It’s been so long since we’ve seen a visual or story-element “reveal” for a Warner Bros-backed DC Comics adaptation that was depressing, awful or just too headscratching to really contemplate that this headshot from the “ARROW” spinoff actually has me taken aback quite a bit:
Month: February 2014
Escape to The Movies: "SON OF GOD"
"PERSECUTED" Trailer Isn’t; But Probably Deserves To Be…
You’ll hear from me in detail on “SON OF GOD” later today, but until then here’s the new trailer for “PERSECUTED” – the Christianity versus (Modern) America B-movie starring a very, very tired-looking James Remar as a preacher that The Gub’mint is trying to frame and/or kill because he’s resisting a bill that would require religious broadcasters to present all faith’s points of view instead of their own singular but which is actually being pushed as a backdoor method of crushing Team Jesus in particular. The point of reference is likely the old FCC Fairness Doctrine rules for editorial-journalism, the repeal of which under the Reagan Administration cleared the way for the right-wing talk radio explosion in the mid-80s:
I’ll admit a peculiar “fetish” for this particular brand of fundie paranoia, which also gave us “THE LAST EAGLE SCOUT.“ The basic spectacle of one of the largest, longest-lived and most powerful groups/movements in the history of the world play-acting at being genuinely “persecuted” because more and more of the world is moving on from being governed by their arcane “moral” dictums (arcane moral dictums which, incidentally, have been responsible for more actual persecution throughout history than almost any other force on the planet since its inception) is strangely compelling in a “conversation with a toddler and/or crazy-person” kind of way.
"GODZILLA" Has a Full Trailer, Still Not Much Godzilla
I am so nervous about this.
Godzilla should be easy. The basic appeal of Kaiju movies (disaster movies where the disaster itself gets to be a character with a “face,” personality, personal narrative, etc) is so, well… basic it’s maddening that so few (modern, Western) filmmakers try and so many of those who do keep fucking it up.
This is, to be clear, a really good scifi/disaster movie trailer. They’re clearly anchoring the emotional center of the story to Bryan Cranston as an ordinary, utterly average human whose clearly being destroyed by having this unimaginably huge, horrible event falling down around him; which is the right way to go for this project but also a seriously smart move for Cranston, who really needs for his first huge post-“BREAKING BAD” stardom feature to highlight the range that he has beyond Walter White. I’m just sure I’m getting much in the way of a “genuine Godzilla vibe” out of this, which worries me because “genuine Godzilla” is such a broadly-defined thing to begin with.
I like the idea that this is a semi-sequel to the original (that’s how all of Toho’s reboots have worked so far: The first movie always happened, everything else is new) though I’m curious how they plan to make this “cover-up” angle work: This Godzilla seems to be the largest in size yet, and the ubiquity of cameras today makes the idea of “covering up” that whatever is going on is being caused by a giant dinosaur (climate-change denialist metaphor, I’m assuming?) could seriously strain credulity.
Above all else, I’m trying not to let how much I detested “MONSTERS” taint me on this. We’ll see.
BIG PICTURE: "Who Are The ‘Guardians of The Galaxy?’"
And hey, here’s a “filler” column about a TV show with too much filler so far.
"AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2" Trailer Number 4,732 Almsot Looks Like a Good Movie
Credit where it’s due: For the most part this is a good trailer and an exceptionally good Spider-Man trailer. It’s well-cut, the pacing is great, the music cues work, the effects and cinematography are a 100% improvement on the muddy, cheap-looking first installment and Andrew Garfield is wearing not just the best-looking live-action Spidey-suit ever but probably one of the top-five superhero costumes, period.* And yes, while it’s no less criminal that Emma Stone is wasting prime years and substantial talent in this nonsense… she’s the franchise MVP, no question…
…and then the “franchise-specific” stuff slides in (the awful-looking bad guys, the stupid conspiracy/mystery/genetic-destiny backstory, the clear indicators that we’ll be getting more clumsy “worldbuilding” for future movies than actual plot) and back down to Earth we come. Sigh…
The inherent problem with this series is that Sony has decided to learn all the wrong lessons from “THE AVENGERS” specifically and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general; i.e. assuming that the Big Secret to having a franchise that dominant is in the ingredients (in this case: a big labyrinth of continuity threads and gigantic “world on the line!!!” climactic setpieces) instead of in the cooking. Yes, the “universe” angle has the benefit of keeping fans buzzing and generating free-publicity speculation between films and lets something like “THE AVENGERS” to jump right into action when it needs to; but if the actual movies aren’t good no amount of continuity-porn can make up for that.
Yeah, conceptually it’s “interesting” (or interest-piquing, at least) that Norman Osborn has an underground laboratory full of component-parts for eventual Vultures, Doc Ocks, Rhinos, etc… but “I’m kind of curious to see where how that works out, structure-wise” can’t erase the more important issues of this version of Peter Parker being a terrible character, or that the big over-arching Peter’s Parents uber-plot that’s supposed to tie this all together and make it worth caring about beyond fandom shout-outs is thus far even dumber and more ill-advised than it’s seldom-revisited presence in the comics. By the same token: I find myself struggling to care about the potential for old questions to be answered and new mysteries revealed in “BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN” because the world suggested by “MAN OF STEEL” (to say nothing of the so-called “characters” residing in it) is so crushingly uninteresting.
By contrast: Yeah, I want to know what (heavily implied) big changes to the infrastructure of the MCU will come out of “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER,” and I’ll do the expected fanboy cartwheels if Quicksilver, Scarlett Witch, Von Strucker (likely) or Red Skull, Zola, M.O.D.O.K (less likely) show up; but A.) that’s mainly because the MCU is an interesting place so far and those all sound like nifty additions and B.) still a distant second to wanting to see how this all impacts Cap, Black Widow, Nick Fury etc. because they’re interesting, well-developed characters I want to follow.
On the other hand, I like that Spidey is dressed like a fireman at one part. So there’s that.
Harold Ramis, 1944 – 2014
Harold Ramis, the deceptively-quiet engine of the SCTV/SNL/NL wave that effectively overtook and defined American (and Canadian) comedy in the 80s and 90s, has died at 69. “GHOSTBUSTERS,” “ANIMAL HOUSE,” “STRIPES,” “SCTV,” “CADDYSHACK,” “MEATBALLS.” Any one of those would be enough to make someone a legend – he was a key part of all of them.
(Still) Not Unlikely
Two years ago I whipped up the fake poster on your right as a gag for late-night Twitter. Chuckles were had, then I and everyone else on Earth forgot about it.
Then today, a funny thing happened on The Internet: Deadline reported that someone at Warner Bros. had decided to actually go an make this movie: A 20 years later sequel to “SPACE JAM” – a movie adapted from a sneaker ad-campaign about Michael Jordan playing basketball with The Looney Tunes which, in an act of singular strangeness, actually tries to be a semi-dramatic “What If?” take on Jordan’s return to the NBA following his shocking 1993 retirement to play minor-league baseball in reaction to the murder of his father (the film essentially posits that battling aliens alongside Bugs Bunny was the push Jordan needed to rekindle his lost passion for basketball) – with LeBron James (presumably) becoming the new human leader of The ToonStars.
And then Twitter. Went. APESHIT.
Well, LeBron’s people have already denied it – so it’s probably not real. But the sudden explosion of excitement on social media means it probably could be in the near future. It would not surprise me if Warner Bros. were looking to “reboot” the “SPACE JAM” branding (say, maybe a cartoon-basketball movie without a human guest star) as a way to turn the Looney Tunes mega-marketable again and floated this “leak” as a way to do test the waters. If so, consider that test a success – it seems pretty goddamn clear that if Warners was to release “SPACE JAM 2” in the near future, they’d have the attention of more starry-eyed 90s Kids than a Buzzfeed click-gallery of cats belonging to the rediscovered castmembers of “HEY DUDE!” reacting a Power Rangers reunion.
“SPACE JAM” is one of those movies that works as a cultural dividing-line between Gen-Xers and Millenials. In my own circles, it’s really only ever spoken of as a relic of that moment where Jordan probably could’ve run for President and as the low-point symbol of how Warner Bros. had gutted and drained Bugs and company of their original personalities to become empty marketing vessels. But there’s a younger audience for whom this was an unironic VHS touchstone – nothing makes me feel older than running into people who remember it as a good movie… except maybe when those same people are surprised to learn that “the baseball thing” actually happened.
To be honest, the only part of this I could actually not imagine really happening is LeBron being in it. Unlike MJ, he’s largely failed to parlay his on the court success into the same kind of self-marketing machine. Jordan was, at the time, every bit as much of a cartoon-character (off the court) as the ToonStars were, which is why the movie worked. If they did do another one of these, I’d expect it to be just the cartoons – maybe rangle Jordan for a cameo, since he really will do just about anything.
Escape to The Movies: "POMPEII"
On the higher-end, I interviewed writer Inkoo Kang about her controversial criticisms of Hayo Miyazaki’s “THE WIND RISES.”
Tough But Fair
I’m not the hugest fan of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. He feels, too often, like a solid radio talent who has been given a TV show but no on-camera training; hence the way his sanctimony-oozing vocals don’t really fit with his smug, Bill Maher-esque expressions. But here and there he delivers some compelling editorializing, and this bit of business from Thursday night tying together Vladimir Putin, The Olympics, Pussy Riot and Edward Snowden is definitely that – some real throwing-up-of-hands, lesser-of-two-evils, tragedy as parody, “world of gray” stuff that most cable news avoids like the plague.