Before I dive into the mess lets do a quick recap of what has been happening in film culture since I vanished.
1. J.J. Abrams, otherwise know as a subpar director, has been given the helm of the Star Wars franchise (at least for one film anyway).
I’ve seen the trailer and I’ll admit it has some nice visuals, but then again its a trailer. At his worse J.J. Abrams can produce good looking stuff. It’s the other stuff, the constructing a good narrative stuff, and drawing good performances out of your actors stuff, that I’m concerned about. I’m not trying to be a hater. I understand the love for the Star Wars and the mythology. I just can’t get excited about a new Star Wars film knowing that the person making is not a good director. Ask yourself, wouldn’t you be kind of upset if you heard that Uwe Boll is directing the next Indiana Jones movie. You would still love the subject matter and enjoy the mythology, but you would know that the story would not have received the best presentation it could have gotten had it been handled by a more capable craftsman.
2. Ant-Man has found its yes man.
Rather than dive into the whole sordid history of what happened, I’ll just post a resent excerpt of an argument I had in a comment section concerning Peyton Reed replacing Edgar Wright as the director of Ant-Man and how some people were defending Marvel in this decision:
“They chose to dispose of a creative original voice because he didn’t want to contribute to making another part of their massive product masquerading as a film franchise. Also, Peyton Reed……really? He’s only made one good film and a bunch of terrible ones. Where is all this goodwill for Peyton Reed coming from. If you are a fan of good cinema and art than I don’t see how you can in any way be happy with Marvel having Peyton “Yes Man” Reed directing Ant Man.”
“Look at these responses. I can picture the movie brats of the 1970’s somewhere in a corner crying. Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Bogdanovich, Milius, Altman. They fought the system to make original groundbreaking genre defying films. We championed them and now we are spitting in their faces. People are no longer defending the artists. They are defending the product makers. No one talks about ideas in relation to a film or how movies make us feel. Its all box office numbers and grosses, as if money has any bearing on emotional and creative impact. If you dare speak of a films quality or execution you are attacked and dismissed. You are called a troll, or old fashioned. Its dangerous having high standards these days.”
3. Hollywood Is Still Racist As All Get Out
Really, I’m surprised at how shocked people still get by racist responses to casting choices in Hollywood. Did people really think we’ve come that far? Are people still that naive?
Some food for thought on racist Hollywood.
Imagine that a fantasy property has just been optioned in Hollywood. This property is very famous and beloved the world over. Soon it will be a film. From the moment it’s announced there is a ground swell of excitement. Things start to come together. Locations are scouted. A script is written. Fan posters have started to show up online. Then it happens. The one step in the filmmaking process that’s a sign it’s “really” happening. The cast is chosen. Whether or not the cast selected is universally loved or abhorred is not important. What’s important is that the imaginations of the fans have been ignited. Who will these ordinary people be embodying? Will they measure up to how we’ve imagined them in your mind or will they look completely different? How will they look in their costumes? Who knows? That’s the fun in speculation.
Speculation, however, can cover a multitude of sins. Lets say this imagined film, complete with a dynamite cast, crackerjack script, spectacular set design, and dynamic score was being directed by a no talent hack. It’s no secret that the best ingredients can produce a nasty mess if not properly mixed together. Look at those Night At The Museum movies (or just read the plot synopsis online…..don’t actually look at those films). You take a multi-million dollar budget, a slew of A list actors, a score by a Hollywood vetern (Alan Silvestri) and other top notch assets, mix them all together and what do you get? Unwatchable garbage. Why? Because the guy doing the mixing is none other than Shawn Levy. Shawn Levy is a director of motion pictures. Shawn Levy is an awful director of motion pictures. If you give Shawn Levy the best tools for filmmaking, allot him a few months, and then return to see the finished product you will be disappointed. Why? Because, (say it with me now) Shawn Levy is an awful director of motion pictures. Even when given the best assets he has turned out nothing but duds time and again.
Now lets jump from the imaginary to the real. Star Wars 7 (or VII) is happening. The script (at least a first draft) has been written, the sets are being assembled, John Williams is writing the score, and, as of about 24 hours ago, the final cast has been revealved and the assorted players assembled
Now, before I start let me just say that yes, I am excited. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t. A new Star Wars film is actually happening. One of the most successful motion picture franchises of the past 30 years, instrumental in shaping the imagination for millions of people living in this modern age is getting another installment. Yes, I will eagerly await and watch the first trailer over and over. Yes, I will visit the fan boards to see the exicted chatter. Yes, I will probably buy my ticket early to ensure I will see it the first week and yes, I will likely skip work and play hooky wooky to see the film. Still, I wonder about myself on that day. As I stand in line with millions of others waiting to see the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker and Co., what, perchance, will I be feeling: excitement, apprehension, doubt, joy, stress, peace? Maybe all of these or maybe none, but one feeling I can count on to be present will be regret. Regret about the fact that I just paid 15.00 dollars to see an IMAX 3D presentation of the new film by none other than J.J. Abrams.
You know who J.J. Abrams is don’t you? Take a closer look at the picture above. See the guy awkwardly gesturing near Harrison Ford, kind of doing an annoying Spielberg impersonation? Yeah that’s him. Want a closer look?
Now that you’ve been properly introduced let me regale you with the only information you need to know about J.J. Abrams; he is not a good director. Rather than bore you with all the facts of his artistically unfulfilling career, we’ll just stick to analyzing his career as a film director (mercifully overlooking his writing and producer credits for TV). Suffice to say, of the few big screen credits he has there is not a good film among them.
- Mission Impossible: 3 (A.K.A. Alias the Movie) was nothing more than a multi-million dollar TV movie with all the lazy staging and cliché dialogue we’ve come to expect from most prime-time TV nowadays.
- Star Trek (2009) was revisionist storytelling of the worst kind, wherein Abrams took solid characters residing within an interesting canon and reduced them to a slick, narrative-bankrupt reboot devoid of any good cinematic ideas except for whip pans, bad Dutch angles, and lens flare
- Super 8 plays like a montage of scenes deleted from superior 80’s children’s entertainment (E.T., Explorers, Goonies, etc). All the scenes that didn’t move the story forward, dialogue the kids spoke that felt forced and fake, and bad special effects shots which couldn’t pass the mustard in those films were included in Super 8 strung together with a convoluted alien plot featuring the Cloverfield monster.
- Star Trek: Into Darkness provides the greatest example of J.J. Abrams’ lack of talent. It’s essentially a convoluted remake of Wrath of Khan, performed by your local high school drama team, but lacking the sincerity or potential found in such productions. Oh wait, it did have lens flare though. Redemption!
Yes, we have a cast, we have a writer (the great Lawrence Kasdan), and we have the wonderful John Williams back writing music. All that’s well and good but at the helm of the ship is still one of the most inept directors working in Hollywood today. I find it hard to get excited when a new film on the horizon is being made by an untalented filmmaker. Maybe if Brad Bird, Steven Spielberg, Genndy Tartakovsky, or John Woo (my dark horse pick) were directing the film I could muster some genuine excitement that extended past the realm of morbid curiosity. As it is, that’s about the only kind of excitement I can muster for this project.
Come December 18, 2015, I don’t want a good Star Wars movie ; I want a good movie period. Abrams can cram the screen with weird and familiar characters; give them lines to say; call action and make them perform, but he can’t give the film any real life or kinetic energy. He doesn’t seem to have the same preternatural cinematic instincts of his “mentor” Spielberg. His style has never risen above the level of a slightly above average TV director. Come December 18, 2015 all the familiar faces, as well as some new, will be in a brand new Star Wars story. It’s sad that the aesthetic value of the film won’t be any higher than an episode of Castle.
Apparently Steven Spielberg has lost his natural born mind. Everyone knows that since Munich he’s been in a bit of a rough patch. First he struck out with Indiana Jones 4, a movie that was campy and overblown in the worst way possible. Next we got The Adventures of TinTin which how well Spielberg can pick up Zemeckis’ sloppy seconds. We also got War Horse that year as well fondly remembered as a beautifully shot film about near anthropomorphic horse and his ridiculously overwrought bond with his owner. 2012 brought us the latest Daniel Day Lewis Oscar grab in the form of a Spielberg film called Lincoln. Now, with all hopes of a Robopocalyspe movie fading away, we’re presented with news of what may be the new Steven Spielberg project: A remake (reinterpretation, revision) of West Side Story.
Its common knowledge that remakes are a nasty boil on the behind of the modern cinematic landscape. Still, I find myself able to take solice in the fact that only sellouts associate themselves with such trash. You know the type: young upstart directors looking for a safe project after their freshman film was a surprise success (see Matt Reeves’ Let Me In), or weirdo European directors with dubious track records that somehow trick studio chief’s (through witchcraft) into letting them remake a beloved property (see José Padilha’s Robocop…..not technically European but still). Never in my wildest dreams, would I imagine Spielberg attempting something so obviously stupid. George Lucas maybe but not Spielberg.
Does he really think he can improve upon what Wise did? Not many directors of this current generation are worth anything but Spielberg has been one of the shining lights. Still, when you match him up against one of the greatest directors to ever handle a camera, working at the peak of his powers (Odds Against Tomorrow, West Side Story, The Haunting, and The Sound of Music would all come out within five years of each other), and collaborating with some of the most talented musical minds in the history of….well music, to produce one of the most enduring cinematic classics in the history of moving pictures you have to wonder how exactly can Spielberg hope to come out ahead in all of this.
Could it be that he has a vision for the story so radicial, so revisionist, so brilliant, so vibrant, so joyous, so enrapturing that it’s the likes of what has never been seen before on film? No. That’s not the case whatsoever. Remember this is modern day Hollywood. Remake today is code for unoriginal, uninspired, and ultra cheap, a sad truth for many directors and I have no reason to think that Spielberg can escape that group. I suppose if we have to look on the bright side we can see this is as Spielberg’s way of trying to beat the system. He probably knows that he couldn’t get a studio to back an original motion picture musical. Perhaps he thought he could just use the name West Side Story, strip the story down to its bare bones, and then use the play as a spring board to create something truly original. Either that or we’ll get another cinematic abortion of Spielberg proportions. Of those two outcomes what seems more feasible? While you mull that over take a look at what Spielberg could (can?) do with music and a story all his own.
James Cameron, a noted engineer and inventor who occasionally moonlights as a “filmmaker” has declared Alfonso Cuaron’s upcoming space drama Gravity to be “the best space film ever”. Highly Ironic seeing as James Cameron is responsible for what is perhaps one of the worst “space” films ever (Avatar). His praise concerning the project (which he was an adviser on) is nothing less than masturbatory.
I was stunned, absolutely floored. I think it’s the best space photography ever done, I think it’s the best space film ever done, and it’s the movie I’ve been hungry to see for an awful long time. What is interesting is the human dimension. Alfonso and Sandra working together to create an absolutely seamless portrayal of a woman fighting for her life in zero gravity.
Couple of things:
What exactly is a space movie?
What is the criteria? What are the trademarks that define the genre? Is it simply a movie that takes place in space or contains references to space travel? It is a movie in which one of the characters looks up at the stars longingly and plaintively. Really now, I wonder what would happen if this type of lazy genre stereotyping was applied to others persons, places, or things. Could there sky movies, water movies, sand movies, or black hole movies. It seems nowadays that any kind of movie plot warrants it’s own special classification. Does you movie have zombies…well that’s a zombie flick. Does your movie have a masked killer…..its a slasher movie. Does the film take place in a prison…that’s a prison film. Does the film have boxing it it….well you got yourself a boxing film. Forget what the character motivations are or what the focus of the narrative is. A puddle deep analysis of a film is all that seems to be needed for today’s film fans.
What people fail to realize is that such unimaginative and uninspired labeling can damage a movies reputation and negate its reach and impact. In case you were unaware, people have a tendency to only judge a book by its cover. Imagine how angry you would be if for years you avoided watching The Shawshank redemption having heard it was another ordinary prison movie. Imagine the surprise when you find out that The Shawshank Redemption has about as much to do with exploiting the typical conventions of a prison movie as ID4 had to do with being a Merchant-Ivory flick
I do value how a detailed categorization of film genre can enrich ones understanding and joy of the medium by creating personal and revelatory bonds between the film and viewer. Yet at the same time I am vehemently against categorization for categorization’s sake. The amount of genres and sub-genres around today have reached ridiculous proportions. Film fans need to dial it back a bit and not let their tastes be subverted by simple genre labeling and segregation.
Now about Mr. Cameron
Its sad to see the amount of respect most film bloggers are giving Cameron seeing as he cares absolutely zero about making a good film. Not a good special effect mind you, but a good film. Check out what Slashfilm writer Germain Lussier had to say about him:
James Cameron is a filmmaker with high standards. His last two films were both the highest grossing films of all time and each took multiple years to get just right. In the interim, he’s been working to advance performance capture technology, high frame rate technology, 3D technology and probably more. So he knows what’s up.
Really……….Cameron is “a filmmaker with high standards”. Since when does having expensive production values equal high standards? Also what does the amount a film earns and how long it took to make have to do with its quality. In each instance both observations (time frame of production and gross) provide a case against Cameron’s since all the time he took to make Avatar and its subsequent box office gross didn’t change the fact that it was a derivative, poorly written, badly acted, piece of sci-fi garbage. So excuse me if I don’t think Cameron’s opinion of Avatar is worth spit. Excuse me again if I don’t consider any of his thoughts about film-making to be anything more than foolish grandstanding. Here’s a good rule of thumb; if a person who makes bad movies recommends another filmmakers work then you should probably take his/her recommendation with a grain of salt. At the very least realize that any appreciation offered by such an individual likely steams from such an asinine and shallow artistic perception that any resulting opinion is barely worth any serious consideration.
Lastly about Gravity
Yeah I’m excited. I’ll admit it looks good. However the more I hear the more I don’t like. Its not that I’m being a hater or that the early buzz has been negative. It’s just that the praise seems to ring of typical Hollywood hogwash. In other words, all the praise I keep hearing concerns only the look of the film and none of its substance. You’ve heard enough of it by now: Gravity has the best space photography ever put on film, the longest most elaborate tracking shots, and the best use of 3D ever.” With praise like that it’s no wonder people think most film bloggers are shills.
Even the acting, when actually spoken of, is given such hollow praise that you find it hard to get excited about it. Am I supposed to be impressed by Sandra Bullock’s performance or impressed that she acted out her part in a painstakingly recreated “zero g environment”? Are we establishing a new form of acting method here. Should we now consider any performance done in “low gravity” to be Oscar gold. Give me a break. What good is a “zero g” performance without any weight to it. Even 2001, widely considered to be the greatest science fiction film ever made, usually can find some detractors when it comes to the human element of the story. The late science fiction author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury once spoke concerning 2001 saying that:
“,it’s really a big dumb idiot of a film…..the characters are all wrong because there are no characters. When Hal, the computer finally decides to kill them all off, you’re only too glad to see them go because they’re bores. You don’t know the identity of any of the people killed.
If all the groundbreaking special effects utilized in 2001 couldn’t make the characters come to life what makes you think it will be any different with Cuaron. Not that I want the film to fail. I do hope that Gravity doesn’t follow the same course as 2001. Here’s hoping the performances are excellent in spite of and not because of the flashy special effects, tracking shots, or 3D. Here’s hoping Gravity isn’t just an empty spectacle like Avatar was. Here’s hoping……
Running without gravity……I smell Oscar!!!
Good Evening Filmcyclers. I hope that your day has gone well and that your sleep is deep and peaceful. All that of course in spite of the awful bit of film news I leave you with.
Transformers 4 Got a new poster and official title. Are you ready for it. Alright, here you go:
Transformers: Age of Extinction !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Its okay I guess. I would have thought they’d have went the obvious route and called the film:
“Transformers: The next film in the series that has only one good movie (the first one) and two cinematic abortions to its name, and is only being made because people unwisely spent mountains of cash to see the previous two sequels….also these movies are still being written by that Ehren Kruger guy. Yeah the same guy who thought Skids and Mudflaps and Robot Heaven were a good idea. Also there are Dinobots. Yeah, dinosaur robots. Even for a Transformers movie that’s ridiculous. Please don’t see this movie. Instead take a hammer and repeated pound the top of your head till flat. You’ll have a better time.”
Too long? Perhaps? Well at the very least I get to see Mark Wahlberg tell a Dinobot “say hello to your mother for me”
You’ve heard of Amy Schumer right? That momentarily famous female shock comic who has been burning up the airwaves at Comedy Central with her ribald sense of absurdist humor. Gee, I can’t help feeling I’ve heard that before. Lets try it a different way.
You’ve heard of Whitney Cummings right? That momentarily famous female shock comic who has been burning up the airwaves at Comedy Central with her ribald sense of absurdist humor. A clearer picture perhaps but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Let me try one more time.
You’ve heard of Sarah Silverman right? That momentarily famous female shock comic who has been burning up the airwaves at Comedy Central with her ribald sense of absurdist humor. That’s it. Now the circle is complete.
You do realize of course thats all it is; a circle.
Every couple of month or so the modern cultural landscape unleashes upon the world a new stand up comic of the female persuasion. They always seem to follow the same format. Young-ish, legitimately pretty, white, foul mouthed, obsessed with their female anatomy, obsessed with the male anatomy, obsessed with fluids, and obsessed with all the things you normally are too shy to tell your doctor about.
They’re hailed as a modern prophet. A kind of feminist revolutionary if you will. Audiences howl and gasp as they stand on stage and spout every kind of sexual, racial, scatalogical, and ribald epitapth known to man. Men for the most part don’t find this junk funny but they find the lady so attractive that they watch anyway. Women for some reason (call it a warped form of feminist empowerment) find the lady to either be a role model or a threat. The women in the role model camp find the fact that a woman who can speak of such awful atrocities while wearing high heels and blush to be immensely empowering for some reason. The threatened women however don’t find the lady funny at all but tag along with their boyfriends to the comedy shows so they won’t lose them.
Either way by hook or by crook, said female shock comic eventually sells a crap load of concert cd’s, has a few successful stand up specials on Comedy Central, appears on a few of those awful crucifictions masquerading as roasts, and finally lands a television or movie development deal. Thankfully this last part of the process usually spells the end for these young ladies for they are soon faced with the harsh reality that no form of narrative construct known to man could support (for a long period of time) their hollow, baseless, fowl, unsubstantiated, and uninsightful form of disposable comedy.
Soon after the public tires of this masquerade and looks to find a new woman shock comic that makes their ears burn as well as their loins. With this in mind I guess I should view it as good news that Miss Schumer has finally got a movie deal. Thanks to Judd Apatow (thought I’d never utter those words) the world will finally see Amy Schumer’s comedy stick get exposed for what it really is; a flash in the pants……..get it I said pants instead of pan…….cause thats where the penis and the vagina are at. Where’s my movie deal.
Here is the official press release from Disney regarding their forthcoming film “Finding Dory”, the sequel to the 2003 blockbuster film “Finding Nemo” (the really stupid and asinine parts are in bold for your viewing pleasure).
When Dory said “just keep swimming” in 2003’s Oscar®-winning film “Finding Nemo,” she could not have imagined what was in store for her (not that she could remember). Ellen DeGeneres, voice of the friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish, revealed details today about Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Dory”—an all-new big-screen adventure diving into theaters on Nov. 25, 2015.
“I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time,” said DeGeneres. “I’m not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating ‘Toy Story 16.’ But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It’s got a lot of heart, it’s really funny, and the best part is—it’s got a lot more Dory.”
Director and Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton takes audiences back to the extraordinary underwater world created in the original film. “There is no Dory without Ellen,” said Stanton. “She won the hearts of moviegoers all over the world—not to mention our team here at Pixar. One thing we couldn’t stop thinking about was why she was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In ‘Finding Dory,’ she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way.”
One thing we couldn’t stop thinking about was why she was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In ‘Finding Dory,’ she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way.
Done retching. Okay, lets break this down. I’ll start with a question. When in the history of either the Disney, Pixar, or Disney/Pixar enterprises has a sequel to one of their films ever been a good idea. If you’re finding it hard to get beyond “Toy Story 2″ (it was okay people, not groundbreaking), and the “Shaggy D.A.” then you would understand why I’m so saddened to see Pixar, an other wise reputable studio go down the sequel route. Typically when a sequel is done by Disney it is solely to make a cash grab. That’s why most of their putrid spin offs to their animated classics, both from the golden age and second renaissance, have only been released on home video. They had no real cinematic value and Disney, even in the bowls of unabashed capitalism that produces such films, would not disgrace their cinematic track record with such trash.
The Disney sequels were not movies at all really. They were babysitters. They were distractions put on by frazzled adults so their screaming children could be quiet. Unlike their typically superior predecessors the plots of these Disney sequels and prequels tended to have uninspired plots, lazy motivations and second rate animation. Sadly those three attributes have come to define the upcoming slate of Disney and Pixar animated features on the horizon. For those that think I’m being cynical or negative a simple compare and contrast will easily show how superior the original Disney/Pixar product is in comparison to its forthcoming prequel/sequel/ or spinoff.
“Monsters Inc.”: Fear is not only a defining aspect of childhood, it is a business. The Boogeyman doesn’t just scare you for the heck of it, but to make a living, supporting himself and the society in which he lives. That society is Monstropolis: the world on the other side of your closet door. The central (primitive) source of power is the screams of human children. There is no better harvester of screams than James P. “Sully” Sullivan. Along with his one eyed assistant Mike they help provide Monstropolis with as much power as they can which is not easy thanks to Sully’s rival Randall always looking to sabotage him and the simple fact that children are getting harder to scare. But beneath the rivalry and the daily macabre grind lies a more sinister conspiracy. Power plays, unholy alliances, and hidden secrets combine to uproot the very structure of the Monstropolis society and only Sully and Mike can save the day. With a plot containing elements of corporate intrigue and societal growth coupled with sly yet innocent humor, Monsters Inc. is a workplace comedy that both kids and adults can enjoy on many different levels.
“Monsters University”: We take a look back at Sully and Mike’s college days. Hilarity ensues. Seriously, isn’t this the kind of idea screenwriters get fired for. Who the heck looked at Monsters Inc. and thought the characters would work just as well in a college type setting. No one, that’s who. I’ve actually heard this described as a sort of tribute to “Animal House” or some such nonsense. That funny because when I first saw “Monster Inc.” I thought the only thing that was missing (besides cowbell) was a little bit of raunchy frat house humor.
“Finding Nemo”: The beauty and danger of the ocean is home to a simple yet textured tale of a father and son. We watch them grow together and grow apart as they figure out who they are in the big anemone that lies within the deep. Themes such as fatherhood, letting go, coping with loss, finding your way home, sacrifice, and finding your inner strength are all explored with humor and great pathos. All the elements come together to make “Finding Nemo” a wonderful parable of life under the sea.
Finding Dory: Remember the quirky forgetful fish from the first film Dory who almost sunk the film with her tired shtick featuring pop culture references (Fabio…really) and saccharine signing. Well now she gets her own story in which we get to meet her equally eccentric and annoying family. Isn’t that basically the plot from “Nutty Professor 2: Meet The Klumps”.
“Cars”, “Cars 2″: Pixar phones in a serviceable cash cow. Its basically the cinematic equivalent of an A student bringing home two B- papers in a row.
Planes: Followed by a D+ travesty. “Planes”. “Planes!!!!!” Whats next? Will we see talking trains or boats? Maybe a hang gliders that does a soliloquy? With “Planes” we’re surely starting to see the cracks in the Pixar formula come through. What once was brilliant and intuitive storytelling prompted by imaginative and honest probings into humanities most enduring meanderings (i.e., what happens to your toys when you put them away, what happens inside that ant colony, or is being a superhero really that super?) gets replace by hokey premises and uninspired stories (i.e., wouldn’t it be cool if a car could talk, a boat could talk, a plane could talk, monsters went to college, ect).
Pixar is slowly abandoning all the good will they’ve built up by releasing these lame “what if” concepts masquerading as movies. A return to storytelling with substance is needed before I have any confidence in plunking down my money on any future Pixar films. Until then most every prospect Pixar has on the horizon looks completely:
Hey check out the new trailer for Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
(Sorry I couldn’t embed, wasn’t working)
I expected to see an attack but instead I get bemused indifference. I understand that the constant barrage of substandard material has deadened the internet film community’s ability to respond accurately and vigilantly to both good and bad film news. As a result discerning the steps taken either forward or backward in cinema have become an altogether muddled affair. Either people don’t see the problem, are unwilling to admit their is a problem, or they just don’t care anymore. Probably a combination of all three. Still, the deteriorating standards of the modern film community notwithstanding, its very easy to see that with Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monster we are witnessing a clear (if not slickly presented) step backwards in cinephilia. Just don’t look to the film blogs to tell you that.
Based on the popular YA books by Rick Riordan, Chris Columbus’s PERCY JACKSON & THE LIGHTNING THIEF was evidently profitable enough to compel Fox to keep the series running. I thought the first film worked as a glossy Greek Mythology primer for kids (it was certainly more enjoyable than Louis Leterrier’s CLASH OF THE TITANS), so I’ve no issue with more of the same. Not that it matters. I’m not the target audience for this stuff, and, unless you’re a precocious eight- to twelve-year-old reading this website, neither are you.
And honestly, it does look kind of fun. Like the first film, it appears that the sequel will play around with the adult actors cast in very silly roles, like Stanley Tucci as Dionysus, Nathan Fillion as Hermes, and Sean Bean as Zeus. It looks like they are having an absolute blast, and it’s possible audiences could, too. It’s also worth noting that the screenplay was co-written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote “Ed Wood,” “The People Vs. Larry Flynt,” and “Man in the Moon,” and Marc Guggenheim, a beloved comic book author.
With Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, we are thankfully getting a more manageable title and from the looks of this trailer, a more ambitious attempt at epic adventure.
The exchange of director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1 & 2) for director Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is somewhat dubious – if only because Columbus has more experience with filmmaking on this scale than Freudenthal does. Still, the trailers looks like what you’d expect, given the first film, with some nice (if moderately budgeted) effects shots.
Sea of Monsters also features a nice supporting cast of fan-favorite actors like Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle), Stanley Tucci (Captain America) and Anthony Head (Buffy) – along with Missi Pyle (The Artist), Leven Rambin (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Yvette Nicole Brown (Community).
Even though the first Percy Jackson was both a bit muddled and leaned a little too hard on the silly, we liked the gags and the world-building. Plus it got points for turning Pierce Brosnan into a centaur that will forever haunt our dreams. And now, there’s a second Percy Jackson movie, and… it looks cute. Maybe even decent.
When I interviewed Abel about The Host last week it was interesting hearing him admit that the Percy Jackson series is pretty much exclusively for kids at this point, which might be tough for a twenty-something actor making his way in the world but also provides a pretty steady paycheck. And as evidenced by all the work these actors have gotten since Lightning Thief, it’s definitely not hurting that they’re most recognizable to elementary schoolers. You’d think the original Percy Jackson film might not merit a sequel, making just $88 million in the United States, but with a $226 million worldwide total it’s enough to move forward even without Harry Potter orHunger Games-sized grosses.
Like many YA adaptations outside the Harry Potter and Twilight series, The Lightning Thief didn’t quite wow audiences. Unlike many stillborn series, however, this one is actually getting a sequel.
This chapter features Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson returning to support Lerman’s hero, and we get to see Stanley Tucci as Dionysus. Oh, and Nathan Fillion plays Hermes, which might be enough to get people watching.
The trailer doesn’t even think that audiences remember the first film, as it spends thirty seconds refreshing us on the series’ storyline. After that, it does get down to business, with the sort of big CG visions of mythological creatures that populated the first film.
Thats all quite of lot of pandering to take in so if you don’t mind I’ll sum up the general points most of the internet film community made about this upcoming film.
1. It understandable and forgivable that a new sequel is being made to an awful film just because that first film netted a huge profit.
2. Well it looks like the adult actors are having fun in their roles which is all that matters anyway.
3. Nathan Fillion is a god. Worship him and give him money. Browncoats forever! Forever!!!!
4. Well its for kids anyway so if it sucks thats okay. Having high standards for cinema only should apply to adults. At the very least our kids are getting an introduction to Greek mythology.
5. The first film sucked less than “Clash Of The Titans” and Eragon so it gets a pass.
Geez. I hope you enjoyed that set visit and free swag guys. I hope it profited you to gain all that stuff at the expense of you collective cinematic soul. Must I reiterate that if we don’t start demanding more of the studios and filmmakers of this present age then things will continue to get worse. You may think I’m making a big deal out of this (“its only Percy Jackson!”) but its the little things, not the big, that over time build up until the problem is almost to big to solve. Think of the all style and no substance money driven film culture we’ll be leaving behind for the next generation. They wont have stories with depth and artistry but only garish forgettable popcorn flicks to look forward to. But do we even consider the next generation at all anymore. We’ve already resigned to letting our kids (and ourselves) be receptacles for this kind of cgi laden garbage so who knows what we’ll allow in the future.
Well excuse me if that’s not the way I want to respond to our film culture. Let me provide you with the response to Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters trailer debut that the other film blogs should have been more responsible enough to give you:
Hey did you hear! That mediocre piece of crap film that insulted audiences a few years back is getting a sequel. Yes Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters is upon us. What better chance will you have at the cinema this year to watch otherwise serviceable actors phoning in performances though belabored prosthetics and phony c.g.i.? At least you wont have to worry about any scenery chewing since 99.9 percent of the sets aren’t even there. You know who is there? Nathan Fillion. Bow down and sacrifice your daughters at the altar of Nathan Fillion. But it gets better. You remember the wunderkind turned hack director Chris Columbus? Well he’s history. We scrapped the bottom of the barrel, then lifted the barrel up and looked under it and found another guy to direct the film. Remember that instant classic Hotel for Dogs? The film that made Beverly Hills Chihuahua look like Citizen Kane. Well we got the guy who directed that (Thor Frudendthal……real name) to helm this turkey. Are you still there? Have you fainted from the amount of pure awesomeness we’ve assembled to make this project? Well you will when we tell you who we got to write the film. You know Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote “Ed Wood,” “The People Vs. Larry Flynt,” and “Man in the Moon”? Well we payed them enough money to squander their talents and sell out by writing this new film. On top of that we hired a comic book writer to help with the scripting duties to trick nerds into seeing the film. Top that off with a couple of scenes and scenarios lifted from likewise sub-par films (Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Harry Potter franchise, Clash Of The Titans, ect) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. But as long as that disaster nets the studio about 120-200 million you can be sure another sequel is on the way. But hey…..the film has Nathan Fillion. See you at the cinema!
A quick statement before we get to the trailer.
I wonder if you would take a second and compare and contrast Denzel Washington and Nicholas Cage careers. If you were to do so I believe you would find a lot of commonalities. The biggest one being they have forgotten how to chose good scripts and are consequently starring in formulaic, asinine genre movies. Occasionally each can strike gold with a project. Denzel seemed to find a meaty performance in Flight and Nicholas just happened to star in one of the greatest film of the past 20 years in Knowing (not kidding at all). Yet, for the most part we sit and watch two men who once were considered two of the greatest (or at least most promising) actors in their generation practically defecate over the prestige of their careers. The funny thing is, only one of the two actors seems to have become the object of parody; Nicholas “BEES!” Cage.
Now to be fair Denzel has taken his fair share of criticism for his current string of one note performances. His particular brand of smooth heroic masculinity that once proved uniquely watchable has by now lapsed into parody. Still the mild chiding he receives for those performances doesn’t begin to compare to the hate a genuinely gifted actor like Nicholas Cage receives. Roger Ebert made a great observation about the Nicholas when he stated that:
Cage is accused of showboating, but I prefer to think he swings for the fences. Sometimes he strikes out but more often he connects (he took enormous risks in “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Bringing Out the Dead” and “Adaptation”). He has a kind of raging zeal that possesses his characters; what in another actor would be overacting is, with Cage, a kind of fearsome intensity.
Even in the worst movies Nicholas Cage always comes to the plate and swings for the fences. The same, as of late, cannot be said of Mr. Denzel Washington. Especially when you see him in trailers like this for his new movie like 2 Guns. Yes that’t the title.
Couple of things
1. Despite his age he was serviceable in Book of Eli. Not so much now. How old is Denzel gonna have to be before he is not able to do action roles anymore? I’ve come to terms with the fact that Hollywood often sinks its teeth into its black cash cow’s like Denzel and milks them for all the box office potential but this is getting ridiculous. There has to be thousands of other black actors out there vying for roles in buddy cop pictures/biopics/and other various sidekicks roles. Keep using Denzel like this and eventually all that’s left is going to be a chocolate skeleton on screen sitting next to Jonah Hill in the next big buddy cop flick.
2. Does anyone actually write these types of movies any more or do the actors just wing it. If its the former then I think we should pray for the talent of our Hollywood writers. If its the latter then screen acting in terms of improvisation has truly taken a nosedive. Did you actually listen to some of that inane dialogue in the trailer.
Denzel: You ever heard the saying never rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in 3 counties?
Mark: That’s not a saying.
Denzel: Yes it is.
Mark: No its not, I get what your saying, but its not a saying.
Denzel: You never heard it? Maybe you’ve never heard it?
Denzel: It is a saying. It’s a saying to me.
Talk about bad overlapping dialogue Seriously, that is just plain lazy. Just because Tarantino was able to get away with the whole “low life” “tough guy” banter thing doesn’t mean it should become the norm in Hollywood Screen writing is an art unto itself and to see two actors fumble their way jokingly through their lines like that is just plain awful. The actors may find it fun (or easy) but it comes across as smug, boring, cloying and insulting to the audience.
3. Paula Patton like Rosario Dawson in Unstoppable, Eva Mendes and Sanaa Lathan in Out of Time, Paula Patton in Deja Vu, and Mila Kunas in The Book of Eli, is playing a role so clearly designed to net a paycheck that you can almost hear chi-ching every time she opens her mouth.
4. This trailer seems less like an advertisement for the movie and more an advertisement for car crash porn. After seeing Tony Scott and Micheal bay roll cars up down and all around the past 20 years, the sight of a couple of trucks playing tag isn’t really doing it for me.
5. Jimmy Hendrix has apparently spun in his grave so hard that he tunneled all the way to China.
6. More Bad Dialogue:
Denzel: The Bank was a set up. We gotta figure out whose money that was.
Mark: (super-excited) What, like we’re working together?
Denzel: No, not like we’re working together.
Denzel: Naw, like we’re working in the same vicinity.
Denzel: Like we’re working in the same Area code.
7: Paula Patton I can understand. Paychecks are hard to come by in Hollywood for black actresses. But what excuse does Bill Paxton and Edward James Olmos have. They’re two of the best character actors of our generation and they’ve reduced themselves to doing slop like this. And don’t give me that “it’ll be fun to watch them chewing the scenery” garbage. If the scenery around them is moldy and gross (i.e. a badly structured film) then they’ll just end up regurgitating garbage to the audience.
8. Also did anybody notice James Marsden was in the movie. Exactly!
10: A final bit of bad dialogue that probably mirrors the screen writers approach to writing this movie:
Denzel: So partner, What’s your plan?
Mark: I’ve got a plan. I mean I’m capable of coming up with a plan.
Denzel: I’m not saying you’re not capable. I’m just saying you haven’t told me. What is it?
Mark: (annoyed) I’m working on it!…. Screw it!
Drives through fence
Denzel: That was your plan?
Mark: No one expected it. You should have seen you’re face.
I understand that the buddy cop genre has never been considered the height of cinema, but does that excuse the makers of this film of having such low expectations for themselves. As trivial as this genre may be it’s still capable of producing such entertaining fair as 48 hrs, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Alien Nation, Bad Boys, Mississippi Burning, Hard Boiled, Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour (yep). Sadly it seems the makers of these kinds of films don’t feel the need to try anymore. They have their formula. They know their film will at least net a profit of 150-200 million dollars no matter how good it is. From there moving forward they can option any other sub-par buddy cop script they want and develop further plans to bilk the American public with garbage product. To borrow a phrase from buddy cop veteran Roger Murtaugh, I think its time we let the actors, directors, writers and producers who make these films know that, “We’re getting to old for this….stuff (T.V. edit)