Reviews

I haven’t posted any film reviews since my 2011 roundup, so let’s talk about the last two I saw.

The Avengers

I admit I had my misgivings about this as soon as they attached Joss Whedon. I know his fans love him, but I’m sorry; he’s a lightweight. Serenity. Buffy. Dollhouse. The screenplay for Alien Resurrection. Whedon has demonstrated again and again that his “skill” seems to be in making the “serious” elements of any story subject to the whims of his humor. Apparently, he would rather have a collection of characters with interchangeable voices delivering snappy one-liners than spend the effort to build any real emotional connection with the audience.

Avengers feels exactly the same. All the other Marvel films, even the horrible Incredible Hulk, had a sense of gravitas. The characters had arcs, and the story felt like thre was a real threat. Other than Tom Hiddleston as Loki, no one in Avengers has anything even remotely like an arc. I just didn’t care… and, I would argue, neither did the actors. Everyone seemed to be phoning it in, or maybe that’s just a side-effect of Whedon’s directing style. Everyone in Firefly seemed to be phoning it in, and that was the best job most of those actors ever had.

I also felt that Avengers looked bad. The entire was film was flat, and looked very much like a TV movie. I partly blame Whedon, who has a very television-oriented aesthetic, and I partly blame the DP, Seamus McGarvey, who has never shot anything (I’ve seen) that didn’t look like a TV movie.

Was Avengers horrible? Of course not. Some of the action sequences even manage to be exciting. But it certainly doesn’t live up to its hype.

Moonrise Kingdom, on the other hand, is sheer fucking brilliance.

Full disclosure; I’m a hardcore Wes Anderson fan. The Darjeeling Limited, which is far and away his weakest movie, is still one that I really enjoy (many don’t). I would fuck The Royal Tenenbaums if I could. I really wish I could get the 22-minute version of his hysterical American Express commercial on blu-ray. So, what I’m saying is I might not be the most unbiased judge; obviously, Anderson’s films hit a button with me.

That being said, I think Moonrise Kingdom is every bit the equal of Tenenbaums, and for me, that’s a huge compliment. Yes, it is a return to the classic Wes Anderson form; the color palette is unreal, the scenes unfold like vignettes from a play, and the characters are all a strange mix of the real and the fantastical, but it works seamlessly. This is a smart, funny, downright eclectic film with a sweet, charming ingenuous tone that is impossible not to love.

Yup. Sweet. Charming. And I loved it. If anything, Moonrise Kingdom is less like Tenenbaums than it is the answer to it. It isn’t cynical or black or bleak in any way, and yet it never turns to treacle. I don’t want to fuck Moonrise Kingdom, I want to spoon with it as we fall asleep, and that is every bit as good.

Let’s get something straight right upfront; I didn’t expect Prince of Persia to be good. I figured with a steroid-enhanced, pouty method-actor in the lead, and a Bruckheimer-driven $200 million worth of action, it would be a half-assed James Bond, BCE.

Not high hopes, but I was still expecting a movie, or at least an attempt at a movie. An approximation, even.

Notsomuch. In fact, I’m not even sure lead programmer – sorry, director – Mike Newell was ever told about the movie part. Obviously, he was making a videogame, and if people didn’t like it, they could damned well stay home.

Which, largely, they have. Hurray for small mercies.

It isn’t just the overwhelming amount of overwhelmingly bad CG that makes Prince of Persia feel like a cutscene that’s dragging on too long (I kept wishing for a big spacebar to hit… Get on with the killing, already!), it’s all the elements combined.

Everything in this film looks fake, from the actually fake CG backgrounds to the fake CG camera moves to the real – but wooden – actors. Somehow, everything is processed in a kind of low-contrast mellow brown that leaves the eye wanting something tactile to latch onto. At one point, I even began to wonder if one of the horses was real or Memorex.

Jake Gyllenhaal spends the entire movie trying to look like a charming rogue, casting his puppy-dog gaze up through meticulously tousled hair. Most often, he succeeds only in looking like Tramp from the Disney classic, wishing someone would give him some pasta to snorfle.

I don’t know what happened to Gemma Arterton. I didn’t want to strangle her in Quantum of Solace, but maybe that’s because her part was much smaller and designed to be prim and irritating. Princess Tamina, however, runs the emotional gamut from shrill to cunty, hitting every excruciating beat in between.

However, even after weathering kidnapping, being sold into completely G-rated slavery, and a full-fledged sand storm, her makeup and hair always look perfect. So there’s that.

Alfred Molina, not content with having played Satipo in Raiders of the Lost Ark, reprises John Rhys-Davies’ role as Sallah. Sir Ben Kingsley whips out Generic Villain #72, exerting precisely the minimum effort to avoid having his Oscar revoked, but all the while rocking some amazing eye liner.

Still and all, the worst element was what passed for a “script.” Nothing in this movie connects, or makes sense. Apparently, the largest empire of the ancient world had a terrific highway system because people routinely complete journeys which seem to cover hundreds of miles, on horseback, in a single day. When Dastan has a puzzle to solve at the beginning of the movie, it’s so obviously a game-inspired moment the camera actually pulls back to give us a top-down view of the city as if we’re checking our map during a break in our FPS.

Where most movies have acts (preferably three), Prince of Persia plainly has levels (seven, by my count) complete with level-ups, weapon upgrades and boss monsters at the end of each. When Dastan finds himself facing off against Nizam at the end of the film, Kingsley’s character has suddenly gone from being a simpering pretender to the throne to dual-blade-wielding death-machine.

Apparently he leveled up, too.

There are moments of entertainment. Adrianna & I got several good laughs. Sadly, all of them were at the movie’s expense.

It’s not worth sitting through this giant digital turd to get those few laughs, but I can’t wait for the Rifftrax version.

Sarah Jessica Parker walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?"

I loathe Sex and the City. In fact, “loathe” doesn’t even begin to describe my abject hatred. It’s like the Woody Allen quote from Annie Hall, “Love is too weak a word for what I feel… I lurve you.  Y’know, I loove you, I, I luff you.  There are two f’s.  I have to invent… ”

I loathez it… I loo-athess it…

You get the idea. It’s a fucking blight on my brain. I hate every single thing about it. I hate the people, I hate the city (as portrayed), I hate the lifestyle. I hate SATC so much that when I encounter some desperate, overweight single woman in her 40s who equates shoes with happiness and money with more-gooder happiness (i.e., a fan of the show), a switch closes in my brain and I immediately assume… no, decide… they are a dysfuntional human of less-than-average-worth.

Actually, I decide that they’re a crass, tasteless fucking retard.

Perhaps the worst part of Robin Hood (and there are many as it is a terrible film) was sitting through the trailer for Sex and the City 2: Cunty Barren Jamboree.

However, one good thing has come from this estrogen-deprived festival of horror: Lindy West of The Stranger has posted her review, and it is the greatest thing you’ll ever read.

Here’s a brief taste:

Sex and the City 2 makes Phyllis Schlafly look like Andrea Dworkin. Or that super-masculine version of Cynthia Nixon that Cynthia Nixon dates. Or, like, Ralph Nader (wait, bad example—Schlafly totally does look like Ralph Nader in a granny wig). SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it’s my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car.”

Go. Read. Now.

Lindy West’ Sex and the City 2 Review

Pssst. Lemme let you in on a little secret. Lost was never a good show.

In fact, I would argue that Lost wasn’t a TV show at all. It was a gimmick. A publicity stunt that got out of hand and took on a life of its own. If you look at the first season, none of those characters were well-drawn, three-dimensional people. They were roughly-sketched, incredibly obvious stereotypes used as an excuse to draw out the tiny, tiny amount of actual plot contained in the season 1 arc.

No one — no one — cared about those characters. All that kept audiences coming back was the gimmick. The frustration of trying to suss out exactly what the fuck the picture was from the tiny puzzle pieces you were given each week was the real thrust of the show.

Had you known then what you know now — that absolutely no answers at all would be forthcoming, and the puzzle was a Rothko — would you have stuck it out for six years?

See, for me, it’s easy. Until the beginning of February, I had never seen the show. However, when they announced the finale, and Rob Burnett & I were planning our podcast, I realized this was a good time to catch up.

Through the grace of Hulu and my long-handled spoon, I’ve done just that. And let me tell you that watching the show in one chunk really makes its myriad flaws stand out in sharp relief. It’s incredibly obvious that there was never a plan, never a cohesive plot. Just a desire to continually manipulate the audience.

This is what happens when you let writers off the tether. An origami-like structure just full of corners they can gleefully paint themselves into with no idea how they’re going to get out.

End result? “Uhhh… they were all dead…?”

*fart noise*

Remember three years ago, when Damon Lindelof swore the characters were neither dead nor in purgatory? Cuse and Abrams have both made the same assertion in public several times. All three are also on record swearing that when the conclusion came it would be real-world answers grounded in hard science.

Um, yeah, about that…

If you look, you can find convoluted defenses written by hardcore fans swearing that, while The End doesn’t answer many questions, it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, they’re flat wrong. Taken as a whole, it is impossible to reconcile the run of the show into a cohesive story.

Seasons 1 & 2 — the best, in my opinion — play nice together. Season 3 is a tedious left turn, but works in tandem with some of what came before. Seasons 4 & 5 work together, but don’t relate effectively with anything else, and by Season 6 we’re truly in the Twilight Zone.

The new one. The one that sucked.

That isn’t to say the show hasn’t had some compelling moments. There have been plenty, but they’ve mostly been predicated upon the notion that they were clues to a riddle that was solvable. Discovering that it was a purely unfathomable, existential riddle along the lines of “Did you go to New York, or by bus?” is like taking a bite from a huge shit sandwich.

I’m sorry, but god/faith/religion is never an acceptable answer for any science-fiction show (for proof, see the new Battlestar Galactica), and at its core, once upon a time, that’s what Lost was. Now, it’s nothing but the ultimate fulfillment of its own title.

The writers? Lost. The plot? Lost. Integrity? Structure? My interest? Lost, Lost, Lost.

And the harcore audience? Wow, they really Lost. They Lost big time.

Not since Patrick Duffy stepped out of the shower has network T.V. posted such an Epic Fail. Had J.J. Abrams any self respect, that too would be… well, you know.

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