Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Film Review: Fantastic Four

Is it the colossal train wreck everyone on the Internet says it is?


Is it good?


If Joss Whedon's Avengers movies taught us anything,  it's you have to  litter your movie with  action sequences. Seemingly every fifteen minutes the Avengers individually or together are pummeling someone or being pummeled.

Toward the end of The Fantastic Four, someone says, "He's going to create a black hole and destroy the world!" (there's a lot of clunky exposition in this film). I'm thinking, "What, it's the big finale already? There hasn't been any action sequences."

And this is true, it's a superhero movie with one action sequence.

Just one.

Come late because it's at the end.

Another thing we've learned from Whedon is, if you're making a superhero movie, you better have a sense of humor. Ant Man knew this, it was hilarious.

Fantastic Four, not so much.

The theater I saw this in just installed recliners. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat, I was reclined the whole film.

This is a good opportunity to discuss organic storytelling: I believe an inherent problem with the Fantastic Four in movies is its lack of organic structure.

Let's go back in time a little. All-American Comics didn't create the Justice Society of America out of the blue. No, Flash had his own title, Hawkman was featured in his own stories in Flash Comics, Green Lantern had his solo stories in All-American Comics, Hourman, the Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, Dr. Fate, all solo stars brought together in an All-Star team up.

Decades later this was repeated with the Justice League: Every member had his own title, or at least solo stories before forming the JLA.

Decades later Marvel had the genius idea of giving Iron Man, The Hulk and Captain America solo movies before getting them together. And after owning the DC line-up for 50 years, Warner Bros. is finally thinking, hey, let's do what Marvel is doing with our JLA film.

Now -- according to legend, the publishers of Marvel and DC comics were playing golf when the DC boss mentioned casually to the Marvel guy that DC's biggest seller was the Justice League. The Marvel guy then ordered Stan Lee to make a super-team title.

Hence the Fantastic Four. Assembled all at once, not from solo characters, just out of the blue.

This gives everyone who ever tried to make a Fantastic Four film a problem. He'd have to spend the first two-thirds of any film telling the origin of four different super heroes ... and Doctor Doom!

Richard Donner was somehow able to spend the first two acts of the first Superman film as origin story. The first act on Krypton, the second act in Smallville. Superman doesn't even show up until almost an hour into the film.

Yet, those first two thirds were exciting, and funny and emotional, and jaw-dropping and everything the first two-thirds of the Fantastic Four were not.

In closing. As long as Ant-Man and Age of Ultron and Mission Impossible are out there this summer, I really can't recommend Fantastic Four. Maybe wait til Marvel get the rights back and reboots it again.

Friday, July 10, 2015

In defense of Ariana Grande

Forget about the Confederate flag, or health care, or gay marriage, the real concern among Americans right now is Ariana Grande.

Some words in her defense:

First of all, she's 22, all 22-year-olds do dumb stuff. This didn't involve driving drunk of killing anyone.

Second, she was talking to her boyfriend in confidence. I wouldn't want anything I told my girlfriend when I was 22 put on the Internet.

I give a lot of leeway to things told to spouses, lovers, best friends, even close co-workers when the speaker doesn't know he/she's being recorded. There's a reason your spouse can't be a witness against you.

(of course if you deride poor people in a room full of campaign donors, it's fair game)

Third, she doesn't hate America, she's just astonished at our remarkably unhealthy food choices.

Until she slips roofies in undergrads' drinks, I say we give her a pass.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Inside Out

The reviews have called it a breakthrough for Pixar, but no. It's good, but it borrows from so many other sources I'm not sure why film reviewers are astonished by its originality.

All of the "Toy Story" movies have the same plot and the same theme.

The plot: "We have to get back home!"

The theme: Leaving behind your childhood is the most painful thing you'll do.

"Inside Out" borrows both of these concepts.

The only real difference is in the "Toy Story" films we follow the toys going home in the real world. In "Inside Out," they're going home in a surrealistic world, a place where there's an actual "train of thought," and "graveyard" for old memories. I kept thinking about "The Phantom Tollbooth," the little-seen Chuck Jones film where the protagonist also finds himself in a world of abstract concepts.

(Not to mention Robert Clampett's "Porky in Wackyland.")

It's harder on the audience. Everyone knows the rules of physics in the real world, what are they in a surrealistic land of dreams?

And the concept of the emotions being the stars. Fox did this with "Herman's Head" some years ago, and no one called that genius.

See it, but your kids might get a little restless.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rant: Teen Titans Go

My 7 year old loves this show and I detest it. The Marv Wolfman, George Perez run on the comic book in the mid-80s was one of the best written, best drawn series of the 80s, and to watch it being turned into a hyperactive, fart-joke-laden anime really bothers me.

It would be like if they made an anime cartoon called "To Kill a Mockingbird Babies," with all the characters reduced to big-eyed hyperactive children making fart and burp jokes.

It's just pissing on Wolfman's and Perez's work (as well as the Nick Cardy-Bob Haney run). I really thought the idea of dumbing down comic books for TV was over. (Super-Friends, Adam West's "Batman.")

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Peeing on Letterman parade

I'm sorry. Someone has to stand up and say, "y'know, Letterman hasn't been funny in 20 years" and no one else has done it, so it might as well be me.

I was a fan back in the day, I really was, but the last 20 years he's been coasting. He comes out, makes a reference to the pre-show warmup that the studio audience thinks is hilarious but none of the two million viewers at home do. Then he makes the "it was so cold in New York today, in Central Park I saw a squirrel warming his nuts" joke that he tells every night. Then he'll repeat the punchline again and again, substituting Tourette's for comedy.

Then he'll say, "Introducing a new segment on our show, 'Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," and they'll cut to a title card that says "Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," with generic music, then a two-second clip of Hillary Clinton accidentally dropping a pencil, then back to the title card and music, then cut back to Dave and the audience is laughing hysterically at .. what …?

Then he sits at his desk and clears his throat for ten minutes.

Serious, he'd sit at his desk and clear his throat for ten minutes, or just make more Tourette's sounds. Then he'd ask "does anyone have a lozenge?" And he'd repeat the word lozenge for ten minutes.

In all the tributes I've read they all say the same thing: "remember when Dave did that real funny thing 30 years ago?"

It's been unwatchable for about 20 years now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: Avengers: The Age of Ultron

Another epic from Joss Whedon. This is what happens when you give the biggest comic book nerd in the world $200 million.  The CGI and love are all up there.

Tony Stark plays Dr. Frankenstein, trying to create a robot defense system that gets off the table and tries to kill him, the Avengers, and pretty much everyone else in the world.

There's some great Joss dialogue in scenes at work and play. He has a genuine love for the characters and it shows.

A centerpiece fight between Iron Man and Hulk is worth the price of admission. And the climax involves a plot to destroy the earth much more ambitious than any we'd ever seen before.

Its only shortcoming is Joss' trick to keep all these heroes busy with hundreds of faceless minions. It's exciting, but he did this in the climax of the last Avengers as well.

Either way, it's well-deserving of its summer blockbuster status. Believe the hype, it's that good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: Other Space

Now that everyone has gotten into the original programming game, it's going to be easy for really good shows to get lost.

Give "Other Space" a shot, it's very funny.

It borrows the premise from "Red Dwarf," and half the cast of the pre-Mike seasons of "Mystery Science Theater," but y'know, it's stealing from the best of both.

And when I say it borrows from "Red Dwarf," I don't mean simply a space ship lost in space, "Other Space," takes "Red Dwarf's" warm approach to the characters.  They're knuckleheads, but not really far removed from people we know and love. They have hopes, dreams, desires, and they screw up big time, but they're trying. It's more about relationships than just rocket ships. And in that way it's more akin to "30 Rock," or "Kimmie Schmidt."

It's really just a workplace comedy with some very funny co-workers.