Friday, August 23, 2013

5 BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN Issues More Pressing Than the #Batfleck Hire

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment/DC Comics.  All rights reserved.

            For about 24 hours, Ben Affleck has been Bruce Wayne.  The reaction to the new resident of Wayne Manor has been decidedly mixed, from the indifferent to the livid to even suicidal.  Seriously, look it up on Facebook.  Am I thrilled with the hire?  Count me in the “indifferent” camp.
            While the casting of Bruce Wayne/Batman is over and controversial, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN has much, much greater issues.  I’ve got five.

1.      Screenplay/Small Production Window
MAN OF STEEL writer & THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy co-writer David Goyer will return.  Just one problem: there are no reports of a finished first draft.  And even if there were, the release date (July 17, 2015) is less than 23 months away.  So, if there are story issues (and just about major studio release ends up with some), there will be little time to fix them.
Once the script is finished, then you need to film, edit, market and screen the film.  An indie flick needs about 6 months to do all this.  But a big budget, potential blockbuster?  The production crew will be doing double-time to reach the release date.  Plus, I’m sure Warner Bros. and any potential companies with product tie-ins will want to see a final cut before July.  At worst, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will have to be done & in the can by Memorial Day weekend 2015.  That’s 21 months.  Good luck.

2.      Decrease of Christopher Nolan Involvement
For anyone who watched any of the trailers knows just how important Christopher Nolan to the marketing.  “From the Producer of The Dark Knight Trilogy” was about as large as the title itself.  Zack Snyder’s name was basically hidden.  From what I understood, Nolan was on the set & over Snyder’s shoulder for a good percentage of filming.
This time around, however, Christopher Nolan has downgraded himself to Executive Producer.  How far down the food chain did Nolan fall?  His name is not on the Warner Brothers press release announcing Affleck’s hiring.  Nolan will have his hands full with his new original idea INTERSTELLAR.  So he won’t be on set or in the editing room watching…

3.      Director Zack Snyder
Confession: I HATE Zack Snyder.  Hate him.  I think he has little talent or an eye for quality.  His best received movie by critics & audiences?  A horror remake.  His personal “best” to me:300.  And I wasn’t that impressed  The rest of his filmography?  The uneven WATCHMEN, the awful SUCKER PUNCH and the rightly forgotten movie about the owls. Yuck!
            Sure, I enjoyed MAN OF STEEL.  But how much of what I enjoyed was Zack Snyder unchained and how much was Snyder on Nolan’s leash?  Sadly, we won’t find out until you purchase your ticket in two years. 

4.      Expectations
This issue has two sides and one of the sides is a double edged sword.  The target audience to impress here aren’t Superman people. It’s Batman people.  The Dark Knight Trilogy, especially the middle film, outperformed beyond anyone’s fantasies.  The Batman fanbase is as large & as active as they are ever going to be.  Nolan & Bale, in the eyes of WB, quit on them.  Studios don’t quit when they are ahead; only when the well is out of stones that make up the well (See THE HANGOVER trilogy).  Batman folks are going to expect something special.  Most fans will show up but WB hopes everyone does.
            This is where the hiring of Ben Affleck gets interesting.  Hiring Affleck puts a bonafide movie star in a comic book movie.  But that begs the question: if it weren’t for the success & subsequent inclusion of Bruce Wayne/Batman, would the world get a MAN OF STEEL sequel?  Would MAN OF STEEL have gone by way of SUPERMAN RETURNS?  This situation just screams that WB has little to no confidence in Superman.

5.      Every Other Summer 2015 Release
A few weeks ago, Brad Brevet wrote about the stacked schedule already for summer of 2015.  There will be a bloodbath at the box office.  Such potential blockbusters include STAR WARS VII, THE AVENGERS: ULTRON, PIRATES 5, ID4 II, JURASSIC PARK IV, MOCKINGJAY PART DEUX, BOND 24, FINDING DORY...  The list is endless.
            After the disaster that was the summer of 2013, the number of movies that will fail to reach a large audience in two summers with that slate may be higher than the number that succeed. 

BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will be successful.  But with all these pre-production issues, Warner Brothers needs to hope bad press stays away.  Now that Affleck’s reputation is at an all-time high and with a majority of the fanboy backlash out of the way, it probably won’t be an issue.  Probably.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Spectacular Now

I do not own the above image.  Copyright 21 Laps Entertainment.  All rights reserved.

            Every once in a while, a movie comes around that I don’t want to talk about before you see it.  A movie so special that referencing a single detail almost feels like spoiling the experience.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is that.  If you’re like me & want to know as little as possible, trust me: go see this!
            Sutter (Teller) is lost in adolescence.  The product of a divorced home, Sutter has all the social pressures (partying, relationships) and academic issues we did at 17.  When Sutter meets classmate Aimee (Woodley), surely his life is turned completely upside down.  Luckily, the answer is no.
            Screenwriters Michael Weber & Scott Neustadter of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER fame understand that not everyone in the movie-going public is stupid.  They know that clichés & genre tropes are overplayed like “Blurred Lines”.  So just like they did with SUMMER, TSN goes against the grain.  Director James Ponsoldt’s film, based on a novel by Tim Tharp, is something I’ve never seen before: a teenage borderline dark comedy.  Many random chuckles were had by the preview audience.  Yours truly?  Not so much.  I just sat there for the entire 95 minute runtime with a slight frown the entire time.  TSN has a complete tent of depression on top of it.  Alcoholism
            But why only slight frown?  Simply, this movie is wonderful.  The teenagers (played by twenty-somethings) act & talk like teenagers.  The romance feels quite organic.  Every character’s relationship to each other has real sense of authenticity to them.  The two leads are perfect in their roles.  The supporting cast, including a cameo from one certain overlooked “football coach”, is superb.
            Best of all are the little things.  Little things that blockbusters or horny teenager or cookie-cutter rom-coms don’t dare have.  There is a simple dialogue scene that lasts over 2 minutes.  There are no interruptions, no fireworks and it’s done in a single shot.  What was the longest single shot in IRON MAN 3 or THE AVENGERS?  The average ticket buyer gets bored way too easily for shots like that.  Sutter & Aimee make love.  Notice I didn’t say have sex.  In the movies, when two people jump into bed together, usually you see clothes throw all over the place, breasts are shown (if the actress is ample & young enough) and the guy dances beforehand.  Here, the shot is simple.  Just two people in love, in bed, just talking.  Then the clothes slowly come off, they make-out, contraception is discussed…  In other words, this is a real love scene.  Nothing in this movie is sugar-coated.
I can’t say that the “L” word for any element or the film as a whole but TSN certainly entertained the heck out of me.  It’s a film about teenagers but not a “teen movie”.  It has romance but it’s not a “chick flick”.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is a “human film”: the kind of movie that works on all levels and is for all (age appropriate) mankind.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


I do not own the above image.  Copyright Relativity Media. All right reserved.

par·a·noi·a   [par-uh-noi-uh]
1. Psychiatry. A mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.

2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.

            Above is the definition of paranoia.  PARANOIA has little to do with paranoia.  Sure Adam (Hemsworth) is paranoid for about 10 minutes in the second-to-third act bridge, but not nearly enough for PARANOIA.
            Adam has just lost his & 4 co-workers’ jobs at Wyatt Corporation.  After a night out on the town with a company credit card, Adam is “rehired” by Wyatt (Oldman) to commit corporate by spying on rival Eikon, run by Wyatt’s frenemy Jock Goddard (Ford).  To complicate things, one of Adam’s co-workers is Emma (Heard), his one night stand during his night out.
            Cutting to the chase, PARANOIA is the worst kind of movie: a boring movie.  Name a cliché and this movie has it.  Kinetic dance club scene?  Check.  Seeing the love interest across a loud, crowded room?  Yes.  Shady guy in a track suit in a bar scene?  Of course.  Bedroom scenes where they cover themselves up as to retain the PG-13 rating?  Si.  God awful dialogue?  During all 100 minutes.
            PARANOIA has little to offer in the relationship department.  The best one is Hemsworth/Dreyfuss as father/son, but since everyone over 30 is phoning it in, it’s nothing to write online about.  Oldman’s Wyatt is written so blandly that even he despises himself and Ford’s Goddard has a weird thing going with his cell phones.  Heard’s Emma is nothing more than set decoration.  She & Hemsworth are a couple simply because they are the two prettiest & horniest people on screen.
            I have to say it: Liam Hemsworth, unlike older brother Chris, is not leading man material.  He’s not Taylor Lautner terrible, but there is nothing there beyond average line delivery & facial expressions.  Hemsworth is who he will always be know as: third-fiddle to JLaw & JHutch in THE HUNGER GAMES.
            I spent the entire movie wondering who was paranoid to satisfy the title.  It’s obviously not Wyatt or Goddard.  What do the villains have to be worried about?  Sure Adam’s dad is worried about his emphysema, but paranoid, not really.  Adam’s BFF?  He’s a throwaway character, so no.  As I said before, Emma is completely useless, so not her.
It has to be Adam.  But Adam only freaks out after finding out the apartment Wyatt gives him is bugged like Fort Knox.  But what about when Wyatt tells him he knew Adam spent $1,600 in one night?  Or the time Adam was discovered in the middle of New York by Wyatt to escort him to the “interview”?  Maybe the “answer my calls without exception” rule would have raised red flags.  At the very least, the realization that Wyatt KNEW HIS EVERY MOVE AND WAS LISTENING TO EVERY WORD AND INFULTRATED HIS HOUSE would be the tipping point.  Nope, the Big Brother apartment crossed the line.  Then, all is mostly forgotten after one scene in the park.  That is, of course, if it isn’t the audience who suffers.  Were we duped into seeing another bad, would-be star making movie?  Maybe I’ve been suffering from paranoia for almost a decade…
So why a half star instead of zero?  To quote Richard Roeper reviewing THE HOT CHICK, “It’s in color.  And it’s mostly in focus.”  The cliché record keeping was a blast in retrospect.
            PARANOIA is like a car you can win on The Price is Right.  There is just enough story to be considered a movie.  But if you’re looking for any “extras” like power windows or any actual thrills, you’re out of luck.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We're the Millers

I do not own the above image. Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures. All rights reserved.

                Let’s say you’re a drug dealer in Colorado.  You’ve just lost your entire stash and funds.  You’re in deep.  But you’re offered a chance to break even with your supplier if you trek down to Mexico to retrieve more drugs.  What do you do?  You hire a stripper, a runaway and a nerd in your building to pose as your family to retrieve the “smidge” of pot.
            That’s exactly what David Clark (Sudekis) does.  With the newly single/unemployed/homeless stripper Rose (Aniston), teen runaway Casey (Roberts), nerdy, virgin hanger-on Kenny (Poulter) and a brand new RV, they travel together, masquerading as a family.  Their mission is simple: sneak into Mexico, get the stash and sneak back to Colorado.
            The journey is far from simple.  The “Miller family” battles other drug kingpins over the deal.  They also constantly run into a typical Midwest American family anchored by Ron Swanson (fine, Nick Offerman).  Not to mention, David deals with his extremely uncooperative drug lord and his increasing ridiculous requests.
            I know, 150+ words but I never answer the all important question: Is it funny?  Simply put, yes and at times, uproariously funny.  But don’t let the “family” element fool you, WE’RE THE MILLERS earns its ‘R’ rating.  Swearing out the wazoo with innuendos every 90 seconds on average, WE’RE THE MILLERS has a perfect situation for an ‘R’ rating, unlike another ‘R’ rated “comedy” in 2013, whose IDENTITY shall remain unknown.
            Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber of DODGEBALL fame, MILLERS does lag for a while multiple times.  The introductions to the primary villains are almost minimal but the villains themselves are rather pathetic.  I am not against a movie having multiple antagonists, but they must be of quality & near equal in terror.  A gag reel straight out of the mid/late 90’s, while featuring the two biggest laughs of the night, lessened the preceding movie.
            Luckily, there are plenty of laughs to garner a recommendation.  The material, especially anything involving the bad guys, falters occasionally; but when a movie surprises me, I admit it.  I had zero expectations.  It’s a comedy and I laughed, a lot.  Enough said.


Monday, August 5, 2013


I do not own the above image. Copyright Levrock Pictures.  All rights reserved.

                I have reached the next level in my amateur film critic hobby-dom.  A few weeks ago, I got an email from an independent movie studio executive asking me to review his movie.  When I could, I watched it with my wife.  During the whole 82 minute runtime, I felt conflicted.  Conflicted about how the professionals do this.  How are they able to write reviews of movies they are given?  How are they able to be truthful about a movie that they know the person who sent you the movie WILL be reading their review?  Are they able to really beat down a bad movie?  Is this something I have to learn as I embark on this odyssey of film criticism?  Here goes nothing.
            WILD GIRL WALTZ has the basics of being a decent comedy.  Two young women are bored on a picturesque New England summer day.  They decide to each take a drug one of the women got from a co-worker.  They start tripping out.  Their boyfriend/brother has to make sure they survive.  Surely this is going allow hilarity to ensue?  Not really.
            I have a theory about movie comedies.  There is a realism spectrum for comedies.  On one end you have “100% realistic” on the other is “100% absurdly ridiculous”.  To be a successful comedy, you should be close to either end of the spectrum but not on the edge.  Most Wes Anderson movies are on the realistic end of the spectrum, while most other modern successful comedies are on the ridiculous end.  Right in the middle, you have Adam Sandler movies and you know how those are.  WILD GIRL WALTZ starts at around 65% absurd but moves closer to the center quickly.
            Don’t get me wrong, I remember laughing.  After a (very) rough start, there are 20 nice minutes where the three main characters do some interesting things.  I started writing this review about 7 hours after it ended.  I just don’t remember one thing I laughed at.
I also don’t remember laughing at all during the last 55 minutes.  All I remember is sitting on my futon, just like I am now, and have nothing to positively react to.  WGW is full of little scenes that make little to no sense while they happen and look like terrible SNL skits afterwards.  An early scene deals with the girls’ “babysitter” trying to collect a debt.  The debt is never mentioned again.  Another scene involves a woman being knocked out for attempting to steal from the guy’s truck.  Makes little sense and doesn’t advance the plot.  The movie also goes on a love story tangent ala FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF.  It worked there, but doesn’t here.
            But for those 20 glorious minutes, the movie tries and somewhat succeeds.  There is plenty of potential here.  This looks more professional than most current blockbusters.  The material & consistency just isn’t there.  WILD GIRL WALTZ just deflates like a cheap beach ball.  Then suffocates you with its dullness.