Category Archives: Bechdel failure

Warm Bodies

For a fairly light-hearted zombie romantic comedy (zomromcom), Warm Bodies skirts the line of being almost too dark and disturbing. I only bring this up because, as mentioned before, I like when movies take risks. This movie takes a huge risk and never breaks its stride. It’s almost like it doesn’t think it’s a big deal – which is what makes it so good. Read the rest of this entry

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Tales of Time Travels: Looper and Doctor Who (“The Angels Take Manhattan”) double review

This post may contain spoilers about Looper. I’ve done my best to keep it somewhat vague, but perceptive readers might be able to figure it out. As for Doctor Who, I’m less vague. Why? Because I think the accessibility of television shows allows us to tiptoe far less.

Time travel stories are simultaneously some of the most intriguing and frustrating science fiction tales out there. They offer glimpses of possibilities that we will likely never, and should never, know while being burdened with the fact that they must tell a compelling narrative. If most individuals were provided the means to travel through time, the stories would be uninteresting and/or disastrous. Meeting idols and family members do not necessarily make for compelling fiction. Nor does the likely scenario of someone simply breaking time and space for doing something stupid. (“Well, they’re going to learn how to make fire eventually, so what the hell?”)

io9, likely directly inspired by watching Looper, recently posted an article about how messy time travel stories, those with uncertain rules and no desire to adhere to a stable loop and timeline, are some of the most interesting. I cannot say that I agree, but I can understand Charlie Jane Anders’ point of view. After all, when the end is the beginning is the end of a story, where’s the fun of it? Everything seems boxed into place in a manner that seems to hit the border between OCD and OCPD. But that doesn’t mean time travel stories should eschew rules. Otherwise it becomes far too convenient. Read the rest of this entry

Avengers assemble a world

The opening weekend box office for Marvel’s The Avengers (yes, Marvel is a part of the title both for branding purposes and to differentiate it from poorly received The Avengers film of 1998, which was based on a popular British television series – which ultimately leads to the current film’s being titled Avengers Assemble in Europe…) pretty much means that a review is of absolutely no value to anyone. Everyone who wanted to see the film has already seen or plans to see it soon, and everyone who did not want to see the film really did not care. A review about the film is not beneficial because everyone’s mind was made up well in advance of the film’s actual release. Plus the film has so little in substance going for it aside from the action that there really isn’t much to mention.

Which is great because the circumstances of the film’s immediate success is incredibly interesting to me. None of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe come close to the gross profit of The Avengers‘ opening weekend in their opening weekends. Truth be told, aside from the spike in the almost miserable Iron Man 2‘s profits due to the popularity and accessibility of the first, each Marvel movie has done worse than the one preceding it. So it is clear that The Avengers is an amazing gestault film that truly is greater than all of the films before it. Read the rest of this entry

Chronicle

Have you ever wondered about the importance of Uncle Ben in the story of Spider-Man? Have you ever looked at any of the X-Men and said, “You know what I’d do with that power?” Have you ever just wanted your superhero stories to be just a tad bit more like Akira? Chronicle is the film for you. The story isn’t all that original, especially for comic book aficionados, but the storytelling is absolutely great. The film had me completely caught in its telekinetic grip by its conclusion. No other superhero, or comic book-type, movie comes close to how well this was done. Captain America? Good. Kick-Ass? Good fun. Super? Dark fun. Chronicle? The new benchmark.

This movie is also for people who were pissed that Magneto didn't get his own movie. Oh, and Doctor Doom.

Read the rest of this entry

Red Tails

Some people get upset when the two stars listed on a poster aren't pictured on the poster.

Before I go into the review, I want to make it a point to urge you to go out and see Red Tails. It’s not often that you get a Lucasfilms property that isn’t Star Wars or Indiana Jones. It also isn’t often that you get an action film consisting of a predominantly African American cast (and the amazing Bryan Cranston as a condescending racist). This is a film that Lucas has been trying to get made for the past 30 years, only to repeatedly get turned down because the studios said that there is no money to be made from such a film. People don’t want to see the black flying aces of World War II. Unfortunately, the opening weekend box office seems to suggest there is some truth in that – as of now it’s made roughly one-third of it’s $58M budget. I don’t want it to be true. The failure of this film vindicates every studio for casting few African Americans in leading roles and not providing much publicity for any film that casts black people as anything more than a joker, thug, magical negro, overweight loudmouth, etc. I have to admit, I already blame 20th Centure Fox for shortcomings in advertising, as I did not see any advertising aside from a stand at the local movie theatre.

I must also state that a tight knot formed in my stomach when the trailer for Tyler Perry’s latest movie played right before Red Tails. No matter the quality of the film, his will be profitable because his audience attends like good little drones. If we were presented with Tyler Perry presents: Red Tails, I wouldn’t have to implore you to see the film (or buy a ticket and not go – just an option). I’d have to worry about your being fed the horrible reinforcement of black stereotypes for the sake of obnoxious humor. But Tyler Perry’s ruination of black people in the media is neither here nor there. It’s just a fact of life. Read the rest of this entry

Oldboy

Oldboy is the perfect example of the type of film that cannot be done in America, despite its basic revenge flick premise. The twist that makes the tale unique is pretty much forbidden for the mainstream, middle ground-aiming American film industry. Which is pretty hilarious considering an American adaptation of the original manga is in the works. The manga includes none of the taboo elements of the Korean film and completely different characterizations. My suspicion is that the American producers want all of the popularity and notoriety of the Korean film without putting in any of what made it anything other than a generic action film.

Sadly, the American adaptation will probably make a lot of money anyway. Mindless action films sell, the American culture has a history of loving revenge stories, and a fair amount of clout has been building up about the name Oldboy without anyone knowing anything except that they have to see it. The confusion about which one they need to see will be a boon to the new film’s theatrical release.

At this point I shouldn’t have to say this, but there are spoilers here. Read the rest of this entry

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which has a horribly wordy title, is a surprisingly good summer movie. It does everything right, including taking some heavy risks by making us sympathetic to the ape cause. Granted, the alternative was cheering for big business and American consumerism. Few movies push leading characters who aren’t human – especially ones who spend over half the movie without a human counterpart sitting around to remind us that we’re supposed to like them. This was awesome.

One of the major problems I had with this film, though, was how ape intelligence had to be portrayed in human terms. The signing, the writing, and the puzzle solving aren’t necessarily so bad – it’s the speaking. Only four words were spoken by an ape through the entire film, but that was more than enough. Speaking English does not mean a creature is intelligent. You’ve all met people who speak fluent English whom you cannot believe have more rights than monkeys. But the audience is led to believe that the apes have finally transcended because one learns how to speak.

Question for people who know a bit more about animal physiology than I do: Do chimps have the same vocal structure as we do? Would it physically be possible for them to speak English?

Aside from that, Apes was a really good film that makes up for Tim Burton’s failure from a decade ago. The ending was brilliant as well. It’s not so much that the apes grew intelligent and overthrew the humans. It’s that the humans simultaneously developed a deadly (to them) airborne virus along with a virus that advances brain development in apes. We’re led to believe at the end of the film that the contagion has gone worldwide. The apes didn’t so much overthrow their rulers as they did simply inherit the Earth.

Go see this movie. One especially amazing thing is that the named apes in the film are provided more solid characterization and development than most movies starring humans these days. That’s a feat that should be rewarded.

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

Remember when Optimus Prime was a pacifist who was only fighting to defend the humans? No, you’re right. Optimus Prime is blood thirsty warrior.

Transformers 3: All Your Cash are Belong to Us has been hailed as the best of the Michael Bay Transformers series, and people have been offering that praise with their tongues in their cheeks. When the other entries have been so soundly dismissed, that statement is meaningless. What people don’t give the Bayformers credit for doing is making the Transformers franchise relevant again. There is a positive involved in all of this, and Michael Bay shouldn’t be held in contempt for reinvigorating the robots and driving toy sales for not just the movie figures but all sales lines.

I’m not telling you that any of the movies are worth seeing. I’m just saying that Bay did something good for Hasbro and the Transformers in general. In my mind, Dark of the Moon is the cherry on top of the trilogy because it means the series is over. Read the rest of this entry

Green Lantern’s light

My sequel pitch: Call the next one "Green Lantern Corps", and then live up to that name. Total space opera with as few Earth elements as possible.

Green Lantern was a good movie. Despite what the critics say, it was a fun movie with steady performances. It is far from the best movie ever made or the best superhero movie…or even the best movie consisting of approximately 60% CGI. In fact, the movie reeks of having been an idea that Warner Bros. had to put out because there were no other DC movies slated to come out during Marvel’s big summer. When they realized that they were up against fine quality productions, they delayed the release of Green Lantern to increase the effects budget. But despite this, the movie was enjoyable. I saw the light of willpower. Read the rest of this entry

X-Men: First Class – racial tensions

Only white people need apply. Or blue if you're white underneath or spend most of your time looking white.

My displeasure with the rest of the X-Men film franchise almost led me to not seeing X-Men: First Class, despite the early good reviews. Social stimulation brought me out to see it, and I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, it did not make up for the Wolverine-centered focus in the first three films, the utter banality of X-Men, the almost good film ruined by a completely ridiculously stupid ending that was X-2 (seriously, the X-Men are trained to be a team, so it doesn’t make sense that Jean Gray would fight a tidal wave by herself when Storm can send a strong wind against it, Iceman can freeze water, and Cyclops’ blasts are actually a physical force…), the complete miss that was X-Men 3, or the existence of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But it was a clever movie in that it was a period piece and mixed a tiny bit of the spy genre into the plot. It almost made the film seem classy.

Almost. Read the rest of this entry