Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shaolin Soccer

So I've been thinking. I think that one core difference between dramedies and full-blown comedies, especially screwball comedies, has to do with the change. Let me clarify. A movie tells a story. A story worth telling is about change. Something changes. That's what makes the story worth telling. In a dramedy, a la Judd Apatow, the characters grow and change to better fit the world around them. It is a good and fun movie. In screwball comedies, the world changes to better fit the characters. They're also fun first, and only good if you're lucky. Anyone who has seen Shaolin Soccer is lucky. I saw it earlier in the week and it's quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The characters don't change that much, really. The main character wants Kung Fu to be more widespread. He sees several ways to apply it in many different everyday jobs. Some of his ideas are ridiculous, like applying Kung Fu to music. When he settles on applying it to soccer, with the help of a washed-up legend (reminiscent of Dodgeball in that regard, actually), the world changes around him. It's silly and screwball but awesome.

The mastermind behind this movie is Stephen Chow. He also did Kung Fu Hustle which was a silly kung fu western type movie or something. It was alright. I think my biggest issue with that movie was I couldn't relate to Chow's character because he was such a jerk. Then he had the metamorphosis and was Superman. Neither one was totally relatable so I didn't get too invested. It was fun and all, but this movie's better.

My only gripe is about the romantic tension in the movie. I was never clear on whether or not the two were actually romantic or platonic, and evidently they weren't either. But the end seemed kind of slap-dash because of it. On the other hand, I'm glad they didn't sacrifice levity at the altar of romantic tension. That horrible, horrible altar.

It may be more fun than good, but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie. It's a fantastic movie and worth your time. If you're in the mood for something silly, rent Shaolin Soccer. It might not suck.

SDCC: Pie in the Sky questions

Does anyone else think it's kind of funny that a convention devoted to comic books is now mainly for movies and television? San Diego Comic Con is underway, I believe, and I'm not going because that would be just totally irresponsible of me. Plus I'd be totally out of my league and... you get the idea. I'd make a fool of myself. Me and my Irish skin would not abide the Southern California sun. Even indoors, that sun would find me and roast me. But if I COULD go, I've been thinking about what I would ask people to sound smart. 'Cause, you know, I am.

First of all, I would go to the Green Lantern movie forum. I'm totally stoked for this movie. Martin Campbell resuscitated the James Bond franchise TWICE so he's golden in my book. Ryan Reynolds has the chops, so I have faith. Geoff Johns is loving the way the movie's going, so I do too. So I wouldn't ask about Green Lantern. It will rock. Period. I want to know more about the Deadpool movie. What's going on with that?

Next: Joss Whedon in the Avengers forum. Everything Whedon has been responsible for that I have seen has been extraordinary. Firefly. Astonishing X-Men. Serenity. Dollhouse. Just plain brilliant. One of my favorite things about Whedon is that he writes strong, capable, believable women. Too often in comics, women characters are caught up in being snotty or too concerned about their hair or the men in their lives or their clothes... whatever. Whedon writes women I care about better than any other writer. Like, since Euripides. He's directing Avengers? Awesome. It will rock. Still, let's take a look: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk... there's a term for this: sausage fest. Ok, it will rock, but what about those strong women that Joss writes? What women characters are we going to see in Avengers? (See what I did there? I assumed there would be women characters to begin with and jumped straight to the point. Booyah.)

I may drop in on Joe Quesada talking about how he's going to try to fix the whole Spider-man One More Day massacre and ask "What the hell? Did you honestly think this would go any better? Really?" One of the most disastrous events in comics history. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out on Wikipedia or something. You may lose faith in comics altogether. I just about did. It made readers nostalgic for the Clone Saga. Writers too. That's how bad it was.

I may ask the Chuck panel if they're looking for unknowns who are willing to act for cheap. Like meals only. Seriously you guys. But then we're entering the realm of making a fool of myself. I knew it.

I feel like there was one more question I thought would be a good one, but I've forgotten it. I think it had to do with some rumor I read about. Don't remember. Forget about it.

It Might Not Suck at SDCC '11? Doubtful. At the rate I blog, I'll probably die first.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marvel vs. DC

Lately, DC and Warner Bros have been trying to implement an approach to making movies similar to Marvel's example. I can't think of a worse idea.

In the past, DC has largely gone with quality over quantity. There's more effort to find good directors, good scripts, and good actors that fit the parts. Christopher Nolan directing Batman movies. Bryan Singer directing a Superman movie. Originally hiring Joss Whedon to direct a Wonder Woman movie. Now Martin Campbell (the guy who revitalized the James Bond franchise TWICE) directing Green Lantern. Even though the Superman movie was underwhelming and the Wonder Woman movie was abandoned, it still shows an effort to bring in talent to make a quality movie that will be more than a flash in the pan.

Marvel has done the opposite. They've hurried to release as many movies as possible, creating just terrible movies like Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Elektra... you get the idea. They've had a few successes, like the X-Men movies (thanks to Bryan Singer), Spider-man (in my opinion a surprise), and recently Iron Man. Singer's success on the X-Men is not a surprise. He had great talent acting for him and he's a good director. But does anyone remember the uproar when X-Men came out? People were pissed. There was so much that wasn't true to the comics. There were so many characters left out. There were characters who didn't do anything except be annoying (Cyclops). The success that Bryan Singer has had in the minds of X-Men fanboys, like myself, is really due to Bret Ratner completely tearing the franchise to shreds in The Last Stand.

Sidenote: originally, Ratner was going to direct Superman Returns and Singer was going to direct X-Men 3. Who can honestly say that wouldn't have been a better situation? Superman Returns didn't have enough action, and The Last Stand was nonsensical. What one lacked, the other had in scads.

Also, Sam Raimi. Ok. Evil Dead is a cult classic. I get it. That's fine. Army of Darkness is hilarious. No argument. But how many duds has he put out? Anyone seen The Quick and the Dead? Yeah, it's on TV all the time. Why? Because it's about as good as a TV movie. It's overdone and hyper-stylized. But it's a whole lot better than Spider-man 3. I've heard people say this: "Spider-man 3 is like, the quintessential comic book movie." My response is: What comic books are you reading? What comics have a Saturday Night Fever strut down a sidewalk? Or a dance number to Twist and Shout to visualize sexual tension between two characters? Or a weird dance number in a jazz club? And in what comics is the main action set piece an out-of-control crane? Really? I promise you it's not one written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, J. Michale Straczynski, Mark Millar, or even Brian Michael Bendis. Spider-man 3 is an example of Sam Raimi off his leash, so to speak. By that, I mean he wrote it as well as directed it. He didn't write either of the first two. Blame the studio if you want, but there were fundamental flaws with the movie that did not involve too many villains.

There are always exceptions. Always. Here's an exception: Catwoman. Catwoman was garbage. Ask anyone. It was cliched, ridiculous, pointless... you get the idea. It sucked. Not a lot of effort went into the movie and it showed. On the flip side, we have Hulk. Not The Incredible Hulk. Hulk, directed by Ang Lee. I was really excited about this movie because I didn't think Ang Lee made bad movies. He's a good director. Yes, he then directed Brokeback Mountain. I stand by my statement: his movies are normally good. Here was an example of Marvel showing some effort in making a quality movie. It... wasn't.

Now that Marvel's seen success with X-Men, Spider-man, and recently Iron Man, Marvel films are attracting more successful directors. Excellent. DC is trying to mimic Marvel's success. Exhibit A: Jonah Hex. Anyone see that movie? Me neither. Heard it sucked. It might not, I guess.

Ok, really quick and then I'll shut up. They're coming out with X-Men: First Class and Matthew Vaughn is directing. Excellent. Vaughn directs movies that balance "good" and "fun" exceptionally well. It's rumored that Joss Whedon has been in talks to direct The Avengers. Excellent. Serenity was one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. That being said, they should switch projects. Whedon's strength is in two places: writing pain and writing women. Avengers has a dearth of both. Vaughn would bring something awesome to The Avengers, and Whedon would bring something amazing to the X-Men. Don't believe me? Read his run on Astonishing X-Men. It's fantastic.

In closing, DC: your approach to movies being fewer but better is fine with me. I think I speak for a lot of fans that we'd rather see a few good movies than a storm of terrible ones. Marvel: dude, slow it down and make sure your movies are worth watching. The fewer horrible treatments of our beloved comic book characters there are in the world, the better our world is. Seriously.

An Introduction, or A Declaration of Principles (get the reference)

There are a ton of movie critics out there, but the problem is that too many of them are simply wrong.

Here is my intention for this blog: I want to discuss movies rationally in a way that is intelligent and accessible. I'm not going to use a "thumbs up" or star system when reviewing movies. Not because I think these systems are wrong, I just think they're simplistic. The intention was to make a quick and easily-recognizable form of grading, really, but it doesn't take enough into account. And rotten tomatoes has too many idiots on the site to take their percentages seriously.

In my opinion, movies that people enjoy have a balance of two qualities: they are good, and they are fun. Movies can be good, fun, either, neither, or both. Citizen Kane is widely accepted as the best movie ever made. I'm not going to argue that. What I will say is that it is a movie that is more "good" than "fun." It's brilliantly made, acted, written, and was ground-breaking in several ways. But when you want to watch a classic movie on a Friday night to kick off the weekend, do you pick Citizen Kane, or the more fun but not-quite-as-good Casablanca?

Two summers ago, two superhero movies came out that divided the audiences: Iron Man and The Dark Knight. People loved one or the other. You couldn't love both. If you did, you were wishy-washy. Look, that's just stupid. The Dark Knight was a fantastic movie; it was a huge leap forward in terms of the quality a comic book movie could be. It was complex, dark, and simply brilliant. Iron Man had a solid story, a rockin' soundtrack, dynamic characters that grew and related to the audience. Not to mention a guy flying around killing terrorists and tearing up the highways of LA. My point is this: The Dark Knight scores higher on the good scale than the fun scale, and Iron Man scores vice verse. Both are totally enjoyable movies.

I'm also going to talk about trends in movies I'm passionate about, including superhero movies and video game movies. They're what I'm into right now, okay? I'm not going to talk exclusively about these things, but my first posts will probably involve these topics.

So anyway. To keep the review system easily recognizable, I'll use a, gee I don't know... how about a score of one-to-ten in two categories: "Good" and "Fun." I haven't seen Prince of Persia yet, but from what I hear it scores high in the "Fun" category but scrapes the bottom of the "Good" category. For example.

E-mail me if there is a movie you want to see me review. Until then, remember that just because all the reviews say a movie's no good, it still might not suck.