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July 22, 2011

The state of movies

Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 4

I have only the flimsiest understanding of the Avengers superheroes and their related movie and merchandising tie-ins, but I think Chris Evans is pretty good, so I went to see Captain America this afternoon. Ehhh. While I barely remember anything about the movie just a few hours after watching it (probably because I fell asleep more than once), the trailers that came before the feature were very memorable. Specifically, I remember thinking, dear lord, if this is the best Hollywood is coming up with, I sure hope the Paul Thomas Andersons and Nicole Holofceners of the world keep picking up the slack.

A few notable things about these trailers:

This is hardly news, but we appear to have run out of new ideas for movies. I don't attach any sacred value to existing movies and am totally OK with remakes and sequels, as long as they're good in themselves. It just feels like we have very few new ideas to look forward to in the action movies Hollywood is lining up. Mission: Impossible 4 [trailer]. Rise of the Planet of the Apes [new trailer]. And especially the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man. I had somehow convinced myself that the "rebooted" Spiderman series would be some kind of interesting variation on the series that Sam Raimi just made less than 10 years ago (2002-2007).

I assure you, it is not. This new Spiderman movie that stars Andrew Garfield looks like the exact same movie that Sam Raimi made in 2002. Except that it has different actors, and it won't be as good, because Sam Raimi didn't make it. The last movie the guy who directed the new one did is (500) Days of Summer, which would be OK, I suppose, if Spiderman was about pretty Los Angeles architecture and twee little emo hipsters.

If Hollywood is looking for successful movies to rehash, I've got a great series remake idea for you right here. Harry Potter. With the final installment's release last week, it's due for a reboot!

At least the new Planet of the Apes movie is an origin story, adding a new angle to both the original series and the Tim Burton movie from 2001. And it offers more fodder for all those people irritated by James Franco's tendency to blithely turn up in every single genre and art form that exists.

Also, two of the major Pixar directors are branching out into live action. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) is directing the latest in the Mission: Impossible series, in which Tom Cruise will presumably do all his own stunts and scenery chewing. The movie also features the wonderful Jeremy Renner, who I guess has decided to go full-on action since The Hurt Locker.

Andrew Stanton, who did Finding Nemo and WALL-E, is directing what I think was the only movie with an original concept whose trailer I saw today, John Carter. This one's about a Civil War veteran who is magically transported to Mars, and has a great cast (Bryan Cranston, Samantha Morton, Ciaran Hinds, and the guy from "Friday Night Lights".) It's also not a remake of any other movie that I can identify. Cool.

July 18, 2011

New Yorkers love women's soccer

US women's soccer fans in Germany

Despite the enthusiasm of its adoring fans (above), the US Women's Soccer team lost to Japan in yesterday's final in a really well-played but terribly unlucky match. But even if they didn't win, the ladies of US soccer got a lot of love from the sports fans. I watched the game in a crowded New Jersey beach bar, and there was as much table-pounding, high-fiving, and screaming at the TV screen as when professional men's sports are on. I defy anyone who thinks soccer is boring to watch the second half of that game and just try to refrain from pumping their fists in the air.

Also: I walked through Times Square this evening and tried to pass the W Hotel on 47th Street, but was blocked by about 15 cops who were trying (unsuccessfully) to check reporters' credentials, block rush hour traffic, and hold back swarms of people who were pushing up against inadequate barricades, all holding their phones in the air and trying to take pictures of what had to be some very important people standing outside the hotel.

Wait, that's Abby Wambach! There they were! The US Women's Soccer team in their warm-up suits, standing on the sidewalk, giving interviews, hugging teenage girls, and generally causing complete mayhem by their presence.

After being hustled across the street by some cops, who looked like they were in over their heads, I came upon two less mobbed non-Hope Solo players standing outside Starbucks, signing autographs for somewhat calmer fans. Stephanie Cox and another player who I've so far been unable to identify (possibly Lauren Cheney?) graciously posed for a picture and thanked me for watching.

US Soccer team in Times Square

Wooo! USA! Canada 2015!

July 12, 2011

Horrible Bosses and Donkey Kong

Billy Mitchell in King of Kong

I haven't watched Horrible Bosses (but I kind of want to after reading A.O. Scott's half-embarrassed positive review, in which he compares the crude, idiotic, absurd style of humor to snorting cocaine) but there are a couple of interesting things about it that I thought I'd point out:

  • It's directed by Seth Gordon, whose first movie was one of the more entertaining documentaries I've ever seen, The King of Kong, about the world's most dedicated classic video game players and champions of Donkey Kong. The most memorable figure in King of Kong is Billy Mitchell, reigning Kong champ, extravagant megalomaniac, and collector of dazzling patriotic ties (see above).
  • Colin Farrell allegedly based his horrible boss character on Billy Mitchell, after Seth Gordon gave him a copy of Kong to watch. Gordon says, "It was wonderful that Colin was open to the role and really breathed life into it. At the first meeting, we talked about giving him a belly and a clubbing enthusiasm -- and Colin wanted a comb-over. As soon as we saw the first attempt at that I knew it was right."
  • Seth Gordon now says that he wants to remake King of Kong, a straight-up documentary, as a mockumentary. The original has such grandiose and over-the-top characters that it sometimes edges into mocking territory, but Gordon was inspired by his recent experience directing episodes of "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" and wants to try that style with the Kong remake.

    In my opinion, the reason the original is so wonderful is that the characters are all real people who are completely sincere in their dedication to video games. They say things like, "I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame. I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, 'Hi, I see that you're good at Centipede' " or "No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It's sort of like the abortion issue." And THEY MEAN IT. A mockumentary about these people could easily slide into mean-spiritedness and winking at the camera.

  • One more thing about Horrible Bosses: do you know who wrote that cinematic cocaine that made A.O. Scott so giddy? Sam Weir! John Francis Daley, who played little Sam in Paul Feig's "Freaks and Geeks" now writes offensively vulgar comedies! I'm so proud.

July 7, 2011

Let's make Phife Dawg some money

Michael Rapaport and Phife Dawg

I can tell you exactly what I'll be doing tomorrow when the office closes: heading to 42nd St to watch Michael Rapaport's A Tribe Called Quest documentary Beats Rhymes & Life [official site]. I bet a lot of other people are going to do that, too, for the following reasons: it's the maybe the only feature-length documentary about a single hip-hop group; it's about one of the greatest groups ever; and the drama surrounding the movie and the group's vocal lack of support for it have just about eclipsed the movie itself.

The arguing about the movie seems to be mostly over at this point, especially since both Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad attended the screening at Tribeca and Ali said he was "representing Q-Tip" and that they were all happy with the finished version. Good thing for director Michael Rapaport, the world's biggest Tribe fan, who at times sounded like he was coming unhinged trying to get this movie out. In a letter to Landmark Theatres, he writes, "I didn't realize the movie was going to be as interpersonal as it turned out!" which I think is code for "I love these guys, but working with them has been a total f'ing nightmare!"

Here's what I think the drama was really about: 1) money and 2) Q-Tip's ego.

First, the money. Michael Rapaport initially promised the band 50% of net profits, which sounds pretty good, but then Q-Tip wanted the band to be credited as producers, too. Then some idiot producer, in a classic example of a cc screw-up, sent an email suggesting that they rush the movie poster into print without the band listed as producers, "then we'll fuck them on everything else." And Q-Tip was copied on it. So they freaked out (understandably), Michael Rapaport relented, and they got their producer credit (see full credits here.) Plus, drama and ticket sales have a dependably direct relationship.

Second, Q-Tip. I don't have any insider knowledge of the dynamics of the band members, but I think Q-Tip and Phife Dawg had a relationship reminiscent of other great two-headed groups that ultimately blew apart. Lennon-McCartney. Strummer-Jones. André-Big Boi. A tactfully written Slate piece on the movie describes the basis of their rift as "the simple fact that Q-Tip has always been the group's star despite Phife's abundant talent."

Here's my prediction about how the two of them come off in the movie: Q-Tip will seem like a consummate front man, and a little bit of an egomaniac who needs to have total control over his image, and Phife will seem like a funny, beleaguered, sympathetic guy who's been through hell. He really has had it rough: Phife has diabetes and apparently goes through a lot of medical difficulties in the movie. The band's 2008 reunion tour largely happened to help him pay his medical bills.

So let's get him some cash money! Maybe he's never had a cavity, but Phife needs his dialysis.

About July 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in July 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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