Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I didn't like Avatar. Here's why.

I didn't expect to like it, but I went in with an open mind. That being said, I didn't hate it, but I found it to be rather mediocre. Let's see if I can break this down constructively and concisely:

Avatar was being billed as the film to change the landscape of cinema. It was shiny and pretty, but I wasn't blown out of the water. Yes, there were moments where completely computer generated imagery seemed real (unfortunately a lot of those moments involved characters overlooking cliffs, which made me a little light-headed). At times the Na'vi did appear to really exist and be present, but for every moment I felt that way, there was another moment where it just seemed like really good CG. I think the technology that Cameron has developed will be very useful for big action films and any movie that needs a Golem or a Jar Jar, and I appreciate that. But I've heard accounts in which the audience member felt like they were completely transported to a whole new world and it didn't feel like a movie. I saw it in 3D, but it still only felt like a really big-budget action film.

I understand the notion behind making the world of Pandora pretty and bad-ass and perfect; it's so the audience will be super-devastated when the idiot humans destroy it. But it was too much for me. It started okay. The animals are bigger and have more appendages than our do, there's a lot of trees, the people are 8 feet tall and blue. All good. But then nighttime rolls around, and it turns into my bedroom circa 8th grade. Did everything have to glow like an acid trip? I make fairy wings and am all over anything bright and colorful and glittery, but this was like being hit over the head with a Myspace page. The grandness of the world reminded me of how fake and imagined it was.

And I was pretty much okay with the Na'vi and how they looked and how agile and ninja-like they are, but then they had weird hair penis things? That was weird, right? Again, I understand it was really to push this idea that a humanoid species can really be in tune with mother earth, but couldn't they just like, use the force, or 'commune' with the creatures? The actual physical connection was too much for me.

So here's where I had big problems with the movie. It's Pocahontas with blue people. I know everyone's aware of that by now, and a lot of people seem to perfectly okay with it. I'm not. It pisses me off. I'm very much in favor of movies pointing out what a terrible species we've become, be it in regards to the slaughter of whomever we don't agree with/have things we want or how we're fine with systematically obliterating the ecosystem so as long we all have iPods. I am for such messages. But I also like good movies, and I think it's possible to get a message across without beating it into the audience's brain with bland storytelling. One of my favorite movies of 2009, District 9, did a really damn fine job of sending a message while telling a wonderfully heart-breaking story, plus it had effects that were kick-ass. Wall-E, another recent film, also hit home with a super strong message that, although it was the basis for the overall plot, it wasn't the direct focus of the film. So it can be done. You can make good movies with a strong message that are enjoyable to watch.

But I just didn't care while watching Avatar. I knew exactly every little thing that was going to happen and every arc that each character would endure. And that's BORING. It makes me not care. There were some great actors in this film, but the material they were working with was so uninspiring that almost everyone fell flat onscreen. The only person I really liked and wanted more from, was Giovanni Ribisi, the evil, sadistic, corporate bad-guy. I'm not saying the movie needed to break the mold from a storytelling angle, but just a little bit more depth and a little less cliche could've helped tremendously. I think Cameron should've written an outline, handed it over to some bad-ass award winning writer, and then used that as a shooting script, instead of writing it himself.

Avatar is raking in tons of money, which makes me think that maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it was a super great movie and I'm just picky. But I have a sinking feeling that people are just easily entertained. They see flashy shiny things and think it's art. And I'm still really baffled by the Golden Globe win. That better not happen at Oscar time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Y: The Last Man Casting

I came into the comics reading lifestyle fairly later on than most, so the majority of the books I read were released long ago and I'm reading them in trade. Y: The Last Man was probably the first book I read in single issues during it's original run. I was hooked from the beginning, and though it faltered along the way, it ended pretty strongly and overall I still think it's a very unique and compelling story. It's also pretty much movie-ready, and though there was much hype about DJ Caruso and Shia LaBeouf teaming up for it, I'm not sure where the movie stands anymore. So, once again, I'm throwing my casting list out there. Please enjoy.

Bret Harrison as Yorick Brown

Most people probably know Bret Harrison from Reaper at this point (a show which I kinda gave up on during Season One) but I know and love him from The Loop (which Fox seemed to have systematically killed). He's very expressive and funny in his worrywart ways, and though I haven't seen him do anything dramatic, I think he's got raw talent that could be wrangled. He also has that man-boy thing going on, which I think is crucial for Yorick, and he looks like he'd definitely own a monkey.
Naomie Harris as Agent 355

I only know Naomie Harris from 28 Days Later, but I think that's more than enough. She gives an amazing performance in that film, growing from brutally tough, to familial and vulnerable. And hey, that's pretty much the route 355 takes. I could definitely buy her as the macho one, but she's also got a softness that would showcase the emotionality of that character.
Lucy Liu as Dr. Allison Mann

I've liked Lucy Liu in everything I've seen her in, starting with Ally McBeal. But it wasn't until Kill Bill that she really showed how good of an actress she is. My first thought about her was that she was almost too pretty and glamorous to realistically look like a scientist, but I'm sure that if her hair was mussed and glasses adorned, she could look the part.
Lizzy Caplan as Hero Brown

For Hero, I was trying to steer away from the bombshell-action hero type actresses that I'm sure will end up filling the role anyway. She was just a normal girl who then went all crazy after the horrific plague incident. So my bet is on Lizzy Caplan, who seems to have done a lot more than I was aware of. She was hilarious in Mean Girls, but then gave a really striking performance in Cloverfield, and that's what makes me think she could something really different and honest with this role.
Jamie King as Beth Deville

As readers, we don't meet Beth for quite some time, so for the most part, we only see her through the Yorick's eyes. I get the vibe that she's supposed to be this really pretty, sweet, girl next door type and that's why he's pining so hard for her. So I think Jamie King would be great for that. She did the idealized girl thing in Sin City, and she hasn't done much dramatic work, but she showed some range in My Bloody Valentine 3D. But mainly, she's just really pretty and sweet looking.
Elisha Cuthbert as Beth II

So this Beth needs a little more range and personality, I think, but also needs to be blonde and fun and all that. And I really like Elisha Cuthbert, mainly because of The Girl Next Door, in which she was believably sweet and cool, and then, though it wasn't much of a film, she showed some toughness in House of Wax, so I could see her surviving in the post-apocalyptic setting.
Stockard Channing as Jennifer Brown

This is one of those Battlestar Galactica-type moments where some random government lady gets bumped up to being a high ranking cabinet member. So the actress needs to be believable in both types of roles, and I think Stockard Channing would be quite awesome at that. And I can totally see her meddling in her son's life and stirring up all kinds of problems.
Amy Ryan as Ciba Weber

Again, I worry this role will be cast with some young hottie who's supposed t be Russian, and it'll probably be really odd. But I think someone like Amy Ryan would be a much better fit. She's proven to be funny, cute and a pretty awesome actress by way of The Office and The Wire. I'd totally buy her as a sassy Russian astronaut hellbent on protecting her unborn child.
Jessica Hynes as Rose Copen

This is another one of those roles that requires both tough and soft characteristics. I really like Jessica Hynes, she was totally fabulous in Spaced and even her bit role in Shaun of the Dead was spot on. Again, this is a role that will probably go to some young hottie, but I think Hynes would pull off the toughness as well as the softness in her relationship with Dr. Mann, and it would be a different and unique type of portrayal.
Belen Rueda as Alter Tse'elon

This is another actress I only know from one movie, The Orphanage, but again, her performance was really remarkable. Also, I do believe she is Spanish, but I couldn't really think of any Israeli actresses, so deal with it. Anywho, if you've seen The Orphanage, I don't think I need to say anything else, and if you haven't, go watch it right now. But the determination she showed in that film could easily be translated to militaristic drive and it would be badass.

And I didn't attempt to cast Ampersand, because, well, he's a monkey. I'm sure any monkey Hollywood can come up with would be just as good as my monkey choice.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weekday Movie Madness: Up in the Air

Okay, this post is less about the actual movie itself, and more about my experience of watching it. Let me preface this by stating that I love movies, and I love watching them in the theater. Let me also say that I was spoiled when I lived in Austin by the Alamo Drafthouse, where movie etiquette is still in effect. At the Drafthouse, children are not allowed, there is delicious food available and alcohol to drink, and if you talk, are on your cell-phone or are just plain being an ass, you will get a talking to, or even kicked out. So yeah, I'm spoiled. But as movie going gets more and more expensive I get even more frustrated when people act a damn fool at the theater.

And so begins my evening. Rickey and I decided we wanted to go see Up in the Air, and had a craving to just go in the middle of the week, as opposed to waiting till the weekend like normal. We thought it might be a better experience since it was likely that less people would be there and it might be a more chill crowd. The theater wasn't packed, but it also wasn't as empty as I had anticipated, so that was an instant bummer. As we're waiting for the movie to start, and people are still filing in, a mom with a kid who must've been only 5 or 6, strolls in and sits two rows behind us. Now, I didn't know too much about this movie going in, and though I was sure there wouldn't be large amounts of violence or nudity or craziness, I was also pretty sure it's not for children that young. I have two major problems with this: 1. Children should not be taken to movies that are inappropriate for them since they will be either be scarred for life or totally lost, and 2. It fucks things up for everybody else. I love kids. I'm all for taking kids to movies meant for them. I think it's fun and it helps them learn theater etiquette. But parents, please, don't drag them out to grown up movies. It's rude. It costs alot to see a movie nowadays and I really don't need my nice quiet dramedy ruined by your kid who is confused and bored. That's your fault, not theirs, so don't yell at the kid when you're the idiot. Go home, watch some Spongebob. This is not hard.

So anyways, the kid is kinda chattering as the movie begins, and then this older fellow sits at the end of our row. I didn't realize he'd be a problem until the first few laugh moments of the movie rolled out. Everytime something funny or interesting would happen, he'd let out a very pert and loud "Ha!" or "Heh, Heh!" like some type of ridiculous sitcom background actor. I'm sure he's a nice man, but it was a bit much.

In addition to the child and Crazypants McGee, about 7 minutes into the movie, 2 girls and a guy walk in and sit directly behind me and Rickey. As they're getting settled we hear them pull out all kinds of candy and food in loud wrappings. They proceed to eat like potheads through THE WHOLE DAMN MOVIE and their ridiculous wrapper noises ruined several scenes (at one point I looked behind me in utter disgust and caught the guy's eyes dead on and I must've shamed him for he immediately ceased his eating for a good while). The girls also chatted away with each other for quite some time, and when Anna Kendrick came on screen, one turned to the other and said "Like omigod, she was in Twilight." I don't know what the hell provoked them to go see this movie.

I was able to enjoy the movie, and then as As the climax began to build and the resolutions were rolling out, the theater was pretty lax andClooney finishes up his final monologue (and I can tell the movie is ending) the mom of the child decides its time to close up shop and starts packing all their shit away and making as much noise as possible, so the nice closing shot of silence was totally ruined. Thanks lady, you're a winner.

I really, really liked the movie and can't wait to watch it again in the peace and quiet of my own home. And I really recommend it for those of you who can watch it in a nice arthouse theater or something, where people aren't ridiculous. And the moral of the story is, until we can get our shit together enough to be able to watch a movie in public peacefully, I have no hope for our society.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 Movie Mamajama

Hey, it's 2010! That's weird, right? Anywho, I'm a pretty big fan of movies and tend to get jazzed about upcoming releases. I didn't think there was anything all that exciting coming out this year, but after a quick Google search, I was quickly proved incorrect. So here are the movies I am most excited for in the next 12 months.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I'm a pretty big 'Scott Pilgrim' lover, and all the leaked images from this movie seem like Edgar Wright's staying really true to the series. But as much as I love Michael Cera, I'm very nervous that he's going to pull his whole neurotic weirdo schtick and blow the whole thing. But I'm trying not to focus on that. It'll be rad. I'm sure.

Alice in Wonderland

I'm an avid Tim Burton fan and have been since I was a little kid, but his movies over the past few years seem to have lost that special spark they once had. When I heard he was doing Wonderland, I was convinced it would suck. After the first trailer, I was still pretty apprehensive, but after the second trailer and the release of more artwork from the film, I'm pretty psyched. It may still suck, but it'll be fabulous and pretty in 3D.

Iron Man 2

Though I'm a big reader of comics, I don't read many traditional superhero comics, I've never read any 'Iron Man,' and very little Marvel in general. So when I fucking loved Iron Man, it was a bit of a shock. Robert Downey Jr. was phenomenal and as long as he gives the same type of energy he did in the first one, the second Iron Man will be a win, hands down.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I haven't read any of the books, but I've watched all the movies, and they keep getting better. The first ones were cute and nice, but slowly they've gotten darker, scarier and more fantastic. I've had friends tell me everything that happens in the books, so plot-wise, nothing is a surprise, but it's so much fun to watch these crazy magic events play out on the big screen.


Yes, there is a MacGruber movie coming out. And yes, I'm really excited about it. The sketches on SNL aren't necessarily my favorite, but the collection of actors set to be in movie is pretty awesome and I've heard some early buzz that the movie is totally fun.


I really don't know much about Inception, and I'm trying to keep it that way. I know it's Christopher Nolan, and it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, and there's some crazy stuff going on, but that's all I need to know. I'm going to avoid reviews and trailers until I can just go see it for myself. I fell like it will be a good thing.

I realize the list is packed with blockbusters and fantastical stuff, but that's okay. I'm sure I'll stumble across all kinds of awesome dramas and documentaries and good for my brain kinds of things, but these are what I'm really looking forward to.