Friday, June 28, 2013

New Nine Inch Nails video directed by David Lynch released today

         The music video has been released online today for the new Nine Inch Nails single, "Came Back Haunted". It's directed by none other than David Lynch. It definitely has a Lynchian feel to it so fans of his should enjoy it. The video begins with a warning that it may cause seizures in people with epilepsy. If you don't have epilepsy, check it out below.

First clip from Von Trier's Nymphomaniac

The first clip has been released from the upcoming Lars Von Trier film, Nymphomaniac. The controversial director is known powerful films such as Dogville, Dancer in the Dark and Antichrist. Watch the clip below.

The film is scheduled to be released on Christmas in Denmark, but doesn't have a US release date yet. It stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, and Willem Dafoe.

World War Zzzzzzz (5/10)

DIRECTOR: Marc Forster

World War Z isn’t a terrible film, but it definitely falls flat. First of all, a PG-13 zombie movie? Really?  I’m not one of those people who think movies need to be violent to be good, but come on, these are zombies we’re talking about. A zombie film without blood just isn’t the same. The zombies are more 28 Days Later than Night of the Living Dead ; they’re fast and aggressive. They’re also designed well as they look pretty cool.
Also, what is the point of calling this World War Z? I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard that it’s completely different than the source material. They could have just called it Generic Zombie Movie with Brad Pitt and probably would have made just as much money. The book reportedly contains lots of political and social commentary, very little of which is to be found in this film.

World War Z’s main flaw is that it’s just kind of boring. The filmmakers use numerous horror movie clichés to create tension, but it never quite works. The frequent use of shaky camerawork doesn’t help matters. 
The movie had a huge budget and you get the sense the filmmakers tried to make the movie as broad and appealing as possible to make up for this, but this just leads to a mediocre, milquetoast product. It’s hard to care about any of the characters; besides Brad Pitt, none of them are really fleshed out. Even Pitt delivers a wooden performance below his usual standards.

RATING: 5 out of 10

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Monsters University (7 out of 10)

Director: Dan Scanlon

The sequel to 2001’s Monster’s Inc. is definitely a feast for the eyes. The animation is great and there’s some excellent use of color. There are dozens, if not hundreds of creative monster designs, sure to delight children. The attention to detail is amazing, as usual for Pixar. The movie doesn't talk down to kids and there are plenty of gags throughout to be enjoyed by adults as well.
The voice acting is also top-notch in the story of how Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) meet in college. Goodman and Crystal easily get back into their roles; their rapport is the crux of Monsters University. At first Sully and Mike clash and develop a competition, but of course become friends by the end.
The somewhat predictable plot involves them getting kicked out of the School of Scaring and having to get first place at the “Scare Games” in order to get back in. The film utilizes many college movie clichés including the arrogant fraternity member, voiced by Nathan Fillion. Helen Mirren also stands out as the fittingly named Dean Hardscrabble. The tropes seem straight out of 80s college flicks like Revenge of the Nerds.
Many have claimed that Pixar needed a critical hit after disappointing films such as Cars 2 and Brave. Monsters University mostly succeeds on that level, but doesn't quite reach the heights of the best Pixar movies. There were a few parts that were a bit slow or bland, and you definitely get the feeling that they were playing it safe with this one. 
There are some good moments, but it doesn't quite have the heart as some of their other releases. Don’t go into it expecting the creativity of the first film, but Monsters University is a solidly entertaining movie for all ages.

RATING: 7/10

Best Upcoming Films: November and December


11/8 Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor)

This film, the sequel to 2011’s Thor, will be the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The last MCU film, Iron Man 3, received quite the post-Avengers bump, making over $1.2 billion worldwide. Thor made just under $450 million globally; the sequel will probably beat that, but reaching a billion might be pushing it.
Many of the cast from the first are returning including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, and Idris Elba. 

New to the series are Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) who plays the main villain Malekith, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko on Lost) in the role of secondary villain Kurse, and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids).
Following Kenneth Branagh as director is Alan Taylor. Taylor has directed 6 episode of Game of Thrones, in addition to episodes of Boardwalk Empire, Bored to Death, Mad Men, The Sopranos, and Lost.

11/15 The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
            This is the upcoming Scorsese- Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration (their 5th), and that’s enough said for many.  It’s an adaptation of the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, a wealthy brokerage owner who eventually served 22 months in prison.Other cast members include Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, and Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
            Like Hugo, this film will be shot on digital. While Scorsese had been vocal about supporting analog film in the past, it appears he’s been converted. 
            The trailer is pretty interesting and it seems to be a bit more comedic than one might expect. Matthew McConaughey’s ridiculous character is a good example.

11/20 Her (Spike Jonze)

Her is about a man played by Joaquin Phoenix who falls in love with a computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson. It’s Jonze’s first film since 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are. The cast also includes Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde. Some scenes were shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival and received positively.


12/6 Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers)

The new film, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, has already won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Inside Llewyn Davis is set in the early 1960s and is about a folk singer played by Oscar Isaac. It also features Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. The Coen Brothers have been on a hot streak lately and judging by the trailer, this looks to be no exception.

12/18 The Monuments Men (George Clooney)
Clooney, the director of Good Night, and Good Luck, and The Ides of March, is releasing this film in December. Based on a non-fiction book by Robert Edsel, it’s about a group dedicated to saving works of art from Hitler during World War II.

The film was shot in Germany and the UK and will be distributed by Columbia and 20th Century Fox. The Monuments Men stars Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett. The screenplay was written by Clooney and Grant Heslov (The Ides of March, Good Night, and Good Luck). 
Alexandre Desplat (Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty) composed the music. This has a great chance of being a contender come awards season.

12/27 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

12 Years a Slave is the new release from McQueen, the writer-director behind Shame and Hunger, both critically acclaimed. It adapts the autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northrup a free black man who was sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor (RedbeltChildren of Men) stars as Northrup.

Michael Fassbender, who appeared in the two previous McQueen films, returns as a slave owner. Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, and Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) also have roles. With a cast, director, and subject matter like this, 12 Years a Slave could be an amazing, powerful film.

Best Upcoming Films: July-October


7/12 Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro)

After Pan’s Labyrinth, just del Toro’s name is enough to get me to buy a ticket. Add in giant robots fighting monsters… what more can you ask for? Pacific Rim appears to be influenced by Godzilla movies and anime; many have cited comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion, although the similarities appear to be mainly superficial.

The cast includes Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Idris Elba, who appeared in Prometheus and as Heimdall in Thor. A somewhat surprising cast member is Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame.

7/19 Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Refn, the director of Drive and Bronson, both amazing films, is working with Ryan Gosling again on this one. Only God Forgives looks similar to Drive but more surreal, almost hallucinogenic. Gosling plays a drug smuggler who is trying to find his brother’s killers. 
The film has divided critics so far and there were supposedly people booing and walking out at Cannes. That only makes me more intrigued; this is easily one of my most anticipated of the year.

7/19 The World’s End (Edgar Wright)

Wright regulars Simon Pegg (who was also co-writer) and Nick Frost return in this story of old friends attempting to finish a pub crawl in the middle of what appears to be a robot invasion. The film also stars Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes). The World’s End is considered the end to a loose trilogy that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

7/24 The Wolverine (James Mangold)

Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the scruffy X-Men member in this standalone film set in Japan. Darren Aronofosky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) was originally set to direct. It’s hard to picture him doing a comic book movie and he probably wasn’t going to make a mainstream enough movie for Fox. He claimed his departure was due to not wanting to spend time out of the country and away from his family. However, the film should be in capable hands with Mangold, who also directed Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma.
The only other confirmed member of the X-Men to appear in The Wolverine is Famke Janssen as Jean Grey aka Phoenix. There have been rumors of a scene involving Patrick Stewart, but this has not been made official.
The film is based on a limited series titled Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Villains appearing include Viper and the Silver Samurai.
 The Wolverine will be the first X-Men movie to be released in 3D.


8/9 Elysium (Neill Blomkamp)

            Blomkamp is back with his first movie since the 2009 sleeper science fiction hit District 9. The star of that movie, Sharlto Copley, joins a cast consisting of Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.
Elysium is set in the year 2154 where the wealthy live in a utopian artificial city in orbit around Earth, while most of society is forced to live in squalor on the surface. Damon plays a former thief that contracts cancer and has five days to get to Elysium and cure it. The special effects look amazing and District 9 was one of the best science fiction films in recent years, so I’m highly anticipating Elysium.

8/14 Kick-Ass 2 (Jeff Wadlow)

             This comic book adaptation is the sequel to 2010’s Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn(X-Men: First Class). Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages) returns in the title role, along with Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloë Grace Moretz.
 Jim Carrey joins the franchise, and has generated a bit of controversy recently for his comments. Earlier this year he released a video mocking Charlton Heston for his NRA leadership and claimed that the Sandy Hook shooting should lead to stricter gun control laws. Then on June 23, he tweeted I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence.” 


10/4 Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

The director of Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men is back in this upcoming film about two astronauts trying to survive outside a damaged space station. Apparently the only cast members are George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The trailer looks excellent and does a great job of conveying tension. Gravity was filmed digitally and post-converted to 3D. It’ll be interesting to see how a director like Cuarón utilizes 3D.
He’s again using cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who worked with him on Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men. Lubezki also worked with Terrence Malick on Tree of Life and The New World and the Coens on Burn after Reading. The cinematography was amazing in Children of Men, so I’m really looking forward to this one.

10/4 Machete Kills (Robert Rodriguez)

            The sequel to the over the top 2010 Grindhouse spinoff, Machete, promises more of the same. Danny Trejo returns as the title character, along with Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez.
 Several big names are joining the cast, such as Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, Amber Heard, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Machete Kills also features Charlie Sheen (credited as Carlos Estevez, his birth name) as the president of the United States! Furthermore, this is Mel Gibson’s first villainous role. This should be just as ridiculous and violent as the first.

10/25 Oldboy (Spike Lee)

            Spike Lee is remaking the 2003 Korean masterpiece of the same name, which was based on a Japanese manga. This film has been in development hell for a while; it was originally supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg and star Will Smith. It’s pretty hard to imagine a version of the disturbing Oldboy involving those two.
 Josh Brolin stars and Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley (the star of District 9) have supporting roles. The original film is about a man help prisoner for 15 years without knowing why. It dealt with taboo themes such as incest, so it’ll be interesting to see how Spike Lee translates it for American audiences.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: (Part Three: The 80s)

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film

Part Three: The 1980s

Please check out my video version as well.

The first major comic book film of the 1980s was Superman II (1980), which brought back Christopher Reeve in the title role. Large parts of the movie were originally shot in conjunction with the first film. Supposedly around 75 percent of the film was shot by Richard Donner. The Salkinds decided to replace Donner with Richard Lester. Lester was most well-known for directing the Beatles films A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965). He also directed the 1967 film How I Won the War, which featured John Lennon. The Salkinds had worked with him before on The Three Musketeers (1973).

Lester was selected to bring a more slapstick approach to series instead of Donner’s comparatively serious take. Donner and the Salkinds had clashed during the production of the first film as they wanted a more campy approach. According to the IMDB trivia page for Superman II, Lester claimed he had never even heard of Superman before agreeing to work on the film.

Superman II brought back Margot Kidder as Lois Lane and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. New to the series was Terence Stamp, who portrayed the villain General Zod. Stamp had earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Billy Budd (1962). He has worked with such directors as Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone. He also appeared in Star Wars: Episode I as Supreme Chancellor Valorum.

Scenes were shot for Superman II with Marlon Brando as Jor-El, but they were not used to avoid paying his exorbitant fee. In addition, Hackman did not participate in the reshoots because he was unhappy with Donner being fired. The Richard Donner cut was eventually released on DVD in 2006.

The film was very well received and currently holds an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. It also has an 87 out of 100 score on Metacritic. The film made over 100 million dollars at the box office, about double the budget.

Then in 1981, there was the animated film Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal was the name of an American comic magazine, which featured science fiction and fantasy stories. It was based on the French magazine Métal Hurlant. Artists such as H.R, Giger and Moebius had their work included in Heavy Metal. There was also lots of violence in sex contained within the pages of the publication.

The 1981 film was based on several stories from the periodical. Like its source material, the movie contained graphic violence and nudity. Heavy Metal was directed by Gerald Potterton, who was an animator on the psychedelic masterpiece Yellow Submarine (1968). Many famous actors were part of the voice cast, such as John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis. Several popular rock bands of the era were on the soundtrack, including Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Stevie Nicks, Devo, and Journey.

The film has some excellent animation (including some rotoscoping) and has become a cult classic over the years. South Park even spoofed it in the episode titled, “Major Boobage”.

The only comic-based movie to be released in 1982 was Swamp Thing, based on the DC character created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in 1971. It was directed by Wes Craven, known for horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes. The film starred Dick Durock as the titular character, Adrienne Barbeau, and Ray Wise, who played Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks.

In 1983, the Salkinds released Superman III, marking the beginning of the decline of the franchise. Lester returned to direct. Critics and audiences gave it a much worse reception than the previous two films; it currently sits at 26 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. It had a budget of 39 million and made around 70 million worldwide. A big problem with Superman III was that it was too campy and comedic. Richard Pryor had a supporting role, and many felt he was out of place in the series. Also, Margot Kidder had a reduced role due to her complaining about Richard Donner’s firing.

1984 saw the release of Sheena, directed by John Guillermin, who was the director of the 1976 remake of King Kong. Sheena was created by Will Eisner (known for creating The Spirit) and Jerry Iger. She was actually the first female comic book character with her own title. Unfortunately, the film bombed, making less than 6 million on an approximately 25 million dollar budget. It was also nominated for 5 Golden Raspberry awards.

Supergirl (directed by Jeannot Szwarc), a spin-off of the Superman series was also made in 1984. It starred Helen Slater as Supergirl in her first film role. Well-known actors such as Peter O’Toole, Mia Farrow, and Faye Dunaway appeared in supporting parts. Dolly Parton was offered a role but turned it down because she didn’t want to play a witch. Christopher Reeve was supposed to cameo as Superman, but this fell through.

Like many comic book films in the 1980s, Supergirl was a critical and commercial failure. The film cost $35 million, and only made $14 million, giving it the smallest box office gross of the Superman series.

Another comic book film released this year was The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak. It was a French sexploitation movie directed by Just Jaeckin.

1985 saw the production of Red Sonja, based on the Marvel character that first appeared in Conan the Barbarian in 1973. Richard Fleischer, known for Tora! Tora! Tora!, was the director. Red Sonja was played by model Brigitte Nielsen (Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II). Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in a supporting capacity suspiciously similar to his Conan the Barbarian role. Again, this film was a box office disaster, making less than $7 million. Arnold called it the worst movie he ever made and joked that the he threatened his kids with watching it if they acted up. Among other problems, Red Sonja was considered homophobic due to the villain’s implied lesbian nature.

Also released that year was Weird Science, which was probably the most successful comic book adaptation of the decade that didn’t involve Batman or Superman. It was directed byJohn Hughes, who gained fame from directing 80s teen movies such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He also wrote Pretty in Pink, Vacation, and Home Alone. Weird Science featured actors such as Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey, Jr. and was produced by Joel Silver (The Matrix, Die Hard).

Weird Science was a science fiction anthology comic book published by EC comics in the 1950s. A story featured in the periodical titled, “Made of the Future” by Al Feldstein was the basis of the film.

In addition, there was another Asterix movie made in 1985, titled Asterix Versus Caesar.

Fast forward to next year, and we have one of the most infamous comic book films ever made, Howard the Duck. Howard the Duck was a Marvel character created by Guy Gerber in 1973. Howard doesn’t have any superpowers, but is proficient in the martial art known as Quack Fu. The comic series has been described as existentialist, something that was definitely lost in translation. Gerber claimed that Albert Camus was “directly responsible for the creation of Howard the Duck.”

Howard the Duck, produced by George Lucas of Star Wars fame, was a very horrible film that failed on many levels. It received harshly negative reviews and did terribly at the box office. It was originally supposed to be animated, which probably would have been a much better medium than live action. The adaptation changed Howard personality greatly, making him much nicer, and removed much of the satirical and surrealist elements which made the comic series work.

A much higher quality comic adaptation released in 1986 was the animated When the Wind Blows, based on a graphic novel by Raymond Briggs. It was directed by Jimmy Murakami and featured music by David Bowie and Roger Waters. When the Wind Blows is a haunting look at a British couple trying to survive nuclear fallout. I highly recommend this film.

There was also an Asterix film that came out this year, titled Asterix in Britain.

In 1987, the final film in the Christopher Reeve Superman series was made: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (directed by Sidney J. Furie). It was not produced by the Salkinds, as the rights had been sold to Cannon Films. Reeve was originally skeptical about reprising his role, but the producers promised to fund a project of his choosing if he returned.

The film, which featured Lex Luthor creating an evil clone of Superman called Nuclear Man, was quite terrible and a box office failure. This was partly due to budget problems. According to the IMDB trivia page for the movie, the budget was originally supposed to be $36 million, but was cut to $17 million because Cannon Films was having money problems. This led to some very shoddy special effects. Reeve claimed this flick did serious damage to his career, and he was probably right. Superman IV also did damage to the Superman franchise itself. Superman would not appear on film again until 2006, in Superman Returns.

In 1988, one of the best and most influential anime films ever made came out, titled Akira. Akira was based on the epic manga of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo. The sprawling manga ran from 1982 to 1990 and totaled over 2000 pages. It’s a great read and I would highly suggest checking it out.

Otomo also directed the anime adaptation; he would only allow the film to be made if he had creative control. Akira was a landmark anime, partly because of the incredible animation. It was much more detailed than most previous efforts. The dialogue was recorded before the animation was done, allowing the mouth movements to sync up with the words that were spoken. Akira was one the first anime to do this. Akira is largely responsible for the international success of Japanese animation.

Many other films based on manga were released in the 1980s. These include several films based on the Doraemon character and five based on Dragon Ball. Other manga to be adapted were Tomorrow’s Joe, Kinnikuman, Urusei Yatsura, and Fist of the North Star. Furthermore, the film Shogun Assassin was made, which was edited from footage found in the first two adaptations of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga.

1989 had a few small comic book films and one huge one. One of the smaller ones was The Punisher, based on the Marvel character and starring Dolph Lundgren. The movie garnered mainly negative reviews. It was somewhat faithful to comic character, but he didn’t wear the iconic skull logo.

In addition, Return of Swamp Thing and Asterix and the Big Fight came out this year.

By far the biggest comic book movie of the year was Tim Burton’s Batman. The Batman character had been undergoing a bit of a renaissance due to two seminal works: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Both of these led to new interest in making a Batman movie and were claimed to be influences on the 1989 film.

Batman fans were originally skeptical when the film was announced. This was partly due to the choice of Tim Burton as director and Michael Keaton as Batman. At the time, Burton had only directed comedies such as Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. Keaton was also known for comedies such as the aforementioned Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom. Understandably, this led many fans to think the movie was going to be a campy parody in the style of the 1960s TV series. This led to studio to quickly release a teaser trailer showing the dark nature of the film.

In addition to Keaton, the cast included Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale (a part originally intended for Sean Young). Billy Dee Williams also appeared as District Attorney Harvey Dent (alter-ego of Two-Face in the comics and The Dark Knight).

Batman was highly successful, making over $400 million. This was partly due to an unprecedented marketing bonanza. It also won an Oscar for set direction. This makes sense, as the set direction was definitely a highlight of the film. Like many of Burton’s films, it was strongly influenced by German Expressionism, including films such as Metropolis and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Some interesting tidbits include the fact that Dick Grayson aka Robin was originally included in the script and that this is the only Batman film with just one villain. Three Batman sequels would follow and a rebooted trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan.

Batman was faithful to the comics in many ways, but there were also some departures. The Joker’s appearance is very similar to that of the comics; Nicholson even wore a prosthetic chin. However, unlike the comics, The Joker was the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, not Joe Chill. The Joker also has an actual name, Jack Napier. In the source material, The Joker’s name was usually left a mystery. Furthermore, unlike his comic counterpart, Burton’s Batman seems to have no compunction about killing. However, this could be considered accurate as Batman took lives in the earliest comics.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

This Is The End (2013) is a hilarious postmodern romp

This Is The End is definitely a unique movie. It’s also an interesting example of postmodernism. The film is filled with references to other movies and the actors’ lives and requires previous knowledge of their personas. The film plays off the personalities of the characters they usually play as well as their real-life attitudes. One of most hilarious examples is Michael Cera’s character (he plays himself as does everyone else).  In the film, he is brash and confident, smacking Rihanna’s ass and doing cocaine. The joke is that this is the polar opposite of the characters he usually plays and his temperament in real life.

 If you hadn’t seen any of his previous roles, you probably wouldn’t get the joke. This is what makes This Is The End postmodern, it requires knowledge of other films and TV shows. Danny McBride also plays off his onscreen persona. He’s obnoxious and constantly insults those around him, similar to his character in Eastbound and Down.

There are numerous references to other films, making This Is the End an intertextual postmodern experience. Emma Watson is in the movie and Danny McBride talks about how he’s a huge Harry Potter fan. James Franco is referred to as the Green Goblin and he uses the camera from 127 Hours. They talk about making a sequel to Pineapple Express and how they shouldn’t make a sequel to Your Highness. When Jonah Hill prays to god he refers to himself as Jonah Hill from Moneyball. The film also parodies The Exorcist when Jay Baruchel tries to exorcise a demon from Jonah Hill. If you hadn’t seen or at least heard of these movies, this film might not be quite as amusing.

The film is hilarious with barely any dull moments. It’s quite possibly the best comedy of the summer.

RATING: 9/10

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thoughts on Man of Steel (2013)

I was incredibly excited for Man of Steel. I've always been more of a Marvel fan, but I’m pumped for any comic book film. As is the case with many fans, I was somewhat disappointed. The trailers made it seem amazing, but seeing the actual clips tempered my enthusiasm.
And seeing the film in theaters on opening day, I quickly realized the film would fail to live up to its potential. The film isn't bad per se, but could have been so much greater. Man of Steel has a great cast, but they have little to work with here. I was most interested in seeing Michael Shannon’s portrayal of General Zod. Shannon is mesmerizing as the disturbed prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He also delivers a brilliant performance in the Werner Herzog film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
                Unfortunately, Shannon’s Zod has little depth. I don’t blame him, but rather the script. Laurence Fishburne is similarly wasted as newspaper editor Perry White, who has little to do.
                One of the most discussed aspects of the film is the end where Superman snaps Zod’s neck, killing him. Many comic book fans took issue with this, stating that Superman doesn't kill. This is only somewhat true. In the comics, Superman does have a strong aversion to killing, but he has taken lives in extreme circumstances.
According to, in the 1940s Superman didn't have a problem with killing and had “little regard for the collateral damage he inflicts.” By the end of the 1940s, Superman was banned from taking lives by a new editor. Later on in the comics, Superman killed the villain Doomsday as well as Zod. Superman also killed in the climax of Superman II. He knocks a depowered Zod down a deep chasm, seemingly leading to his death.
My problem with it was not the fact that Superman kills, but rather the execution of the scene. It just didn't have the necessary emotional weight. This was partly because the acting and dialogue in the scene could have been much better. I understand what they were going for. They were trying to show that Superman had no choice but to kill Zod and that he chose humanity over Krypton. The problem is that the previous fight scene that lasted about 18 hours kind of goes against this. I mean they were just punching each other through skyscrapers and into space. Couldn't Superman have just flung Zod back a thousand miles away or something?
That fight must have killed quite a few people and Superman didn't seem too broken up about it. Heck, he even had to time to make out with Amy Adams in the aftermath. Surely, there were some people that needed saving? It would have been better to show Superman desperately trying to avoid casualties and trying to save people while fighting Zod. It’s also kind of odd that Superman could just kill Zod by snapping his neck. Zod survived the vacuum of space and some insanely powerful punches, but apparently a neck snapping will do it.

                I will say there were a lot of things Man of Steel did right. In my opinion, it’s the best Superman film yet. However that’s not saying much, as I was never a big fan of any of the previous movies. I haven’t seen Superman 3 or 4, but from what I've heard, I highly doubt watching them would change my opinion.

RATING: 7/10

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sexism in Film

                Since the beginning of motion pictures, men have mostly been in charge. Men own the studios, and usually males are the writers, directors, and producers. This disparity has somewhat lessened over the past few decades. While still in the minority, women such as Sofia Coppola and Katheryn Bigelow have found mainstream success and made powerful films. However, some media critics have pointed out that they are still stuck in a male-dominated mode of representation. Feminist writers often criticize the way women are portrayed in films. Laura Mulvey is one of them, and many of her ideas have merit.
            Laura Mulvey is an important feminist thinker who was born in the UK in 1941. She worked for the British Film Institute, and made some movies herself. One of her essays, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” was highly influential. She claimed that most mainstream films were a result of the “patriarchal unconscious.” She claimed that classical narrative cinema reinforces gender stereotypes in order to keep society controlled by males.
            Looking at films throughout history, it's easy to find evidence for these claims. After all, most movies are about a serious problem being solved by an individual male. Women are usually weak, or in trouble, especially in films released before the 1960s. A good example is the western genre.
            Actors like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood portray strong, independent heroes, while women are either whores or passive and innocent. Action movies almost always have a male protagonist as well. The villain is also male; women aren't considered strong enough to equal a man.  Heroes such as James Bond in the 1960s would basically force women to have sex, with them eventually giving in.
            Movies from the 1940s and earlier are often more pronounced in their sexism. For example, in The Big Sleep, the film ends with Humphrey Bogart asking, “What's wrong with you?” Lauren Bacall replies, “Nothing you can't fix.” The implication is obvious; the woman needs to be “fixed” by a man. Most of the popular films of the 20s and 30s starred men, such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or the Marx Brothers. Most of the other memorable films from this period were mainly about men as well, including Battleship Potemkin, M, Frankenstein, The Grand Illusion, and Citizen Kane.
            Horror movies often are accused of furthering stereotypes as well. Women are usually portrayed as helpless victims doing idiotic things that get them killed. At best, they can manage to scream in a high pitched voice.
            The role of women in film has changed somewhat in the past few decades. Perhaps due to the critiques by feminists, women are getting more proactive roles. They are no longer perpetually passive and ineffective. Many action films of the 1990s and 2000s have starred women, such as Kill Bill, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Ultraviolet, and Catwoman. However, these movies still seem to be a male fantasy. The stars are almost always traditionally attractive, and wear tight or revealing clothing.
            Most popular movies are still about men, despite the advances that have been made. Consider the all time top ten grossing films worldwide(as of 2010). Number 1 is Avatar with a male hero and villain. There are 3 Harry Potter flicks in the top 10, obviously these have a male lead character. There are a few important female characters in Harry Potter, but they are greatly outnumbered by men.
            The Dark Knight and 2 Pirates of the Caribbean films are in the top 10 as well, both starring men. Titanic is the only one with a female lead, Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet are about equal in importance.
            Furthermore, all of the films in the worldwide top ten were written and directed by males. Katheryn Bigelow was the first female to win the Best Director Oscar, and that happened recently, in 2009. Before her, there were only three female nominees, all since the 1970s. Women have had more success winning Academy Awards in the writing categories, however. Perhaps this is because the director is considered a leader who needs to take charge, a stereotypical male trait.
            Many film theorists applied the psychoanalytical theories of Sigmund Freud to film. Mulvey felt that psychoanalysis could “reveal the patriarchal unconscious”, but also that psychoanalysis was itself sexist and part of this unconscious. So she wanted to find a way of thinking that isn't as “gender-biased.” According to Daniel Chandler, “Laura Mulvey did not undertake empirical studies of actual filmgoers, but declared her intention to make ‘political use’ of Freudian psychoanalytic theory... in a study of cinematic spectatorship” (Chandler, 2000).
            To this end, she used to the term “scopophilia.” There are two types of scopophilia, erotic and narcissistic. Erotic is sexual attraction to another person. According to this way of thinking, erotic scopophilia usually involves a female character, who is static and in a flattened image.
            With the narcissistic kind, the viewer is “gazing at image because it is like ourselves.”According to Mulvey, this kind is, “developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from identification with the image seen” (1975). The male viewer identifies with the idealized image of a male, who is in the center of a more 3-dimensional space.
            Mulvey also included the idea of “three different looks.” This refers to different ways that movies are viewed. The first look is the camera recording the action. The second one is the audience watching the film.
            The third look is character looking at each other within the story. Mulvey claims that looking is active and being looked at is passive. Female characters are usually looked at by men, or the “center of the gaze.”
            The term “male gaze” was created by Mulvey (Chandler, 2000). This means that film audiences are put in the mindset of a heterosexual male. Female bodies are often the focus of shots, objectifying them. This make a decent amount of sense; it much more common to have scenes of female nudity than male. This often causes women to feel like they are just sexual objects in the eyes of men.
            Mulvey says in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, "The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their  appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness (1975)."
This relates back to psychoanalysis in that Mulvey considers mainstream cinema to be a result of male fantasies. Often these fantasies are subconscious and stereotypes may be reinforced unintentionally.
            Mulvey called for drastic changes in the way films are made. At the end of her “Visual Pleasure” article, she states,
            "The first blow against the monolithic accumulation of traditional film conventions (already undertaken by radical filmmakers) is to free the look of the camera into its materiality in time   and space and the look of the audience into dialectics, passionate detachment (1975)."
           Mulvey clearly thought that breaking the rules of classical Hollywood cinema would change the male-dominated hierarchy. However, some radical filmmakers have come and gone and made some movies far removed from your typical Hollywood blockbuster and cinema is still arguably just as sexist and stereotypical. Many film conventions concerning gender stereotypes are still in place, even though they are often inverted or used ironically.
            Since motion pictures were invented, they were mostly made by and about men. Westerns, action flicks, and films noir are just a few examples of genres that portray men as taking charge and solving all the problems. Feminists made some gains the 1960s and 70s and now women are getting more important roles. However, most popular films still are made by, and starring, men.

            Mulvey viewed these facts as a result of the “patriarchal unconscious.” She used Freudian theories, but also found them sexist. Mulvey introduced the terms “scopophilia” and “male gaze”. Women are often being looked at in movies, and it is usually the men who are doing the looking. She claimed that films put the viewer in the perspective of a heterosexual male and called for the breaking of cinematic standards and rules.