Browsing in movies

A Christmas Story is required Christmas viewing for me because it’s view of Christmas is most like mine. There are no miracles, no big family get-togethers, no life altering encounters or revelations, and no wacky travel hijinks. It’s a Christmas movie with no mention of religion, it’s just a small family who love each other even if they annoy one another and disagree from time to time.

In such a quotable and generally fast moving story, my favorite moment, which can only be completely appreciated on a second viewing, is when Ralphie and Randy meet back up with their parents after they’ve seen Santa and we get this dialog:

The Old Man: Well, did you see Santa Claus? Did you tell him what you wanted for Christmas? Did he ask you if you’d been a good boy all year?

Ralphie: No.

The Old Man: Don’t worry, he knows. He always knows.

What’s great there is not just that The Old Man is having fun with his son, it’s that the Old Man is talking about himself. He knows that Ralphie wants the official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time,” despite the fact that Ralphie has asked everyone but his father for it. And the Old Man has already bought it for him without even his wife knowing.

Throughout the movie The Old Man has very little to do with the daily parenting duties of the boys and they don’t relate all that often (“It was the first time that it had been suggested that I go help my father with anything.”). But this is a moment where The Old Man is eagerly looking forward to making his son happy tomorrow morning. For me, this is one of the best, most honest depictions of gift giving and love that comes up in a Christmas movie.

70 minutes into Iron Man Three I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh god, there’s another hour of this.”

I hated this movie. I was hoping for fun adventure like the preceding movies but this one was different, it had far too many problems that made it impossible to like. These problems fall into three main categories: 1) problems adapting the Iron Man mythos into film, 2) problems fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and 3) problems as a movie.

Problems of the first type don’t bother me as much as you might think. I’m not an Iron Man fan and don’t know the finer details of the source material very well. I wasn’t even able to get a copy of Extremis from the SFPL until this week. So I’m willing to accept changes and adaptations additions and subtractions provided it’s an improvement.

The second set of problems are far worse though. Because while none of the preceding movies have required us to have a base knowledge of the comics, they reward and rely on our knowledge of the previous films. A key aspect of The Avengers was that the characters had all been established in previous films, we only needed to see them interact. Iron Man the first was able to stand alone but ended with a hint of “a bigger universe.” Iron Man 2 went out of its way to set up stuff for Thor and Captain America and make references to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk but this movie tries to stand alone to it’s detriment.

And the third set of problems are what kill it for me. There are too many inconsistencies, plot holes, ill conceived conversations, and more to keep me engaged in what I should be engaged in. I am very willing to suspend disbelief for a movie but it has to be earned. A Suspension of disbelief means “you get the small stuff right, I won’t ask the big questions.” That means I have no problem with Iron Man armor or any other superscience as long as you’re consistent with how it works. turn off your brain and enjoy the action. I’m fine with that, I saw GI Joe 2 and I’ll be seeing Fast & Furious 6 in a few weeks, but I didn’t need to do that for the last Iron Man movies, I shouldn’t have to do it for this one.

Here are the problems (and detailed spoilers) that have stuck with me long after the movie ended:
continue reading "The Awful Iron Man 3"

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their world were created by Peter Laird & Kevin Eastman in May 1984. They were 30 & 22 years old respectively when their empire began. Eventually age and creative difference settled in and they had a falling out. Eastman sold his half to Laird beginning in 2000 (with the deal completed in 2008). Laird continued to run the businesses until 2009 when he sold 100% control to Nickelodeon. This was 25 years since the first comic came out and at that point the comics stopped production, the latest cartoon had already run its course and ended in 2009, the last movie was in 2007 and outside of anniversary figures the toy line was ended.

Until last year there was a dry period with no new Turtles content as Nickelodeon developed their plans. Those began with a line of new comics from IDW beginning last August (with Eastman involved), a rollercoaster at the Mall of America opened on March 17, a new cartoon and toy line will start in the fall, and there will be a movie for Christmas 2013.

It’s nice to see new content but I’m not sure if it’s content I want. I know they don’t need to cater to me but I also know I don’t need to buy what they’re selling. I have the comics, movies, toys and video games from my childhood and still enjoy them. It’s on Nickelodeon to produce something worth my present attention.

The comics are nice but aren’t telling new stories, they’re more focused on redoing what’s come before. I completely understand the need to market to the child who replaced me rather than retain the man I’ve become. I admire their attempt to combine the best aspects of the past continuity into one thread. As they braid these histories together they have introduced new characters (Old Hob) and complications (reincarnation, Young Casey Jones) that I find cheapen the story rather than build on it. I’ll give the book a few more issues to develop into something I want.

The Turtles are a very simple concept with distinct but broad characters who can be easily explained and adapted so it is unnecessary to spend time discussing their origins when there are new adventures waiting. I’ve written before that these characters taught me about continuity at a young age. No matter how I was following Raphael he would be rushing into a fight before thinking it through but the stakes would be different if he was in a black and white comic, a movie, a children’s cartoon or an Archie comic.

This will be true even as Nickelodeon resumes the empire. From its inception the branches will be different: this fall’s cartoon will be less “adult” than the comics and the movie from Michael Bay’s company with aliens will be different than all the others.

The movie is the most controversial and has generated waves of outcry but I can’t find it in me to care. At this point I know that I don’t ever want to see a Michael Bay directed or produced movie again because I won’t enjoy it. And I don’t need to see the movie because it has the Turtles in it. I have the original movies on my shelf right now.

In fact I have enough old movies that I want to watch for a first, second or twelfth time that I don’t need to see everything that is shoved into movie theaters week in and week out. I know that there are classic comics I haven’t read that I’d find more rewarding than 99% of the stuff on each week’s new releases rack. I’m going to keep focusing on the stuff I want rather than what’s put in front of me.

In October 2005 a doctor warned me I could be going blind in one eye. I imagined what life would be like without depth perception. The big loss would be not seeing Star Wars in 3d.

I had grown up a Star Wars fan. I watched the original trilogy whenever it came on tv. I played with a few action figures I got at a garage sale. I memorized Star Tours. And I dipped into the Expanded Universe: comics and novels.

I couldn’t have been more excited for the Prequels. I hadn’t loved the Special Editions but I was ready for more but not what was coming. I didn’t like Episode I and only saw Episode II once, just before it left the theaters. But then came Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars and then Episode III in the summer of 2005. To everyone’s surprise, including myself & my girlfriend of four months (now my wife), I was a fan again.

Shortly thereafter a coworker with a Rebel Alliance isignia tattooed on his bicep told me of the early rumors that George Lucas planned to convert the movies into 3D. This was back before the current 3D resurgence of desperate theaters, increased ticket prices, dimmed projection, and movies that either ignored their 3D or went for quick gimmicks. In short, there was potential. The thought of the massive space battles in 3D dug in and stayed in my mind. This would be a big improvement over my childhood habit of looking up into a nighttime snow storm and trying to dodge the flakes.

The height of my outbreakOn October 4, 2005 I woke up and noticed a zit on my face. A few hours later it had doubled in size and had company. This was the beginning of my first outbreak of shingles. Each doctor I saw (and there were many) warned me that if I got a blister on my eye ball it could blind it. This wasn’t an idle threat as the blisters were overwhelming my eyelids.

I was eventually put on a wonder steroid to calm it down but the threat was always there. Since then I’ve had one other outbreak of Shingles (oddly on October 4, 2009). Now at last Star Wars is coming out in 3D. It is not be the best movie, and I’m not the fan I was, and 3D isn’t as enticing as it once seemed, but it is Star Wars in 3D and I can see it, so I will.

I liked Tron: Legacy. The dialogue was cheesy and it tried to be too self important at times, but it gave me what I wanted, a fun ride with neat visuals and sound. Of course as I watched it there were lots of things that jumped out at me and made me think, I’ve seen these scenes and images before in Batman and in Iron Man. Am I making it up? Some of these are kind of specific…

continue reading "Wait… what did I just see?"

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Transformers: The Movie (1986)
  3. Blues Brothers
  4. The Third Man
  5. Casablanca
  1. “Dead or alive, you are coming with me.” – Murphy/Robocop
  2. “Bitches, leave.” – Clarence Boddicker
  3. “I know you! You’re dead! We killed you! We killed you!” – Emil M. Antonowsky
  4. “I’d buy that for a dollar!” – Bixby Snyder
  5. “There’s your god damn safe! Open that son of a bitch!” – Chessman

In the last few weeks I made it a point to see “The Social Network” and “Spartacus” because I wanted to be entertained and both movies delivered spectacularly.  David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick each found novel ways to tell their stories that made an impression so the movie was with me after the final frames. I was thinking about scenes, dialogue and performances I had seen but not about the history of Facebook or the Third Servile War.

Because I didn’t ask for or get that. Neither of those movies were or claimed to be history lessons.  There was nothing in the advertising or opening of the films to say that what we were seeing was a historically accurate accounting that all experts (or people portrayed within) would agree on.  So there is no reason for people to consider that The Social Network didn’t accurately depict the real Mark Zuckerberg’s relationship status as a fault when Jesse Eisenberg was able to portray masked jealousy so well.  Similarly I much prefer Charles Laughton’s “Gracchus” to the historical fact that the man didn’t exist.

If I wanted to know the truth in either of those situations, I’d read a book or watch a documentary that claimed to be accurate.  But I didn’t.  Maybe later I’ll want some history and truth, but at the time all I wanted some entertainment and I got it.

  1. Edward Scissorhands
  2. Vincent
  3. Ed Wood
  4. Big Fish
  5. Batman
  6. Batman Returns
  7. Beetlejuice
  8. Frankenweenie
  9. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
  10. Mars Attacks!
  11. Sleepy Hollow
  12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  13. Planet of the Apes
  14. Corpse Bride
  15. Alice in Wonderland
…and I haven’t seen Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  1. The Velvet Underground
  2. Swingers
  3. Mad Men
  4. XKCD
  5. Better Off Ted
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