy and is being given one training day to make it or break it. She's also psychic and not quite onboard with killing everyone who breaks the law, so they are very mismatched indeed. However, they're both Judges, both human, and while Dredd is an uptight white guy, Anderson is not in anyway a jive-talking black person, so I'm going to deduce points. Brett Ratner would not approve.

The master at work.

However, they do beat out End of Watch, which scores an impressive for the opposite reason 2 out of 10 mismatched partner quotient. Both Z and Taylor, as played by Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena (I don't know about a post-racial America, but you've got to admit, when was the last time the white guy had a last name that you had no idea how to spell?), are decorated officers who get along well and love the ladies. In fact, they're so well-matched that it actually works to the movie's advantage, as it's great fun just to watch them banter, bullshit, and talk through each others' problems. I'm going to give them the two because Z is a family man and Taylor is a swinging bachelor (yes, with facetious quips about how Z would love to get all the pussy Taylor is), and also because Taylor is white and Z is Hispanic (yes, with quips about how white people love Starbucks and Mexican people have large families).

So the choice is yours: broTP or "one's a psychic, the other wants to skull-fuck democracy"?

Violence quotient: One of the worst things to ever happen to America was the word "soft R," since it quickly became "hard PG-13," and now we have PG-13 Die Hards and family-friendly comic book movies where people get their faces blown off. It's the worst of both worlds. So, how violent are these two supposedly R-rated films?

Dredd takes the lead with an 8 out of 10, falling short of torture porn but offering up plenty of the red stuff, with action scenes where people are shot and time actually slows down so you have more time to solve the equation of what happens when a bullet is added to flesh. People are set on fire, shot, crushed by blast doors, shot, thrown from skyscrapers, shot, mind-raped, shot, and shot.

Meanwhile, End of Watch gets by with a 6 out of 10. The violence is more realistic, mostly limited to quick headshots and the sight of grisly crime scenes. It's meant to be more disturbing than Dredd's over-the-top gore, and it achieves that even with some possibly CGI blood splatter.

Unsubtle similarities to other movie: There's less originality in Hollywood than there are glowing portrayals of President Bush; even the nerd-loved Dredd is 'only' a remake of a 90s movie and adaptation of a long-running comic book series. It also shares a premise with The Raid, which was either a filmed account of what happens when you give stuntmen PCP and tell them to see how close they can come to killing each other, or a film about brutal cops assaulting a crime-ridden apartment complex and being trapped inside by the Big Bad. Well, if we have room for Antz/A Bug's Life, Armageddon/Deep Impact, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen/Manos: The Hands of Fate, we have room for two movies which are nearly the same.

The Raid has something of an excuse plot, with some light drama to get you invested in the characters as they engage in machete duels. More importantly, The Raid has a bigger emphasis on fisticuffs; the first few action beats that deal in artillery are pretty disappointing, and it's only when these actual police officers start busting out the axes that the action picks up. Dredd is all about the gunplay, and less importantly, the characters and plotting. It focuses on character arcs, dialogue, dynamics--it's still light, but a more "writerly" kind of light. You end the movie knowing more about Dredd and Anderson than you do The Raid knowing about Rama.

If there's one unflattering comparison, it's that Dredd doesn't have a 'Mad Dog', and I think it could've used one. Even when the villain brings in Spoilers ) Lena Headey, though, makes for an alright 'Tama'. She isn't given that much to do, but it's fun that she's this beautiful woman IRL who here has these fucked-up scars and meth teeth, like she's going for an Oscar, only it's to play the supervillain in a comic book movie.

End of Watch, meanwhile, is from the writer of Training Day, which was also about LA cops fighting gangbangers, although no one compares himself to King Kong. Maybe it's because there are no black characters in End of Watch? Racism. The big difference is that Training Day was about this big-huge-deal of rogue cops operating in LA, while End of Watch doesn't portray police corruption at all. The guys aren't saint-like, but a lot of their frustration stems from the pressure they're put under and when the police chief tells them early on to toe the line or he'll have their asses, they seem to listen. If you called 911, or even if you got pulled over in the middle of the night, these are the cops you'd want.

I joke about police brutality, but it's actually refreshing (and probably not a bad thing socially) to see a more realistic portrayal of cops as good guys trying to do their job--unless you're going to argue that all cops really are mindless thugs out to kill minorities, in which case, wow, 9/11 was just a decade ago.

In both movies, End of Watch and Dredd, the plot is more "a day in the life" than "we have to stop this plot to destroy the city!" (especially refreshing in a comic book adaptation: Dredd is the Arkham Asylum of superhero movies). Although Dredd is about a particularly interesting day and End of Watch fast-forwards over days or months of duty to get to the incidents that form the plot, EoW is more concerned with the characters than stopping a serial killer or whatever. There's some great chemistry, and an awesome supporting cast with Frank Grillo, Anna Kendrick, and America Ferrera playing the part of Michelle Rodriguez (seriously, she's a tough-as-nails cop who's partnered with a heterosexual life partner woman and has sexual tension with an out gay gangbanger. M-Rod, fire your argent). So it's a bit more drama than action, but effective drama.

(Ladies, quick note: Anna Kendrick is very cute and in this movie she records herself going through Taylor's wallet as his girlfriend and awwing over a picture of his mother and stuff. Anna Kendrick is, once again, very cute. Don't try this at home. You do not want to know if you're as cute as Anne Kendrick.)

She's too cute for us to hold Twilight against her!

So I hope that clears up which movie about shocking police violence and cute white girls you should watch. Or you could go see The Master. You're not gonna go see The Master.
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Sorry to say this is one of the weaker installments in a series built on cheese and poor impulse control. After a brisk, brisk run-through of the epic battle promised and the last one, and the obligatory recap of the last episodes (with Alice conveniently skipping over incidents like her gaining an army of clones, her boyfriend turning into a Frankenstein, and L.J.), we get a quick rip-off of the Dawn of the Dead remake with Alice thinking she's a suburban housewife married to the guy from The Mummy, who died earlier on. There's no real reason for her to be a suburban housewife married to the guy from The Mummy, except perhaps whoever's running these depraved human experiments over at Umbrella is a shipper. In which case, you can tell he's evil for not putting an Alice clone with a Claire clone. C'mon, dude. It's the Apocalypse. Everything should be a dystopian sex party. Giving uber!Alice a husband and a deaf kid? What kind of sick mind does that? A Clana shipper?

Aaaanyway, that goes south and we get Milla Jovovich's trademark--a hospital-y yet openly fetishistic outfit.

She's got a better niche than Tyler Perry, you must admit.

As it turns out, since being captured, Alice has been relocated to an Umbrella facility in the former Soviet Union, where submarine pens have been converted into giant scale models of famous cities, where clones are used to test out the T-virus, thus letting it be sold to the countries of the world--so that explains how it got out and ended the world (remember when that happened? Between movies?). So now Alice and newbie Ada Wong (inexplicably wearing a slinky red dress in both A. combat and B. the cold-as-fuck portion of the world) have to go through facsimiles of New York and Moscow to escape. For some reason, the largest chamber is dedicated to 'Suburbia'. I guess because you really need all that space to simulate two-story homes.

That's actually a more video-gamey plot than the video games, but disappointingly, all the clones and It's A Small World After All doesn't really develop into anything. It's like if Cabin In The Woods had just been pain-worshipping redneck zombies. You'd expect there to be a "level" that Plant 42 has taken over and then it creeps into the "small town" level which is already overrun with Mormon zombies. But no, everyone just sticks to their own spot and even a nice, pro-gun-control Michelle Rodriguez clone doesn't get much play.

Beyond that, the movie just feels smaller. The previous installments weren't Spielberg, but they all expanded the mythos or progressed the plot. In this, they're stuck in a situation which feels completely first-act, Wesker has come back to life with no explanation, and Alice even gets her powers back, even though they had become completely boring and stupid in previous movies. Killing zombies with kung-fu, that's one thing, but killing zombies with psychic powers? Now you're just being silly.

I mean, there's a baseline of competence and low expectations that keeps this from being Battleship--an evil, superpowered Michelle Rodriguez clone swearing vengeance is a much better cliffhanger than anything Andrew Garfield came up with--but this really feels like another trip to the well, with reruns as the villains instead of bigger and badder foes, and people we actually care about like the Redfields replaced with underwear models. (I swear, there's a conversation between the Leon Kennedy dude and Milla Jovovich that sounds like they're in a contest to see who can act less. And English is, like, Milla's fifth language. She signed up for this shit thinking it was a documentary about Enron. What's your excuse, Leon Kennedy dude? Are you from Norway?)

Also, they give Alice an adorable moppet to mommy. People are comparing that to Newt in Aliens, but that fit Ripley's character, since one of the issues she was dealing with was her biological daughter aging and being estranged from her while she was in hypersleep. Then I guess it was brought into the mainstream with Uma Thurman in Kill Bill getting a little girl out of nowhere. Then Selena got a moppet in the last Underworld movie (with a British accent, despite being raised in an American lab, making the one interesting thing about the movie the supposition that accents are a matter of genetics), which makes it a trend.

I'm not exactly sure who it's supposed to ping. "Hey, ladies, wanna be a mommy but don't want to change diapers or get fat? Here, have a little kid who's at a perfectly cute age and automatically loves you without any effort on your part other than saving her from monsters"? Or is it "Hey, fellas, we know these ladies look really tough in their skintight leather outfits and kung-fu fights, but don't worry, give them a youngling and they'll immediately turn into loving maternal caregivers"? Something for me to avoid before Kate Beaton makes a comic about it and it's official Strong Female Character lore.

Ironically enough, this kind of plot would work perfectly for Big Barda (at least, in comparison to genius ideas like having her be raped by Superman and killing her off). Her and Scott aren't a high-profile enough couple that it would be a game-changer, like a Spider-Man or Superman baby would be. And since they're so well-established as suburbanites, a baby would put them back in fish out of water territory. It would strengthen the conflict of them wanting to be a normal couple but constantly being called to adventure, since now there's a reason for them to want a boring life besides personal preference. And you couldn't even complain that having a kid ages them--they're immortal.

I'm calling it--once we get these bitches back in canon, they need to have a Little Barda delivered to them out of the blue.
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The first three Bourne films really got the shakycam ball rolling after Saving Private Ryan took it out of the only-use-if-you-know-what-you're-doing bin, but we can forgive that because they're genuinely good movies. Nothing fancy, just interesting plots, interesting characters, interesting arcs, and okay action so long as you've taken your Ritalin.

The Bourne Legacy--not so much. For starters, look, I don't own these movies on DVD. I watched them in theaters, but it's been a while. This movie takes place during The Bourne Ultimatum (that was the third one, right?), which is kinda weird, because as I recall, Matt Damon was fucking up all sorts of shit during that movie, but everyone here is really worried about Jeremy Renner. I mean, this is 2007, right? What are they so worried about, guy was still on The Unusuals or something.

I don't need my hand held, but maybe just a quick recap? But anyway, I guess all you need to know is that there's a leak, so the bad guys who weren't killed in the first three movies (apparently there were a lot; like, a chick, and the warden from Prison Break, and Edward Norton!) decide to kill everyone involved to cover their tracks. Because what better way to keep things quiet than to (for instance) use a Predator drone to blow up people in Alaska or stage a workplace shooting rampage at a laboratory?

Spoilers. )
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So on my trip to the depths of Ohio, I did some reading. Firstly, the first three books in the Kate Daniels series. They seemed well-written, but for some reason I just couldn't connect with them. Maybe it was a bad reading environment, I don't know. It's kind of the typical urban fantasy set-up: badass but neurotic and "undateable" lady, weird vampires, weird werewolves, ancient evil. Here, the world got Shadowrunned. In the future, magic returns to balance out all the technology that's cropped up, so they switch off. Magic doesn't work when technology works and vice versa. It's a little post-apocalyptic, since one of "technology's" things is the high-tensile steel used to build skyscraper. I think guns don't work either, so lots of crossbows and swords, since they work in both conditions.

Kate Daniels is this lone wolf type who slowly finds herself working for nice people and making friends and having a family, that sorta thing. For some reason, they give you the broad strokes of her backstory throughout the first three books, you can pretty much figure it out, then there's an infodump in the middle of the third book without much of a reason or a twist. Just "Yup, you guessed it." So it might've worked better for me if her origin had just come up in the first book, explaining why she was such a lone wolf, because she doesn't come off that way on her own. She has this guardian she loves, she has a partner, but then apparently her making friends is a big deal, so…

This isn't an Anita Blake thing either. I don't think there's one sex scene in all three books, just some make-outs; it's more of a Moonlighting thing between her and, naturally, the most powerful and ornery hot wolf dude around. Weirdly, the books' lycanthropes have a mating ritual of breaking into the homes of those they're attracted and doing stuff like cooking meals or pulling pranks to express their sexy interest. Naturally, this happens to ladies who aren't lycanthropes, like our heroine, and for a bit it seems like they're subverting the Twilightiness of this (there's a subplot where a character reads romance novels and complains of the forced nookie/manly tears nature of The Pirate Lord's Virgin Mistress). But then they turn around and play it for laughs or "aww, he really does care."

And it's not like this is an accepted thing in the book's world, since the heroine has to have this explained to her. I get that it's the lycanthropes' culture, but you wouldn't see, I don't know, a Muslim man become attracted to a woman from Illnois and replace all her clothes with burqas. That would be a bad romantic gesture. As one character comments, the werewolves are perfectly capable of getting dressed, carrying out a conversation, and eating with utensils, but when they want to behave badly, they just go "Oh, I can't help it, I'm part-animal." So I'd prefer more going in that direction to sexy, sexy home invasion.

I also read The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, which is apparently a remake of the original Frankenstein (yes, I guess books do that now), but in this one ol' Victor meets up with poets! Like Lord Byron. I know what you're thinking; "Lord Byron: Frankenstein Fucker." But no, it's just like a really boring crossover fiction, like a Batman/Superman story where Batman and Superman just talk about how Robin and Superboy are doing instead of punching a ten-story-high Lex Luthor. I guess that works if you're a fan of Batman and Superman, but as you might've guessed—really, if you didn't figure this out when I wrote a story where Megan Fox had sex with a Megan Fox clone, I don't know—I'm not big into poetry.

So, hundred pages in and Victor hasn't even started digging up bodies yet, I called it. Sorry, but I like my Frankenstein stories to have more reanimated dead corpses and less scenes where the lead character goes "Poor people? THERE IS NO GOD!"
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Sometimes, we Americans are silly. We'll remake a movie just because it's in a foreign language and has subtitles, even though foreign movies have stuff like casual nudity and ultraviolence that we haven't had since Reagan was in the Oval Office. Thanks Obama. But sometimes we Americans are really silly and remake a movie that's already in English, like Death At A Funeral.

Think about that a second. Funerals are pretty much the same on both sides of the ocean. Dead guy, box, ground. It's not like they set this movie at an Irish wake or did anything to examine how Americans cope with mortality as opposed to the British. It just has American accents. It's like if Hollywood made an Americanized Casino Royale where CIA agent Jim Bond goes to Las Vegas to beat the terrorist The Number at cards. Silly.

Well, in this case, they actually did something interesting and remade the movie with a mostly black cast, like Zoe Saldena, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, that one guy who for some reason really makes me think of TBS, you know, the little dude? I kinda wish more unnecessary remakes, if they had to be made, would take that tack. Like the new Total Recall, which actually has less black people than the original movie (made when Reagan was President, natch). Would, say, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Saldena, and Halle Berry really have less starpower than Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale? Maybe you could do something there with black identity and cultural politics and erasure, like this black guy has his shit recalled by white people and there's a metaphor in there and we can think about it when things aren't blowing up.

Here, though, it didn't really work out. One of the things the British version did was that it just presented a scenario and trusted that it was funny. It's England, everyone's reserved and solemn because it's a funeral, now there's a midget who's the dead guy's gay lover and he wants a pay-off. That's funny on its own. The American version adds more one-liners and mugging; like in the first scene, the funeral home accidentally sends the wrong body to the funeral.

In the original, it's funny because everyone's trying to be polite in this ridiculous situation. In the new one, Chris Rock gets angry because it's a Chinese corpse, so he says "You've got Jackie Chan in there!" because Jackie Chan is a Chinese man and so, uh... hunh. That actually seems a little offensive. Would he like it if the Chinese funeral looked at his dead father and said "It's Michael Jordan"? Maybe if it were a white guy and he said "That's Mike Huckabee!" I don't know, not that important.

Also, in the original, you have a guy creeping on a girl he had a one-night stand with and her telling him she's in a relationship. It's not an offensive thing, just something awkward and funny that's happening at the funeral. In the remake, they make him a bit nicer by having the girl's father pushing him into it so he's not such a creep. Okay. But also in the remake, this is the one interracial relationship, between Zoe Saldena and James Marsden, so maybe they're going to take the opportunity to say something about interracial relationships? But, no, the guy who Zoe Saldena's father approves of is also white, so...

(This also takes us to the weird situation where the father is disapproving of James Marsden, real-life Disney prince. In the original, it makes a bit more sense because it's Alan Tudyk and he's this awkward American guy in the middle of a British setting, but in the remake. C'mon. James Marsden.)

Peter Dinklage plays the gay midget lover in both versions. You know, it occurs to me that midget actors (I'm probably offending them by calling them that, I'm sorry, I never got what the proper term was? "Don't call us dwarves, we're midgets! Don't call us midgets, we're little people!" I just don't see where one is rude and another is polite...) have it rough. Lord of the Rings came out and we accepted them doing all these camera tricks to make Elijah Wood smaller instead of just hiring someone who's small, and that was okay because Hobbits aren't supposed to be midgets, they're just people with normal proportions who happen to be really short. But then you have Snow White And The Huntsman, where the dwarves are barely in it and they use camera tricks to make it look like Al Swearengen is a midget... why not just hire a midget?

And here, Dinklage has to play the same role twice. Like, they can find a white guy to replace Alan Tudyk, no problem, but the midget, they have to go back to the well. Maybe there are so few roles for midgets, maybe he just wanted to work with Chris Rock, I don't know. But it's like when it comes to black lead actors, there's really only Will Smith and Denzel Washington, everyone else has to do Tyler Perry movies. So the Dinklage thing is bad at both ends, because he has to do the same thing twice instead of moving on to play the friend in a romantic comedy or something, and because the studio won't take a chance on another midget actor. "We only need this one midget actor, he can play all the midget character, and if he's not available, we'll just make the normal people midgets with CGI." Something to think about.

Also, the remake adds a subplot where Martin Lawrence is trying to fuck a girl who recently turned eighteen, but it's the British one that invented the scene where an old man pooped on someone's hand. The remake just had it be Tracy Morgan that got pooped on, which I guess is an improvement.
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Plot: There's an ancient artifact that doubles as superweapon fuel. Get the artifact before bad guys do. Rinse. Repeat. Maybe my literary tastes are stagnating, but goddamn, ancient world--why are you always making your idols and shit out of superweapon shit? This plot just seems really familiar to me (bonus points for being a meteorite). I can see why it happens: you want to blend the Indiana Jones "we gotta get this artifact!" plot with the modern techno-thriller "totally plausible superweapon, guys!"... but fuck it, just do "if they get their hands on the Mayan Cross, they'll be able to command an army of sexy vampires!" I'll give you points for being original. And for sexy vampires.

So apparently Matthew Reilly is the literary equivalent of Michael Bay, using the purely imagined world of literature to stage larger, longer, more-er action sequences. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but for a book with the intention of being a summer action movie, this really overstays its welcome. It's something like seven hundred pages long! This book is big enough to stun a dingo in the midst of a baby-napping! That's like a four-hour-long summer blockbuster! Even Peter Jackson would say "hey man, c'mon, I've got work in the morning."

And it's not a Nolan thing where the plot justifies it being that long, no. It's like they wrap the thing up, find the artifact, kill all the bad guys... then suddenly they realize they got the wrong artifact and now a new gang of bad guys is after it. WTF? It takes a pretty silly story (I don't believe a seaplane could dip its wings into the water so that a boat ramped up its wings and then hit a helicopter) to an insultingly silly story.

Let me just count off some of these things. Okay, so our initial villains are Neo-Nazis out of East Germany with a plot to wreck the economy. Fine. Then we get a bunch of evil US Navy guys who kill the US Army guys because they don't want the Navy to be shut down. And I know there've been stories about rogue military units before, but there, it's generally the central conceit of the story. I don't believe, piled on top of all the other stuff in this book, that you could convince a bunch of US soldiers to kill their countrymen just so they'd keep their jobs.

Also ridiculous is that we get the obligatory former flame of the hero on the expedition, who dun him wrong (ended a long-distance relationship by revealing she had met someone else and was going to get married to him, come on!) who turns out to be an evil psycho in addition to a bitch-slut-whore. Multiple unearned, unmotivated, "you're hot!" romantic pairings that come off like an Oprah show: "You get a girlfriend! You get a girlfriend! You get a girlfriend!" That's really silly. "Well, all my friends and co-workers were killed horribly, as were yours... wanna get a beer?" "I'd like that." Evil brother. Amateurish writing - maybe it doesn't bother anyone when a book with no pictures had stuff like "Bang!" and "Thwack!" in the text, but stuff like wanting to get across that something's spooky, so you just go "it was a spooky village" or whatevs. The fact that the premise has the US of A literally building a world-destroying superweapon as a deterrent--wouldn't that prompt the other nations of the world to prepare some kind of strike against them, just to save the world? The fact that the villains go from rogue East Germans, to rogue Special Forces, to militamen (you can tell they're the mostest evil because their leader raped a woman orally and vaginally). The hero wears a jetpack for the second half of the book and doesn't realize it.

This is getting long. The hero is meant to be an Indiana Jones type "college professor everyman thrust into danger," without the secret badass side, but in an interview at the end of the book, the author (comes across as a none too self-aware fanboy) thinks of him as looking like Brad Pitt and he has a jealous evil brother without the same Looks. So, extraordinarily handsome everyman. And the book drops in the Aliens-type squad of military cliches into an action-adventure context, which doesn't work as well, because now we have our everyman hero doing the same stuff as his eight friends, which makes him feel less special or impressive. It's not an ensemble situation like The Avengers, either--more like Captain America was just randomly teamed up with four other super-soldiers, none of whom had any interesting personalities or character dynamics.

Luckily, Marvel would never do anything that silly with their characters.

Eh, skip it.


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