Everybody Shut Up, Oliver Stone Has An Opinion

Everybody Shut Up, Oliver Stone Has An Opinion

Apparently, it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt Month.

We’re going to talk about Snowden which is a shitty reboot of the delightful and astonishing Citizen Four.  I liked the movie, and have deep political opinions about the whole thing, but from that first sentence and the titles, you can tell where your intrepid author is at about this.

JGL is once again, great.  He does a very solid Edward Snowden impression, to the point that when the real Snowden shows up, there is a moment of uncanny valley. The story is decent and well displayed.  Much of it is either true or at least needs to be true for the narrative that the movie is trying to tell.  These are not truth.

Snowden is complicated

and is more complicated because of Oliver Stone. Stone is known for a bit of a political leaning, and a bit of screaming very loudly whatever opinion he has about what is going on as loudly as he can directly into your eye holes.  In a movie with a brilliant, subtle performance by an actor who does great work, we also have characters that loom over him, Big Brother style, Nic Cage at his most unhinged and unrestrained, and stereotypes about nerds.  Stone deeply believes that Snowden is a hero and a patriot.

And that’s my major problem with the movie.  I think that it’s more complicated than that.  I think that Snowden did the right thing, at least from my political perspective, but I also understand the arguments against him.  He did have an effect on the world, and people working with his data may have not been as responsible as they could have been with it.  I can appreciate that it is a heroes story, but a little nuance, a little doubt, a little anxiety afterwards would be greatly appreciated.

When you have Nic Cage giving the kid a pat on the back, after an unhinged performance, you gotta go back and look at it.

In the long run…

Just watch Citizen Four.  It’s a better film.  It has better moments of tension.  Snowden is great background material, and can be added to your understanding of the superior film, but trusting it too much would be like trusting the US government to not spy on American citizens after 9/11.  Too political?  Yeah, maybe.  I’ll just shut up now.


“I Don’t Want You To” 

I caught a movie that I wasn’t anticipating on HBO this week. The movie is called The Crash Reel. It’s a brutal and insane look into a human being’s addiction to action sports and the lifestyle and problems that come with it. I quite enjoyed it. You should check it out. 

I wanted to talk briefly about the documentary format, because I think it is an interesting avenue for filmmaking. The question if what makes a good documentary has puzzled me for a long time. It’s actually one of the most elusive ideas, not only because the judgement of the fineness of a product is subjective, but also because it requires so much for a documentary to be good. 

A documentary has a ton of different moving peices. First off, you need to have a subject. Your subject is going to require interest and a good story. The best subjects have a story or journey that they are already on. They have to agree to show their whole lives in a camera. They need to be exposed and real. They have to create a world with their own action. 

Then, you need to have something happen. Something goes wrong. Something requires more and more space. Someone has to make a change. And it is in that turn that things become interesting.

Kevin Pearce was a major snowboarder, who participated at the highest levels, hit his head very hard, and struggled to recover. We watch someone’s livelihood and personality change and be destroyed. We see the world that he lives in. We hear from other stars and the people he came up with. His family, friends, and others. 

We see how people are destroyed by the injuries, and yet how these people are so devoted and desirous of these lifestyle. They want to get higher and do it better, and yet… 

It’s a shattering documentary. You see people at their lowest. You see relationship shops broken by damage and by people who have decided to dedicate themselves to pushing themselves. You can see their devotion and dedication. And you see them get destroyed. 

This is not a political blog, and this isn’t a blog that is devoted to that kind of discussion, and I am not a health professional. Please, don’t hit your head over and over. I know that the most exciting things can happen when you are on the edge, but God, I want to take care of you. Please, take care of yourself.  

Bv.S or Go Watch Fury Road Again, Friends

Bv.S or Go Watch Fury Road Again, Friends

Editors Note:

This was the first review I wrote long form.  I wanted to put it up today for two reasons, I’m proud of it, and I didn’t write anything over the last week or so.  So here we go!

So, today I went to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’ll probably get into spoilers for this, but I think that this is the last Zach Snyder thing that I can possibly see myself watching. It sucks that I was so right in my predictions of how joyless and depressing this movie was, and how easily it could have been avoided. So, if you don’t want spoilers, they end here. It’s not “the worst thing ever” and it’s not “good” in any sense. It’s mediocre, and wears it’s mediocrity as if it is the greatest thing ever, and as Immortan Joe has shown us, mediocrity is worth nothing. So, spoiler country lies ahead.

I wanted to talk about this because I think that Superman vs. Batman could be a great thing. It could be a fun, enjoyable, interesting look at a superhero movie, that shows what happens when the Dark Knight of Gotham meets the Boy Scout of Metropolis. It’s not going too far to say that the meeting of these two individuals is essentially the rock upon which comics church is based.

But I don’t think Zach Snyder has ever actually watched a movie that makes sense, or read a great comic that wasn’t also a best seller. Yes, Mr. Snyder, we get it. You read the last 25 pages of the Dark Knight Returns and think that you got it. And you read the Wikipedia article about the Death of Superman. I have also read those things. If we both have read them, they must be good, right!?

No. That’s not right. The Dark Knight Returns fight between Batman and Superman is established by several comics worth of set up. Batman doesn’t just hate Superman because he could potentially be a threat to the world, as shown through dream sequences of all things. Batman and Superman square off because they have differing approaches and different upbringings. Superman literally bows down to the government in the comics, which sends Batman into retirement. The entire storyline is Batman coming out of retirement, older, slower, and more willing to hurt people (and yet, he still attempts to follow his golden rule, of do not kill, something that the brief skimming of the comic wouldn’t make apparent).

The Death of Superman sold like crazy because it was a shocking event that DC sold as the killing off of one of their most important properties. This was in the early 90s, when comic book collections were starting to sell for a great deal of money, and people were into collecting them. The briefest glimpse at the hype surrounding it would show you that the story line was interesting, but not because watching Superman die was such a fun time, but because it shook up the world. Superman was always seen as the ultimate deterrent in the DC universe. If he was intervening, things had gotten truly bad, but dying wasn’t ever what you expected from him. Shock value is not that character.

But, hey, that comic stuff is for nerds, right? That kind of analysis doesn’t do film justice. I mean, Tony Stark wasn’t in a cave in Afghanistan in the comics. Film franchises are based on the idea that you steal whatever surface level ideas you could get from the comics and then build on top of it whatever movies you want to, right Marvel? Marvel? Are you going to give Zack a high five or what? Don’t leave him hanging! (This is not what makes Marvel Movies work. Marvel movies use iconic characters in no win situations overcoming things, and yet giving a shit about the people around them, and not in the “Well, this part of the city is deserted, so it’s okay to blow up entire swaths of a manufacturing district” way.)

The Good

Affleck is the bomb. Seriously. Affleck might be my favorite portrayal of Batman on film. He’s probably only second to Kevin Conroy from the Animated Series. Affleck does everything he needs to with actual movie star charisma, puts every single acting choice on the screen, and conveys more in his voice than any other Batman on film. I genuinely loved his performance, and would have been excited if this was a film only about him.

I liked Affleck witnessing the street level destruction of Man of Steel. I felt like it gave it the weight that the former movie needed, with the ludicrous amount of civilian death that had to happen for that fight scene to make sense. He looks older and tired, and pissed. It’s great!

Alfred was decent, and they didn’t even have to take him out of the Batcave set.

Eisenberg does his level best to fucking lighten up these proceedings. My God, he has the most brutal time of it, but he gives a unique take on Lex Luthor, and given the direction and material, I quite enjoyed what he did with it. He turns the quirk up to 11, which could get annoying if he wasn’t the only person on the screen that seemed to have a plan. It’s a dumb plan, for dumb people, that will essentially result in the complete and utter destruction of whatever cinders he wants to rule at the end of it, but whatever, it’s a Luthor plan. Luthor plans involve Otisville usually, and that’s fine with me. Nowhere near as good as Affleck, but I get where he is coming from.

Also, Wonder Woman is surprisingly effective in a fight, and holds her own among the boys, actually (in my opinion) contributing more to the final fight than Batman. Which is great! Wonder Woman should be that bad ass.

The Bad

The Plot, or what would be called the plot if the movie had one. Inner eight year old, what is the plot of this movie?

Batman’s family dies in an alleyway again. (Jesus Christ, more on this later.) So we know he is serious about fighting crime. Then, Batman in his Bruce Wayne flesh mask goes to Metropolis during the end of Man of Steel and watches as his building is cut the fuck up by the Snyderian symphony of destruction that was the end of Man of Steel. (Wow, eight year old me is quite eloquent.) He concludes that Superman is a dick hole for blowing a city the fuck up, after saving a guy who got his legs trapped under a steel beam. Then he saves a girl and watches superman fuck up another building. A year and a half later. Batman is angry at superman, and has determined that the best way to figure it out is to figure out who is importing a “dirty bomb” that is actually kryptonite. Lex Luthor wants the us government to give him Zod’s body and access to the ship that crashed in the middle of metropolis. Also, metropolis is right next door to gotham. Lex manipulates them into fighting, and blows up congress around Superman right before he testifies, which makes him go on a spirit quest to a mountain to talk to his dad. Lex kidnaps his mom and Lois, pushes Lois off a heliport, gets his attention and tells Supes to fight Batman and bring him his head in an hour. Batman beats the everloving shit out of Superman, and is about to kill him with a kryptonite spear, when he says their safe word, “Martha”, and Batman is forced to reboot after BSODing. Then Lex births Doomsday, who Superman kills with the spear, killing himself in the process. Then superman isn’t dead because they Inception top his grave, showing dirt rising off of his casket. The end…?

That’s the shortest version I can do. What I didn’t mention is Wonder Woman, who is in the movie to not wear a bra and seem like she is going to skip the battle, but doesn’t. The Flash, who appears in a “dream” telling Bruce that he was right about him all along and that he came too soon, and then beats the shit out of a guy without dropping a bottle of milk on a security camera, and Jason Momoa, confirming what we already knew, which is that Aquaman is lame and looks hilariously stupid menacing the shit out of robots. We also find out that Cyborg was a third of a torso, a head and a arm kept alive by the black guy from Eureka (you’re a great actor, Joe Morton. Why did they drag you into this?), and was reanimated by what can only be described as the fucking All Spark from the other Dicks to Sense, Let’s Make Splosions director of our day.

I didn’t mention that you can make Kryptonite scalpels to peel off the fingerprints to activate Kryptonian machinery, which is a thing that happens. I didn’t mention that our main antagonist, recruits the guy who got his legs cut off and is justifiably pissed about Superman screwing his life up to be a suicide bomber in the Capitol building. I didn’t mention that this suicide bomber is revealed when a sitting junior Democratic senator from Kentucky smells pee in a mason jar that was put in front of her, which is labeled with an idiom that she said to Lex Luthor scenes ago. I didn’t mention Batman’s sexy ass crossfit WOD in the middle of the movie, or Superman irresponsibly overflowing a tub to protect Amy Adams’ modesty, or that Superman apparently stood by while a CIA mole was executed in front of Amy Adams, but intervened when she was in danger. I didn’t mention the two dream sequences that Batman has, where Batman sees a fucking demon from hell come out of his mother’s bleeding casket, or where Batman turns into bad ass Malcolm Reynolds with a cowl, and executes like 15 people before being inundated with mantis creatures who stop him, before Superman executes two prisoners who have been chained up in cold blood, and then the Flash might or might not tell him some stuff. I am still not done listing things I didn’t mention. This “plot” is fucking insane.

Hey, I didn’t even mention that the entire movie hinges around the fact that “They are going to kill Martha” is said out loud at a critical point. Cool line, right? Except it’s Superman’s mom, who he has called mom, and hasn’t really called Martha as far as I remember in the movies so far, but fuck it, it BSODs Batman and that is what the plot needs.

Or that to prevent Batman ever killing Superman, Amy Adams throws away the weapon that will stop him, and then psychically goes to get it, then almost drowns, then is saved by Superman, who then almost drowns because of Kryptonite, and is saved by Amy Adams throwing the weapon away.

Or that Pa Kent tells his son in a “dream sequence/spirit quest/message from beyond the grave” about the time he saved his own farm to only drown a shitload of horses on another farm, which inspires him to… come back and be a hero again?

Or that, the one true moment of hilarious levity comes when Ma Kent says that she knows Batman is friends with her son because he is wearing a cape. Which makes you hopeful that they know what they are doing after sad sad sad for two hours, and then the only other intentional laugh comes along and it is upstaged by music, and was revealed in the trailer (I thought she was with you [HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AREN’T WE CLEVER!]).

Or, hey, how about the fact that Batman kills like 50 people. And when I say kills, I mean kills. No dream sequence. No rubber bullets. Kills. He opens up with a Gatling gun from his airplane to shoot people. He blows up vehicles. He dive bombs his car through a truck, after his car (no joke) just went through a brick wall like butter. There is a person standing on that side of the truck. That person is dead because of Batman’s direct actions. And, best of all, Batman shoots a man’s flamethrower backpack with a fucking gun, and dives to save Martha Kent from the fire, killing two people. Straight up. Killing them, with the barest Rube Goldberg explanation that, well actually, it was the explosion that killed them.

Or, man, what about whatever genius screenwriter who figured out that as long as you say that parts of the city are deserted, obviously it’s okay to destroy huge swaths of it.

Or that over the express advice of the military, the president nukes doomsday and Supes in orbit, with nary a mention of the potential consequences of such an action. No fucking janitors ever work nights in Metropolis, as far as Anderson Cooper knows!

Or shit, Charlie fucking Rose, of interrupting people to ask his fucking self important questions on PBS fame, and Andy Coop, and Soledad O’Brien and Nancy ‘Screaming Opinions [Remember When Ben Affleck Was In That Movie That Made Fun Of My Journalism]’ Grace lend their talents to this. Neal DeGrasse Tyson is in this movie.

Or hey, that Thomas Wayne takes a swing at the guy who is currently pointing a gun at his family. He takes a swing at him, directly resulting in the guy shooting him. Instead of it being a tragedy, where he tried to comply and the incompetent robber destroyed Bruce’s world, no, we need him to fucking show that he’s a man and fuck that guy up.

Oh, and how did the pearl necklace that is a part of the Batman mythos end up on the ground? It got caught , on the gun, between the hammer and the pin. Seriously. It was inside of the hammer, so Martha Wayne was shot at point blank range. Luckily she was shot with one of those bullets that doesn’t do a ton of damage, so we could still see her face when Thomas ‘Fighting Jack Murphy’ Wayne calls her name for the last moment of his life.

I can keep going, but I think you get it. Oh wait, one more, Laurence Fishbourne, a newspaper editor, isn’t interested in a story about a man who dresses up like a bat and is terrorizing criminals in a city that is adjacent to his. What? That’s newspaper gold. Wait, this guy has been doing it for 20 years and no one figured it out? What? Oh, and he calls him Smallville, which is hilarious until you remember that that town was flattened 18 months ago by monsters from outer space. And then, you start agreeing with Lex Luthor that both of these heroes sort of deserve to get what is coming to them.

It’s so hard to stop. Because every choice makes no sense. Everything serves the purpose of the camera. Everything is for the coolest shot possible, not the necessary shot.

Everything is based on getting to the next action set piece, but not in a fun Avengers sort of way, but in a depressing Man of Steel sort of way.


Fury Road was great. It was fun to watch, it had action and adventure. Go watch that.


You want me to talk about what I have written?


This movie is mediocre. Affleck gives a great performance, and in the right hands, a Batman movie with him would be fun as fuck to watch. He moves brutally, and conveys a world weariness that really sells the character. Cavil looks like he just realized that being a hero is boring and he wants to go fuck supermodels, and every heroic action looks like he is genuinely constipated. I think this is a directors choice. Lois Lane is pointless. The Kents make a contractual appearance. Eisenberg twitches up the screen, but at least gives a performance.

The movie is so concerned with looking cool, it forgets that Superman is cool because he is ultimately powerful AND GOOD. He’s a GOOD GUY. He acts to save everyone, to the point of everyone thinking he is too good! When you have him standing at the center of a suicide bomb, at the US Capitol Building, and then going on a vision quest, it seems a lot like he doesn’t give a shit about anything. Remember Truth, Justice and the American way? Well, I hope you like watching Captain America, because that is the only place that you are going to get it. And if you think that GOOD GUY doesn’t work anymore, Cap is actually doing it. He has attempted to save peoples lives. He keeps the collateral as low as he can. And he gives a shit about people, and tries to save all of them. And he can’t. He can’t save all of them, and it looks like it hurts him that he can’t. Superman is supposed to try to save everyone. Remember? He got cats out of trees between burning buildings. He is the pinnacle of good.

Batman doesn’t kill people. It’s not his place to be the executioner. I know you saw Batman Begins, because Nolan sat you down to see it, Mr. Snyder. He doesn’t kill people because he witnessed his family getting killed on a street. I know you saw that, because you had to do it again. And also make it more violent, and way more ambiguous.

So, I’m done with Snyder. 300 was a fun myth thing that worked. Watchmen was visually accurate and missed the point entirely. Sucker Punch (loses consciousness, drifts in a haze for days, finds corporeal self and consumes it, like an oroboros). Man of Steel was the 6 year old power fantasy with zero consequences that Superman didn’t deserve. And now Batman v. Superman (it’s so fucking pretentious to me that it is v. I don’t know why that bugs me so much, but Jesus it does) is the grey brown nightmare that concludes my watching of the DC universe. Have a great time making the Flash brood quickly, guys. I’ll catch it on HBO.

Who is excited for Civil War, am I right? I’m excited to see colors on screen!

Parasyte is the greatest anime ever Part 1-A: I Sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world

I’m going to be diving deep into spoilers from here on out so watch out if that kind of thing is important to you

Continue reading “Parasyte is the greatest anime ever Part 1-A: I Sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world”

The Campy Space Opera That We Deserve, Not The One We Need

The Campy Space Opera That We Deserve, Not The One We Need

Talk Franchise To Me, Baby

My history with the chronicles of Richard B. Riddick is a long and loving one.  I love these movies.  All of them.  It’s okay that you don’t love all of them, and it’s okay that you’re not into how weird the middle one got, and how the last one was the same movie that the first one was (in a lot of respects, even though I disagree).  The Riddick movies are a great example of what a cool, personal, and ever evolving franchise should be, and I think, over time, they will be reevaluated as better movies than you remembered.  These are not art films.  They are not filmed to be particularly moving.  They are great for a totally different reason.

I have been a Vin Diesel fan for a long time, which is something that lots of people find odd about me.  I appreciate his dedication to working hard, hustling for movies, and making movies that bring him joy.  As an actor, he has played some interesting roles, and Torreto from the Fast and Furious movies.  Now, for a controversial statement, the FF franchise is one of the best in the world at what it does.  It is shallow, stupid, has dumb as bricks plots, and will vicerally excite you if you buy into it’s stupid premises.  Every frame is designed to be as testosterone driven and insane as possible, and I love that about them.

Weirdly, I hear of the Riddick films as testosterone driven murder porn, in the same vein as FF.  This, I believe, is false.  The Riddick films have some of the best world building, interesting premises, and weirdest ideas that you will ever see in a mainstream movie.  They are a space opera, set in a dirty future world, where the entire universe is a frontier, and we are focused on the small stories of a brutal survivor in a harsh and terrible future.

Yeah, you didn’t think I was going to make it sounds like that, did you?  It’s a movie about Vin being awesome right?  Sure, there is some Vin being awesome stuff in there, but for a wider view, let’s look at the history of the space opera.

What is a space opera?

I am glad you asked, heading me.  A space opera is defined as a story that is set in space (duh), having the qualities of an opera (also, duh).  The world of space is given weight, with people and creatures interacting on multiple worlds, creating a gigantic backdrop for the stories that are going to be told.  Each world is defined by it’s differing characteristics, and this allows the universe to constantly be expanded, confronting new challenges and ideas.

The opera part of space opera refers to the kinds of stories that are told.  The stories are those of great people in terrible situations, overcoming, changing, and defying the odds to triumph.  The stories are huge, fighting gigantic battles and moving from planet to planet, creating worlds that matter, but they also are focused on characters who are dedicated to their own goals and ideas.

(And now, for my favorite sentence I will ever write) Let’s talk about Star Wars. I love Star Wars. I love the extended universe, I love the original trilogy, and I love The Force Awakens.  I love the ideas that Star Wars cultivates, and I love the worlds that it is on.  Let’s write about Star Wars without all of the space stuff.

A young man discovers that he is the inheritor to a great power, is called to fight a greater fight, he meets interesting people, learns to control his power, and with the help of his friends, overcomes huge odds, using his power, to destroy a huge threat to his world.  He joins a small power, helps that revolution through his action, learns more about his power, and confronts his opposite, and fails.  After he fails, he learns more about himself, confronts the evil, and through his will, guile, smarts and power, defeats it.

That’s a story.  It’s not a new story. It’s just a good solid base for a story.  What makes Star Wars great, in my opinion, is that that is just one story that is going on at the same time.  There is also the ambivalent rogue, who discovers that running at the first sight of trouble isn’t the path to getting what he wants, and his growth and change to become a better person through love and compassion.  There is the terrible villain who decides to change his ways from hate and fear in his final moments.  There is the love interest who is more than just a love interest, who is clear-headed and driven for a goal that she wants.  There are two observers who are more important than they realize.  There is the ultimate evil, tempting and sewing dissent at every turn.

Each part of Star Wars is designed to get you thinking about who you want to be.  These characters persist in culture because they create impressions of who they are, make choices that are defined by those character traits, and eventually overcome weakness to be greater than they are.  Star Wars is the kind of movie that makes people feel things.

Additionally, the Star Wars universe is designed to be intriguing.  Every one of the bounty hunters that Vader hires on the Devestator (his Star Destroyer) is an interesting design and looks like they have a story from before that moment in time.  When someone sees the Mos Eisley cantina scene for the first time, you get a glimpse of a couple of different stories that you could follow through, that Luke and Obi-wan are just one story in this universe.  We see ancillary stories end, like Greedo’s, on camera.  We hear about other things that you could do in the universe (Kessel run, “I have death sentences on twelve systems”, the band, “We don’t serve their kind in here”). We hear about the Jedi, the Clone Wars, and we think to ourselves of stories that could be told about them.

This is the power of the space opera.  Let’s move on before I write another 6000 words about Star Wars.

Why is Riddick like that for me?

Well, first off, we’re talking about three movies.  Let’s deal with them in order.


Pitch Black is an odd little horror film set in a space opera enviroment.  If you’ve never seen the film, what’s wrong with you, but I’ll do a quick story recap.  A group of people are travelling on a ship together, and the ship breaks up over a charted, but out of the way planet.  When it crashes, the survivors realize that the planet was once colonized, has breathable air, and set about trying to figure out a way to signal for a rescue.  The planet is odd, seemingly peaceful, but after a couple of people are killed and it is discovered that there are creatures who are hurt by light, the planet moves into alignment with the three suns of the system, creating a feeding frenzy from the creatures who live below the surface.  There is a workable ship, but the survivors must band together to get home.  They are picked off one by one, until there are only a few remaining, and eventually, they reach the ship, and some of them escape.

Not a complex story.  Well, as usual, it’s in the details.  These people are moving from one place to another for odd reasons.  We have a miner, looking for work.  We have a man and his two sons on the hajj.  We have the co-pilor, who was going to jettison the passengers before the crash.  We have a young boy.  We have a cop. We have an antiquities dealer. And we have Riddick.

Pitch Black lives and dies on Riddick’s presence.  Riddick is the center of the movie, because it seems like he is the threat at the beginning.  Everything we hear about him suggests that he is going to be the horror movie villain, taking the people one by one.  And yet, he ends up being much more of an anti-hero than a villain in the film.  His decisions and ideas are important to survival, and over time, it’s revealed that he actually has a moral code.  He kills the cop, but the cop wants to kill a girl to provide bait for the creatures.  He mourns the loss of the actual hero of the movie.  He is the character with the biggest arc in the movie.

The movie is also visually stunning.  The creature designs are unique, in that the creatures have no eyes, sense through heat, and are damaged by light.  This gives the director David Twohy, the ability to play with colors as markers of distance and time.  We start with ever present light, and slowly lose it to up the tension.  The bottleneck scene is incredibly tense from start to finish, and the light enhances that. The use of color is also glorious, and the film uses its smaller budget to create amazing terror in darkness.  You never know where an attack might come from, because outside of the light is all dangerous.

Additionally, there are suggestions of a larger world.  Old Earth is still a thing, as well as France.  The Hajj is a space faring trip.  Mercenaries and miners have jobs.  People who pilot ships are prized.  There are police, prisons, and more.  The world feels lived in.  People strike out to find new worlds.  If you kill people, get sent to a prison where the sun never shines, you can get a surgical shine job that lets you see in the dark.  Not only is this awesome, this is the start of a space opera.

Building a Bigger World

Chronicles of Riddick is much more in line with a traditional space opera. Riddick is brought back into the action because someone put a price on his head.  He has been out of the universe for some time, but he is tracked down by mercenaries.  He finds the imam from the first movie, runs into Judy Dench as an elemental (sort of an oracle and air being, having statistical based calculation powers) and fights the Necromonger army.  The necromongers are an inspired villian, bringing people into eternal half life, creating a zombie army with a hierarchical structure that is based on “keeping what you kill.”

The worlds span interesting ideas.  There is an ice world, a world so close to the sun that the surface is scorched every time it faces it, a prosperous world being devoured by the necromonger fleet. The beings are well designed, creating interesting characters, and memorable people to run into.  We see more of the universe.

Riddick starts as an anti-hero and suffers a great tragedy in losing his protege and friend from the first film, who he distanced himself from to keep her safe, only to find her in the same position as him.  He ends this movie on the throne, ruling the necromongers as a living person.  The world expands.  We wonder what his next moves are.

Karl Urban (who is a solid actor and does good work in almost every movie I have seen him in [DREDD]) does a lot of heavy lifting in this movie, acting as our character inside the necromongers.  He is ambitious, doubtful, and trying to achieve his own goals.  He has risen through the ranks.  His wife, played by the glorious Thandie Newton, has her own turn as his Lady Macbeth.  She is ambitious, sees the way to move up in the society, and chews scenery.

The Lord Marshal of the necromongers, played by Colm Feore, is revealed to be a genocidal maniac, fearful of prophecy and deeply committed to his stated goal, which is bringing about a necromonger empire.  They have their own beliefs and thoughts, and Riddick becomes a thorn in his side.

Riddick is also given greater depth.  He is revealed to be the last of the Furyans, a race that was wiped out by the necromongers.  He was to be strangled with his own umbilical cord, but he survived.  The elemental said that a Furyan was going to take down the Lord Marshal, and he was the fulfillment of that prophecy, but in that moment, he lost the one person he thought he cared about.

It works, for me, because Riddick is an evolving character after this.  He is still a murder machine, but he did a lot of the things in this movie in the interest of others.  He stopped the planet of his friend from being destroyed.  He tried to save Jack and the others from being abandoned in the prison.  He killed a guy with a cup.  He was attempting to join the good guy side, and for that, he was pushed into a role that gives him power, but loses him everything else.  I think that is a just end to this movie, and a good way to make the character lose and win at the same time.

What about Riddick?

The third film in the series, Riddick in many ways seems to suffer from sequelitis.  He’s trapped on a foreign planet again, with an unstoppable, unthinking alien force.  We introduce a bunch of non characters, who are after the bounty on his head, who slowly get picked off one by one.  This time, when the rains come, everything goes to shit, and the monsters come out.

However, that’s only on a cursory viewing.  There are two mercenary leaders, one, a man who is only there after wealth, and one who is seeking closure for his son’s death from the first movie.  Riddick is attempting to get everyone off safely, but because of who he is, they doubt and people die.  He raises something to be his ally.  He loses that thing.  He shows that he has a code of honor.  He works with people to get them all safe, and his investment in trust is rewarded by being saved by them.

I like this movie, because I think that it is another continuation of his arc.  It’s not as glorious as the first two, but it creates a nice book end to the full space opera Chronicles is. It works because I want to see this character in different situations.  I want to see him succeed in harsh environments.  I want to have characters who are interesting, fascinating and worry about different things.  I find the turns and twists to be satisfying, and create a huge desire for the next film.  I like that the first half of the movie has one character.

Is this movie as good as the first two?  Probably not.  But I think that it is aiming to be a turning point movie.  We’re finally seeing what humanity has to offer in a world that is plagued by terrible things.  We get action and adventure.

Where do we go from here?

Furyia, which is a movie that exists and is going to happen, is coming out in the next couple of years, hopefully, it seems. I hope that this one is more in line with Chronicles and not Riddick.  I think it would be interesting to see what has become of Riddick’s world since the entire population was killed, and I want to see where he came from.  I hope that there are really interesting character designs, and I hope that we get to see Riddick do awesome stuff.  In the long run, though, I hope that it embraces it’s space opera with an anti-hero destiny, and creates something that expands and creates new worlds for my imagination to play in.

But, I’ll see it either way.  Because of my love for these movies.

FADE UP: Campfire blazes at a party

FADE UP: Campfire blazes at a party

Life kinda got real the week that I wrote this.

Well, life is always real, but things got very heavy with a lot of news around the country having an insane vibe.  It’s hard to think about frivolous things like movies when it’s like this, and yet, it’s one of those retreats that lets me deal with the hard parts of life.  That is when I have to find something that gives me genuine pleasure.

Wet Hot American Summer is one of those movies. And yet, it might not be for you.

Why is Wet Hot American Summer not for everyone?

Well, first, a little background on me.  I’m a junkie for vaguely weird comedy.  I say that I was raised on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Adult Swim shows, specifically Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.  What do these things have in common?

Absurdity. They completely trade on the idea of the absurd and the trappings of normality.  Every time you see something normal, you have to be completely ready for the next turn to come around.  WHAS is deeply invested in the idea of the absurdity and strangeness.  This is movie that has a meet cute that ends with one of the characters saying “I want you inside of me”, another meet cute with a character screaming at another “I SAID I DON’T WANT TO”, a chef that was in Vietnam who has a deeply inappropriate relationship with a fridge, a sound effect whenever something is dropped.

Let’s just let Eric Andre explain it.

The idea of playing on a formula is difficult for some people to get behind.  Each part of the formula is going to be subverted while hewing close enough to the actual ideas to keep having an eerie resonance.

Every single image in this movie is designed to create the “last day of camp” feel.  It seems like it is going to be the average last day of camp movie, but then the characters are actually complete dickheads.  The counselors don’t give a fuck, look like they’re way too old.  The camp is incredibly obviously a jewish day camp.  Everyone is swearing a ton.  Molly Shannon ends up having a meltdown over her divorce and crying about everything, and falling in love with a young time traveling Tim Matheson, who might be my favorite idea in the whole thing.

Literally All Your Favorite People Are In This Movie

Hey, did you like Ant-man or 40 Year Old Virgin?  Paul Rudd is in this movie.  Do you like Children’s Hospital‘s Glenn Richie?  Ken Marino is in the movie. Michael Showalter, Amy Pohler, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, and Janeane Garofalo.  H. Jon Benjamin. Joe Lo Truglio.  Molly Shannon.  Elizabeth Banks.  David Hyde Peirce.

If you want to break it down, a lot of people you love are in this movie.  From this movie, people have been all over these different things.  There are so many different weird people inside this movie, you will be seeing people at the start of their big careers.

Everything is a Bit

Every scenario in this movie is designed to make jokes.  The jokes fire as fast as possible, creating weird overlaps in the laughing.  It rewards re-watching, where you can catch huge changes and differences.  Literally every intstant in this movie has a gag or visual idea going on.  It also has the best montage in movie history.  (I will probably say this about another montage.  Rocky comes to mind.)

And here is the problem.  If you don’t find that kind of insanity funny, you won’t find this movie funny.  I’ve been talking with people since I have seen this movie who think it is dumb and has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  One of these is my sister, who I love, and I have attempted to figure out how to open people up to this movie.  It rewards investing in it just enough.  Instead of trying to figure out what is going on, or accepting traditional logic, it’s a movie that begs that you buy into it’s insane logic.

So, don’t watch it like it is a movie that makes sense.  Buy in.  It’s way better if you do.