Category Archives: Movie Madness
A look at the movies I’m looking forward to this month.
After the release of the Rogue One: A Star Wars trailer last week, I posted on Facebook five IMDB message board thread titles that I felt really showed the best/worst reaction.
The fanboys aren’t happy.
Later in the day, I had a talk with a gay Asian coworker about the reason behind the backlash. He didn’t get it. That’s when I realized what it might be. He’s had a lifetime of not seeing himself onscreen in genre films. Most fanboys haven’t.
Straight, white males are used to seeing themselves represented in nerd culture. From Ant-Man to Zartan, comic books and sci-fi are riddled with straight, white male characters. I grew up in a pretty white suburb. When we played Star Wars on the playground, everyone wanted to be Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. No one was calling dibs on being Princess Leia or Lando Calrissian.
If a movie hero isn’t a white male, for the longest time, that movie was a mainstream flop. Granted, Steel and Blankman are arguably terrible movies. But Spawn were decent enough. And Hancock was actually good. The Crow was a cult hit and maybe that’s because Brandon Lee was only half Asian.
To the best of my memory, Val Kilmer in 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the first time I even remember seeing a gay action hero on screen.
It’s been said that video games are the future of entertainment. They don’t have a much better track record, although I always liked to believe that Pitfall Harry was a nickname for Pitfall Harriet, and she was running across the jungle, not in an exercise of futility, but for Civil Rights.
Video games, for the most part, have straight, white male protagonists, unless it’s a game where you can create your own character. When those games offer a possibility where your male avatar can romance another man or your female avatar can romance another woman, it becomes a newsworthy and there’s backlash.
I’ve got news for the conservative parents who insist that Mass Effect made their son, playing a male Shepard, romance that hot male soldier. The game was impartial. Your son banged that dude because your son wanted to bang that dude. And believe me, he had to really work for it, just like I had to work to have my female Shepard bed down with Liara, the blue alien lady.
I like this new era of seeing diversity in our heroes. Any time I’ve played a video game where I could create my own character, I’d create a badass lady hero. And it’s not that I’m such an emotionally advanced and progressive dude. It’s just that if I’m going to stare at the back of someone running for 100 hours of game play, I want them to have a pretty butt. And that’s the same as my coworker who said that any time he can create his own character, he’d create a super hot guy.
The backlash with female heroes seems to be a pretty American thing. Luc Besson almost exclusively heads up his films with strong ladies. Mad Max: Fury Road is a technically an Australian film. And even more so, should have been titled Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road. American genre films, especially Star Wars seems to be the core of sexism and racism in nerd culture.
Was Mad Max any more groundbreaking than Star Wars: The Force Unleashed? Both movies are female lead requels of existing franchises with full realized worlds and cutting edge special effects. Star Wars was woefully snubbed at the Oscars. How many black people are in the entire Mad Max franchise? One. Tina Turner. Star Wars has Finn in a starring role and I really hope that it’s dropped casually and matter of factly that Poe is gay. Star Wars also has a much deeper plot then, let’s drive towards the left side of the screen for an hour, then turn around and drive to the right side.
The Force Awakens was dismissed by many as being a retread of A New Hope. I couldn’t disagree more. They’re similar only in that both stories are about people discovering their calling. Isn’t that kind of the case of all origin stories? A New Hope is basically just Luke’s story to blow up the Death Star. The Force Awakens is mostly about the quest to find Luke Skywalker. It isn’t just about Rey’s journey from survivor to hero. It’s about Finn going against his literal programming to be a hero. It’s about parents trying to fix their part in not being their for their son. It’s a much deeper film than Mad Max and A New Hope.
One of my biggest hopes was that if I ever had a daughter, I’d have a son first, so he could be the protective big brother. But in this age, especially in this Star Wars age, of having role models like Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones and hopefully a better used Gwendoline Christie, I realize I don’t have to revert to ancient beliefs and hokey old fashioned thinking. If I ever have a daughter, she’ll get to live in a new era of Disney Princesses who don’t need rescuing. She’ll get to live in an era where Disney Princesses wield lightsabers and steal Death Star plans.
When I first saw the preview of 30 Minutes or Less, I knew I wanted the movie to be awesome. In fact, I was afraid of how awesome I wanted it to be. The cast looked amazing: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson. And the premise was ridiculous and a little violent: two weird, dumb, criminal, best friends, Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson) kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank so they can pay off a hit man to kill Dwayne’s lottery winning father to claim his inheritance.
Nick Swardson plays an unlikely straight man in his role as Travis, whose bomb making expertise is essential to the heist McBride’s Dwayne concocts after a money hungry stripper, Juicy, played by Bianca Kajlich, hints that she knows a guy who could get rid of his problem father and make them both rich. The only problem? Dwayne needs 100 grand to pay off the hit man and chaos ensues. Travis is somehow the voice of reason several times throughout the film, being a good person at heart and not really wanting to hurt anyone, yet still fearful of the strong and dumb minded Dwayne.
Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg also play a pair of best friends, Chet and Nick, respectively, since high school who are struggling as one has gotten his life together (Chet) and the other (Nick) is content in loserdom, delivering pizza’s and working for a total asshole. Nick (Eisenberg) is also hopelessly in love with his best friend’s twin sister, who just got a job in another state, sending him into a hopeless tailspin of self hatred that he projects onto Chet (Ansari) and after a particularly brutal fight, filled with harsh truths about their friendship, the two part ways. But their separation is brief after Nick is kidnapped, strapped with a bomb and realizes he has no one else to turn to but to Chet.
Both sets of friendships are put to the test in this intense and hilarious comedy, which, while it’s premise is about a dude who gets forced to rob a bank, it’s also about sometimes tumultuous friendships that develop and how in truth, you can tell when you’ve got someone in your corner, because they’re there when shit gets crazy.
The performances in this film are truly what make it work so well. While initially, Jesse Eisenberg delivers his lines with the same cadence and intensity as he did in The Social Network, he ultimately wins you over with the honesty of how his character got to where he is. Aziz Ansari brings the same, sharp tounged, wit that dazzles me to no end on Parks and Recreation, all the while bringing real emotion to the hesitation and liberation he feels as he helps guide his friend through a life or death situation. Nick Swardson and Danny McBride work so amazingly well as team, clearly headed up by McBride’s Dwayne. Their idiocy and uneven friendship work so well as their performances are, while brash and broad characters, still subtle and believable.
I wanted this movie to kick ass. I wanted it to be funny, and violent, and goofy and awesome. And it was. There’s even a little love story that includes Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate, Chet’s twin sister. So there’s a little something in there for everybody. I should also mention, the film was shot and set in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was fun to spot the scenery I recognized. It also made me love the film even more.
30 Minutes or Less
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Swardson,
My Rating (On a scale of A to F): A
This summer, I loved Harry Potter and I really enjoyed Thor, but Captain America is what I’ve been waiting for since I was 7. I am an unabashed Cap fanboy, and have been for as long as I can remember. This summer has been a countdown to Cap for me, and my wait finally ended this last night. Holy crap did I love this movie. Do not expect a blow-by-blow story breakdown or analysis of the finer points of technique. I am about to geek the fuck out.
This movie made me giddy, like I wish the Star Wars prequels had. Every frame on the screen was my childhood coming to life. The special effects were phenomenal, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they starved Chris Evans and shrunk him to play skinny Steve Rogers. The shield slinging was so cool, which was important, because without it, this wouldn’t have been a true Captain America movie.
The character were all spot-on. Captain America has always been my favorite because he was just a regular kid who was given the ability to be a hero, and always knew the right thing to do and how to do it. They pulled that off perfectly. Chris Evans was awesome in the role, both as the determined, awkward weakling, and as the great hero. Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull was brilliant, too. He was evil, menacing, and not too over-the top. The Howling Commandos were great, though I wish they had mentioned them by name.
I didn’t mind any of the little changes they made to the original story, everything worked for me, and I think allowed them to tell a cleaner story, rather than having to explain a lot of unnecessary back stories.
There were some cool nods to the comics, too, like the way we first see Arnim Zola. The Stan Lee cameo was quick, but funny and didn’t take away from the story. The use of the comic style Captain America uniform was also a great nod, and made great sense in the context of the movie.
The only complaint I have is that the movie was over too quickly. As it was wrapping up, I suddenly realized it was about to be over, and very much wished it was longer. Also, don’t forget to stay after the credits. The post-credits sequence is awesome.
One final note, I have never been to a movie where I have seen more people wearing T-shirts featuring the character from the movie. There was even a little kid wearing a full Captain America costume, who had his picture taken with me because he liked my Cap costume hoodie so much.
Woo! I was going to post the Team America theme song, but decide maybe we should be the only web site that doesn’t do that today. Instead, enjoy the trailer for Captain America, which is going to kick ass all over the place in a couple of weeks.
God damn, i can’t wait for that movie.
My five-year-old son Alex came home a few days ago insisting that he had learned from his friends that E.T. “Has the Force.” My wife chalked it up to him being cute and a believer in all things Star Wars, but he insisted it was true. Of course, she decided she’d show him by ordering E.T. from Netflix.
My wife and I had not seen E.T. since it was originally released 19 years ago, so the details were fuzzy, but she was sure he was no Jedi. Well, we watched the movie, and Alex is more convinced than ever that E.T. “Has the Force,” but now I agree with him.
In the movie, E.T. displays telekinetic powers, not unlike a Jedi might manipulate his surroundings with the Force.
Additionally, E.T. passes a kid dressed up as Yoda for Halloween, and tries to follow him, saying “Home, home.” It appears he recognizes Yoda, or at least his species.
Then of course, a delegation of E.T’s species is visible in Star Wars episode I.
This may not be a new idea, but I am now convinced that E.T. does exist in the same universe as Star Wars, and that while E.T. may not be Jedi, he, and maybe his entire species, is at least Force-sensitive.
Alex and his friends were right.
Summer 2011 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome time for movies, especially if you love all things nerdy. Who ever thought we’d see Thor, X-Men First Class, Green Lantern, Harry Potter and Captain America movies all in one summer? It’s a great time to be a geek. Sadly, though, into every summer falls a few garbage family movies. As I’ve stated before, I’m the father of two young boys, and am bombarded with advertisements for things people are trying to sell them. Lately, it’s been movie ads.
These are worst I’ve seen this year:
Mr Popper’s Penguins
What a piece of crap this looks like. I can hear the Hollywood brain trust coming up with this one:
“They’re penguins, What should we call them?”
“Well, what do they do?”
“One is kind of loud.”
“One bites Jim Carrey a lot.”
And so on… My 5-year old could have come up with more imaginative names. Yeahbsolutely.
The Zoo Keeper, or Night at the Museum at the Zoo:
“Hey, kids like the King of Queens guy, right? …and funny animals? …and T.G.I. Fridays?”
The girl won’t marry him because he’s a zookeeper? Really? Don’t you have to have a degree to do that?
I’m going to make a bold prediction about this one. He realizes the blonde girl is a bitch and ends up with Rosario Dawson. Credits.
I will not be taking my family to either of these CGI animal turds. Luckily, they haven’t shown interest in either, I guess I’m raising them right.
This weekend I took my kids (3 and 5 year old boys) to see Kung Fu Panda 2, which, as the TV ads think is very important to remind me, stars Jack Black as the lead character Po.
In this sequel, Po and the Furious Five must defend China against the evil peacock Lord Shen, his secret weapon, and his army of wolves. Po is a kung fu master straight from the beginning of the movie, and while he bumbles through parts of his adventure, his character has changed grown up a little since the first movie. Of course, though, Po must learn a valuable lesson about himself and kung fu in order to save the day. It’s not the most original plot, following the first one’s formula pretty closely, but it’s a fun movie to take the kids to.
The movie delivers on beautiful animation, cool action sequences, including a fun chase scene through the city, and the usual over-the-top kung fu fights, including plenty of Furious Five action. Of course, it’s a comedy, and there are some good laughs in there, too (thankfully, a few less easy fat jokes than the last one). The flashback sequences deliver some handsome stylized 2D animation, which I liked as a device to show kids the difference between present day andPo’s memories.
Several jokes are recycled from the first movie, though not as many as you might expect from a kids’ animated movie trying to stick to a formula. It seems pretty obvious, too, that they’re setting the franchise up for another sequel at the end of this one. It’s also worth sitting through the credits, there is no Skeletor-type post credits moment, but the entire sequence is shown against a pretty cool changing art backdrop.
Overall I enjoyed it, and my boys loved it. I had a hard time keeping my enthusiastic 3 year old in his seat during the fight scenes. If you or your kids liked the original, I recommend seeing the Kung Fu Panda 2.
OK, I know I’m a few weeks late on this one, but give me a break. I’m new to this site and blogging in general.
The trailer for the final installment in the Harry Potter Octology (is that a word?) was released, and has Potter-heads everywhere all atwitter, myself included. I’m a late comer to the Harry Potter world, having waited until my wife made me watch the first 6 movies before I ever cracked one of the books, but I am a full-on Potter nerd now. The trailer is beautiful, and gives us glimpses of some of the coolest parts of the book brought to life. I’ll try to stay spoiler-free, but I make no promises, especially if you haven’t seen the previous movies.
In this final chapter, it’s a race for Harry and friends to complete their mission begun in part one, the destruction of Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, the items that he has imbued with a piece of his soul in an effort to live forever, and to then vanquish him once and for all. Right away, the familiar theme music brings us back into the magical world. The Voldemort voice-over sets the tone, reminding us this is no longer a kids’ movie series, these characters are grown up now and are dealing with some dark, life-or-death situations. The trailer then gives us glimpses of the roller-coaster ride into the Gringott’s vault, a dragon, Death-eaters galore, wizards flinging spells all over, and a whole bunch of stuff on fire. Only one thing bugs me, I don’t remember the scene with Harry and Voldemort falling off a bridge in the book, so that may be a movie add-on, please correct me if I’m wrong. Everything leads up to the battle of Hogwarts, which we see bits of, not enough to spoil anything, but enough to give those of us who already know what happens glimpses of all the things we are hoping to see.
This movie should shut up anyone who called the last one slow or boring. Everything that I can remember that is left of the story is non-stop excitement and action, which is what the trailer seems to show. There will be battles, there will be death, and there will be fire and explosions. Characters will meet their fates and fulfill their destinies. In the end only one can survive – the Chosen One or the Dark Lord.
Yes, many of us have read the books, but seeing it alive on screen is something completely different. Between this and Captain America, July can’t come soon enough for this nerd. I’m excited, are you?
Dennis Burdziak is a married father of two, a total nerd, and wannabe member of Dumbledore’s Army. Follow him on twitter @dburdziak