Susie hates X3

Diesel Sweeties has a great exchange about X3 that made me spit.Great because it's funny, and great because it goes right along with my Ratner bashing from yesterday.


X3: Forgot to Turn Down the SUCK

X3 set a box office record this weekend with a $120 million haul, but that does little to change that this was by far the worst installment in the series, and that is as pleasantly as I can put it. What I really want to say is director Brett Ratner is a club, and the X-Men are a baby seal.Alternate title #1: X3: Try to Guess Why They Fight. Does it really matter who is fighting for what and why people are angry at each other? Magneto's bunch has a clearly defined purpose, and that is to go to the research center and get rid of the mutant who is key for 'the cure'. I can understand that. Hell, any fifth grader could get that from one of the 30-second TV trailers. (What you could also get was 80% of Angel's screen time, but that is for later.) What I missed was why the X-Men were making a "Last Stand" against them. No actual logical reason is ever given in the film, so the best reason I can postulate is that Magneto is 'bad' so therefore the X-Men must oppose him. With such compelling passion behind their arbitrary choice to fight, you can imagine how powerful the picture's 'climax' was.

Alternate title #2: X3: No Stars, All Cameos, All the Time! The Ratner method of jamming as many mutants into a film as possible in order to up the 'cool' factor had one inevitable side-effect: Loss of character development. Multiple Man has two scenes: when he is introduced and when he is captured. I didn't think it was possible, but I'm quite sure Colossus had less screen time than he did in X2, when he really was signed up for a cameo instead of being one of the "Last Standers". And Angel, much promoed and hyped, honestly didn't have much more screen time than you saw in the trailers, and his purpose seemed to be some kind of hackneyed symbolism for father-son-mutant-human reconciliation. Or something like that. Hey, if Ratner didn't have to think it through, why should I?Alternate title #3: X3: Darker, and Stupider. Having more cameos does present a small problem: How do you get more mutants in the picture, but still retain its 'edge'? I know: kill off some major characters quickly! One can make excuses for retarded individuals who confuse things which on the surface may seem identical. Now is the time to learn the difference between death and emotional resonance. Brett: a higher body count does not necessarily equal 'dark' or 'impactful'. Sure, it's a bit of shocker to see you whack some major characters in the first half of the film, but treating everyone as expendable without so much as a purpose makes the film feel like playing a video game.

And if you DO happen to stumble into a powerful moment, don't just cut to the next scene. Give your audience time to process what has happened. I'll give you an example, but it comes with a minor spoiler. Humans have developed a gun that fires 'cure darts', and if you get hit, you're 'cured' of your mutant powers. Mystique steps in front of one of these darts and saved Magneto. She basically turns into a (covered-up) naked Robecca Romijn. At that point, instead of helping her, Magneto abandons her, telling her she is not longer 'one of us'. Interesting twist, thought-provoking, and of course never brought up in the film again. What's more, we jump-cut to a scene in the White House where the Beast is talking about... well something, but of course I'm still trying to process what just happeend two seconds before. Give your audience at least a few seconds to think. Hell, Bryan Singer would have likely devoted half his film to that concept.

Alternate title #4: X3: The Greatest Hits So Far! Much was made of Ratner's adherence to the comics as canonical source material. About how he was putting in a bunch of classic scenes from the comics. And he succeeded in representing. I won't lie by saying there aren't some cool moments in this picture (mostly delivered by Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde), some good one-liners, and some neat parts. However, as you might suspect (unless you are say... Ratner), piecing together a film from spare parts and arbitrarily selected scenes is the surest way to lose any hope of having plot, character, continuity, or development.

Alternate title #5: X3: Yeah, Storm still Sucks It's become something of a inside joke in the films that Storm, who can control the weather, can fly, and can shoot lightning bolts out of her fingers, always seems to get her ass kicked by someone who jumps or runs fast. With all the characters getting killed, couldn't they just whack her, too? No, of course not, Halle Berry, Oscar Winner. We wouldn't do that to you.

You know that scene in Fight Club where it's asked what celebrity you'd fight? Ratner. I'd fight Brett Fucking Ratner. No force on earth can stop him now, who thanks to getting a huge box office take has likely somehow self-validated his 'talent' and gotten the same numbskulls who thought it was a good idea to get him to do this picture to come up with an X4. Should that come about with Ratner's steely vision at the helm, it will likely be the Batman and Robin of the series, killing off all possibility of a fifth until someone comes along ten years later and makes a prequel. And then rinse and repeat.

UPDATE: The folks over at Cinescape have a pretty similar view. Although Kurt Amacker starts by saying he doesn't think Ratner is the anti-christ, he can't help (as I couldn't) descend into a long, thoughtful rant about the film.

UPDATE2: My sentiments better encapsulated by Diesel Sweeties.


Star Wars: Willow?

Let the dangers of internet surfing be known. My original intention was to just read a review of The Da Vinci Code, but I followed a link thereafter to one of Ron Howard's earlier films, Willow. I decided to Google Madmartigan to read more about the character, and suddenly I found myself in the Star Wars databank entry for the character.

Now, wait a moment. Are you telling me that the story of Willow is somehow all related now to the Expanded Universe of Star Wars? Hardly seems to make any sense, seeing as how all the inhabitants of "Andowyne" (the planet cited) appear to be millenia behind in technology. Oh, and using magic instead of the Force. Just to name a few. I was just a little chagrined. What are they going to do next, put in Howard the Duck??

My righteous indignation subsided for a few moments, enough for my curiousity to take over. I figured that they would somehow tie in the end of the databank entry with some ancient tale in the Star Wars era, or at least give some kind of time frame. But, wait, they did that and more. The character of Willow is played by Warwick Davis, who just so happens to have a convenient cameo in Phantom Menace...As explained by the databank entry for Willow:
    A year later, Willow experienced a strange dream. He was riding on the back of Calan Dineer, a mighty Duinuogwuin star dragon, who took the Nelwyn to parts of Andowyne he had never seen before. Dineer somehow deposited Willow in Tir Asleen, where he again met with Madmartigan and Elora Danan. This would be the first of many dreamlike excursions Willow and the dragon would share, though to the Nelwyn, they were very vivid.

    One such journey took him to a world entirely wrapped in harsh deserts, and populated with many bizarre and wondrous beings. There, Willow adopted the guise of Weazel, a transient in a strange port city. Willow used his magic to tip the odds of simple card games, earning enough keep to stay afloat in an alien world. His winning streak earned the attention of Watto, a local junkshop proprietor who invited "Weazel" to his viewing box to watch the Boonta Eve Podrace. Watto thought, incorrectly, that Weazel would prove to help ensure good luck. Watto lost everything on that race.
Just about the most ridiculous tie-in I could ever imagine. What kind of writers are these? Are they suggesting that Star Wars was a dream of Willow's? Blasphemy! I was sure that this time, Lucas had finally lost his mind. Until I found the central home page disclaimer:
    On April 1, 2006, two Lucasfilm universes collided as the result of a genre-twisting April Fool's Day prank. The databank update and entries are still here, though they won't be found elsewhere in the databank.
Well, there were 10 minutes of embarrassingly foolish rage that I'll never get back. I figured I might as well alert the media.

Ghost Rider rides again

Via Cinescape, I see that the teaser trailer for Ghost Rider has appeared on the net.I've never been a Nicholas Cage fan, but that won't be the dissuading factor in determining if I'll just wait for video. With a "hero" as supernatural looking as GR, the CGI effects have to work. This short trailer looks damn good.The other factor will be how the gravitas of the Ghost Rider story is handled. In a nutshell:
    Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stunt performer in a traveling circus, sold his soul to what he believed was Satan but was actually the demon Mephisto, in order to save the life of his friend and mentor, Crash Simpson. Blaze was bound with the demon Zarathos and transformed into a leather-clothed skeleton, his head cloaked in a sheath of flame.
The film version is already quite a bit different:
    A motorcycle stuntman, Johnny Blaze, makes a pact with a dark force, known as Mephisto, selling his soul to save his adopted father. When the bargain goes sour and the man isn't saved, Blaze is transformed into "the spirit of vengeance". The Ghost Rider.
The film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson, who brought us the disappointing Daredevil. (Not disappointing because of the Affleck-haters; disappointing because of lack of character development and plot weight in the movie. I fear the same could happen here.) Still, far too soon to get cynical (as I know I am wont to), as the film isn't coming out 'til 2007. Plenty of other films in the meantime.

What I gave up in originality...

Avid impersonator Linguo sent me this cartoon today, which pretty much encapsulates most of my adult male friend relationships. (I show only one of the panels for fear of some kind of copyright infringement.) I can't name how many times I have sat around with cohorts and laughed myself to tears by quoting the Simpsons or Schwarzenegger or Caddyshack or... well the list is endless.

Of course, this has been long noticed to be a male stereotype. I must confess that I can't recall bonding like this with any women, but I certainly can remember the acrid sting of their pitying stares whilst my goofball allies and I quote Christopher Walken with a gleam in our eyes! "To them I say, 'No bike'". Now that's an obscure movie quote!


Casino Royale Teaser: Get Excited

The teaser trailer for Casino Royale is up and running. I have mentioned before that I was looking forward to this film, but now I'm looking forward to winter, and it's not even the end of spring. Already, it is setting itself apart from all the Bond films before it, in at least two noticeable ways.The trailer opens up in black-and-white (as the film plans to) with some atmospheric shots and some moody dialogue between Bond and his boss:
    M: This may be too much for a blunt instrument to understand... any thug can kill. I want you to take your ego out of the equation.

    Bond: So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman?

    M: I knew it was too early to promote you.

    Bond: Well I understand double-o's have a very short life expectancy.
Judy Dench's M has taken the tact of being the disapproving mother for Bond, as opposed to Bernard Lee's take, which was that of an understanding father figure. It was a very different approach for the interaction between the characters, partially instilled because of a politically correct desire to have a wagging finger at Bond's notorious promiscuity. Every film also had an additional character who would ask Bond if all the conquests were enough to silence the voices of the men he's killed, or something melodramatic like that. Usually Brosnan's Bond changed the topic or made a witty repast in those situations.

Daniel Craig's Bond doesn't so much duck the question or get snarky, but takes it head on. He bluntly (to borrow a descriptor from M) let's her know that it's his life being put on the line constantly, and that there's a good chance that there may not be much of that life to live. As such, the normal morays of society don't apply, so bugger off, thank you very much. It's a refreshingly direct approach to the character.Which leads right into the second. Daniel Craig's Bond, in the brief glimpses shown, is a different kind of Bond. As M said, a blunt instrument, but moreso I would say he is dangerous. This new Bond is feral, intimidating and lethal, and for the first time (yes, even including Connery) you get the feeling you don't want to go up against this guy. But you definitely will be lining up to see him in the theater.


A New Hope of deleted scenes

I suppose it was inevitable, but the deleted scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope have made it finally to the internet. They are a little grainy and the John Williams track has been laid behind it to give it a more produced feel.The scenes are familiar to those who purchase the Star Wars storybook way back when, as I recognize the still pictures of Biggs from these clips. Basically it is Luke hanging out with his best buddy Biggs and two others at the Toshi Station, discussing Biggs' plans for the future. Biggs elaborates on how he's joined the Academy but made some contacts with the Rebellion and isn't going to wait for the Empire to draft him.

This is a great piece of backstory that, until now, hasn't been made clear by the movies. Throughout the beginning of the original story, Luke complains that Biggs has already gone to the Academy and that Luke desperately wants to join. What is never made clear is the difference between the Academy, the Empire, and the Rebellion. So now we've cleared that little mystery up. Yay.

However, what's a little more weird to watch is the interaction between Luke and his friends. They clearly treat him as something of a little brat, and he allows himself to be pushed around. Not altogether shocking, but definitely more of a adolescent tone to the character. Again, this presents a more complete character transformation, but not really necessary, and not needed.


What the hell is an "Alluminum Falcon"?

Easily one of the great Star Wars comedy bits in recent memory, this Death Star Aftermath conference call featuring a wildly hilarious and animated Emperor made me start crying at work, which is a little suspicious at 10:50 in the morning.


X3, the Super-Abridged Version

The new trend for blockbusters is to leak out an extended trailer weeks before the movie to whet the appetites of the fans and/or soothe the anxieties of the doubters. They did it to a select audience (which was then bootlegged, naturally) for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and now they are launching an official 7-minute 'sneak peak' for X3.

I am skeptical about watching these full clips. Trailers can give you glimpses into a film, let you know what it is about and give you some flash visuals without giving away the experience of seeing the movie for the first time. Watching full-length scenes is borderline when it comes to spoiling the movie. Of course, this doesn't mean I didn't watch it.

Here's the breakdown. You have a few short exposition scenes where they first announce there is a 'cure' and the reactions from both sides of the camp. For what it's worth, Magneto gets the more convincing, adult dialog compared to the X-Men's rather daytime soap reaction. Certainly, no worse than any Lucasian writing, but nothing you are going to be quoting at social gatherings. The end of the clip had some great glimpses of the effects and action sequences to come, and those last 30 seconds are money. I especially like the duel between Kitty Pryde and Juggernaut, and her 'one-upping' of him actually made me giggle, although not as much as a little girl.

Anyway, looks like Brett Ratner's not going to spoil my fun after all.


It's bird, it's a plane, it's... a new trailer

Oh yes, that's right. A full-length, tantilizingly good trailer for Superman Returns. Use your office bandwidth for the purpose God intended and watch here.

How Opal Mehta learned to copy, copy, copy!

The hits just keep on coming for the former wunderkind of the fair Harvard:
    NEW YORK - A Harvard University sophomore’s debut novel has been permanently withdrawn by the book’s publisher and her two-book deal canceled after allegations of literary borrowing piled up against her.

    Little, Brown and Co. will not publish a revised edition of Kaavya Viswanathan’s "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" nor will it publish a second book, Michael Pietsch, Little, Brown’s senior vice president and publisher, said in a statement Tuesday.

    Little, Brown, which had initially said the book would be revised, declined to comment on whether Viswanathan would have to return her reported six-figure advance.

    The decision caps a stunning downfall for Viswanathan, 19, a Harvard sophomore whose novel came out in March to widespread attention. Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed the deal, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
All this could have been avoided had the young lass invested a mere $1.09 in iTunes and downloaded a classic song from the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead album called "Cemetry Gates":
    You say : ’ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn
    And you claim these words as your own
    But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
    A hundred times (maybe less, maybe more)
    If you must write prose and poems
    The word you use should be your own
    Don’t plagiarise or take on loan
    There’s always someone, somewhere
    With a big nose, who knows
    And trips you up and laughs
    When you fall
    Who’ll trip you up and laugh
    When you fall

    You say : long done do does did
    Words which could only be your own
    And then produce the text
    From whence was ripped
    (some dizzy whore, 1804)
Despite the scathing lyrics, songwriter Morrissey actually wrote the song as a thumb-in-your-nose to critics of plagiarism:
    "Cemetry Gates" was Morrissey's direct reponse to critics who had cried foul over his use of texts written by his some of his favorite authors, notably Shelagh Delaney and Elizabeth Smart. Oscar Wilde, who was also accused of plagiarism, figures as a patron saint of Morrissey's in the song's lyrics. Like Wilde, Morrissey regards the appropriation of texts as not at all problematic and, in fact, a common artistic practice. Wilde said "Talent borrows, genius steals", and Morrissey agreed: Wilde's epigram was etched in the vinyl run-out grooves of the first single off the album, "Bigmouth Strikes Again".
So, is it all really that bad? Here's a sample of the indiscretion:
    In Cabot’s "The Princess Diaries," published by HarperCollins, the following passage appears: "There isn’t a single inch of me that hasn’t been pinched, cut, filed, painted, sloughed, blown dry, or moisturized. ... Because I don’t look a thing like Mia Thermopolis. Mia Thermopolis never had fingernails. Mia Thermopolis never had blond highlights."

    In Viswanathan’s book, page 59 reads: "Every inch of me had been cut, filed, steamed, exfoliated, polished, painted, or moisturized. I didn’t look a thing like Opal Mehta. Opal Mehta didn’t own five pairs of shoes so expensive they could have been traded in for a small sailboat."
This is a shortcut to thinking, a lack of creativity, and pretty sad. Back in gradeschool, this kind of thing would have garnered a slap on the wrist or an "F" on a paper in English class. In the real world, it probably will cost her the dream of being a novelist. At 19, she'll have her entire life to consider what could have been, and that earns a great deal of sympathy from this sometime-author.

Best comedy ever. Inadvertently.

While channel surfing the other night, I happened upon Birth of a Nation, the silent film from 1915 that was a landmark in filmmaking, and one of the most popular films of that era. I remarked to my roommate that the film was known to be controversial about its attitudes towards race, but admitted I didn't know the specifics.After watching a few frames of the film, I became a little creeped out by the way that these silent film actors would be overacting, at least by today's standards. Seems that the exaggerated mannerisms and bugged-out eyes were necessary to convey emotion back in the day. Nevertheless, come the morning, I looked up the film on Wikipedia. Turns out the film is a two-acter, split by an intermission. Here is a summary of the second act, which nearly caused me to do a 'spit take' on my computer:
    Part two begins to depict Reconstruction. Stoneman and his mulatto sidekick Silas Lynch go to South Carolina to personally observe their agenda of empowering Southern blacks via election fraud. Meanwhile, Ben Cameron, inspired by observing children pretending to be ghosts, devises a plan to reverse perceived powerlessness of Southern whites by forming the Ku Klux Klan, although his membership in the group angers Elsie Stoneman.

    Then, Gus, a murderous former slave with designs on white women, rudely proposes to marry Flora Cameron. She flees into the forest, pursued by Gus. Trapped on a precipice, Flora chooses death to avoid letting herself be touched by a Black man. In response the Klan hunts Gus, lynches him, and leaves his corpse on Lieutenant Governor Silas Lynch's doorstep. In retaliation, Lynch orders a crackdown on the Klan. The Camerons flee the African-American militia and hide out in a small hut, home to two former Union soldiers, who agree to assist their former Southern foes in defending their "Aryan birthright", according to the caption.

    Meanwhile, with Austin Stoneman gone, Lynch tries to force Elsie to marry him. Disguised Klansmen discover her situation and leave to get reinforcements. The Klan, now at full strength, rides to her rescue and takes the opportunity to evict all of the Blacks. Simultaneously, Lynch's militia surrounds and attacks the hut where the Camerons are hiding, but the Klan saves them just in time. Victorious, the Klansmen celebrate in the streets, and the film cuts to the next election where the Klan successfully disenfranchises black voters. The film concludes with a double honeymoon of Phil Stoneman and Margaret Cameron and Ben Cameron with Elsie Stoneman. The final frame shows masses oppressed by a warlike ruler transformed into angelic figures under a Christ-like representation. The final title rhetorically asks: "Dare we dream of a golden day when the bestial War shall rule no more. But instead-the gentle Prince in the Hall of Brotherly Love in the City of Peace."
I'm glad I never sat through it, but I have to admit that this has got to be the best comedy of the 20th Century. I'm not as much appalled by the racism as much as the embarrassingly hackneyed way that the filmmakers exaggerate the story to get their point across. Why not have a guy go around the theater and slap people across the face with a giant salmon while you are at it? Of course, this film sounds ripe for a Mystery Science Theater commentary, such as the one done for the inadvertently hilarious anti-marijuana film from the 30's, Reefer Madness. I'll wait for the DVD.


Battlestar: The First Generation?

Turns out I have a (very) early birthday present from my pals over at Sci-Fi Channel. Seems they have decided the best show on TV, though it's only at the end of Season 2, needs a spinoff:
    Sci Fi Channel has announced a new spinoff series from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. CAPRICA will be set about 50 years before and will center on the cataclysmic events that inform the current series.

    The new series will be more about how the "bad guys' rise to power." It will detail how robotic Cylon Alliance rose to power and decimated the 12 Colonies of Kobol (Caprica is the name of the largest planet in the system).

    CAPRICA will weave together corporate intrigue, techno-action and sexual politics into television's first science fiction family saga.

Those familiar with this blog, or who survived a first-hand meeting, will know I have often spoken about the merits of the show. A lot of fans out there are trepidacious about yet another prequel, as it seems that we are inundated with them these days. I can certainly empathize with that P.O.V., but as recent as the concept seems to be, its been around for as long as I've been alive, starting with the Godfather, Part II, which served as not only a prequel but a sequel to the first film. A well-written prequel (yes, I invoke every single Star Wars prequel and Batman Begins on that list) can invigorate a known series, but a poorly plotted prequel (i.e., Star Trek: Enterprise) can leave a bad taste. I can only hope that Ronald D. Moore (the creative mind behind BSG) has learned his lesson and has a solid plot line in mind for his new baby.

Affleck!!!! Affleck!!!!

This is likely utter tomfoolery, poppycock, a Nightmare on Roddenberry Street, whatever, but it is just too mind-blowing to ignore. The rumor mill has spit out (via Cinescape that Captain Kirk, yes, that one, may be played by none other than... Ben Affleck:
    .. some others had heard that Ben has also been talking to Paramount about possibly playing a lead role in a new Star Trek film from J.J Abrams. Apparently Abrams is coming down to visit the set in a few weeks, to visit Michelle Monaghan, whom he directed in Mission : Impossible 3, so that might add some more fuel to the fire. If it comes off, he's apparently playing the hero. Don't know if that's Captain Kirk or some other nameless male protagonist...but that's the gist of it. So possible that Affleck's going to go onto doing a new Jack Ryan, and possibly a "Trek", after he finishes with this film.
I can only suspect that the first reaction of Jaquandor will be [head explodes]. My own reaction has driven me to the bottle. Ah, sweet sweet bottle. You will make it all right.

Lazy Americans

My initial reaction to the "Day Without Immigrants" is that the organizers could have chosen a less inadvertently comical title. It sounds like more of a celebration than something to be feared or to rouse the masses. I can easily picture a scenario where you have your [insert your own stereotype of elitist] in some room smoking [insert prefered tobacco of said 'villain'] while sipping [insert desired drink], cackling and toasting to a "Day Without Immigrants!"

Of course, we are talking about illegal immigrants here, not the kind that most of us are descended from and went about the process legally. The kind that don't have social security cards or green cards or GAP cards (well, maybe), and don't have to pay taxes. One way or another, they are willing to do the jobs that others are not, apparently:
    Illegal immigrants made their point Monday: Without them, Americans would pay higher prices and a lot of work wouldn't get done.

    As nationwide demonstrations thinned the work force in businesses from meat-packing plants to construction sites to behind the counter at McDonald's, economists said there can be no dispute within the context of the contentious immigration issue that the group wields significant clout in the U.S. economy.

    "If illegal immigration came to a standstill, it would disrupt the economy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "It would lead to higher prices for many goods and services, and some things literally would not get done. It would be a major adjustment for our economy, for sure."

    ...Mike Collins, who owns 500 acres of Vidalia onions in southeastern Georgia, was forced to shut down his packing shed and postpone his harvest when none of his 175 seasonal workers showed up.
So, these jobs are either underpaid or undesirable for your average American, and since these illegals can't get better paying work because of their status, they are 'forced' to work in the ditches? What would happen if they didn't do our 'dirty work'?

Well, we probably would be in trouble, at least for a day or two. A day or two because I don't think many of these illegals can afford to take a vacation, and the trouble part because our welfare system pays Americans more money to not work than to be productive in a crap job.

In short, this situation says two things to me. First, while illegal immigrants constitute a significant portion of the lowest-income work force, their political power is impaired by (1) lack of voting status,(2) lack of funds to afford a real strike, (3) their inherent criminal status. By granting them status as citizens, we'll suddenly lose a lot of said workers and contribute to the second issue, that welfare makes Americans lazy. Why would you have a job, working in uncomfortable conditions or long hours when the government will hand you a larger check every week for sitting on your ass? In fact, once you are a new citizen, wouldn't you take advantage of the free cash? The quick fix of making all these illegals citizens won't do anything more than create a whole new instant generation of lazy tax-dollar suckers, which was greatly contributed to by our system of welfare.

Or, to put it as Judge Shmales once said, "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers, too." Granting citizenship to our current ditch-diggers only means we'll have to find a whole 'nother batch of ditch-diggers to take their place. Thanks, welfare. Call me cynical.