Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand arrived in theatres this past weekend with lots of fan-fare.

I can't remember so much anticipation..... and ill will directed toward a movie before it was even released in a long time....if ever.

The production was plagued with problems. Apparently the script was rushed. The schedule tight, and the movie went through several director changes. First Bryan Singer was set to direct, then he dropped out to do Superman Returns, then Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn was set to direct, he even chose the cast, then unexpectedly dropped out due to creative differences, leaving the job to Rush Hour's Brett Ratner.

That bit of news sent the fan boys on rumor movie websites into a Hulk like rage.

I wasn't necessarily disappointed by the choice of Brett Ratner. I feel he's a capable director. But I knew by bringing him in, the studio wanted someone who wouldn't give them trouble or challenge their creative choices. He was someone who'd bring in the movie under budget, with little problems, and in the required matter what.

In effect make a studio film designed to make huge money, instead of a film aimed at pleasing die hard fans, while challenging audiences.

Which is exactly what the movie turns out to be.... a movie designed to make money.

Not to say that the movie is entirely bad.There are some interesting ideas in the film which are lightly touched on that are surprisingly effective. I like the dilemma of if, and when it is appropriate to use a Mutant "cure". The issue of, is it more productive to conform to the norm or embrace the individual uniqueness was a theme that they touch on. There are also issues concerning the morality of using mutant powers in questionable circumstances.

What's frustrating is that with more time these issues could really be explored correctly, and not just touched upon.

I guess in the end, as a climax to a three movie storyline it works capably....yet not very satisfying. In a way it frustratingly hints at the potential of a movie franchise rather than realizing it's true capabilities. In that sense it's reminiscent to the first Tim Burton Batman. With nothing to compare it to, the first Batman, in it's day, was sort of interesting and cheesy fun. But in retrospect, following the release of the infinitely superior Batman Begins. The movie is laughable, and almost doesn't even feel like a real Batman movie, actually more like a Tim Burton movie.

My sense is that if ever The X-Men movie franchise undergoes a similar reworking, these films will seem trivial if not laughable.

The fact is that these movies are not the X-Men movies that hard core fans have waited years to see. But as a sort of tease at the the potential of a future franchise, it reasonably works. Ultimately it's a summer popcorn film that will please kids and people not familiar with the source material, but disappoint fans hoping that it lives up to the source material.

The truth is I'm not entirely sold on the idea that the X-Men story can be told effectively , at least in a movie format.

I almost think that a 1 hour episodic weekly T.V. show would be the best venue to tell the story that real X-Men fans want to see. Maybe if it had the budget that Star Trek: the Next Generation had in it's prime.

To me the amount of characters, and the large issues that the X-Men stories attempt to tackle can't be encapsulated effectively in a two hour film. Not without cheating out characters and themes.

As far as specifics, I was very disappointed in a lot of the look of the film, and the special effects. Especially when one compares it to other big action films like the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which unfortunately, for this movie, had the trailer play before the film.

The fact is the movie, and special effects looked, and felt rushed in a lot of spots, also....for some reason the production design looked really cheap, seriously low budget.

I'm talking lifetime T.V. movie of the week cheap.

Especially the group scenes which utilized large I take that back.....more like groups of extras. The crowd scenes were just poorly played, and executed all around. There wasn't any conviction, power, or realism in the background performances. I guess that sounds weird. Usually one doesn't notice such things, but in this movie, it was really very apparent. Awkwardly so too.

All the stuff with the Brotherhood looked ridiculous. From the writing, to the costumes, to the performances..... just crappy. It almost looked like costumes we'd see in the 80's Hulk t.v. show or in a parody of the movie Daredevil.

It's disappointing because one of Bryan Singer's strengths in the first two films was the production design. Everything looked reasonably realistic, effective and reverent to the source material.

This whole movie looked like a low budget syndicated t.v. show....seriously like Xena or Hercules.

The Beast and Juggernaut outfits looked like freaking Halloween costumes.

I swear I saw a Target price tag on Juggernaut's helmet.

I also felt the climatic battle was not effective. The Beast special effects left a lot to be desired. I also felt the stakes weren't high enough. The issues why they were even fighting in the first place weren't clear either. It was also anti-climatic.

As far as the good stuff. I thought some of the writing was clever. Especially how it handled the whole Phoenix situation. Also as I mentioned earlier, I like the morality and issues raised in the movie. There's also some themes featuring the escalation of war that is timely.... especially now.

As far as performances I'd say everyone does reasonably well...yet not memorable.

In the end, as I said earlier this movie is just a summer popcorn flick that will inevitably make a huge amount of money.

I think it's in the same class as The Fantastic Four.

Barely capable, yet ultimately forgettable.

It's distressing to me that we, the audience, support movies like this. It's almost unethical that studios take advantage of the brand name, and force feed us this product.

I know people who went to see this movie, knowing it's going to be bad.

I think the reason why we end up supporting films like this is because, in the back of our minds we hope that it will pave the way for the franchise in the future to be fully realized.

But in the end, all the studios care about is stringing us along, enough to the point that we don't feel greatly insulted or grossly cheated, just so they can make money.

The sad fact is, if they ever make another movie, it'll probably be more of the same stuff. Why shouldn't it be? Why change the formula if we keep buying it.

And we'll still go see the sheep we are.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

What's funny to me.......

I made a interesting observation yesterday.

I have a sick sense of humor.

That's not what was interesting to me though. What was interesting was that for some reason I tend to surround myself with people who share the same type of sick, twisted humor.

I'm doing this play right now called Dot Gone , and among the many interesting aspects about the production is that it combines two groups of people from different periods in my life.

I have the company of friends that I've known from my earliest days of acting, where we all met at El Camino College, and I have my friend J.B. who I met later on when I decided to get my degree, and I attended Chapman University with.

What's fascinating is that they all share the same perverted type of humor.

When I say perverted I mean the most foul, offensive, disgusting, sexually deviant type of humor imaginable.

Stuff we'd probably get locked up for if we talked about it in public or a restaurant or bar or gym for that matter. Stuff that would make a Soldier blush.

I guess one can argue that it's because we are all actors, and that maybe all actors/comedian/artists types have twisted sense of humors.

I mean just check out The Aristocrats.

But in all honesty that's not really the case. Trust me, I've done several summers doing Shakespeare productions with really talented actors who...... are really not that humorous or witty......or interesting for that matter.

The truth is that there's a lot of boring freaking artists out there.

But this group of friends I'm working with click amazingly well.

What's funny to me, is to see the short hand we've all picked up on.... without explaining to each other. I mean sometimes we'll be in a middle of a conversation and someone will join in and pick up the vibe we're riffing on and just pitch in a new and hilarious perverted way.

It's like we shock each other into laughing fits.

I can't remember laughing so much off stage in a long time.

I have to admit it's not very sophisticated stuff. Just shocking, disgusting observations and witty banter.

One pattern, that's develop through the course of the process, that's quite humorous, is the use of repetition by the group of friends.

One friend will say something...usually disgusting or foul, which will usually illicit a groan or shocking look of disapproval. Then the person repeats it later on in the day.....then later on....until people start to giggle....which leads to a laugh and then contributions by someone else that is even more foul and offensive. What makes it extremely hilarious is that without given a cue there is always someone who pretends to be the moral high ground, who'll play the sensible sophisticate only to be goaded on by the rest of the group...until they say something remarkably foul and offensive.

Pretty soon everyone is laughing and shocked and disturbed.

I don't know....maybe a lot of friends work that way. But I just notice that it's different with my friends. Maybe it's because I feel my friends are all very witty and sharp.

I don't think it's unique to just this particular group of friends. My wife is the same way. The friends from Chapman that I still keep in contact with are the same way. People I've been drawn to throughout the years have all been the same way.

If we put all my friends together in a room, I bet they would all share the same kind of sick, twisted humor.

It's just interesting.

But probably not as perverted though as this group of people in this play.....we're all pretty freaking sick.

I mean the people I work with are the same way.....but it's different.

There are things I can't say with them because they would probably think I was insane....or just an unfunny way.

Sometimes I find myself biting my tongue or censoring myself before I speak.

I know because I'll sometimes slip and say something, and they look at me shocked and disturbed.

Which they should....because...... they are normal.

Unlike me.

Anyways.....just an observation.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Don't make him angry, you wouldn't like him when he's angry!!!

Apparently we can chalk up super human strength to the growing list of adjectives to describe Christian Televangelist Pat Robertson.

According to this article, on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, Pat Robertson says he Leg-Pressed 2,000 pounds.

Wow....that's pretty impressive.

Especially when one considers that the world record for a leg press is 663 pounds.

Even more incredible is the fact that apparently there doesn't seem to be a machine capable to hold 2000 pounds in order to even attempt a 2,000 pound leg lift.

Thankfully, Robertson doesn't credit the power of Jesus as a source for his super human strength.

What he does credit is his age-defying protein shake. soy protein isolate, whey protein isolate, flaxseed oil, and apple cider vinegar.

Too bad Barry Bonds didn't hear about Robertson's age-defying shake sooner, he wouldn't have to deal with all this steroid nonsense.

Grandma's Boy

Sometimes it's fun to watch a bad movie.

Sort of like seeing an accident on the side of the road.

Everybody likes to slow down and take a look.

It's especially convenient when one has the opportunity to watch movies for free. Working at one of the premiere DVD stores in Los Angeles, we have an extraordinary amount of excellent, rare, and hard to find movies cross our paths every week. But inevitably, for some strange reason, it's always the worst of the bunch that often perks the curiosity of myself, and my fellow employees.

There is even a humorous tradition we've started at work, where every week we choose the worst looking film of the new release bunch to watch on Friday nights. Then throughout the following week we ridicule, quote and sarcastically praise the merits of the film.

We refer to this film as The Friday Night Film.

But sometimes....not often.... there's a film that seems too bad....too ignorant....too much of a chore to endure. In that unfortunate case, usually one poor soul in our bunch, will take it upon themselves to pick up the cross, and force themselves to carry the heavy burden of watching this unfortunate film.

If only to say that someone at the store has watched the movie.

Guess who took up the cross this time?

Grandma's Boy is the story of Alex (Allen Covert), a X-Box game tester that has to move in with his Grandma because of unfortunate circumstances.

And....I guess that's pretty much the synopsis of the whole film.

Hey, I usually like toilet humor.

I'm not really hard to please in that respect. If there's a couple of fart jokes, nudity, and some crude humor then I'm usually mildly entertained..... which is half the battle with me. So I was quietly optimistic.

The movie is made by the crew at Happy Madison.

Adam Sandler's production company. So..... A little hope.

I mean the Tagline for the film is Sex. Drugs. Nakedness. Rude language... And proud of it!

That kind of sounds interesting.....right?

It's true that this bunch isn't renown for their high standard of cinematic excellence. But usually one can count on a couple of shits, and giggles in one of their 90 minute flicks.

No such luck here.

It's not that the movie is ONLY bad....the fact is that it's actually kind of depressing to watch too.
Depressing because I'm sure at some point....I assume fairly early on.... the people making the movie just knew that unfortunately the film isn't all.

I mean more than other bad movies, there's a sense that everyone, as a group, just decided to show up, do the work and just get the film under their belt.

There's simply no joy in any of the performances.

Honestly the movie feels like a tax write off.

Usually an observant viewer can point to something to explain why a movie is bad. They can say the movie has no budget, or the script was rushed or horrible, or the actors were poorly cast. Or the filmmakers aren't talented or creative.

But this movie has tax write off written all over it.

I can't imagine that anyone really cared about making the movie. If they did, they would notice that it's just not funny. The sex jokes aren't shocking enough, the nudity isn't visible enough, and the crude humor isn't over the top as it needed to be.

It all just seemed like middle of the road mediocrity.

It's not even good at being horrible. When the filmmakers shouldn't take themselves seriously...they do. When they are supposed to be funny, they aren't wild or witty enough. Instead of just giving us wild hi-jinks, for some reason they try to give us an actual story with a reasonable structure.

What happened to just crazy sick fun?

Remember Bachelor Party?

That was a movie that didn't give a shit about offending people. They just wanted to get some cheap laughs. If one is making a cheap, crude, low budget comedy shouldn't the filmmakers take some risks? At least be a little shocking.

In the one provocative, or supposed wildly comic moment. The mother of one of Alex's co-workers walks into the bathroom while Alex is masturbating to a Lara Croft action figure. (Trust me it sounds funnier than it plays.) But the moment comes off so.....bland, unenthusiastic and uninteresting, one wonders why they even bothered. It's like they were all embarrassed to do it. The actors seemed embarrassed, the director shot it in the least offensive way, and the pay off is way underplayed. It's like they were all forced to do it under gun point.

I mean even in a high profile comedy like There's something about Mary there was semen hanging from Ben Stiller's ear.


There's nothing that clever, inventive or crude here.

I almost feel guilty for criticizing the movie. Like I was kicking aside baby chicks on the side of the road.

The better question is how movies like this ever get made.

I mean was this honestly someone's life work or ambition?

Does someone actually want to use this film as their calling card?

Why did someone actually pay people to make this film?

Did they even try to make a worthwhile film?

I think the only sign that someone actually cared about the movie is that the movie has cameos by Rob Schneider and David Spade.

That's right, SNL comic superstars Rob Schneider and David Spade.

Actually....ummm.....on second thought.

Grandma's Boy is now on DVD.