Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nolan’s Final Batman Film Rises to the Occasion


How do you top a movie like The Dark Knight? This is a movie that not only smashed box office records, but also seeped into the cultural consciousness in a way that few films can, changing people’s expectations of what superhero flicks can do and lending weight to a genre often dismissed as superficial or purely escapist. According to The Dark Knight Rises, the explosive yet surprisingly sweet conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking blockbuster trilogy, the answer is: apparently, you don’t. Faced with such a daunting task, many directors would have opted for a “bigger is better” approach, as though adding more action, more special effects and more villains can make what is actually a mere repetition of the same story feel fresh. Instead, Nolan finds new creative ground to mine, resulting in a film that seeks to complement, rather than copy, its predecessors. By combining the intimacy of Batman Begins with the ambitious scope and intellectual musings of The Dark Knight, Rises delivers both as a compelling piece of entertainment on its own and a natural extension of previous installments.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Unnecessary (?) Spider-Man


          If you’ve read the review I posted last week, you should know that I enjoyed Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man quite a bit. With its spirited action sequences, tender/awkward romance and a near-brilliant lead performance by Andrew Garfield, the movie represents the beginning of a promising new franchise, as it (re)introduces the world to a complex, engaging protagonist and leaves plenty of room for plot and character development in the inevitable sequels.

 God, they're adorable together.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me. The film currently has a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, barely fresh, and critical reviews range from glowing and pleasantly surprised to lukewarm and even downright hostile. I could go through each of the critiques presented in these reviews separately and discuss why I agree with them or why they leave me speechless with bafflement and/or irrational resentment (who is Roger Moore and why does Rotten Tomatoes list him as a “top critic”?), but in the end, they all pretty much boil down to one overarching theme: that, regardless of how much effort the film-makers put into the movie or whatever small virtues it may have, it simply has no reason to exist. It’s the embodiment of everything wrong with Hollywood nowadays, a lazy, pointless bid for cash that apparently has less imagination than the Transformers movies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My 2012 Emmy Wish-List


                It’s that time of the year, folks. In just two days, on July 19, 2012, Kerry Washington and Nick Offerman will announce the nominations for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. The lineups will no doubt be swiftly met with much scorn and bickering over the snubs, surprises and undeserving nominees, so in anticipation of all that, I’ve decided to grace you with my personal Emmy wish-list. Note that these are not predictions, so don’t expect them to be at all logical or realistic, and as amazing as I imagine they are, you won’t be seeing any Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones mentions here, because I can only watch and keep up with so many TV shows. If you have your own ideas of what you’d like to see from the Emmys, feel free to share them in the comments section. Now, with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get down to business:

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Not-So-Itsy Spider (No, Not Spider-man)

         One word: Black Widow. So two words, actually.

           I’ve read mixed reactions to Scarlett Johansson’s part in Marvel’s latest orgasm of property damage, and after hours of thought-provoking research and hours of less thought-provoking tumblr, I’m ready to weigh in. The two sides of the argument, to the best of my research and exposition skills, are as follows: one camp seems to believe that Black Widow was portrayed in a tasteful, respectful, and well-developed way; the other holds that she’s the latest victim in Hollywood’s longstanding infatuation with sexism and superheroes. And then some people didn’t seem to notice she existed at all.  

           If you go through a lot of the Avengers comments, you’ll find some recurrent themes. More often than not, Black Widow’s character is mentioned in passing as a (female) master assassin; and then they go on to talk about characters that are more interesting (ie have more penis). When she is given some actual ink on the page, chances are that the majority of it will be dedicated to how hot she looks in leather. Because as soon as a woman steps onto the screen, audiences (and specifically male audiences, let’s not sugarcoat this) are conditioned to first see them in a sexual light. Decades of introducing women with slow body pan ups has helped see to that.

            Just look at this review at the New Yorker, where the critic decided that “Black Widow repels invading aliens through the sheer force of her corsetry.” Yeah, because her guns and combat training and intelligence and courage had nothing to do with it.


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man Review: Once More, With Passion

**Warning: Minor spoilers ahead**

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I don’t particularly like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. I found the first one mildly enjoyable, the second one alright but not nearly the masterpiece that some people make it out to be and the third one a farcical mess whose lone saving grace is James Franco’s performance as Harry Osbourne. So, when I heard that Sony was planning a complete makeover of everyone’s friendly neighborhood superhero even though the original franchise had jumpstarted a mere ten years ago, I honestly could not make much of a fuss. Sorry, if you want someone with whom to share your outrage over the idea of a tentpole blockbuster that exists for the sole purpose of maintaining the rights to a character, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong – this is a shameless, contemptible cash-grab, and I suppose that, as a staunch advocate for artistic integrity and whatnot, I’m obligated to root for The Amazing Spider-Man to fail on principle alone. But as a fan of Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and (500) Days of Summer, it was impossible to contain my excitement for Marc Webb’s take on the now-ubiquitous superhero genre; if nothing else, it was sure to be interesting, perhaps unlike any comic book movie we’ve seen before.

Friday, July 6, 2012

2012: The Year Women Took Over a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World


              According to journalists, bloggers and whoever else decides this sort of thing, 2012 is the Year of the Movie Geek – or, as Entertainment Weekly suggested, to some predictable grumbling, the Year of the Dude Movie. You could go through the usual arguments about how movies aren’t gender-exclusive and how women enjoy watching superheroes and shit blowing up just as much as men, but it’s hard to deny that this year seems to be stuffed with even more traditionally male-oriented fare than usual, with offerings like The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy dominating the year’s cinematic slate and nary a romantic comedy or female-centric film to be seen. Yet, amidst all this testosterone, a ray of hope has quietly emerged: despite being theoretically geared toward men, many of these action, sci-fi and comic book flicks have actually served as showcases for women.
  Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the “dude movies” released thus far. January 20th kicked the year off with Underworld: Awakening, the fourth installment in that shockingly prolific vampires-meet-werewolves franchise, and Steven Soderbergh’s spy movie Haywire, both headlined by women. Fast-forward two months, and we’ve got The Hunger Games, 2012’s first real blockbuster; like the Suzanne Collins young adult novel it was based on, the movie derived much of its appeal from the character of Katniss Everdeen, who has become one of the most iconic heroines in recent memory thanks to her fiery personality and skill with a bow and arrow. The Avengers may have been a sausage-fest in terms of sheer numbers, yet it was Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who not only served as the superhero juggernaut’s emotional center, but also seemed to generate the most conversation among filmgoers, even if some people refused to recognize her awesomeness. Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus? More leading ladies. Even Pixar got in on the act, featuring a female character as their central protagonist for the first time ever in Brave.

  Of course, these are hardly the first movies to put a woman in the center of all the action. In 1979, Ridley Scott introduced the world to Ellen Ripley, Sigourney Weaver’s smart, competent and tough corporate grunt-turned-alien fighter who is largely recognized as cinema’s first real action heroine. With the sequel, Aliens, in 1986, Ripley was firmly cemented as a character as edgy and classic as James Bond or Indiana Jones.

 Just sooo badass.