This is The First Day of the Rest of My Life (without any Harry Potter) [July 22, 2011]

You know what’s great about today? I will never wait in line for another Harry Potter event ever again. There are no more books in the series, and the movies have all finally been released. It’s all over, and I can now put this swelling lump of disappointment far behind me.

For those of you who miss waiting in line for Harry Potter...

This week, Hollywood decided to change things up and deliver generic movies with well-worn premises (the “change things up” refers to the fact that they’re actually worth watching).

On a side note, I have no editor this week, which means my pictures are going to be stupid with lazy-ass captions. I’ll also probably get “their” “there” and “they’re” confused enough for someone to revoke my creative writing minor. At least you’ll be able to freely read without getting tripped up over the ten thousand commas typically inserted into my sentences.

Captain America: The First Avenger or It’s About Damn Time!

I have the same affinity for comic book superheroes that gay men have for boobs: I’m very familiar with them, I can tell when they’re good, but they just don’t do it for me. (Just to be clear, I’m saying that comic book superheroes don’t do it for me; boobs do.)

Though I'm more of an ass man...

Though I'm more of an ass man...

That being said, there are two superheroes I have always loved. The first is Batman, but Hollywood has been all over his gonads since day one. The second is Captain America.

I’m not really sure why I like Captain America. Maybe because my dad was in the Marine Corps when I was a kid, and they seemed pretty similar. Maybe because Steve Rogers was kind of like a Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark without money. Maybe because I had a costume that could fire a patriotic Frisbee at people. For whatever reason, I have always liked Captain America, and I have had to wait my whole life to see him on film. In the past 60 years, there has only been one theatrical tribute to my second favorite superhero, and I’ll bet you didn’t even know that film existed. If you think that looks bad, you should see the two made for TV movies about him in the late 70s.

I'm Captain America! I have a Super Scooter!

It kind of makes sense that these movies suck. Captain America sports a costume that is impossible to make awesome in live action, his weapon is a shield, and his superpower is…patriotism? There’s something too polarizing about Steve Rogers; even Iron Man – created to be a quintessential capitalist  – gets to be rebellious. Steve Rogers always has to be patriotic. And because he’s a superhero, he has to do it in the let’s-fight-and-kill-others type of way, as opposed to let’s-legalize-gay-marriage-and-increase-the-debt-ceiling type of way. Though I’m sure he fought for that stuff outside the panels.

For America!

If so much of the audience is going to see Captain America as a gun-toting (only as a last resort), tea-toddling (he would rip the “Tea Party” a new one) type of superhero, why are they making a movie about him? Mainly because Marvel is going to make an Avengers film next year, and Captain America is a huge part of the team. That’s why they went so far as to put “The First Avenger” in the title. It’s almost like they are apologizing upfront for this movie’s existence. All that said, it looks like they are going to do a fantastic job with this film.

First off, they are sticking to the original story. It is set in the throws of World War II, and based on a German scientist injecting an Aryan male with steroids, making him a “nearly perfect human being.” Yep, that’s the origin of Captain America, and they’re not shying away from it.

To be fair, Dr. Abraham Erskine defected to the United States in fear of Adolph Hitler. Also, when Captain America was introduced in 1941, no one knew what steroids were. As far as they knew, what happened to Steve Rogers was impossible. The quote about making him a “nearly perfect human being” was used in a comic in 1969, and they probably avoided such statements in the early issues. And as far as his super power being patriotism, it kind of was (though it’s mostly the steroids). Rogers was chosen because he severely wanted to fight for his country, he was just too scrawny and sickly to do it. To readers in the 1940s, this was a great patriot fighting for a great cause; after all, no one protested our involvement in World War II.

Well...almost no one.

Marvel modernized the rest of the Avengers, updating Iron Man’s creation to the conflict in the middle east. They knew this wouldn’t work for Captain America, though. He had to be born from the 1940s because that was pretty much the only time he would make sense. How it’s going to work with next year’s Avengers…we’ll have to see.

They also handled Roger’s transformation to Captain America extremely well. The CGI and makeup are nearly flawless, and they really illustrate the dramatic transformation from Steve Rogers to Steve Rogers on steroids.

They stayed very true to the steroids part.

Typically, I’m the first to complain when a director shits CGI on top of actor to transform him. Rarely does it work better than traditional makeup, and more often than not it is distracting. However, it looks like they tried to mainly use makeup on Chris Evan’s (actor playing Rogers / Captain America) face, leaving CGI to take care of the rest of the body. Honestly, I’m not sure how they did it, but it works and it’s the best way to illustrate his change.

I will say the choice of Chris Evans as Rogers did bug me at first. For the second time this year, Hollywood is recycling superhero stars. Ryan Reynolds went from Deadpool to the Green Lantern, and now Evans is going from The Human Torch to Captain America. Considering The Human Torch is Evan’s biggest role to date, it seems a little odd to make him Captain America. After watching the trailer, however, it looks like he was the right choice. As much as I like Captain America, he’s kind of an empty character. You don’t want a big, recognizable face on the other side of the mask. You just want someone who can look as good as possible in that ridiculous costume.

But it could get weird if they ever make a film of Marvel Strange Tales #114

Long story short, they’ve got Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci in an apparently loyal adaptation of Captain America. This movie should be 10x better than The Green Lantern, and if there’s anyone else out there who wants to see it, please let me know. I can’t seem to find anyone, and going to the theater alone is depressing.

Friends with Benefits and To be Clear, Mila Kunis is Not Gay

As the (three) loyal readers of my blog already know, I have a theory about A-list actors who star in homosexual roles. They have to follow up in a major role as an overtly heterosexual character. For men, this means films like Casanova or Jarhead. For women, this means a romantic comedy where you have casual sex with a friend. Apparently.

Kunis had a lesbian scene (though not actually a lesbian character) with costar Natlie Portman in last year’s Black Swan. As a result, they each followed up with separate movies that have nearly the exact same premise: I am a friend with a cute guy; I am going to have sex with him but not enter into a relationship (until the final act).

That being said…this movie looks really cute. I’m not sure if JT has any acting chops, but damn it if he doesn’t have charm and swagger.

But he's got nothing on you, Blond Beek.

Kunis, on the other hand, could be in a movie about drop kicking kittens or mauling baby birds and I’d still want to see it because of her. How many of us actually stuck with That 70’s Show all the way through the final season simply because of her? She and JT have actual, tangible chemistry, and the rest of the cast is fantastic, too. Patricia Clarkson plays Kunis’ sexually promiscuous mother, and Woody Harrelson is JT’s best friend. Oh, and he’s gay. Woody Harrelson is one of my favorite actors, and there’s no way he’ll disappoint here.

I’m not saying this is the best film ever made. It definitely don’t expect it to be jumping on to any top-10 RomCom lists. It’s obviously not the smartest thing around, either.

No. It's a 10 letter word.

Yet when it comes to a typical romantic comedy, this delivers more than you can hope for. I just wonder how Woody Harrelson is going to respond in his next movie…

Life in a Day or YouTube is Invading our Movie Theaters

This is actually an incredibly intelligent idea and a great use of YouTube as a social media resource. They took submissions from YouTubers all over the world, the only condition being that each video was shot on the same day, and they compiled them into a film. It is a simple idea that makes incredible basis for interesting social exploration. Still, do you really need to pay tickets to see a bunch of YouTube clips on the big screen?

While I will eventually see this film and probably enjoy the hell out of it, I do have a few problems with it. First, there’s a director.

The DGA insisted somebody's name go here.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what this guy did. Every piece of this movie was shot buy some random person with access to a video device. The guy who put it all together was the editor (so kudos to him). “Somebody has to decide what order they go in” you seem to say. Well, that would be a writer, and he would make something called a script. In fact, this is more like a reality clip show (which I’ve worked on) and the script would be assembled by a person called a “post producer.” They’re called “post producers” in reality, because calling them a writer would mean they would have to be represented by the Writers Guild, and then the shows would be too expensive to produce. But since this is a film, it must have a director, so I guess they just randomly picked someone from the DGA list serve.

My other problem is that people submitted their videos for the purpose of being included in this film. That means that people were putting on a mask, trying to be deep and introspective, or trying to put forth something that would place them, the “flimmaker,” in a positive light. In other words, not at all an accurate depiction of shit you normally find on YouTube. It also means that you get a lot of people who are not common YouTubers, but merely participated for this specific endeavor. Now, imagine if you made a film with the same premise, the only caveat being that you picked random uploads from a single day. This way, the clips used are all uploads from people who are completely unaware of your project. The “filmmakers” don’t realize that they’re going to be in a film. This is just their natural, internet-induced narcissism playing out on YouTube, and later celebrated in feature form. This would be, in my opinion, a much more honest cross-section of the effect YouTube has internationally.

And would probably be 90% cats.

Having said this, I probably should send this last graph in to the WGA and get a copyright to make sure my idea doesn’t get ripped off. Though it probably wouldn’t help. The WGA apparently doesn’t need to be involved in films like this, as evident by the fact there is absolutely no writer credit for Life in a Day on IMDB.

The Myth of the American Sleepover or The Truth of the American High Schooler

New Director David Robert Mitchell is a John Hughes fan who once saw Kids and thought to make a new Dazed and Confused (only instead of the first night of summer, it’s the last night of summer). To be fair, I don’t know if Mitchell actually is a fan of Hughes (but who isn’t?). Furthermore, I doubt The Myth of the American Sleepover has anywhere near the edge of Kids, but this new film is certainly reminiscent of each of these predecessors.

The John Hughes part seems obvious. Anytime you have an ensemble cast of high schoolers intelligently discussing things with a certain amount of gravity, you have to pay homage to Sir Hughes.

Intelligently discussing things with gravity. Not bitching and breaking out into song.

He was also fond fitting his movies into a short period of time: Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are all set in a single day. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused remains the best example for story, though. I mean, it really is the same premise, just on the other end of summer. The dialogue and character interaction is a bit more free form and sprawling, like Linklater’s early work. You also have the overwhelming presence of suburbia, one of Linklater’s favorite themes.

He was really obsessed with it...

The Kids part isn’t so much in the story as it is the acting. Much like Larry Clark did in Kids, Mitchell found a full cast of new blood, and their performances are fresh and natural. I get fed up with how old kids look in Hollywood High Schools. Honestly, Hughes wasn’t always the best at this, either. The actors are all in their early to mid 20s, and they some how play kids who are sophomores. It probably has something to do with child labor laws and SAG and some shit, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find 16 year-old talent. It’s nice to see actors playing their age and playing themselves. It’s strange how it can almost be unsettling to see young kids turn such honest peformances.

As long as they avoid malicious use of a skateboard.

If I had to make one more comparison, I’d probably say David Gordon Green’s George Washington, which is similar in casting, dialogue and cinematography. But I think I’ve made my point: I like this trailer.

Another Earth or Shit I Wish I Had Thought Up

Prepare to have your mind fucking blown.

In Another Earth, our Earth literally finds an identical Earth. As in the exact same fucking planet that we’re living on now simultaneously exists elsewhere, with the exact same continents, the same countries and the same people. And by same people, I mean the same individuals. In the reality that is this movie, there is another you and another me, with the same name, the same family, and the same life.

All is same.

Yes, this is physically preposterous, and if they were to try to delve into how this happened, the movie would be a murky mess of pseudo-scientific crap. Instead, the identical earth is merely used as a metaphor, and it falls almost entirely to the background as we explore a smaller, more intimate story.

I’m not sure what that story is, but I think it starts when Brit Marling falls asleep at the wheel and veers into another lane at an intersection, killing William Mapother’s wife and son. Somehow she got away with this, and now she feels terrible about it. Like, really bad. But not so bad that she turns herself in. Instead, she strikes up a relationship with Mapother and keeps the whole “I’m responsible for your terrible life” buried deep inside her. So the whole second Earth is really just a metaphor for second chances…because she feels bad about…you know…killing this guy’s family.

Look: me explaining all of this to you just sounds awful. Just take a look at this trailer and tell me it’s not awesome.

Whoa, it's another Earth!

A Little Help or Someone Who Hopes to Milk  The Office For All it’s Worth

To all of you masochists out there who still watch The Office, Jenna Fischer would like to extend to you here thanks. She’s gonna need to ride that pony until it dies of starvation. It looks like movies aren’t exactly her thing. Well, it looks like acting isn’t really her thing. Or being a generally likable person. Just take a look at this very accurate, completely scientific graph illustrating her likability factor against her co-star and on-screen husband, John Krasinski.

True Story.

I don’t know why we hate Jenna Fischer, but we do. I’d like to say it’s not her fault, but since she is Jenna Fischer, I have to say that it’s definitely her fault. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t hate her. On the other hand, I can’t figure out why we like John Krasinski so much. If there isn’t a camera around for him to smirk into, he’s just an average guy.

A Little Help stars Jenna Fischer and Chris O’Donnell, and is written and directed by the creator of King Of Queens. If that doesn’t make you want to go see the movie, then there’s probably a good reason why no one is going to go see it this weekend. Fischer is a dentist (or maybe a dental hygenist) withs a comically tragic life. She recently found out her husband, Chris O’Donnell, is cheating on her. When she confronts him, he dies, which is pretty good for us because then we don’t have to watch Chris O’Donnell anymore. Fischer, on the other hand, is now a single mother with a mountain of debt.

This could be a touching movie, or maybe a darkly comedic movie, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a Jenna Fischer movie. This basically means that we watch Pam Beesly run around on the screen for 2 hours until we realize that she’s not the part of The Office that we like.

Sarah’s Key or Parallel Pretentiousness

You know how you can tell a Weinstein movie? It’s either a pretentious masterpiece or a pretentious piece of crap. In this case it’s both.

Sarah’s Key is about the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in Nazi Occupied France. This is an event where the French police arrested Jewish citizens and held them in a bicycle velodrome stadium (called Vel’ d’Hiv) until they were shipped off by the Nazis to Auschwitz. To be fair to the French, they were acting under the Nazi’s orders. Apparently, a squat little man with a Napoleon Complex consumed all of France’s military prowess for the rest of history, but I digress.

This film follows the path of a little girl, Sarah, who was able to escape from the velodrome. It also tells the parallel story of journalist Kristin Scott Thomas as she uncovers the Sarah’s Story. There’s then a third parallel story of a viewer (me), has to sit through the trailer, and finally a fourth story of a reader (you) who has to read his crappy blog post about it.

So meta that Charlie Kaufman just inexplicably pissed his pants.

I often like parallel stories and interweaving character paths, if they do it right (Magnolia not Crash). However, I’m not a big fan of parallel stories set in different time periods. They are rarely all that parallel, and I inevitably end up enjoying one story and hating the other. That being said, if they got rid of the Kristin Scott Thomas investigation aspect, this would be a good, albeit pretentious, film.

Autoerotic is Not As Exciting as the Title Implies

I hear of the term “autoerotic” and, like most good-natured people, I think of it coupled with the term “asphyxiation.”

Which inevitably makes me think of this guy.

Instead of something edgy, sexy and bad ass, Autoerotic is a bunch of average to below-average looking hipsters having awkward, hipster-ish sex. I think I’ll pass.

Fire in Babylon or A Movie About Cricket?

I am American and I refuse to understand the international importance of this awkward game. Also, at one point in the trailer a man says “No other team in any other discipline anywhere in the world dominated their sport for fifteen years.” Apparently, you have as little respect for NCAA women’s soccer as I have for sticky wickets and flat bats.

And 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2009


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