Friday, May 24, 2013

YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, MEMORIAL DAY!


If you’ve been in my general vicinity for more than five minutes these days, you’ve probably noticed two things:

1) I’m quite bald in real life.

2) The Room is one of my new favorite things.

The bizarre 2003 cult film directed, written by, starring and oddly not regretted by Tommy Wiseau was introduced to me recently by coworkers, and it’s not uncommon to hear me muttering quotes from the film to myself followed by the type of unsettling chuckle typical of guys who find styrofoam peanuts to be hilarious. I’ll let you ponder whether or not I’m among them.

My obsession with the unintentionally hilarious piece of cinema has absolutely nothing to do with popular culture, which might explain why Urban Outfitters’ out-of-nowhere choice to position Tommy Wiseau as their YouTube ambassador of all things Memorial Day kind of freaks me out. And you should be freaked out too.

Stop being so “fed up with this world” and watch the video below.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

'Star Trek' and the Culture of Negativity

Contrary to many of my fellow geeks out there, I actually liked J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. There, I said it.

The film wasn’t a revelation for me, nor was it the worst affront to geek culture since Ryan Reynolds pretended to be a Green Lantern two summers back. But it was a fun movie that helped me de-stress for two hours, which is a pretty spectacular accomplishment when it comes to jittery sumbitches like myself.

This relaxed attitude toward the film might seem odd to some of you, especially since I wasn’t all that kind toward Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 when it hit screens earlier this month. It also might come off as nonsensical since Abrams currently holds the keys to my beloved Star Wars franchise, which returns to theaters in 2015. To be honest, it weirded me out too.

As a geek, I’m typically pretty obsessive about the things that I’m passionate about, and with that fervor has come no small amount of ire directed toward the very purveyors of my fascinations. I was among the Force faithful who cried foul when George Lucas made Greedo shoot first in 1997, and I recall one of my first message board meltdowns being in reaction to Joel Schumacher’s decision to put nipples on Batman. As much as us geeks rally around shared celebrations, last summer’s Avengers flick for example, it’s that consistent indignation that has fueled geekdom for the beginning … and I think I’m finally burnt out on it.

My profound disappointment after seeing Iron Man 3 is a prime example of the bitterness that has permeated nerdiness over the last several decades. Did my unreasonable expectations rob me of a good time at the movies? Was I subconsciously going into the movie ready to dislike it, solely so I could proclaim to two dozen people on my blog that it made me really, really mad? Do we as geeks sabotage our own moviegoing experiences, simply because it makes us feel superior when we complain about how filmmakers “got it all wrong” and “ruined our childhoods”?

I’ve been reading the reviews of Star Trek Into Darkness, and a lot of us geeks in the blogosphere were pretty hard on it, and perhaps some of the venom spewed in Abrams’ direction is justified. But, more likely, that negativity is symptomatic of the fact that we’ve lost some of our ability to enjoy things at face value.

Deliberately, I went into the new Star Trek film without expectations or baggage, choosing instead to escape for a while and eat some popcorn. And you know what? I had a blast. These days, fun is something I never take for granted.

I don’t know if this post has any real message or if I’m just fulfilling a bizarre need to stand on a digital soapbox in front of twenty-something people, but perhaps what I’m trying to get across is that we should lighten up just a little, at least when it comes to going to the movies. Who knows? We might actually enjoy ourselves by accident.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

‘Jurassic Park 4’ Delayed Indefinitely

To quote the late, great Ray Arnold, “Hold on to your butts.”

Universal Pictures announced Wednesday that plans to resurrect the Jurassic Park franchise for a fourth installment have been put on hold for the time being, USA Today reports.

In a statement, the studio said that the film — originally slated for release on June 13, 2014 — will require more time to gestate in order to “bring audiences the best possible version.”

In other words, it’ll probably be better than Jurassic Park III. For more on this story, head over to USAToday.com.

Monday, May 6, 2013

New 'Star Wars' Games Coming from EA


If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting several years for a decent Star Wars game that doesn’t have “Lego” at the front of the title. I’m sorry, but those Force Unleashed games just don’t count.

Fortunately, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney Interactive are entering into a multi-year, multi-title agreement with Electronic Arts to finally bring some quality gaming to that galaxy far, far away ... or at least that’s what I hope they intend to to.

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau in a statement. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”

Those developers include DICE (Battlefield), Visceral (Dead Space) and BioWare (Mass Effect), the latter of which produced my all-time favorite Star Wars video game, Knights of the Old Republic.

I’m curious to see how EA handles the Star Wars franchise across multiple platforms, especially as we move into the “next generation” of game consoles. To learn more about this potential “new hope” for Star Wars gaming, head over to StarWars.com.

'Iron Man 3' Scores Massive Opening Weekend


Debuting in 4,253 North American theaters, Iron Man 3 raked in $175.3 million this weekend, earning the No. 2 biggest domestic opening of all time behind Marvel’s The Avengers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Worldwide, the Shane Black-helmed threequel has grossed more than $680 million thus far and continues to shatter records from Southeast Asia to the Netherlands. It’s definitely putting up “Iron Man numbers” despite some mixed reviews from fans and critics alike.

What does this mean for the franchise? One could assume that Disney executives are rethinking any and all plans they might have had to end the Iron Man series of solo films and, if they haven’t already, will begin courting Robert Downey Jr. to reprise the role of the series’ titular billionaire industrialist-turned-superhero for Iron Man 4. Meanwhile, the pressure’s on Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier to keep the monetary momentum going over the next year until Guardians of the Galaxy blasts into theaters next summer.

For more on Iron Man 3’s international box office success, head over to HollywoodReporter.com.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

‘Iron Man 3’ Reviewed


“It could have been worse.”

Seeing as how I’ve been eagerly anticipating Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 since the credits rolled during my first viewing of Marvel’s The Avengers, this was not how I expected to feel when I walked out of the theater in the early hours of May 3, 2013. Yet, in the aftermath of a film that seemingly wraps up the Iron Man story at least in terms of solo outings, I couldn’t help but experience a tinge of disappointment, marking the very first time I’ve been let down by a Marvel Studios film.

Now, Iron Man 3 isn’t a bad film by any means. Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) took some calculated risks in crafting a film that had zero chance of providing the visceral crowd-pleasing thrills of Joss Whedon’s Avengers flick, and actually gave us the most ambitious Marvel Studios film to date at least from a storytelling perspective. Yet, in taking so many bold steps away from the comfortable conventions of the superhero genre, Iron Man 3 trips and stumbles more than once during its 130-minute running time.

So what’s Iron Man 3 about? Without giving too much away (I’ll let the rest of the Internet ruin the twists for you), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a mess after the events of The Avengers, which is pretty understandable. After all, saving New York City from thousands of invading aliens isn’t something you shrug off over time, even if you happen to be a billionaire industrialist/superhero. On top of his post-traumatic stress and frequent anxiety attacks, Tony must grapple with new threats, namely a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a series of bombings linked to a body-hacking technology called Extremis.

Iron Man 3 borrows heavily from Matt Fraction’s early run on The Invincible Iron Man and is loosely based on Warren Ellis’ acclaimed Extremis mini-series, but the film is seldom interested in honoring the source material. In fact, there are points at which Iron Man 3 actively trolls the core audience, resulting in the fan outrage typically reserved for Michael Bay films. Again, I won’t spoil any surprises, but at least one major Marvel villain is criminally marginalized.

One of Iron Man 3’s worst transgressions is the treatment of Stark as a character. Anxiety attacks aside, Tony has transformed from well-meaning but self-absorbed genius to absent-minded douchebag. At one key point in the film, Tony bafflingly puts his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at risk by revealing his home address to the worldwide media and goading The Mandarin into a showdown at his cliffside mansion in Malibu. When the bad guys send your house tumbling into the Pacific Ocean and nearly murder your girlfriend with a barrage of missiles, that’s on you, pal.

Downey is great as always, as are series regulars Paltrow and Don Cheadle, who gets a lot more to do this time around as Tony’s armored ally War Machine, rebranded by the government as "The Iron Patriot.” Kingsley shares villaining duties with Guy Pearce as Tony’s professional rival Aldrich Killian, while the lovely Rebecca Hall joins Paltrow in the mostly-male cast as Maya Hansen, creator of the Extremis technology and one of Tony’s former flings. Another standout in the cast is Ty Simpkin, who becomes Tony’s unexpected pre-teen sidekick for a sizable portion of the film. It takes some acting chops to trade sarcastic barbs with Downey while somehow sidestepping the whole “annoying kid sidekick” issue.

However, not even a strong cast and impressive performances all around could save Iron Man 3 from being an exoskeletal shell of a blockbuster — a schizophrenic and sometimes ponderous piece of popcorn cinema that doesn’t realize its true calling as an Iron Man sequel until the rousing CGI-fueled third act. For all the risks Black and writer Drew Pearce take, the end result just doesn’t come close to matching the passion or the energy that former Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau brought to the series in the previous installments.

Also noticeable are the massive plot holes in Iron Man 3, mostly because the previous films in this continuity seemed to go out of their way to acknowledge the other Marvel heavy hitters inhabiting the world. Where is S.H.I.E.L.D. when the U.S. president is in danger? Wouldn’t Captain America be working alongside The Iron Patriot to take down The Mandarin? Save for a few mentions of the other Avengers team members and a post-credits cameo by one of them, Iron Man 3 largely ignores the interconnectivity that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe so unique. Also, anyone looking for hints about future Marvel Studios flicks — namely next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy — will have to wait until Thor: The Dark World hits theaters this fall. There are none to be found in this movie.

Will you like Iron Man 3? You might, assuming you forget how much fun the groundbreaking 2008 original film and its and the flawed-but-enjoyable 2010 sequel were. However, if this is the final film in the Iron Man series, Tony Stark deserved a much better denouement than this.