Have you seen Claire Danes’ ass? Seriously, it’s fantastic.
It’s kind of difficult to do a joke like this and not come off as crass or objectifying women. So to any ladies upset by today’s comic, please know that it’s all in good fun. I think you’re all aware that there are just certain things – no matter the value of what surrounds it – that guys are just gonna focus on. It’s sad. We try to be good, but we can’t help ourselves.
It’s true that you get to see a bit of Danes’ goods in this movie. To me it came as a total shock. I wasn’t expecting it at all. Mostly because Danes’ doesn’t strike me as the kind of actress that might weild her sexuality in that way. She seems more sensitive. The scene isn’t exploitive at all. It’s brief and very tasteful. While exciting for the less sophisticated parts of my brain, my real higher-level opinion of Shopgirl is much closer to the thoughts expressed in the first panel than the fourth. Steve Martin has adapted his novella with a screenplay that takes the richest ideas and lets them breathe on the silver screen.
Being a big fan of the book, it was certainly through that prism by which I judged it. Did it feel true to the characters? We the actor’s interpretations accurate to what I had envisioned in my head?
Let’s put it this way: You know when you read a book and they make a movie of it, the movie never lives up to your imagination? Alternatively, when you see a movie based on a book that you haven’t read and then you go back and read it, the book doesn’t seem as vivid to what you saw on screen? Shopgirl is probably one of the few movies I’ve been to where I’ve read the source material first and preferred the filmed version. I don’t know what it is about it that I find so winning except that I just think it does a better job of capturing Martin’s overall idea of disconnect in a modern society and our larger search for finding someone to help us feel complete.
I don’t know who was in charge of the set and light direction in this movie, but hopefully they win an Oscar for their work. It’s subtle – almost subliminal – but the way they cast L.A. as a character from the gleaming channels of commerce to it’s dingy apartments makes you feel like the city these characters inhabit is alive. There is great use of light to reflect the mood and isolation these people feel over the course of the movie.
Performance-wise, I think all three leads hit the mark. As I mentioned before, Danes effortlessly exudes the quality of a very intelligent and sensitive person quietly dissatisfied with her surroundings. Martin’s character as the dry, sophisticated Ray Porter was tailor-made for him and it shows. You wonder how much of Martin’s own personality he wove into Ray. Jason Schwartzman totally walks away with the picture as it’s focal point for comedy relief as Jermey. Sweet-natured if maybe a little unorganized, he so perfectly symbolized the frantic wandering that are your twenties. I’m so glad Jimmy Fallon walked away from the role. No doubt his performance would have been too winking, coy and knowing. Not an honest expression of that fuzzy logic that motivates the male imperative at that age. All the dumb moves you’re making that you think are right. Trying your best, but not having the social where-with-all to communicate properly.
I can’t recommend Shopgirl highly enough. I’m already talking about going back to see it again. The movie has a very comfortable feeling that I enjoyed and is probably one of my top 10 this year.
Things have been pretty grim in movie theaters this year. Shopgirl gave me an injection of hope right when I needed it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a mohito!
I’ll say this for being sick; It sure gives you the time to catch up on a bunch of movies.
I had something flu-like on Monday. So after sweating it out Monday night, I stayed home from work on Tuesday. I ended up watching The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, The Naked Gun 2 and 1/2: The Smell of Fear, The Lonely Guy and Goodfellas (because it just happened to be on).
I can say without doubt that the first Naked Gun is probably one of my favorite comedies, but that I hadn’t seen the second in a long time and I kind of remember why. Despite the addition of Robert Goulet, it’s vastly inferior. Not just in terms of the humor, which feels a little overdone. But there are huge plot holes in the thing! In my opinion, some of the best humor evolves from the characters being placed in a totally absurd situation and reacting to it with complete seriousness. That’s why the first Naked Gun movie is hilarious and also why the first Airplane! movie is hilarious. Leslie Nielson and that deep baratone of his adds the perfect amount of weight to ridiculous lines like "It’s true what they say. Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano; Sure it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside!" That’s why it’s such a shame he’s started wasting his talent in stuff like Mr. Magoo and Spy Hard in the late 90’s. Those movies were just flat-out stupid.
Moving on… The Lonely Guy. I’ve been on a Steve Martin kick ever since watching Shopgirl a few months ago. I have no plans, however, to endure Cheaper By The Dozen 2 when it comes out this month.
Instead, I’ve been combing through his back catalog. I already owned Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and it’s one of my favorite movies. Actually, Jared turned me onto that one years ago. We think it’s brilliant. But I picked up The Lonely Guy only partially remembering it from the times it’s been on basic cable. It was pretty funny. Cute. It’s kind of dated though. It suffers pretty heavily from the 80’s flavored synth soundtrack. It makes me wonder if the movies we’re watching now we’re going to look back on in 20 years and go "Ugh! What was up with the music back then?"
I don’t know what it was about movies from the 80’s, but very few of them seem to have a timeless quality about them. I’m sure you can say the same thing about any era, really. The movies that ARE timeless are certainly in the minioirty compared the majority of crap that comes out of most major studios. I suppose that’s why their timeless, but still…
And finally, Goodfellas… I caught it on HBO. To me, Goodfella’s is one of those movies that I will stop whatever I’m doing to watch. It’s so arresting, you can’t really turn away from it. I think that’s a big accomplisment. Especially after nearly 15 years. An even bigger accomplishment if the movie is on television. You know how it goes. You’re at home, watching TV, some movie comes across your radar. You think, "Oh, that’s interesting." and you watch it for 15 minutes or so before going back to channel surfing. Not Goodfellas. It comes on and I forget I even have a remote. Man, what a great movie. I’m still seeing helicopters.
As promised, I wanted to come back in today and blog about Cami’s reactions to Sin City.
We hunkered down with a big bowl of popcorn last night and watched it together. It was a lot more violent than I remember. I think when I watched it for the first time back in April, I was more under the spell of it’s visuals. Anyone who reads comics knows its probably the most literal adaptation of any franchise put on film. At that initial viewing, I think I was geeking out so hard, I kind of glossed over how brutal it actually is.
So as this revelation comes to me, I’m thinking to myself “Cami’s hating this. It’s gory. It’s too grotesque. She’s hating this.”
As the credits rolled, I sheepishly asked her “What’d you think?”
“I liked it.”
Imagine my surprise! I asked her what she liked most about the movie.
“The yellow blood!”
Looking back, Cami was pretty engaged in the whole thing. She would ask me questions throughout.
“Wait, wasn’t that girl dead?” “Why is that guy yellow?” “How come Elijah Wood is sitting on the porch when he was killed earlier?” She seemed pretty engaged.
Turns out she liked the segment with Bruce Willis the best. That was my favorite part, too. I think it’s the most poetic and probably the best use of Willis as an aging action star yet.
Of course, for pure vicreal thrills, nothing beats watching Mickey Rourke as Marv lay waste to a bunch of no-name cops. Watching him bust through that windsheild? Man, I get chills just thinking about it!
This has nothing to do with movies, but I feel bad about not providing you guys with a new comic today. So I thought the least I could do was tell you a story about the Nine Inch Nails concert I went to last night.
Well, actually – The LEAST I could do is nothing. But you get my meaning.
Jared and I went to the concert together last night pulling into the parking lot about 6:00. We we just kind of hanging out for a while, waiting to go in – when I realized about 6:20 that I had forgotten the tickets!
I felt like such a moron. At the end of the day Thursday, the last thing Jared said to me before I went home (we work in the same office building and department) was "DON’T FORGET THE TICKETS!" I went home, let Truman out to go to the bathroom, changed clothes, made sure Truman was fed and immediately had to turn around to get across town and pick up Jared. In my rush, I forgot the tickets.
So we’re rocketing back across town on the Interstate the day after we got this big snow and ice storm, trying to get back to my house so we can grab the tickets and get back to the arena before the show starts at 7:30. We managed to do it, but what a waste of time. Jared was actually really understanding. I figured he’d be really ticked off, considering he’s the Nine Inch Nails Super Fan. But he was cool about it. I think I was actually more upset.
Our tickets were for general admission, so once we got inside, we headed to the floor. We positioned ourselves center stage half way between the front row and the sound board. It was a pretty good spot. We stood behind this guy and his girlfriend who was a total Avril Lavigne clone. Except she was about 4 feet tall, so it made it really easy to see over her.
The opening band was called Moving Units and the were nothing spectacular. They were out-and-out rip offs of The Killers. And I hate The Killers. Their lead singer was mumbling the whole time and acted barely enthused to be there. I’m sorry, but that’s just posing. If I was in a band lucky enough to open up for Nine Inch Nails and play big arenas, I think I could muster a little more enthusiasm. They left the stage with a smattering of applause.
When Nine Inch Nails started an hour later, Jared and I were shoved toward opposite ends of the crowd, so I didn’t see him until the end of the show.
The show itself was really good. A good mix of new and old songs, frenetic mosh pit anthems and slower, more atmospheric work. Most importantly, they played "Suck" – which is probably my favorite Nine Inch Nails song ever. I remember playing that one over and over when I was in high school. Just taking long walks, stomping around and listening to it on an infinite loop.
Trent Reznor looked really good. I don’t know what he’s been doing lately, but I’d like to look into whatever health program he’s got going on. I’m used to pasty-faced, scrawny Trent Renznor. I don’t remember the man having big muscle-y arms. The crew cut he was sporting made him look like a miniature Henry Rollins! Without the tattoos, of course! ;-D
Something about concert audiences: If you are a crowd-surfer, DIE! Just do us all a favor and die. By the middle of the set, the sway and the crush of the audience squeezed me to about the third row. Really not a lot of room to manuever up there. You couldn’t really leave if you wanted to. As such, you don’t have the ability to turn around and keep your eyes peeled for incoming morons. I took a lot of kicks to the back of the head.
My antigonistic relationship with crowd-surfers leads me to extreme pettiness. If you come anywhere near me, I *WILL* try to steal your shoe. If I can’t get your shoe, I will punch you in the spine.
There were some people giving me some harsh looks when I was taking pocket shots to Johnny Crowd-Surfer’s kidneys. "Hey, man! It’s all part of the concert experience! Let ’em surf, man!"
"HEY, MAN! If they surf, they gotta expect not everyone is going to enjoy having to prop up their dumb asses with the back of their necks when they come out of nowhere!"
Some people were really turned off by my attitude, but you know there are people around you that feel the same way. I saw a few people start grabbing for shoes later in the show and it made me feel like I had accomplished something.
I’m actually leaving out a few important details about the crowd-surfers that had me so cheesed off. Earlier in the show when I was further away from the stage and there were still openings in the pit, a crowd-surfer came near me and suddenly there was no support under him. The dude crashed into me, pushing me backwards. His entire body weight was pressed against my throat as he decended with his forearm across my Adam’s Apple. The crowd response was pretty fast and they helped us back on our feet. But when I got up, I wanted to cave that guy’s head in. He sunk back into the crowd.
Another future brain surgeon tried to prop himself up into crowd-surfing position not by gathering the people around him to hoist him up on their hands. Rather, he put his hands on my shoulders and tried to climb up my back! When that wasn’t working, he actually put his hands AROUND MY THROAT! Okay, party foul, buddy. I promptly spun around, threw his arms off me and politely suggested he not do that. Ah, who am I kidding. I swore up a storm and tried to scare the living crap out of him. "It’s a concert," right?
I don’t want to make it sound like I had a bad time. I also don’t know why I seemed to be exposed to repeated throat injury. The concet was awesome and I had a good vantage point throughout. Those were just the little annoying things that I’m telling you about just to spice up the story a bit. Otherwise, it would be a pretty short story! "I went to a concert. I had a good time. FIN!"
Anyway, there you have it. Story time is over.
Today’s guest comic comes from Wes Molebash from You’ll Have That. I love this comic for so many reasons.
First of all, I appreciate that Wes made the subject matter timely by involving the baby. As you guys know, I made a decision not to introduce our baby into the comic continuity, but it’s nice to kind of give him a shout-out, as it were.
I love that Wes experimented a little and put Cami and Tom in different outfits. You never really think about how something small like that would affect the look and feel of things, but it’s like the characters become more "real" when you actually give them a wardrobe! My problem? I have no fashion sense. I would have no idea what to dress Cami and Tom in three times a week.
Lastly, I appreciate Wes’s confident style. He tells a joke without forcing it. He draws the characters as though he’s been drawing them for years.
Folks – that’s exactly what his comic You’ll Have That is like. Why it isn’t in newspapers across the country befuddles me. But I don’t think I’ll be in that state for long. Wes is going places. Mark my words. He’s going to leave the rest of us in the dust.
Don’t forget that Friday there will be a new comic from yours truly. I hope everyone checks in to read it!
A quick tease for next week’s guest comics. Well, not so much a comic, but a guest essay. I won’t come right out and say it, because that’ll kill the fun. But a week from now, be sure to check back on the site to read an essay written by someone with the last name of Brahe. That’s your official heads-up.
Be sure to check out the store. We’re now offering discounted merchandise bundles. When you buy more, you’ll save more. In most cases, up to FIVE DOLLARS OFF! It’s a deal that can’t be beat!
On a similar note, I got a lot of great feedback from a few people when I solicited some brainstorming for some new t-shirt or button slogans. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to add them to the comments section from this blog!
Gordon, Joe and I had a great time recording The Triple Feature on Monday night. We had a little less structure this time around, but the conversation was much more organic. The topic was "The movies that changed your life" and we talked about some of the first movies we remember seeing or films that shaped our tastes today. It’s a fun little listen and only an hour long. Download it from iTunes and enjoy!
I wanted to let everyone know that I’m starting to kind of emerge from my little crisis about the direction of the comic – whether or not I would switch to black and white or if I would end up doing one larger comic once a week. Ultimately, I think the only decision is to move forward. I’ve invested too much in Theater Hopper to let it languish. So I’m pressing on and I’ll do my darnedest to keep up with three full color comics a week. This is what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else! Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement.
Lastly, we’re 8 days from the due date and both Cami and I are getting extremely excited! It won’t be long now! Cami is a little uncomfortable, but otherwise in good health. We had a doctor’s appointment last week and the baby is doing fine. At the time, they were guessing he was already 8 pounds! Big boy!
By this time next month, I will have been a Dad for a few weeks. It’s wild when you think about it in a future context. Truthfully, it’s been one day at a time around the Brazelton household. Anything more than that and we just get too excited!
I hope everyone has a great Wednesday! The week is almost over!
Hang in there. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks again, Wes!
I was reading this short profile on Mike Binder, writer and director of Reign Over Me on EW.com this morning and I wanted to gouge my eyes out.
In the introductory paragraph, the article’s author Neil Drumming misidentifies Don Cheadle’s character as Alex Johnson (it’s Alan) and says Adam Sandler’s character loses his wife and two children in the 9/11 attack (he had three children). Do these writers even see the movies they’re profiling? Do they have editors? Hell, a quick search over at IMDB would have at least gotten the name of Cheadle’s character right! I thumbed around the site for a little while to see if I could send an e-mail to Drumming to point out his mistakes. I don’t know if that’s anal, obnoxious or both.
I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t complain. After all, I can barely spell. But on the other hand, I don’t have the resources of the mighty Time Warner empire behind me, either.
When you think about it, there was really nowhere to go but down.
After the success of Spider-Man 2 – one of the most note-perfect superhero movies ever – where else could director Sam Raimi go when he has the Sony breathing down his neck to deliver another installment of a franchise that has earned them nearly $2 billion worldwide? Make the best movie you can, throw all your marketing muscle behind it to put Spider-Man’s face on everything from a box of Mac ‘N Cheese to a pair of gym shorts and hope it rakes in another big pile of money.
Well, the money part is over and done with. Spider-Man 3 had the largest opening day ever – almost $60 million – and the largest three-day weekend ever- almost $150 million.
Unfortunately, Raimi might have lost his credibility in the process.
Reviewing a film like Spider-Man 3 is a difficult one for me. I have to wear two hats. One hat says “Objective Movie Critic” and the other hat says “Obsessive Fan Boy.” If the movie gets the details of the comics wrong, you can slap on the critic hat and dissect it that way. If the movie itself is poorly made, you can put on the fanboy hat and look at it that way.
Spider-Man 3 was so thoroughly wrong on both fronts, I wanted to take off both hats, burn them and bury them.
The largest contributor to Spider-Man 3’s failure is the meandering script by Raimi, his older brother Ivan Raimi and their screenwriting partner Alvin Sargent. The trio try to build on the foundation of the first two movies by raising the stakes in the conflict between Harry Osborn (James Franco) and Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and it’s a good place to start. Unfortunately, after that, things get muddled.
Harry has undergone treatments similar to those of his father to avenge his murder. Retrofitting his father’s equipment into a “totally extreme!” air glider, he’s out for blood as the second Green Goblin and Spider-Man is his target.
Their battle is the movie’s first action set-piece. Too bad it looks entirely cartoonish. Like, “I can see the black outlines around the characters” cartoonish. The aftermath leaves Harry a partial amnesiac who remembers his father died, but not by Spider-Man’s hand. Convenient!
After that, we’re forced to endure Mary Jane’s (Kirsten Dunst) career letdowns as she’s dropped from a Broadway play after one performance. Spider-Man saves Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard)– a classmate and photocopier model (?!) in the film’s second (and best) action set-piece and he’s given the key to the city while MJ scowls in the background. Peter then tries to propose at a French restaurant where Bruce Campbell delivers his requisite cameo but botches it and – oh, yeah – there’s some background story about a new villain called the Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) that can molecularly reassemble his body into an errant special effect from the Mummy movies to steal money for his sick daughter. Oh! Oh! And don’t forget Topher Grace as Peter’s new photographer rival at The Daily Bugle Eddie Brock! Most importantly, don’t forget that black tar alien slinky that crash landed in a meteorite and latched on to Peter’s scooter at the beginning of the movie.
Get all that? Oh, wait. There’s more.
The black goop from the meteorite is revealed to be a symbiote that amplifies aggression, bonds with Peter and gives him a new black costume. Good timing, too. Because now he can use his amped up powers to take on the Sandman, who he’s learned was the REAL triggerman in his Uncle Ben’s death. Again… Convenient!
There’s more, but it’s really not worth getting into. Basically, the movie is just a series of action pieces strung together loosely by non-organic plot elements that move the characters around like chess pieces to get them there.
Actually, chess is too generous an analogy. How about Candyland?
A big failure in particular is the use – or rather, lack thereof – of the black suit. Peter is probably in the suit a total of 10 minutes. We’re let to believe that it’s corrupting him. After his confrontation with the Sandman, we’re told his intent was to kill him but it looks more like an accident. Later, as we witness how the suit is affecting Peter Parker, Raimi treats it like a campy joke by having Peter strutting down the street like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. When he seeks to get back at MJ while she works as a singer/waitress in a jazz bar, he chooses to do so by… stealing the spotlight from her playing piano and dancing around the room?
How are we supposed to take this transformation seriously when they don’t take it seriously themselves?
Eventually, Peter realizes that he doesn’t like what the symbiote is doing to him, so he sheds the alien creature in a church where Eddie Brock has found refuge after he was exposed doctoring a photo of Spider-Man to paint him in a bad light.
In record time, the symbiote bonds with Brock and they become Venom – ANOTHER villain for Spider-Man to contend with.
Venom’s addition feels totally tacked on and if I were Topher Grace, I’d be asking myself “I left That 70’s show for this?” Venom ends up enlisting Sandman’s help to kill Spider-Man using MJ as bait to draw him out. Spider-Man enlists the “on good terms again” Harry Osborne and a big bru-ha-ha ensues. A couple of people die and I leave the theater not caring about any of it.
Typing this review was like pulling teeth for me because deep down, I WANTED to like it. But a bad film is a bad film and I can’t help but wonder if Raimi has lost his touch.
The movie suffers from Batman Forever syndrome. Throwing more villains at Spider-Man doesn’t make him more interesting. It’s always been Peter Parker’s real-life problems that made him interesting. The filmmakers could have easily gone with the conflict between him and Harry as the centerpiece of the film and left it at that. It would have been a lot less interesting to look at – especially considering Harry’s choice of a paintball mask for his “costume,” but at least it would have been authentic.
Or, instead, focus on the symbiote and the Venom character. Illustrate more clearly how Eddie Brock is the polar opposite of Peter Parker. What a real snake-in-the-grass would do with that level of power instead of someone who is at their core decent like Parker.
Anything involving Sandman could have been thrown out the window. His story adds nothing to the movie except for commentary about revenge and forgiveness. But, like the original Batman movie before it (where the Joker is revealed as the man who killed Batman’s parents and is then killed), a great disservice is done to the character of Spider-Man by allowing him to confront the man who killed his Uncle and forgiving him. It strips Peter of his guilt for not saving his Uncle when he had the chance. THIS IS HIS ENTIRE MOTIVATION FOR BEING A SUPER HERO!
Ultimately, it appeared as if the filmmakers totally lost touch with the characters. For a franchise that presented both sides of a super hero so well, it’s probably the deepest cut that they apparently stopped caring. I could go on with this review, but I’ve stopped caring myself.
Spider-Man 3 is the worst of the franchise and certainly did not live up to the hype.
The Golden Age of Hollywood pirate adventure movies consisted of swash-buckling, swordplay, thin mustaches and derring do. Occasionally, the hunt for buried treasure was thrown in before the hero sailed into the sunset with the girl on his arm.
In the formative years of the franchise, the first film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl did a great job of breathing new life into the genre by mixing in a dash of supernatural tonic. It’s tale of cursed Aztec gold and undead skeleton pirates made for a frolicking popcorn blockbuster.
It’s sequel, the overlong but technically superior Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest upped the ante by constructing mythology around the Pirates universe and branding an indelible mark on film history by introducing one of it’s most memorable villains in the entirely CG-created Davy Jones (performed brilliantly by Bill Nighy).
In the third (and possibly last) movie in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, there was very little territory left to cover and the film dives deep into the metaphysical and surfaces with six kinds of weirdness. What made the originally Pirates inventive and the second compelling feels overdone in the third movie.
At the film’s onset, our merry band of sea-faring adventurers – including Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly and Geoffrey Rush – meet with the Pirate Lord of Singapore, Sao Feng (plays with a craggy slither by Chow Yun-Fat). From him they seek an ancient map that will lead them to the the so-called “End of the World” that will literally plunge them into the barren limbo of Davy Jones’s Locker. Contained therein is the perpetually loopy Captain Jack Sparrow, whom they seek to rescue.
Nothing about Davy Jones’s Locker makes sense. Not the ego-driven hallucinations it seems to inflict on the increasingly unhinged Jack, not the fact that his ship, The Black Pearl, seems to have survived the cross-over in tact and certainly not the oddity of a million rock-shaped crustaceans that billow under the hull of the Pearl, pushing it toward water. All of this non-sense is representative of the bigger problem in At World’s End. There’s a lot of stuff in the movie that looks really cool, but all of it feels inconsequential because the film either changes the rules of it’s universe (or worse) makes it up as it goes along.
Discussing the plot of the movie will do it no service. There are so many double-crosses, hidden agendas and obscured half-truths uttered throughout that it makes it difficult to follow which characters have allegiance with another at any given point in the movie. I wasn’t bothered by that so much. I haven’t yet mistaken a Pirates of the Caribbean movie for a David Mamet film and I’m not about to start.
What bothered me most about the film is that never once did I feel that any of the characters were in any kind of danger. Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa came back to life at the end of the second film. It gives nothing away to say that Captain Jack Sparrow matches the feat when he is rescued from Davy Jone’s Locker in this movie. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote too many loopholes of supernatural origin into the mix. Between the mystical map that leads to the Locker, to Jack’s compass that lead’s you to your heart’s desire, to the 9 pieces of 8, to the sea-goddess Calypso bound in human form to the voodoo priestess Tia Dalma, to the contents of the Dead Man’s Chest… Too often characters seem to pull these trinkets or pieces of information out of their back pocket at the last minute to make bargains or back out of sticky situations. In more capable hands, it could be clever. In this instance, it just feels tacked on.
Particularly when we’re informed that killing Davy Jones won’t end his curse, that his ship – The Flying Dutchman – will ALWAYS need a captain… It’s a set up for an emotional payoff later in the film. But it feels like a contrivance that Jones is no longer a singular scourge of the seven seas. That his is some kind of mantle passed down from cursed sailor to cursed sailor. It strips the character of a great deal of individuality and makes it less satisfying when he is finally dispatched.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of things that the film gets right. The humor that is peppered throughout the film hits it’s mark and, as always, the performances from Depp, Rush and Nighy push everything forward. All three of them seem to be having a hell of a time and they’re a great deal of fun to watch. Rush, especially – who seems to have returned to his role as Barbossa having sharpened his flinty gaze and reveling in a cathartic madness that is four sheets to the wind.
Visually, the film is astonishing. The Pirates universe has always been one that is very tactile. Set design on this film is beyond compare. The Pirate stronghold of Shipwreck Cove is breathtaking. Davy Jones is an even more emotive, slobbering menace and the sight of a 30′ tall woman on the deck of The Black Pearl dissolving into a wave of crabs looks great even if it doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who goes to At World’s End expecting a feast for the eyes will not be disappointed.
The film has been taken to task for being too long, but I found it much more brisk than Dead Man’s Chest even when the film seemed to linger (as each of the scenes set within Davy Jones’s Locker.) The only time I stopped to look at my watch was during the final battle – which probably isn’t a good thing since this was the sequence that was meant to send the franchise out in a spectacular blaze of glory.
When it’s all said and done, the third installment of the Pirates franchise is serviceable as both a conclusion to the series or a potential continuation of it. They left a window open, let’s say that. Those of you who might have been frustrated by the first two films will probably have the same complaints with this one. But for those of you that like to play in the sandbox along with all the other unique characters of the series, you’ll have a good time.
For more discussion regarding At World’s End, be sure to tune in to The Triple Feature talkcast at TalkShoe tonight at 9:00 PM CST where myself, Joe Dunn from Joe Loves Crappy Movies and Gordon McAlpin from Multiplex will discuss our reactions of the film. If you saw the movie this weekend, call in with your opinions! We’ll be taking your calls live! See you then!
After surviving weeks of bloated franchise sequels, movie audiences are being treated to one of the freshest, funniest movies of the summer. Picking up where its spiritual predecessor The 40 Year-Old Virgin left of, Knocked Up is another successful romp through sexual raunchiness and touching human truth.
This time instead of focusing on the novelty of a lead character living his entire adult life without sexual intercourse, writer/director Judd Apatow and his regular company of actors turn their attention on the somewhat common interpersonal mishap – the one night stand that goes horribly… right?
An unplanned pregnancy brings Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen together as one of cinema’s most unlikely “Beauty and the Beast”-type of couples. Once the pair agrees to keeping the baby and start dating to see if their compatible, the movie begins to swerve into previously mined territory. There probably isn’t a joke in the movie about pregnancy, childbirth, buying clothes or picking an obstetrician that hasn’t been covered by a hundred different sitcoms before it.
But the pregnancy isn’t the core of the movie. In fact, it feels almost incidental as the movie focuses more on Rogen’s character coming to grips with his impending responsibility and what it might mean for his freedom. The reluctance of fathers-to-be has also been mined for comedy before. But what Knocked Up smartly does is pair up Heigl and Rogen’s characters with Heigl’s sister and brother-in-law played with smartly by the indispensable Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. Through them, Apatow delivers some of his best lines and biting commentary about gender relations.
Settled into the rut of their own hapless marriage, Mann and Rudd’s characters have two children of their own and provide a raw look into the future for Heigl and Rudd. Both of them seem unhappy and are just going through the motions. Mann suspects Rudd of cheating on her when it turns out he’s sneaking out of the house for fantasy baseball meetings. Rudd compares marriage to an unfunny episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. “Except it doesn’t last for 22 minutes,” he warns. “It’s for life.”
The aforementioned fantasy baseball scene cuts particularly close when Rudd’s wife discovers his deception. His need for independence and male comradely versus Mann’s deep hurt that her husband would rather see Spider-Man 3 without her is cringe-inducing. But this is where Knocked Up most effectively deviates from the norm.
It’s easy for a film to make fun of a guy with cold feet. But very few incisively tackle the balancing act most men feel they need to maintain between their responsibilities and their basic need for autonomy. Or how (in some cases) that tightrope walk leaves them feeling trapped. In this way, Knocked Up is unlike most romantic comedies. It’s told primarily from the perspective of men and their insecurities.
This probably seems like heady stuff for a film that most would consider piffle. Fortunately, Knocked Up doesn’t knock you over the head with its message and effectively blends the reality of the situation with crude and outrageous side conversations. Rogen’s slacker roommates, for example, are probably the filthiest characters committed to celluloid both in terms of dialogue and general hygiene.
Kudos to Apatow who has a keen ear for this kind of conversation. 10 years ago, it was Kevin Smith who was earning accolades for bringing characters to screen who seemed to talk like everyday people talked – warts and all. Apatow does the same thing, but narrows his focus to the ball-busting, pop culture reference laden smack talk of the twenty-something set. To his credit, all the while you are being repulsed by these burnouts, you kind of want to spend a Saturday afternoon with them. They seem like a lot of fun.
The ultimate success of Knocked Up is the way it elevates universal topics up a level by ditching the notion that the audience doesn’t need the complexities of Rogen’s confusion or Heigl’s uncertainty spoon-fed to them. While the elements of the story are commonplace, their delivery is not. What’s left is a refreshingly honest portrayal of impending adulthood cushioned with a great deal of heart.
“You’re analog players in a digital world.”
The line, delivered by Eddie Izzard’s character in reference to the suave criminal masterminds played by George Clooney and Brad Pitt. It is a declaration made by screenwriters Brian Koppleman and David Levien that is meant to crystallize the air of mythic cool surrounding Danny Ocean and his gang as a preface the third installment of what like to call “The Franchise That Should Not Be” – Ocean’s Thirteen.
I refer to the “Ocean’s” films as the franchise that should not be due to the fact that the original Ocean’s Eleven was a remake of a Rat Pack film from 1960 that wasn’t particularly well received. That is, not until decades later by people in denial over the Disney-fication of Las Vegas and who mourned the loss of brass balls cool in the era of free love. Yet, somehow, director Steven Soderberg brought something fresh to the screen and found cunning cipher’s to deliver his message of relaxed new millennium machismo in Clooney and Pitt. His take was an effervescent affair, mostly glossy, but entertainingly written with enough switchbacks to keep audiences engaged.
The cast’s affinity for one another showed up on screen – which I think is a large part of what pushed the first film over the fence. Inevitably, a sequel would be made. And while cast and crew took a few hits on the chin for having more fun making the movie than the audience watching it, I still found it a welcome addition.
But it’s almost beyond reason that a third film should be made. Each of the actors involved is too popular. Soderberg’s credibility as an indie-house darling stretched too thin. Could spending 4 months together on a set really be this much fun? Apparently so.
This time the crew is back to their own stomping grounds in Vegas. They’ve arrived to turn the screws on a land developer played with slithering tanorexic glee by Al Pacino. He’s muscled out his development partner, played by Elliott Gould, sending him into shock. The crew, gathered to his bed side, vow revenge. Instead of stealing huge sums of money or priceless pieces of art, it’s the crew’s goal to put enough of a sizable dent in Pacino’s grand opening that he’ll be forced off the board of his own corporation. I know – You haven’t heard about a plot this exciting since it turned out Episode I: The Phantom Menace was about the taxation of trade routes.
There are scams being run on this side where the crew is also trying to prevent Pacino from earning another Five Diamond hotel rating while also stealing a set of real diamonds Pacino buys for his wife each time one of his hotels reaches that milestone worth in excess of $250 million.
Like many of the “threequels” this summer, this is where Ocean’s Thirteen begins to fall apart. Too many plot points, too many scams, too many characters running around in what appears to be too short of a time frame and too many lingering questions that take you out of the action. Don’t even stop to think for a minute how much money it would take to cover all the travel, bribes and equipment Danny and his crew would need to run these scams and CERTAINLY don’t question where the crew could have gotten their hands on not one, but TWO of the drilling rigs that carved out The Chunnel. C’mon – it wouldn’t be cool…
It’s understandable why the filmmakers went this route. To combat the law of diminishing returns, you have to heap on the glamor, heap on the spectacle and heap on the courageousness. Ocean’s Thirteen does this spectacularly well. In fact, hats off to the art department on this film who created a fully-functional three story casino within a sound stage on the Warner Bros. lot. It looked perfectly in-step with modern Vegas with it’s aggressive use of red twinkling promise. Sets representing the different villas and suites within the hotel looked plush and decadent. The film looks amazing – bar none.
The performances, too, were well done. I still find myself wishing I could roll with the punches as well as Clooney does or wear a suit as sharply as Pitt. However, the boy’s club atmosphere is pervasive and the film could have benefited from the balance of a woman’s touch. Neither Julia Roberts’s or Catherine Zeta Jones’s characters make an appearance in the film and their lack of inclusion is treated almost dismissively. Ellen Barkin cuts a dramatic silhouette as Pacino’s right hand woman, but her role is quickly reduced to sexpot comic relief when Matt Damon, in character as the translator of a high roller, seduces her in the third act using powerful pheromones.
An alternate point of intrigue could have been explored when Vincent Cassel, the smarmy French cat burglar from the second film is introduced. But he’s wasted here, given almost no opportunity for dialogue and acting completely out of character for the sake of tying the two films together.
While Ocean’s Thirteen does a better job of tying up some of it’s more eliptical plot points than some of the other summer offerings, the final heist comes off feeling somewhat unfulfilling. There never really appears to be any threat of failure either from Pacino catching on, Cassel as the wild card, the authorities or even Andy Garcia’s character from the first movie who the crew turns to him for financing when they’ve run out of cash. More than anything, the biggest threat to the con are small management details. While the unintentional labor dispute Casey Affleck’s character instigates after infiltrating a dice manufacturer in Mexico is funny, is the any level of tension in whether or not the crew can reprogram a blackjack card shuffler?
Watching Ocean’s Thirteen, I was entertained. But afterwords, it felt strangely hollow – like I had been conned myself. The fact of the matter is without a sufficient villain for Ocean and his team to match wits against, there’s not much to admire in their adherence to the old “analog” ways of thievery. Like the actors and producers of the film, Danny’s crew has been in the game too long. They know all the angles and there aren’t any challenges left.