My God, it’s Full of STARS…

What if every club in the cinematic multiverse intersected at one, single point?

BEHOLD. The greatest action/sci-fi/crime thriller/horror film mashup in the history of EVER!

Seriously, I could not stop laughing and clapping and grooving. Every time a new face popped up I was like ‘NO WAY BUT YES!’

Made by this genius: ANTONIO MARIA DA SILVA AMDSFILMS

[EVEN MORE EXCITED NOISES]

In a rare loss of my ability to even, I lose my ability to even.

I only just saw it now.

I think it’s great. My skin erupted with goosebumps, and I felt 5 years old again.

….YES. We all felt that way before the prequels and then—well, I don’t hate the prequels, but I was definitely disappointed. And I shan’t discuss that here.

But I am very, VERY excited about this teaser and I think all the stars are aligning again.

I feel like this is going to be big, y’all. Like, filmmaking history big.

Attempted Rational vs. Irrational Entry: Thor

In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.

There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.

Yup, loved it.

And I already know what you’re going to say, and I promise that YES, this will actually be a film review and not a sweaty, giggly, ‘omghe’ssocuteMUSCLESANDPRETTYHAIR!!!’ entry. I shall be completely objective in my review.

“Oh no! Your shirt is ruined! TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES RIGHT NOW.”

 

As a film, I found Thor to be as enjoyable as Iron Man, the film to which it is inevitably being compared, as both characters will be in The Avengers movie coming out next year.

 
I left the theater having a few questions (or hopes) for the upcoming Avengers film.
 
1. Will Thor be as big a hit as Iron Man? I think there’s a distinct possibility of this. Granted, Thor’s opening day moneywise wasn’t as big as Iron Man, but the overseas gross is already huge, and Chris Hemsworth himself is made of magic and sinew comes with a LOT less baggage than Robert Downey Jr. Even though RDJ is hot a megastar himself right now, a lot of people didn’t care for the politicized, stylized, look of Iron Man as a film overall, and RDJ’s personal history, weirdly enough, turns a lot of people off. I loved Thor, it was well done and seemed to be a big hit. I don’t know if word of mouth will carry Thor as much as Iron Man did, but I found the movies to be equally good in terms of execution and writing; and I personally liked Thor’s cartoonish muscles and pretty hair character more and would do things to him. I do think Iron Man was more accessible as a character, though because he came off as kind of a whore which is also hot. Also, Iron Man was informed a great deal by the political situation in the middle east, which of course is going to tug American heartstrings a little more.
 
1a. If that is the case and Thor is considered as big as Iron Man, will their plot be central to the Avengers movie? I know NOTHING about The Avengers. Marvel was never really my world, because I didn’t read too many comic books as a kid. Anyhoodle, I would dearly like to see a movie where Iron Man and Thor must join forces, possibly after a long bout of making out  an ego clash. Think about it, Thor shows up and literally steals Stark’s thunder; for someone intelligent, who has spent years perfecting a design that just about gets him to the level that Thor is at naturally, that would be galling. At the least, I’d like to see a slow motion naked wrestling match a bit of tension between them. It wouldn’t be out of character for them to clash, given their respective backgrounds–after all, even though Thor matured by the end of his story, what you basically have are two Golden Boys in the same room.
 
I’ve seen little criticism of Thor that seemed genuine, and not sour grapes, being spouted from people who didn’t already have an agenda, or just flat out didnt’ understand the movie. I found the character development compelling; after all, Thor’s a golden boy, he’s never failed or be denied anything. The tantrum he throws when denied the kingship is evidence of this. He also isn’t the brains of Asgard, and is easily manipulated by Loki.
I want to say that Loki came off as much more interesting as a character, but only because I would consider him an appetizer and cover him in cream I recognize the Shakespearean tropes at work. He’s a runty guy with a thin face, a bookish type growing up in a culture that values might. At the very least, his fashion sense is at odds with the rest of Asgard; he favors darker colors to the Asgardians reds and golds. The obvious setup pays off, though, through Hiddleston’s performance. He does not realize his own penchant for duplicity at first, probably only considering himself an opportunist at worst, but once he does, glories in it. And his scheming is born from the worst source of evil: plain old good intentions.
 
Did I know the good guy was going to win? Certainly. But nobody goes into a James Bond film wondering if this is the one where he finally catches a headshot; we go to see the thrills, stunts, pretty people and places. We don’t care where we’re going, we’re along for the ride, and for a film with as many classic tropes as Thor had going on, it’s a joy to see it succeed. Kenneth Branagh uses a light touch when needed, but also knows exactly when to break out the firehose.
 
Chris Hemsworth is definitely the right guy for the job; his combination of physicality and easygoing charm carry him through a few scenes that would otherwise have been weak, and his performance as blustery, overconfident Thor feels natural and not forced. He’s a guy who’s been on top see? I can restrain myself for most of his life, so of course he would think he was the cat’s pajamas in every situation. And when it comes to fighting, he really is.
 
On PZ Myers’s blog, he criticized the film for not spending enough time developing Thor’s character between the ‘I’m a golden boy!’ and ‘I’m humbled!’ points on his character arc. I didn’t see that at all. What I saw was someone who, once they had failed, was almost relieved to be free of responsibility. And it’s not like he didn’t have some bad moments; one minute he’s flying around using Mjolnir as everything from a helicopter to a club and smashing things to bits, and the next he’s tied to a hospital bed with that most nefarious of evil weapons, plastic zip-ties, and getting hit by Natalie Portman’s jeep. Who wouldn’t be freaked and humbled by that? Thor’s not a brains guy, as I said; the whole source of his overconfidence is his CARTOONISH HOT BODY AND PRETTY SMILE strength. Couple that with Mjolnir not recognizing him, and it’s no wonder he can suddenly empathize.
 
I found that kind of inspiring, the idea that empathy and gentleness are not things that must be learned, but that they are inherent to humanity (or whatever the space vikings are) and sometimes waiting to be expressed in the right moment. Sure, he needs some practice, which he gets in the form of guidance from Stellan Skarsgard. (BTW, **KIND OF SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY** there’s a scene where Skarsgard, playing Erik Solveig, claims he and Thor got drunk and got into a fight; reading between the lines, I’m sure he THOUGHT he was in a fight, and that Thor was kind enough to let him get in a few hits before letting the boilermakers they were drinking end the matter). **END OF NOT REALLY SPOILER** I could also be filling in some blanks myself, and there really was some lazy storytelling, but to be fair, if you’re comparing Thor and Stark’s character ars, well one of those two starts out a MUCH bigger asshole than the other. Just saying.
 
I also have to say I really liked the fight scenes. When Thor is in Godmode, he’s literally awesome. But when he’s a man, his fighting is useless against a new kind of foe: hospital orderlies and thorazine. I hate in movies when someone goes through psyche ward orderlies like they’re made out of cotton candy– those are the people who do this shit for a living, and don’t mess around. Sure, he fights his way to Mjolnir later, but he’s figured himself out; the old methods he used are just as efficient against humans as they are against frost giants.
 
In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.
 
There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.
 
 
 
 

Science Fashion Post: The 5th Element

The late nineties saw a small explosion in movies with an overabundance of CG, pretty much because a lot of scripts were being greenlighted purely on their reliance on effects (Wild Wild West, I am definitely looking at you). Although the 5th Element does its share of leaning on effects and spectacle, Luc Besson had the sense to keep them mostly in the background and focus on practical effects and foreground activity. Filling out the cast with recognizable faces from the fashion world du jour helps as well, and their outfits and makeup would have inspired me to new heights with Barbie modifications had I seen the movie as a child.

Has Gary Oldman had hair this weird since? Probably not.
Coming at you, in FANTASTIVISION!

There will never be another summer like the one in which the 5th Element came out.

It was 1997. I had just graduated from high school, and was working at Cross County 8 in West Palm Beach. Cross County has since been torn down, but when it was still standing (briefly, it was the only thing in that mall still standing, as the rest of the mall had been torn down) it was known to be one of the most ghetto theaters in which to see a movie. Most of my friends wouldn’t come see me, even if I promised to get them in for free, mostly because the police were at that theater every weekend and some weeknights, too. My manager was doing (I suspect, no proof of course) mountains of coke as well as a concessionist, and I know the latter to be true because she shwoed me the fancy nighty he bought her. Maybe in another universe platonic friends give each other gifts intended to be worn over their naughty bits, but not in the universe in which Cross County 8 existed.

Used condoms on the floor, rats in the concession, most of the staff stoned, and a homeless Vietnam vet who would pay his 2.75 admission and watch movies all day. The cokefiend manager would give him a drink and a bag of popcorn and let him be, and at the end of every day he would hobble out on his crutches. One leg ended below the knee in a gnarled stump, and his pants sometimes slid down until you could see his junk, but otherwise he was a perfect gentleman.

The rest of the mall was mostly derelict; there was a gift shop of some kind, and an abandoned marionette theater, but otherwise all the storefronts were vacant. The whole thing looked like a level in Silent Hill, and it would not have shocked me to have run across an anthropomorphic vagina wandering around, stalking the hallways on chicken legs that end in giant steel claws.

I've beaten Silent Hill 3. I don't know how, but I did it.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can promise that our evening ticket prices are not within my control. Yes, 5.75 for evening IS outrageous." God, that was a long time ago.

It was such a shitty theater that we didn’t even get big new movies; we got a lot of second runs, some film festival stuff, and a lot of detritus, but otherwise the big expensive action pictures went to the theater down the road, that had a decent sound system. Which is where I took some friends to see The 5th Element on opening weekend.

If you haven’t seen the movie, imagine something along the lines of a bigass fashion show/music video in space, with monsters and laser beams and beautiful people running around doing things. There’s not a lot of coherence to it, storywise, which isn’t much of a drawback. I know almost NO ONE who watches the movie for the climactic scene at the end, when Leeloo must summon the will to care about the human race in order to save the universe; we watch it for the costumes, the effects, the music (especially the music) and for a batshit loony performance from Gary Oldman, and a brilliant comedic turn by Ian Holm.

The Hair
This is where I make the official and obligatory mention of his hair. Yes. Yes, it is ridiculous.

Seriously. You just don’t think of him being that funny, but Iam Holm is wonderful as the priest Vito Cornelius, who recognizes Leeloo as the savior of humankind and fumbles his way into helping her.

Another underappreciated performance is Bruce Willis as the standard action foil; his working-class hero amusement at the ridiculous situations in which he finds himself carry the movie for me now, but at the time I remember thinking he just seemed like a smartass. Now I realize he was just having as much fun as a straight man in an orange rubber vest can while pretending to fly a bulbous space taxicab. The story is so overwritten there’s even a sub-subplot in which his mother calls and complains to him about what an ungrateful child he is. No idea why that was necessary, but it was fun.

I did find myself wondering though, in terms of cinematic spectrum, does Bruce Willis consider The 5th Element to be his Zardoz?

Drink it in ladies. And if you spill it, well, the hair will soak it up! That's what it's there for!
You're welcome. And now, like The Ring, in order to unsee it you must inflict it on others.

I certainly hope not.

Like many other excellent sci-fi films with an abundance of effects and a cast of actors eager to make their last payment on houses and cars, The Fifth Element does not begin with a giant stone head flying through the air spouting gibberish and vomiting assault rifles. Or brutal rapes.

I guess I’m just picky and weird about that.

The non-formulaic but familiar story has enough twists to keep things interesting, and honestly the plot is such a goofy mess in places it doesn’t really matter.

The late nineties saw a small explosion in movies with an overabundance of CG, pretty much because a lot of scripts were being greenlighted purely on their reliance on effects (Wild Wild West, I am definitely looking at you). Although the 5th Element does its share of leaning on effects and spectacle, Luc Besson had the sense to keep them mostly in the background and focus on practical effects and foreground activity. Filling out the cast with recognizable faces from the fashion world du jour helps as well, and their outfits and makeup would have inspired me to new heights with Barbie modifications had I seen the movie as a child.

But the shining moment of the movie, which will always be what I associate with it and the scene that I watch over and over again, is the Diva Plavalaguna’s performance.

Check it, y’all.

Makes me want to get up and DANCE.

When I am by myself and listening to it, I do my best to sing along, but, well, you can imagine how that sounds: a cat and a drum machine in a blender.

A friend in high school who was an opera singer declared it one of the greatest things she’d ever heard, and I wish I wish I WISH there was a whole album of this. I mean I have the 5th element soundtrack, but I need MOAR than just one song. Anyone have any suggestions, please post them below. I’ve got a lot of Die Form, but it’s just not the same–Inva Mulla Tchaka’s voice is so joyful, the notes and tones don’t just resonate, they soar. I love the joyfulness the song brings, especially when contrasted to the morose excerpt from Lucia Di Lammermoor that precedes it.

And it provides a suitable brain-rinse to the mildly disturbing image up above. I mean it’s not horrifying, Connery’s a good-looking dude; but to me that picture is the equivalent of seeing a good friend reduced to selling off all their possessions in order to make rent.

The 5th Element is available on Instant Watch, and there is no better way to spend an evening, I promise.

 

Ultimate Children’s Movies: The Iron Giant

Iron Giant is set during the height of the Red Scare in the 50’s, when the U.S. is bitter over the success of Sputnik and the Russian space program, and paranoia is everywhere. Suddenly the world was much smaller, and there was much less elbow room for the bigger countries, and worrying too much about what your neighbor (on a global and personal scale) was doing was just what folks did.

“You are who you choose to be.”

The Iron Giant is one of my favorite movies, easily. And yet I didn’t see it until about  a year ago, probably for the same reason a lot of people missed it–the marketing campaign.

Here’s the imagery of the original ad campaign:

Seriously–great retro design, but definitely leaves a ‘stuff blows up!’ taste in your mouth.

It’s a great design–the retro styling has the 50’s sci-fi movie poster artwork down pat, and even directly quotes it with that most seminal of 50’s sci fi movies, It Came From Outer Space.

With the excitement of the action shot, and the robot dodging tracers from fighter jets, its easy to miss what he’s actually doing–he’s carrying Hogarth, the film’s human protagonist, as he runs for his life. The white lines made by the tracers draw your eye to the giant, but its easy to miss Hogarth clutched in his hands on a fast glance. This image is really the heart of the whole movie.

Here’s the recent dvd release cover art:

It Came From Outer Space to Learn Stuff About Having a Moral Compass
Thoughtful, much more slower-paced, lots of blues and greens

Very different, No? Leads you to memories of ‘E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,’ which is a much more apt comparison for this movie. Imagine if E.T. had been fifty feet tall, was a deadly walking weapon, and had the mind of a child.

Which is a shame, because what the filmmakers had on their hands (and probably knew it) was the E.T. for the Internet generation.

I may be biased because I am a huge fan of the film’s central message of personal accountability — the giant has been constructed as a weapon, a conquerer of worlds, but when he crash-lands on earth his memory is reset and he has amnesia. Enter Hogarth, an imaginative loner and only child, who finds the Giant and after a few bumps, becomes friends with him. Hogarth teaches the Giant that he is not what he is made to be, but rather, he is who he chooses to be.

I am a huge fan of personal accountability, in life. I think it’s up to every person to be the best person they can be, to try. The reason is because through that continual process of self-improvement, a person will find things out about themselves that they may have never known otherwise. How can you know your limits if you don’t push them? How can you know what tempts you if you’ve never known temptation? I guess I am making a big positive assumption about my fellow man–after all, a lot of people are capable of doing quite horrible things, but the point of all this is knowing yourself so that you know what harm you are capable of doing to others, and then not doing it. I know it’s convoluted, but it’s simple once you get down to the bare bones of it–Know Thyself. Just like the Greeks had over the doorway of the temple at Delphi, it is your responsibility to know yourself and be responsible for yourself, to take ownership of both your flaws and your good qualities.

This philosophy is also illustrated by the Giant himself–he’s 50 feet tall, and can do some SERIOUS damage if so motivated, or even if he’s just talking a walk. If he isn’t aware of his own movements he could easily crush Hogarth, or someone else, or even wipe out the whole town.When his weapons array is triggered later on, you see how easily he could dominate the whole earth, or worse, how a small force of Iron Giants could do the same.

Iron Giant is set during the height of the Red Scare in the 50’s, when the U.S. is bitter over the success of Sputnik and the Russian space program, and paranoia is everywhere. Suddenly the world was much smaller, and there was much less elbow room for the bigger countries, and worrying too much about what your neighbor (on a global and personal scale) was doing was just what folks did.

One wrong move, and a splat, a weird smell, and no more Hogarth.

Another great thing about the film are the supporting characters – a grab bag of 50’s tropes that could have been really shallow and one-dimensional, but who were so well-written that they really are worth a second look. There’s Hogarth’s mom, a single mother and waitress; Dean, the local beatnik scrap metal-artist (voiced by Harry Connick, Jr. in a really nuanced and great performance); even Kent Mansley, a pain in the ass G-man out to expose the giant and destroy it is well-fleshed out. He’s a man with ambition but no morals or concern about others or the ramifications of his own actions, and is essentially the polar opposite of the giant. Even General Rogard, a second-string character has unusual depth–aware of his responsibilities to the WHOLE nation, he must consider the potential risk in the idea of destroying a town of Americans in order to destroy the giant, and finds the idea horrifying and distasteful.I liked how the military wasn’t shown to be a bunch of single-minded drones; even though this film came out on the heels of the 90’s, when government plots were usually hand in hand with Sci-fi, based on the success of the X-Files.

What’s additionally interesting about Iron Giant are the questions that aren’t answered–and really, it’s a stronger story that way. It doesn’t matter, after all, it’s what he chooses to be that is the point.

Any way you slice it, Iron Giant is an instant classic, to borrow a phrase that has been overused to the point of cheapening its meaning–the movie really is a spectacular film for children, although maybe not very young children, given a few scary, intense moments. It’s literally a movie for all ages, since even at 32 years old I found it wonderfully intelligent, moving, and exciting at once.

Additionally, it was directed by Brad Bird, the genius behind The Incredibles and Up, and used to be involved with the Simpsons. Vin Diesel voices the giant (this was just as he was hitting it big), and there are a host of recognizable voices in the background of the story, all lending considerable weight to what oculd have been throw-away characters.

The Iron Giant is available on Instant Watch. You should go watch it RIGHT NOW.