Archive for October, 2011
I liked In Time. I suppose you could argue that, going in, I was fairly sympathetic to the conceit of replacing paper money literally with time to live. I don’t dispute that. I’m sympathetic ideologically, but also sympathetic to the idea of using such a conceit, any conceit, to explain a complicated concept. However, I didn’t like the movie because it did a good job using that conceit to explain the concept of income inequality. It actually could have done a much better job of that.
I suppose the best answer as to why I liked it is in the unrelenting artistic vision. From the opening moments, it’s clear Andrew Niccol wants the viewer to feel disoriented. There’s no clear aesthetic for this world, it’s not dark and art deco like Blade Runner or futuristic like Demolition Man. In reality, Cherry 2000 or She did much better jobs creating alternate universes. The world is, in fact, very similar to our own, maybe even a little bit more sanitized. There’s no clear conversion rate to understand the dollar value of time. A kick ass car costs 59 years, but one day’s work gets you another day to live. All the people are the same age and race doesn’t seem to have any connotations. It’s all very unsettling and makes it difficult to get your bearings.
I’m pretty sure this is intentional.
There are no middle class. Only those living day to day and those who control everything.
Finally, the movie almost feels like metafilm as it cycles through economics centered works of art. Cillian Murphy is a dead ringer for Javert from Les Miserables, there’s the Bonnie and Clyde story, and the gangsters are clearly meant to evoke The Threepenny Opera. There’s also a generous amount of Brave New World thrown in. It doesn’t all work, but it made me feel smart.
There were some things I really didn’t like, also. Basically, Justin Timberlake plays Jack from Titanic (you’re just going to have to face it, Leo, Jack is a ray of light.). I don’t buy that he doesn’t have the acting chops to tackle this role, but I do think making his character more of a moral cipher would have made this a stronger film. I also would have liked some nudity.
I plan on watching Atlas Shrugged if it ever comes out on DVD. I think the market may have spoken on that one.
IMDB says that when James McAvoy took the role of Professor Xavier in X-Men First Class, he intended to use his Brent Spiner-esque imitation of the actor who made the role famous, Patrick Stewart, but director Matthew Vaughan quickly disabused him of that notion, wanting, I estimate, to make a film that would stand on its own. I think that was all to the good. There were many who were given false hope that the Star Wars Prequels were going to be somehow watchable after seeing Ewan MacGregor’s impersonation of Alec Guinness’ genuine class. This is important in a bit.
Please refer to this Cracked list about why prequels suck. XM:FC offers a pretty compelling argument against pretty much that entire list.
5.The past was better before we saw it happen. Actually, the contemporary relationships in the X-Men movies at the same time offer intriguing glimpses of a prehistory without giving any satisfaction as to those relationships. I’m thinking, of course, about the perfectly cordial relationship between Professor X and Magneto, they play chess and talk and there’s obviously a lot of history there. FC does a great job fleshing out that history in a way that is unexpected and challenges our assumptions, which leads me to number 4:
4.Characters need to be less interesting to make sense. You would think, huh? That’s not always the case. I loved that Professor X used to be a brilliant, arrogant, womanizing cad who focused as much on genetic research as on wooing the ladies. (he was something of a limousine liberal, what with his relationship with Raven) Magneto, on the other hand, had experienced real pain and disappointment whose genetic mutation allowed him to survive the Holocaust, which, of course, was a genocide, the mass murder of people based on their genetic make up. That’s some heavy shit.
3. …Or they can make no sense. But this movie totally does. It’s not 100% in the continuity, but it moves fast and everything fits together, and there’s no little kid running around, throwing his fist in the air and yelling, “yippee!” Which leads me to 2:
2. What’s the opposite of suspense? Here, Cracked suggests that, because we know who survives to the end of the movie (because we know who appears in the next movie, we tend to lose interest because we know how it ends. I would argue that, in general we know that about most big budget blockbusters, regardless of where they appear in the mythology. Indiana Jones is not going to die, and, if he did, we would already know that before going to the theatre. I will concede that Cracked’s point that this knowledge is an impediment to getting swallowed up in the film. In FC, though, I would argue that the thoroughness of the world building, the organic development of character relationships (especially those between Raven, Magneto, and Xavier), and the use of characters who are either not well known in the X-Men mythology, don’t appear in the later films, or whose identity changes during FC, essentially negate the problem of not getting caught up in the world of the movie. (I call this modpunk, which is trademarked. The alternate universe feels very much like Raiders of the Lost Ark, which makes every effort to appear that it takes place in the real world, but features face eating ghosts coming out of the ark, Shaun of the Dead, or James Bond) Changing the names, Magneto to Erik also helps, providing distance from the same characters in later installments. We know who they become, but it’s fun knowing who they were and it reminded me quite a bit of Christopher Moore’s novel, Lamb, where Jesus is called by his Hebrew name, Joshua. This movie reminded me quite a bit of that book, as well. Oh, and one more thing: The delightfully machiavellian villain, played by Kevin Bacon, is reminiscent of a really good Bond villain, who seeks to profit not by direct destruction, but by pitting third parties against one another. This helps make the story unpredictable, even though everyone knows how the Cuban missile crisis turned out.
1.There are only 2 good movie prequels. Well, I’m asserting that there’s potentially a third, but I take issue with calling Temple of Doom either a prequel or good (While the whole Imperial India and Shankara stone thing has grown on me since I first watched it as a kid and now understand so much more about India, it still uses the cult as a kind of random macguffin and I can’t call it good.), so, granting that Godfather Part II is good and not challenging it’s classification as a prequel, I therefore concur with Cracked’s number one. I just think one of the good ones is a different movie.
This article has been tearing up the tubes today. It’s about goths fitting into the workplace. As always, I bring it with value added. It’s suspiciously reminiscent of Richmond’s foundation on The IT Crowd, Goth2Boss:
My brother ‘dressed’ as Richmond for Halloween:
Well, I thought the Major League Soccer season was over when I saw this article about an Alexis Rockman retrospective in Columbus. Alexis Rockman, in case you don’t know, is an artist I first read about today in the Wall Street Journal. He may be the most awesome artist since John Currin was the most awesome artist since Grant Wood. In fact, it says so right there in the Journal:
Humans are largely unrepresented in ths exhibition, but our species becomes an irefutable presence in “The Farm” (2001), a large painting so vivid and satirical you can’t help but love it. This not-so-subtle slam at the dangers of genetic engineering depicts a Grant-Wood-Iowa country-fair display of square tomatos, a multiteated cow and other oddities in an unmodified soybean field, plus pathetically overbred Chinese Crested dog, presented on an oval insert like a blue-ribbon prize.
Grant Wood, as you may know, is like, my favorite artist of all times. Ever since he painted the Daughters of the American Revolution he won me over. (Read this story for the full story)
So, where do the Columbus Crew come into the picture? Well, the exhibit is in Columbus, and, having wanted to see some MLS for some time, I thought it would be great to kill two birds with one stone and see some paintings and some soccer. I also though that the MLS season was over. I was wrong. They are having the playoffs and the Crew might play Sunday. I’ve got some thinking to do. I also like their logo:
I saw Warburton’s new sitcom, Rules of Engagement, I’m not in love with it. Must give it another chance as it also stars Emperor Kuzco himself, David Spade opposite Kronk. Maybe I’ll watch it with my eyes closed.
Love these, though:
And Betas effing suck. No matter. (What in the world could THAT be!?!?) As I’ve written at some length about the University of Mississippi’s flirtation with a Star Wars related mascot, I feel obligated to post the picture below. The story from Neatorama says that Port Huron (Millenium) Falcons did this as a publicity stunt. I would totally buy one of these jerseys.
This weekend put me in the fairly unique position of being able to watch the prequel of a movie I had not seen and watching the original film pretty close to directly after, albeit interrupted by Pirates of Penzance. I am writing, of course, about The Thing, and, well, The Thing.
It’s impossible to review the prequel (from here on out I will refer to this as TT2011) without referring to the original (TT1982), as I didn’t fully appreciate TT2011 until I had seen how well the movie dovetailed with TT1982. As such, there be spoilers ahead. TT1982 lends itself particularly well to a prequel as, in what I am guessing is a fairly iconic opening scene, the sole living survivor of the base previously ravaged by the titular Thing chases it’s corrupted, canine form into a new camp, at the barrel of a gun on a helicopter, for it to metaphorically poop on. In fact, lead by Kurt Russell, the inhabitants of the new camp travel to the old camp for some recon action. They use the notes they find to form a hypothesis. TT2011 is meticulous in its re-creation of the antecedent camp from TT1982. It’s pretty much identical. The plot borrows from the earlier film, as well, with the crew of TT 2011 attempting to use blood samples to identify who is infected until the monster scuttles those plan by destroying the equipment.
The special effects of TT2011 are the rare instance where CGI does not compete with its analog predecessor. In fact, from what I read, the effects of the original were so iconic (and having watched it, they are pretty phenomenal for the time.) that the filmmakers tried to limit the use of CGI in the prequel. As such, the movies flow pretty seamlessly together and there’s not much change of tone or style to account for.
I’ve seen some criticism of the alien in TT2011 as the weakest link between the two films. Io9 asserts that the alien in TT1982 only sought to replicate itself and in TT2011 seems to have a vendetta against specific members of the crew. I didn’t really notice this as a problem. I think most of that can be attributed to some of the (limited) increase in coolness of the special effects.
The thing that did kind of annoy me is that I couldn’t really tell most of the crew apart in TT2011. TT1982 had Snake, the Diabeatus guy, a guy who looks like Mekhi Pfeiffer, Ivan Boesky lookalike, a guy who looks like the guy from Thirty Something, the guy on whom I think Otto from The Simpsons is based, the dad from Mr Boogedy, another black guy, and another forgettable dude who worried about everything. TT2011 had Ramona Flowers, a hipster from Community, a bad guy, and then a bunch of dudes with beards. That’s kind of snarky, and if I’d seen TT1982 in 1982, I wouldn’t have known them for the stuff for which I know them, but they were pretty well drawn and differentiated. TT2011 does a less good job of that differentiation and it becomes a game of figuring out how the super hot Mary Elizabeth Winstead will survive. Even though you know how this one ends, by the transitive property that you know how the first on begins, they still keep you guessing and you’re pretty sure she won’t survive. She wields a flamethrower kind of like Ripley in the Alien movies and is well on her way to becoming an icon of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror with her leading role here and in Scott Pilgrim. Anyway, she’s hot.
A couple of addendums: I can’t wait for the Rifftrax for TT2011, as there are some moments of pure ridiculousness, as when the bad guy uses a drill to drill into the ice to get a tissue sample of the frozen alien, I turned to JT and whispered, “I’m DNA!,” so much did it remind me of Jurassic Park. I also found it humorous that the crew was kind of stoic about finding an alien spaceship, but went absolutely berserker when Ramona Flowers suggested the alien could perfectly mimic humans.
The joke at the beginning of TT2011 reminded me very much of the beginning of Dead Snow, which is Norwegian. Also, I’m pretty sure Mekhi Pfeiffer’s performance in the Dawn of the Dead remake was meant to evoke David Keith’s performance here.
Analysis of the TT1982 I held off on watching until I watched the films: