Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)



Three primary things will be going through my mind as i sit down in the theater

1)Zack Snyder cannot direct a cohesive narrative. I'm not sure what gene or synaptic cluster he lacks, but the man does not know how to keep a thread going from beginning to end. He's all about setpieces, little details, and posturing. It's kinda like when you zoom into a detail in photoshop and start cleaning it up, but then you zoom out and realize that the detail no longer fits with the overall picture? Except he never zooms out, he just hops from detail to detail, polishing them all up and, i guess, hoping for the best?

2)Ben Affleck cannot act. Whenever i watch him i can feel him suppressing- or occasionally failing to suppress- a grin that says "omg they're still letting me act in movies! big ones!" he's like William Hurt's character in Broadcast News, constantly thinking "What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?" Like, he seems like a fun guy to have at parties, perfectly charming, don't get me wrong. But everything he does feels like a first draft, and rather then refine the writing, he just bolsters it by putting in a big, bold, stilted font. 

3)Frank Millers ideas dont really resonate outside of the medium of comics. Imagery, yes, but narratives, no. Frank Miller is kind of like the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs. Sure, it had a massive impact and was arguably a necessary force for evolution, but it wasn't like, GOOD. 
And Zack Snyder is a cinematic Frank Miller.

I'm sure it'll be cool to see a Batman who MOVES instead of a Batman who poses. And I'm sure there'll be a couple interesting ideas in there, but neither will be well developed or delivered. 

And I'm sure Snyder will do the same thing Abrams and others have done, lift story points that worked in the source material because they were the result of YEARS of development, and not bother to develop them HERE. Think of the Spock death in Khan, which Abrams not only rushed to the screen too soon, as these iterations of the characters barely knew each other, but then botched further by swapping the sacrificier/sacrificee cuz "who cares, right? All that matters is confronting audience expectations!"

The majority of the time I'll be lulled into a pop-coma by the CMYK Gravitas. So I'll probably shift gears, put on my metatextual goggles, and try to suss out how deep the Post 9-11 metaphor goes. We know the end of Man of Steel was 9-11 porn, we know Batman is Dick Cheney ("if there's a ONE percent Chance we have to take it as ABsolute CErtainty!"), but past that, like who is Superman in this? I guess he's Bin Laden? Or Saddam? who then becomes a hero? That doesnt' really work. Who's Wonder Woman? Who's Lois? Who's Lex "not the Joker" Luthor? I'll walk out with a muddled community college level thesis.


Pre-View Review  Score: D

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) [Jeff's Preview]


Maybe I shouldn't have waited to do this preview-review until a few hours before I'm going to see it? It's been hard to avoid the online vitriol hurled at this film and it has, ultimately, colored my preview-ception of it.

Fact: Everyone hates Batman Vs. Superman.

But worse than knowing it's being universally panned is the fact that since "everyone" agrees that it's bad, people have no hesitation in sharing spoilers, online.

Which is just effing great.

It's not like, as I watched the Rotten Tomatoes score plummet, the ONLY thing keeping me interested in actually going to the theater for it are the surprises I might have. No, the Internet has done their damndest to make sure I can't even enjoy the film on THAT level.

OK, OK, I'm sure there are still some surprises left for me - like the surprise at how long a two and a half hour long film can feel.
[I had to look the running time up, just now, for that joke. Jesus, that's a long movie. Whenever I think of the greatest movies of all time, "long" is never a common factor.]

Of all the superhero movies coming out this year/month/week/however frequently we are inundated with another one, this was the one I was least looking forward to. I am now looking even least-er forward-er to it.

But this sense of dread may be a good thing to have, going into this film! If I assume the worst, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised as how not ur-terrible it is? However, by giving voice to that idea, I have now given myself hope. Hope that will be crushed, once I'm half-way through and wanting to bat-claw my eyes out. It's an endless cycle of positive and negative results. Like the film has become a Schrodinger's Cat Movie - one of indeterminate merit-based-on-expectations, until observed.

Oh, and observe it I will.

I'm gonna observe the HELL outta this film. I'll observe that every cliche superhero beat is met from the "two heroes fight, until a bigger, external threat looms" to the "final realization that, you know what, you and me are not so different after all". And maybe even the new classic "what does it mean to be human and who is less humane, the human or the alien?!"

Guess I shouldn't have been so mad about twitter spoiling some surprises, since I can pretty much guess the trajectory of this film, huh?

Honestly, whether it's good or bad (it'll be bad, right?) the real legacy of this movie will be that we (humanity, that is - especially us nerds) will take pause and think, "Maybe we don't need so many superhero movies?" And I would be 100% OK with that shift happening. It was a nice ride. We got some great films out of the past several years, but maybe it's time we try something else?

Thanks, Zack Snyder for breaking the stranglehold that cape-and-cowl movies have on the box office. You can't see it now, through the massive piles of shit being thrown your way, but future generations will look back on you as a kind of hero. (Or martyr... which is almost as good?)


Preview-Review Score: D+

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"And Another Thing..." By Eoin Colfer [Jeff's Preview]

Let me make one thing clear: I love Douglas Adams.

His "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" was one of the first books I'd ever read that was not a chore to get through. At the time - 5th grade, to be exact - I capital h Hated reading. But Adams had a pleasantly humorous writing style that I latched right onto.

The bewildered looks on my 10-year-old classmates' faces as I described the action and characters of the book - in my own, meandering, 5th-grade way, none the less - must have been very amusing to see. (Except, I guess, if you were my teacher at the time, who did not grade my presentation very favorably (though I've always been convinced that that was because of a conspiracy involving my teachers and their dislike of this boy-child who was so unlike the smart (and dull) older sister who they'd had just three years earlier.))

But I was hooked. He fit right into my conception of high comedic art. (On a crooked shelf crammed between Monty Python and Abbot and Costello) And, unlike so many other things you come to at the age of 10, he continued to be a source of mirth and inspiration throughout my life.

And when he died, I cried.

And when they announced that the guy who wrote "Artemis Fowl" was going to pen a new book in series, I was livid. "How DARE they?!" I raged. The pain of realizing I'd never get to read another new word by one of my favorite authors was compounded by the fury of being given impostor's words and told "here's more of the same". As if writing like Adams was something that could be figured out and passed on to another.

Next thing I knew, the book had been out for nearly two years and I realized I wasn't as mad about it anymore. Funny, that, eh?

So I'll pick this one up and give it a fair shake.

At its best, it'll read like it was written by someone doing a very good impression of Douglass Adams. At it's worst, I'll feel like I've invited a stranger over to my house and given him crayons and a first edition copy of "Dirk Gently" and said, "Go to town!"

But one thing that I won't allow this book to do is change how I feel about Douglas Adams.



FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): D


BUY IT: "And Another Thing..." By Eoin Colfer

"And Another Thing" Eoin Colfer [Tim's Preview]


Douglas Adams was my childhood hero. i love the guy. i came to him through a series of audiocassetted radio plays, rented from my local library. And through an aggravatingly difficult word-based videogame that's now legendary. I think my friend John first told me to check him out. After listening to the plays i went out and read the books, all three in the trilogy. A few years later, while dropping my older brother off for his first year at college, i spotted it. bright blue cover, green smiling planet with his thumb out. the...what? the FOURTH book? in the TRILOGY? it was madness. And of course that wasn't the end. and apparently it's still not.

I don't know Eion Colfer well, but i did read one of those Artemis Fowl books (a graphic novel version of it) a few years ago. i liked it, but he didn't come across as particularly Adams-esque. And that's the big test for this book. will it come across as pure Adams, partly adamsesque, a pale imitation, or something altogether different? I've always held that, since he started in radio, Adams' voice is stronger than most modern writers. And really, as amazing as the plot or the "journey" or what have you might be, it's the voice that carries it all. And I think its safe to say that Adams could write the autobiography of a coffeepot and we'd be celebrating it years and years later. He was a spinner, one of the best.

I've seen pullquotes of Colfer's recently that tell me he's probably up to the task. he can be funny, and i've a feeling he'll ease into Adams' meter ok.

There's this documentary i saw about Philip k Dick. A friend of his is talking about how much he misses him. He says something like "when someone dies, i think what you miss most is just talking to the person. the sound of their voice". That's why i'm hoping, even if i know it's a trick, that i'll be fooled into feeling like this great voice is back in my life again, for a little bit. Because I know Adams is a famed atheist, friend to Richard Dawkins, and would probably be aghast if i suggested that his voice was somehow still "alive!". But i'm not asking for that. Not really. After all, the radio plays were his voice being spoken by other people, weren't they? So maybe this has a chance. I hope so. Because Adams was my childhood hero, but he's sort of my adult one as well. And i like listening to him.


FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+*

*(because B plusses always seem better to me than A minuses. A minuses are snooty perfectionists, but they're not even that great at it. They're low enough to to be seen sniffling their noses at the 'lesser grades')

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"I Am Number Four" by 'Pittacus Lore' [Book]

Going into this one, I'll have known that this was a manufactured creation by James Frey (the guy who lied to Oprah about drugs!) Since then, he's gone from squandering his own talents to exploiting other people's. See, he runs Full Fathom Five, a book "incubator" which can take author submitted works, strip away their name, and publish them however they see fit, for no further compensation. [citation required, citation FOUND]

Egregious.

Was I able to overlook this fact while reading this book? No. The whole time, I'll have been thinking, "I am part of the problem". By giving my money to buy this book, I have supported this flawed system.

And how many rubber-necker / gawkers-at-the-horror like me do you think there are buying this book? Enough to line "Mr." Frey's pockets a few times over, probably.

My guilty feelings will be all-too-painful when, upon completion of the book, I'll realize that I'm curious about what happens NEXT! I'll be in quite the moral conundrum, when the second book in the series is released, I can tell you.

Of course, once the movie comes out, and these books become the next Harry Potter Twilight, I'll be able to say, "I read those BEFORE they were popular." Which won't make me any more popular. Especially amongst the 15-year-olds who are the target audience for these Young Adult novels. So: CREEPY!

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): C+




BUY IT: I Am Number Four at Amazon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TRON: LEGACY (2010) [Jeff's PRE-view Review]

It'll look cool. It'll sound cool. I'll WANT it to have been cool... but, alas, it is too much the progeny of its parent.

I think we can all be honest with each other - this is a safe space - once you remove your child-hood nostalgia, the original TRON was bo-o-o-o-o-oring!

Sure, it looked cool. And it sounded cool. And you'll WANT it to have been cool... but as you watch it today, you will find yourself falling asleep.

Even worse, you'll be watching it, for the first time since the 80s, with a friend of yours who has never seen it. And you'll have been going ON and ON about how awesome the film is and how you just can't believe they've never seen it, because it's SO AWESOME. Then TRON will  make a liar out of you.

Looking way into the future: In 2040, TRON: LEGACY will make liars out of a another generation of nostalgic movie watchers.

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): C-


READ T's PREview 


BUY IT: Tron Legacy at Amazon

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil [1999]

Looking back, I should have realized what I was getting in to. After all, Kurzweil is a man who - if I remember correctly - is doing everything in his power to extend his lifespan so he can see technology evolve to a point where he'll be able to download his consciousness into a machine. And, thusly, live forever.

Wow.

So, it should not have been a surprise that some of his theories struck me as a bit... off. Even though he uses persuasive logic, and even though he arrives at his conclusions about the future in an unbroken chain of assumptions and deductions, I still found myself reacting, more often than not, with a derisive snort and a muttered "Yeah, OK!"

Of course, that's not to say the entire book should be discounted. He does make some interesting points and even if they are baseless assumptions about the end of humanity and the rise of machines, he'll still have made me think. Even as I discount his wild assumptions, out-of-hand, I'll come away with some questions about the future that I'd not thought to ask before. And I'll find myself mulling these over, long after I've put the book down.

Really, the best thing a book like this can be is disagreeable. Why bother reading a work such as this one that is preaching to your choir? Sure, you get to say, "TOO RIGHT!" a lot, and nod your head while you're digesting the oh-so-agreeable facts (to the outside observer, making you look like a bobble head and/or crazy person) but you only increase your stockpile of facts about a subject. No, a disagreeable book makes you challenge yourself to put - into clear thoughts - your own disputation of the author's theories. And to generate your own theories; to make up your own what-ifs. Make Uatu proud!

This book'll have made me do a lot of that. (Making up my own theories, that is, not making Uatu proud.)

Or, at the very least, it'll have given me some ideas for some short sci-fi stories. Either way: Win!

FINAL PREVIEW SCORE (A to F): B+


BUY IT: The Age of Spiritual Machines at Amazon