Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Post #539

So the graphic above of ROTTEN TOMATOES’ STAR WARS movie ratings — as well as some fellow geek-culture friends and beyond — has inspired me to defend my beloved RETURN OF THE JEDI once again. So . . . Ewoks aside (because they’re everyone’s whipping teddies), what the hell is so wrong about EPISODE VI? Granted I was only 9 when I first saw the movie in the theater, but all the Darth Vader (his eternal inner conflict with his better self, which he finally bested) and Emperor Palpatine (such pure diabolical evil, and the Dark Force lightning!!!) stuff left such an indelible mark on my young psyche. And then there’s the Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa twin sibling reveal, Yoda’s cryptic message and (un)timely death. The excellent opening scenes and set pieces at Jaba’s palace — and Jaba himself for fuck’s sake, that fat slab of gangster kingpin, and of course Salacious Crumb, the Sarlac pit, the green light saber, Leia and Lando in spy/infiltration and rescue mode, Leia and Han’s romance, C-3P0 as a golden god, a spectacular space battle with X-Wings (fighter jets in space were my favorite as a child — see: OG BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BUCK ROGERS), the speedster bike chase in the forest, good triumphing over evil and yes, some medium-sized woodland creatures-turned badass to help save the day! What am I missing here?

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The Merc with a Mouth in a Movie | Thoughts on the Deadpool flick

https://i0.wp.com/s3.foxfilm.com/foxmovies/production/films/103/images/posters/464-film-page-large.jpgOriginally posted @ Comic Book Fetish | By  Brandon L. Rucker

For an action movie with a foulmouthed blabbermouth antihero, it’s pretty good. The opening sequence let’s you know right away (and any parents who may have foolishly brought their little ones expecting Spider-Man, Iron Man or Captain America fare) what the nature of this movie is going to be about and what kind of content you can expect. The opening credits laced throughout that first sequence are written in Deadpool’s unique perspective, which also informs the flavor of this raucous, ultra-violent movie. Right away we see Deadpool doing what he does best, delivering graphic and gruesome punishment to bad(der) guys, all the while quickly rolling off a litany of witty, wisecracking one-liners off his swift tongue for all the chuckles, usually in voice-over or while looking right at us, breaking the fourth wall. The camera angles in these first few sequences are daring for great comedic effect.  You come to realize without a doubt during this first zippy action sequence that that Ryan Reynolds is the ideal actor for Deadpool.

Storywise, I think my favorite aspect was the choice to go non-linear with the narrative. I’ve preferred in-media res (starting in the middle) storytelling since I was a teenager first studying the art and craft of fiction. I think most of us prefer the immediacy of what’s happening now to start things off before we get into the why and how of it. At this point it’s become the formula for these kinds of movies and I’m good with that, all things considered. Since this is Deadpool’s first solo outing, it’s ultimately an origin movie.

So just as we’re getting into the rising action, the narrative shifts right at the perfect time to Deadpool’s past as Saskatchewan, Canada’s own Wade Wilson, an ex-Special Forces operative now working as a mercenary who’s just bad enough to kill the even worse guys who deserve it when the job calls for it.  These narrative flashback sequences – merged seamlessly with the present-time narrative – offer us what is effectively a love story, and a potentially tragic romance, which is my favorite kind. The pleasant surprise comes in the arrival of the always wonderful and oh-so-lovely Morena Baccarin as his lady love, Vanessa. As lovers ,Wade and Vanessa have that perfect — if unlikely and rare —  connection where their past psychological baggage is nearly equal in bleakness and volume, and they also just totally get and complete each other.

And therein lies the typical catalyst for a Marvel comics character: love, or the loss of it, is the main impetus for springing our would-be hero into action. But not before we see the events leading up to all of that – the torture at the hands of the villain Ajax (aka Francis) that brings about Deadpool’s apparently latent mutation, making him the badass ultra-healing human killing machine with an never-ending mouth to match. The Merc with a Mouth. His mission is to find and ultimately kill the bastard who made him what he is (through the ruse of curing his terminal cancer). Once the life of his lady love is seriously threatened, it’s really on. With the help of two sidekick X-Men characters in the classic Colossus and newcomer Negasonic Teenage Warhead (!),  who would rather he join their motley band of heroes, Deadpool ultimately triumphs — the ugly guy gets the girl back. The movie ultimately satisfies while not overachieving.

Since the movie’s record-breaking opening at the box office, much chatter has been made about the freedom a rated R “superhero” movies has in regards to language, sexual content and violence. In mainstream movies that aren’t exclusively adult in nature, I always say that less is more because it’s more impactful when it does occur. Deadpool is no exception, but it tries too hard to walk that edge, making some of the gags feel forced in my opinion. In effect, each timely F-bomb, witty sexual reference and gruesome dismemberment becomes overkill once they get well past the half-dozen quotient. But true blue — er — red Deadpool fans certainly won’t be bothered and will likely expect even more of the same in the imminent sequel. Hell, the studio may even go for an NC-17 just to prove the point they made with the R rating. I’m mostly kidding.

CBF Grade: B+

-B.

Straight Outta Compton | It’s Not A Documentary

To put the bottom line at the top here: I came straight outta the movie theater last weekend  thoroughly entertained by this N.W.A biopic. At least on a popcorn movie level. What served me and my unfettered enjoyment going in is the acknowledgment of the inherent nature of the biopic. Firstly, you can’t effectively distill 29 years – or in the case of the movie’s timeline, a dozen years or so – into a 2.5 hour movie. Even in trying to include as many key moments as possible, a great deal of the “bio” aspect is going to be left on the cutting room floor, if shot at all. Secondly, this is not a documentary, it’s a Hollywood movie with a story, a screenplay, actors and a director (among countless other collaborators and interested parties), which means a plot of the story that is inspired by real-life and real events has to be agreed upon by the respective powers-that-be before the green light can be lit.

Given those two elements, there’s naturally going to be some concerns with the timeline of events (which obviously gets condensed for movie storytelling purposes) as well as whose perspective of the “truth” ultimately gets presented (NOTE: Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are listed as co-producers and there were reportedly some disagreements on an agreed upon “truth” during the arduous pre-production period). So with those two things firmly in mind, I went in with the purpose of being entertained rather than getting informed, since I already knew at minimum 95% of the larger story anyway, and I also didn’t go in expecting the film to present a mosaic point of view that would peer into every nook and crevice to fill in all the gaps within the story. Again, that’s what comprehensive documentaries are for, not Hollywood theatrical biopics. We’ve all seen these types before. These feature films exist as more of a Cliff’s Note, carefully packaged for easy consumption by the masses for two-hour or so escape.

I am a serious docu-junkie, so to ESPN’s Bomani Jones’ point: yes, I would have rather had a documentary that digs deeper and includes all minutia, plus all those ugly things that existed under the rocks, but that’s not what this is so neither I nor you nor the masses should have expected it. Straight Outta Compton is a well-crafted movie with some really nice performances in a story told with a dramatic and socially-conscious (and unfortunately timely) lens. Agile direction by F. Gary Gray of a smart script that’s definitely helped by the sharp casting.

Newcomer O’Shea Jackson, Jr. played his father Ice Cube perfectly and definitely up a few notches from his father’s first acting turn as Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood. The other great portrayal, if arguably the film’s best performance, was Jason Mitchell’s, the fairly new-to-the-game actor as Eazy E. Also strong was Corey Hawkins’ performance as Dr. Dre. This trio was defined well as: the streetwise poet, the streetwise business man (though the movie downplayed his visionary status), and the dreamy, ambitious and goal-driven music producer. With the focus being on these three main players, the roles ofM.C. Ren (portrayed by Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) are unfortunately relegated as secondary/support status, though they were also cast well. Surprisingly the cameos of Snoop Dogg and 2Pac, both portrayed by even lesser-knowns, were very faithful, which helped keep their sidebar inclusion from seeming superfluous (given the timeline faux pas). R. Marcos Taylor inhabited the alpha dog role of Suge Knight with the required gravitas and command. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Paul Giamatti’s strong yet nuanced embodiment of former N.W.A. manager and Ruthless Records co-owner Jerry Heller who was essentially the story’s main villain.

As I stated above, as a Hollywood movie Straight Outta Compton delivers the essentials of what you would want from a movie of its kind — it was really cool to see the guys I’d been into so much as a teenager realized on the big screen in such an artful way. Since it’s not a full-bodied real-life docudrama there’s no point in judging it as such. Though had it been, yes, of course it would be totally fair to call the movie out for its egregious lack of certain events and details, such as the more potent nature of the group’s (and the culture’s) misogyny and some of the altering of the chronology of events. Yet as merely a Hollywood move, I’d give it an A-.

CURRENT EVENTS: Ben Affleck Cast As Batman/Bruce Wayne

Old news now, but last week the Internet, especially Twitter, nearly went supernova after the announcement of Warner Bros.‘ casting of Ben Affleck (Argo; The Town) for the role of ol’ Batty Boy himself and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne for the upcoming yet untitled Superman/Batman movie to
be directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel; Watchmen), presumably from a script by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Rises) and production from recent Batman movie franchise writer/director/producer of legend, Christopher Nolan (Inception; The Prestige), who also produced and wrote on this summer’s blockbuster Man of Steel movie featuring the boy scout in blue.

There’s also talk of a Justice League film down the line (and Affleck has signed a multi-picture deal), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves on that just yet. This summer’s un-eponymous Superman movie was successful enough (grossing $650 million world-wide) to green-light a sequel, which will effectively be this double-billed Superman/Batman movie scheduled to begin shooting in 2014 with a targeted release date of July 17, 2015. The movie would pit Affleck as the co-star against Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent. There’s a slight height difference between the two actors with Affleck being 6’3″-and-change to Cavill’s 6’1″, which is not something the filmmakers will be concerned with at all (although the geek police would have you know that DC Comics lists Superman at 6’3″ and Batman at 6’2″). At any rate, since movies, especially ones of this ilk, are made with lots of money to hopefully make back lots and lots and lots of money, it helps to have two stars who aren’t exactly hard on the eyes for the general public. The two marquee superheroes will be enough of an initial draw given that they’re the two most popular this side of Spider-Man and Iron Man. Affleck, though not really considered a “star draw” will have to beat out a lot of preconceived notions of his ability and suspect box office track record, sure, but I think there will be enough curiosity to get the general public to respond to that curiosity. Plus, smart money thinks he’ll pull off an upset to the naysayers.

From a press release quote courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter: “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman,” Snyder said in the press release. “He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”

However, like with the rebooted Superman franchise featuring Cavill as its lead, there was the initial groaning from a certain percentage of the fanboy corps when he was cast. This situation with Affleck’s casting is typical/standard/expected/cliche/over-reactionary. In other words, not surprising and very much par for the course. I don’t have anywhere near the space here to showcase any of it, but it’s not hard to find all over the Interwebs. Suffice it to say, this event has inspired petitions and website poles, many of which have a rather vociferous negative attack to the news.

Naturally I have a more wait-and-see, if not downright positive take. First, I actually like the casting of an actor who is naturally affable as Affleck. He could make Bruce Wayne far more likable for me than Christian Bale did in the recently concluded Dark Knight Trilogy (btw, I’m one of those people who liked Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne the best). Second, Afflect has some dramatic acting chops. Sure, the jury’s still out on the “action hero” aspect, but for a fit and strapping guy like him I imagine a lot of it will hinge on the script and direction. But make no mistake, dude CAN act (an aspect that many action movies tend to minimize). I think Affleck can bring a lot of depth to a character desperately in need of that aspect translating well onto the screen, because I think that has been inconsistent in the past (which is not at all a surprise when a movie is more plot-driven than character-driven).

Surprisingly there’s been a great deal of positive here and there amid all the backlash, so that’s been nice to see. For me, personally, I’m going to need two buckets of popcorn. One for the movie itself. Another for watching the show that will be the Affleck-as-Batman haters issuing mea culpas and caveats when he pleasantly shocks them with is portrayal of the once and forever Dark Knight.

MOVIES: RED & BURIED

So after going out for a nice Valentine’s dinner, The Lady and I decided to skip going to the cinema to see SANCTUM (because we missed our start time and I just didn’t feel like waiting for the next one hours away…I’m grumpy and impatient when it’s cold out and I’m still a bit ‘under the weather’. Plus in our town the damn BORDERS closes at 9 PM on a Saturday night. You believe that?). So instead we decided to rent a couple of flicks from the RedBox and snuggle up on the couch in front of the flatscreen TV.

 

First, we watched RED, which was a great action/comedy hoot with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban and Dame Helen Mirren. Great fun stuff that doesn’t try hard to be funny and outrageous, it just is naturally by its premise of middle and senior-aged black ops agents who are still hard to kill even as retirees living their boring civi lives. Though a decidedly altered translation-to-film from a 3-issue comic series of the same name by the great Warren Ellis (PLANETARY, THE AUTHORITY, TRANSMETROPOLITAN), from what I’ve read Mr. Ellis was extremely proud of the ‘adaptation’ of his original work, so that’s a good thing there. Retired, Extremely Dangerous. Only from the mind of Ellis. Recommended.

Now, our last feature which I deliberately planned for before bed was BURIED starring Ryan Reynolds. Great suspense/horror flick because being buried in a box with no way out (and I do mean No. Way. Out.) is a horrific thing to imagine, let alone experience. I was amazed by the production and like with THE DESCENT I can’t wait to see the magic behind shooting something so claustrophobic and dark. I can’t really give too much away on this one for fear of spoiling the viewing experience one little bit. I will suffice it to say that The Lady did not enjoy the ending. It’s an emotional one, as all good horror should be. It’s also a bit of a mindfuck, as all good suspense tends to be. I prefer my horror to be psychological and BURIED certainly accomplishes that.  Recommended.

I had expected some BURIED-inspired nightmares, at least for one of us, but instead The Lady had a bad dream about zombies and demonic dogs. Weird. We haven’t watched THE WALKING DEAD or I AM LEGEND in months.