Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trailer Park - Movies For Grownups Edition

Welcome to another edition of trailer park, where I roundup some interesting new trailers for upcoming movies. This time out, we're looking at movies for grownups. Is it just me or does it lately seem like American films are only capable of putting out movies for teenagers and/or people with the attention span of Quentin Tarantino on cocaine (so, I guess, regular Tarantino, then).

Anyway, it's a relief to see summer winding down and some more adult subject matter coming to the fore.

Like David O. Russell's next film, American Hustle:

A few thoughts: Man, the 1970s had a truly godawful collection of hairstyles, didn't they? I mean seriously, what the hell are those things on Bale's, Cooper's and Renner's heads? Also, I get that Jennifer Lawrence is a sex symbol (I don't see it, personally, but whatevs) but when did Amy Adams get crazy stupid hot? Remember Doubt? Still, I really like David O. Russell's films, and this is a pretty damn strong cast.

Next up is Ben Stiller's remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:

This is based on a short story by James Thurber, and it was already a classic film starring Danny Kaye. Some people will cry foul, and proclaim we should never remake classic films, and these people will probably have never seen the 1947 version. It's a good film, but by no means sacrosanct. And I much prefer Flirting With Disaster and Greenberg Ben Stiller over Meet the Fockers Ben Stiller, and this looks like the former, so I'm looking forward to it. We need more fantasy for adults, and I don't mean Game of Thrones.

Next we have Martin Scorsese's latest attempt to win Leonardo DiCaprio that Oscar, The Wolf of Wall Street:

First off, how do we live in a world where Jonah Hill has an Oscar nomination and Matthew McConaughey doesn't? It's nice to see McConaughey wake up and start making good movies. After that Surfer, Dude movie, it was like he hit rock bottom and said, "I have to put on a shirt and start actually acting again."

So there's three movies coming out from mainstream Hollywood that at least try to cater to adults in the room, and they look pretty damn good. Hope to see you at the box office.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"The Wolverine" Review, or How To Claw Your Way to the Middle

Jackman shows us why he can never enjoy a candy bar.
It's been a tough summer. I mean, think about it. Have any of the movies, even the big hits, been beloved by anyone? Sure, we've had good movies (Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness) and bad (Man of Steel), but not one that has really stepped up and come to define the summer.
There's so much money invested into these films now that unless they make over half a billion (billion!) dollars, they are regarded as somewhat of a failure. Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel are certainly huge hits, but have they really come to define the summer in the same way that The Avengers did last year? Or The Dark Knight in 2008? I think the answer's no. The reaction to those films have been divisive enough that you couldn't really say that either is THE summer film of 2013.

Part of the issue is desperation. Blockbusters reek of desperation these days. You know when you go out for a night with your buddies and one guy keeps insisting, "This is going to be the best night ever!" and then you wind up eating a slice of pizza downtown at eleven pm? It's because you can't will an amazing event into being. And you can't manufacture a true blockbuster by just piling on the scale. You need to actually capture people's imagination with story, not just dazzle them with things going boom.
Am I implying that The Wolverine will be this elusive cultural blockbuster? No. Oh, no. It's not good enough for that. But it does have its heart in the right place in that it tries to put a good story at the centre of the film, rather than empty spectacle; a story that focuses on putting its titular character though some kind of journey, no matter how shallow that might be.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Comic Observations: Marvel vs DC - Round Two: Marvel NOW!

Ad for Marvel NOW!
In my last post, I began a two-part feature looking at the State of the Union for each of the big two comic publishers. I've been reading almost all of their output for a while now, and this article is an attempt to suss out which one is producing the strongest line overall, indeed which one has the strongest and most satisfying universe to offer and why that might be.

My final view on DC was of a company that may have some very strong individual titles, but that overall the line was seriously hampered by editorial interference and a lack of a cohesive focused direction. Does the House of Ideas, namely Marvel, fare any better?

Just like DC, Marvel has recently attempted to pull its line under an overarching banner in an attempt to pull in new readers and give a greater direction to its titles. Marvel has titled this direction Marvel NOW!, and like DC, relaunched a lot of their books in an attempt to inject some freshness. Marvel NOW! is far more nebulous than DC's New 52 reboot, but that's actually an okay thing. I know that sounds weird, given that I spent most of my last post slamming DC for its lack of strong direction, but hear me out.

Over the last few years, since Civil War in 2006, Marvel has been very smart in using their events to set up new status quos in which their characters operate. The events themselves have been successful to wildly varying degrees, but they almost always have resulted in a change to the Marvel Universe that can act as a launching pad for a slight variation in the stories, a slightly new world in which their characters operate. Civil War ended with Tony Stark's super-hero registration act taking effect. Secret Invasion ended with Norman Osborn stepping up as major force in the Universe, and created stories of how the heroes deal with that. Siege saw the end of Osborn's reign, etc. In each case, it's been about moving things forward. Yes, things often change back to more familiar settings because, hey, this is comics! But where DC's New 52 was all about wiping away continuity to go backwards and re-examine the characters' beginnings (for something like the third time in my lifetime), Marvel was about providing a launching pad for moving forward that doesn't need any rejiggering of continuities or erasing of anything that came before.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Comic Observations: Marvel vs. DC - Round One: The New 52

For a couple years now, I've basically been reading almost all of the output from the big two comic publishers, and after reading hundreds of comics, it's become clear to me which one is enjoying the greater renaissance, and which one seems to be rudderless.

Let's start out by looking at DC Comics.

Ad for the New 52
Back in 2011, DC was tying up their latest line-wide event Flashpoint. The story involved the Flash experiencing an alternate timeline, and then returning to a whole new DC Universe, merging elements from the classic DCU, the Wildstorm Universe and the Vertigo Universe into one, with a whole new timeline.

As a result, all DC books were cancelled and 52 new books were launched (hence the name "The New 52"). Some, like Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Batman, etc, would be relaunches of established titles. Some would be new titles, such as Mr. Terrific, Voodoo, I, Vampire and Men of War. All would take place in a new DCU with a different continuity, resulting in changes to characters' histories and appearances. Superman's origin was now radically different, with Action Comics initially dealing with his early days, and Superman dealing with his present day stories.

The problems were evident early on. First off, no one really knew what parts of which character's histories counted anymore or what differences there were between the old continuity and the new. Were Ma and Pa Kent dead or alive? Had there been a Wally West who was a sidekick to Barry Allen's Flash? Batman and Green Lantern's continuities (DC's biggest sellers at the time) were largely untouched, but that just made their stories more confusing. For instance, Barbara Gordon, who had spent over a decade in a wheelchair as the first major disabled superhero, was now back to being Batgirl, but had been paralyzed. We didn't know how she healed, if she spent any time in the super-hacker Oracle persona, if any of the Birds of Prey stuff counted, etc. Somehow, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne had all been Batman's partner within five years. Were they all Robin? All at the same time or one after another? No one knew. And as of this writing, we still don't know the answers to many questions, though some have been answered.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trailer Park - Tiger Beat Edition

Welcome all, to another edition of Trailer Park, where I round some trailers and present them to you for your mockery or admiration.

This time out, I thought we'd take a look at some teen movies, seeing as how it's summer vacation. Wanna guess which one will be the next Sixteen Candles and which one will be the next Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead? Let's fire up the projector!!

Let's start with The Spectacular Now:

Okay, that actually looks spectacular. It's got what looks like two solidly authentic and nuanced performances from two actors that look like they may be in hooting distance of actually being teens. It's got one heck of a great supporting cast (Bubbles! Coach Taylor! Saul Goodman!) and it's written by the team who brought us (500) Days of Summer, which some people found insufferable but I found really great.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Doctor Who and Me - Part Two

In my last post, I told the story of how I wound up joining the cast of the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie.

When I left off, I had just been cast as Gareth in the film, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. I was ecstatic. As an actor, you basically have to come to grips with the fact that most of what you're going to be paid to do is far from high art, or else this will happen to you (a little NSFW):

So, to get a part in something that you love and are a huge fan of is rare. It can completely recharge lagging creative batteries, and reawaken a sense of why you became an actor in the first place. And here I was, cast in Doctor Who. It was not only my favourite TV series, but it had been effectively cancelled over six years prior to this point, and it had always been filmed in England, with very minor exceptions. To say I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd ever get within hooting distance of appearing in the show is putting it very, very mildly.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Doctor Who and Me - Part One

When you are a fan of something, no matter what that may be, you can find yourself experiencing some pretty amazing life moments. This blog springs from my love for all things Nerdy and Awesome, but I've never shared the story of how I became a fan of my nerdiest of nerdy obsessions, Doctor Who, and how being a fan resulted in a unique experience.

One of my first memories is of Doctor Who. I must have been three or four, and it was night time and I think I was at the home of some friends' of my parents. The TV was on, and all I recall was seeing the opening titles of Jon Pertwee's final season. If you're three or four, that's going to leave an impression. I mean the bouffant alone...
When I was eight or nine and over at a cousins house, I saw my first full episodes. He was the son of a Brit, so he was a fan of Doctor Who in a big way. This was during the Peter Davison years, and I remember watching his videotapes, recorded from PBS, and being captivated.