Saturday, January 29, 2011
The internet's been talking for the last week about the revelation that the new, completely unnecessary Spider-Man reboot will have Spidey's web shooters instead of doing what the Sam Raimi movies did and making the webs something organic that came out of Spidey's wrists.
This is another one of those fan debates that just makes me roll my eyes, but after reading some of the things people have said, I think the organics are much more believable.
If Peter Parker's spider bite altered his DNA to make it more spiderlike, then why wouldn't he have the ability to produce webbing? Makes sense to me. But that's not actually the reason I find them more convincing. My real problem is what Peter Parker creating his own web shooters implies.
I'm saying this as someone who completely adores the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics more than just about anything else Marvel Comics has ever produced. But so many of those stories revolved around a harried Peter trying hard to balance his schoolwork, his responsibilities as Spider-Man, and his need to take care of his Aunt May, who is frail and can't work. He's always obsessing over the cost of her medicine, for example.
So my major problem with Peter creating his own web shooters is that it actually makes Peter Parker look like an imbecile. It makes it look like the writers are just completely ignoring, for the sake of the plot, the fact that a teenager who creates a pressurized miracle adhesive with dozens of real world applications would just be able to patent and commercialize it and make a small fortune. Jeez, between the police and the military alone, he'd never have to worry about Aunt May's meds again. Forget having to work at the Bugle (and poorly, I might add), he'd be sitting on the board of a scientific research firm somewhere.
So it kind of amuses me a little when people act like Peter's mechanical web shooters are an integral part of the Spidey mythos.
And don't even get me started on the people who insist Gwen Stacy has to be Peter's first love, which completely overlooks Betty Brant...
This is the magic of the Muppets right here. Kevin Clash just makes this pregnant woman's day at the Sundance Film Festival by putting on the Elmo puppet and saying hello to her. And for just that moment, she doesn't even notice the 50 year-old man crouched at her feet. For that moment, Elmo is real and she's overjoyed to meet him. That's quite a spell the Muppets (and the Muppeteers) can weave.
You know, I used to be one of the die hard Elmo-haters. I found him irritating, and it didn't help that I worked retail when Tickle Me Elmo was the big Christmas toy. I can say that I didn't like the way Elmo took over Sesame Street, but let's be honest, I haven't made it a point to sit and watch Sesame Street since I was in single digits. I just didn't like the idea that my beloved "Ses," as I called it when I was a very little kid ("Ernie" was actually my first word), had changed at all. It's easy to be precious about how much better stuff supposedly was when you were a kid. But jeez, by the time I was born, Sesame Street was in its seventh season. It's not like I owned the damn thing or was even among the original viewers. It's such a lame attitude to hold onto.
Anyway, I'm cool with Elmo. I acknowledge him, without any grudge, as part of the Muppet establishment. And Kevin Clash is just such a sweet guy.
Besides, I despise Abby Cadabby so much more...
Friday, January 28, 2011
The Egyptian government was pretty quick to cut off its nation's access to Facebook and Twitter after the demonstrations began. Now it seems they've managed, for the first time in history, to completely cut off access to the internet.
This should show you just how much governments hate and fear their people. They don't just want to cut off the flow of information. They want to hobble the ability of people to control any aspect of their lives with any autonomy.
A revolution in Egypt is just the largest example. You can see it here in the US on the internet every day, as Google caves in further and further to a corporate-controlled government that acts like some grandmother downloading a single song somewhere will cost them billions of dollars. It's bullshit, of course, but they can't afford to not make examples out of people. It's not about the money. It's about control. It's about the corporate government making sure you don't go around thinking you can just access something commercial without leasing it from them.
Joseph Lieberman, of course, is taking this opportunity to push once again for some kind of internet switch in America, so they can just shut us off if we get too mouthy or dissatisfied. And absent any kind of real leadership in the US--I'm sorry, but this week's State of the Union did nothing for but demonstrate just how out of touch and powerless President Obama really is--he'll probably end up getting it, as long as Comcast and News Corp. says it's okay.
What Mubarak's government is doing in Egypt is terrible. What our government is doing supporting him is despicable. And that support alone should show you what our government thinks of people--any people, anywhere in the world, including here--who don't just do what they're told.
All I know is, I have a friend who lives in a suburb of Cairo, and I really hope she's okay.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A review of the films I've seen this past week.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010)
It didn't entirely work for me. I think there's a balancing act going on here and if the film starred anyone other than Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, the whole thing might even collapse. The premise of the movie (I've not seen the French original, The Dinner Game) is that Paul Rudd will get a promotion if he participates in the executives' game, which is to have a dinner where everyone tries to big the biggest idiot they can find. It's cruel, even monstrous, but the movie's not interested in that so much as it's interested in its main character. Not Rudd, but his fool: Steve Carell as a goofy IRS agent whose consuming hobby is building elaborate (and frankly lovely) dioramas with costumed, preserved mice. Carell is excellent. He gets the key to the role, which is not to ever wink at the audience and let them in on the joke. (Which is something that, to think of it, it seems like audiences reject; does it make people uncomfortable?) Carell's character has to be not only happy with his Dickensian foolishness, but completely oblivious to the fact that people see him as a joke. It's really worth it for Carell's performance. Rudd is good, too, because we never once get the sense that he's inviting Carell to the dinner out of cruelty, but out of an ambition that has been backed into a corner. The farcical dinner scene is funny and whimsical, and Zach Galifianakis is fun as Carell's boss, who is convinced he can control minds. Oh, and Jermaine Clement is hilarious. So is Lucy Punch. And David Walliams. There are a lot of good comic actors here. But the whole subplot with Rudd and his girlfriend is just a distraction that eventually feels like padding. The whole thing doesn't come off, but it's an enjoyable flick. *** stars.
DESPICABLE ME (2010)
I loved this movie. Steve Carell again, this time voicing Gru, a super-villain who adopts three little girls as part of a plan to infiltrate the home of an upstart rival (played by Jason Segel) and set in motion a long-cherished plot to steal the moon and take over the world. Of course, in taking care of a new family, Gru is put in touch with a long-denied humanity. It seems obvious, but the emotions are so genuine and the warmth grows organically from the characters. It's witty and honest and doesn't rely too much on smartass humor or media parody or any of the other crutches most modern computer-animated features can't get away from. It's also worth noting that there are a number of comedians in here (Carell, Segel, Russell Brand) who do interesting voices, instead of just being called on to play themselves. **** stars.
OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH'S WAR ON JOURNALISM (2004)
A chilling look at Rupert Murdoch's quest to strangle journalism and present the world with a skewed, right wing viewpoint. Thankfully, it also looks at the problem of global monopoly, which is what many corporations (such as News Corp.) are engaging in now, simply moving through subsidies in an attempt to hide their reach. Viewpoints are disappearing in the news media, and here we have a detailed blueprint as to how Rupert Murdoch is doing it. **** stars.
THE KING'S SPEECH (2010)
It keeps changing weekly, but this is my pick for Best Picture of 2010. Colin Firth stars as Prince Albert, the Duke of York. His handicap is a stammer that is nearly crippling, but seemingly born out of a self-confidence issue. Though no one has been able to help him, he eventually puts his trust in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unconventional speech therapist who wants to attack the problem at the root. In Lionel's mind, Bertie doesn't have a deformity or a neurological problem, but something much deeper, related to his upbringing. Firth and Rush are excellent; so is Helena Bonham Carter, someone I don't much like, but who is better in this movie than anything I've seen her in in a very, very long time. 10 years or more. One of the great innovations of this movie is to show Edward VIII's abdication not as grand romantic sacrifice, but as the cowardly move of someone in far over his head. Firth portrays Bertie's accession as King George VI as much more noble and selfless, even though he has incredible doubts of his own. It's an exciting movie, exciting in the way great storytelling and great acting always are, when we actually see them. **** stars.
As you know, I was fully prepared to not like this movie. So I was wonderfully surprised at how much I enjoyed myself with this retelling of Rapunzel. As much as the commercials tried desperately to oversell this as a slick, smartass DreamWorks movie, it's comfortably within the Disney tradition. Not only that, but it's beautiful to look at. It's kind of egregious that this isn't nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, simply from an aesthetic viewpoint. It's simply the best-looking computer-animated flick I've ever seen. It mimics the warm, storybook tones of a movie like Beauty and the Beast, but makes them three-dimensional in a way that doesn't detract from the visuals, but rather enhances the limits of computer animation. It's a fantastic achievement, and a fun movie besides (I'd put it third for this year's animated crop behind How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me). Particularly, I have to point out Donna Murphy as the film's villain, Mother Gothel. She's a delight; terribly funny, very passive-aggressive in an almost boisterous way--and very well-designed and well-realized. **** stars.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (2009)
Bella's abusive boyfriend Edward runs off because he can't trust himself not to murder her, so her life falls apart, she becomes a thrill junkie, and picks up a romance with Jacob, a shirt-impaired werewolf running with a shirt-impaired pack. Bella has to decide which she wants more--the fey boy who stalks her and makes all her decisions for her, or the homoerotic wolf pack trying to push her to stay away from the vampires. Either way, no one trusts her to know what she actually wants for herself. A little more enjoyable than the first movie, but that's only because (for a time) Jacob's simply less of a twat than Edward is, and with Robert Pattinson missing from 95% of the movie, that can only be an improvement. But the fact that these movies are presented so seriously, as something we're really supposed to believe in, will sink these every time. Decent soundtrack. **1/2 stars.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (2010)
The nightmare continues. The film takes forever to introduce any new conflicts, instead wallowing in the love triangle that was supposedly resolved at the end of the first movie, drawing out the epic whining between Shirtless Caveman-Face, Emo Vamp-Twat, and the block of wood that a distractingly-bewigged Kristen Stewart plays so well in these things. Seriously, since seeing the first Twilight movie a year ago, I've seen Kristen Stewart in three movies that I though she was exceptional in--The Yellow Handkerchief, The Runaways, and Welcome to the Rileys--and it's so sad to go back to these movies and see her struggle to have any heat at all with Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, who in one scene with Bella asleep have more romantic chemistry with each other than with her. (Which is always the case with Eurotrash and the naked Indian houseboy, isn't it?) K. Stew, we get it, you're a big lesbo, and we actually love you more because of it. But ditch the romantic leads, the Adventurelands, anything where you have to convincingly carry off a connection with a man. You're a good actress, but in those roles you aren't convincing. To be fair, though, everyone sucks in this movie, because everyone's trying to sell this as something serious and sweeping, but really coming across like they're in a tenth-rate Lord of the Rings rip-off, and a poorly written one at that. This thing could have gone straight to the Sci-Fi Channel. This is the worst of the Twilight movies (so far), completely convoluted and underwhelming, incomprehensibly directed, and with the characters even more like bobbing parakeets you're just dying to see fly into a ceiling fan than ever before. * star.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
I love the Maxim spread. She just seems to so clearly not want to be there. She's supposed to be sexy--and she looks gorgeous, don't get me wrong--but she also seems to be emanating the attitude "I really don't want to do this, but Veronica Mars is getting killed in the ratings, and since the WB girls do this to improve their ratings..."
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Cherie Currie is currently at work on an album, A Taste of Cherie. This single is a nice little preview of what to expect, I think. I'm excited, because despite her earlier solo albums, this is going to be the first time that I'm going to get to hear the kind of music she wants to make, instead of the kind of music the people controlling her albums want her to make. This sure isn't the Runaways, but it's very Cherie, and it's very lovely.