Is it illegal to masturbate to pictures of yourself as a child?
Is it illegal to masturbate to pictures of yourself as a child?
I love Superman. He’s been fighting for the spot of “favorite superhero” with Spider-Man for years now, and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel might have cemented his place at the top. If you know me personally, you probably are aware that I rarely, if ever, get excited about movies (or anything). I was literally shaking in the minutes before the film started (after anxiously sitting in line outside in the hallways behind 7 other nerds for an hour and a half). I laughed, I teared up a bit, and I even let out a few genuine “holy shit”s. After the credits rolled, I turned to my friend and asked, “what did you think?” His response: “I hated it.” I was a bit shocked at that response, as while I definitely recognized that it had problems, I was still blown away by the overall presentation and handling of the character. So I drove home and looked on RottenTomates: 59% (it is currently at 56%; for reference, Superman Returns is sitting pretty at a fresh 76%). Negative reviews everywhere, for all manner of reasons both legitimate and less so. I couldn’t believe it. Was there something I didn’t see? Does everyone else really hate Zack Snyder that much after Sucker Punch? I felt I had to put my thoughts down to combat some of the vitriol that has been spewed at the film. First, the good:
*********WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD. ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE THAT ENTER HERE*********
Since most of my reviews are from the viewpoint of a “hater”, I’m going to change things up a bit and address as many of the complaints that Man of Steel has faced since its release:
The third act of the film is exactly why Jonathan Kent was afraid to have his son reveal his true nature. The very existence of Superman, without even laying a hand on Zod, causes him to come to Earth and wreak so much havoc in the first place. When he eventually goes toe-to-toe with him, buildings fall and thousands are put in danger. What did you think would happen? Zod isn’t about to go out into a cornfield or a desert and fight Superman with no chance of casualties. Even if Superman flew out to wait for him, Zod would be perfectly fine with throwing busses into buildings and tearing the heads off babies on his own. And even if Superman tried to lure Zod and his cronies away from Metropolis, there’s no guarantee it would work. Another thing to remember is that Clark has never had to use his powers like this before. Until Zod, he has never been a fight he couldn’t win, and he knew it. Now, he’s suddenly thrust into battle with not only another super-powered being, but several of them who were all trained to kill (hell, it’s their life purpose to do so) and who are hell-bent on causing destruction and mayhem. People will die, there’s just no way around it. But if he wouldn’t have fought, billions would have died.
What’s more, there are a few factors people aren’t really taking into consideration. First, the World Machine really did a majority of the damage to the city and its inhabitants, and we’re never told whether people were being evacuated. Secondly, while Superman may not have a complete understanding of his powers, he may have enough control to use his enhanced vision while fighting to minimize casualties. Additionally, anyone who thinks Superman was careless during the fight scene should go watch it again. Superman intentionally throws or pushes Zod into a building exactly once: during the Smallville fight, through the gas station. All other times, Zod either throws Superman into one or more buildings or they cause indirect destruction through the force of punches. Also, it’s a war! There will always be casualties in war, especially when Superman is fighting (and especially when he’s not truly Superman yet). Why doesn’t anyone bitch and moan about Batman blowing up trains and buildings, or Spider-Man ripping the walls off with his webbing, or the Avengers destroying half of New York City then going out for shawarma afterward? I will concede that the jump between the end of the fight and the final scene was a bit jarring, but maybe it was cut for time or pacing purposes. And as for the clean-up: can you say Lex Luthor.
9. “Superman kills babies” – No he didn’t. The Genesis Device within the scout ship had been dormant for 20,000 years; nothing had survived. Superman’s DNA held the Kryptonian Registry Codex, which could have been implanted in the device to being making new little Kryptonians, but there was no indication that any of the fetuses within were alive or even present.
10. “It just wasn’t funny” – Fucking good. I for one am sick of the Marvel action-comedy format. While it may be fun for a theater-going experience, it kills any sort of stakes and doesn’t make for a very compelling film after the first view. Man of Steel’s humor is subtle and rare, but it’s definitely there. What, were you expecting another Richard Donner red underwear film where Clark is a bumbling idiot? That shtick doesn’t fly in this world. What little humor is in Man of Steel works and doesn’t bring the rest of the film down with it, unlike Iron Man 3 and The Avengers.
11. “There was too strong of a Jesus motif” – As much as I agree with this complaint, I really don’t like that I agree with it. OK, yeah, there a lot of blatant comparisons between Superman and Jesus in Man of Steel. But that’s kind of the point of Superman. Are you just going to ignore it because it’s obvious? Clark grew up as an outcast in rural Kansas during a time of war and uncertainty; is it so unlikely that he would become a Christian and look there for some answers? Hell, it probably isn’t a stretch for him to even humbly consider himself as a sort of messiah, what with all this power and responsibility thrust into his lap. I admit that Zack Snyder is not the world’s most subtle filmmaker (understatement of the year), but the religious overtones in Man of Steel make sense both on an internal character level and external thematic one.
Make no mistake; Man of Steel has its share of flaws. Most of them are based in David Goyer’s messy dialogue and pacing. Especially after his Dark Knight trilogy, someone in Hollywood should have told the man he isn’t allowed to write a script by himself. It gets a bit tedious, especially to casual fans or people not well-versed in Superman lore. But none of them are inherent to the character of Superman, and none of them are insurmountable. Is Man of Steel a perfect film? Definitely not. Is it a good, possibly great film? I think so, but I would love to see a Director’s Cut. Did it do everything I wanted it to do? No, but it did what had to be done which is what matters. Is it the best on-screen representation of Superman? Hands down. Are all the criticisms of it unjust? No, but most of them are poorly considered. In the end, it’s just far too different from the lighthearted, nostalgic camp of the 70’s Donner films for most people to be comfortable with, and in my opinion that is a very good thing.
I’ll get this out of the way quickly: Zero Dark Thirty is fantastic. Fucking fantastic. And this is coming from someone who had serious reservations about the film’s concept and its timing. I can’t say it enough: Zero Dark Thirty is FANTASTIC. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and find a way to as soon as you can. And if you don’t agree with me, I’ll do my best to convince you otherwise in this article. If you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years (joke definitely intended), ZD30 chronicles the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden , spearheaded by headstrong CIA officer “Maya”, alias of Jessica Chastain’s character. Spoilers: we got him.
But the fact that you know what happens going in doesn’t serve as a detriment to the film. Quite the opposite, in fact. Much like 2008’s Valkyrie and last year’s Argo, ZD30 is not about the obvious destination but the thrilling journey. To me, what’s most amazing about this film is the fact that it exists in its current form at all. Production on the film began in before the Abbottabad raid and centered around the Battle of Tora Bora, but was heavily reworked when bin Laden was killed in May of 2011. This gives Zero Dark Thirty an amazing feel; it is a film that, at times, does not know its own ending. It is heavily reminiscent of David Fincher’s brilliant thriller Zodiac but lacks the frustration. Both Zero Dark Thirty and Zodiac sift through loose ends, potential leads and circumstantial evidence for answers, although only one of them knows it will never find any.
And suddenly, all the pieces fall into place. A location is found. Intel is gathered. Authorization is given. And we are given a glimpse into one of the tensest and most defining moments of our generation. The film’s rendition of the raid takes roughly 20-25 minutes, slightly shorter than the actual operation in Pakistan. And all of a sudden, it’s over. There is no music, there is no applause. There is only the cold, military efficiency of a trained unit that has just completed a mission. The killing of bin Laden is NOT viewed as a cathartic event, nor does it paint the act and events preceding it as anti-American in any sense. Yes, there are brief instances of characters celebrating, but who can blame them when they are so much closer to the situation than we are?
Which brings me to the issue of the film’s controversy (or lack thereof). I’m curious as to why so many people are frustrated by Zero Dark Thirty’s “political agenda”; throughout the film, I actively looked for hints of its message, and I was amazed at how decidedly unpolitical it is. It has no agenda. It merely presents the facts and forces the audience to draw their own conclusions. The film opens with a blank screen and a montage of 911 calls, news reports, and air traffic control recordings from September 11th, 2001. No footage is shown; Bigelow knows that such a stylistic choice would weaken the film (I’ll get to that later). The audio is more than enough to stir up at least a little something in every audience member. And what immediately follows this introduction? Surely one of the most affecting things ever put on film: the simulated torture of a prisoner in CIA black site. It is brutal; so much so, in fact, that the audience might lean in favor of a known terrorist. A terrorist who played a part in the attacks we were reminded of not five minutes prior. What does that say about the film, when we as an audience can simultaneously loathe a man we don’t know for indirectly causing the deaths of 3,000+ Americans and pity that same man when his torture could save thousands more? The results of this method are, honestly, irrelevant. The prisoner eventually divulges crucial information, but it is unclear whether this is because of his unwillingness to endure further torture or because alternative tactics were tried. ZD30 does NOT advocate the use of torture, nor does it condemn it. If you need any more confirmation of this, just look to the scene where three CIA operatives watch Obama’s remarks on torture. They don’t scoff or nod in agreement. They do NOTHING, and then continue with their previous conversation. Bigelow had the perfect opportunity to send a message and didn’t take it, because that’s not what a good film is supposed to do. What other proof do you need to know that this film does not take a stance on torture? Maybe the issue of torture is not as black and white as it seems. And maybe, just maybe Zero Dark Thirty is clever enough to realize that, smart enough to not address it, and brave enough to make us do so instead.
Now, I understand that not everyone is a fan of Kathryn Bigelow. Many feel that her Best Director win for The Hurt Locker was undeserved, especially during such a tough year (ex-husband Cameron’s Avatar was a strong contender in many similar categories). I am not one of those people. And the fact that Bigelow did not get a nomination for Zero Dark Thirty is, quite frankly, one of the worst decisions the Academy has ever made. This film, in the hands of a lesser director, would have fallen flat on its face while trying to walk on eggshells instead of flying above them. There are several things that Bigelow did to make this film that few other directors would have the maturity or willpower to do:
In short, Zero Dark Thirty is a smart, tense thriller that deserves any nominations it received (and some that it didn’t) and none of the political hate. If you’re still not convinced, watch it again with these things in mind. And if anyone in the Academy is, for whatever reason, reading this right now: fuck you.
Honorable Mentions: Iron Man 3, Elysium, Oblivion, After Earth, The World’s End, Stoker, Pacific Rim, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Last year, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was #2 on my list. I had many reasons for not liking it, and now its follow-up, The Desolation of Smaug, is lucky to be here instead of Iron Man 3 (which I am looking forward to, despite its unapologetic The Dark Knight Rises-ness). Peter Jackson’s second of three films exploring the world of Middle-Earth before the time of Sauron may yet save the trilogy; Smaug was excellently introduced in the first film (structurally if not visually), and many of the loose ends created by Jackson’s expansion will hopefully start to see themselves tied up with the core narrative. Plus, now that I’ve seen An Unexpected Journey, I can safely lower my expectations and enjoy the remaining films for what they are.
9. 47 Ronin
Not much has been released of this film by first-time director Carl Rinsch, besides a basic synopsis and a cast list full of established Japanese actors and motherfucking Keanu Reeves. That’s right, Johnny Utah is starring in a samurai film. That alone will make me want to see it, but something in me thinks that if anyone could pull this off, it’s him.
8. The Monuments Men
I’d bet good money that The Monuments Men, George Clooney’s fifth film as a director, will be 2013’s Argo. Set in World War II, The Monuments Men follows a group of historians and curators as they set off to save priceless works of art before Hitler destroys them. Clooney also stars, along with Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin. If the cast list doesn’t at least excite you, I don’t know what movies you’re spending your money on.
7. Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs was good. Really good. Probably better than it should have been. The same can be said of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 21 Jump Street.And Revenge of the Leftovers may very well tip in the other direction. But with a full cast returning (save for Mr. T, who was replaced by the equally goofy Terry Crews), anda solid screenplay idea, Leftovers might be another nail in Pixar’s coffin.
6. This Is the End
As much as I love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I think that This Is the End will end up being the better of the two apocalypse comedies to come out in 2013 (over Pegg/Frost’s The World’s End). Directed by and starring Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, as well as Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Martin Starr, Rihanna and Craig Ferguson as themselves, This Is the End has the potential to be one of the best ensemble comedies in recent memory. The story can’t get much simpler: it’s the end of the world, and all these famous people get freaked out while we watch. If you still doubt its potential, check out the red band trailer.
5. Kick-Ass 2
2010’s Kick-Ass took me totally by surprise. It snuck into theaters at the beginning of the modern superhero craze and ended up being one of the best of its genre despite not truly belonging to it. The sequel, directed by Cry Wolf and Never Back Down director Jeff Wadlow (I know, I know) could very well be an unnecessary step. Matthew Vaughn may have been the glue holding this whole thing together, but he’s moved on to bigger, brighter pastures. Nevertheless, Kick-Ass 2(originally subtitled Balls to the Wall) soliders on, with new cast members and an even more ridiculous premise. Notable additions are Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars, an ex-mafia enforcer turned vigilante, and Scrubs’ Donal Faison as Doctor Gravity, a Kick-Ass inspired hero who wields a “gravity pole”. Even if this film doesn’t work, at least we’ll get to see more Hit-Girl.
4. Only God Forgives
Release Date Unknown
Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow-up to his 2011 masterpiece Drive takes Ryan Gosling to Bangkok where, if the promotional materials are any indication, he will get the everloving shit beaten out of him. Refn has always had a flair for violence, and a film centered around boxing should fit him like a glove. Only God Forgives may not be a career booster on the same par as Drive, but it certainly looks like it will stand as tall. If you’re not familiar with Refn’s work, check out this teaser clip for a little taste.
3. Anchorman: The Legend Continues
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one of the funniest films of all time. And now, almost a decade later, Will Ferrell and company are back to…I’m not exactly sure why they’re making this movie. Not much is known about the story yet, but rumors say that it will deal with “racial issues”. Whatever; it’s another Anchorman movie. The teaser trailer doesn’t give us much to go on, but it’s enough to get me to see it at least a few times.
2. Ender’s Game
One of my favorite books of all time is finally coming to the big screen, and I honestly couldn’t be more afraid. If taken literally, the story is simply unfilmable. There are too many abstract and tangential elements to the book to keep track of on screen, and quite frankly, it’s a difficult story to market. There are naked shower murders, complex zero-gravity action scenes, dream-like video game sequences, and intense political discourse that happen entirely through the Internet. Clearly, Ender’s Game, directed by Gavin Hood (the mastermind behind X-Men Origins: Wolverine) will be stripped down. And I’m fine with that. As long as they don’t tone down whatever they leave in, I will walk away extremely happy.
1.The Smurfs 2
Just kidding, it’s Man of Steel
Superman is, by far, my favorite superhero. Not because of his powers, but because of his story. So far, Man of Steel looks incredibly introspective and moody, with less focus on explosions and lifting heavy things. While I didn’t particularly love Nolan’s take on Batman, that atmosphere works perfectly for Superman and his presence as producer/writer is clearly felt without overshadowing director Zack Snyder’s vision. And I really want this reboot to be good. So much so, in fact, that I am willing to hinge the success of 2013 solely on this film. I don’t care about the Justice League or a Batman/Superman crossover. I just want this to work. You hear me, Snyder? This better be good.
Song of the Day: Nico Vega - Beast (Bioshock Infinite Extended Version).
Stand tall for the people of America.
Stand tall for the man next door.
We are free in the land of America.
We ain’t goin’ down like this.
I held off on reviewing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth, until I saw it in 48fps. After all, Jackson himself said this is how his film should be seen. Those acronyms weren’t forced into the title by the studio; Jackson (along with James Cameron) has championed the transition to 48fps from the current standard of 24fps, which has been used universally for, oh, forever. The apparent advantage of HFR over the existing format is the reduction of motion blur caused by uncaptured movement between frames. The bump up to 48fps would, in theory, make the film that much more realistic. And it totally does. And that’s a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those cinephile purists that still watches all his films on VHS and refuses to go to any theater that doesn’t use 35mm. I love the advent of higher resolution TVs and projectors, and I love 3D when it’s used right (TRON: Legacy, How to Train Your Dragon and Dredd are some of the few examples). But I honestly can’t see how 48fps will ever be accepted by either the audience or the industry at all. An Unexpected Journey in 24fps is simply a bad movie (I’ll get to that later). In 48fps, it’s not even a movie; it’s a video game. It’s a goddamn theme park ride.
The thing about 48fps isn’t just that it makes everything look like a Benny Hill sketch (although that’s a lot of it). The higher framerate catches a lot of things that 24fps film does not. And by “a lot of things”, I mean EVERYTHING. A subtle movement of the camera is amplified, and even the smallest bumps or jolts during panning shots are immediately noticeable. Makeup and prosthetic lines are visible on actors, making even the best costumes look cheap and artificial (it doesn’t help that An Unexpected Journey has a horribly washed-out effect throughout). People’s movements look amateurish, with every subtlety of their performance (intended or not) becoming crystal clear in front of you; Martin Freeman’s already frenetic Bilbo becomes infuriatingly so under the weight of HFR). CGI that is meant to blend in amongst the practical effects suddenly stands out in the worst way, and even real people begin to look artificial. Effects-laden landscapes and backdrops look instead like horrible matte paintings (Rivendell is the worst example). The editing feels off because of the perceived speed shift. I could go on, but I think my point has been made. In short, HFR technology makes the film look so realistic that you can’t get away from how fake it actually is. 24fps filmmakers never have to worry about this because, even with the relatively new 4K resolution, the camera was never quick enough to capture every little problem.
Now, a lot of these problems are due to Peter Jackson making his film the guinea pig for this experiment. But the question still remains: even if a filmmaker were to correct the issues of lighting, camera movement, editing, acting, costumes, makeup, visual effects, and set design that HFR technology presents, what does it actually give us? Why go through the trouble of changing essentially every aspect of film production to turn our cinematic experience into a very long video game cut-scene? Perhaps in a film that centers itself around kinetic action instead of CGI, like a martial arts or standard war film, this technology would be a welcome upgrade. But using a camera of this caliber in an effects-heavy fantasy setting is like filming a high school play while standing on the stage.
Anyway, onto the film. If you couldn’t already tell, it’s not good. Everyone wants it to be, but the truth is that it’s just not (the exception, of course, being the Riddles in the Dark scene, which was executed to near perfection). But not just because of the HFR. No, the main problem with An Unexpected Journey is, to put it bluntly, that it’s not Lord of the Rings. And that wouldn’t be a problem at all if it didn’t try so hard to be. The whole film reeks of “forced epicness”: moments that, while certainly impactful to the story, are sequenced and filmed in such an over-the-top, heavy handed style that it actually diminishes the quality of the actual scene. Chase and fight scenes meander without purpose or direction, and they seem to spring up out of nowhere in an attempt to liven up an otherwise simple and small story (which is exactly what The Hobbit is and should be).
One of the biggest problems with the film, and one of the most controversial decisions Jackson made regarding his adaptation, is the addition of content from Tolkien’s other work, such as the Lord of the Rings appendices and The Silmarillion. I was VERY cautiously optimistic upon hearing that The Hobbit, a ~300 page book, would be adapted into three films from the original two. And, judging from the first film, that was a mistake. It seems like Peter Jackson had, at most, two and a half films ready to go. And his love for this world and this story (his Precious, you could say) led him to padding it out instead of leaving some of it on the cutting room floor. This would have been fine if the additions had anything to do with the core story. Even someone who had not read the book before could probably pick out what doesn’t belong (although, to Jackson’s credit, he didn’t really leave a lot out so far). There are several valiant attempts to link this story to Tolkien’s epic trilogy, but this only reminds the audience of how much better those films were.
But perhaps the worst part about this film is the dwarves, listed in descending order of how good they looked: Balin, Dwalin, Gloin, Oin, Bombur, Nori, Dori, Bifur, Thorin, Bofur, Kili, Fili and Ori (the order of their performances wouldn’t be too different). HFR, as I mentioned before, magnifies the flaws in their acting and makeup, but even at 24fps these characters look dreadful. I hate to say it, but Jackson should have taken a page out of Snow White and the Huntsman’s book; while that was not a particularly great movie, the dwarves in that were incredibly well-done, especially considering the big name actors playing them. Ori and Kili in particular are just awful, and get far too much screentime. Several dwarves are limited to one or two lines throughout the entire film, and poor Bombur is merely a prop for fat jokes. Jackson’s choice to put more emphasis on the dwarves (and take some away from Bilbo) was a poor one.
Ultimately, The Hobbit suffers from John Carter syndrome. Peter Jackson clearly loves this story, perhaps too much so. An Unexpected Journey is an overindulgent mess that takes itself way too seriously and ends up falling flat on its face. The Hobbit is a tale about a small, timid man going way out of his comfort zone and facing challenges he never thought he would even have to face, much less overcome. And that simply isn’t present enough in this movie. Not enough time is spent on Bilbo and his constant wanting to return to his comfy little hobbit hole, and he finds his courage far too early in the trilogy (and in the cheesiest, most unrealistic way possible). Of course it’s too early to say whether or not the entire trilogy is a failure, but judging from this part, I’m not exactly excited to spend six more hours watching this story unfold.
You can also see my Top 10 films of 2012 here.
Dishonorable Mentions: Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Wrath of the Titans, Taken 2, Holy Motors
10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
In all honesty, I don’t like putting this on my Bottom 10, simply because of how much fun I had while watching this in the theater. Even if you hateTwilight, please see this movie. You don’t need to know anything about the series, just watch this one. The final film in the Twilight Saga is completely self-aware and goes all out, indulging in its utter absurdity in the best way possible. Literally nothing in this movie makes any goddamn sense, and it clearly doesn’t want to.
9. John Carter
To me, the only thing stranger than how bad this movie is most of the time is how goodit is some of the time. Based on the early 1900’s Edgar Rice Burroughs stories (which predate Avatarand Star Warsby decades), John Carterfollows a Civil-War veteran as he journeys to Mars and does some bullshit there. This movie asks so much of the audience without really delivering in any category. Some scenes are surprisingly badass (particularly the action sequences, which get very violent at times) but turn lame instantly. Taylor Kitsch sounds like James Franco impersonating Batman. While watching it, I honestly did not know who this movie was made for. Director Andrew Stanton clearly loves this story, but he ended up wasting $200 million of Disney’s money on a film that nobody else cared about as much as him.
8. Indie Game: The Movie
I didn’t think that a documentary could actually give me less respect for video games, one of my favorite things in the world. Indie Game: The Movie, however, manages to do just that. It follows the development and release of three hugely anticipated indie games, and the egocentric, self-important, narrow-minded assholes that made them. At one point, I was actively rooting for one of the developers to fail in his “quest” because of how unlikeable he was as a person. If it weren’t so unapologetically biased towards its subjects, I would consider Indie Gameto be one of the most interesting documentaries ever instead of the worst.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man
There really isn’t much more to say about this movie that I haven’t already said before. The Amazing Spider-Manis a completely useless film that lacks the heart, brains and muscles necessary to keep a superhero movie alive.
6. Life of Pi
Yes,Life of Pilooks beautiful. But awesome visuals mean next to nothing when everything else is atrocious. This film isso sickeningly in love with itself and its beliefs that it made me want to vomit. The CGI is very underwhelming for the most part and it has, hands down, the WORST message I have ever heard in my life. If you agree with whatever this movie has to say, you are a detriment to the progression of society.
5. This Is 40
Judd Apatow’s pitiful attempt to recreate the magic of Knocked Up falls flat on its face and stays there for over two hours. Plotless and heartless, this movie is full of terrible people who do terrible things and are not even funny while they’re doing them. Maude and Iris Apatow have grown up since Knocked Up and Funny People, and their sense of humor has apparently vanished. Every line is either inexplicably screamed or sounds read from an off-camera cue card, causing me to audibly groan on more than one occasion. If you’re looking for the same Apatow magic from the past, just skip this one altogether.
4. Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell’s newest film is the cinematic equivalent of a monkey pissing in its own mouth. Every single performance, save for Robert de Niro, is laughably bad, and I still for the life of me cannot understand how we are meant to view this story as anything but absolutely pathetic. The constant references to football and the Philadelphia Eagles are naive and forced, not to mention inaccurate. The way people act in this film is presented as being healthy and beneficial, when in reality they make the worst possible decisions. Even if Russell’s intention was to tell us that everyone in this movie is goddamn insane and should not be trusted, the film fails to impress or affect in any way. The only thought I had while watching this movie was, “This is really not OK. You cannot act this way and be a part of society. You do not deserve a happy ending.”
3. Les Miserables
Unlike many friends, I have no prior connection to the book or stage musical, so I went into Les Miserables with very high expectations and no preparation. The result of this was the longest theater-going experience of my life. Yes, Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and Eddie Redmayne’s “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” were perfect, but a couple of good 3 minute performances in a 157 minute film does not equal a good movie. Russell Crowe looks uncomfortable throughout, Hugh Jackman’s performance is forced and overloaded, and everyone else is just mediocre. Tom Hooper’s direction is some of the worst I’ve ever seen, using claustrophobic camerawork and shoddy editing techniques to turn a supposedly epic tale into a small, inconsequential piece of trash. His decision to have the actors perform their songs live on set works in exactly two instances (which I mentioned before), but every other performance suffers because of it. The spoken dialogue is unnatural and unnecessary when crammed in between sung lines, which themselves lack poetry and purpose. Seeing as how the film is apparently very faithful to the source, I feel confident in saying that Les Miserablesis not just a bad film, but an adaptation of a bad musical.
2. The Watch
The only reason that this is #2 instead of #1 is because it was 3 minutes shorter than the film at the top spot. It baffles me that multiple people (it had to have been at least 30) actually held this script in their hands, read it in its entirety, and didn’t immediately throw it in a woodchipper along with its writer. The Watchrepresents everything that is wrong with comedy right now.
1. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
I enjoyed, at most, 45 seconds of this film. I would gladly pay more than the price of admission to erase it from my memory. Everyone involved in it should be taken out back and crushed by stampeding cattle.
You can also see my Top 10 Worst Films here.
Honorable Mentions: Wreck-It Ralph, Ted, 21 Jump Street
10.The Raid: Redemption
There has been a dearth of decent martial arts flicks in the past few years. Tony Jaa’s Ong-bak and The Protector brought us some incredible action sequences but nothing else. Enter The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian film directed by Gareth Evans. This film has more “holy shit!” moments than any film I’ve seen in a long time, and is probably the best of the genre since 2002’s Hero. I highly doubt that there is any film this year that will make you want to jump out of your seat in excitement more than The Raid.
For some reason, I have a certain love for “found footage” films; I saw Cloverfield eight times in theaters and will give films like [REC] and The Blair Witch Project a try despite my particular dislike for that genre. Chronicle is, in my opinion, the strongest example of a “found footage” film, and one of my favorite superhero films ever. The camera’s presence is always felt within the world, and clever filming tricks make you feel as if you’re seeing something that wasn’t meant for you. Add to that the fact that the cast is full of unknowns, and you get a very intimate, sympathetic origin story with a lot of potential for expansion.
Rian Johnson’s newest film (and first since 2008’s The Brothers Bloom) brings the gritty bluntness of Brick into a sleak sci-fi setting. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play off each other excellently, and throughout the film I actually got lost while looking at the extensive makeup/prosthesis on JGL’s face. Loopertackles the notoriously difficult subject of time-travel incredibly well, second only to Shane Currath’s Primer. The mechanics of this phenomenon are somewhat dismissed throughout the movie which can be frustrating at times, but the details are less important than the overall effect. The film almost goes off the rails in the third act, but manages to stay the course and take some wild turns that you are guaranteed to not see coming.
I had very low expectations for Dredd (my viewing of it was tacked on after a Taken 2/Looper double feature), but I had a free ticket and decided to try it out anyway. And that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Dredd, the second film adaptation of the John Wagner/Carlos Ezquerra comic 2000AD, is downright stunning, with deliciously gory action sequences and the best use of 3D since TRON: Legacy (yes, I just went there). Its story is simple and, coincidentally, quite similar to The Raid: Redemption, but it manages to explore a lot of interesting societal dynamics while not coming off as heavy-handed. It won’t win an award anytime soon, but I can’t wait for my Blu-Ray copy to arrive.
If you would have told me earlier this year that I would put Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s newest film, in my Top 10 list, I would have thought you were crazy. The film, on its surface, seems like a very typical “white guilt Oscar grab” a la The Help or The Blind Side. But, aside from a few cringe-worthy scenes, Lincoln is a brutally honest and relatively unbiased (although not entirely accurate) look at the passing of one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in American history. While the characters may paint each other as saints or devils, the film itself does no such thing. Really, it is the performances rather than the story that make this film. Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones lead an absurdly talented ensemble of actors who are so good, I actually wish this film was longer so I could have more time to watch them.
Spike Lee is a fucking idiot. While it’s not my favorite of the year, Django Unchained is undoubtedly one of the most incredible films ever made, simply because it’s a miracle it got made at all. Set in the pre-Civil War South, Django follows a dentist-turned-bounty hunter and the eponymous freed slave as they kill a LOT of racists. And boy, are they racist. The word “nigger” and its variations are used approximately 110 times throughout the film (I personally lost count about halfway through), but Tarantino incorporates these words as masterfully as he does any other. It never feels intentionally inflammatory or uncomfortable, and while a few couples walked out of my showing, the rest of the audience seemed to understand that QT’s intention was not to shock or offend. Django Unchained has the courage to show the brutality of the slave trade and make us laugh at how utterly ridiculous the whole thing was. If there is any way to progress our society past the state of being offended by words and ideas, this film is it. Perhaps my favorite part of Django, like every new Tarantino film, is the introduction of actors that I would never think would work in his films. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as the rotten Calvin Candie is the best of the year, hands down. Also, it gave us the best GIF of the year.
Fucking Ben Affleck, man. How does a guy go from starring in Gigli to directing three Top 10 films in under a decade? Whatever he’s taking, I want some of it. Argo is one of those films that you probably already know the ending to which still keep you on the edge of your seat for its duration. What’s most amazing about the film is its atmosphere, and how the clothing, film quality and locations make you feel as if you’re actually there in 1979 Iran. It’s raw, it’s intense, and while it certainly underplays some participant’s involvement in the mission, Argo still delivers in every category.
3. The Cabin in the Woods
I was one of the lucky people who heard NOTHING about this movie before watching it, and I’m so glad for that. There’s nothing quite like the first time you watch The Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s brilliant deconstruction of the horror genre. It manages to simultaneously be one of the creepiest and funniest films of the year, while completely dismantling the concept of the slasher-horror film. If you haven’t seen this movie, DO NOT READ ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Just go find it and watch it.
Paul Thomas Anderson has not, in my book, made a bad movie yet. The Master, which lacks the focus of There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights, is still a powerful reminder that PTA is one of the most creative filmmakers currently working. Make no mistake: this is a VERY simple film about a very simple man. And that’s the point. This is no epic journey of self-discovery or redemption. It is the story of a man who thinks he needs something more in his life and then, when he finds it, realizes that he was perfectly happy the way he was. Incredible cinematography (if you didn’t get to see the film in 70mm, I feel sorry for you) and career-defining performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix make this one of the best movie-going experiences of the year.
The first time I walked out of the theater after watching Cloud Atlas, I knew it was going to be one of the best movies of the year. The second time, I knew it was going to be one of my favorite films ever. Directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, this film is one of if not THE most ambitious film I’ve seen in a long time: a group of phenomenal actors playing dozens of roles spanning ages, genders, races, and time periods throughout completely different genres. And it totally works. It manages to take seven different stories, which are affecting enough on their own, and merge them together in a way that I never thought was possible. No other film this year has made me feel for characters (especially so many different ones) the way this one has, and really, nothing else even comes close to the #1 spot. What excites me most about Cloud Atlas is what it means for the future of film, and where we could possibly go from here.
Song of the Day: Aimee Mann - Wise Up.
It’s not what you thought
When you first began it.
You got what you want
Now you can hardly stand it though,
By now you know
It’s not going to stop.
It’s not going to stop.
It’s not going to stop
'Til you wise up.
I am writing this letter as a fan of your show. Or, I guess more accurately, a former fan. For the past few years, I have watched How I Met Your Mother, which I used to consider THE best show on television, devolve from a unique, emotional experience into a cesspool of one-dimensionality and déjà vu. I used to think to myself, “I wish I knew how it would end”. Now, I just think, “I hope it gets cancelled”. Frankly, How I Met Your Mother has become a terrible show, and it does not deserve to be on the air anymore. Note that this is not because of the fact that we still have not met the Mother. I am a huge proponent of the idea that a story should take as long as it has to in order to tell its story. If it takes nine seasons to do that, so be it. My concern is that the stories that you are filling these seasons with are utter trash that, at this point, have negated anything good from the first half of the series, and there seems to be no end in sight.
When I first heard of How I Met Your Mother, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the idea. It seemed like a very standard twenty-something sitcom veiled by a thin storytelling mechanic. But as I devoured the first and second seasons within a weekend, I realized that it was so much more. Yes, it had the stock characters whose variations can be found throughout television: the jack-of-all-trades whose life is somewhat of a mystery, the quirky girl, the awkward-but-lovable protagonist with a job every male viewer would love to have. But there was so much more to it than the dozens of other shows that get cancelled within their first year. The overarching storyline was supported and enhanced with every episode, tying the flashback plots together with a similar theme and relating them to future events (namely, how Ted comes to meet the Mother). Everything built towards that final goal, the show’s namesake.
Of course, some episodes contain ridiculous or unexplainable situations, but the brilliance of the show was that they were actually addressed within the context of the story. Seemingly impossible things happen because Ted simply isn’t a good storyteller and either embellishes what actually happened or forgets the actual circumstances. This mechanic doesn’t just improve the humor of the show; it actually contributes significantly to the themes within those episodes. You even managed to intersect memories that occurred years apart and refer to them in future seasons, an ingenuity the likes of which I have never seen before. This is done extensively in the first three or four seasons and then unceremoniously dropped in favor of…well, nothing really. As far as we know, the events that Ted tells us (he sure as hell isn’t telling his kids these stories anymore) are actually happening, and it is some of the most ridiculous, contrived, unrealistic, piece-of-shit storytelling that I’ve ever seen in a television program. And that’s counting Two and a Half Men.
It seems very clear to me that you have also stopped caring about the integrity of the characters you created in favor of easy laughs and reusable plotlines. Ted’s experiences are not being told as life lessons to his teenage children anymore; they’re merely being used as very dull, very extensive padding to a distant conclusion. If he is still talking to his kids, and if they’re still alive, I see no earthly reason why they should still be listening. I know I’m not. Characters now have vulnerabilities and quirks forced onto them as if they didn’t exist in the years prior. In the first four or five seasons, almost everything the characters did matched perfectly with their established personalities, and if they didn’t, an explanation was given for how they grew to become that way. Now, it’s as if all continuity has been thrown out the window. Characters do things completely out of their nature with no real explanation. Old plotlines are rehashed and recycled not once, but multiple times. Instead of having unique voices, the four principal characters now spew the same generic, unfunny dialogue as if they are one nebulous “person” without a unique personality or behavior.
Lily Aldren is possibly the most egregious example of character degradation. Throughout her life in the show, she had been a free spirit that was desperately trying to reconcile her wild side with her desire of marriage and motherhood (not unlike Phoebe Bouffet from Friends). She made incredibly difficult decisions regarding her family and love life, and ultimately became a stronger person for it. She asked for help when she needed it most and, in turn, supported her husband through his darkest times. And now that she’s a mother, she has been reduced to a prop; one that is carted out whenever a dirty joke needs to be said by a cute girl so the audience can swallow it more easily. You have done more to “develop” her as a sexually frustrated lunatic than you have as a mother or, for that matter, a real human being.
It saddens me that How I Met Your Mother has dropped so low on my list of priorities. I used to anticipate every Monday night. Now, each new episode is an afterthought while looking through my DVR. You can choose to cast me off as just being some butthurt nerd on the Internet, and that’s fine. This is merely my opinion. I do not ask you to respect it; I only ask that you listen to it. Because while you may not agree with me, I am positive in saying that I am not the only one who thinks this way.
A Former Fan