Author Archives: coloneldoctorspenceresquire

iron man 3, a review of a movie that doesn’t quite understand itself.

Children should not be aloud to be actors. It’s a simple fact that the overwhelming majority of child actors are just horrible. They can’t emote and often sound like they’re speaking English as a second language. Syllables fire off at random intervals and their faces react about a second too late. 
 
Sadly, the fact that children are remarkably poor actors did not stop Shane Black from writing one into the story. He’s entirely useless and serves only to lob a few lines so that Tony Stark can be a dick. He’s a fun dick, to be sure, but a dick nonetheless. He openly mocks a kid whose dad left him when he was just a few years old for no real reason. And the kid’s got nothing more to say than “GARSH! I AM CRUSHINGLY ALONE!”
 
But the tonal issues in the movie don’t just lie within the child actor. They also stem from the simple fact that, just a few weeks ago, we got bombed by some assholes who just wanted… well we don’t know since white hat isn’t being read his Miranda Rights / is being denied legal council, but that’s neither here, nor there. Whatever the case may be, it’s all screwy. And that screwiness also relates to the way in which violence is presented in the movie. I feel like I can speak for anyone reading this who say the photos of the after-math in Boston, bombs are unpleasant. They make for a horrific scene, one that can’t really be put to film without dedicating to it fully. 
 
The movie ends up lying within this remarkably strange middle-ground where it isn’t quite an escape from reality, a fun lark, like the first movie was. It tries its hardest to tug at your heart-strings with scenes of bombs, going so far as to bomb Jon Favreau within the first 15 or so minutes of the movie, but it totally falls flat given that he’s scratched up slightly, but not really any the worst for wear. And beyond that, he spends the beginning of the movie just being annoying. You can’t be expected to build any sort of empathy for him, because he’s just busy being obnoxious.
 
And he somehow survives a blast with temperatures reaching over 3000 degrees Celsius, just by hiding behind some crappy souvenir stand. I might just be thinking about bombs in light of what’s happened in Boston, but I do honestly think it’s a major problem with the movie. Bombs are evil devices, and treating them as a flashy plot device felt cheap. 
 
One area in which Iron Man 3 did actually work for me was in the choice of villains. Guy Pierce plays a decently interesting villain and seems to have had a good time chewing the scenery throughout. His transformation from crippled to handsome evil mastermind is believable enough. Ben Kingsly also plays an interesting role with a few twists and turns. Thankfully, this isn’t just a case of “sequel=more villains!” because it feels like basically every third superhero movie falls flat on its face from just trying to amp up the action by just having a horrible clusterfuck of villain-ry. Spiderman 3, Dark Knight Rises, and X-Men: The Last Stand are all terrific examples of how an otherwise wonderful franchise can bite the dust by just trying to juggle too many balls at once. 
 
The story remains interesting up until the last battle, when it completely falls apart thanks to some horrendous foreshadowing and writing. The following are just a selection of some of the questions that I had during the movie and immediately following. Needless to say, the end of the movie is… problematic. The Vice-President is apparently evil? Because his daughter has only one leg? And so wanting to help her makes him want to murder the President? And somehow no one will find out about this? What was Aldrich’s (Guy Pierce’s) plan for showing how he actually captured The Mandarin? Was he going to waltz into the White House with the Mandarin in tow and just expect everyone to nod along? How was he going to get the Mandarin off? Didn’t the actor know that it’d all end badly? That he’d end up in jail? What is the magic goo and why do people sometimes blow up? Is it when they take too much? Or not enough? Also, when Iron Man is fighting Super Goo, as I’ve elected to call him, since he didn’t get a name, does he not understand that he regenerates? He sees this regeneration MULTIPLE times throughout the movie, and just ignores it sometimes, while anticipating it other times. Apparently electricity stops it? Why does Super Goo shoot Maya (Rebecca Hall) if he sort of needs her to finish/fix the formula? Why can Super Goo breathe fire? What does that have to do with exploding and / or regenerating their bodies? Why can Tony just fix Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow)? Couldn’t he have just come up with some sort of Batman-style antidote to make the final fight make a lick of sense? When Tony blows up all the Iron Men, Pepper is still wearing the glove of one of the Iron Men. Why did that not explode? 
 
I’m not kidding. I could go on. For a while even. The movie throws aside ANY pretense of any sort of logic and just has robots explode for the final 45 minutes or so of the movie. It just reeks of Disney. The forced awful child, the lack of any sort of meaningful violence, even where it would make a lick of sense, the ludicrous amount of CGI, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of vaguely fun, but the first part of the movie feels like it tries so hard to have you harbor some semblance of emotion or fear for any of the characters in the movie. When Pepper falls into the fire, it’s during the middle of fighting DOZENS of Super Goos who’re all immortal(ish.) A few people in the theater even so far as to let out derisive “PFT”‘s. There’s no fear for anyone, no stress involved for anyone watching the movie, and the one main character who dies, Maya, she does in such a way that 1. is kind of hilarious, 2. comes SO FAR out of left field that I was convinced she must be a totally different character or that I’d heard something incorrectly, or 3. she just dies half-off-screen, so she’ll just being in Iron Man 4: Iron Man Harder. 
 
Or maybe not. I don’t know. Or care, really. And neither did the people that wrote this movie. Image
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ar-go f*ck yourself, or how i learned to stop worrying and start loving the oscars

The Oscars were on a weekend or so ago. They’re a massive circle-jerk that, for one reason or another, tens of millions of people tune in to watch and be subsequently disappointed by, year in and year out. We’ll keep on making this mistake until Crash 2: Crash Harder finally breaks our faith in The Academy. In the mean time, dirtballs like myself will use the Oscars to gauge the way Americans feel about themselves, and what we collectively feel as though we have to atone for. A bit harsh? Perhaps, but the best picture can be an effective measure to find out how we feel about ourselves as a nation.
CHAKIRIS WISE ROBBINS MORENA
In times of prosperity, we tend to look towards examples of cinema that show how great we are as a nation and how we’re super good at moving on and being cool about our fathers and father’s fathers being jerks to various minorities. Take disenfranchised Puerto Ricans, for example, in the most awarded musical of all time, West Side Story, we’re privy to all manner of “look how human brown people can be!” And that’s not to say that the movie is bad, it isn’t, but it’s indicative of the time and place when it was released and subsequently awarded in. We look at a disenfranchised group of people and see them as living, emoting human-beings. Granted, with this particular movie, we’re seeing the same story retold for the umpteenth time, but given the area in which is was released, forcing people to digest something somewhat unpalatable in a form in which their familiar is often the best way to go about something as bold as telling Alabama circa-1960 that brown people might be worth a damn. Though to be fair, I can’t imagine the box-office revenues from Alabama for West Side Story were terribly significant, feeling pretty, witty, and gay still aren’t terribly high on their priority list.

Following this, we descend into a period of turmoil  we hit the 60’s and America starts to burn from the inside out. In much the same way that movies in the 1930’s were about happiness and prosperity while having a tinge of bittersweet sadness (I’m looking directly at you Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Grand Hotel, It Happened One Night, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and every other major film of the era, realistically speaking.) Instead of getting to the point where the films that receive Academy Awards are the movies that challenge us in any real way (Dr. Strangelove, To Kill a Mockingbird, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, etc.) we get lulled back into a feeling of escapism. What wins the Academy Awards of the era? Oliver!, a film whose tagline exclaims is “MUCH MUCH MORE THAN A MUSICAL!” The Sound of Music, a movie that, while good rarely strives for much more than that. It’s good, but mostly inoffensive and easily digestible. Similarly digestible and bland, while entertaining nonetheless, My Fair Lady won the award in 1964.

Oscar Rocky 1978
This escapism continues for years and years until we get to a fascinating year, 1976. In 1976, the following films are nominated for best picture, Rocky, All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver. Three of those movies are some of the finest examples of cinema, period, one is a gorgeous example of cinematography and the first ever use of a Steadicam, and the other is Rocky. Before I get pelted with stones for saying anything mildly disparaging of the movie Rocky while also having a Y-chromosome, let me first say the following, like most of the Academy Award winning movies of the 1960’s, Rocky is good. There’s precious little wrong with the movie, but I’ve often wondered why it won over something as good as Network, one of my favorite movies of all time, or something as breathtakingly original, at the time, as Taxi Driver was. And the answer, so far as I can tell is this: Rocky was the best picture to encapsulate the feelings of the country at the time. That will always be the movie that wins best picture, always.

At the time of its release, the US was basically in shambles, at least as close to the term as we’ve gotten in modern history. We’re just coming off of losing our first war in Vietnam, we’re getting used to the fact that we can lose a president to deceit and corruption, and almost losing a shitty president to a would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore,  and then Carter wins the presidency. Carter is a wonderful guy, but at the end of the day, no one’s going to run to the top of a tall building and scream about how proud they are to be American because of him. Simply put, people aren’t proud of much. They don’t feel like they can root for much, and when we feel that we’re the down-trodden, what’s the first thing that we, as Americans love more than anything else? A movie that let’s us feel at least two of the following things: pride, intelligent, and full of blood-lust to some extent.

Rocky gets all three. Which brings me to the year 2012, economically speaking, we’ve been downtrodden for some time. Most of the world hates us, and the best comebacks we have aren’t in the form of handshakes, they’re in the form of RC planes that are really effective at killing civilians. Which weirdly enough don’t seem to be making too many friends internationally. So, as before, we’ve got the set-up. We have some movies that are thought-pieces, that attempt to be, in a sense, Oscar-bait, we have some movies that I adore, but will basically never win an Oscar for best picture… and then we have “Rocky.”
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Argo is an updated version of Rocky. It’s a movie where, going in, you basically know the outcome, there’s not a huge reason to feel suspenseful throughout, but it’s well-written and genuine through and through. There are  great moments that we can always call back to (Argo-fuck yourself comes immediately to mind,) and we as an audience can feel a genuine sense of pride. Does it matter that, at the end of the day, many events in the film are half-truths, and realistically, the Canadian government did most of the work? Of fucking course not! This is America! We got to look our then (and now) enemy, Iran in the eyes and give them a big middle finger. We got to whip our dicks out and have the stones to say “The best work of art produced in the past 12 months is something that shows how 5 or so people fooled your entire damn country.” And you know what? They feel the exact same way.

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adventure time recapping: all your fault and little dude

Double header! 
So what happens when you finally hit a bump in the road? I mean, you have to know it’s going to come some day, right? No relationship can continue on without any sort of instability forever, right? 

 
It’s what kept me from writing this for over a week now. Adventure Time is my unconditional comfort food. Plop me down in front of a Czech dinner and I’ll scarf it down with alarming speed. I look forward to it each and every week for years now. I was resistant to it at first, sure, but it’s like yoga for my childhood. Sure it’s sometimes difficult to get through and makes me cry like a girl… ok, losing the yoga metaphor… I hope. 
 
I digress, the Lemongrab character is something that I’ve thought long and hard about. I just can’t find what makes him funny. He’s like that kid in school whose inexplicably popular, even though his only discernible positive quality is blowing snot rockets with alarming velocity. Which, while impressive, is mostly irritating. Kind of like Mumford and Sons. 
 
I’ve not given up Lemongrab. Maybe I’ve missed something! Maybe there’s something wrong with me… or maybe there’s something really helpful about finding a problem with something or someone that you love. Maybe it means that you’re growing as a person, better able to accept flaws. Nothing’s perfect and the lows mean that you’re more able to appreciate the highs that they’re able to give you.
 
 
SPEAKING OF HIGHS this week’s episode gets everything right. It’s everything that makes Adventure Time  that warm embrace that I get to start my week with. Sweet gravy-soaked goodness.
 
The show’s never been afraid to be weird, but in an unflinching highly deliberate and sincere fashion. It’s like on the Simpsons, when the following exchange happens:
 
Frink: “Yes, over here, […] in Episode BF12, you were battling barbarians while riding a winged Appaloosa, yet in the very next scene, my dear, you’re clearly atop a winged Arabian! Please do explain it! 

Lucy Lawless: Uh, yeah, well, whenever you notice something like that… a wizard did it
Frink: Yes, alright, yes, in episode AG04-” 
Lucy Lawless: Wizard!

 
 
It doesn’t waste time trying to bore you with explainations like, “why do they have a sausage-flare? Why do they call them sassages? How does an anthropromorphic hate turn food into poo? It doesn’t really matter. Would an answer really make you happier as a viewer? 
 
It reminds me of J.J. Abrams. He has a box that he received from his father at a young age, that he’s never opened. He’s never once opened it. Not even one peak. The mystery will forever remain. It’s what made Lost so breathtakingly unsatisfying. As a creator, you owe it to your audience to either answer questions appropriately or not at all. Adventure Time stratles that line to an impressive degree. You’re left longing for answers about the back story while feeling that much closer to the characters in the show. Just like early season of Lost. Can you imagine how much more satisfied we’d all have been if they’d simply never promised to answer questions about the origin of the island? Did we really need to see “Across the Sea?” Did a single human-being feel that they know more about the show, the origins of the island, or the characters on said island following weird reveal of WHO WERE THE BODIES IN THE CAVE THAT none of you honestly remembered from season one… you know… that burning question you had… and why do they fight over wine or something….
 
Adventure Time circumvents all that nonsense, because no one really cares about how flower/Master Shake wizard came to be. He was underground to hide himself from the world until a magic flower grew out of his head and gave life to Finn’s hat. Now that that single sentence is out of the way, let’s have a story arch where there is a clear redemption of his character where he’s allowed to overcome the demons his father thrust upon him through the power of maternal love. Just a few sentences that allows you to feel close to a character whose first appearance is coming out of the ground and snarls a bit. 
 
Finn and Jake spin around in a pool of water and make a whirlpool that’s small and kinda sucks. Everyone does it as a kid, he’ll I’ll still do it any time I’m in an above-ground pool, which admittedly happens so often. 
 
But in the end, good moms can put an end to badness. The last sequence is kinda great. All it takes is some good parenting to turn evil into good. You get to see the once evil hat made good, and the Wizard no longer turns everything he touches evil. Balance is restored and everyone gets to be happy. All because someone’s mom was a mench along the way. I gotta imagine Osama bin Laden had a shitty mom. I bet she was a real piece of work. 
 
 
Rando thoughts:
 
Why’s there a raspberrying horse? Why’s there a saloon? A cowboy? Banana Guards don’t seem to be particularly helpful.
 
Master Shake should be everywhere.
Kitchen gloves stop heat. Heat and magic. 
 
“He turned it into poo! This is poo now! Smell it!”
“BMO hit you on the butt… hehehe….”
“Sassages”
“You’re gettin’ kinda fat, dude.”
 
Anime-explosion jokes! 
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adventure time recapping: mystery dungeon

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Sometimes you produce a monster, an abomination. And that abomination farts on your face because it’s a book with a developmental disorder. Or something.

 

Adventure Time has always been a show obsessed with the creative process. It’s meta-commentaries on what it means to write/create have always been particularly poignant for me, personally. This episode went in a slightly different direction than episodes past, while the work is still celebrated, it’s shown as being bastardized, broken even. The Ice King knows what the story is in his head, he can picture the characters as if they were real utilizing his imagination.

 

When given a shot at bringing his creation to life, he comes up with a Saw-esque kidnapping scheme in which the strengths of various characters are utilized in order to get to a mythical creature to literally give his characters to life. This is even more like Saw when you consider the mastermind’s single-minded devotion to making his dreams a reality.

 

This darkness is pervasive throughout the episode. A character is squeezed to “death, ” a character has to cut her way out of the belly of a horrible shark-monster, and a “child” is neglected so that the Ice King gets the mere chance at making his dream a reality. And that is the reality of the situation that the show is talking about here, you can’t really hope to give birth to something without sacrificing all else. It’s what made Steve Jobs a tremendous success while simultaneously being lower than pond scum. He was a morally reprehensible piece of shit who disavowed his own child so that he might have a shot at transforming a crappy garage-based start-up from an acid-based fever dream to the ubiquitous multimedia conglomerate that Apple Inc. is today.

 

But even after the long road full of sacrifice, his creation just farts on his face. The other characters just look on with pity and a bit of disgust. But the Ice King is happy as a clam. He could not be more thrilled with his creation.

 

If I can make things current event-driven for a moment, The Ice King’s look of relief was not totally dissimilar to that of Obama’s face after the inauguration.

 
It’s deep satisfaction. It’s been a long road getting there, full of sacrifice, betrayal, literal and figurative monsters, but at the end of the day they’ve given birth to something they find beautiful, even if not everyone else does.
 
Disorganized thoughts:
 
Lemongrab isn’t funny. I do not understand his shtick at all. He just yells… I think? Maybe there’s something there I’m not getting…
 
I think it’s so ballsy for a kid’s show to regularly ditch its main characters for the duration of an episode, or any show for that matter. Usually we’re stuck with the same 5 or so characters for the entire run of the show. That was something that I used to really love about The Simpsons. Even Apu had multiple episodes about him. 
 
Tom Kenny is a fabulous voice-actor.
 
Pie-flinging robots with parental issues; something all children can relate to. 
 
This is the specific face both Obama and the Ice King made:
 
 
Mousing over the image should show the gif, if not, click the link above. I really love this gif. He looks so resolute and content all it once. You can even see his nose flair out as he gives a soft sigh. Powerful stuff. 
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oscar buzz: thoughts on zero dark thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is fucking terrible. Oh that felt incredible to say “out-loud.” Goddamn, I have literally never walked out of a movie, but Zero Dark Thirty almost pushed me over the edge. It is actually difficult to have a movie full to bursting with controversy that literally bored me to tears. But what’s worse than boredom? This movie is remarkably stupid and poorly written and acted with all the care and craft of a high-school musical.

The movie opens with some guy torturing some other guy. We’re supposed to think that it’s rough and edgy… because the doe-eyed white lady is clearly concerned. She reminds the suspect to “not be a naughty liar.” So she’s a softie, right? But literally 2 minutes later, scruff beard-man talks to a colleague and says “She’s a raw new recruit, someone to fear.”

Wait. What?

The confusion increases as she spends the rest of the movie bouncing between RoboCop and scared almost… damsel in distress. She’s one of the most inconsistent characters I’ve ever seen, literally no hyperbole here. In the middle of the movie, she’s devastated(?) by another character dying… a character that she’s had two interactions with, the first of which was being mocked by her. The second they’re best friends? Sort of? Then she dies as a result of a monumentally stupid decision that’s telegraphed from a mile away (pro-tip, maybe don’t let terrorists into your military base.) Then she gets blown up. And as an audience we’re sad because we’re told to be sad. Doe-eyed girl is sad, so we’re EXTRA sad. She even starts drinking. *Gasp*

Then, from her sadness comes a moment that was so stupid that I almost left the theater. James Gandolfini goes “WELL HOW TO WE KNOW HE’S IN THIS SUPER-HOUSE? I DON’T BELIEVE THIS!” And then she goes “WELL IN THE MOTHER FUCKER THAT FOUND THIS HOUSE.” I did not make up that line. Some of this review is schtick, because I hated every minute of it, but that line actually happened. Doe-eyed looks into the camera and says “I’M THE MOTHER FUCKER THAT FOUND THIS HOUSE!” The audience in my theater ERUPTED with laughter.

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This was the moment where I almost walked out of the theater. Once again, she shifts abruptly from soft to badass for no reason other than shitty writing and acting. It’s so bizarre, she doesn’t even change her tone. If she’d ended it with an innocent giggle and a “teehee!” it would not have seemed out of place. There’s a gigantic disconnect between her character and the events of the film. Saying someone is force to be reckoned with does not make them a force to be reckoned with.

As a brief aside, I brought this up following the viewing, and I was greeted with cat-calls and my friends calling me sexist. I’ll admit, this could sound sexist to an extent. In so many words, it sounds like I’m asserting that femininity is inherently weak. Not so, there are plenty of examples of femininity being strong, assertive, and a force to be reckoned with. Kill Bill is a terrific example of this. Beatrix is an unstoppable force, beautiful, yet vengeful. She’s doing everything she can to avenge her daughter’s supposed death, and yet at the end of the film, we see her as soft and loving.

And speaking of loving, there is literally no motivation for any character in the film. There’s not a personal relationship to speak of. People just act and we’re supposed to root for them because they’re white. Or monkeys. That’s not racist, that’s literally a plot-point in the film. We’re supposed to feel for monkeys who are killed off camera. Because they belong to beardy-guy. He actually says with his human mouth, “Goddamnit… they killed my monkeys…” BEAT. Like a human died. That’s how the scene plays out. Then later in the movie, doe-eyed girl is approached by a different younger, doe-eyeder girl, who then asks to have lunch with her. At which point she goes “I DON’T EAT OUT. TOO DANGEROUS.”

Why? She eats out several other times in the movie. Important plot points happen in restaurants. Like her character inexplicably being at the Marriot bombing in Pakistan. Bull shit. I do not believe that her character, who was supposedly based on a real “person” was there for a minute. It was so stupid and convenient. No, Kathryn Bigelow, you just wanted to blow up some brown people while we, as the audience, could watch doe-eyed girl react to the “horrors of war.”

Unlike The Hurt Locker, the cinematography is horrid. We just look at a thing, then look back at doe-eyed girl for how to feel. There’s not a single moment in the film where we, as an audience, are hit with anything remotely controversial. Is torture good? Just look at her face. Is bombing good? Just look at her face.

Which brings me to my largest point and biggest gripe. This movie is just fucking stupid, racist, and a chest-thumping. Yeah, we killed an 80 year-old man because he bombed us. We didn’t stop until that asshole was dead. Go us. Most pop culture that deals with this sort of thing is at least honest about it. It doesn’t purport to be anything more than a good-ol-fashioned “OOH-RAH!” This pretends to be art. At least Kid Rock has the good taste to just come out and say “Warrior” is a masturbatory exercise.

I elected not to use the names of the characters in this review because I didn’t need them. There are two characters that exist and the rest are wholly superfluous. We just look at the white girl and know she’s the good guy. It’s a thoughtless exercise filled with tedium and literally no tension.

The movie opens with the line “I own you.” And for most people watching and enjoying this film, that sentiment is spot-on.

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