Archive for the ‘ Rant ’ Category

Cancellation

The amount of TV I watch says a lot about my life (nothing positive, I imagine). But what can I do? I’m a sucker for a narrative that pulls me in and refuses to let go, for characters I can laugh, rage and share pain with. I fall for it every time. In a way (a very pathetic way), I’m a hopeless romantic for television. So it really pains when characters I’ve been following for years get brushed away by heartless network executives. In other words, cancellation.

I won’t be bullheaded and claim that the executives are idiots and that they cancelled the show just to spite me and the tiny audience that watched it. Everything in life is a business decision. Either a show performs or it doesn’t, and not every show can be Two And A Half Men (either be grateful or regretful about that, your choice). The network does share some blame; shows get shifted around, not promoted properly or they get stuck in a timeslot where they’re expected to perish. It’s happened to so many shows I’ve loved that it’s hard to even count them up anymore. The recent cancellation of Terriers – we’ll talk about that later – prompted me to write this article.

I’ll end this article by telling you that According to Jim lasted for 8 seasons, and Arrested Development barely made it past 2. Stew on that for a while.

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So what if Spiderman is black?

Driving into work today, I was catching up on the Nerdist podcast and the episode I was listening to guest starred Donald Glover, he of Community fame (he was also a writer on my other favorite TV comedy, 30 Rock). Of course, Chris Hardwick brought up the internet campaign that had occurred earlier this year, where people on Twitter and the rest of the internet had pushed to have Glover cast as Peter Parker/Spiderman in the upcoming Spiderman reboot, directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). It was kind of a weird, random occurrence where Glover, during the wild casting speculation, joked that he might be a cool Spiderman.

Donald in his Spiderman pyjamas on Community, 3 x 01

A huge amount of people rallied behind him, but eventually it was for naught when the talented Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) was cast as Peter Parker. Of course, people were angry and people were happy at the decision. You had people one side shouting “RACISM” and on the other side, comic book purists (and maybe actual racists, who knows) were shouting “HELL YEAH”. As for my side, it’s hard for me to say. While I generally prefer an adaptation or remake or whatever stay true to the source material, if they ignore the source material and make a good movie out of it, then why the hell does it matter?

Glover was pretty humble on the Nerdist podcast but at the same time brought up some good points that I feel like I have to echo: for one, Spiderman isn’t Shaft or Black Lightning – a superhero who is defined by his race. He’s just a geeky, awkward kid who’s experienced a lot of loss and has to deal with that loss while still trying to do some good in the world. Glover also wanted to stress that the fact that he didn’t get chosen or even get an audition wasn’t racism on the part of the director or the studio. On the podcast, he quipped that if Sony Pictures could make money off a movie about Hitler starring Will Smith, they’d probably greenlight it in a heartbeat. In the end, everything in Hollywood ends up being a financial decision, so maybe a black Spiderman just wasn’t bankable at this point in time.

How it all started

As it stands, we have another really talented actor cast as Spiderman, and Glover still has his entire career ahead of him. Maybe when they reboot the series in another 10 years (it’s inevitable folks), the world will be ready for a black Spiderman. It’s all about baby steps – hell, people are still bitching about James Bond being a blonde.

"Yeah, we're cool... for now."

Why The Expendables sucked, and yes, I am a man

The hype leading up to The Expendables was almost at Snakes on a Plane-levels. A throwback to classic 80s action movies starring all your favorite 80s action stars? What’s that, Jean Claude Van Damme didn’t want to be in it? Oh, Kurt Russel, Steven Seagal and Wesley Snipes turned them down? Oh okay – so this movie had TWO of your favorite 80s action stars – Sylvester Stallone (writing and directing, and trust me, this ain’t no fucking Rocky) and Dolph Lundgren, who in real life is actually a very smart man, but in this movie sounds like a fucking retarded infant. Oh, and Bruce Willis and Arnold the Governator show up in brief, throwaway cameo roles.

I still don’t get why Stallone was so into making this movie, aside from the monetary angle. In interviews he talks about it being a final goodbye to the action star and those crazy, violent action movies of the 1980s, but didn’t he already do this in the absolutely ridiculous and yet totally awesome final Rambo film? A lot of themes in Rambo show up in The Expendables – the aging hero finding his place in the world, the war-torn country that needs the help of mercenaries, the cost of war on a person’s psyche- but I wouldn’t put Stallone above pilfering from his own movies.

Now, a lot of you might say “Yeah, but it’s just an action movie, like those one’s from the 80s. If you want plot, go watch some arthouse movie, you idiot” (an actual quote from someone I know after I expressed disdain for The Expendables). I’ll spend a good portion of this review/rant explaining how the action itself was terrible, but in the interest of being thorough, I’ll rip this entire movie apart. Let’s start with the characters.

Now, every single character in The Expendables is bland, flat and stupid. If you didn’t learn everything you needed to know about a character within 2 minutes of being introduced to them, then I think you might have some mental deficiency and you should probably go to the doctor. Ensemble movies generally mean that character building and depth take a backseat to whatever’s going on with the plot, but hell, they seem to spend so little time with minor characters like Terry Crews and Randy Cotoure that it makes me wonder why they didn’t at least develop Stallone or Statham’s characters. Jason Statham, especially, is so fucking boring in this movie that I cringed everytime some of Stallone’s stilted dialogue came out of his mouth.
I like Jason Statham. I think he did great in movies like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and his recent movie The Bank Job was pretty damn good, mostly because his characters in these movies don’t do much action. Statham is excellent as the dry wit, the straight man in the conversation, setting people straight and acting like a general scallywag. But then came The Transporter, and suddenly this bald Englishman was a bonafide action star, and every movie he’s had a leading role in since then (except for The Bank Job) has been either mediocre or utter shit.
Jet Li felt criminally underused in this movie. While Li has never had Jackie Chan’s charisma or on-screen presence, he does have a certain quiet charm and I’ve been a fan of his since Romeo Must Die. In The Expendables, all Li seems to do is bitch about how he needs money for his family (turns out he doesn’t actually have a family, so really, he’s just being a greedy bastard) and be the target of jokes regarding his height. Real snappy dialogue here, folks. What use is a martial artist in a movie about guys with big guns? In a couple of scenes here and there, Li gets to kick some ass, but it’s not enough.
And what about Stallone? Well, Stallone is Stallone, playing Stallone as he has in every other movie in the last 20 years. While I really enjoyed the recent Rambo film, it was a standard Stallone performance, wooden, sullen and shallow. This movie is much of the same. Stallone is starting to sound old, and most of his dialogue comes out as mumbles. This is the leader of the Expendables?

As for plot, well, it’s paper thin. Again, people say “it’s an action movie, what did you expect”, but come on, if this is supposed to be a throwback to those awesome action movies of the 1980s, then why not hold it to a better standard? First Blood, Predator, Die Hard – all of these movies came out in the 80s, and they still hold up today. First Blood actually had a far deeper plot than a lot of people give it credit for.
So we’re supposed to care about this crew of mercenaries who ride around on motorcycles. They all go to this island that’s under the thumb of a mean ol’ dictator (David Zayas, whom you might recognize as Angel from Dexter – fucking hell, he is a bad actor, especially in this movie) who is actually a puppet of an ex-CIA agent (hilariously evil Eric Roberts) who’s exploiting the country for natural resources, accompanied by his mostly silent henchman (Stone Cold Steve Austin, going for broke with his acting skills here). Sound familiar? That’s because two other movies came out this year with very similar plots – The Losers (you can find my lengthy rant about that shitfest here) and The A-Team. All three of them deal with a team of mercenaries attempting to take out a rogue CIA agent who’s doing some nasty shit. They get to the island, they meet up with the rebel leader who is actually the daughter of the mean ol’ dictator, Stallone and her have kind of a love thing going on (or mutual respect for each other, who knows) and we get to watch a scene with waterboarding (mmm, that’s topical!). In the end, shit blows the fuck up and we get to see a lot of pointless gunfights and explosions. Seems like a good enough segue…

The action in this movie fucking sucked. It might sound like a cliche, but genuinely good action scenes have me on the edge of my seat. I can feel anxious for a character, and whether or not they’ll make it out of a scene alive. In The Expendables, I always knew that every single “good” character was going to be okay at the end of the movie because the characters don’t have time to deal with loss, emotions or anything deep, because “dems issues for girls, why don’t you go watch a romantic comedy if you aren’t manly enough for this movie?”. Amazingly, this became a huge selling point for the movie – if you don’t like it or you don’t see it, clearly you are some kind of homosexual, or you’re not a man, at the very least. Only girls wouldn’t like this movie because you need brass balls to watch this movie (ironically, the only woman who was there while watching this movie with me liked it). But the action in this movie was so poorly choreographed, so spazzy and all over the place that I found myself bored, suffering from a headache from the consistent, constant cuts and wondering if Sylvester Stallone has ever heard of a storyboard. I’m estimating here, but I’m certain that during the climactic gun battle, there wasn’t a single shot that lasted more than three seconds. I’m not a fast-cut hater, I loved the frenetic style of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum. But generally, the action scenes were so pointless and aimless that I found myself not caring at the outcome. Well choreographed and planned out action scenes stick in your mind for years. Just a few examples: the lobby fight in The Matrix, the street shootout in Heat, Arnold fighting the Predator in Predator, Rambo taking down cops in First Blood, the nightclub shootout in Collateral, the Marines facing off against the xenomorphs in Aliens, and pretty much the entirety of Die Hard. I saw The Expendables in August and can barely remember any of the lame action (I’m referring to a downloaded version for the purpose of this review, so sue me). It’s a hard point for me to sell, since most people are just happy with explosions, big guns and digital blood (they couldn’t even bother with squibs and blood packs). But I wasn’t at all enthralled. I was just really fucking bored.

In the end, I get shouted down a lot for my opinion on this movie. All the people that went with me to see it liked it, and the box office returns tell me that most of North America liked it too. It was a real shame that this managed to beat out Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a movie that is infinitely better than The Expendables. It also kind of surprised me that this summer, we had two movies – Inception and Scott Pilgrim – that had much better action than a movie that was marketed as the definitive action movie of the year.

The rise and fall of Heroes: What went wrong

On May 14th, NBC announced that one of their primetime dramas, Heroes, would no longer be airing on the network. To explain it in one word – axed. No one was really surprised that this had happened, as the show had been slowly dying since finale on the first season faded to black. If you had said back in 2007 that the series would be cancelled, people would have thought you were crazy.

So powerful, so multicultural

It started off well enough – a serial drama about ordinary people who one day find they’ve been bestowed with superpowers. There’s the single mom who has super-strength, her son who can communicate with electronics, a telepathic cop, a male nurse who absorbs other people’s powers, his brother, a Congressional candidate who can fly, a Japanese worker drone who can freeze, rewind and jump through time, and a cheerleader, the crux of the story, with regenerative powers. Kind of watching over them like Professor X is a powerless Indian geneticist.

The story was simple enough – “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” This was drilled into our skulls as the first season progressed, so much so that the phrase became a part of pop culture. The first season was brilliant storytelling – it teased details, and every 5 or 6 episodes, we’d have an explosion of information, an excellent episode that would give us some answers and have us begging for more. The characters were so identifiable to the point of them being simple archetypes, but they’d find ways to surprise us.
The timing for Heroes was also fortuitous – it was essentially NBC’s answer to Lost, a serial drama with an ensemble cast of characters and lots of mystery to keep people hooked in. However, when Heroes began its run, Lost had started to seriously lag. The first half of the third season is often referred to as the lowest point of the series, and that is where Heroes began picking up viewers that Lost had, well, lost. It was pretty common to hear someone that’s way into television saying something like “I like Heroes better than Lost because at least they answer stuff on Heroes” – this was even the basis of a joke on Robot Chicken.
The season progressed and got better and better. Characters grew, and we were introduced to the massive conspiracy that was the driving force behind the whole thing, and ambiguous characters like Noah Bennet who may or may not have been a good guy. They did a fantastic episode called “Company Man”, almost entirely in black and white, that I thought was one of the best television episodes I had ever seen. I thought the main villain, Sylar, was excellent and Zachary Quinto did a great job playing him. I was even a fan of what everyone thought was a dumb finale to the first season – I understood that the show had run out of money and so couldn’t do the big finale like they wanted so they went for something a bit more understated.

So what went wrong?

There were a few factors that contributed to the early death of the series. The first I could call “character decay”, and this would probably the best example of it. In the first season, almost all the characters were identifiable and relatable, but none so much as Hiro, the Japanese man who could control time and space. His utter frustration with his boring worker drone life and his childlike fascination with his newfound powers made him such an empathetic character. He personified exactly what the audience would think if they got some superpower – this is fucking awesome – with none of the angst that was associated with the other characters. Maybe this is why the writers gave him the most powerful ability of all – the ability to control space and time – that would essentially break the show. And this is where the decay comes in. The writers kept coming up with excuses to take away his power, or have him not use his power, or just have him forget to use his power at all. Why they did this is understandable, after all – they thought it’d be cool to have a little Japanese fellow squint really hard and be able to control time, but then the audience started asking why they just didn’t use Hiro as a 5 foot 5 inch undo button, so the writers needed some exits. Over the seasons, he went from a kind nerd to a petulant manchild who was barely on the functioning side of retarded. For a few episodes, he was reverted to his 10 year old self, and somehow him with the mind of a child was more tolerable than the idiot that he replaced.

In time you will grow to hate both of them

Sylar is another good example of this – he started off a ruthless killer with mother issues and delusions of grandeur, but ended up switching the side between good and evil so often that I stopped caring about who he was and what his motivations were. He goes from someone who brutally (but efficiently) kills people with abilities so that he can steal them to someone who simply slaughters scores of innocent people because they happened to be there, despite him saying once that he doesn’t kill regular humans because it serves no purpose. Sylar himself started out as kinda relatable as well – we learn in a flashback episode in the first season that he merely wanted to be special, and he took his first power away from someone who didn’t want it in the first place. Sometimes he seems completely disgusted with what he does, and then other times he’s fine with it.

You'll hate them too

Honestly, I could write a whole other article just on how each character in the series progressively got worse, but I’ll move on.

While we’re on the topic of Sylar, I think this is another factor to the downfall of the series – poor/weak villains, and an inability to move on from Sylar. The first season had Sylar as the main villain, and “The Company”, a nefarious, shadowy organization as the secondary villain. The Company wanted to blow up New York in order to bring about world peace (think of it as a dumbed down version of Watchmen), and Sylar was simply going around executing people with abilities one by one. His main target becomes Claire, because he needs her regenerating power so he can never die. Sylar eventually takes the power of a man with nuclear abilities, and it seems like he’s going to be the one who blows up New York. Well that doesn’t happen, because all the heroes band together and they have a kind of underwhelming fight that ends with Peter, the guy who absorbs powers, blowing up somewhere above New York. Fine. I’m ok with that.
Then came the second season, and we were introduced to a whole host of villains. A white samurai who is actually immortal and kind of insane and wants to eradicate the world? Sure, why not. The telepathic cop’s dad who has the exact same ability but can also project images and control people’s minds? OK. Kristen Bell as a crazy woman who has electric powers and acts like a child? What?
Volume (season) 3, dubbed “Villains” was actually worse. One by one, we’re introduced to these ineffectual bad guys who are supposed to be scary but get offed in a manner that would offend a monster-of-the-week in The X-Files. Put them in contrived situations with the regular cast – the villains have a hostage situation in a bank, and Peter is one of the robbers – and you can see the direction that the show is going. Eventually, we’re introduced to the main bad guy, who is the father of Peter and Nathan, and the writers expected everyone to go “Hmm… yes that makes sense.” Instead, most of the audience WTF’d and just went back to watching Lost, which by the end of it’s disastrous third season had picked up steam again and was back on top for serial dramas. I think my main reason for hating the villains is just because they could not kill Sylar off. The guy came back from the dead like 4 times! I get it, your entire show hinges on that character and Zachary Quinto is a good character, but face it, Sylar should have died at the end of season 1, full stop. Without an imposing villain at top, every new villain would have felt fresh and would have had a legitimate chance at being an interesting character. But because Sylar can’t leave, every new villain was just essentially cannon fodder for the heroes or for Sylar himself. Why would anyone even bother doing anything in this universe? YOU CAN’T KILL SYLAR!

I think I’m going to wrap this up soon, but I’m going to mention one more point that I think completely and utterly ruined Heroes. Quite simply, it’s time travel. Generally, I have no problem with time travel stories, and they can be done quite well on television (see: Lost, Quantum Leap) but Heroes was pretty fuckin’ awful at it. Because the time travel was handled so poorly, there would often be story threads that would just be left hanging, characters that would disappear completely, and alternate characters and timelines that would just keep confusing people. It seems like every character had a more badass version of themselves in the future, even the completely useless Claire – they all wear leather, they all have scars and they’re all amazing with their powers. They also seem to have completely different motivations than their present selves. Future Peter shoots his own brother, future Claire tries to kill Peter in the past – it seriously makes no fucking sense. This is all the more confusing when we see Sylar in the future, since he’s turned into some housefrau and is taking care of his son (what?). Essentially presented with a hundred different timelines to contend with and so many motivations and characters to keep track of, most of the audience said “screw this” and tuned out.

We get it, you're supposed to be badass

And so did I. I stopped watching the show when the 3rd season ended. I’ve considered watching the fourth season a few times but haven’t really bothered. Lost and Fringe have both fulfilled my serial drama quota. I’m relieved the show is over so I can stop hearing from people about how much it sucks, but at the same time I’m kind of disappointed and even sad. The show had so much potential in it’s first season that it being axed almost sucks. Almost.

Thanks to the magnificent TV Tropes and all their resources for their help in writing this article.

The Losers – this was possibly one of the worst movies in recent memory

The same night that I went to an impromptu viewing of Iron Man 2 I ended up watching an A-Team clone called The Losers. I learned later that the movie was actually based off a series of comic books, which itself was based off an older comic series. Despite this I can’t help but think of how three movies out this summer – The Losers, The A-Team and The Expendables – are basically identical in premise.

Anyway, if it seems like I’m just content with letting you know how shitty I thought The Losers really was and then ending this article, you’re dead wrong. I am up for writing exactly what I thought was wrong with this shitty movie from start to bottom – I’ll just divide it into acting and plot – and hopefully I’ll cover all the crappy elements in both sections.

Acting
Yeah, commenting on acting in a comic book movie seems like a low blow or a waste of time, but this is the same genre that brought us Heath Ledger’s terrifying Joker and Robert Downey Jr’s smarmy and charming Tony Stark/Iron Man. The Losers is definitely not lacking in acting talent either – Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a great actor probably best known for playing the disgusting Comedian in Watchmen, Idris Elba (The Wire fanatics will know him as Stringer Bell, another fantastic actor), Chris Evans (he’s not a great actor, but he’s like a cheaper version of Ryan Reynolds, and was probably the best part of the awful Fantastic Four films), and Zoe Saldana (she’s getting overexposed, but I thought she was good in Star Trek).
In this movie, however, you could have replaced all of these people with cardboard cutouts and gotten pretty much the same reaction. Their performances are so wooden, and even Evans, who can be counted on to bring some comic relief to a film is utterly boring in this movie. Jason Patric, who plays the main villain, is just so awful in his attempt to channel both Gordon Gekko and Goldfinger. He may as well have been a cartoon character. I have never liked Jason Patric in anything before, but he seemed especially offensive here. The least annoying turd in this shit heap is probably Spanish actor Òscar Jaenada, who has maybe ten liness in the whole movie, half of them in another language. It is just a shock to me that fucking STRINGER BELL couldn’t even phone in a competent performance for this movie. All he does is stare and scowl, and try to come off as the voice of reason but just manages to sound whiny, which is just bizarre.


Plot

There really isn’t one. I mean, there’s something to do with a bomb that can dissolve islands… or something. Max (Jason Patric) sets up the Losers for the murder of 25 kids that Max ordered. Oh yeah, there was a scene before the kids getting murdered that had a fireball chasing a school bus in the jungle… so yeah. Anyway, we fast forward a few months later (or years, whatever), and we can tell that the leader of the Losers, Clay (Morgan) is wracked with guilt because he’s betting on cock fights and drinking heavily. They live in some South American country and work and try to forget about their past lives. Clay is approached by Aisha (Saldana) with a business proposition – they proceed to have a fight that’s supposed to double as symbolism for sex, but just comes off as awkward, and kinda creepy – Morgan looks like he’s in his fifties, but Saldana looks barely 18. I can’t tell what the point of this scene really was. To show that Clay is still in pretty good shape? To show that the badass chick is in actuality a badass? Maybe they just found room in the budget to set a hotel on fire.
Anyway, several Matrix kicks later, Aisha tells Morgan (and subsequently the rest of the Losers) that she knows a way to get to Max. Oh yeah, before this scene, the rest of the Losers make sure to warn Clay that he always has trouble with women in his life. What was the point of this scene, I wonder? Do you think that maybe Clay and Aisha are going to become romantically entangled? I know, it was confusing to me too, since up until the point where they have a cold and awkward sex scene, they had literally no chemistry whatsoever. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

They start carrying out missions against Max, who is trying to steal CIA money (even though he works for the CIA, or some shit, I dunno) so that he can pay these smart people to make a crazy bomb for him so that he can use it against the United States so that he can reboot the War on Terror (the franchise was stagnant, I guess) and protect American interests. Or something like that. It seems doubtful that you’ll get it any better than I did. Each mission brings them closer to Max, but then they discover that Aisha has a dark secret which sends her running. Some dude that Clay kills at the start of the movie was actually Aisha’s slave driver, drug dealer dad. Awkward! But yeah, Aisha is totally in revenge mode, trying to take down the asshole who killed her dad, who was not evil enough to go along with Max’s bomb scheme, but just evil enough to use little kids as drug mules. I think she needs to get her priorities in order. Oh yeah, Roque (Idris Elba) is getting really pissed off because he wants out but he is not down with the way Clay is leading the group. He constantly undermines his leadership and attempts to get the guys to turn against their leader. Make sure you guys take notice of these details, North American audience, because apparently you really are as stupid as the writers of this movie think you are.
ANYWAY, boring action scene after boring action scene (these dudes are supposed to be the baddest of the bad, but they seem to respect the preciousness of life by using tranquilizer darts against random mooks) and they finally confront Max. UH OH, it turns out that Roque was a traitor all along, and he led the Losers into a trap. I TOTALLY DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! I get that they’re trying to stay loyal to the source material, where Roque’s whole persona, according to Wikipedia is “his ruthless thirst for money (which) motivates a majority of his actions, including the serial betrayal of the Losers and many of his underlings.” The words “serial betrayal” make me think that this guy betrays the Losers in every issue but somehow they keep letting him back in. Basically, he’s like a human Starscream.
They all fight it out, and after some really crappy CGI, the Losers emerge victorious. However, Max survives, obviously the director/writers trying to make this into a franchise – thank God that poor box office returns will probably kill that idea from coming to fruition.

Example of the crappy CGI I was talking about

In the end, The Losers really doesn’t know what it is. Is it a comic book film? If so, it ranks amongst The Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider. Is it a satire of action films? If so, it very well might be a successful one. I’ve never been so bored with action in my life. Maybe this is the kind of fim that would have benefitted from a better director, better writer and an R rating. But that film was already called Kick-Ass, and though it got positive reviews, it had the same disappointing box office return.

Since it’s nearly 3AM, and I’m dead tired, I feel like I’ve said all I needed to say about this movie. I think how much I dislike it is very much apparent, and while I wouldn’t say it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the worst in recent memory. It doesn’t even fall into the “so bad it’s good” category. I suppose the only good thing I can say about it is that it got me so riled up. Films that I love with my soul wouldn’t get the same word count that I devoted to this tripe.