So, I took a week and unplugged from the internet entirely. Kind of like This Guy, who got paid to do the same thing over at The Verge, only he did it a whole year, and it sounds like it was a lot more intense than my week. I walked away from Twitter and Facebook, put up a fairly draconian-sounding gmail out-of-office message, and I was good to go. Continue reading
Hello everyone! Happy New Year! I’m back from a very nice, relaxing break, thought I’d get back at it. Last weekend, I watched Ricky Gervais’ new movie “The Invention of Lying,” and really enjoyed it. However, there was one thing that struck me as a little odd, and it was to do with the casting.
Basically, the movie is sweet and charming as hell, and has some great performances from its leads – Jenifer Garner is super adorable and funny and Ricky Gervais is great and even busts out the capital-“A” acting chops a bit. Rob Lowe is also great, and plays that un-self-aware prick that he can play so well.
But dude, the rest of the cast is kind of… an overstuffed mess. Granted, an overstuffed mess of people I really enjoy, but all the same… without spoiling anything, the film features: Martin Starr, Jason Bateman, Stephen Merchant, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Nate Corddry… and when John Hodgman showed up for all of thirty seconds near the end of the film, I was actually getting kind of weirded out.
I was probably just me, but I sorta got the sense that they were parading these people out for us, saying “See? Here’s another hip, funny actor you love!” And clearly the actors were all happy to be involved with something that Ricky Gervais did, but the end result wound up feeling a little …club-y? Like they were each saying “My name is [Famous Comedian] and I approve of this movie. And of Ricky Gervais in general. And so should you.”
And, of course, I do approve of Ricky Gervais, and all of those actors, but even so, it was a bit much. And while The Invention of Lying certainly isn’t the first movie to do that, it was the first time I noticed it as much as I did.
Am I alone on this? There’s nothing wrong with it, I guess, but I think I would’ve preferred more selective, focused casting. Tina Fey, Louis C.K., and Rob Lowe were all great. Maybe we could’ve done without Tambor, Bateman, Hodgeman, and the rest? The film itself suffers from a bit of lack-of-focus, too (things get pretty hairy when they tackle religion for fifteen minutes then drop it), so really, the casting shenanigans just contributed to a larger feeling of over-stuffedness, but still, they did contribute.
It’s gotta be hard when you’re Ricky Gervais, and you’ve got half the comic actors in Hollywood breaking down your door to be in your next film. But sometimes it’s best to just say, “Next time, Jason.”
After weeks of mocking the ads, doubting the movie, and marveling at the fanboys, it was time to go see Avatar. So, David, Sonia and I hit the metreon IMAX to see, as David called it, “Ferngully Everquest III: Dancing with Smurfs in 3 Dimensions.”
In an effort to avoid getting there late and having to sit in the neck-breaking front row (which totally happened last time I saw an IMAX movie), I got there 45 minutes early, only to find… that the theater was half-full. Woah! (Side note: when you arrive to find a theater half-full, are you still being optimistic? Like isn’t it more positive to say you saw it as half-empty? What if the expression was “See the theater as half-empty” instead of “See the glass as half-full”?)
We managed to get pretty good seats, high enough up that the entire screen was visible with minimal neck-relocation. There weren’t any ads, which was nice (especially considering that tickets were $17), so we got this awesome world-beat “WELCOME TO IMAAXXXXX” video, where the screen described and showed us all the awesome speakerssss and screenssss and stuff, and then… AVATAR.
I of course won’t spoil anything story-related, but dude. This movie was some freakin’ eye-candy the likes of which I have never seen. I had some pretty serious doubts about it – the ads looked silly, and the story sounded trite, it was basically FernGully… but here’s the thing: all of that is totally true, but when you’re seeing it in action, on that screen the size of a parking lot with the ridiculously beautiful 3-D glowing plants and the sizzling bullets just jumping off and shit, and you just can’t help but be blown away by it.
Every time a groaner line of dialogue would make me roll my eyes, they wouldn’t get to half-roll before some crazy wondrous thing would happen onscreen – these insane-o whirlygig glowing nightcrawlers were my favorite – and I’d be bugging out all over again. Like, there were actually whole scenes of the movie that made my jaw drop, like one of those people in the ads for movies. If you have the option, see it in IMAX – the movie is so impressive-looking that it gives credence to the entire notion of the New Age of 3D Movies.
As Sonia pointed out, several scenes in the film, mostly to do with the Na’avi (those are the huge blue alien people) and their rituals, felt akin to watching the Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Olympic Games. Just total sensory overload, a voice in the back of your head saying “Dude, how in the hell did they even MAKE this?”
Which was a question I actually asked several times. Whether it was the touch-sensitive, glowing flora, the incredible skydives of a huge red flying pterodactylmonster, or the way that embers and bullets would shoot off the screen at you… it was just ridiculous. Whatever you may say about James Cameron, the dude’s still got it. And by “it,” I mean “gigantic balls.”
So, yeah, if it’d been an animated film that came out ten years ago, it would’ve been wholly unremarkable, literally FernGully, the sort of movie where people say “Oh, you know, actually, I really like that movie!” But it’s not that, it’s Avatar, and it is not, (thankfully!), a spectacle of the handheld “you-are-there” variety that so many filmmakers have become enamored of these past five or so years. Nope, Avatar is a real goddamn spectacle, full of the kind of larger-than-anything-you’ve-ever-seen, balls-out impressive stuff that I wish more movies had.
And it bears mentioning that this isn’t some movie about robots from space or a monster invasion or something… it’s a movie about how people suck and destroy nature, and how important it is to be connected to the world around us. Which, sure, it’s not There Will Be Blood or anything, but it’s still nice.
Basically, the movie made me feel like I was 14 again, stoked as hell for a big event film and years away from the bloggy, opinionated internet scrooge I am today. That’s something a movie hasn’t done in a long time, maybe not since The Two Towers. I turned off my brain and let the absurdly pretty pictures overwhelm me, and it felt good.
I apologize in advance for the rant to come. Over Thanksgiving, I was taken to see “New Moon,” not entirely against my will, but certainly against my better judgment. I had not read any of the books, nor seen the first film, though I hit the ‘pedia to confirm that what I thought I knew of the plot (Girl meets vampire, lots of pining, vampire sparkles, pining, baseball, sparkle, pine, fin) was indeed the sum of it.
I went in expecting, at the very least, a cheesy good time, some OTT high school romance histrionics, and some hot vampire on werewolf action. What I got was more than two hours (MORE THAN TWO HOURS) of the dullest, most joyless navel-gazing I’ve ever had to sit through.
I know I can get prone to hyperbole here, but in this post, my vitriol is entirely in proportion. Picture twenty minutes of the following conversation, punctuated by a thirty second snippet of action, followed by a shockingly immediate return to… more… stilted… talking. Rinse and repeat about fifteen times.
Edward: “… I need you so much. I promise I will always protect you.”
Edward and Bella stare at one another
Bella: “I need you too. So much. I always will”
Edward: “But I can’t anymore. I have to go. You’re not good for me, Bella.”
Edward and Bella stare (conspicuous lack of eye contact)
Bella: “…. Why? Why do you have to go?”
Edward: “You’re not good for me. I have to go.”
Staring. Cue Grizzly Bear song.
I mean, honestly. This is the great love story of our age? This is the movie that millions of screaming, lovestruck teens gave the biggest film opening in history? As Pajiba’s Dustin Rowles said in his scathing (and a bit girl-hating) review, “There’s never been a chasm so wide between the intensity of devotion to a film and what it actually deserves.” Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek puts it a bit more directly: “It’s a cheap, shoddy piece of work, one that banks on moviegoers’ anticipation without even bothering to craft a satisfying experience for them. Its pandering is an insult.”
There’s so much more that I could complain about. No one makes eye contact for the entire run of the movie. There is no narrative arc. The entire movie is shot in various shades of grey. New beasts are revealed, vendettas are pursued, and characters even die, and yet thanks to the editing, acting, and writing, it feels as though nothing happens. For a runtime, I might remind you, of more than two sodding hours.
Worst of all, the movie simply does not know how to have fun. The leads are ostensibly in love, and yet whenever they are together, they seem absolutely miserable. There is no campy winking, no sense of humor – even when Bella is having a normal conversation with a quartet of super beefcakey dudes who walk around shirtless all the time, it’s nothing but dour, drab, dull, dull, dull. Not even a hint of the irony or joyfulness of True Blood, despite a suspicious number of similarities in character and story. Just… nothing.
I’m convinced that the book is nowhere near as lame as the movie. Actually, I bet it’s pretty fun stuff, if you’re into angsty teen romance. The fault here lies elsewhere – The film’s director, Chris Weitz, ought to be ashamed of himself (he directed About a Boy, for crying out loud!). The editing team should’ve never signed off on it. If I’d written a book that got turned into that movie, I’d be furious. Kristen Stewart (who, if you’ll recall, I thought was so very good in Adventureland), needs to go out herself and track down a decent screenwriter and director for the next film, lest she forever be associated with movies this bad.
As tired as I am reading broad, lazy, more-than-slightly-misogynistic rants about the Twilight fanbase (see the first few paragraphs of the aforelinked-to Mr. Rowles’ review), I’m pretty appalled that this lifeless, joyless dreck is what all the squealing is about. Sometimes it feels like every time I defend popular culture, it thanks me by taking a huge dump in my living room.
And to think, I could’ve seen Fantastic Mr. Fox instead. Good lord.
I’ve seen this poster on the MUNI stop by school for the past couple of weeks, and each time I see it, I gotta say… I wouldn’t be surprised if people who haven’t heard of the movie see this poster and come to the conclusion that it’s gonna be be a monster movie about a giant, marauding stone Jesus.
…which would be pretty sweet, actually.