Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Screw All You Jerks, I Like John Carter

On Viewing: I had no need to justify spending thirty bucks on two 3D tickets to see John Carter.  The movie was fun, funny at times, not overly sappy, and had great action scenes.  The aliens looked cool, the monsters were well done, and you could really see where the money went. The action was fun, the plot worked, and I never felt bored.

Reaction to the Reaction: John Carter‘s box office success, or lack thereof, became a self-fulfilling prophecy.*  People worried about the cost of the m0vie before it debuted, and then flamed it hard when the movie failed to earn back all 250 million dollars in the first weekend.  Unless you happen to be a  studio exec, box office numbers should never determine the quality of a movie.**  Ahem, Titanic, cough.***  People started crowing about how no one was going out to see the movie, and crowds stayed away.  I forget sometimes that people are people, and have this stupid tendency to forget to act as persons.  “If no one else is seeing that movie, then I won’t see it either because if it were good, then people would be paying to see it.”

We’ve seen this before in political reporting.  If a candidate falls behind in fundraising, that becomes the story of the campaign until people are walking away from their preferred candidate because they are being told that candidate isn’t raising enough money.  I’ve seen a similar phenomenon happen in guild recruiting for online games.

I am not a rabid Burroughs fanboy, I would be surprised if that was even a group larger than ten, but I liked this movie.  I have never read the original books, and have been failing to find them for months in used book stores, but I have known of them for years.  I don’t know where I first saw some artist’s vision of Dejah Thoris, but it was probably a Boris Vallejo picture in Dragon Magazine.****

David Denby of the New Yorker spends the first paragraph of his review asking all the wrong questions:

…a battle between two warring cities populated by humanoid figures, the gentle Heliumites and the nasty Zodangans.  Immediately, we’re lost. Who are these people?  Why do the warriors fight with swords while winged battle cruisers, looking like oversized mosquitos, rain down death from above?  Is this an advanced civilization or a primitive one? All right, it’s both, but how do the two fit together?

To use a tired but effective example, I will substitute information for Star Wars and we will see if these questions are valid:

…a battle between two warring political groups populated by humanoid figures, the good Rebels and the evil Imperials.  Immediately, we’re lost. Who are these people? Why do the warriors fight with laser swords while winged battle cruisers, looking like oversized pizza slices, rain down death from above? Is this an advanced civilization or a primitive one? All right, it’s both, but how do the two fit together?

Your review is bad, and you should feel bad, David Denby.  These questions are all answered within the frame of the movie, and you shouldn’t require the plot to be laid out for you in the first two minutes.  Plots unfold, like flowers in spring or a woman’s clothing after a great date.  Yes, on the internet you can see pictures of flowers, and women, and skip ahead to read all the spoilers you want, but that is your choice and the director is not required to lay it all out for you in the first thirty seconds.

One paragraph in the six you wrote reviewing this movie was spent in truly reviewing it.  Your first paragraph asks stupid questions, your second complains about the look of the aliens and being confused about the rather simple war at the center of the plot, your third seems to be a complaint that the film is science fiction and not a lame romantic comedy (Of fucking course the two heroes approach each other warily, they have no reason to trust anyone and every reason to suspect everyone.), your fourth paragraph is a complaint about the source material and the fact that only men seem to like making movies about stuff they liked as children (So fucking what? Maybe movies would be better with Penny Marshall directing a Wonder Woman movie.), your fifth paragraph finally talks about the movie itself, and your final complaint focuses on the fact that the movie may rake in cash overseas like the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  As much as I want the Pirates movies to go to hell with a quickness, I hope that John Carter does well enough to spite you and everyone else who panned it.  I liked it, and I want to see more.

The Numbers:

$179,300,000 (Worldwide) (19 March2012)

John Carter’s numbers from IMDB.

2. Wrath Of The Titans ($34 million)

[Total: $34 million | WW: $112m | Budget: $250m]


Final Words: John Carter is a fun movie that science fiction fans will be sad that they didn’t see in the theaters, and others will live their lives breathing through their mouths while lining up to see fucking Titanic.  AGAIN.

*There are no other kinds of prophecy, but clarity is paramount.

**If you do happen to be a studio exec, go borrow George Lucas’ rusty pinecone.

***Titanic was the biggest earning, utterly pandering, boringly predictable movie ever made, until Avatar.

****Frank Cho makes no apologies for anything.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friends With Movies

You have to be careful with friends.  There are friends that help you move, there are friends that help you move on, and there are friends that recommend movies to you.  There are movies you recommend to everyone, there are movies you recommend to people you don’t like, and there are movies that you never admit to having watched, even under extreme torture, like being forced to watch that very movie a second time.  In our wondrous new age of being in constant electronic contact with all of our friends all of the time, you must be even more suspect of other people’s tastes.  This suspicion could rightly be spread to all categories of everything except spouses, because she isn’t getting a divorce just because you don’t like him and never admitted your love for her, move on.

SIT. STAY. Think about the turd you left on the carpet.

A few months ago, I saw that a friend I usually trust on such matters had seen and enjoyed Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.  I had read his words on this movie because he had not written any at the time, he had merely clicked a button on a famous social media site and that button-clicking had been delivered to me through some strange algorithmic alchemy.  I remember my exact thought process upon receiving this information.  “Huh, Randall liked Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.  He is generally circumspect in matters of such import, and wouldn’t like a movie without good reason.  Furthermore, he is not such a huge fan of utter shit as I, and would not like something simply because it was godawful atrocious as I would.  That movie must be better than it looked in its half-hearted media campaign.”

The next evening when the Lovely Lady and I went to the local video rental establishment in the parking lot of a drugstore, I voiced my interest in Dylan Dog while we scrolled through the available selections.  My Lovely Lady agreed that Randall could be trusted with movie recommendations, and we rented the movie.  I will be concise in my review: Randall is on a one year Movie-Recommendation ban.  There are no redeeming facets to this movie.  If it had been made in the 80s, it might have a reason for the crappiness of the effects.  If it were written by an Tourettes Syndrome afflicted autistic child, then it might have a reason for the poorly written dialogue and lame plot.  If I had recently been the unfortunate victim of a terrible accident while putting on my glasses and the junction between the halves of my brain had been severed, I might have been able to forgive my friend for liking this movie.  Dylan Dog: Dead of Night sucked.  I don’t need to delve into all the great, and mediocre, successes that exist in the niche of Supernatural Private Detective subgenre.  Anyone who is inclined to read this site can, or should be able, to name five examples off the top of their clawed appendages.

The mere fact that Dylan Dog is a terrible movie is not why Randall received the year long ban.  It was the fact that he recommended it without comment.  I enjoy and own a number of movies that I will only permit certain people to watch, and only under special circumstances.  In ascending order of restriction three of these movies are: Evil Dead (I will never recommend these movies to my parents), C.H.U.D. (I will never recommend this movie to my brother), and, the crown jewel in the Throne of Ultimate Suck, Demon Wind (I will only recommend this movie to the most astute viewer who proves to me their enjoyment of the worst movies of all time).  Recommending movies is very much like finding presents for people.  There are guaranteed presents like Bond movies, or Spies Like Us, but those are easy movies to recommend.  Finding something that the recommendee will enjoy and always remember that you suggested requires a level of empathy and movie knowledge that goes beyond the box office.

I failed pretty spectacularly in giving my brother a copy of Dead Alive one year for Christmas.  He tried to watch it once, about a year after I gave it to him, and he hated it.  He hated it so much that he kept a smoldering coal of a grudge for several years.  I had described a scene or two, and he had reacted favorably.  I had made a classic mistake.  While Dead Alive has its place on many a shelf, the film does not belong on a shelf that almost exclusively holds Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.  I was trying to force a movie on a person who would never enjoy it.  I had forgotten, or perhaps ignored, in my zeal for this movie, that other people have tastes, justified or not, that do not always jive with mine.  Opinions, assholes, etc.

Our glorious new electronic existence has brought us closer to our friends in some respects, while also showing us just how wide the perceived gulf in opinion can be.  There is little context allowed on many social websites, or if there is, it can often be a hassle to include.  There are many reasons Randall may have selected the Like button.  Perhaps he has some app that allows him to build an online library of his owned movies in reality.  Perhaps he was pranking someone into watching that abysmal movie.  Perhaps he suffered a massive brain injury and genuinely liked that stinking turd.  I shall be more cautious in the future.  Considering the source of all recommendations as I already do, I will also be considering the context in which a film is recommended.  A simple one-click recommendation will not be enough without some corroborating words from the proponent.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reviewing a Movie Post From 2007

While browsing through my e-mail archive for the login information to this here bloggio, I found a metric e-ton of comment notification e-mails reminding me of past glories.  One post in particular was somewhat timely for seven months ago:

The Post

I am somewhat surprised by the movies I was right about, and also by the movies about which I was horribly wrong.   Conan and I Am Legend were both bad, but for different reasons.  Conan was just boring, it had a lot of great elements, swords, sorcery, boobs, monsters, but it couldn’t get everything together to really psych me up.  As a member of their target demographic, I should have been raving about it.  Instead, when it was over, I was left wondering when the action was going to start.  I Am Legend was also disappointing in the way so many adaptations are: TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT.  There are not going to be many more events where Vincent Price can upstage Will Smith, if there have been any before, but The Last Man on Earth knocked it out of the park, while I Am Legend thought the game was football.

10,000 BC was a terrible story with moronic arc, a silly plot, and overall just tiresome.  Funny Story, True Story:  There are striking similarities between the end of 10,000 BC and Avatar.

Speed Racer was unseen aside from commercials, as was Beowulf.  The first went by because I remembered that I never really liked Speed Racer, and the second because the CGI turned me way the hell off.

Most of the rest of the movies remain in development hell.

Monday, July 12, 2010

All Consuming

Even before my girlfriend left town, I’ve been trying to find ways to entertain myself while she’s gone.  Obvious on the list are working more, playing video games, going to the gym, etc.  But I was also looking for something that might be a bit better defined.

That’s when it occurred to me that I own quite a few DVDs.  Not quite as many as I used to (last year I went through my collection and gave away all of the ones I thought that I wouldn’t want to watch again … and it was a reasonably long list) but still a fair number.

Some of theses DVDs are ones I haven’t watched in years or in some cases since I bought them.  It seemed like a good opportunity to take advantage of a bunch of stuff I’d already owned and have a definitive starting and ending point.

Really, the only thing left for me to do now is to a) decide what order to view them in and b) actually start watching them–oh and c) then write blog entries about them.

So, starting next week I’m going to try to do a weekly recap of the movies I’ve watched and how I feel about them and some various other commentary on the process.  I don’t want it to be a daily thing but I think it’s reasonable that I’ll be able to watch at least a few of them a week and get an entry sorted out.

I’m hoping I can keep a total for running time and movies and keep it lively.  The only real trouble I see down the line is that if I enjoy it I might start buying more movies again.  Oh, and I guess I’ll save the Blu-rays for last (no matter how much I want to watch Inglorious Basterds again).

Anyway, hoping I can come up with a clever title/logo this weekend and get the ball rolling.  Any ideas on a name or viewing order would be appreciated.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Question or Answer

First, let me apologize for this post. I’m writing it in probably not the best mental state right now.

Let me also say that it’s pretty weird watching your best friend and girlfriend of the last many years walk past a TSA agent and some seat-belt stanchions (trying to figure out the right term for those things was a good 5 minutes of typing random things into Google) and knowing that for the next year she will be ten thousand miles away. How are you supposed to deal with something that has been looming since the relationship started but is now finally a reality?

After what felt like the longest 20 minute drive home ever, I knew that the only answer was to go on a raging bender. Which, for me at least, means a large pizza, a few beers, and plenty of bad movies.

Of course after 5 movies, 3 beers, nearly 4000 calories  and an ill-advised shopping spree on quasi-depressing indie music off Amazon later, I’m left wondering, what do I do next? Follow-up question: should I sign up for Amazon Prime so I can get my quasi-depressing indie music delivered faster?

Well, step one (after pizza/beer/movie bender) is to zap this dead blog back to life. What that means yet, I’m not sure.  Just rest assured it will be inane and full of crap that I probably would have just talked about with my GF were she around.

So, to anyone who reads this, all I can say is: Welcome back to the WRN adventure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Star Trek: The Genius’ Take

So I saw Star Trek a week ago and I guess I’m ready to write about the experience.  On the Reviewer’s Scale of Re-Imaginings and Re-Boots, Star Trek falls somewhere between Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.  It doesn’t ruin fond memories of my childhood, but it doesn’t quite make me wish I was a kid again so I could be terrified by a whole new breed of bugs.  I left the movie without feeling ripped off, but still slightly annoyed that some people will go so far in some aspects of film-making and skimp so badly on others of equal importance.

The movie looks fantastic.  The sets and ships and cgi looks pretty damn great.  Everything looks cool, but not always Star Trek-y.  The production felt very much like someone had been watching a lot of Enterprise and other Trek series, and then remembered some cool stuff from Battlestar Galactica (new series).  For example, the phasers look very similar to the original series, but behave like a lot of the weapons in Enterprise, retaining a sort of functional mechanization to the prop itself.  There are tons of aliens seamlessly, and heedlessly, thrown into the backgrounds and foregrounds of crowd scenes.

The plot is not bad, by Star Trek standards.  That caveat is important because a viewer needs to remember that Trek does certain things in its Trek way and these things can be totally dumb in any other setting but Trek always makes it seem ok.  Like time travel.  Or God-like beings living in the center of the galaxy.  Or reincarnation through proto-matter.  Or Nazis on other planets.  Or any of the other goofy things that would never fly in Babylon 5 or Firefly or etc, etc, etc.  So when I say the plot is not bad, I mean the sequence of events that together contribute to the telling of a story works and is entertaining.

The weak points were almost minor enough, but still silly.  Every time you saw an experienced Captain, the guy left his ship in the hands of the nearest person.  Every single one of them removed their own obstacle from Kirk’s path to the big chair.

The dialogue is a completely different story.  Most of it comes straight out of the Big Fukkin Book of Action Movie Dialogue Book For Big Fukkin Summer Movies: Lock and load while saddlin’ up Edition with a New Foreword by Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer.  The bright exceptions being Spock and McCoy.  Karl Urban channeled Deforest Kelley pretty effectively, though it felt a little forced at times.  Zachary Quinto did a damn fine Spock and seemed to be the best written character in the movie.  Kirk’s lines were rather limp and his fight scenes were a travesty for the flying-leg-kicker.  He used to win fights.  I feel like shouldn’t hold that against the movie, but for a guy who was supposed to have “advanced hand to hand training,” he got his ass beat a lot.

The major point that I can imagine everyone griping over, which I feel would be too spoilery to reveal, is explained with the epitome of all Star Trek explanations in all series, ever and for all time: alternate realities.  There is not a single series that didn’t deal with this aspect of time travel, so far as I know, and a movie using it, much less the director and writers using it, feels so utterly appropriate that I almost want to applaud Abrams and his people for this explanation/excuse.  Except that I think applause in a movie theater is beyond stupid, unless you are attending a special screening with the stars or something.  It gives them great license and freedom in sequels, but we all know the dangers of giving people too much freedom in sequels.  Sam Raimi.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Ok, I don’t know how ashamed I should be but while watching the Superbowl last night there was a trailer for a new GI Joe movie and … I think it looks awesome. The action seems ridiculously over the top and the director hasn’t made a good movie since Deep Rising, but man did that trailer put a grin on my face.

Snake-Eyes Jumps a Car

Snake-Eyes Jumps a Car

The movie just went from me thinking about it on about the same level as Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li to thinking about it on the same level as Transformers 2 (IE, ridiculous popcorn movie based on childhood nostalgia that features tons of things blowing up).

Some other things that might make it interesting to some:

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the main villain Cobra Commander
  • Lost’s Mr. Eko aka. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as character named Heavy Duty
  • Ray Park plays Snake Eyes
  • ‘Rambo’ stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski did the fight scenes

Anyway, this by no means is an indicator that it’ll be a GOOD movie, it does seem like it could be entertaining summer popcorn action spectacle. And honestly, we need more straight-up action movies.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obligatory Apatow Posting

I guess I am supposed to be excited about this movie? It’s supposed to be funny, and maybe have some nudity, I guess?  I feel a little burned out on Apatow related stuff, I mean, he’s funny or whatever you would use for the comedic version of Luc Besson, but I just have trouble getting out of my seat for his crew.  I mean, who isn’t on the Apatow crew?  All of the comedic actor-writers out there today are connected/indebted to Judd Freaking Apatow.


Kevin Smith is directing this?  If this is funny, I am going to hate Kevin Smith even more.  That fucking sell out.  I wonder how much of his remaining soul he had to leverage to Apatow to get Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks away from the money train.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bored of Blockbusters?

So Iron Man comes out today (or came out yesterday or whatever) and I’m debating going to see this movie and the truth is that while it looks cool, I just can’t really muster the energy to care that I usually do.

I’m not sure why that is (the carpet advertising done here maybe) but I just feel like, meh, I’d be happy to just sit around and chill out with friends.  I don’t need some huge bombastic movie for to distract me for 2 hours and $10 dollars.

In fact, I’m more interested in seeing There Will Be Blood on DVD or playing some GTA IV or other game online with friends.  What does it say about my ‘nerd-cred’ that I wasn’t lining up at the 8PM showing last night and instead went to the gym and came home and did some more work?

Is it simply that it doesn’t feel like summer yet (damn you Wisconsin weather!) or is it simply that I don’t get the joy out of watching brown people get blown up by a dude in a suit.  I’ll be honest and say I’m not that interested in Speed Racer, Indy 4, or even The Incredible Hulk.  The only movies I’m interested in this summer are the summer comedies like The Foot Fist Way, Step Brothers, Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express.

Of course, I saw Rambo in theaters over the winter and loved it and would gladly go see it again, so maybe I’m just looking for something that’s more straight up action and lest crazy CG junk.  Have an old guy with a 50-cal machine gun destroying dudes and I’ll probably show up.

Either way, I find it weird that I’m not more excited for the summer movie season.  If anyone wants to try to convince me that something decent and big budget is coming out though, feel free.


Just thought of one ‘bigger budget’ movie this summer that I’m interested in seeing, Hancock. And while it may be a superhero movie, it is more interesting ground than just the standard ‘defeat the bad guys stuff’ than Hellboy, Hulk, Iron Man, or The Dark Knight.  Plus as I understand it, it’s more darkly comedic than the previews would have you believe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Return to Form (Submittal)?

I was trying not to let Chuckles recent WRN posts shame me into posting but sadly they have finally done so. I’ve been meaning to post for a while but then never really doing it. Mostly out of boredom, my life hasn’t been too exciting lately and I can only spend so long boring the internet before finally giving up.

Just a quick run down of things that are pretty enjoyable right now:

Things I’d like to do for a bit:

  • Not have to work. Seriously, I just want to spend a month sitting around doing nothing.
  • Orange Box – PS3 version doesn’t come out until Dec. 17 and I don’t want to buy it for 360
  • GH3/Rock Band – How tough will it be to ‘play’ guitar and sing the part on Rock Band?
  • See a decent movie – Fido and Planet Terror on DVD and Amercian Gangster at the theater

Anyway, we’ll start small and work our way back up to a real post.

P.S. I also have no idea what happened to those posts from July/Aug/Sep/Oct. Blogoblin got them I suppose.