A Long, Long Time Ago in a Year or Two

Since the Mousketeer takeover of a galaxy far, far away was announced, every now and then, I debate in my head how I feel about the production of a new Star Wars movie.

I grew up on the original trilogy almost as much as I grew up on Star Trek, at least in terms of toys, and I watched all three over and over again whenever the opportunity presented. Yes, Luke is pretty whiny in the first act of A New Hope; yes, there are some inconsistencies in writing; yes, I would have preferred Wookies rather than Ewoks in Jedi; and yes, it would have been nice not to have any retconning done in the 90s. But I love Star Wars, to the point where I read the first few dozen expanded universe novels (and some of them were great).

In the very late 1990s, when we started seeing news and then trailers for Phantom Menace, I got excited. We all did, I think, the entire geek world, going to the theatre of films we wouldn’t have bothered with if they hadn’t been playing the trailer for it. For many, it was the movie we’d waited most of our lives to see.

And it sucked. Really, really badly.

Attack of the Clones was prettier, but worse. Not only was the writing horrible, but the actors weren’t allowed to actually act, with the possible exception of Ewan MacGregor as Obi Wan.

Revenge of the Sith started out better, but I started losing interest less than half way through and it was a long downhill slide as every conceivable item that might have been considered loose end got tied up, and most of them didn’t need to be.

When I heard Disney had bought out Lucasfilm and immediately announced its intention to start producing a new Star Wars movie every couple of years, I was cautiously optimistic. My first thought was that Disney could hardly do worse on the next three than Lucas did on the last three. I got a little more positive from there because Disney has managed some great stuff in the last decade or so, and they’ve slowly been taking over a lot of proven, awesome properties: The Muppets, Pixar, Marvel, and now Star Wars all come to mind. It’s hard to dispute the awesome of 2011’s Muppets. Pixar is mostly back on the uphill climb disrupted by Cars (the upcoming Monsters Inc prequel saddens me, but Brave quite makes up for Cars 2, which I refuse to see). And everyone caught the whole Avengers thing, right? Their recent track record is pretty good.

The latest announcement, with J.J. Abrams taking over the director’s chair for the first movie, leaves me a little less sure, but I’m not sure that’s fair. It’s well known I’m not a Lost fan, and that the Star Trek reboot of 2009 irritated me in a lot of ways. But in both cases, it’s because of major problems with the writing.

Lost was just ridiculously fragmented and confusing. I didn’t stick with it long enough to figure things out. If you liked the method of storytelling, it was probably fine. I didn’t. ‘Nuff said.

The 2009 Star Trek had half a good script and half something thrown together in a single sleepless night without the benefit of enough caffeine. It was well cast, well acted, beautiful, sounded awesome, and the opening scene was worth the price of admission, but it fell completely off the rails forty-five minutes or so in and the story never really recovered. I had a lot of issues with it, but, if you subtract a few really bad scenes, I can still watch most of the movie.

But we were talking about Star Wars, so I’ll sum up what I currently think about the next movie, and I don’t promise it won’t change in the light of additional information: if Disney hires actual writers and gives them time to come to terms with a good story, it’s going to be awesome. If they don’t, it’s going to be mediocre at best. Disney’s got a decent track record with writing the last few years, so I have high hopes. And besides, the world can never have enough awesome.

Be well, everyone. May the force be with you, and especially with the script writers.

To Skyfall or Not

Gamer Boy talked me into going to see Skyfall on Sunday night. He’d heard good things. I tried to keep my expectations very low, in spite of the mostly good things I’d heard about the movie. Always a good idea with any film considering how good Hollywood is at producing mediocre content these days.

It was surprisingly good.

I say ‘surprisingly’, because I wasn’t impressed with the last two Bond movies.

Casino Royale had a lot of pacing issues for me. It was the movie that wouldn’t end. Too much tension bleed off between action sequences gave the impression of, oh hey, that was the end of the movie, we’re just wrapping up now. Only it wasn’t, and we weren’t. When it finally did end, it was a relief. And I didn’t really buy the terrorist banker as the villain—never quite worked for me. And no Q.

Quantum of Solace, in spite of the cool title, didn’t work any better. In fact, while I’ve probably seen the entire movie, I still haven’t managed it in one sitting. My main problem might be that it was a direct sequel to Casino Royale, picking up thirty seconds or so after the first Craig film ended. No, scratch that. My main problem is that the writing seemed rushed and choppy without a lot of attention to detail beyond getting to the next action sequence. Craig brought it, but could only work with the material he had. And still no Q.

Skyfall, on the other paw, has pacing, writing, characters, acting, and Q. Not the Q you’re expecting, of course, but it’s an interesting transition. I suspect Craig is only going to get one more Bond movie, especially if there’s another four-year hiatus, which may be too bad because he really came into the character in this film. I hope he gets a great deal more work in between.

The movie is an interesting transition in a lot of ways, tying things together and setting other things up for possible future stories. Maybe the four-year break between films helped work things out so the production company could get all of their ducks and get everything right. But let’s do it a little faster this time, shall we?

I’d really like to see a new film in the franchise for the 60th anniversary next year, but that’s only 5 months away and the days are long gone when the big companies can make a big film in less than a year. Even two years is a huge stretch anymore. April 13th is pretty much impossible.

Still, Skyfall didn’t disappoint me, which is always a nice way to come out of the theatre, so I’ll give it a couple of thumbs up and hope it’s less than four years before the next film.

Be well, everyone.

Geek Cinema Redux

002 2012-08-06 Geek Cinema Redux

(See, told you I hadn’t forgotten about the Great Audio Experiment. It’s just a matter of finding time, which is mostly a matter of being more organized, or up when everyone else isn’t.)

Okay, so the sound effects are a little goofy, but they entertain me.

I just wanted to add a bit to the post I wrote way back at the end of May about this year’s crop of summer genre movies.

Battleship and Men in Black 3 both passed by ignored, as promised.

The reality of Prometheus destroyed any hopes I had for the movie. Visually impressive, but far too much of the plot hinged on supposedly very intelligent people doing stupid things or doing things that were just plain ridiculous. I found exactly one character believable and interesting. No, she didn’t survive the film. Seeing the movie with a trio of 13 year-old boys—prime target audience for this one—I found the car ride home entertaining with the frequent use of, “You know another thing that didn’t make sense about that movie…?”

Brave was fun. Pacing was a little odd, but overall it worked pretty well, and it was nice to take my daughters to see something that effectively had a female action hero, even if it was animated.

Missed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but by all accounts I’ve heard so far, both online and IRL, including from my teenage son, I didn’t miss all that much.

If GI Joe was in theatres, I didn’t notice it. Oh, right. They moved it back a year.

I got dragged to see The Amazing Spider-Man and, while I still think a reboot is ridiculous at this point, the movie was better than I expected. Which isn’t the same thing as saying it was good.

Haven’t seen Batman yet. Not sure I’ll bother before it hits blu-ray. Yes, I understand that puts me very firmly in the minority. I’ll live.

Total Recall opened a couple of nights ago. I love the original Phillip K. Dick short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and the 1990 Schwarzenegger movie left a bad taste in my mouth. This is a completely independent re-adaptation though, so there might be hope. Still debating.

Which brings us more or less to the present and a couple of movies I somehow missed the first time through the summer listings.

First, my new pick for the season: Robot and Frank. Set sometime in the near future, but a couple of decades out I’d guess, Frank is a retired and ostensibly reformed jewel thief trying to make time with the local librarian. Not a terribly organized guy, and a rotten housekeeper, he receives a robot helper from his adult son. One thing leads to another and they’re suddenly planning a major heist. Apparently a Sundance film, this looks like the first intelligent genre comedy in a long time and I’m really, really looking forward to it.

Iron Sky also looks fun. Nazis hiding out on the dark side of the moon for 70 years now on their way back for another try at world domination. The trailer makes it out to be exciting, ridiculous, and hilarious all at once. It’s been out in Europe for months, and supposedly opened two weeks ago in North America, but it didn’t seem to be play anywhere near me. Too bad.

The Watch, however, is everywhere. Has some potential, but Ben Stiller is very hit and miss for me. Mostly miss. I like the concept and the trailers make it look fun, but I’m going to go with rental on this one.

Solomon Kane I’m going to count as a summer movie. It’s not hitting theatres until late September, but will be available on I-tunes August 24th. An interesting experiment. Kane is a character created by Robert E. Howard, the same man who brought us Conan the Barbarian, and the movie looks violent, bloody, and intense. It also looks like there might be the sliver of a story to back up all the action. Could be fun.

I suppose I might have mentioned Ice Age 4: The Continued Milking, but I gave that a miss, too. My girls saw and enjoyed it, which means I’ll get to see it when it hits video whether I want to or not. Suck it up, Dad. You’ve sat through a lot worse in the name of being a good parent. Prometheus comes to mind.

Be well, everyone.

P.S. Something I did forget to insert into the audio: Sounds courtesy of the Freesound Project, www.freesound.org. (‘kung fu punch’ and ‘kung fu kick’ by nextmaking, Kung Fu Yell by oldedgar)  I’ll remember next time.

Summer Cinema 2012: Season of the Geek

So I saw The Avengers last week (two armoured thumbs up—fun movie with some actual story and a bit of character development), and there were a bunch of trailers on the front of it.  Those trailers got me thinking a little bit about the genre movies coming up this summer.  Counting up major releases, there were initially more than I thought even though I’d heard something about all of them.  Maybe I had a couple in my head as not being any time soon, or maybe I’d just hoped.

Either way, here’s an in advance roundup of genre Movies coming this summer and whether or not I intend to see them.

Battleship – 18 May 2012

Yup, this released this weekend.  I honestly have no idea how this got made into a big blockbuster movie.  And not that I think Liam Neeson has been all that discriminating in his choices of roles in the last few years (yes, he’s done some really good work, too), but even with a truckload of money to back it up, the only reason I can think of for him to have taken this role is if he gets to shout, “You sank my battleship!” at some alien monstrosity.  It’s the only scene I want to see.  Basing a movie on an 80 year old board game is just more proof for me thatHollywoodis full of fear when it comes to trying something new.

Men In Black 3 – 25 May 2012

I’m actually probably going to pass on this one completely.  It’s possible that it might be well written and entertaining, and it’s possible my wife (who’s a huge Will Smith fan) might get me to rent it.  Left to my own devices, I’ll never see it.  Sequels shouldn’t take ten years, especially when I think the primary reason they waited so long is that they wanted to give me time to forget how bad the last sequel was.  The original Men In Black, way back in 1997, was a fun movie.  I wish I’d never seen the second one and it’s spoiled me for the third.

Prometheus – 08 Jun 2012

I want to have high hopes for this one, and I’ll probably see it in the theatre but that’s mostly because I’ll see it with my teenage son (I’m thrilled he and I have some similar tastes).  Yes, I know it’s been reworked a bit so that it isn’t an Alien prequel.  That would probably be a good thing if it were true, but no one believes it (including me).  There are too many things in the trailers that scream “Alien” in spite of all of the protestations that it’s just a story set in the same universe.  Another problem: it’s another case of far too long since the last movie (unless I count AVP: Requiem which was a mere five years ago).

Brave – 22 Jun 2012

This one actually looks good.  Not just because I’m a Pixar fan (which I am) or a Billy Connolly fan (ditto), but because it seems to promise a good story and it’s got a strong, non-stereotyped female lead character.  I’ve got daughters, and that’s important to me.  This is definitely a theatre movie.  Opening weekend?  Well, that will depend on my schedule at the time.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – 22 Jun 2012

I’m getting tired of the classical literature-genre mash-ups (yes this is a bit different but it absolutely fits into the same category), but I have to admit this has some potential even if it doesn’t quite speak to me.  I’m familiar with President Lincoln, but only in the way of a few bits and pieces of historical fact as taught in a different country.  Throw in a little pop culture and an original series Star Trek episode, and I have a hard time with a late 19th century US president hunting vampires with an axe.  Still, no one was born in a stovepipe hat with a chinstrap, and he’s hunting vampires with an axe so that’s got to be cool, right?  Not sure how well it will play outside the US, but I think I’d like to see this one.  Probably can wait for the bluray release, though.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – 29 Jun 2012

Okay, so the first G.I. Joe movie wasn’t exactly spectacular, but this one looks like it could be better.  Why, you ask?  Well, they’ve spent the money to get Bruce Willis to join the cast.  If they spent a little money to get some good writers, this could turn out to be a pretty good flick.  Mr. Willis improves every movie he’s in, so that boosts the potential of this movie for me.  However, it will probably have to stay in theatres past opening week for me to have a hope of seeing it there.  Otherwise a rental.

The Amazing Spider-Man – 03 Jul 2012

Really, a reboot?  Wasn’t Spider-Man 3, train wreck though it was, only five years ago?  Do we need a reboot already?  Comic book wise, my feet are firmly in the Marvel universe, but I find it disappointing that they need to rework and retell Spidey’s origin story again already.  Do something new.  Oh, right.  I forgot.  New is scary and so to be avoided at all costs.  Rental at best.

The Dark Knight Rises – 20 Jul 2012

Debating this one in my head.  I found certain events in “The Dark Knight” a little disturbing and I’m normally looking to be entertained by a movie rather than disturbed, never mind that the PG-13 rating was a joke so they could sell movie-themed toys to kids who shouldn’t have been able to see the movie.  Is this one going to push even more in that psychological direction?  Probably.  I didn’t see “The Dark Knight” until it reached TV.  I can probably wait for this one to do the same.  Never mind the rampant rumours of a reboot scheduled for 2015.  <sigh>

Total Recall – 03 Aug 2012

This almost has to be better than the movie it’s a remake of.  No trip to Mars and it looks like this story might be a lot closer to the Phillip K. Dick short story it’s based on, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Fair chance we’ll see this in the theatre.  We as in Gamer Boy and me.  He’s already expressed interest.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green – 15 Aug 2012

On the surface of things, this looks like the story of a real live cabbage patch kid.  Maybe he’s actually an alien or fey or some other strange creature, but by the teaser, he appears from the garden covered in dirt and adopts a pair of sweet but infertile adults.  Hijinks ensue.  This might actually have a little bit of originality in it.  Probably a rental, but we’ll see as we get closer.

Dredd – 21 Sep 2012

This is hard to judge without some kind of trailer.  I was never a big Judge Dredd fan back in the day, and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to sit through the Stallone movie adaptation from the mid 90s.  My impulse is that I’ll have no problems waiting for this one.  That may change.

Looper – 28 Sep 2012

The premise here isn’t new, although it is a bit risqué for Hollywood.  Time travel can be fun when it’s done well, although it isn’t often, even in Star Trek which seems to dominate the sub-genre pretty well.  Being sent back from the future by the mob in order to be executed in an out of the way untraceable fashion is a good start to things.  Throw in Bruce Willis (have I mentioned I love his work?) and what look like they might be some solid action sequences, and you’ve got some potential.  The end of September is a long way off, and I’ll wait to see a little more detail, but this has the potential to be a theatre viewing for me.

The final tally for summer genre films I’m aware of:

Theatre: 5.  Prometheus, Brave, G.I. Joe (maybe), Total Recall, Looper.  More than I expected.  It takes the promise of a good story and good special effects to get me into a theatre these days, but the kids get me to go to things I wouldn’t otherwise just so I can share the experience with them.  Really, left completely to my own choices, Brave and Looper are the only two I’d personally pick, and without kids I’d wait for Brave as a rental.

Rental: 3.  Abe Lincloln, Spidey, Tim Green.  Actually, I might even be able to wait for Spider-Man to reach cable.

TV: 2.  Dark Knight Rises, Dredd.  And likely only if I happen to run across them while surfing.

Pass: 2.  Battleship, Men In Black 3.

Did I miss any?