Spider-Man is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He's probably the most relatable super-hero ever created. Almost everyone knows what it's like to struggle and that is what Spider-Man is all about. He's dealt with everything from bullies and romantic trouble to major financial problems and the tragic deaths of loved ones. Despite being brave, true and honest, entirely selfless, funny and brilliant, he faces constant self doubt and guilt and he still manages to be inspiring. An understandable amount of angst aside, he is always optimistic and hopeful, never thinks twice about doing the right thing and never gives up in the face of the most dire adversity. These are just some of the qualities that make me, and millions of other people, love and root for this character. Nothing about any of those things is dictated by his race or sexuality. Hell, nothing about that even demands that he be male. Spider-Man could just as easily be female or transgendered and still represent the very same thing. When you boil it down to it's core this is just the story of a suburban American kid put into an extraordinary situation and there is no definition of what that looks like.
This week Marvel announced that there is a NEW Spider-Man coming, his name is Miles Morales. His father is African-American and his mother is "Hispanic." This, as would be expected, has been met with every kind of reaction imaginable from acclaim to demonization. Personally, I feel like people arguing on both sides are wrong and that this is nothing more than a shallow headline grab on Marvel's behalf.
In October of 2000 Marvel launched its Ultimate Comics imprint. The initial idea behind this was to offer a fresh start to new fans, most especially children, who might be intimidated by the forty years of continuity in the Marvel Universe proper (or as guys like me and other assorted assholes call it, the 616 universe). They started this in the logical place, with their most famous and accessible character, Spider-Man. When it started it did more or less just what was promised of it, retold the original stories in a more modern way, accessible to children and new fans, but not at all alienating to long time readers. The dialogue might have been hokey and out of touch, but that was the case with Stan Lee's work in the 60s, and it had all the heart and Spider-Man retained all the qualities I spoke of above that have made him the beloved, iconic character that he is.
This all became sidetracked relatively quickly as the Ultimate Universe became less about welcoming new fans and more about the writers doing weird, masturbatory things with the characters that they would never be allowed to get away with in Marvel's main continuity, taking things in entirely unnecessary "edgy" and "dark" directions. Some of the changes were no big deal, super-spy Nick Fury, a traditionally white character was portrayed as a black man (as we all know, Samuel L. Jackson is playing him in the movies), and the X-Man Colossus was gay (which was handled some what ham-fistedly, though with positive intentions). Other changes were not so superficial, and entirely changed who the characters were at their core. Captain America was shown as a jingoistic prick and the Hulk was a cannibalistic rape-monger. Apparently more "realistic" takes on the characters. Despite all this, and despite some questionable and just flat out bad story lines, Spider-Man remained true to who he was always intended to be.
Then, as the Ultimate Universe started to become more and more asinine, culminating in a story that saw a fat character eat a little character among other absurd things, people stopped reading and sales sunk.
In November of 2010 Marvel announced that ZOMG SPIDER-MAN IS GONNA DIE, NO REALLY. Which resulted in major headlines from the global mainstream media. It did come with an asterisk and some tiny text attached, however. If you didn't already know, I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this. It wasn't the regular Spider-Man they were killing off, it was Ultimate Spider-Man, and even if it were regular Spider-Man there was no way he would be gone for more than a year or two, and even then they'd still manage to release some 'untold tales' or something. As anyone who is familiar with comics can tell you, a major character death, especially one as high profile as this, one that major news outlets are informed of over seven months in advance, serve no purpose other than to garner outside, real world attention. There is just no way he's going to stay dead.
So, seven months goes by and in June of this year Ultimate Spider-Man is finally killed off and I'm sure all thousand people who still read the book were very moved. About a month goes by, A MONTH, and Marvel announces ZOMG, SPIDER-MAN IS GONNA BE BLACK NOW, NO REALLY! This has also made worldwide headlines, and also comes with an asterisk attached. It's not really Spider-Man, don't worry. Regular Spider-Man is safe and sound, he's not going anywhere and he's still white. This is Ultimate Spider-Man, and hey, it's not even Peter Parker, it's some new guy that you won't give a shit about, won't get us those new minority readers we were hoping for and will be gone in a year or two when we bring back Peter Parker through the magic of comics nonsense!
In my opinion, this shows a basic lack of respect toward fans, potential fans and even Marvel's flagship character.
The inspiration for this change apparently goes back to May 2010 when casting rumors for the new Spider-Man film were beginning to heat up. The website io9 claims that after they ran an article saying that maybe Spider-Man could be played by someone who isn't white, a member of their community going by the name "Rootadoo" came up with the pretty inspired suggestion of Donald Glover. Now I doubt that Rootadoo was actually the first person to suggest this, but it doesn't really matter. Shortly after a passionate social networking campaign, spearheaded by Glover himself, started gaining steam. Glover from the get go made it very clear that all he wanted was an audition, a chance to prove that he could legitimately embody the character that he loved and identified with, all the while maintaining a light hearted, but realistic take on his chances. He joked on his website "I'm putting myself in the running for the Spiderman reboot. I'm actually quite interested to see how far this goes. If this happens, I'll buy each and every one of you a mini cooper."
Despite becoming a dark horse fan favorite for the role, including endorsements from both Spider-Man creator Stan Lee and Ultimate Spider-Man creator Brian Michael Bendis, Sony never gave him the audition. The part ended up going to Andrew Garfield, who I believe is just as suited for it as Glover, but that is a different article. Bendis claims the image of Glover as Spidey never left his mind, and upon seeing the actor in a Spider-Man costume on the sit-com Community, he was inspired to make the change in his book, hence the creation of the new Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales.
I believe that Glover would have been great in the role of Peter Parker, which finally brings me to my point.
One of the things that I love so much about Marvel comics is the characters. I don't mean their powers and abilities or anything like that. In my opening paragraph I listed some of the reasons I love Spider-Man, and you may have noticed that not one of them had to do with him being a super-hero. Marvel has always been good about making sure that the man under the mask is what's important. In conversation with hard core fans you're much more likely to hear the names Reed, Scott or Tony than Mr. Fantastic, Cyclops or Iron Man. I may have been drawn to it as a small child by the web swinging and the wall crawling, and twenty five years later I'm just as big a fan as ever, but it's not the powers that have kept me interested, it's the person. What I'm getting at is that when I say I love Spider-Man, I mean that I love Peter Parker. Miles Morales is not Peter Parker.
Bendis is a guy who occasionally finds his way into hack territory but generally tries to find interesting ways to tell super-hero stories with both his original characters and Marvel's existing pantheon. I fully believe that he would have done this with Peter Parker if he could have, and I'm disappointed he took an easy route with this. He clearly anticipated reactions like mine, telling USA today that if fans are upset it won't be because of the color of his skin, but because he's not Peter Parker. I think he's wrong though, because other than myself, I haven't heard anyone else take this point of view. I think Bendis was naively forgetting, or intentionally ignoring, how reactionary, and flat out racist, the average comic fan becomes at the notion of these kinds of changes. I have read scores of people complaining about the change being a product of our increasingly PC culture, many cry babies whining about all the white characters being "taken away from us". People making what they must perceive to be clever observations, such as one commenter at Badassdigest who said "Can't wait to see Channing Tatum as T'Challa in the Black Panther movie. He is, after all, an actor and can play any role put infront of him." That comment is infuriating for so many reasons I don't even want to get into it, but it's sadly typical and unsurprising in this situation.
On the other hand you have people who are celebrating this as some kind of triumph of civil rights, and these are exactly the people Marvel is pandering to (well, them and anyone who wants to run a controversial news story that will garner them hits or ratings).
Marvel is posturing like they are doing something new, edgy, different. Like they are really progressive, forward thinking, but they are going about it in the most spineless way imaginable. Casting Donald Glover would not only have been all those things, it would have also been appropriate and honest to the source material (and yes, I understand this had more to do with Sony than Marvel, but I think it's ridiculous to assume they had no part in approving the leads). If they were being genuinely sincere about this in any way it would happen in a title that mattered, not one that no one cares about and is struggling in sales, and it would be Peter Parker, not some throw away new character. If Miles Morales is as fantastic a character as Marvel and Bendis are saying he is then he would do just fine as an entirely new super-hero. This is nothing but a shallow, cheap, insincere attention grab which can easily be reverted back to status-quo when it doesn't work out.
Headlines all over the internet are proclaiming DONALD GLOVER FINALLY CAST AS SPIDER-MAN (KINDA), and Bendis is confirming that, but it's just not the case. The character Donald Glover loves and wanted to play, the character that we all love, has nothing to do with Marvel's latest desperate attempt at attention.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
This movie has kind of a reputation with people of a certain age group, let's say about twenty five to thirty five year olds. That margin may be too big, but I like to leave things open. This was the kind of movie that as a kid you never saw, but you knew someone who saw it or someone who's older brother saw it or whatever. It's a horrifying movie about this dog who gets rabies, flips out and then goes totally berserk. Just running around killing everybody, supping upon their flesh to satiate the needs created within him by the disease. Its blood lust equaled only by its hatred for the living. A dog you thought you could trust taken by evil, hell bent on destruction and revenge upon every one and every thing it can lock its foaming jaws onto. A dog named Cujo.
The thing is, CUJO is totally not about that at all.
CUJO is about the unstable nature of the modern family. A husband who works too much, a cheating wife and a total wiener of a kid. Meanwhile, there is an inexplicable B story about a Saint Bernard (Cujo) slowly succumbing the effects of rabies after being bitten by a bat that even more inexplicably becomes the A story for the already arduously boring film's inexplicably arduously boring climax (a climax that takes up about a third of the films running time, though what comes before it feels like it's been going (and going nowhere) for about four hours).
Now, please don't get me wrong, I normally love a film about domestic strife, but that has to rely on solid performances. Dee Wallace (Stone) and Daniel Hugh-Kelly, as the wife and husband respectively, do not bring it here. Wallace blandly phones it in as the film's unlikable, unsympathetic 'hero' (I guess maybe protagonist is the better word), and Hugh-Kelly is just kind of there, bringing not a single ounce of charm to what should have been a relatable character.
TOP TWO MOST AWESOME PARTS OF CUJO
2. Dee Wallace, thinking she's finally escaped the treachery of Cujo, gloatingly yells "Fuck you dog!" at him as she drives away.
1. Cujo attacks a big fat guy who responds by yelling "I DON'T GIVE A SHIT!!!" at the dog.
The author of this post is Never have, never will. at 3:18 PM
Monday, February 7, 2011
|Look! This one plays a violin!|
I'm not trying to say anyone is necessarily wrong for being a car guy, and sorry for being redundant here, I just don't get it. I think in the late 90s these street racer type guys who are really into souped up exported cars were probably kind of badasses. Driving around, flippin' Johnny Law the bird, having their illegal rallies and what not. It was kind of a genuine sort of outlaw thing, and I really do see the romance and appeal in that lifestyle. But then 2001 rolls around and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is the film that launched a thousand douche bags (I'd like to make it clear that this movie launched many, many more than a thousand douche bags, I was just using a recognizable phrase to spice this piece up). I bet those guys I was talking about earlier in this paragraph hate this God damn movie.
This movie comes out and you have all these crumby, rich doofuses deciding they are really into cars now, buying these absurdly expensive vehicles and probably spending absurd amounts of money to get all these dumb modification that the genuine street racing guys probably did for themselves on the (relative) cheap once upon a time. These guys completely lacking any sort of discretion when it came to racing and gathering, etc. I bet these guys really ruined the scene, and all because of this stupid movie. How this thing became a taste maker of any kind I'll never understand.
|the FAST friends!|
|The boys of POINT BREAK|
I think the main thing that really bums me out about this movie is that it is touted as Vin Diesel's break out role, but it actually more seems like it's the role that's killed his career. For guy's like us (you and me), Vin's real break out came a year earlier when he played Riddick, the John Carpenter style 'most dangerous criminal ever turned anti-hero' in PITCH BLACK. Even though no one saw PITCH BLACK, it seemed like the sky was going to be the limit for this guy, he could be the next Kurt Russel. He followed that up with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, which while it was of course insanely popular, guys like us (you and me) saw it as a minor misstep. But as it turns out it wasn't really a misstep, it seems more like PITCH BLACK being good was a misstep. Everything since THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, with the exception of the insanely fun Schwarzenegger style XXX and the not all that good, but respectable and interesting foray into something different, FIND ME GUILTY, has been either terrible or entirely ignored unless the word FAST was somewhere in the title.
I feel bad for the guy, I know he has big aspirations, but whenever he actually gets one of his passion projects made they always turn out to be overly ambitious messes (THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, BABYLON A.D.). It seems like the only way he can be successful is by doing dumb, broad shit like THE PACIFIER or sequels that he doesn't seem interested in (FAST AND FURIOUS, the upcoming FAST FIVE and XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE).
It seems like over the last ten or fifteen years we've had a real lack of action stars. This is not a new revelation I've come up with on my own, of course, but I think it's something that bears repeating. This is not to say that there haven't been any good action movies, just no ACTION STARS that stand out like a Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Not in the west anyway. Guys like Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson showed all the promise in the world and then blew it by making movies that just weren't any fun or (especially in Johnson's case) veered toward "family friendly material" (read: vapid, broad garbage i.e. TOOTH FAIRY). Then there were guys like Michael Jai White who never really even got a chance. Jason Statham's heart is in the right place, but for every CRANK there are five CRANK 2s, if you know what I mean. Now these guys are starting to become the elder statesmen, I was shocked to learn that Diesel is pushing forty five (though, I think I was maybe more shocked to realize that I'm pushing thirty, the past ten years have gone by so damn fast), they never even took off themselves and it seems like the next generation of action stars is non-existent and everything is falling back in the hands of guys like Stallone, who is well into his sixties.
I guess my overarching point here is that Gen X action guys blew it, Gen Y action guys are going to blow it and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS isn't very good.
The author of this post is Never have, never will. at 2:05 PM
Friday, February 4, 2011
I remember sitting in a movie theater some time in 1997, getting ready to see SPAWN or something and a trailer for THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS runs before the movie. I'll never forget the audience lighting up with laughter as the narrator said "International action star Chow Yun-Fat". No one had heard of this guy. Even the people I was with made comments about how he had a funny name. They just didn't get it, but I did. I had seen HARD BOILED.
It was 1996, I was twelve years old. RUMBLE IN THE BRONX had just hit America and I had Jackie Chan fever. Someone told me that if I liked Jackie Chan I was going to LOVE John Woo. It was like Jackie Chan times a million they told me. HARD BOILED was going to be playing that weekend and I pretty much had to see this for myself. Now, for those of you who are familiar with both the films of Jackie Chan and John Woo, you're probably thinking a couple things right now. First of all, you're probably thinking that whoever told me that Jackie Chan and John Woo are anything alike is probably a) sort of racist and b) kind of dumb, and I really don't have an argument against those points, but I've always had a hard time faulting the guy. If it weren't for him I probably would have gone through high school without having ever seen HARD BOILED. The other thing you're likely thinking is that I was in for a surprise.
|TOTALLY THE SAME GUY!|
The opening of this movie is a calm, cool scene in which we're introduced to our hero and titular character, Tequila the Hard Boiled cop (Chow Yun-Fat, the coolest guy in the entire world). It's not entirely clear, I'd like to point out, whether or not his name is actually Tequila or if it's a nick name or what? His boss sometimes calls him Yuen, but I don't know whether or not that is his first name or if his name is Tequila Yuen. Right from the get go we see him drinking what I assume is tequila, so maybe he's just named after his favorite drink or maybe it's his favorite drink because that's his name. I just don't know. Anyway, the movie opens with Tequila taking a drink at an establishment aptly named "Jazz Bar" before he sits in with the band and jams with them on the clarinet. So, we know a few things about him, he likes to drink, he likes jazz, he's a musician and because he's played by Chow we know he's completely awesome and entirely cool.
Then we jump right into the first action scene. From a story telling perspective this scene is kind of hard to follow, but as far as action film making goes, watching it couldn't be more intuitive. It takes place in an old tea house, there are bird cages every where. The whole atmosphere is incredibly strong, and I'd say it's mainly because of the bird cages. They are hanging from the ceiling, sitting on the tables and people are walking around with them, there is kind of an ambient chatter of birds. Tequila and his partner are sitting at a table, seemingly enjoying cups of tea and conversation, but they are actually spying on some gangsters across the way. A rival gang member comes and opens fire, Tequila smashes the bird cage on his table and pulls two hand guns from its base and a huge fire fight that would be the climax of any other action film erupts. And it would be a really, really good climax, too. I think something like thirty guys must get shot in this scene. This scene also introduces us to the logic of the action in this film, our hero can be shot several times and it's cool, guns can and will be hidden any where that would be dramatic to pull them out of and absolutely anything in the set can and will be used to the service of the action.
The film's story, which is flimsy at best, is about Tequila teaming up with undercover cop Alan (Tony Leung, HAPPY TOGETHER, HERO, INFERNAL AFFAIRS. IMDB lists this character's name as Tony, but I'm pretty sure I never noticed him being called Tony in the movie. I guess there is a possibility that Alan was his undercover name and his real name is Tony, but if that is the case I'm either pretty dumb or it wasn't made very clear, and I'm leaning toward the later). Together they have to face some tough issues like being a cop and being an undercover cop, living on a boat, making origami cranes, doing the right thing, etc. They also have to go to a hospital and kill about two hundred bad guys and Tequila has to run away from explosions while shooting gangsters and jump out a second story window, all while holding a baby.
In most movies with action sequences of this scope there is a sort of winking at the camera, a kind of shame felt by the auteur. They feel the need to let us know that they know it's ridiculous, sort of a 'hey! we're laughing at it too!' kind of feel. A recent example of this is SHOOT 'EM UP (which pays tribute to HARD BOILED through the use of a baby in almost every action scene), which is entirely based around fantastic, huge, absurd action sequences, all of which it seems to be embarrassed by. That is not John Woo at all. Yes, the action is larger than life, over the top and ridiculous, but it's also surprisingly classy, well filmed, beautifully choreographed and presented with complete seriousness and, most importantly in my opinion, sincerity. It's interesting to hear John Woo talk about approaching choreography like he would a dance, he claims to be a good dancer and based on his action sequences I completely believe him.
I'm very happy I was able to see this at a young age. I think it kind of broadened my horizons in many ways. I feel like a large part of why I'm able to watch action films and expect some sort of heart, craft and sincerity comes from this film, not to mention that I think this was the first subtitled Asian film I'd seen. While the main thing I've retained from HARD BOILED is a love for the language of action, I can't discredit the lessons I learned about male bonding and friendship, so on that note I'd like to leave you with a picture:
|Chow, Tony, John|
The author of this post is Never have, never will. at 2:06 PM
Friday, December 31, 2010
In 2008 Jonas Brothers fever was running high, so it only made sense that they would want to make a straight to television movie to capitalize on it, and in turn it would only make sense that I would want to watch it. Now, I have to be honest and admit that at this point I was about twenty five years old, I was growing up and my interest in the Disney Channel was begining to wane, and I missed this upon its original airing. My interest in the Jonas Brothers, however, was increasing tenfold by the day, so it was without hesitation that I grabbed the DVD promptly a month or two after it was released.
CAMP ROCK is the story of Mitchie (Demi Lovato, before she started doing lines of illegal cocaine drugs at glow-fi concerts and beating up her back up dancers), a young girl who dreams of music superstardom. Long has it been her dream to attend a summer at "Camp Rock", which is pretty much what it sounds like it is; a summer camp where intolerable rich kids go to learn to be rock stars. Mitchie comes from a poor family (I guess?), so she's never been able to afford it, but this year her mother (Maria Canals-Barrera, WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE, one episode of THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW, CAMP ROCK)
is going to be working as the lunch lady at the camp, so she has an in. Or something, I don't know. At this point I would like to add that I haven't seen this movie in a couple years and I may not remember everything exactly right, so please excuse me, CAMP ROCK enthusiasts, if I've gotten anything wrong here. I would also like to add that Mitchie is probably the worst name ever. What the hell is that even short for? Michelle? I guess there is always the possibility that it isn't short for anything, it's just Mitchie. But why the hell would you name your kid Mitchie, and even moreso why the hell would you create a fictional character and name it Mitchie? Her name could have been ANYTHING and they went with that?!
So, anyway, Mitchie feels insecure about being poor because this one girl is a real bitch (Meaghan Jette Martin, uh, CAMP ROCK), so she lies to everyone and says that her mother is the president of Hot Tunes China, which I think is supposed to be MTV, only in China, but I'm not positive. Maybe it's supposed to be like Much Music. It sounds more like that. Joe Jonas (JONAS BROTHERS: 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE, JONAS, member of the Jonas Brothers), disapointinly not playing himself, is Shane Gray, lead singer of the rock band "Connect 3". Because of his shitty attitude he's been forced by his band mates (Nick and Kevin Jonas, JONAS BROTHERS: 3D CONCERT EXPERIENCE, JONAS, members of the Jonas Brothers) to work as a dance instructor at Camp Rock in the hopes that it will make him a better team player.
So, I started writing this post on December 23rd and it is now December 31st. More than a week has passed and I remember this movie even less than I did when I began writing this, so I'm not going to continue with the plot synopsis, but the point is this movie kind of sucks. Surprise! Also, that weird little girl from the Missy Elliot videos is in, but now she's a weird teenager.
This is no ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. That at least has something semi-relatable going on, I mean, it's like yeah, I fucking hate high school and the principal is always bringing me down and I love the Ramones! It's got that very base Us vs. Them, Teens vs. 'dults thing going on, which is a perennial aspect of the Teen movie. CAMP ROCK has none of that at all. All the adults are unrealistically supportive and friendly. I mean, just take Mitchie's mom for example. Mitchie wants to go to this dumbass camp to become a rock star (and really, who has ever become a rock star because of a camp? It's a truly asinine, not to mention expensive, pipe dream). Her mom can't afford to send her there, so she busts her ass to find a way and what does Mitchie do to thank her? She lies about her because she's not cool enough for the other kids at this lame ass camp.
I understand that it's not 1955, or even 1979, anymore, but shouldn't there be at least a little bit of edge to rock 'n' roll? I know, I know, I shouldn't expect too much out of a milquetoast, made for Disney Channel movie, but where is the adult trying to convince out heroine that rock 'n' roll is dangerous, or at the very least a waste of time? I get the burnt out old Kieth Richards caricature who runs the camp being supportive, but he's the guy who's already spent his life rocking so hard and now he's raking in the cash with this rip-off ass camp, but why are Mitchie's parents so cool with this? Camp Rock is a waste of time, pure and simple, no parent, especially one who really has to struggle to get by, should want to waste their money on this. Let's face it, becoming a rock star is nigh impossible, and while it's not really what we as the rebellious teen wants to hear, our parents should discourage us, and I want to see that relationship reflected dramatically in my teenage rock 'n' roll films. The principal shouldn't want the Ramones running around in the hall way.
Which brings me to the next point. For a movie called CAMP ROCK there isn't an awful lot of rocking going on. I'm sure you expect me to start railing on against the Jonas Brothers here, but I'm not going to. While in the subsequent years haven't seen them going down the path I hoped they would, they really aren't all that bad and CAMP ROCK arguably captures them at their prime, they just aren't really given a whole hell of a lot to do here. Sure, there is plenty of pop vamping, some very safe, very vanilla rapping from some auxiliary characters, a couple mid-tempo Demi Lovato ballads, and a show-tuney group number at the end, but aside from one straight forward Jonas Brothers song there really isn't any rock going on at all. In fact this is a really terrible show case for the Jonas Brothers.
In conclusion, ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL is better than CAMP ROCK.
The author of this post is Never have, never will. at 7:18 PM