Indiana Jones and the Rebooted Franchise


Sometimes I feel like it’s the only topic of discussion when it comes to movies – which beloved franchise is getting a fresh take and how awful will it be?

Finally, the Great Reboot Monster has come for our good friend Indiana Jones. At least, that’s according to the rumors.

We have yet to visualize how the House of Mouse will handle the fairly-recently acquired Lucasfilm properties, though, it admittedly is not the fear-inducing cringe which would have accompanied any other big production company or, God forbid, Lucas himself.

The Big D likely has the best intentions in mind for the franchise, just as it does for Star Wars. I stress the word “likely” here, however, as we haven’t seen any product just yet. They are continuing to make smart moves with their ownership of Marvel (mostly by just holding the main license and letting the dough flow in based on all the established projects out there) and the Muppets (by allowing more movies to be made and, honestly, another Muppet movie is never a bad thing), so it stands to reason that the Lucasfilms will likely make the cut as well as long as they limit JJ’s lens flare budget on Star Wars VII.

Right now at the top of the rumor pile is the potential replacement of Harrison Ford as Indy and a full-on reboot of the franchise.

The first question we must ask is: “Why not just pass the torch?”

Yes, rumor has it (again…) that the new Star Wars flicks will likely keep the returning characters to minimal roles which will allow for continuity and the movement of the franchise into a newer, younger direction likely aimed at bringing in newer, younger fans whose sinner parents never showed them episodes IV – VI in their original format and deserve to be punished under the full extent of nerd law.

I digress. But, there will be a torch passing moment there.

When Big Dumb George was still in charge of putting his old ideas into a blender to see exactly how long it would take them between the blades until they died, screaming and whirling into an unrecognizable pulp, he shat out Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which you might remember as the WORST ONE EVER EVER. Remember that one guy in there who used to be famous? That Shy-a-la-something-or-other? His Mutt Williams, aka, Henry Jones III, was rumored (again…) to be the one to pick up in Indy’s footsteps. His character was introduced not only as a way for Harrison’s age to avoid many difficult action sequences by having someone younger do the heavy lifting, but as a way to potentially bridge the gap and give Harrison Ford a more Sean Connery-type Henry Jones Sr. role as the franchise moved forward.

Based on the Kingdom of the Vomit-strewn Toilet Bowl, that would have been a colossal mistake.

Though Mr. Ford would very much like to be involved in Indy V as the hero and though it’s difficult for me to say that I can picture another actor ever being Indy, I have to admit, if we’re going to see another Indy movie, for better or worse, a reboot seems the best course of action.

Mind you, I’m not going back on what I said. I am largely opposed to reboots and remain staunchly so, especially when it comes to a franchise which farted out one horrible last cloud before collapsing and nearly dying in such recent memory (only six years this summer – I remember because I saw it the weekend of my bachelor party). There should be a longer moratorium on rebooting though, I imagine, if this starts moving forward, it’ll likely be a decade since the last once the next comes out and that could potentially be long enough.

There are reasons why it should either be prequels or a reboot. Here they are.

First: the time period. The Indiana Jones movies were always about that capsule of time of pre-WWII when adventure was still a real thing and not just a series of tourist traps; that mystical era when things were still largely undiscovered and the world was a vast and endless unknown. There’s something about that time period which remains special and oozes potential.
Based on Bathroom of the Crystal Bidet, if Harrison retained the role, it would put us into the 60s. Crystal Bumcover showed a post-WWII world where Indy and those like him were becoming their own sort of relics. Indy vs. Nazis always worked. Indy vs. McCarthy Era Russians, not so much. They become the movie’s stand-in for the Nazis after the Third Reich was toppled. If we move into the 60s, how far do we go? Does it wind up being Indy vs. the Vietcong? Indy vs. Hippies? Even with a younger actor to whom the torch could be passed, consecutive movies in the franchise would bring us closer to the modern era and the magic would be lost entirely.

Second: a younger actor playing Indy offers massive potential. If they got someone young enough, they could do Indy adventures prior to Raiders which would not necessarily fall into the “Young Indiana Jones” portion of the playbook. We could see Indy meet Professor Abner Ravenwood and his spunky young daughter Marian. Indy as a student and at the beginning of his career gives us a decade of time from the late 20s until 1935 (the year Temple of Doom takes place which, yes, was chronologically before Raiders). This would, by rights, ignore all stories and whatever might be considered canon as established by “expanded universe”-style novels and comics which is ok by me. I’m sure there’s some pretty big stinkers in there.

Based on that – Third: taking this sort-of-prequel route would allow them to get in a few good flicks while still respecting the continuity of the franchise at large. If Harrison Ford could do the accent, you might even be able to get him to play younger Henry Jones Sr., which would be pretty sick when you think about it. Like, better versions of the opening of Last Crusade, we could see Harrison as Sr. constantly scribbling in the Grail Diary and having long chats with someone playing younger Marcus Brody or something like that.

The person at the top of the current list to play the “new” Indy is Bradley Cooper. I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery, but consider that he would bring the same level of action-comedy and, when necessary, gravitas to the role. That and he already plays off the Indy level of unkempt quite expertly as well as cleaning up nice when required. Easily, I could see him swinging the whip.

In what context, though, remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, it’s not up to peons like you or I to decide the correct direction for Hollywood. All we can do is speculate.

I might consider drafting a screenplay for this were there any potential at all that it could get picked up. If you want to read it, I’ll write it. Let me know.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Affleck. (Nerd-Terror Alert Level Orange)

If you are not in tune with the nerd-o-sphere, then you probably don’t know that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman for Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2.

I spoke recently about my cautious optimism regarding the direction DC was taking with their movie division. This announcement has taken my nerd-terror scale rating on this subject from yellow to orange.

This is one of those announcements which causes the entertainment community of the internet to bubble and boil over in the kind of stubborn arguments which almost always lead to people questioning and thereby insulting the integrity of mothers and people’s sexual preferences as it quickly degrades per the terms of the Laws of the Internet. Controversy will likely be as abundant as it was when Heath Ledger was first cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

I’ve upped the alert level from yellow to orange because, on the surface, this seems like a Val Kilmer/George Clooney level move for Batman whereas Affleck does not have the same grit we’ve become accustomed to with Christian Bale’s Batman, at least not on the surface. Not to keep mentioning it, but this was my first thought about Heath Ledger as well and we all know how good (if not tragic) that choice was in the end.

While Affleck’s most recent works have garnished critical praise and while he’s currently riding high on Argo, his acting prowess seems to be dictated strictly through direction. He is a director’s actor and his best efforts have come while he was his own boss. Zack Snyder is a fair to solid bet to get a decent performance out of him, but there are still a few factors which lend heavily toward my doubts about this decision.

First, the obvious: Daredevil. I mean, really. Did you see Daredevil? I did. I paid money to see it. I paid money to see it knowing that Ben’s future wife-to-be Jennifer Garner was playing Elektra with her overly-squared jaw and typically emotionless, robotic, Stepford-esque quality. I went knowing that Michael Clarke Duncan was playing the Kingpin even though his best performance to that point was John Coffe in the Green Mile. Most of the time I can let these factors slide due to typical Hollywood re-imagining and truncation of the plot. I am in the minority of understanding nerds who get that some fan service has to be discarded for the sake of mass digestion when making the transition from comics or books to the big screen. Daredevil, as you know if you have seen it, was more than this. It was an inexcusable train wreck comparable to Ang Lee’s Hulk.

Second: Zack Snyder. Not that I didn’t love 300 and I was even on his side when the debates about Watchmen erupted but by doing such a good job with Man of Steel Zack proved one thing: He is a Superman Person.
Much like cat people and dog people, there are Superman people and Batman people. Typically, never the twain shall meet, moreso in the case of the superheroes than the pets. If you have a friend who is a dog person and you’re a cat person, you’re not going to get into drunken geek screaming matches about who would win in a fight. This happens quite a bit with Superman/Batman people.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you probably know I fall squarely on the Gotham side of that fence. I feel a twinge of disgust every time I see that big red S emblazoned on someone in whatever manner. I get proud when I see someone rocking the Bat-logo. This is the natural nerd order of things.
Zack Snyder, being a Superman person by trade if not by choice, may not give Batman the respect or care that the character deserves. This may lead into bad direction for Affleck which, as previously mentioned, could make the Batman in Man of Steel 2 back into the horrifying Matt Murdock of Mark Steven Johnson’s cinematic atrocity. I believe it’s against the Geneva Convention to subject someone to watching that movie. I would hate for the same fate to come upon Batman, even if it is truly a Superman movie.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Affleck is really a Superman person. Bad news, if that’s the case.

Third: It is a Superman movie, after all. Though Bats will likely make up a big part of this movie, especially considering it’s partially based on The Dark Knight Returns, the branding used to the press has been fairly explicit: This is not the Batman/Superman Movie. No matter what the conjoined logo belies, this is Man of Steel 2. That is and has been the logline for this movie since SDCC. To me, that says that the “hate each other but team-up for the greater good in the end” angle may come in underplayed and allow Supes to take up more of the spotlight, it being his movie and all. Be it Affleck, Bale, or even Fillon (as the fans wanted), Bats is likely looking at reduced screen time even in the event of a potential (yet unlikely) note-worthy performance by Ben. The only benefit to this is, if his performance is ass, the limited screen time may do some (SOME) damage control.

I will continue to leave the terror alert at orange until I see a screen test or a trailer. I remain doubtful that this signals anything good for Man of Steel 2 or the Justice League movie afterward (in which, for consistency’s sake, they’d better get Affleck back for better or worse).

DC’s cinematic universe has always been a calamity. They’re good at destroying franchises before their time. For their sake, I hope they can keep it together to the end or else the Justice League movie is going to look as bad as the mid-90s JLA pilot, no matter how many big names they pull in.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Holes in the Cape (SDCC Recap Part One)

In case you missed it, this weekend was San Diego Comic Con. Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re overly aware of this.

I’m going to take this week (hopefully more than one entry) to discuss items arising from SDCC, albeit a bit late. I would go on about how I usually enjoy letting things simmer for a while before injecting my opinion but I’d be lying. I was actually on vacation (not at SDCC) this weekend and I am also exceedingly lazy. That being said, there are more than a few interesting things which have sprung from SDCC and are worthy of words from me. Let’s begin.

DC/Warner Bros. have announced that the sequel to this summer’s fair success, Man of Steel, will be the long sought-after Batman/Superman movie. Whether this means that Will Smith’s I Am Legend is actually going to happen prior to release in 2015 remains to be seen.

This particular announcement brings the DC/Warner Bros. machine to an interesting intersection. With Christian Bale’s divorce from the Batman franchise and Christopher Nolan’s tenuous (at best) involvement in the ongoing construction of the DC Movie Universe, will the flavor of Henry Cavill’s opposite number be retained or will we see another wholesale change for the Caped Crusader before the (thankfully pushed back) Justice League movie in 2017?

During the panel, it was revealed that my favorite line in the history of comics will be included in Batman/Superman:

“I want you to remember, Clark… in all the years to come… in your most private moments… I want you to remember my hand at your throat… I want you to remember… the one man who beat you.”

This, of course, uttered by Bruce himself as he has a crushing spiky boot wedged firmly on the throat of the Man of Steel in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

The panel would later go on to admit that the movie will be based partly on the World’s Finest comics (hopefully modern era and not Golden Age) and the aforementioned Frank Miller source material. They made it clear that this will not be a straight up adaptation of DKR, but will certainly borrow heavily from the plot elements including that famous line. Certainly, it won’t be about the grim future of the DCU and an octogenarian Batman beating the living piss out of a Supes who is past his prime. They are planning to use this movie to start setting the table for Justice League, after all.

This brings me to my second point: It’s wonderful to see DC finally jumping on the continuity train even if it is a few stations behind Marvel. If you’re going to plan an epic like Justice League, you have to take your cues from Joss Whedon and the Avengers. You must first build a solitary universe which houses all of these heroes before simply jamming them into the same story. I’ve been over and over this regarding the film aspirations of both major comic houses, but it’s true. This will be the first movie which unites two DC properties and establishes a proper and stable universe. That is, if they do it right.

While Man of Steel was a good mildly-gritty reboot of the Superman franchise (barring Lois showing exactly how easy it could be to connect Kal-El to John and Martha Kent), we have to examine what this means for the Nolan Bat-verse and what, if any, implications this movie has on the state of that particular Gotham City and its denizens. Do Man of Steel’s Smallville and Metropolis exist in the same universe or will we so soon be force-fed a new image of Gotham?
It would have to be Gotham that changes, not Metropolis, as they’ve confirmed Henry Cavill under the big red S for the duration. This means that the Man of Steel universe is THE DC movie universe.

This is where we run into some serious problems.

As far as the Nolan-verse is concerned, Bruce Wayne’s time under the cowl is over. As of The Dark Knight Rises we see him go so far as to pass the torch to one Detective Robin “John” Blake. Without going into the screaming inconsistencies there, the best parts of any Batman/Superman story come from the diametrically opposed identities of Bruce and Clark – Bruce was given all the money and had to work for his power; Clark was given insane amounts of power and had to work for his money. This goes along with the fact that Bruce’s inner darkness and Clark’s outer light lead to two very different rhythms with the same melody. Their methodical differences and their backgrounds give them that tete-a-tete which makes friendship, let alone outright partnership, difficult. The draw here is two heroes who can’t completely work together. If you leave John Blake as a n00b with a cape, you run the risk of losing that awesome dynamic.

This means that they’re going to have to either bring back Nolan-verse Bruce Wayne (with a different actor unless they can somehow convince Bale), meaning that the Nolan-verse takes place in the same continuity, or establish a whole new Batman movie continuity which can connect properly with the Man of Steel/Justice League universe.

Negating the Nolan-verse would be a foolish and too-soon move, so it would seem that DC’s back is against the wall on this one. Don’t think for a second they won’t wipe the continuity and start a-fresh for the sake of the Justice League. They know a Superman/Batman movie will empty wallets (mine included) regardless of which Batman you throw into the mix. They also know that Justice League will likely explode at the box office considering that two out of DC’s main trinity (Bats, Supes, Wonder Woman) have enjoyed very recent success.

Bats/Supes aside, moving the Justice League movie back to 2017 (as opposed to their knee-jerk reaction of 2015 to compete with Avengers 2) as well as the announcement of a Flash solo movie in 2016 shows that they’re attempting to move in the right direction. This is just me being optimistic as they announced the Flash during the Batman/Superman panel which indicates that it’ll tie in directly to the Justice League. This is no guarantee that we won’t get another Green Lantern.

Also, seriously, Wonder Woman needs her own flick before this whole thing goes down. I know it’s apparently Hollywood poison, but it should get done. You can’t back off when it comes to one of the members of DC’s Holy Trinity just because it’s a girl and you don’t think girl heroes sell tickets.

Really, everything I’m talking about here won’t prevent myself or any other fan from seeing any of these movies on opening weekend. It’s just a matter of principle. If they’re going to go the full-nine with this, it should be done right and with respect to the most recent successes. DC needs to do what it should have done since its main competition came into existence: figure out what Marvel has done right and DO THAT THING.

The dots should have been lined up from the beginning. It should not be a struggle to connect them all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

ANUSTART for Television

Netflix has become the absolute mecca for cult television viewing. It has taken niches and carved them out into much larger niches and has allowed the fandom of shows to expand well beyond the expiration date of their network tenure. This is not a newly discovered fact, however, the steps taken by them in recent months has proven once and for all that they herald the death of traditional television.

I am, of course, referring to the resurgence of Arrested Development.

Shows like this, for me, often fly under the radar. Until about two years ago, I had given up on sitcoms. I’d had my fill of bland humor in the nineties and wanted nothing to do with the same old jokes being told by different people on different sets in different ridiculous situations. I was tired of laugh-tracks being cued by the stereotypical lead characters dealing with a problem in the most “wacky” way possible while their sarcastic neighbor/friend made sarcastic comments which may or may not result in a catch phrase being printed on a t-shirt and marketed at Spencer’s or Hot Topic.

Sitcoms were not my friend. Most of them are very poorly written and are dragged out far too long, fading into obscurity before drawing former fans back with some heart-wrenching series finale which promises to be everything like the show you once fell in love with and not at all like the faded over-played tragedy it had become. I think I’ve shown enough of my disdain for one day.

When a good friend of mine recommended Arrested Development, it was prior to talk of the Netflix revival. I had, being a denizen of these fair internets, heard of the show and the plight which its fans suffered due to its abbreviated length. He told me that it would be my kind of humor and he was right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as happens with a Netflix revival, devoured the entire show within a week only to find that much to the disbelief of its continually expanding fan base, Netflix itself was involved in producing new episodes.

Shows like Arrested Development, along with other cult shows too numerous to list, are the Netflix cash cow. AD, Firefly, Galactica, every Star Trek series… these, 90% of the time, are why people subscribe. If there’s nothing else to do, you have every episode of these shows that you love on-tap and ready to go.

I realize I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know and I also realize that my blog is not, nor should it be, a Netflix commercial. What I am here to talk about is how Netflix changed the game by grabbing an otherwise discarded network show from the dead zone and resurrected it and how exactly that changes the game.

Network television, known for years to be yellowing their drawers over the encroaching crush of the interwebz, should now loose that fateful turd square into their panties over the fact that Netflix was able to put a show like Arrested Development back together for another season without any backing from the Old Boys Club. If internet-only sitcoms such as The Guild (as well as the rest of the Geek and Sundry lineup) and dramas like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries pulling down cult followings, awards, and millions of views on shoe-string budgets were the death knell for network TV, then Arrested Development Season 4 is the funeral.

YouTube and now, to some extent, outlets like Netflix have made it possible for new ideas to be brought to the fore without running the Hollywood gauntlet. It allowed for shows like FreddieW’s Video Game High School to be created and made public in a wider and more sociable forum. No offense to Freddie and his wonderful product (really, love the show) but if this were pitched to say NBC Universal Comcast Kabletown TGIFridays (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) it would have wound up on one of the backwater niche channels on digital cable that no one ever sees and would have received less views than it did on YouTube or FreddieW’s network, It would have also received less exposure. Case-in-point, here I am, talking about this awesome show and I’m able to link you to it directly. If it did wind up on that heretofore unheard of cable network and I mentioned it to you here, you’d still never see it because you’d have to a) determine if your cable provider carries the channel, b) find the channel somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the untouched numbers of the upper-hundreds, c) time it correctly to actually watch the show, and if that weren’t possible, d) condemn it to your DVR until such time as it is either potentially watched (could be months) or discarded in favor of the latest episode of Top Chef.

To clarify, I am not saying that all network television is horrible. I watch many shows on television (some network, mostly cable) and, though indie can be a wonderful thing, it is not the end-all-be-all. It would be impossible for someone to do an adequate Game of Thrones adaptation without the support of a major pay channel. HBO, however, hands over the keys to the kingdom and tells the creative types to lock up when they’re done. They are brave in that they will throw almost anything at the wall for at least one season to see if it sticks. Sometimes you get The Sopranos, sometimes you get Luck, either way it offers more freedom to the creators than the aforementioned Hollywood process, which is why HBO is consistently generating amazing programming. They, too, are making good use of the internet as they will soon (if they don’t already) allow people to subscribe to their HBOGO service; everything they have available on-demand, online, anywhere. First-run episodes of new shows are available as soon as the Eastern time-zone show is over, and they’re telling you that you don’t even need cable to watch it anymore.

Other networks operating on that sort of “take-it-and-run-as-long-as-the-ratings-are-good” philosophy are AMC and FX. Given a slightly longer leash than their network counterparts as far as the content of their programming, they are empowered to make edgier, quirkier, and ultimately more interesting shows that give a glimmer of hope for drama and storytelling within a bottomless abyss of reality shows about pawn shops, storage auctions, and trailer-dwelling creatures who believe they are beyond reproach.

I look forward to the day that channels like these take the Netflix route. They could strike out independently or partner up with a well-known distributor and make the shows they want to make as well as making the shows fans want them to make. I often love to see lists of show ideas that were shot down before being given a chance, especially spinoffs of cult ideas (I would have watched every episode of Starfleet Medical). So much potential was cast aside by fat-cat executives so out of touch with entertainment in general that they think Henry Winkler and Scott Baio are still Fonzie and Chachi hanging out at Arnold’s rather than standing in front of a jury as Bob Loblaw trys to prove that Barry Zuckerkorn can’t reach a doorknob of a schoolyard fence without the alleged use of a step-ladder. Any number of those shows once callously discarded may now face revitalization, provided the licences are available.

Arrested Development and the way it has drawn one fanbase to the internet should have the networks shaking and rethinking their strategy. Indie shows and films on the internet should have them watching their back. Cable networks continuing to expand their influence should make them take notice.

The obituary for traditional television is being written by a man who blue himself and no amount of forget-me-nows can make it go away.

Life is a roofie circle.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

The Sick Sense

A few weeks ago, when we went to see Scott Pilgrim, they ran a trailer which has since hit television. The corresponding movie is to be released on 9/17.

The trailer spoke to the cheese-nouveau quality of the movie: a bunch of people are trapped in an elevator who are (as made PAINFULLY obvious) all from different ethnic and social backgrounds when the lights go out and something crazy happens to (and this is just an assumption based on the overt stereotypes) the rich white girl with daddy issues. This, according to the trailer, makes everyone suspicious of the (again, stereotypical) olive-skinned, nervous-looking middle-easterner who, in the beginning of the trailer, makes you think he is up to something severe.
The shabby-yet-buff white guy who, keeping with the stereotypes, is probably some sort of off-duty or undercover cop (or former military) gets into a confrontation with the middle-eastern fellow about the injuries of the rich white girl. Of course, large black security guard tries to break things up while crazy old cat lady clutches her handbag in that charming old-person fashion with a very strained look on her face.

The trailer goes on to show off its supernatural elements and blah blah blah… seriously, it looks like any other horror/thriller that’s come around within the last decade or so. (not) Surprisingly, the elevator can’t be accessed from the outside or escaped from by its passengers. Also (not) surprisingly, the security camera feeds are having some issues and even, at one point, shows all passengers DEAD on the floor for a split second, much to the shock and awe of the security guards watching the monitor. Yawn.

The premise, I’ll admit, was mildly interesting. It almost seemed like, despite all the stereotypical elements in the trailer, it could be a decent psychological thriller. One that would hit home with claustrophobics, acrophobics, and agoraphobics alike. Probably not something I would see in the theater, but maybe something I’d watch once it hit the pay channels.

We were already laughing and playing with what the title would be. Sawlevator, Hellevator, etc… Then came the real fun.

As the “floating words” section of the trailer started, the screen announced that this movie was “From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan”.

We went to see a comedy that night and I think this single statement got a bigger laugh out of the crowd of assembled nerds than a few of the jokes in the actual movie.

M. Night, whether he wants to realize it or not, isn’t even a joke. He’s just a punchline.
I remember seeing The Sixth Sense in theaters. I remember leaning over to my girlfriend (now wife) and telling her the twist about twenty minutes before the big reveal. I was sort of impressed by that movie, when I was young and impressing me was easy.
Let’s take a look at the rest of his storied career, just to see if I’m off base about laughing when I see his name attached to a film.

Unbreakable? Cool for the comic book aspect, not for the fact that Sam Jackson got shanghaied into playing a guy who thinks brittle bone disease is a super power and causes a train wreck to find out if Bruce Willis is invulnerable or not. Garbage.


The Village? Yeah, are we in love with Bryce Dallas Howard? I think we are. I don’t think that this movie had any other purpose besides bringing her in to the mainstream. I hope Ron Howard knows that a third-tier talent like M. Night was banging his daughter ruthlessly during the filming.

Lady in the Water? Still banging Ms. Howard, M. Night? Or were you just honoring some pre-coital promise in exchange for being able to violate an up-and-coming actress? Either way, you gave her a crappy movie with an extremely messy and convoluted plot. It’s such a shame. I love Paul Giamatti. That’s the second actor for whom I have massive respect (first being Sam Jackson) who you tricked into being a part of your crapfest.

The Happening? Seriously, the trees did it? The fucking TREES did it? Dude. No, seriously… Dude. Come on. Some of the visuals were very creepy (like the dude lying down in front of the lawn mower), but come on. The fucking TREES, man? Come on.

The Last Airbender? Yeah, let’s not even go there.

Now, Devil. Hooo boy. I think I would have watched the flick if he amped up the cheese and called it “Hellevator”.

The best thing M. Night has done since the Sixth Sense has been to get parodied on Robot Chicken. What a twist!

After this, the news that Devil is the first of some vague trilogy called “The Night Chronicles”. Two more shit movies are on deck. When is Hollywood going to learn never to trust this guy ever ever again?
I’m sure his quote is high enough that he laughs at all his shitty reviews all the way to the bank, so it doesn’t really matter what I say or what I do, he’s still going to get phat paid to crank out movies whose texture, smell, and some would say taste resemble only the dankest, nastiest, bottoms of the shit pile.
He’ll be mailing in movies well into his twilight years. Proof positive that all you really need is one big blockbuster then you can do whatever you please.

M. Night, you deserve every laugh you get.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word: Robin Hood

Not too long ago, I wrote about the social significance of Robin Hood movies and how the attitude of the current decade can be reflected in the casting and the variations on the story.

This may be true of the new Ridley Scott Robin Hood for many reasons. The main one being that, this past decade, we’ve been settling for the same old crap being recycled and regurgitated by Hollywood in ways which are, ultimately, disappointing.

The differences are clear. Scott, trying to be a bit more historical with his interpretation of King Richard, offs the historic crusader within the opening salvo in a mostly accurate depiction of his death (some poetic license, of course). This is what sparks the departure of Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe) and his band of friends (Alan A’dale, Will Scarlett, and Little John) from the ranks of King Richard’s Army to book home for England as quickly as possible.
On their way to meet a channel ferry out of France, the troupe comes across a group of French mercenaries ambushing a convoy sent to deliver the Crown to a ship awaiting the King’s return. Robin and company interrupt the post-squabble looting, killing all of le evil French interlopers.

Robin, seeking fortune and glory for himself and his compatriots, resumes the looting where the bandits let off once they realize everyone is already dead. He comes up with the idea that they can disguise themselves as knights, deliver Richard’s crown, and have free and safe passage back to England. The obligatory hitch comes when a nearly-dead Sir Robert Loxsley, Richard’s right hand man, makes Robin swear an oath to deliver his father’s sword back to Nottingham.
After delivering the crown and witnessing the first dickheaded moments of King John’s reign, Robin sets off with his pack to Nottingham. Upon completing his quest and meeting a cordial, blind Lord Loxsley and the wife of Sir Robert, Marion (Cate Blanchette), it is decided by Lord Loxsley that Robin should impersonate his son in order to retain his home and lands, as without a successor, Loxsley’s lands would likely be lost to the Sheriff upon his death.

The story goes on to completely change everything about Robin Hood that anyone knows. No Sherwood Forest, no real banditry save for one sequence, no real influence or even anything more than a cameo by the Sheriff of Nottingham, and even King John doesn’t become anything more than a bratty dickhead until the very end of the movie.
It takes a different route entirely, focusing on France’s Philip II trying to take over England through his proxy and spy, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong) who the writers claim is based on Guy of Gisbourne but doesn’t really seem to be. Godfrey hopes to make the country collapse by stirring up rebellion to unfair taxation in the northern territories while France invades from the south and takes a weakened London as its prize.
Of course, Robin and the heroes catch wind of this and are put in motion to put an end to it. Robin allies himself with King John, provided John signs a little piece of paper not truly named in the movie but known to the world as the Magna-freaking-Carta. John agrees in a sly, you-know-he’s-not-going-to-do-it way, a grand army is assembled, the French are routed, and the day is saved.
In spite of what Robin did, King John burns the Magna Carta and defies the lords to whom he promised their rights. He declares Robin an outlaw and here, I suppose, is where the actual story begins.

Should you brace for the sequel? Hell no.

While I can accept changes in the story, I cannot accept the loose plot points and true stretches of medieval technology.
There was a whole weird undeveloped sub-plot about a group of feral little children who wind up fighting in the final battle behind an uncharacteristically armor-clad Marion, whose character was strong and defiant, but really not shown as any sort of battle-ready warrior. No development whatsoever here.
The French had landing craft. Like, D-Day style, flat-bottomed, amphibious landing craft. In the 13th Century. We’re meant to think that they crossed the entire English Channel in these things and actually made it to Dover in one piece. Ok, Ridley, fine. It’s dramatic. But, you made the entire final battle look like Saving Private Ryan being reenacted at the Renn Faire complete with arrows slicing through the water like bullets and entire transports of troops being peppered full of holes before their feet even touched the sand.

The themes I’d thought would be there within the social commentary were not. They did switch things around in the characterization to make things more palatable for the modern audience by turning Robin from a lithe and light-hearted thief into a gruff con-man-of-action with a heart of gold. They also strongly emphasized the brattish and bumbling-asshole aspects of King John, leaving the real evil-doing to Sir Godfrey.

All in all, a disappointment. Sure, there was some awesome archer-tastic action, but still not a movie I’d recommend. Russel Crowe is Maximus in a different outfit, Cate Blanchette does what she does best and plays a strong woman, and Mark Strong mails in another sword-fighting bad guy performance. Lackluster at best.

Also, I wanted to mention that the more I thought about this movie, the more I allowed my opinion to develop, the less I thought of it. Leaving the theater last Tuesday and writing a review on it a week later was warranted. I had to let it fester before I could give a true opinion. I didn’t want to believe that a Robin Hood movie could be so… meh.

Bidula’s Last Word – 4.5/10

Ridley Scott, why have you forsaken me?

—end transmission—

Some Assembly Required

Thank you, Paramount Pictures.

Thank you for helping childhood dreams to come true in such incredibly awesome ways.

It’s not very often an entire studio gets that kind of praise from me. It’s not very often that said praise is pre-emptive to the completed project. But, if things keep going the way they are, that praise will be fully deserved. For the task of taking such a mammoth project and getting to the half-way point, they deserve a lot of credit. Most studios would have given up by now. Most studios would have had a true bomb by now. But, something in the cards is right with Paramount. They’re allowing their directors the freedom to do what they want while discussing with the intellectual property managers as to how exactly things need to go down to accomplish the end goal.

I know some of you may be skeptical. This is natural. Open yourself up to the clues around you and tell me it’s not going to be incredible.

Seeing Iron Man 2 made clear that Marvel Studios, with the help of Paramount, is really in this thing for the long haul.

The Avengers movie is going to happen and it’s going to be done well.

If you haven’t seen any of the Paramount/Marvel movies (Iron Man 1 & 2 or the Ed Norton Incredible Hulk) and you’re a comic book fan of any magnitude, shame on you. The Iron Man movies are both absolutely fantastic (Bidula’s Last Word on IM2 – 9/10) and The Incredible Hulk was a much better attempt than Ang Lee’s Y2K disaster.
Once, a friend and I were discussing what it would take to make a proper Avengers movie. I said they could never do it because it would take far too much effort and pliability on behalf of too many people. I told him, if they were to do it, the whole project would have to be under the same banner and be many movies long. I said that it would probably take five to seven years to actually accomplish. I also established three conditions which would make the perfect Avengers movie possible. They seemed unattainable at first.

1. Solid actors and directors would have to be signed to multiple movies and committed to the end project.
Done. Every single character who will make an appearance in the Avengers movie will be the same actor who portrayed them in their individual movies (except for whats-his-name that used to play War Machine but got Don Cheadle’d). Sam Jackson signed a ridiculous contract to appear in nine (count ‘em, nine) movies up to and through The Avengers (5/4/2012, mark your calendars) reprising his role as Nick Fury.
Other than Sammy J, Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. are in. Ed Norton is in (as Banner/Hulk). Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow) is in. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are in (as Captain America and Thor, respectively).
And, for the behind the scenes staff of the Big Show? Producer: Jon Favreau. And, this one’s for the fanboys… Director: Joss Whedon. Paramount knows what they’re doing.

2. Schedule the movies for release in an order that makes sense to the nerds on the street while making sure it makes sense to the general audiences at the same time.
Done. Iron Man lead up to the Hulk lead up to Iron Man 2 which leads into Thor which will, more than likely, lead in to Captain America: The First Avenger. They’re also exposing more of S.H.I.E.L.D. and what they are as things move along.
The tempo at which they’re introducing new characters and sub-plots are perfectly suited for movie viewers and will (hopefully) allow them to follow the new continuity with the knowledge of a passable comics fan if not the outright fervor of a full-scale nerd.
That’s right, folks. Hollywood is turning you all into comic book geeks. Mwa ha ha.

3. Do right by the fans.
Done. At least, in this reader’s opinion. Sure, it’s not the same stuff verbatim, but you have to respect the fact that they’re crafting a whole new universe on film and that they’re dedicated to the idea that the Avengers films are, indeed, their own universe. They’re trying to keep them as close to 616 as possible without needing to make a 3+ hour movie. Some details you just have to lose.
Look at this: A StarkTech logo on a cryo-tube full of the super-soldier serum that made Captain America in the Hulk movie. That’s two different shout outs in one plot-relevant easter egg. Expertly done. Also, the other Cap shout out in Iron Man 2 was pretty damn funny. I won’t spoil it for you.
Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. being used as sort of a binding agent through everything is also great. It keeps the movies flowing toward that ultimate goal without stifling the individual movies with cross-contamination. Yes, Tony Stark did appear in the after-credits of the Incredible Hulk and yes, M****** (or T**** H*****) did appear in the after-credits of Iron Man 2, but it’s not overbearing. It’s just oil to keep that big machine moving toward the finish line.

I am not here to guarantee the success of the Avengers movie, but things are certainly looking up. They’re taking their time and they’re doing it right the whole way around.

For once, I am optimistic about what Hollywood’s got cooking.

Here’s hoping they don’t fuck it all up in a few months.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Useless Dimensions of the Third Kind

With the widely-spreading phenomenon of the “IMAX Experience” hitting almost every major theater in the country, it’s starting to become common place to be given a pair of 3D glasses as one purchases a ticket. Where once the domain of 3D was solely reserved for schlock movies who made use of the third dimension in the most cheesy ways possible, it’s now becoming the new way for the blockbuster fantasy movie to be seen. As a cultural voice, we’ve said that we want more 3D based on things like Avatar; a movie that’s so wickedly third-dimensional that it give people the spins and could induce nausea.

Funny, I thought it was the cheesy effects and lack of plot that did it, but I’m not a doctor. I’ve also not seen more than just clips of the movie because watching Night Elves vs. Power Armor just isn’t really something that appealed to me, even though I am an uber-nerd.

Is 3D really a storytelling necessity? Is there some aspect of adding the elusive third-dimension to a movie which is going to make or break the plot?
My gut strongly screams no.

Special effects technology has come quite a long way to help us suspend our disbeliefs. We can still tell when something is computer animated most of the time but, when you have a 2-foot-tall flying character that isn’t represented by Verne Troyer with a pair of pipe-cleaner fairy wings strapped to his back and is instead represented by a fully-expressive computer animated creature, it really helps.
Green-screening and motion capture technology has helped to elevate filmmaking to the point where absolutely anything can happen and be relatively believable. At the very least, it can make things look as though they’re actually happening around the characters involved. Take Davy Jones for instance. Until I watched a making-of, I had no idea that it was mo-capped computer-animated Bill Nighy instead of a make-up covered, live-action Bill Nighy in costume. I mean, he was there and all, just wearing a body suit covered in little white dots.

3D, however, seems rather superficial when it comes to a theater experience. I’ve seen at least two new-generation 3D flicks. I could have seen the same movies in flaccid old 2D and they still would have been the same movies. I’m sure the same goes for Avatar. No matter how much the vox populii (and to a larger degree, the vox medii [ed. note: sorry if that’s not an actual phrase]) may try to persuade me to see this flick in 3D, I’m sure that, when I do finally break down and watch this “cinematic triumph”, it’s going to be in the same old two-dimensional manner that I always have. I’m fairly positive that any review I would give about said movie would be the same, regardless of the amount of Ds.
Tim Burton’s recent Alice in Wonderland pushed to add 3D effects during post-post-production (that’s two posts) as a way to put butts in $15-$20 seats rather than $8-$12 ones. Your prices may vary.
It’s a smart way for Hollywood to get one over on the general viewing public. By hyping up marketing and using the word “experience” to describe a 3D flick, it makes audiences feel like they’re missing out on something if they see it in boring old 2D.
A movie “experience” from my stand has always been about the smell of popcorn, the darkness of the theater, the previews, and the realization that, even though it feels like it’s just you and your specific viewing party in the theater, there are dozens of others taking the ride with you. There are some who will find things within any given movie that make them experience different emotions than the rest of the crowd but could help others find the comedy or tragedy in the same nuances.
I’m sure the entire theater was thrilled that I laughed until I couldn’t breathe for ten straight minutes after the “pencil trick” in The Dark Knight. Everyone cringed, I found it hysterical. Still do.
Granted, there will be more oohs and aahs in the 3D theater than the 2D one, but if a movie is good enough, that part shouldn’t matter in the least.

Avatar “legitimized” the 3D phenomenon by getting an Oscar nod. Of course, the nod was (in my opinion) based largely on grosses and popularity rather than quality of motion picture. This means more movies will have more 3D sequences and may be legitimately influenced and cinematographed to include the third dimension. This can only take the industry as a whole to dark and evil places. If you’re going to do this, Hollywood, remember: less gimmicks, more substance. That probably won’t stop you, though.

With the legitimacy of the 3D movie, so begins the march toward the legitimacy of 3D television. What fresh hell is this, I ask you? With most of the country finishing up their purchases of HDTVs in the wake of one sweeping TV revolution, so sweeps in the next-gen technology to clear out the old and keep the consumers churning out money.
At least, that’s what they’ll want you to think. I’m sure 3D channels will start popping up on cable lineups. I’m sure that some are rushing to the stores as we speak in an effort to be the first on their block to require special glasses to watch. Hell, the New York Rangers became the first hockey team to incorporate a 3D jumbotron, displaying their game and other (only slightly less sickening to the stomach) effects to make the crowd coo for the new technology. Though, why you would be concerned with watching a hockey game in 3D on the jumbotron when it’s happening in actual-D right in front of you pushes me to a near stroke.
Do we need 3DTV? No. With the types of shows dominating television right now – those being legal or medical dramas and reality shows – it’s unnecessary and unimpressive.
While it may be the next “logical” step toward the inevitable holographic television, we do not need it. If your mother ever told you that sitting too close to the TV would mess up your eyes, imagine what wearing glasses that essentially make you cross-eyed will do.

Though, 3DTV for gaming purposes… now, that’s a different story. I think my opinion might still fall within the same range as my opinion on 3D movies. We didn’t need it to have a great game before, why do we need it now?

Maybe I’m just showing my old-man style resistance to change but I don’t want to see anyone get rooked by buying into the hype.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Hood Life

It having been a while since we last went to the theater (between early January’s Dr. Parnassus and last night’s Alice in Wonderland, about two whole months), I’ve been trying to keep up with the latest trailers for the upcoming summer season via teh interwebz. Trailers are easily one of my favorite parts of the movie experience and I feel almost undressed if someone tells me there’s one out there which I haven’t seen.

I had already seen the teaser trailer for the latest iteration of the Robin Hood franchise when my wife called me to her laptop to check out the first full-length one. Upon simply seeing the title card, I figured this would be an attempt by another studio to squeeze a bit more juice out of a story about revolution, more than likely readjusting the themes and flavor to mirror current governmental displeasures. I also realized that, during this damn near Antarctic-brand of harsh economic environment, it’s the best time to bring back a tale of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. That way, the poor will shell out their scant loot by the boatload to see the movie so that they might be able to derive some hope with a side of action/adventure from the flick.

I am a huge fan of the Robin Hood story. I have been since I first saw the Disney animated version (you know, the one with the fox) and Daffy Duck’s “ha ha, ho ho, guard, parry, thrust, spin” Looney Tunes version (one of the all-time classics).
I’ve seen Kevin Costner do the part in an American accent while Alan Rickman stole the entire movie. I’ve seen Mel Brooks tear it down as he introduced us to Dave Chapelle. My wife and I were devout followers of the modernized BBC version which only recently concluded last summer after three seasons. We didn’t want it to end, but there’s really only so much to the legend.

So, upon seeing that a new Robin Hood was being released, and my finding out that it was to be helmed by Ridley Scott, I was mildly excited, though as described above, I thought I knew what to expect.

The characters of the Robin Hood legend, more than any other re-hashed and repackaged story, always seem to be a poignant reflection of modern ideals. Directors always use the same story and the same names, but the characterization is always slanted toward what people want, both in pop-culture in the real world. It’s an interesting paradigm.
Every decade has had at least one Robin Hood movie or TV show since a silent film in 1908 titled “Robin Hood and His Merry Men”. Every incarnation is slightly different than the last. Of any story ever told, Robin Hood and Marian are consistently used as a barometer for the times.

Seeing as this is the first theatrically-released Robin Hood since 1993’s Men in Tights and the first serious take since 1991’s Prince of Thieves, the film will deserve analysis. I figured I’d start mine early.

I found out quickly that Russell Crowe stars. Ok, I thought, maybe this won’t be a tragedy. He’ll add some age and grit to a typically young role. Teaser clips showed him commanding an army and making loud, gruff-voiced, inspiring battle speeches to cheering masses of warriors, which is always pretty awesome. He can kick ass in a period action flick.
He’s not the clean-cut Errol Flynn type. He’s not even the sarcastic pretty-boy Kevin Costner type. He appears in the trailers as a stubble-faced, down-and-dirty freedom fighter; an inspiring leader who rallies not just a group of bandits, but the entire populous, to rise against Prince John and the corruption of the government. Probably doesn’t hurt in this environment to see people being pissed off about the government taking all of their money, either.
Someone looking as the salt of the earth leading average citizens to a victory over a twisted monarchy is what’s going to hit it big right now. That’s what the people want to see in the eyes of the studio and the director. Not entirely an incorrect assumption and, with the right marketing, Crowe’s portrayal could send this movie far over the top.

I also discovered, through the full-length trailer, that Cate Blanchett is playing Lady Marian. I’ve had to turn it over in my mind a few times. I was expecting someone younger to play a role traditionally associated with the title of “Maid”, as in, young maiden. It’s a bold choice for the role to be sure. Blanchett’s characters typically dominate the movies that she’s in. If she’s not the star, she’s a definite show stealer. You don’t get to be a multi-award winning, multi-Oscar nominee by being forever the wilting flower.
It seems that in most recent depictions of Robin Hood, Marian’s role has continued to grow. Over the years, she’s gone from being a helpless damsel in distress to an ass-kicking addition to the Sherwood Bandits, most notably the character’s turn as the Night Watchman in the latter 00’s BBC series.
If they’ve got Cate Blanchett playing the role, then Marian is going to be a very strong character. She may not physically kick ass when this movie drops, but she’s going to be a larger-than-life presence. Certainly no damsel in distress.
I hate the buzzword they’ve been using in the media to describe a race or gender being the first to do something, by the way. I fully support the idea behind it, I just hate the words used to describe it. I refuse to put those two words together out of irritation. If I did use that term, I would say that this character will be poised to inspire more women to *ahem* pressure the area at the top of a room which is made of transparent material until it is sufficiently destroyed.
My vow will not be broken.

The movie has mass explosive potential on both ends. Either it will blow up, or it’ll bomb. Either way, I’ll probably still end up seeing it, and not for the sociological reasons listed here. My wife and I love Robin Hood. We’re bound by pop-culture law to see it. Even if the thing does suck, it’ll still be worth it to see how Ridley Scott defines the characters for this decade. Good or bad, you can expect my honest opinion upon viewing.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Burn, Spidey, Burn

Apparently, the new rule in Hollywood is the ten year rule.
If your movie franchise’s first (just the first film, mind you) was ten or more years ago, you’re good to wipe the slate clean and start afresh with it. Now, I know I’ve bitched about rebooting before, but what is happening all of a sudden is completely ridiculous, out of hand, and without cause. Ok, I suppose it’s with cause, but that cause is of no concern to the fans or the avid movie-goer. It is solely a money thing. The main problem is we’re probably all going to be stupid enough to buy into it.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the trades, Sony recently announced that they are scrapping Spider-Man 4.
I have to admit, I wasn’t really disappointed in this announcement considering the travesty that called itself Spider-Man 3. Now, I less-than-three Sam Raimi as much as any other red blooded American Nerd, but you have to admit that movie sucked some pretty big sweaty balls in every area except for maybe special effects (though, Venom still looked like ass in my opinion). Hearing that there wouldn’t be any chance to degrade the franchise to a (dare I say it?) Batman and Robin level made me feel good. I could deal with a shitty third movie and call it a franchise without a problem.
I believe that canning Spidey 4 was probably the best move, even though they had all the pieces set up for another movie (showing Dr. Curt Conners in his one-armed glory for an entire scene would make the Lizard a very plausible villain choice). The franchise was pushing the campiness too hard where, with the first two movies, it was nearly believable.

Disaster averted, right? Hollywood won’t be burning down this franchise, right?

Within the same sentence as the cancellation of Spidey 4, Sony wandered away from the podium for a moment and came back with a few cans of gasoline, some matches, a few Molotov cocktails, and a flamethrower.
“Spider-Man,” they say, “Will continue! A complete reboot of the entire franchise, from top to bottom! Everyone is fired, we’re bringing in a whole new cast and starting with a whole new story. No Raimi, no Tobey, no Kirsten, no James Franco, and probably no J.K. Simmons, either. We’re going to give Spider-Man a new face starting from the very beginning.”
Of course, while they’re saying this, they’re surrounding the franchise with their well-paid men, armed to the teeth with incendiary devices. When the last sentence is uttered, the bonfire begins. Movie franchises can burn like tire dumps – long, hot, and toxic to just about everything.

Ever since, rumors have been swirling around the new Spider-Franchise, wondering who is going to direct, who’s going to star, what the plot will be, etc. Some are even excited about it, especially since giggly-girl and cougar-fodder Robert Pattinson has been mentioned for Peter Parker.

Really… It’s been ten years. Rather, it would be ten years if the movie stays on track for it’s anticipated summer 2012 release. That’s like marrying out of widowhood while you’re in the same room as your dying wife. And they’ve given her a good six months to live. These movies are so close together in time span that there isn’t even a chance to mourn the passing of one franchise before the next one begins.
I understand that Spidey rakes in the big-bucks. He’s the face of Marvel as much as Captain America, Iron Man, and Wolverine. He’s a cash cow whose teats never run dry and Sony, as long as they own the movie rights, will continue suckling at those teats until it becomes unprofitable to do so. We should expect nothing less from soulless beasts.

We, as a viewing public, will be expected to turn out in droves to attend and make it the biggest box-office opening of all time again. We, as a collective race of humans, probably will do just that, sadly enough.

Also in the works for a reboot is Fantastic Four. Ground-up redux. Ridiculous when you’ve already set up a third movie.

As far as movies go, my thoughts are if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it ain’t broke and you wanna soup it up, wait a little longer than 10 years. If it is broke and you want to fix it, wait a little longer than 10 years and then check again to see if it really is broke.
Batman was broke. Chris Nolan fixed it. Superman was broke. Brian Singer fixed it. Ang Lee just about demolished the Incredible Hulk before Louis Leterrier swooped in with Ed Norton to save it, salvage it, fix the broken parts, and get it all polished up for the Avengers Movie in 2012.

Was the Fantastic Four broke? Probably from the start, yes. Was Spidey broke? One more movie and it would have been destroyed.

But most flicks and franchises deserve some time to rest before we start a revival. If the actor who played the original character is still young and spry enough, sans makeup, to play that character again as if the plot picked up right where the last one left off, then you need to wait longer.
That was kind of convoluted, but it’s really what I wanted to say.

Hollywood needs to give things as chance to settle before they burn it down and start over. They may end up getting burned someday, but it apparently won’t be by any comic book restarts.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—