You Should Go See "The Avengers"

I won’t be running a full review of “The Avengers” until this Friday’s “Escape to The Movies,” but the review embargo seems to have dropped (it’s already opened for half the planet) so I’m happy to drop a few thoughts on the matter (after the jump) and offer that the already-posted full reviews from Drew McWeeney, Devin Faraci and (he’s back!) Neill Cumpston pretty-much sync up with my own. (note: some reviews and this post after the jump contain ellusions to events in the movie a MINOR spoiler of something that doesn’t seem to have ever been meant as a secret, i.e. the name of the alien bad guys, but if you insist on waiting until literally the first minute of the movie to hear it you’ve been warned.)

Short version: I don’t know that it’s the best movie about superheroes ever made, as “Spider-Man 2” “Dark Knight” and the ’78 “Superman” loom pretty large in that regard. But “The Avengers” it’s easily the best “Comic-Book Superhero Movie” ever made in terms of bringing the genre itself to the screen – undilluted, uncompromised and, finally, unashamed of itself.

Some other observations:

  • This is The Marvel Universe, it’s world(s), it’s characters and it’s rules translated into a live-action feature film as faithfully as possible; and by that virtue fairly or not it will immediately become the superhero movie by which all others will be judged and, in the immediate, probably found wanting. The subsequent Marvel movies are going to have to work a lot harder than they had been before (excluding “Captain America”) to measure up to this, and I’d imagine that it will cause a lot hand-wringing for the producers of the too-far-along-to-rework “Man of Steel” and “Amazing Spider-Man;” and while the Nolan Batman movies are so much their own seperate thing form the rest of the genre (at this point it feels like even having the main character still BE Batman is a begrudging courtesy on the filmmaker’s part) for a comparison it’s hard to imagine “Dark Knight Rises” NOT being regarded as the runner-up in the innevitable punditry matchups.
  • Worries about Iron Man dominating the movie? Shelve them. There’s a lot of Tony Stark in the movie (he is, after all, “the funny one” and good for exposition) but in terms of the action beats and screentime Iron Man is more of a combination comic-relief/deus-ex-machina figure: He’s there to deliver a quick-fix and land a punchline for the most part; with Thor as the serious one who keeps things on track, Hulk as the wildcard and Cap as the overall MVP.
  • It’s kind of genius that Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Nick Fury mainly utilizes his gift for solemn, forboding delivery and straight-faced just-the-facts-isms, as opposed to the “angry, ever-shouting black police captain” cliche it could’ve easily been.
  • If there’s one innevitable “down-side” to just how good “Avengers” is, it’s that it can easily be seen as the ultimate vindication of a “The Fanboys Were Right” outlook on such things – pretty much every risky/offbeat thing that makes the film work as well as it does, from the inter-film continuity to the source-faithful aesthetics to the hiring of Joss Whedon amounts to what comic fans have been clamoring for for decades. It’s going to be very hard for any adaptation of a “geek” property to jettison an awkward genre/continuity relic or rework a costume/design-element without getting a tidal-wave of “It worked fine for The Avengers!!!” in retort. In other words, we’ve probably heard the death-knell of “Nolanizing” genre-properties – for good or for ill.
  • Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby, and this Hulk is the best Hulk period. I like the Edward Norton one and I still think Ang Lee’s oddball interpretation is criminally underrated; but this is the first time anyone has really pulled-off the idea that while being Bruce Banner is scary and sad… being The Hulk looks like fun. I do not envy the parents of small children the night after they see this movie.
  • Jeremy Renner is VERY good as Hawkeye, but I still say they should’ve given him something more interesting to wear. He looks underdressed whenever he’s with the other Avengers, and frankly even his ridiculous “classic” purple gear is no sillier than some of the “why would he even HAVE THAT!?” trick-arrows he busts out. (Warner Bros. is either going to very happy or very sad about their in-production “Green Arrow” show after seeing this.)
  • Chris Evans was very, very good as a more deeply-characterized version of Golden Age Captain America; but he’s phenomenal as a literal live-action translation of Silver Age “man out of time” Captain America. His one-line off-the-cuff appraisal of Thor and Loki is a perfect piece of writing from a character standpoint (though I think some folks will misinterpret it.)
  • Speaking of perfect writing, the long-in-coming payoff to the lingering question of Bruce Banner’s “secret” to keeping The Hulk in check is one of the best pieces of Banner dialogue ever uttered in any version of The Hulk in any medium ever.
  • I know Marvel is back and forth about what to do with The Hulk after this (is that TV show still happening?) but someone needs to sign Ruffalo for at least more in-universe cameos yesterday. The instant chemistry and snappy rapport he has with Robert Downey Jr. as Stark is the best surprise of the whole production.
  • One of the great benefits to bringing the “rules” of comic book storytelling into the movies is that, as it turns out, the “shortcuts” carry over, too: The film’s brisk pace is aided by an almost gleeful pulling of the “A Wizard Did It” trigger; with what might otherwise have required tedious exposition often being handled in short conversations that boil down to: “Wait, plot-hole?” “Oh, handwave/phlebetonium/magic/cosmic, of course.”
  • Loki is a great choice for an innaugural bad guy, especially because he’s still essentially the same “type” of bad guy from “Thor” – angry, crafty and more invested in manipulation and game-playing than big-scale supervillainy. This is necessary, since everybody knows that in superhero team-ups the good guys MUST be made to fight eachother in as many combinations as possible before they all fight the bad guys – otherwise how would we find out “who would win?”
  • It is soooooooooooooo fucking refreshing to see a superhero movie where the characters joke around and the movie is allowed to be funny without it feeling like self-parody (the Schumacher Batmans) or obnoxious (what we’ve seen of the new Spidey’s cringeworthy comedy-routine.) For me, the first two Raimi “Spider-Man” movies were the gold-standard for “takes itself seriously but knows when to go for the laugh” superhero narrative, but this overall surpasses them in that department.
  • One thing that DOESN’T happen that I was kind-of hoping MIGHT happen: Captain America being able to lift Mjolnir. Probably for the best – might’ve taken a bit too long to explain to people who skipped “Thor” why that’s a big deal, and as it is Cap already gets like four or five “Yeah, I’m the guy” moments.
  • More than one person at Warner Bros. is taking a second look at the Joss Whedon “Wonder Woman” script they passed on a few years back right now.
  • It’ll be really interesting to find out, when the dust settles, just what DID happen in the conception of the alien army that shows up for the big finale. In the film they’re called Chitauri (the “Ultimate” name for The Skrulls) but they don’t have Chitauri/Skrull shape-shifter powers and they don’t look like either creature or any other recognizable Marvel alien. Supposedly the shape-shifting was part of the leaked script that was around awhile back, and the Skrulls rumors were “fact” for awhile, so it almost feels like they went into shooting intending for these to be Skrulls  and then had to switch it around later on when the legal quagmire surrounding those characters proved untenable. Either way, all the “what are they?” silence has led a lot of people to assume their identity is some kid of important secret, when in reality we learn their names offhand within the first minutes of the film.
  • This is probably the closest to recognizably human (as opposed to unbelievably-sexy-alien-unfamiliar-with-emotion) a performance as has ever been coaxed from Scarlett Johanssen. That’s not to say she’s ever been “bad” (far from it) but she finally appears to be from this plane of existance.
  • “Iron Man 2” is probably still the least of the Marvel movies, but the payoffs in this film to some of the smaller character beats and worldbuilding it got into are good enough to make that film a whole “star” better.
  • Traditional Marvel mid-credits surprise? Yup, and it provides the most definitive answer possible to “how the HELL do they plan to top THAT?”

Silver Age Ends For Warner Bros.


Deadline reports that megaproducer Joel Silver is out at Warners – he no longer has a production deal with the studio vis-a-vi his Silver Pictures and Dark Castle labels. This may not “read” as much if you don’t follow “the industry,” but on the inside rest assured this is major, epic, end-of-an-era, Fall Of A Titan stuff. Most modern-day producers are lucky to last more than a year in one deal; Silver had been at Warner Bros. since the early 1980s and was seen as “old school” even then: a hard-living, harder-partying, opulence-favoring eccentric infamous for harraunging his employees and his employers into risky gambles with big payoffs – so goes the legend, he gave The Wachowskis, then virtual-nobodies with one movie under their belt, damn near carte-blanche to make “The Matrix” based on little more than the (then) brothers introducing him to Anime and a promise that they could deliver that style in live-action.

If you came up watching action movies in the mid-80s/early-90s, Silver was responsible for a HUGE amount of what you likely absorbed: He backed the original runs of the “Lethal Weapon,” “Die Hard” and “Predator” series, plus one-off hits like “Commando,” “Demolition Man” and “The Last Boy Scout.”

Not everything he touched was gold, though, and his willingness to role the dice on oddball projects like “Hudson Hawk” and “Speed Racer” along with a legendary bluster made him plenty of detractors. Over the last decade he’d made most of his money in the realm of low-budget horror via the Dark Castle imprint, though he still found room to throw his clout behind hard-sells like “Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang” and “Splice.” He also spent a decade trying to get a live-action “Wonder Woman” off the ground, only to lose the rights when Warners decided to take the various DC franchises back from individual producers a few years ago.

All told, Warners has probably been trying to find a way out of the partnership ever since “Speed Racer” bombed; but this is still pretty big stuff. Whatever he does next (another studio? independent production?) will be a major story whenever it breaks.

Are We Really Having This Discussion?

Via The AVClub
The big topic at CinemaCon – the combination Movie Theater trade-show / tech-demo / footag-showcase – this year was the debut of the 48fps digital projector technology for “The Hobbit.” Second biggest? Apparently theater chain owners are having a serious discussion about whether they should allow people to text during movies to increase ticket sales.

The obvious answer for any respectable person is NO; but that we’ve come to the point where this is even a serious question is telling about just how much closer we inch toward Idiocracy every day.

The population has become so obscenely bloated – in multiple senses of the term – that the stupid, ignorant and inconsiderate now have so much power as a “market demographic” that lowering the standards to entice them back into various establishments is seen as a necessary business decision.

I will GLADLY pay a higher ticket price to attend a theater that forcibly removes talkers, phone-users and other wastes of tissue from the building; and I know I’m not alone. If Michael Bay’s America wants to text during the movie, let them do it at home – and if the ticket prices have to rise and the Theatrical Experience has to become the province of elite cinephiles and hardcore film-geeks who don’t mind paying extra for the privilige… so be it. I’ve had enough.

BREAKING! Breitbart’s Boors Bash Brony Beehive!

Ah, good. Here’s my entertainment for the weekend.

Kurt Schlitcher, a contributor to the late Andrew Breitbart’s paranoid-loner feeding-trough masquerading as a “Conservative” movie-blog “Big Hollywood,” has caught up with the year-old phenomenon of “Bronies” (adult/male fans of the “My Little Pony” reboot)… and has decided they’re a threat to America, masculinity and Western Civilization.

Money quote from Schlichter:

“As sickening as it is, we can’t just ban grown men from acting like idiots because we disapprove of their lifestyle choices – after all, we aren’t progressives. It’s still a free country – coincidentally due entirely to the efforts of men and women who put aside childish things to contribute to society instead of feeding at the trough and then sitting on their expansive backsides as they eagerly clap like seals at the antics of colorful cartoon steeds.”

Yegh. Now, I’m not a Brony myself – it’s a clever show, not really my bag, I lean in more of an “Adventure Time” direction, etc – but I “get” why it’s popular, why it has it’s surprising adult/male fanbase (I’m talking outside of it’s place in the cartoon-fetishism realm, different discussion) and so on. But even if I didn’t care for the series, this sort of thing boils my blood.

The tiresome fixation of “cultural conservatives” and “traditionalists” on binary gender-divisions in popular culture – the nonexistant “War on Boys,” the fringe of “Men’s Rights Activism,” the resistance to anti-bullying legislation (“it’s not bullying, it’s how boys learn to be MEN!”), the terror at the “feminization of society” – it’s all part of the same last-ditch backlash fueling the activist anti-abortion/contraception movements, the resistance to gay marriage and the campaigns of clowns like Rick Santorum: The last remnants of the Bad Old Days lashing out as it dawns on them that their anachronistic patriarchy and all the social, religious and cultural superstitions that went with it are crumbling… but still alive enough to do damage on their way down.

As I said, I may not be a Brony; but I’ve seen how well that particular fandom can mobilize when it gets it’s dander up about something – and while I’ve had my differences of late with The Internet (and do NOT endorse illegal/harassing behavior) I can think of few cultural-entities more worthy of It’s attention than Schlichter and the rest of the noxious Breitbart Clique…

So, then, HERE’S the original article.

HERE’S “Big Hollywood,” the main website on which it appeared.

HERE’S, the central hub from which BH originates.

HERE’s where you’d contact the site.

Oh, and Kurt Schlichter is on Twitter @KurtSchlichter

And lest you feel that maybe giving and/or “The Bigs” a headache over this one stupid article is a bit silly, remember – they were also behind THIS. Gotta love the New Media…

We Are Abandoned

Remember Pizza Hut UK’s “Hot Dog Pizza?” Well, Pizza Hut’s Middle East branch aims to do them one better: The “Crown Crust Pizza” isn’t filled with cheeseburgers – it IS cheeseburgers. And it’s topped with what are essentially Big Mac fixin’s:

Here’s what grabs me about this ad, though – the way the main customer guy treats “Let’s order a burger in a pizza place” as a knowing, obvious joke at the restaurant’s expense. It suddenly dawns on me… have I been reading this “obscene versions of American food originating in foriegn territories” trend wrong by assuming Pizza Hut etc. is using my overseas friends as labrats for future domestic product? Are y’all actually ordering/making food that looks like a perfect parody of American excess at American restaurants as ironic parody; i.e. a chance to “role-play” as a stereotypically gluttonish American fast-food consumers (“Ha ha! Look at me! My food is made of different food! Let’s go get a SUV and vote for Palin!”) in much the same way that American chinese food establishments decorate themselves like Fu Manchu’s hideout?

Because, if so… that’s pretty damn funny. Applaud yourselves 😉

Cobra is Blackwater in New "G.I. Joe 2" Trailer

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” has a new trailer, which answers some questions as to how much of the story from the (unfairly-maligned, IMO) original film is actually being continued here. Answer: A whole bunch.

It also makes it clear that it will continue the first film’s anti-private-military-contractor theme; with Cobra (formerly “M.A.R.S.”) now emerging as a Blackwater-esque force brought in ostensibly to protect the U.S. from the (framed) “traitorous” Joes.

Will "Machete" Battle Mel Gibson?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Mel Gibson seems – at long last – to finally be near “the bottom.” I’ve long rejected the idea that there could be (or need to be) anything ‘wrong’ with him other than garden variety anti-semitism and Christian whackjobbery, possibly exacerbated by alcoholism… but you can’t listen to that Joe Esterhasz tape and not conclude that there may actually be something profoundly broken in the way this guy is wired – he could very well have a serious mental illness.

In any case, he’s in deep shit career-wise: “The Beaver” tanked, his new movie is going straight-to-DVD, nobody wants to make his Viking movie and the Maccabees project is almost-certainly dead. At this point, he’s only slightly more employable than Lindsay Lohan or Steven Seagal… and, appropriately, he may next be going exactly where they did: A stunt-casting guest-spot in an in-betweener Robert Rodriguez “Machete” movie.

Yeah. Not a joke. Deadline reports that Gibson is close to signing on for an unspecified role in the sequel “Machete Kills,” which is supposed to involve Danny Trejo’s titular vigilante being conscripted by the U.S. and Mexican governments to stop a druglord’s plan to launch a rocket into outer space because… whatever, it’s “Moonraker” but with Machete. I’m wondering if they plan to keep playing the political angle from the first movie – tongue in cheek or not, setting Machete up as striking back against the then-raging anti-immigrant fervor in the U.S. did a lot to elevate the film above the usual Rodriguez grindhouse homage schtick.

FWIW, Rodriguez said in the past that his grand plan was for “Machete 3” (“Machete Kills Again”) to be a “space opera.” I’d kind of love it if he was serious, and the “space rocket” stuff in this one led to Machete winding up on an alien world a’la Flash Gordon or John Carter at the very end. If nothing else it’d “go” nicely with Rodriguez next big planned movie after this and “Sin City 2;” a live-action remake of the Ralph Bakshi/Frank Frazetta collaboration “Fire & Ice.”

Random Thoughts 4/22/12

People seem to remember “Summer Rental” more, but “The Great Outdoors” is the superior John Candy Goes On Vacation movie.

A “Late Shift”-style movie chronicling the collapse of “Chapelle’s Show,” Dave Chapelle’s subsequent career-immolation and they way both (briefly) led to the otherwise-inexplicable elevation of one-joke-wonder Carlos Mencia to “stardom” would be a thousand times more interesting and funny than any YouTube clip from either series that people insist is “a classic bit” and “still totally holds up.”

There have never been enough video games where you play as a non-human, non-biped character.

(more after the jump)

It is, with rare exception, bad form to “go after” the families/spouses of political candidates. However, it is an unavoidable truism that Mitt Romney’s kids look/act just like the bad guys in “Disturbing Behavior.”

Reading that sentence is the first time anyone has thought of “Disturbing Behavior” in over a decade.

Are Harvey Danger and Nada Surf still recording/performing? I’d like to know, just not enough to actually google it.

The secret to Ron Paul’s political viability is that The Internet has made it possible for all the young people with that special combination of being nonempathetic enough to be “conservative” before turning 30, paranoid enough to believe a 1984-style dictatorship is still a remote possibility yet far too comfortably class-sheltered to rock the bunker/militia/seperatist scene to find eachother.

If the rules in “Inception” really are meant to be a metaphor for Christopher Nolan’s approach to creating/maintaining audience-immersion in filmmaking, then “The Dark Knight Rises” will be 3 minutes long – ending immediately after Mario Cotillard appears out of nowhere and shoots Christian Bale in the face after having uttered one word in his ridiculous Batman-Voice.

The Internet will go waaaaaay to easy on “The Amazing Spider-Man,” way too hard on “The Man of Steel,” and will not “own up” to either case until at least 2016.

The reason that glam-metal/cock-rock/butt-rock/arena-rock etc. “went away” is that hip-hop went mainstream and filled in the “aggressive/self-mythologizing/hypermasculine/teen-male-anger/music-to-enter-the-stadium-to” niche. There’s a sociology paper in there, somewhere…

If you honestly do not “get” why the “Obama eats dogs!” meme is blatantly fueled by an undercurrent of oldschool xenophobia, “other-ism” and – yes – racism; while the “Romney put his dog on the car roof!” meme is at worst a mountain/molehill situation… I don’t know that I can help you.

Every member of the mainstream Entertainment Press who is legitimately SHOCKED that “Think Like a Man” opened at Number 1 this weekend is basically admitting that they don’t have very many black friends and/or are not nearly as attuned to the popular-culture outside of their own “niche” of it than they probably assumed they were.