Posts Tagged ‘movie’

Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass – Thor: ODINSLEEP

May 24, 2011

Somewhere along the line during the last decade, Marvel realized that they were one of the most powerful players in Hollywood. Spider-Man was earning the kind of money comic book movies hadn’t seen since Tim Burton’s Batman, Bryan Singer’s X-Men had actually given superheroes a bit of class and critical respect, plus it seemed the public’s interest in superhero movies was like a cockroach, unfazed even after countless disasters like Daredevil, Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Punisher and Ghost Rider. (Spider-Man 3 was good, shut up.) Maybe it’s because Marvel got a boost from the titanic success of DC’s The Dark Knight, hinting that perhaps superhero movies weren’t played out yet, they just needed, y’know, quality in order to keep people’s interest.

Whatever the reason for Marvel’s Tinseltown clout, it had it, and it made it a desirable commodity. Disney purchased it and folded it into its diabolically diverse portfolio of entertainment companies, like Pixar, ESPN and ABC. Was it this new source of cash that gave Marvel the cojones to finally form its own production company? I don’t know, I’m no Hollywood insider! But that’s exactly what they did, charting a course beginning with 2008’s Iron Man to create an actual cohesive movie universe, with recurring characters and an ongoing storyline and everything. Finally, comic book movies would be as interconnected and impenetrable as actual comic books!

And so Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and, er, Iron Man 2 started to build up to… something! And that something is coming in 2012: The Avengers, Marvel’s version of the Justice League. But before that could happen, even more major players would have to be introduced, namely Thor and Captain America, staples of the superhero team. So now Marvel has the gall to ask America to pay $16 a piece (you want to watch them in IMAX 3D, right?!) for what are essentially prologues to the main event. Does Thor have any meat on its bones or is it a skinny shrimp?

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Grumplet – Source Code: Still Compiling

April 27, 2011

In a coincidence unseen since the likes of Dante’s Peak and Volcano, not one, but TWO body-snatching time-travel stories have been released within days of each other. You already know what we think of the other one. What about Duncan Jones’ follow-up to his big screen debut Moon? Well I’m getting there, hold yer horses~

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Grumplet – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: vs. Audience Indifference

August 18, 2010

I will be honest. I’ve sort of actively disdained the Scott Pilgrim franchise pretty much ever since I saw the cover to Volume 3 parody the Super Mario Bros. 3 cover. But the recent media blitz promoting the movie (and game!!) has left me practically frothing at the mouth. Look everyone! It’s indie bands and chiptunes and sly 8-bit game references and Beck!!! It has all the stuff you like!

I hate when I realize I’m being pandered to. It’s like it robs me of any enjoyment I could’ve gotten out of the experience without knowing. I don’t think anyone should be pandered to. It doesn’t help that a Scott Pilgrim movie feels about 7 or 8 years too late to feel thematically fresh. The advent of webcomics inundated the Internet with the quasi-wit of Generation Y slackers that grew up on the NES and the Streamline dub of Akira. Hey guys, the sprites from Final Fantasy are talking about Ranma 1/2! Isn’t that just the geekiest?

Scott Pilgrim, penned and illustrated by Brian Lee O’Malley became the poster child for this vein of storytelling. Geek culture-addled Scott Pilgrim has to fight the seven evil exes of too-cool-for-school Ramona Flowers if he wants to date her. These battles take on a video game-like progression of difficulty, complete with the exes exploding into coins, etc. This EPIC TALE proved so irresistible to the Hollywood graphic novel adaptation mill that the film rights were snapped up by Universal and Edgar Wright, keen pop culture satirist, tapped to direct.

I will admit, Edgar Wright was the ONLY reason I saw this movie. The creative force behind Shaun of the Dead and the much-funnier, much-less-seen Hot Fuzz, has proven to me by now that he has an eye for genre bending, humor, and doing justice to the subject matter he simultaneously lampoons. Hot Fuzz was not only a comedy about the ridiculous nature of action movies, it was also one of the best action movies in recent years.

Why am I harshing on Scott Pilgrim: The Franchise?! Because it’s like we have nothing to say to each other. Scott Pilgrim touches on River City Ransom, Ninja Gaiden (the original), Mega Man, A Link to the Past, the NES and SNES and many other things I never owned or played. Yet I’m still a gamer! I grew up with a Genesis! I played Sonic! I think there were two Genesis allusions the whole movie. And as for anime and music? It references Akira in one of the chapter titles, Scott wears a t-shirt with Astro Boy on it and the character’s name is from a song from some indie band I’ve never heard of. He’s like that guy at a party you try to start up a conversation with, and he’s like, “Yeah, I game. Ever heard of Final Fantasy II for the SNES?” “Oh, you mean Final Fantasy IV?” “No, pretty sure it was Final Fantasy II.” Awkward silence. I mean, it’ll resonate for a lot of 20-somethings out there, but it’s awfully specific in its aim.

So you’re probably expecting me to hate the movie. But I didn’t! Why?! Mostly because that pop culture divide is largely irrelevant when it comes to enjoying the movie. Will you get more out of it if you’ve played DDR or beat ’em ups? Sure. But the searing eye candy Edgar Wright coughed up is enough to entertain any movie goer who appreciates fast-paced film making. And this movie is nearly at Baz Luhrman levels of frenzy. Shots are cut at a blistering pace. CG embellishments make the actors look like comic book characters brought to life. Seriously, this is the first movie that seems like it took a few plays out of the Speed Racer handbook of visual vocabulary. (There’s that made-up term again!) And it’s not just visuals that delight. The dialogue is actually clever and delivered with comic timing for a change.

The music is actually pretty well done for the most part, too. Beck actually composes all of the music for the fictional band Sex Bob-omb and the score is composed by alt-rock superproducer Nigel Godrich, who’s worked with stars like Beck and Radiohead on some of their landmark albums. The soundtrack is loaded with indie acts and garage rock riffs, and totally fits the misfit tone of the movie.

It’s just too bad being good didn’t guarantee success. Limping out of the gate with a paltry $10 million when estimates put the movie at around $60 million, Wright’s most expensive movie to date, certainly makes eyebrows raise. Why would a movie that seemed like such a cultural zeitgeist flop so badly? It hasn’t been through lack of marketing that Scott Pilgrim failed, that’s for sure. It’s proooooobably because its target audience isn’t known for paying for anything. Teens and twentysomethings these days get their nostalgia gaming kick not by dusting off the NES or SNES, but by downloading ROMs and emulators. They peer-to-peer share their music collections. Plus they’re a notoriously poor demographic. They probably would rather see a cam rip of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World than fork over the $10 per person to go to the theater and see it legitimately. Then there was the aforementioned rather limited scope of the appeal. Maybe not as many people have fond memories of Clash at Demonhead or listen to chiptune albums as they thought. At any rate, a perfectly entertaining movie suffered because of it. For shame, readers!

Inception: Dreams, Lies and Illusions

July 17, 2010

What happens when you’ve directed one of the biggest critically and commercially (not adjusting for inflation!) successful movies of all time? Apparently the studio gives you carte blanche to do whatever you want. And what do you do with that opportunity if you’re the frustratingly-handsome Christopher Nolan? You assemble one of the most intriguing casts of the year and make a summer blockbuster that is so complex and intellectually-charged that that it teeters on the brink between being almost unfilmable and career-destroying box office poison. And it ends up being one of the crowning achievements of modern cinema.

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Toy Story 3: Sobbing Man-Children

July 8, 2010

It’s difficult to remember what theatrical animation was like before Pixar. I remember that a Disney movie would come out every year or so and I’d beg my parents to take me and that’d be about it. I wasn’t stupid enough to go see a Don Bluth movie in the theater, at least. And pretty much all the animation was 2D! I remember when it was a giant fucking deal that Aladdin had 3D CG mixed in. I remember when people’s jaws were dropping during the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast. You’d occasionally see a 3D CG animated short on Nickelodeon (especially on Thanksgiving), but other than those, that was about it. Computer graphics were a delicacy, like caviar for the developing eyes of a cartoon-addled child. This was back when 3D viewing was still considered retro and gimmicky, too!

But then it was 1995. Disney was quickly losing their shit (Pocahontas? HUNCHBACK?) and no one was stepping up to take the doddering king’s place. Except for one studio who dared to look toward the future, and saw the potential in the shiny, plastic-looking aesthetic of computer animation. And Disney still had enough sense left in them to see the potential, as well, and released Pixar’s film Toy Story into theaters. And it was a success! The rare non-Disney animated feature to garner universal acclaim and commercial success! Combining heartfelt storytelling with sly, inventive humor, Pixar created a franchise.

A franchise that’s never quite sat well with me.

I mean, I liked Toy Story well enough. I could appreciate it for the way it pioneered a whole new medium and for the relative sophistication it had compared to other offerings. Even as a child, it seemed a bit sharper than the competition. But the movie’s aesthetic just didn’t age very well (see: any human in the film) and then there was John Lasseter’s unhealthy taste in Randy Newman. It just didn’t resonate with me the same way Aladdin or other films did. And seeing Toy Story 2 years later, when it was rereleased in 3D, I can see why people consider it a marked improvement. The added characters actually ADD to the proceedings rather than detract and it explored some interesting aspects of toy culture. But it still wasn’t yanking me like I wanted it to. Was it the indifference to stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen?  The still-uncanny-valley human characters? The seemingly recycled bit where the gang has to deal with another fresh-out-of-the-box Buzz Lightyear? The world may never know.

So it was with some chagrin that I learned that Pixar was going back to the well again with Toy Story 3. I mean, I’m not surprised. Aside from Cars, it’s probably their most profitable property. It also has that nostalgic glimmer of being their first feature animation, and enough time has gone by that super-fans of the original might have kids of their own to take to a sequel. Canny Disney thinking at work, there. So after enduring months of breathless Toy Story fans spazzing out over the idea of a threequel and the outpouring of praise from the rest of the press, I decided to go see it to give it a fair shake. If anything, I probably wouldn’t hate it.

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Year in Review – 2009: SMELL YA LATER

May 20, 2010

There’s been several reasons why this list is late. First of all, thanks to limited theatrical releases, it becomes necessary to wait until home video for a lot of potential “movie of the year” candidates to make themselves available. And then there’s the increasingly common practice for big studios to make deals with services like Netflix, which I use almost exclusively for home video, to give them greater streaming options at the cost of instituting a mandatory 28 day waiting period after home video release for availability in their system.

And then there’s the obvious: 2009 was just a so-so year for movies. It’s sort of ridiculous that the year that saw the highest-grossing movie of all time also had one of the weakest outputs in recent memory. Yeah, good movies got released, but almost none that really galvanized me emotionally. It took some doing to make this list. Originally I wasn’t even sure I could come up with 10 movies I liked enough to put on my list. Even then, there hasn’t really been a clear winner, in my mind, so ordering them became impossible. Any ranking I could give them would just be arbitrary and pointless at this point, so I’m presenting them in no particular order.

Also, this year I had no job, so next-to-no money with which to buy those expensive $60 coasters we call video games. I mostly took a look back into older games, such as the Phantasy Star series, which you can read my thoughts on in earlier Grump Factory posts. When it came to new games, I enjoyed the SMT: Persona remake on the PSP, and the reimagined Silent Hill on the Wii. Left 4 Dead 2 is great fun if you can find 3 other people to reliably play with. Aside from that, my time was spent playing games from 2008 or earlier, so hopefully Magus can give some better insight on gaming in 2009. Just don’t listen to anything he says about Monster Hunter. Ever.

Now, on to the movies!

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Grump Talk: The Double Life of Veronique

May 15, 2010

Every now and again you find a movie you just fall into an easy relationship with. It’s a little weird and embarrassing to use the R word in regards to a movie, but I feel the word is called for in a circumstance such as this. I recently saw the 1991 French/Czech flick The Double Life of Veronique. It explores the possibility of doppelgangers, people out there that look exactly like us, who act like us, who think like us, but lead slightly different lives. Of course, the focus of the story is on women who share the same face and name, as well as an ethereal connection that neither one is consciously aware of, but nontheless permeates their lives. Czech Weronika is a young woman with an aspiring singing career who tries to pursue her dream regardless of a serious heart condition. French Veronique is a music teacher who falls in love with a puppeteer who seems to have vague insight into her nature as a double.

Within the first few minutes of the film… it had me. It just resonated on exactly the right frequency to make me relate and understand it on a level deeper than conscious, rational thought, which makes the whole thing a bit of an odd bird to try to describe. I understood it emotionally more than I grasped it intellectually. The scenes are framed just-so to create dreamy visuals that give the sense that you’re watching some sort of real-world fairy tale. The story makes just enough sense to fool you into thinking you can figure it all out, but the revelatory moment that you always think is just around the corner never quite comes. Unless I’m some huge idiot. Which I may be! But just about everything in the movie’s perfect and if you wanna treat yourself to something fantastic, find a way to rent the Criterion Collection DVD. Broaden your horizons, grumpeteers~