What They Blogged For.

Love. Hate.

Before we say our final goodbye, I just wanted to leave you with a random sampling of posts from some of my favorite people on this blog:

Benjie’s Skyrim addiction.

Occam Razor on “The Seven Robots You Meet In Heaven.”

Benjie and I watching New Moon and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2.

A Movie Script Ending.”

The MPDG vs. the Amazing Girl, Heroes vs. BSG, and Kirsten Dunst vs. Kate Hudson.

Peanut St. Cosmo saying goodbye to her Blackberry.

(And really, just anything by Peanut, cause there’s too many to list.)

Fuck Yeah Sayid!

Anytime we talked about Lost.

High Fidelity vs. 500 Days Of Summer.

Hey, Shitface, Get Off My Lawn!”

Benjie and August Bravo on internet hype, and meeting expectations, and also Super 8.

Independence Day 2?

The end of the Counterforce podcast, and the birth of Time Travel Murder Mystery.

J Fran Fran.

Jonathan Franzen and his “Strong Motion.”

Benjie on his favorite sequel ever.

Occam Razor on a post peak oil world, and big booty bitches.

Benjie on how to properly spend New Year’s Eve.

While my torrent gently downloads” by Benjamin Light.

This is by no means a complete list, not at all. It is, in fact, an extremely rushed list. And may actually be a really terrible retrospective, at least in terms of showing what we did best, when we did our best, but oh well.

It’s just a few of my favorites. I would invite you to explore further, if you get the chance.

(of Mars.)

I didn’t see John Carter, the long burning adaption of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, on its opening weekend.

But neither did you. And neither did a large chunk of the rest of North America.

I saw it today though, two weeks (perhaps?) or so into its run.

I’m going to wax ineloquently about its pros and cons, if you will, and I’ll do it as briefly as I can. I can already suspect that very little of what I’m going to say will be about the film itself.

PRO: The film is good. It is strong, and solid, and good. It is enjoyable, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon, in the movie theater.

CON: It’s long. Not super long, no, but they could’ve cut about twenty minutes or so down and it would’ve felt like a sharper bullet fired at the audience (in the hopes of making a trilogy-sized wound?).

A somewhat similarly related CON: Another light breeze through the script could’ve helped. Michael Chabon does a decent job, definitely, but they should’ve brought in a seasoned script doctor (like Joss Whedon from the late 90s) and let them punch up the dialogue a little more, toss in a few more one liners.

Neither a PRO, nor a CON: It’s just funny to see McNulty in this movie. Does he only play incredibly sleazy bad dudes in his film work? I would’ve killed for a “What the fuck did I do?”

Also, neither a PRO, nor a CON: Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy, reunited. Interesting. I wanted to scream, “CAESAR, LOOK OUT!” Purefoy’s only in the movie for about five and a half minutes, but he’s the only character really having a lot of fun, it seemed like. Which is weird because, at the same time, given the kind of characters that Purefoy usually plays, or doesn’t, I felt like he was ready and willing to take over Dominic West’s role in a heartbeat should he have felt ill or something.

Also, Polly Walker’s in the mix too. What a weird Rome reunion.

Related, but neither a PRO or a CON: You really could’ve unleashed this story as an HBO show, especially in light of success with properties like A Song Of Ice And Fire on HBO and Spartacus on Starz. Everything seen here in this movie would’ve made for a very strong first season.

PRO (obviously): Andrew Stanton. The guy’s good.

I remember going into the theater to see the last Mission: Impossible film, humorously subtitled Ghost Protocol, with no real expectations at all, mostly because the trailers and advertising were so sub par. Obviously I liked The Incredibles and Brad Bird’s talent there was undeniable, but there was no real clear indication in the advertising for Ghost Protocol as to what that would look like in Bird’s live action debut.

Long story short, Ghost Protocol was good. A real solid, fun popcorn flick. Definitely worth watching. I walked out of that thinking that, rather than jerking us or themselves around, Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and their associates might as well just lock Brad Bird down for another Mission: Impossible film. Will they? Who knows. Probably not. He’ll probably return as a “producer,” but they should.

PRO (continued): A little of that though, that ambivalence, is why I just wasn’t jazzed to see John Carter. I read more good reviews than negative ones, but nothing in that trailer was making my cock stand up, you know what I mean? I mean, I’ll probably go and see The Hunger Games, and I’ll most likely hate it and curse Gary Ross’ name in the dark, but I’ll see it out of obligation. The flat out suck is more than apparent already in The Hunger Games‘ trailers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now that Gary Ross will probably have spent more time obsessing over weird costume designs and facial hair and shit than developing strong stories, interesting action sequences, or interesting characterizations.

The difference between that instance and the one I’m somewhat talking about here in this post is simple: Gary Ross is a fucking hack and Andrew Stanton is the real deal.

Spoiler for all The CONS listed in this post: The marketing and advertising for this movie is fucking terrible and all the blame for the film’s poor Box Office performance should reside squarely on their shoulders.

PRO: There’s about ten minutes of this film set in the Old West, and every bit of it was more exciting than the entirety of Cowboys And Aliens. I’m very glad that Jon Favreau got shown the door from this production.

PRO: You get the sense that Stanton gets film, gets how it should flow and feel, especially the big popcorn munching blockbuster, in a way that can only be viewed in another modern filmmaker in the likes of someone like the aforementioned J. J. Abrams. Their style is original, using the tools of today, but it also feels like a respectful homage to a 70s style as well, something from George Lucas or Spielberg. I don’t say that in a bad way though. They’re not like the average Tarantino beast, inserting 13% original creativity into a mutant wearing a t-shirt that says “BIG SLOPPY HOMAGE” on it. But I feel like Super 8 was just Abrams addressing the fact that he knew what he was doing, where his style was born. I feel like John Carter is doing that too, but in a much more quiet voice.

Thesis Statement of the PROs: About half way through the viewing of this movie I started to wonder if this film was the closet that I would get to watching the original Star Wars film as a kid.

Perhaps it was thinking that that completely kicked me into a higher gear of of enjoying this film. I mean, I have nitpicks, yeah.

Tons of them, in fact: Starting with cutting this film down a little bit, not in the editing room, but at the drawing board stage, just tightening some things up, some of the chases and what have you, and punching up some of the dialogue. Some diversification of the character designs, especially the warring civilizations, and primarily the “red people,” the humanoids from the warring city-states. There should’ve been a mindset in place for the fact that this movie should be for KIDS, and also adults who accompany them. And more of a mindset than just slapping the tiny little Disney logo on top of the posters.

I mean… Right?

PRO: Taylor Kitsch doesn’t seem like a very interesting entity to be pushing upon filmgoers, but I guess I like him better than Sam Worthington. That said, Kitsch (Sorry, that’s a terrible last name for an actor) does a fine job in this film, but the rest of its cast is fascinatingly seasoned:

Lynne Collins as Dejah Thoris, as well as Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, David Schwimmer, and Art Malik are in there with the aforementioned Hinds, Purefoy, Polly Walker, and Dominic West. And with a cameo by Jon Favreau. And thankfully no cameos whatsoever by Harry Knowles (taking the cheapest of shots here: we would’ve needed something a little bigger than IMAX for that).

Taking a smart note from the original Star Wars there is that you have a unique mixture of British pedigree there, all chewing on that Martian scenery.

CON: The shortened title. I get Stanton’s reasoning, that this film is about John Carter becoming of Mars. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah blah. But still. I don’t know how many Tarzan and/or John Carter and/or lovers of old pulpy sci fi were out there, horny with desire at the thought of this finally coming to the big screen, but still. The OF MARS at the end of the title would’ve really clued you into something going on there. Something different. Simply titling the film John Carter tells me one thing about this movie: I don’t know what this is. Is it a film about a high school basketball coach who applies tough love to his students? Is it about a guy who starts his own company and starts a relationship with a receptionist and also has cancer? Is this a lawyer and/or a doctor flick?

CON, continuing: Leaving the “Of Mars” at the end of the title should’ve lit a fire under the advertising people’s asses too. And perhaps the production design as well. No one on this production should’ve been afraid to go weird here. Obviously they weren’t too precious about the original source material (who is these days?)(other than the people adapting Game Of Thrones), which is fine, because there was nothing too precious in Burroughs’ source material, but there should’ve been some steps outside of the box.

Interlude to this CON: An example of them not being terribly, painfully faithful to the source material: the (would be titular) princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris.

from here.

I like Lynn Collins, and I’m glad with how they reinvented her character for this story. The original idea of Dejah Thoris in the books seems like a castoff wet dream from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and can rightfully belong in the wet dream and basement apartments of fan boys. This is the real world. “Tits” and “Ridiculous nudity” are not character qualities.

The princess of Mars, by Bruce Timm, from here.

Sorry, CON, continued: There should’ve been more steps outside the box in every aspect of this film’s production, really.

There’s no denying that filmmaking has gotten so much lazier since the late 90s, but that goes hand in hand with how much lazier advertising these films has gotten since then. And yet, the advertising budgets for studios is getting bigger and bigger, going through the roof, even when they’re seemingly returning less and less profits. The budget for John Carter is supposedly $250 million dollars, which really means that it’s total budget with the marketing is, what, a minimum of $350 million? Ugh. I’m sure they’ll make that back, but not quickly enough.

But I guess you could say that the film was doomed by the time its first teaser was released.

CON, still continuing, becoming more and more of a bitch session about modern movie marketing and more of a circle jerk over the original Star Wars: The beauty of the original Star Wars as that, to then modern cinema-going audience, it was new. Sure, all that Joseph Campbell shit was old, but they didn’t know that, not consciously. All the fat little nerds weren’t sitting in movie theater lines in 1977 waxing poetic over the hero’s journey. No, they wanted to see a good story and some cool shit, and the film fucking delivered. George Lucas took stuff from primal storytelling archetypes and he took a little from classic pulpy sci fi and he managed to remix it into a very new style.

I’m guess I’m telling you that John Carter has a little of that (but not enough). I guess I’m telling you that we desperately need more of that. We need that potential and we need marketing that delivers the suggestion of a little of that to audiences.

PRO: Again, the movie just solid, and fun. Not perfect. Not a home run, but better than a lot of the shit that you could end up seeing in theaters these days. I’m going on and on about the sins of films these days and how they’re slaves to the advertising departments, but the thing I really want you to take from this is that John Carter is a pretty good movie, even if the trailer would’ve lead you to that assumption, or to any kind of assumption of what kind of movie it is.

One last CON: The ending. It ends somewhat ambiguously, but in a happy way. It wraps this story up in a way that works, even if it means that there will never be a sequel, which could very well be the case. I was somewhat reminded of the adaptation of The Golden Compass from a few years ago, which was not great. I’m a huge lover of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first entry, and I was ready to forgive a lot of the sins of that film adaptation, of which there were so fucking many, but the one I could never forgive was that they cut off the last thirty pages’ worth of the story’s ending, which they had filmed, with the intention of moving it to the beginning of the proposed sequel, which never happened.

Similar to what they did with the ending of The Two Towers, and how they moved its ending to the start of The Return Of The King.

And they did that because I guess they were afraid to end the film on a slightly downer of a cliffhanger. The fools. They needed that cliffhanger so badly. And The Golden Compass was edited like they weren’t expecting to be filming the follow up any time ever, so why not go for broke?

I’m not saying that John Carter needed to do that. They could’ve though. Rather than tying up the one last lingering plot point, such as they did, they could’ve thrown a mystery into your face. That’s another lesson Star Wars that a lot of the so called modern myth makers seem to not see: If you want to have a nice, large tapestry, it better have a lot of complex threads in it, any one of which could produce an interesting story. You walked out of A New Hope not quite sure of what was going on with that Darth Vader dude, or Luke’s dad, but you knew there would be an interesting story there if someone ever brought the story back to the movie theater near you…

This post didn’t live up to the hype

So August Bravo tweets at me last night: “super 8 didn’t live up to my expectations but was still pretty good.”

It made me wonder, why do we go through life judging things based on our expectations? Obviously, there are a lot of low-level heuristic reasons for this in terms of everyday brain processing. But why do we do this for movies, books, events, personal experiences? It’s tempting to say this is a modern age phenomenon. That we didn’t do this before the internet. I mean, did people in Colonial America really walk around saying “man, that play didn’t live up to my expectations. The town cryer totally over-hyped it”? But I’m hesitant. Any time you start thinking that anything new is happening in society, you’re probably going to be wrong. Just ask the lorites. Still, the internet has a way of amplifying the echo chamber in ways that didn’t used to be possible.

The first time I can remember this sort of “didn’t live up to the hype” attitude permeating culture was when the Seinfeld finalé aired. Not that this didn’t happen beforehand, but this is when I started to notice. So Much Hype, they would all say, and the show had Failed To Live Up To It. Soon, this way of thinking seemed to spread to practically any form of entertainment or news event. Y2K? Overhyped! Star Wars Prequel? Didn’t meet my expectations. New Franzen book? HYPED! And so on.

But why does hype matter? Why do we go through life with the need to judge entertainment and events against our expectations? Why is it no longer sufficient to just say “I thought X was okay, but not great.”

The answer probably lies somewhere is the middle of modern internet shared culture, man’s fear of being made a fool, and the apparent need for everyone to have an opinion about everything. I guess it’s easier to talk about yourself and what you wanted from something rather than to articulate a critical viewpoint on it.
I would just posit this: it’s no way to live. Stop thinking about the hype. Ignore the hype. Don’t worry about whether your expectations are too high or too low, because in the end, nobody cares what you thought you would think, and you shouldn’t either. Just take it as it comes. (editor’s note: that’s what she said)

I really liked Super 8. Not a perfect movie by any means. Not a classic. And that’s okay. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a movie like this. Visual storytelling! Steady pacing! Kids who act like kids, not precocious one-liner machines or dead weight! People call this Spielbergian, but I feel like this is a disservice to both Spielberg and JJ Abrams. There was a time, lets call it “the 80s,” when this is what tons of movies looked like. They weren’t just a handful of CGI set pieces strung together by the weakest of scripts with lowest common denominator humor. Sure, maybe the idea wouldn’t be that groundbreaking or original, but at least they made some movies that weren’t remakes, reboots, sequels or adaptations back then. I miss this kind of movie. There should be more like it.

Also, Elle Fanning is ridiculously good in this. Worth seeing it just for her. Star-making.

This is what August Bravo thought. (editor’s note: no, we don’t know what he’s talking about either.)

August Bravo: Ok, I’ll get this off my chest first. The teaser for Super 8 had me really excited to see this movie. JJ Abrams could literally touch my bowel movement and make it into art, so I knew this would be an astonishing movie with some mediocre(ha) special effects.

The great thing about a teaser, especially like the one for Super 8 which I thought was just a working title, is that they say nothing. Ideas are populating your mind.

Naturally, I’m thinking Cthulhu.

Naturally, I’m wrong. How much is this guy going to fuck with us(me)? It’s cool, because it was still very awesome. Not as awesome as I’m thinking in my head because teasers let the mind wander. While most aren’t this broad, people can’t help but think of things beyond their imagination. Why else release a teaser trailer? Because they don’t have enough content to fill a whole trailer? Well yeah, probably. But they want to give the audience a ride. They want their expectations to be high.

And then with the full trailer, they want to smash all your Cthulhu-loving dreams and just show you it’s a movie about some kids with a camera. Albeit, still a very very good movie, with a very meaningful(aliens!!) plot. But audiences expect nothing and something. And I’m sorry that with Abrams I expect everything.

So what if it wasn’t Cthulhu, I still thought it would be something more. Yeah, it would have been cornier if it was more about (spoiler alert!) aliens, rather than having it very down to Earth. But I’m into bad movies. I think expectations are what get the movie going, the audience going. I’ll end it with this. Don’t put practically nothing in your teaser if you don’t want me to dream big.

As far as expectations go, I set mine at an all-time low and I’m generally never disappointed. Generally.

Straight up.