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A Good Day to Ask What the Fuck Die Hard Means. Like he dies but with difficulty? Or he dies on Viagra? Or he’s a car battery?

In Movies on February 27, 2013 at 12:19 am

A couple of weeks ago I saw A Good Day to Die Hard. Last weekend, I saw the original Die Hard and man, what a disappointment that was. I mean, in the first movie he’s all afraid of flying glass and a few dudes with automatic weapons. In this last movie, he dives through windows before falling 10 stories into construction scafolding without the slightest hesitation. In the the original he’s all whiny as he pulls a little sliver of glass out of his foot. In the last Die Hard movie, he laughs while pulling out a piece of metal rebar impaled in his son’s stomach. In Die Hard, John McClane is worried about his wife being in danger and feels bad when some yuppie scumbag gets killed over the phone. In A Good Day to Die Hard, John McClane never seems worried at all that his only son may get killed despite the fact that they are hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered. It never crosses his mind that he might be hurt or feels any remorse about the scores of humanity he willfully cuts down. Isn’t that awesome?

Alright, alright. Enough. Yes, Die Hard is really a masterpiece of action cinema, holding up better today than it did over two decades ago. And yes, A Good Day to Die Hard is really pretty shitty. I mean, just piss poor. But it did inspire me think about the evolution of John McClane . In Die Hard, John McClane is just a tough, resourceful cop in a really terrible situation just fighting for his life and trying to make it through the night. By the fifth movie, John McClane is entirely something else. He has survived so many near-death experiences and slaughtered so many people, it has become so clear to him. It is not hard for him to die, it is impossible.

So like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, while he may not be the God, he is clearly a God. Like Ares or Thor, he is diety. He is the manifestation of death and chaos. Humanity is a plaything for his amusement. And why not? Everything from the original Die Hard on reinforces this idea. And he keeps pushing it further and further where, by this last movie, he is falling through buildings to land in radioactive water (rain water, my ass) just to see if he can still feel pain anymore. He’s Roy Batty with less humanity. If you asked him a question about a tortoise, he’d just smirk and execute you. And his son? Don’t worry, he’s a McClane. Like Zeus addressing Perseus, McClane just wants his namesake to embrace his omnipotence and bond with his old man as they just fucking kill everyone.

This was my favorite Die Hard sequel. Where the sidekick from Die Hard 3 realizes that John McClane is superhuman and works to thwart him. I mean, doesn't Unbreakable just mean Die Impossible?

This was my favorite Die Hard sequel. Where the sidekick from Die Hard 3 realizes that John McClane is superhuman and works to thwart him. I mean, doesn’t Unbreakable just mean Die Impossible?

Next Die Hard movie, John McClane jumps into a volcano on fucking Mars with no space suit, then ends up fighting a race of aliens while constantly mugging to the camera and barking “I’m on vacation.” Remember, you heard it here first.

An Australian Guy Using an English Accent to Portray a Spanish general in the Roman army

In Movies on January 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I have a thing about accents, in general, and their use in period movies, specifically. I am fascinated by what we are able to suspend our disbelief about and what we cannot seem to get over in this area. For instance, as the title of this post suggests, we have Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Does he sound either Spanish or Roman? Well, actually, I have no idea. I haven’t the foggiest idea what the ancient Roman accent sounds like, but why default to something British? Is it Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar we have to blame? I, Claudius? Or is it that some form of British accent sounds classier, more timeless, or just more appropriate? Or is that a lot of good actors happen to be British? I don’t really know. Maybe good acting is associated with the Bard and his accent is emulated.

On the otherhand, I’ve heard that the English during Shakespeare’s time did not sound like the modern British accents (for all you Scots, Welsh, and shit…I don’t know…Liverpoolipaneans whom complain that there is no one British accent but a myriad collection of different ways of speaking that sound cooler than me). So Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Laurence Olivier, while amazing, are no more accurate than any other person’s accent.

But what do many people think when they hear Tom Cruise in Valkyrie or Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It sounds phoney or stupid or just plain wrong. But many rarely would complain if that accent was British, like in Schindler’s List. Not all wrong accents are created equal. Just ask Brad Pitt, an American who used a quasi-English accent in Troy so he could sound like…someone from ancient Greece, I guess?

I love how Costner gets slammed for his accent but gets a pass on the mullet. I mean, check out that ape drape.

I love how Costner gets slammed for his accent but gets a pass on the mullet. I mean, check out that ape drape.

But that’s just about what you’re used to. British accents sound right for many period pieces because they are often used in them. So Michael Fassbender in Centurion sounds fine but Channing Tatum in The Eagle sounds ridiculous. Fair enough, I guess. I have a bigger problem when accents are not consistent within one movie. The worst offender is the post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Man in the Iron Mask. It’s set in France but we have an DiCaprio (American) as the king but also Gabriel Byrnes (British) and Jeremy Irons (British), Gerard Depardieu (super French yet kinda Russian now) and John Malkovich (Martian) as the former musketeers. Hearing these “French” dudes talk about their duty to their country and what not is hard to buy when they can’t decide what country they come from.

Maybe it’s just me.

The Preservation of an Untainted Idea

In Comics, Movies, Science Fiction on January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

“You should absolutely not see the Hobbit. In fact I’m calling you now.”

This was a text I received from a good friend upon informing him of my Wednesday night plans. I know you may be thinking, “Why hasn’t Scott seen the Hobbit yet?” And that is a good question. Have I lost my obsessive nature in the nearly two years since I posted? Well, maybe? Or maybe I know it’s not going anywhere and I’m not worried about spoiling the story because it’s been around for 70+ years.

But that brings me back to my original point. Why would my friend warn me off of the Hobbit? It’s about spoilage. But not the “Bruce Willis has a dead penis named Rosebud at the end of the Citizen Crying Sense” kind of spoiler. More like, a beloved property or franchise exists in your mind and you cherish it. You may treasure it and cultivate it in your memory. Then, somehow, something new comes out that threatens that memory on a personal level.

It might be like Frank Miller’s return to his 80’s roots in much maligned The Dark Knight Strikes Again that causes you to examine why you loved The Dark Knight Returns in the first place. Or how The Phantom Menance forced you to like the original trilogy slightly less than you did. Or, how the first Hobbit movie threatened the idea of the Hobbit for my friend and he wanted to save me.

And it’s not optional, in some cases. You cannot unsee what you saw. You can rationalize it all you want. Midichlorians? What are those? Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex? Never heard of it. Crystal Skulls? It’s weird Harrison Ford has an entirely new franchise coincidentally starring a character name Indiana Jones, but whatever. Sometimes you can separate Jaws from Jaws: The Revenge and not have a problem enjoying the original.

I always thought this moment would be so great.  I really did.

I always thought this moment would be so great. (sigh) I really did.

But sometimes you can’t…and it kinda sucks.

For the record, I wasn’t over the moon for the first Hobbit movie but I understand that Peter Jackson is goofy and makes goofy movies. I enjoyed it for what it was and I will see more of them.

Trailer trash

In Comics, Movies on March 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Two days ago, I watched the Captain America trailer a few times and have gotten myself pretty excited about it. Despite earlier concerns about the execution of the costume design, I really enjoy Cap as a character and I really want this to be good. And the trailer does an impressive job of reassuring me that this beloved character may have a chance of being portrayed reverently. As a good trailer, it has me excited about the prospect of watching the movie it is promoting. So what’s the problem?
The problem is the relationship that fans now have with trailers, in general. We (because I am as guilty of this as anyone) treat the trailer as a gift from the moviemakers to the fans. Since the Phantom Menace, at least, we treat the release of new trailers or featurettes or even TV spots as a warm-up to the movie; a way to slip into the right frame of mind before the main event.

And guess what? Trailers are commercials. They are marketing ploys to convince pay money to ingest a product. And while we all may crave to see some clips released at Comic-Con or “leaked” footage because we’re so excited, trailers exist to take money out of your pocket and put it in someone else’s.
So, if your movie has some cool visuals, an invested fan-base, and strong original material, it is not a great feat to make an effective trailer. Iron Man 2 is an excellent example. Great cast, cool visuals, and some sweet briefcase armor and I was excited. Yet, the movie, while adequate, in no way lived up to the excitement of the trailer. Good job marketing team.

Trying to sell me with this awesome shot? Nice try, trailer!

So, while I cannot go more than 5 minutes without thinking about a ricocheting thrown shield or Dum Dum Dugan with a shotgun, I am trying to train myself to treat a good trailer like what it is; an enjoyable piece of advertising. I am having mixed results.

Robocop: The Worst Cop Ever?

In Movies, Science Fiction on March 4, 2011 at 2:36 am

There is a lot of love for the late Officer Murphy, these days. Whether it’s an upcoming statue the Motor City, talk of a still-not-dead remake, or me watching Robocop (as well as…sigh…Robocop 2 and …ugh…Robocop…godammit…3), I’ve been thinking non-stop about a certain cyborg police officer. But I ask anyone, especially those with extremely fond memories of this franchise, to consider that maybe, just maybe, Robocop is pretty terrible at law enforcement.

Consider this:

1) Robocop cannot run. He walks leisurely after criminals, engaging in wildly dangerous gunfights with everyone dumb enough to engage him. I mean, a light jog and jumping over a foot-tall hedge will make it nigh impossible for Robocop to catch you unless he decides to shoot you, which brings me to my next point.

2) Robocop’s chief method of protecting and serving is firing exploding three-round bursts into the soon-to-be-corpses of everyone. Non-lethal force consists of him occasionally manhandling muggers and stickup-men by throwing them through walls and breaking as much personal property as cyborgly possible. And this only works if the criminals get close enough to Robocop for him to grab them. Let’s go back to Point #1 to see how unnecessary that is.

3) Robocop drives a Ford Taurus.

4) Robocop keeps his admittedly sweet handgun in a hidden holster in his leg. Robocop’s leg pops open and then he draws his gun, kills everyone, then holsters his weapon with incredible panache. The question is: “Wouldn’t that shit-ton of leg real estate be better served for something like, I don’t know, being able to run…or walk fast. Back to Point #1.

So why is Robocop so well-loved? Robocop has a great supporting cast, a pretty badass costume design, and Paul Verhoeven calling his shots. He is, however, a terrible, terrible cop. But the worst ever?

At least he can handle stairs.

Wednesday’s “That Guy:” Maury Chaykin

In Movies, That Guys on July 29, 2010 at 12:08 am

I haven’t done one of these in a while and I know it’s not Monday, but I was I had heard that Maury Chaykin had passed away and it made me wonder why I had never hit on him before in my “that guy” analysis. Who is Maury Chaykin? This is:

Where to start with this legend? Well for me, there is only one. “Mr. Potato Head, Mr. Potato Head! Backdoors are not secrets!” his amazing line reading from WarGames is maybe my #1 referenced line that no one ever gets. Playing Matthew Broderick’s tech savy pal, his rage-filled scolding of Eddie Deezen is legendary. It demonstrates one of his best and most effective talents: bringing the anger quickly and dangerously with little to no provocation. Maury Chaykin seemed just, plain pissed off all the time and when he brought the rage, he was one of the most intimidating performers around. Not because of the threat of danger the anger signaled, but the anger itself had this palpable power.

He brought a sense of no-nonsense menace to many roles. He was a common criminal after Danny Devito in Twins. He was the kinda sketchy, sweating army officer in Dances with Wolves. Hell, when he was defending his grits in My Cousin Vinny, I expecting him crush with Joe Pesci with his inherent hostility. He would appear all the time and just knock it out of the park everytime.

A few years ago, I remember having the role of some movie producer on the show Entourage and being glad to see him returning to form as the overweight yet screamingly hostile badass you would never, ever want to cross. It was an excellent return to form for him and I just wanted to acknowledge the passing of a great that might not have gotten a ton of attention.

P.S: You know what my favorite part of about Entourage? Adrien Grenier plays Vincent Chase, a somewhat spoiled movie star. So, Adrien and Vince basically have the same job, actors. And they share the same face and body, right? So how come one of them (Vince) is a movie star and one of them (Adrien) is a would-be movie star playing a movie star on a TV show. Adrien Grenier gets paid , and I’m sure paid very well, to be a more successful version of himself on TV. I think that is awesome.

Also, for your entertainment:

When is great good enough?

In Movies on July 20, 2010 at 12:17 am

I saw Inception over the weekend. What did I think?

Eh…

No, I’m only kidding. I thought it was a great movie that delivered everything I could really even want in a movie. Smart, but never smug or pretentious. Challenging without being confusing. Action-packed but never gratuitous. And utterly geeky without being anything to even be the slight bit embarrassed about. Basically, everything I would ever in my wildest dreams want for a movie. Not just a popcorn, summer movie but a movie, period. Damn, I can’t be more excited about a movie.

But…then the suspicion sets in. Was it actually good or just well-made? Is my enthusiasm legit or am I just fooling myself because of a drought of A-Grade geekiness (sorry Iron Man 2, you were pretty good but something was missing). I was set to have Toy Story 3 be the movie of the summer (and it was great, no doubt) but then this movie came along and crushed me. Instead of rejoicing like a normal, well-adjusted movie fan, my vigilance kicks in. Like some kind of slighted lover who doesn’t want to get hurt again, I start asking myself: “Is this movie too good to be true? Can it simply be amazingly awesome and have that be that?”

Is this movie great? This scene just came to my house and curb stomped me for doubting it. I deserved it.

The answer is:”Yes, yes, and fuck yes!!!” Why would I question such a great movie experience? Why can’t I just enjoy it?

So I will. This movie kicks all kinds of ass and that’s that.

Do Over

In Comics, Movies on July 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Pretty recently I wrote a post about my odd tendency to re-start roleplaying games before I had finished them because I wanted to get my game as perfect as I could. I think we can all agree that I an somewhere between ape-shit crazy and rock-dumb stupid for this behavior but it made me think about a growing tendency in comic book movies, especially a few of the Marvel properties. That is, the reboot of franchise that is either just recently finished or still actually alive and kicking.

Example? Off the top of my head, let’s talk X-Men. Now, granted…I agree that this franchise is hardly super-healthy. I think that X-Men: The Last Stand was pretty terrible until I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine and learned what terrible really was. Yet, I think both movies did pretty well at the box office. Also, the films had tons of little clues and set-ups at the end to make you think that there were more stories to be told in this universe. So, what does Marvel decide to do? Re-boot the franchise by going way younger. Who would be a good Professor X? How about James “Wanted” McAvoy? Magneto? Michael “300” Fassbender. Yes, I know these guys have both been in Academy Award nominated films. I’m just a dick. Anyway, they have started throwing dirt on the body of Hugh “Australia” Jackman while he’s not just breathing, but actually doing alright.

And there are others. They have started casting a new Spider-man franchise that, that’s right, goes younger. Do we really need a new telling of Peter Parker’s trial and tribulations as a high school student. Marvel sure thinks so. How about the Incredible Hulk, following the unloved Ang Lee Hulk only five years later? How about talk of a new Fantastic Four movie when the one from 2005 not only made a chunk of money, but spawned a sequel only two years later.

Some movies, on the other hand, are so perfect the first time around, you don't dare try to re-make them.

Do I have a problem with this? Actually, not really. Maybe Marvel wants to get it right and do it their way now that they are an independent studio. They want their version of their properties, not some movie studio’s idea of what will pop with the key demographics. Even cooler, maybe they don’t mind having different versions of the same characters and stories co-existing. Is there anything more comic bookish than totally different continuities of the same characters sitting on the comic stand at the same time. This could be the evolution of this idea into the movies. I mean, it’s nothing new, really? Aren’t we all better off with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Dark Knight, and Adam West’s Batman all existing? I’d say yes, completely.

Tony Jaa = Amazing

In Movies on June 25, 2010 at 1:04 am

Yeah, I know. What an insightful comment. I’m sure international action sensation Tony Jaa can finally firmly place his final feather in his cap by winning my hard-earned approval. For those of you who don’t know, Tony Jaa is the highly acrobatic and athletic action star from Thailand who enjoyed a huge breakout in Ong Bak, a classic story of a country boy going to the city and inevitably crushing skulls with flying elbows and knees.

The thing with Ong Bak, however, was that I was really not instantly captivated by Jaa on-screen persona. I found he lacked the natural charisma and badassity that many other action stars effortlessly possess. He lacked a certain swagger or magnetism, I suppose, that I was hoping to see after hearing all the hype about this guy. You can guess what he did have, however. Yes, he has maybe the most jaw-dropping action-movie fighting ability and stunt-agility I have ever witnessed. I mean, simply spellbinding.

You see, back when I was in high school, one of my best friends got REALLY into Hong Kong martial arts. Huge into it. So big that he went into film school to be in the business of making cinematic action and honed himself into a stunt performer. So, thanks to hanging out with him, I was exposed to some pretty great stuff well before most people I knew. Jackie Chan, Samo Hung, and Jet Li were very well known to me before they had American releases, though compared to international fanship, I was late to the game. During that time, I accumulated a pretty discerning amateur appreciation for the joy of fight choreography, direction, and performance. That was when my eyes really opened about what action could be like at a time when people were still being impressed with slow-mo, Van Damme split kicks. I felt like I was watching something unbelievable; something otherworldly.

The other night, I was started watching Ong Bak 2 on Netflix and I got that feeling all over again. Like the first one, this, movie didn’t do much for me in terms of pacing, acting, or plot. But the fighting…oh the fighting. The last 25 minutes of this film are otherworldly, with specific sequences being so sublime that I felt myself grinning giddily. The combination of grittiness and artistry, strength and creativity…it’s really something.

So, since it’s on Netflix Watch Instantly, do yourself a favor and watch those fight scenes.

“The class is Pain 101. Your instructor is Casey Jones.”

In Movies on June 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm

There is a class of movies that exist that I have seen dozens of times. They are maybe not the best films. Hell, they may be plain godawful. But they were always on or you would never switch from them once you stumbled upon them on cable. For whatever reason, I’m sure everyone has a movie that they or their friends know line-for-line, whether they ever intended to or not. I want to start exploring some of these movies, such as I did for Commando, to maybe better understand what makes these movies endure in my memory. Or at least to express some the utterly stupid random nonsense that goes through my head as I go to sleep. The movie I want to write about is the 1990 movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This movie came along at an odd time for me. At the age of twelve, I was at an odd precipice in terms of development and this movie stands as a weird symbol of that transition. Through my reading of my brothers black-and-white TMNT comics, I already thought of myself as more advanced than the average consumer. I knew that the turtles should all be wearing red masks. I knew that they were actually brutal killers, employing lethal force in combat with the hated Foot. There were no robotic clan soldiers, no incompetent mutated warthog punks, and no Krang (though we did have some pretty similar T.C.R.I. aliens). I had experienced the darker, “cooler” Turtles and I had little time for the sanitized, kiddy cartoon fiction. Then this movie comes out and it’s a weird mixed bag of Turtles material. Sure, it’s still pretty tame compared to the comic, but at least it had human Foot Clan members, a Shredder not played for comic relief, and some actual story elements taken from the Eastman and Laird comics, While not a great film or even particularly loved film, I have seen it many, many times. I’m not sure why, or even how. But I feel like making some random observations about it.

1) For some reason, it’s all about Raphael. Yes, while Leonardo was previously portrayed as the level-headed leader of our heroes, the usually “cool, but rude” Raph takes center stage in this movie. Never understood that random decision to this day.

2) Corey Feldman was the voice of Donatello. This was a big deal at the time.

3) Sam Rockwell enters my consciousness. Years later, whenever I saw Sam Rockwell, I always felt he looked strangely familiar. Until the day I had my “Eureka!” moment and realized that SR was no one other than the charismatic street punk working for the Foot Clan.

4) The fact that giant anthropomorphic turtles can navigate through normal society by wearing trenchcoats and fedoras. I had a friend who attempted to wear a fedora to high school one day in an attempt to bring back a more elegant style. He was so thoroughly harassed he never attempted it again. If my friend couldn’t avoid detection with this look, how can a giant amphibian pull it off. Throughout the movie, whether its purchasing a pizza through the sewer or escaping NYC in a un-tinted windowed van, the Turtles take a supremely cavalier attitude towards detection. Yet, maybe it’s a testament to how “crazy” New York used to be that Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones character, upon getting a good look at Raphael for the first time asks something along the lines of: “Are you some kind of punker?” Yeah, he was clearly cognizant of the obscure Bogey shellcore scene of the late 80’s.

You know what might improve this clever disguise? You guessed it. Pants!

5) Strangely homicidal ending. This film remains pretty light throughout. It does have a weirdly violent ending. After our heroes finally best the evil Shredder and cast him unconsciously into the back of a garbage truck, Casey Jones murders him by casting an “aint I a stinker” expression and saying “whoops” as he activates the crushing mechanism. Then we proceed to see a remarkably bloodless suit of Shredder armor get pulverized. I’m glad murder comes so easily to you.

I could do this all night…except I can’t. So, while I have more to say on this subject, let’s leave it at this for now.