Brave myths debunked, part 2

The media hype around this movie is absolutely ridiculous.

Princess Merida probably isn’t gay… but that’s not the point.

Who knows if she is or isn’t? She didn’t come out or anything, if that’s what you are thinking. I didn’t get that feeling from her since she kept saying she just wasn’t ready for marriage, and she did practically ogle one of the tribe’s warriors (you’ve probably seen that on a commercial). But that’s not even the point here. The point is that our society just can’t handle having a female character be free and not get married by the end of the movie, so if there’s no romance involved, she must just be gay!

I can’t even begin to express my rage with this—not just with the obsession with a girl’s sexuality (please!) but also with the expectation that because of her gender, she must get married before the credits roll (hello, did Woody or the small mailman from Up or Nemo or dozens of other Pixar characters get married?) and if she doesn’t, she is therefore a lesbian. Come on, people. Would it be awesome to have cartoons about gay and lesbian characters? Absolutely! Is it cool to make sweeping generalizations about a girl’s sexuality just because she doesn’t want to get married? NO. So get over it.

Could you ever imagine someone writing an editorial about how any of the Pixar males I mentioned above are gay? I’m not saying that we can’t have a wedding in a movie where the main character is an independent and strong female, with a male sidekick buddy at her side (like the reversal of what we normally get), but it’s really, really nice to just have this situation where our daughters can see someone like them be brave and worry more about freedom and being active and strong rather than being a wife, end of story.

Now that my rant is out of my system, I must reiterate what an absolutely brilliant film this is, and that you’ve got to go see it. I hear it’s making big bucks already, so I don’t think I have to ask—but if we can all go out and support the movie to show that we really do enjoy films starring girls and mothers (and roles other than the princess needing to be saved or married or both) and that we will pay to see them, we will get more of them. After all, the industry speaks in dollar signs.

Brave myths debunked, part 1

The media hype around Pixar's movie is absolutely ridiculous.

I am absolutely, madly, totally in love with Pixar and Disney’s Brave. I wish I owned it already and cannot wait to have it in my hand to play over and over again—both with my daughter and without! Some people, however, have less than stellar reviews for the movie, particularly for a Pixar film.

Roger Ebert noted that it wasn’t that groundbreaking (whatever), but other people are even more miffed. Some men are claiming that the male characters are mere caricatures, while many are saying it’s too violent or sexual. Some are even saying that Princess Merida is gay just because she didn’t want to get married (yet; she keeps saying she’s “not ready”); the Brave Wikipedia page was even edited to reflect this view on opening day, though it was also quickly edited.

Take it from a movie-loving mom; here are these myths debunked. (Spoilers are included.)

Brave is groundbreaking!

It’s got a leading girl, it’s development is completely different than any other Pixar film, it focuses on POSITIVE family relationships (and they’re all even alive!), particularly with a mother, which is super rare… I really could go on about how groundbreaking and needed this movie is.

Brave’s men are awesome!

They are funny! Some are handsome, but most aren’t (like laugh—haha, just kidding, guys!); some are smart, some are shy, and most of them fight. Yes, there are scenes where they are treated like caricatures (such as when they are chasing after something that’s not there, or when they fight) but fellas, welcome to the club! That’s how women are in every animated film, pretty much ever (save for Miyazaki and Don Bluth movies), up until this point. And they were not the main characters, so you’re not going to have as much development there anyway. This movie is about a girl and her mom and their relationship, not romance—so get over the fact that there’s no wedding at the end.

Brave’s not that violent or sexual.

It’s especially not when compared with other Pixar movies. The violence here is only centered around a demon bear, who does not kill any people in this movie. It can be a bit scary; I would not take a four-year-old to see it (but I wouldn’t take him or her to see Toy Story 3 or Up, either, for the same reason). As far as sexuality, there’s a scene where the king pinches the queen’s butt. Big hoopty doo! I wish kids could see that kind of affection between people in love rather than being told “No public displays of affection!” all of the time, even if they hug their friends! And yes, there are two parts where you are going to see the butts of men or boys. It’s purely funny and not gross, I promise, and it’s very fast. Kids love that stuff! Naked butts used to be comedic fodder all of the time in cartoons.

Continue to Part 2

Zack Snyder's Man of Steel

Superman reboot hops the grit train

What do you get when you cross America's most iconic superhero with one of the most stylistically adventurous directors in recent memory? You get a revamped Superman logo that looks like it's been dragged up from the gutters of Gotham, is what you get.

Zack Snyder is the latest filmmaker to try his hand at making the man in the red cape relevant again. His star-studded Man of Steel reboot is currently going through post-production and is looking at a release date sometime in 2013. Taking the lead as Clark Kent himself will be Henry Cavill, who I haven't heard of either. His acting resume includes such gems as Red Riding Hood and a straight-to-video Hellraiser sequel, so it seems like Snyder is giving the square-jawed fellow his first big break. Whether that'll pay off or not remains to be seen; luckily, we've also got the talents of Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, and Laurence Fishburne to look forward to.

Despite the strong cast, I remain skeptical as to the merits of a "gritty" Superman film, especially one with Snyder at the helm. Just by looking at the new logo, I can tell he's trying to catch the same wave as Christopher Nolan's dark, action-packed Batman series. He's abandoning the light and campy Superman heritage for something more in line with the zeitgeist. And he's precisely the wrong person to do it. The thing with Snyder is that even when he's adapting one of the darkest graphic novels ever written, he still manages to render it as a bloated, cartoonish mess. If you failed to make Watchmen dark on screen, there's no way in hell you're going to deliver a neo-noir Superman. Snyder's far too in love with his own flourishes to touch on the gritty core of any book, let alone America's original comic book sensation. 

People will still see Man of Steel because Snyder gets attention for being flashy and taking risks that don't quite pay off artistically. And it's going to be an awkward, tonally-muddled mess of a film. You can't take a man who wears his underwear over his leggings and drop him into America's seedy underbelly. You've either got to embrace the camp, stretch it until it wears thin to its most human moments, or leave the franchise well enough alone. Unfortunately, Zack Snyder can't resist the temptation of recreating the original superhero in his own image, so we'll be stuck with another thoroughly mediocre comic book film before long.


The Life Aquatic with James Cameron

Filmmaker heads for the Mariana Trench

No, everyone's favorite cinematic big spender isn't remaking the beloved Wes Anderson film. But he is starting to think of himself as something of a Steve Zissou. 

Last Tuesday, James Cameron embarked on a mission to dive deeper than any other human being has ever done on their own. In a state-of-the-art submarine that he designed himself, he made it a record-breaking 5.1 miles straight down into the sea. His next move? To visit the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the oceans of the world and one that has not been visited by human kind in more than 50 years. 

The last adventurers to make it to the Trench's Challenger Deep were only able to rest their two-person submarine at the bottom for a total of 20 minutes before conditions became dangerous. The craft stirred up so much silt upon landing that they couldn't get a clear view of their surroundings. Much about the Mariana Trench therefore remains a mystery to human science.

Cameron aims to change all that with his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, which has just earned the title of the deepest-diving submersible in operation. The craft comes equipped with 3D, high-definition cameras and a whole LED lighting rig. At 12 metric tons, it's about 12 times lighter than the last sub to hit the Challenger Deep thanks to a newly invented foam that helps stabilize internal pressure without weighing the whole craft down. Cameron anticipates that the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER will allow him to spend a whopping six hours at the bottom of the trench, potentially recording plant and animal life never before seen by scientists. 

The Oscar-winning director may seem like an unlikely participant in the scientific community, but it seems Cameron is as excited about taking on real life adventures as he is fabricating them for the screen. He's been down on dozens of dives already, but none have held quite so much import for the study of marine biology as the upcoming DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project. 

So far, the question of life at the bottom of the sea remains a mystery. Robotic expeditions have failed to document any kind of animal life at the very deepest points of the ocean, but they've never had one of the world's most accomplished filmmakers in their midst. With a craft that's designed both to navigate stably the lowest point on the planet and to record high-quality footage of the area, we may see some things never before witnessed by human eyes. And given that Cameron's recording in 3D, I'm sure we can expect a full-fledged Real-D documentary of the whole mission.

Films lost in time

Will they ever be rediscovered?

There's something infinitely mysterious about lost movies. In modern day, it seems like footage never dies, even footage that (mostly celebrities) don't want to be aired, like sex tapes and other leakages. Today, we can't keep our videos to ourselves.

But in the history of filmmaking, only 4.8% of films ever made are available to the public, according to TCM. I wish they had offered more explanation for this--are these student films in grad school? Ten second films of a flower moving in the breeze? Certainly these were acts of love, but it's more romantic to think of bigger-budget films seen by huge numbers of audience members being lost forever. These types of films certainly have shaped our cultural consciousnesses, but since they are lost, we'll never know in what ways.

Collectors are constantly searching for these lost relics. The Internet has brought pieces of lost films back together, but there are still many, many more fairly well-known films that still need to be found.

One of the most amazing aspects of lost film collection is that people still know so much about the plot and actors involved with the project, and often have stills or screenshots of the original movie. These lost films are amazingly well-documented, and one wonders about why careful documentation has been preserved, while the film itself has not. In other words, how does anyone know that these lost films ever existed in the first place? How can TCM make an estimate as accurate as 4.8%?'s Gordon Jackson has compiled some of the most-sought-after lost films from the earliest days of cinema. These films have been lost because of disaster, accident or a perceived disinterest. Some of the films have been lost for decades, and probably will never be found. Others have been destroyed, and will certainly never be found. I find it unreasonably sad that we can know so much about a movie we will are almost guaranteed to never find again.

One of the strangest lost films on the list is Ingagi (1930), a film that was billed as a documentary that featured "found footage" of a tribe that sacrificed women to a giant gorilla. Obviously, the validity of the found footage was challenged and the film was no longer allowed to be distributed, causing it to fall into obscurity.

What do you think about lost films? Do you think collectors of these pieces of cinema history are wasting their time?


Mike Myers Penning Austin Powers Musical

New sequel and Broadway adaptation in the works
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Just because you've created a successful franchise doesn't mean you have to run it into the bowels of the earth until you've scraped every last dollar from a gracefully fading name. Especially if you're Mike Myers and you actually have a few shreds of actorly chops left in you. You're allowed to move forward, to drop the puerile sex humor and maybe try your hand at a few new dramas. You were pretty good in Inglorious Basterds, Mike. You don't have to work the Austin Powers groove for all eternity. And you especially don't have to do it on Broadway.
Yep. Not only is Myers hastily working on a fourth installment in the film series despite the fact that it's been nearly a decade since his international man of mystery last hit the screen in a fairly embarrassing filmic romp, but he's also penning a musical adaptation of his most famous work. He's not planning on appearing in the show itself, not even as one character, let alone half of them, but he is in talks about releasing this thing sometime in the next few years.
I'm a little confused as to who Myers's target audience is, here. I guess he's going after those folks who were kids or teens when Austin Powers first rose to popularity and now are working professionals who have enough money to splurge on Broadway tickets to a raging nostalgia-fest. But are thirty-somethings with jobs and families and whole lives still going to feel the impulse to giggle at heavy-handed sex puns? The original films were as overacted and obvious and blunt as films get, and the stage tends to amplify that buffoonery by at least ten.
And I don't know about the average viewer, but I actually don't have that much nostalgia for the Austin Powers series. I watched it back when I was in middle school or so and I thought it was funny at the time. We quoted its memorable lines ad nauseum, and I guess "mini-me" is still embedded somewhere in my vocabulary. But I definitely don't have the same fondness for Austin Powers as I do for something like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, whose musical adaptation was fun and raucous and warmly nostalgic. The Austin Powers films were entertaining but it's hard to feel a lasting connection with them ten years after the fact. Myers's timing might be just off enough on this project for it to flop. We'll see.

Bad Movies: Alien Armageddon

Not Advisable

Over the course of the last few days I rented a few movies to catch up on films I’ve missed. One of the movies was called Alien Armageddon (2011) written and directed by Neil Johnson (no relation). The cast was unknown but the cover sounded decent. I enjoy the occasional Indy flick from time to time so this wasn’t too far out of the venue for me.

My first mistake was in believing the cover description resembled anything close to the movie. Surprisingly, it is suppose to be a sequel to another Indy film called Nephilim (2007) also written and directed by Neil Johnson. Having never seen Nephilim I cannot say whether it was any better or worse than Alien Armageddon; what I can tell you is that Alien Armageddon was awful, slow moving, and missing a lot of information. It was filmed badly; I have thoughts that it could have been a film student’s work trying out all of the new gadgets he just got for his camera. The acting was acceptable considering most of the actors probably hadn’t done much up to this point but I would say that they all need a bit more practice.

In all fairness I could see the potential in the script had the concept been fleshed out a bit more. Maybe the script had been fuller but the film was just poorly edited; I guess we’ll never know. The writer seems to have a vision of his concept but was unable to bring it to fruition.

I would not advise any person to waste their time or money on this particular film. Although, I do wish Mr. Johnson well on his future endeavors; he may turn out be a great storyteller someday.

First Look at Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

Gritty fairytale genre gets ever sillier

We're seeing a lot of fairy tale reboots around these parts. And not just animated bedtime stories, either. Full-scale, adult, gritty fairy tales. It's like The Brothers Grimm sparked a delayed chain reaction, and now all of our childhood classics are seeing the blockbuster treatment. Little Red Riding Hood just made it onscreen a while back, and I've seen trailers for at least two takes on Snow White. So far, everything looks like a rather safe affair, with celebrities and sparkly costumes and CGI. But Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters--this might be something special.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are set to star as the two titular characters. I presume the plot follows them as they take revenge on the candy-housed witch who tempted them in childhood, then turn their witch-killing skills into a whole career. The film will be produced by Will Ferrell and directed by Tommy Wirkola of Dead Snow notoriety. When your directorial claim to fame is a B-movie horror flick about zombie Nazis, you're probably going to make a fairytale reboot unlike any other on the scene. 

If we're lucky, it'll be a rollicking frenzy of bloody camp equipped with sharp dialogue and badass plot construction. Realistically, though, turning Hansel and Gretel into a Tarantino-style film sounds tenuous at best. How gritty can a villain in a gingerbread house get? Sure, the original story came with its fair share of grit, but that was because its heroes were tricked into being eaten by a crone. It relied on the creep factor and delivered on a more subtle violence. Re-imagining Hansel and Gretel as gun-slinging avengers sounds fun but I'm not sure it's enough to build a movie from. And the tag team of Ferrell and Wirkola just seems like it would create some tonal inconsistencies.

In either case, we've gotten a first look at Arterton and Renner in their witch-hunting getups. Apparently it's easiest to kill witches while clad in black leather and wielding heavy shotguns. I'm not sure why such firepower is needed if we're just doing away with tricky old ladies, but maybe the reboot has endowed its witches with some extra special skills in order to make the hunting scenes more engaging. I am a little concerned with how much this still reminds me of Van Helsing. I guess it's the color balance, the costumes, and the poses that does it. That's not a movie anyone should be trying to emulate ever in the future of all movies.

Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters will be released on March 2nd via Paramount.

Mini Games Hit the Big Screen

FarmVille, Angry Birds movies in development


It must be getting harder and harder to convince studios to greenlight completely original projects. There are so many untapped brands out there, so many potential reboots and adaptations with guaranteed profits attached. Starting from scratch is a big risk; you don't always know if you can get an audience to buy into a story that's never been told before in any way, shape, or form. So we see a lot of corporate regurgitation on the big screen. Maybe it's an inevitable course the industry must take at this point. But do we really need to see a FarmVille movie?

Whether or not we need to, it looks like it's happening to us. Zynga is in talks with the screenwriters of Toy Story about an upcoming adaptation. I'm not entirely sure why two of the minds behind one of the most successful original film franchises of the past 20 years need to latch on to the FarmVille name; maybe they're broke like the rest of us and just want to get an easy movie out there for the paychecks, who knows. The adaptation does provide a somewhat unique combination of brand recognizability coupled with a completely clean slate for plot invention. The Facebook game has pretty much zero in the ways of story, so the writers can do whatever they want so long as it's about a cartoon farm.

I guess that's the nice thing about these sorts of adaptations; there's no canon to hold your script to, but you're still going to get people in the theaters automatically. FarmVille isn't the only addictive time-filler that's going to see the film treatment; rumor has it that Angry Birds is also due for a cinematic release. Former Marvel exec David Maisel is working with the game developers at Rovio to translate the touchscreen game to the big screen. That title at least comes equipped with characters, although their only features so far are their expressions and in-game powers of division and explosion. It's a little hard to imagine how a game about knocking buildings over with birds will play out over a feature-length running time, but there's the other edge to that clean slate: it's not always so clear how best to fill it. 

There's never really been an objectively good film based on a video game, so I'm skeptical about these two adaptations. Then again, they could be the turning point in a downward trend. We at least know the writers on FarmVille have talent. We'll have to see if they put it to good use. 

True Trivia: Westerns

Who said What?

My father raised me on westerns with actors such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Alan Ladd. I still have an appreciation for a good western and have added countless titles to my personal collection. My knowledge of movie quotes sometimes borders on the “have no life” edge but I thought I would challenge one and all to a test their knowledge against mine.

Here are a 12 trivia questions relating to westerns. See how many you know; answers are the bottom.

   1) The movie: Giant

     What was Jett Rink’s response to being told “money isn’t everything”?

   2) In what movie does John Wayne say, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch”?

   3) The movie: Shane

     What was Shane’s reply to being asked, “What are you?”

    4) The movie: Unforgiven

     Ned tells Will Munny that they “ain’t bad men no more”. What does he say they are?

    5) The movie: Unforgiven

     Who is Will Munny talking to when he states, “That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed   everything that walks or crawls at one time or another, and I’m here to kill you.”?

    6) The movie: A Few Dollars More

     What is Wild’s response to Colonel Mortimer’s “I generally smoke just after I eat. Why don’t you come back in ten minutes?”

7) The movie: The Shootist

     What was J.B. Books response when told that he swears too much?

8) The movie: The Wild Bunch

     What does Dutch Engstrom believe counts in this world?

9) The movie: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

     Sundance is accused of cheating by a fellow card player who states, “If I draw on you, you’ll kill me.” What   was Sundance’s response?

10) The movie: The Searchers

     Ethan says he will find the Indians “just as sure as” what?

11) The movie: High Noon

        What were the first words said by Will Kane?

12) The movie: High Noon

        Helen says, “If Kane was my man, I’d never leave him like this.” What would she do?



1) John Rink replied, “Not when you got it.”

2) The film is True Grit.

3) Shane replied, “Nothing.”

4) Ned says they’re “farmers”.

5) Will Munny is talking to Little Bill.

6) Wild’s response is, “Ten minutes you’ll be smoking in hell.”

7) J.B. Books responded, “The hell I do.”

8) Dutch Engstrom believes what counts is; to whom he gives his word.

9) Sundance replies, “There’s that possibility.”

10) The turning of the earth.

11) Kane’s first words were, “I do.”

12) Helen says she would “die beside him.”