The Avengers have made their way online in full HD glory! First thoughts: Whedon’s snappy dialogue is in full effect, and is perfectly suited to Downey’s quick delivery. Still not enough Hulk for us though. What do you think?
This post contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Source Code, don’t read it.
So I just came back from the movie, and I have a couple of very big ethical problems with what happened in the movie. Here are the big ones:
1) Goodwin was absolutely wrong to pull the plug on Stevens at the end. Dr. Rutledge may have been an asshole, but he was absolutely right – if Stevens was one of the few matches – or maybe the only match – for the Source Code equipment, and his continued use of it would likely save thousands or even millions of lives in future uses, then sorry, but screw whether being in the box makes Stevens miserable. Balancing millions of lives against one person getting all emo about still being alive when he’d rather not be is no moral contest at all. Wipe his memory and get ready for the next mission. This is why the old cliche about not getting too close to your subject exists, and why, for all that it is a cliche, it’s still a good idea. If Stevens died, and the next day, or week, or month, he was needed again to save another few thousand lives, but wasn’t there because Goodwin went soft, then she’d be responsible for the deaths of those people.
2) So at the end of the film, we see the kiss, and Stevens thinks he’s going to die, but then the kiss ends, he’s still there with the girl, and everything’s happy. Cue music and credits, right? Well, not so fast. Let’s think about this a second. Apparently what’s happened is that somehow Stevens ended up in a timeline where he saved everybody on the train, and ended up as Sean Fentress permanently. Which brings up the question: What about Sean Fentress? If Colter Stevens’s personality has overwritten Sean Fentress’s personality permanently, then hasn’t Colter Stevens effectively just killed Sean Fentress and stolen Fentress’s body, stuff, life, and future? You could say that Fentress was going to die anyway, but is that true? Remember, while it’s true that in this timeline Fentress survived only because Stevens became him for eight minutes, after that, Fentress would have survived and had his whole future ahead of him. Is it right that Stevens ends up with all of that? After all, Colter Stevens made his choices – we are told that he kept going back to Afghanistan again and again to be with his unit. Whether that was noble of him or not, it should be him who faces the consequences of his choices – not Sean Fentress. Certainly, it makes what Stevens said untrue. He didn’t save everybody on that train, because for Fentress, what’s the effective difference between the bomb going off and what ended up happening to him? For all real purposes, he’s dead either way.
At very least, this makes the end of the film not quite as happy an ending as one might have been led to believe.
In light of Michael Cera and Jennifer Aniston both having films out where they play…Michael Cera and Jennifer Aniston, one of the movie critics at Entertainment Weekly put up this article where he examines the idea of an actor or actress who always plays the same roles and how that idea has changed over the years. He does have a point in that 9 times out of 10, Jimmy Stewart played Jimmy Stewart, and so on.
On reflection, this whole idea of an actor being the same in every role was prevalent in Hollywood before method acting and such caught on with Brando and the young crowd of the 50’s. Name one John Wayne film where John Wayne doesn’t play himself. Or Humphrey Bogart. Or Clint Eastwood. Or even Woody Allen, for that matter. And really, what’s the difference between Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Rick Deckard, other than the setting? The only time where people we deem classic actors and actresses seem to break out of their stereotypes is when they make the ‘challenge’ film. Jimmy Stewart had Vertigo. Jimmy Cagney had Yankee Doodle Dandy. Neither Jennifer Aniston nor Michael Cera have done their challenge film yet. So then why does classic Hollywood get a pass while Aniston and Cera get slammed?
The obvious reason is because we don’t find them interesting. Classic actors had a way of drawing you into their stock persona, of making what you’ve seen for them a dozen times before fresh and interesting. John Wayne played a rugged man’s man, the kind that you wanted to be despite his shortcomings or flaws. Clint Eastwood was the laconic individualist defending the law from lawlessness by acting outside the law. Jimmy Stewart was the everyman, your neighbor next door the postman that delivers your mail, ect. By comparison, Michael Cera plays the bumbling, goofy child on the verge of manhood who’s looking at adulthood and still doesn’t know how to express or relate his feelings. And yes, we’ve all been there, but it’s an awkward and uncomfortable age; therefore, Michael Cera is an awkward and uncomfortable character.
Jennifer Aniston has a big advantage over Michael Cera, though. She’s at an age where her persona can be believable for a couple decades more. I can see ‘Rachel’ pretty much acting the same way in her mid-life crisis and post-menopausal years as she did when she was in her 30’s, and I’m sure most everyone else can too. Michael Cera, though, *has* to evolve. His persona is going to be funny up to the mid 20’s, but then people are going to wonder why he keeps playing these men that never quite leave their adolescence and make it into adulthood.
Not that I would know anything about clinging onto your adolescence into your 30’s and beyond…
K.O. in the first round.
Early box office numbers from Friday the 13th of August (via Bleeding Cool):
1. The Expendables (Lionsgate) NEW [3,270 Theaters]
Friday $13.5M, Estimated Weekend $34M
2. Eat Pray Love (Sony) NEW [3,082 Theaters]
Friday $9M, Estimated Weekend $26.5M
3. The Other Guys (Sony) Week 2 [3,651 Theaters]
Friday $5.7M (-56%), Estimated Weekend $17.2M, Estimated Cume $70M
4. Scott Pilgrim v The World (Universal) NEW [2,818 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Estimated Weekend $11M)
5. Inception (Warner Bros) Week 5 [3,120 Theaters]
Friday $3.4M (-38%), Estimated Weekend $11.5M, Estimated Cume $248.6M
So, looks like Scott Pilgrim is a Box Office Bob-omb.
I hate to say I told you so, but… hey, wait, no I don’t. Nobody wants to hear about the love lives of hipster d-bags. I didn’t, and neither did anybody else.
This also proves a point that I’ve been making for a long time: that pleasing hardcore geeks is not the key to success or failure for a sci-fi/superhero/comics film. It’s simply not a big enough demographic to matter all that much – not on the scale that Hollywood is used to. The geeky community was jazzed for this movie, gave it glowing reviews, generated huge internet buzz for it – and by Hollywood standards it was still a stinking flop because even though the geeks showed up for it in droves, it looks like they’re the only people who did. So remember that – the next time someone tells you that a superhero or sci-fi movie can’t succeed because it’s not doing right by the hardcore fans, point at the epic failure of Scott Pilgrim and remind them that that shows how much the hardcore geeks (really don’t) matter in Hollywood.
“Box Office Bob-omb”… HAH! I crack me up!
UPDATE: I call your attention to an excellent piece by John Tyler over at Cinema Blend, which explains in detail why Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which Tyler actually liked) failed miserably at the box office. His points are very similar to mine, and the article is very much worth reading.
UPDATE II: I stand corrected. Scott Pilgrim didn’t come in fourth at the weekend box office. It came in fifth – behind Inception, which has been out for a month and a half. Hoo dawg is this movie ever a turkey.
UPDATE III: Wow. It’s actually gotten to the point where Scott Pilgrim is such a box office disaster that SP fans are writing open letters begging Twilight fans to come bail the movie out before it faces oblivion. Now that’s some desperation.
And it still won’t work. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This movie bombed because no one cares about the love lives of a bunch of hipster d-bags. And say what you want about Edward, Bella, and Jacob – at least they aren’t that.
UPDATE IV: Ironically speaking of the above: In its second weekend, Scott Pilgrim got spanked by – wait for it – Vampires Suck. Vampires Suck came in second, making almost as much in one day as Scott Pilgrim, which came in tenth, has in a week. Oh, and Inception, in its sixth week, came in ninth, to beat Scott Pilgrim yet again.
Drop this movie on Afghanistan, because it’s a bomb.
One of my favorite movie review sites is the rather bombastic, but always funny Mr. Cranky’s Reviews. My favorite of his reviews was of Spice World. Let me reprint that review in its entirety:
“Three words: No fucking way”.
And indeed, that is how I feel about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the new movie from Edgar Wright that the Geeky community seems to have its panties in a knot over. And I know that I’m supposed to be similarly panty-knotted over a comic book movie, starring Michael Cera from Arrested Development and Superbad, directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead. But I can’t work up a shred of enthusiasm for it.
And here’s why: In the end, after you put aside the retro-chic video game, anime, and action movie references, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a story about the love lives of a bunch of hipster douchebags. And I just can’t bring myself, try as I might, to care about any of that.
Maybe it’s a matter of perspective. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. As anyone who lives here knows, San Francisco is absolutely overrun with hipster douchebags. You see them everywhere – with their carefully-selected “I’m too hip to care” clothes, their asinine piercings, their conspicuous and omnipresent white earbuds, and their perpetual smirks about the fact that their daddy-financed lives are just a big joke that no one but themselves is clever enough to be in on.
Forget the cancer that is killing /b/ – these idiots are the cancer that is killing San Francisco; a city that, for all its many faults, I desperately love. They want to turn the whole place into something that feels like one giant Apple Store.
So Scott Pilgrim is your typical unemployed loser amoral slacker idiot with a bunch of First World problems which seem to stem mainly from two things: 1) his unwillingness to leave a self-imposed perpetual adolescence, and 2) his pursuit of a promiscuous hipster chick who changes both bedmates and hair colors with alarming frequency. And then… stuff happens to them, I guess. All of which I couldn’t care less about. Again, I see too many of these people in my daily life, and don’t like them there either.
The long and the short of it is that I’m not going to pay ten dollars to see a movie about the lives of people I wouldn’t talk to if they were sitting next to me on the bus. And that’s not a hypothetical – they have sat next to me on the bus, and have tried to talk to me, and in response, I’ve turned my iPod up and pulled the cord so the bus would stop and let me out. Yes, I’d actually rather wait for the next bus in the rain than hear about people like Scott Pilgrim – so I’m damn sure not going to go spend two hours watching a movie about them.
Sorry Edgar – see you when Paul opens.
P.S Michael Cera needs to stop playing Michael Cera in all the movies he’s in. I mean every role he does – Superbad, Juno, Year One, Youth In Revolt – he plays the same goddamn character: the well-meaning, slightly goofy, slightly nerdy teenageish everyman. I mean, how bad is that when even his Superbad costar Christopher Mintz-Plasse managed to do something different when he played a villain in Kick-Ass? Or when the most interesting Michael Cera role in years was actually played by Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland? Seriously, Cera needs to do something – anything – different, and he needs to do it right now.
It seems that my role is very often to be the official Geek Tragedy contrarian, and so I shall be today. In contrast to my cohost Dave, NPC Comics Editor-In-Chiel Jaimel Hemphill, and virtually the rest of the geeky world, I wasn’t that impressed with Inception.
First of all, I want it understood that I’m not saying that Inception does have some good points. It’s a very well-crafted film, filled with superb performances. But what bothers me most about the reactions to Inception is the idea that it’s a very innovative or groundbreaking movie. This, it most certainly isn’t. Virtually every concept, whether plotwise or visually, is something I’ve seen done before, and often better. Allow me to go through a list of some of Inception‘s concepts, and show you what I mean.
Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Saw It Before: Paprika
Released four years before Inception, Satoshi Kon’s movie (based on a Japanese novel from 1993) involves a psychologist who uses a device called the DC Mini to enter other people’s dreams in a plot that involves a lot of corporate intrigue. Sound familiar? I know that a lot of western directors lift concepts from anime, but this was pretty blatant.
Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Also Saw It Before: The Cell
But hey, maybe that’s not where Nolan got the idea from. Maybe he got it from this ten-year-old J-Lo movie that everybody seems to have forgotten about.
Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams and plant ideas there
Where I Additionally Saw It Before: Dreamscape
Or maybe Nolan got the idea here! Hat tip to Appman on the Rifftrax forums for reminding me of this semi-obscure 1984 Dennis Quaid movie that also covered this ground.
Inception Concept: Lucid dreaming; a long time in the dream = a short time in real life.
Where I Also Saw It Before: Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s been there, done that, more creatively, ten years ago.
Inception Concept: People trapped in a world that may or may not be a dream.
Where I Saw It Before: Urusei Yatsura Movie #2: Beautiful Dreamer
This was an early film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, The Sky Crawlers), based on a manga and anime series written by Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma 1/2). The film was released in 1984, and was actually the first full-length anime film I ever saw. It’s a fantastic film – beautiful, spooky, carefully paced… one of my favorite anime films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Without going into great detail, the characters are all trapped in what they eventually realize is an increasingly bizarre dream, and none of them can be sure which of them is actually the dreamer. So not only did it do one of the big concepts behind Inception, it did it better, and 25 years earlier.
Inception Concept: Hacking someone’s consciousness to artificially plant ideas there
Where I Saw It Before: Ghost In The Shell
While we’re on the subject of Mamoru Oshii, this is basically what we saw in the form of “ghost hacking” in GiTS. Yes, it was done by different methods, but the basic idea is the same.
Inception Concept: Someone trapped in a dream they might only be able to escape by death.
Where I Saw It Before: Life On Mars
(SPOILER ALERT for the original BBC series) This was, essentially, Sam Tyler’s dilemma: He was mostly, but not completely, sure that he was trapped in some kind of world that was a dream or hallucination. By the end of the series, he came to believe that the real world was the dream, and decided to go back to the world of 1973 by jumping off a building. In other words, he did exactly what we see Cobb’s wife do in Inception.
Inception Concept: Dead folks from a character’s the past that manifest and torment them in a state of altered consciousness.
Where I Saw It Before: Flatliners
This 1990 thriller with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon put its characters through the same drama that we saw with Cobb and the wife that haunted his dreams.
Inception Concept: “Which story is real, and which is the dream/fantasy/hallucination?”
Where I Saw It Before: Total Recall
Cobb’s dilemma at the end of the movie is basically the same one faced by Quaid/Hauser on Mars. And, as with Inception, the movie ends with us not really totally sure what the truth is.
Inception Concept: Japanese megacorporation employs brilliant but disgraced hacker to steal industrial secrets with unusual, daring plan
Where I Saw It Before: About half the novels William Gibson ever wrote
Yeah, pretty much…
Inception Concept: “Just one more job, for a good cause, and then I’m out”
Where I Saw It Before: The Killer
This is actually a fairly common trope, but John Woo’s HK action masterwork is a particularly good example, albeit one with an ending less happy than Inception‘s.
Inception Concept: A story layout that structures time in unusual ways and plays tricks with memory
Where I Saw It Before: Memento
I know that the John Fogerty court case established the idea that you can’t really plagiarize yourself, but I’m just saying’…
Inception Concept: A battle taking place simultaneously on multiple levels of reality
Where I Saw It Before: The Matrix
Especially the Matrix sequels. Oh, and the girl is… “The Architect”? Really, Nolan? You thought we wouldn’t notice that?
Inception Concept: Cutting back and forth between multiple battles taking place simultaneously, all leading to one climax
Where I Saw It Before: Return Of The Jedi
And technically The Phantom Menace too, but accusing Nolan of copying Phantom Menace would just be too cold-blooded.
But that’s not all I felt was wrong with Inception. The other big thing that bothered me about Inception is the fact that it more or less simply wasted the opportunities given to it by its structure. The characters end up in a dream world, but instead of facing grotesque or bizarre monsters from the Id (as, for example, was done in both Paprika and The Cell), Nolan simply represented the dreamers’ defenses as guys with guns. By doing this, he threw away the chance to craft some really interesting concepts and images, opting for some well-shot, but standard-issue and more or less forgettable action sequences instead. This was a big disappointment for me – I was expecting something more interesting, both visually and conceptually.
In the end, Inception isn’t a horrible movie – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece it’s being made out to be. A little looking around will reveal films that have done the same things before, and often done them better. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I give Inception a big fat “Meh”.
We’ve been having some issues the past couple weeks; looks like Sci-Fi Surplus isn’t the only one having technical difficulties. But we’re still going and still recording episodes to be released. So, don’t let our recent lull in audio downloads give you hope that we’ve given up. Or something along those lines that’s not quite as self-depricating.
Anyways, here’s an update on what we’re currently working on and what we’re dealing with.
1) NPC Comics Editor-In-Chief and podcast recording engineer extrodinare Jamiel ‘Killer J’ Hemphill is getting ready to take the final plunge and doom himself with wedded ‘bliss’ to the lovely Miss Emily. So, while he deals with the 1001+ tasks that need to be done for the wedding, Kyle and I are going to be editing our podcasts for the time being.
2) We’ve been having issues with our recording software, Audacity having eaten interviews at WonderCon and a couple of podcasts we and our sport-minded brothers at West Coast Bias have done in the past couple months. So, we’re looking for a replacement while we struggle on with Audacity.
3) At the top of our editing list is our big review of the new Undisputed Worst Movie Of All Time, ‘Birdemic’. Kyle forced this upon yours truly as well as our friends Fancy Fembot of Sci-Fi Party, Browcoat Lisa, and Smartbunny. Suspiciously, Kyle developed a ‘sore throat’ the day we were to record and couldn’t speak. His miraculous recovery the next day has been recorded for future consideration as one of the three required miracles for Sainthood in the Catholic Church. However, we’re working on editing the review and releasing it along with a ‘lost episode’ or two of Geek Tragedy once we get those edited as well.
4) When I say, ‘we are editing’, I really mean me, since Kyle is neck-deep in his graduate coursework for the spring quarter.
5) Finally, I’m going to be making my own lady love Pixie Gina rather happy by actually assembling the metric ton of miniatures I have in my collection and building up armies for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, hopefully giving us more storage space in the garage before the madness overtakes me again and I put in a huge order to Forge World. The Tau Manta still tempts me in my dreams… *droooool*
Anyways, I’m currently speed assmebling a mass of Chaos Space Marines to get them ready for an Appocalypse game at my local GW store on Saturday. They’ll pretty much be just black primer, but at least it’s a start in converting lots of bulky boxes into small, fragile, bits of plastic and metal with sharp points. If I get permission from the store manager, I’ll take pics and post them here.
So, hang in there True Believers (please don’t sue us, Stan), we’ve got more on the way as we continue our quest to defend true geekdom from the forces of Hollywood corruption.
McG and Michael Bey, I’m looking at both of you…
Categories: Announcements, Movies
Episode 43: Jock Ridin’ The Boondocks
- Happy International Star Wars Day (May 4th)
- Dave gives out an award
- From the Hollywood Desk:
- Vincent “Splice” Natali to direct Neuromancer movie
- Pac Man movie?
- Marvel talking about Luke Cage movie
- From the Gaming Desk:
- From The Wrestling Desk
- From the Television Desk:
- From the Comics Desk:
- From the Anime Desk:
- From the Cellar:
New Release Tuesday:
- Daria Complete Series
- Essential Art House Kurosawa Collection – Throne Of Blood/Hidden Fortress/Ikiru
- Shin-chan Season 1 Complete
Saturday Morning Rewind:
Stuff You Should Know About:
- Boondocks Season Premiere
- Iron Man 2
Categories: Movies, Show Notes
I just got back from day 1 of WonderCon 2010, and overall, it’s been awesome. Like Kyle posted earlier, we got some great interviews today and more for us to do tomorrow.
So, I went to the special Tron Legacy event at the Embarcadero Center/Justin Herman plaza. I’m sure by now, a lot of you have encountered the ‘Flynn Lives’ marketing campaign online and maybe in other venues. And the one I went to tonight did the exact opposite of what a marketing campaign is supposed to do: it actually made me less interested in the product.
The whole event was basically staged as an ‘underground’ meeting for a flash mob to disrupt an Encom press conference and demand investigation into Flynn’s disappearance. I won’t go into details about it, mainly because I’m not totally sure the extent of the NDA on the piece of paper I signed that allowed the marketing company to photograph me and use it. I have a sneaking suspicion that the flash mob scene might make it into the actual movie, but I really don’t care; I left before the scene started.
Basically think of a LARP turned into a marketing stunt/PR event/movie scene shoot, and that’s what it was. It was like some unholy offspring of high school geeks and the most shallow aspect of cheerleaders having to put on a pep rally. It was overblown, overthought, and trying to capitalize on the ‘flash mob’ gestalt while still being a tool for corporate propaganda. So, it was pretty much everything that justifies my cynicism and contempt for most modern media endeavors.
More importantly, the whole thing had a ‘been there, done that’ feel for me, since I’m a big fan of Cyberpunk RPG’s. Getting a mob of people to provide a distraction to corporate security while you actually do the op and get/subvert the data? Yeah, done that way too many times. And when my friends and I RP’ed such scenarios out (and let’s face it, this Tron event was basically one big LARP), we actually had things like corporate security armed with automatic weapons and explosives firing at us, Black IC (Intrusion Countermeasures) protecting the data, and cybernetically-altered security animals trying to kill us. In short, it wasn’t just stuff I’d played through dozens of times before, it didn’t even rank on the ‘intensity’ meter for make-believe.
There is such a thing as gilding the lily a bit too much, and the event tonight did that to the extent that the lily looked as cheep and tawdry as as a ‘date’ picked up in the Tenderloin.