Sunday, August 21, 2016
First of all, if you've only been here, you're missing out. There's new content! I swear!
You can mosey on over to emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com for regular updates, but here's a list of the stuff that hasn't been posted to the Blogspot page:
Captain America: Civil War/Hudson Hawk - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/episode-4-captain-america-civil-warhudson-hawk/
The Hateful 8/Krull - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/episode-2-the-hateful-8krull/
CHAMPIONS OF EARTH feat. Suicide Squad & Ghostbusters, plus a chat with Joshua Hale Fialkov and Tony Fleecs about their new video store comedy Jeff Steinberg, Champion of Earth - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/champions-of-earth/
#7favfilms with David Nielsen - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/7favfilms-from-david-nielsen/
#7favfilms with Russ Burlingame - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/7favfilms-from-russ-burlingame/
Linklater-TASTIC!: Everybody Wants Some!! & Dazed and Confused - http://emeraldcityvideo.podbean.com/e/episode-6-linklater-tastic/
As you can see by those URLs, I moved the podcast from Libsyn to Podbean. Why? Because for the relatively few downloads we get on every episode, it's way, way cheaper to do it on Podbean. Also, the fact that they have an affordable "unlimited" option means we can generate more and different content.
You can see that "more and different content" already starting to take shape with the #7favfilms hashtag. That was a thing that popped up on Twitter and I was intrigued by it, so Dave and I each took a shot at doing our picks and making short podcasts.
Mine, like the Civil War/Hudson Hawk episode of the podcast, is available on YouTube:
And that's the beginning of something you're going to see a lot more of. Emerald City Video is going to start presenting content more often -- much of it in a much shorter and more informal format. A lot of that shorter-form stuff is going to be presented in both video and audio formats, and we're going to start trying to build a bit more of a community on the Emerald City Video Facebook page.
So keep your eyes peeled -- both here and at those other locations. Things are starting to move in new and cool directions. We'll start with new content again tomorrow, which will be the fourth time we've updated in about a week...!
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 10:04 PM
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Okay, so even though I repeatedly said I wouldn’t, and that I had no interest in it (that part was true), I did see Captain America: Civil War.
I was not, contrary to what most of you hope and many had assured me, blown away.
Don’t get me wrong: Civil War wasn’t a bad movie. It certainly wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the tire fire that was the comics it’s based on. But…it just wasn’t very interesting. Like Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron before it, it seems to give fans a lot of eye candy and a fun time at the movies, but I wonder whether it would hold up to another viewing in a couple of weeks, when the “new” has worn off.
For my money, I’d much (much) rather have seen Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice again. I think it’s far more interesting both visually and in terms of storytelling, and I personally enjoyed it much more.
Granted, my disdain for both the Civil War comics and the last few Marvel Studios movies brought me into the cinema with a lot of reasons not to like the film, and a essentially brought the movie to bat with two strikes. But you know what? I’m okay with that.
First of all, because this review is appearing on the Emerald City Video podcast, not on ComicBook.com, so I feel like I can be me and I don’t have to be a journalistic “we.”
Second of all, that’s how a great many reviewers and pundits went into Batman V Superman, so I guess we have the precedent set that we can be dicks now.
Anyway, I had some thoughts on the film. Some of them are big picture, some of them are small potatoes. Either way, this is what I jotted down as I watched through the film for the first time.
1) The establishing captions reminds me of something out of a Wes Anderson movie, for size and font. This isn’t really bad, per se, but it feels weird and out of place in a superhero film. Every time those giant captions would pop up on screen I would think “where’s the punchline here?” They really feel like they’re either a gag or something out of a really snooty indie film. When neither turns out to be true, it’s just…odd.
2) Something about Redwing (Falcon's mechanical bird) doesn’t quite work for me. It doesn’t look REAL. VFX, maybe? Anyway, not a HUGE deal since it’s used fairly sparingly. I will say that in a movie so full of quips and jokes, the fact that nobody made a Clash of the Titans reference is a little disappointing.
This time out, some of the Iron Man action also looked fake to me. Maybe I’m just getting used to it? Could it be that even as impressive as what they’re capable of doing with him is, you eventually just start to see the seams?
3) How the fuck did Natasha use a guy as a meat shield to get out of the armored car when a grenade was going off inside? No, seriously movie. I need to know what you’re using for physics. Last I checked, Natasha is just somebody who’s a really good fighter with no special powers. Even if the grenade is powerful enough to blow the back door off the truck, I'm unclear as to how her holding a dude in front of her while the explosion rocks her and the building she's in is going to do much.
4) Collateral damage from Scarlet Witch may be a plot point, but it’s no more justifiable than in Man of Steel or Batman V Superman, when so many bloggers bitched and moaned about it.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been crickets about collateral damage in Civil War.
5) Rumlow (Crossbones) is just...wasted. Just like so many other villains. Marvel has the worst habit of just killing bad guys more or less at random, even villains who in the comics have plenty of good stories to tell. The worst offender on this score was Iron Man 3, where a bunch of familiar names were hastily applied to Extremis soldiers who were basically extras. But we have some of it in Civil War, too.
Crossbones feels particularly egregious because he came back from Winter Soldier for this. You want to know how to do that right, Marvel? Check out how Scarecrow functioned in the Dark Knight movies.
6) Did they digitally make RDJ younger like they did Michael Douglas?! WHY?!
I get it: Michael Douglas was a proof of concept that this creepy digital de-aging thing can work. But it didn't look all that good in Ant-Man and it didn't improve at all before Civil War.
7) Many of the best actors in the film are wasted in nothing roles. Hope Davis as Maria Stark? What?! We also have Alfre Woodard in a nothing-at-all role. This is the same thing they did in Batman V Superman — just stocking up on hugely accomplished actors to play roles that demanded nothing of them — but at least in Batman V Superman most of the roles seemed to be an investment in the future of the DCverse, whereas here, we get famous people appearing just to appear.
8) Apparently Tony went to MIT? Did we know that? I feel like we probably knew that. Anyway, it seemed worth mentioning since they mention it a half-dozen times at his MIT thing and then when he's meeting up with Peter Parker.
9) Also: Pepper Potts is Sir Not Appearing In This Film, so you have to make a meaningful beat out of it? Why? She didn't appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, either, and nobody noticed or cared. And this isn't an Iron Man film.
10) Dean Pelton was pointless, I’m sorry. Yes I get it, the Russos worked on Community and they stuck the dean from Greendale in as a dean from MIT. But...no. Just stop.
11) WTF is Alfre Woodard doing in this movie, besides carrying over the worst/dumbest part of the comic? Tony may be an egomaniac, but he's neither stupid, nor a sociopath. He knows that these battles cost lives, and he cares about it. The implication that one or both of those things isn't true is offensive to the character.
12) Exposition News Network! Woohoo! We get a sequence of Avengers sitting around watching news reports that literally just narrate the events of the botched Nigerian operation and what it means for them on TV.
13) Ross as Secretary of State, Vision in a sweater...these are images and concepts that have some resonance in the comics, but...they're odd choices.
14) “There are some who would prefer the word ‘vigilantes,’” Ross says. Umm, who, exactly, prefers that? Because they were all fucking deputized and even after the Avengers was privatized we continued to see them interacting with official powers.
15) Also: 117 countries came together and agreed on something like this without raising ANY red flags with the Avengers? And the final blow came in the first act of this movie, which means…how fast did they write these Accords?!
16) Ross says that the Avengers “Routinely ignore sovereign borders to inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned about what they leave behind.” That's actually a really fair criticism, since Captain America is an enlisted soldier and The Avengers are part of a U.S. government organization. Creating international incidents is a big no-no for those kinds of groups.
17) Wait, nobody ever prosecuted Widow for releasing all those classified files? How did she skate past those charges?!
18) December 16, 1991 - The week Tony Stark's parents were murdered by the Winter Soldier was the week The Punisher was black, and Marvel published “What If No One Was Watching The Watcher?”
19) The Vision: “Our very strength invites challenge” - The Dark Knight thesis
20) I’m sorry, but giving Steve’s MOST ICONIC SPEECH to dead Peggy in a half-hearted delivery by Sharon…it’s just…no.
21) SO MANY DADDY ISSUES
22) Wow…that attack on the UN is almost identical to the attack on the Capitol, huh?
23) There’s no getting around how creepy the Cap/Sharon flirtation is here.
24) OH! And they framed Bucky for the attack, too? Hmm.
25) The “in my culture, death is not the end…” speech does not give a lot of confidence that the middle-aged white guys who write these films really GET other cultures.
26) So…what the hell did that Winter Soldier PS from Ant-Man have to do with anything?
27) The gratuitous product placement in the middle of what should be a badass chase sequence with Panther is actually something they might have gotten away with if Infiniti didn’t release that stupid ad.
28) The first time Marvel has ever had three black people int he same scene, and two of them are being arrested.
29) Wow. So “Mr. Stark would like to avoid another public incident” is enough of an excuse for Vision to hold Wanda against her will?
30) “I ask you as both warrior and king: how long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?” — So, Black Panther just jumps right into abuse of power. Wow. Well done.
31) Tony referring to his friend as a weapon of mass destruction really does fall into the Mark Millar area where he’s a flat-out bad guy
32) “My name is Bucky” when he doesn’t know Steve is listening is basically the dumbest line in the sand to draw, like, ever.
33) Can we make “December 16, 1991” into a drinking game?
34) Captain America can kick cars into people. Bucky can throw Captain America through walls. Somehow, Tony (without a suit) and Sharon are able to go blow for blow with him without serious internal injury. Explain.
35) And then T’Challa just beats him up.
36) After which Cap (remember, the wall punch guy) is stronger than a helicopter. And I don’t care how cool it sounds on principle, that’s a dumbass scene.
37) ,,,Wait, what? The scene from the end of Ant-Man is just a random scene from the middle of the movie?
38) The whole Bucky-killed-Tony’s-parents thing would have been a fucking AMAZING reveal…for “Agent Carter Season 2” or something. Having it here is just too little too late in terms of it making a dent.
39) Tony flirting with Aunt May is totally appropriate for this version of the characters, but still feels icky.
40) Why does Peter sound like Andrew Garfield’s Peter?
41) Peter’s whole “when you can do the things that I can, but you don’t” philosophy is 100% Steve’s philosophy, so…is Tony manipulating a teenager?
42) I know everybody thinks Spider-Man is amazing. He’s not. He’s annoying.
43) I won’t lie: Wanda dropping cars on Iron Man was the coolest thing I’ve seen in any non-GOTG Marvle movie.
44) There’s our ride,” and then cut to a stair car? It works, because you’re in an airport, but mostly it feels like they’re trying to evoke the Russo’s early days on Arrested Development.
45) Even before the thing with his parents, Tony seems to take everything way too personal. This all feels like something that is being done to inconvenience him, and he’s really a dick.
46) Rhode kind of deserves what he gets for trying to shoot the others to death. And what happens to Rhodey is no more Team Cap’s fault than the guy whose grenade killed him after he targeted Batman.
47) Also: All those people who bitched that the title fight in BvS didn’t take place until way too long into the movie have no place to talk about the greatness of the airport scene. It’s a hell of a piece of choreography, but it’s an hour and a half in.
48) Both Steve and Tony are totally insane people driven by myopia and ego. Neither of them is genuinely good.
49) Apparently giving a black hero a solo film means Rhodey’s disposable.
50) The film’s “mystery” all comes together from something for which absolutely no clues were dropped at the 1:45 mark.
51) “The Raft”
52) Mark Fuhrman
53) Thunderbolt Ross is a problem for this film. He’s profoundly one-dimensional and always has been in every film incarnation. And it’s just…not fun…to watch him.
54) For a movie that spends pretty much half of its time talking about this bill, the bill is never particularly explained. EVEN LESS than in the comics, which is pretty impressive.
55) To their credit, everybody on the run at the end indicates that all this talk about laws and breaking the law hasn’t completely fallen on deaf screenwriter-ears. At least there’s some fallout.
56) Manchurian Candidate is a nice nod. Pretty appropriate to Bucky, actually.
57) Zemo isn’t even evil here, he’s just…he’s the fucking Age of Ultron version of the Maximoff Twins.
58) Steve knew…but how? When? It doesn’t really make any sense.
59) I will give them credit for all the times people tell Steve “move.” I can see why they traded the speech off to somebody else, because it would have been TOO on the nose coming from him. But…eh. Still.
60) Also: The dumbass “he’s my friend/so was I” thing actually kind of works now. Because Tony is in a fragile emotional state.
61) And, yes…the bad guys win. Because that’s how you end a superhero movie.
62) Tony even tells him to stay down. Because there weren’t enough BvS echoes yet.
63) REALLY?!?!?!?! “My father made that shield” is better than “Martha?”
64) They try to buy back the fact that Steve and Tony were selfish and stupid by showing that Rhodey, at least, did it for the right reasons. And so he’s the one who gets to pay the price.
Cap: 2 (+1 if gas was lethal?)
Bucky: 2 (minimum)
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 10:05 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
It's likely not surprising that Arrow's writers are getting increasingly political -- Oliver Queen is now the mayor of Star City and it's a Presidential election year, after all.
But what does Arrow writer Benhate as much as Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump?
Apparently Arrow viewers who aren't on board for the Oliver Queen/Felicity romance.
Leaving Presidential politics aside (I know, good luck with that), since-deleted tweet (you can still see plenty of him apologizing for it in his mentions) isn't the first time the recently that Arrow's writers have taken aim at viewers who don't toe the # line.
In a tweet that's still live, Jake claimed that "you can't love Arrow and not love . It's literally not possible." When (ironically) said that he knew plenty of people who would , retorted that those people are "bozos."
At the time of comments, being enthusiastically pro- was likely just de at The CW; the relationship steadily became a bigger and bigger part of Arrow's dynamic throughout the third and fourth seasons, until the two had an ugly , when it returned to familiar status of "will they or won't they?"
Over the course of the last six months or so, though, it's become a hugely divisive element of the series, with pro- and anti- fans both going way too far in service of their . Actors, writers, and producers have been harassed, threatened, and bullied on social media with the only significant difference between the two seemingly being which people they choose to harass. That the Arrow is pro- is no longer a safe assumption -- as is learning from dozens of comments that range from the genuinely offended to the politically offended to the opportunistic trolls.
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 10:51 PM
Monday, May 16, 2016
I remember reading and enjoying Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's comic book series upon which the show is based when I was in my twenties. I also remember looking back on them a few years ago and just thinking that, if I read them now, I would likely not have gone past the first volume.
I'm not sure if it's just me, or if it's the material, or a little of both, but Preacher as a comic -- and even moreso Preacher as a TV series -- feels like a perfect example of something that's been driving me crazy in comics and their adaptations of late: unceasing, nihilistic violence masquerading as maturity.
The first time I really remember thinking, about this issue was in The Walking Dead #100, which introduced Negan (and was therefore the basis for the TV series' Season Six finale, the most recent episode that aired). Negan curses like a sailor, picks out one of the beloved members of the regular cast, and refers to him by ethnic slurs while brutally beating him to death.
It didn't feel "mature" to me -- it felt like a 13-year-old boy's idea of what "mature" should be.
I had similar feelings about Marvel's Daredevil and Jessica Jones -- beautifully shot and well-acted, but ultimately not very satisfying because they just felt dark for dark's sake.
This is, of course, going to sound funny coming from me -- the guy who unabashedly loved Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. But it felt like the darkness in that film served a purpose, rather than the darkness being an end unto itself.
Preacher, which appealed to me as a younger man, somehow feels out of touch with my older, more mature (?) or at least mellow sensibilities. So many of the jokes just didn't work for me anymore; they felt less like creative irreverence and more like that guy on Facebook who tries to show how clever he is by posting a thousand atheist memes.
That feeling is exaggerated in AMC's Preacher, in which the research and interest in scripture at least int he abstract has been replaced by contempt and quips. As with Kevin Smith's Dogma, so much of what made Preacher work in the first place was the fact that it felt as though Ennis and Dillon fundamentally understood Christianity, its history, its appeal and its shortcomings. The TV version doesn't single out Christianity in the same way as the comics -- and while that might feel safe from a network point of view, it robs the work of some of what it actually had to say. As much as I feel like I had grown out of the comics a bit, Ennis and Dillon definitely had a point of view, and what they had to say had at least some merit. Here, that's all tossed out in favor of constructing something that's funnier and less offensive to the kind of people who are resistant to critical thinking.
Ironically, in the first ten or so minutes of the pilot, Jesse himself take a cheap shot at the kind of person the show seems determined to appeal to.
Unfortunately, a real weak link in the pilot is Ruth Negga's Tulip.
I say unfortunately, because there's inevitably going to be a lot of hate directed at her for being a woman of color in this show -- and for having been cast in a role which, in the comics, was a white one. Negga's casting isn't the problem; her performance is. If there's one person in Preacher I'd like to have seen blow me away, it's Negga (just to spite the kind of people who will bitch about casting her to start with). She's no better here than she was in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., though -- which is to say she's pretty bad. There's really nothing compelling about her performance at all, and the one-dimensional "troublemaking tomboy" thing she has going on makes me wonder whether Tulip in the comics would turn out to be less interesting than I remembered on a re-read. And Carly Simon is definitely a big step down from The Clash, in terms of Tulip's (in this case post-)shower music.
Dominic Cooper is strong as Jesse, and he's even got some material to work with -- something you can't say about Negga -- but he's given a sense of direction and character too late in the game, and by the time I started to feel invested, I was already one step out the proverbial door. His accent is the least-bad of the bunch, too, so hats off to that -- although in the spirit of AMC's other big comics adaptation The Walking Dead, don't expect just about anybody to sound like an actual human from the South would sound.
Cassidy (Joe Gilgun) is...extremely loyal to the comics.
That's about the nicest thing I could say about the bizarre, cartoonish, buffoonish performance that Gilgun turns in. It's exactly what it's supposed to be, and it's no fault at all of his that I haven't got a single bit of patience for it.
None of the rest of the cast is all that memorable. Lucy Griffiths turns in a performance that's a modicum better than she gave in Constantine, but she's given far less to do here than she was there and it's not clear that she'll be much of a player in the show. Certainly the fact that the first episode plays out so differently here than in the comics will keep comics readers on our toes: the road trip element is not present (or at least not right away), as Jesse not only doesn't accidentally kill his whole congregation, but remains in Annville to preach. That decision means there is the potential for recurring or regular characters who weren't in the comics, and to explore Jesse's relationship to his congregation and his hometown in a more linear way without flashbacks or what-have-you.
Besides Griffiths, who plays a loyal-to-her-own-detriment congregant who works for the church, the pilot introduces a handful of stock characters who may or may not play significant roles in the first season: there's the wife beater and his mousy victim; and the batch of rednecks who, in this case, are Civil War re-enactors so that Jesse gets to literally beat up on some guys dressed as Confederate soldiers (proving that executive producer/director Seth Rogen learned nothing from The Interview about offending political groups with a cult-like bent).
The look and feel of the pilot is that it's meant to be taken seriously, but there are just too many silly ideas and images being thrown around for that. Meanwhile, the humor itself isn't quite as dark as the show seems to want us to think it is, plucking low-hanging fruit like making fools out of rednecks and Tom Cruise. It seems convinced that this is biting social commentary when, in fact, it feels like exactly the lazy and hacky stabs at comedy that so many fans dreaded when Seth Rogen and Evan Golderg were announced as writer/directors.
Aside from a show that takes no real stance on the religious elements in a show called Preacher, we get a pilot which takes the moral ambiguity out of your "morally ambiguous" lead by having his mid-episode fight happen with a wife beater and a bunch of guys wearing Confederate flags, and which tones down Arseface to such an extent that he's more surreal than disturbing. Its shock-and-awe moments come from gore and comical ultraviolence -- and while the source material isn't without its fair share of that, it always felt like it had something to say. The show just...doesn't.
Preacher is a mess of a show that can't decide what its tone should be, and somehow manages to be both overly dark and violent, and lacking in any kind of meaningful subversiveness. Instead, we get bland, canned bad-boy attitude touting itself as subversive. And no real reason to watch beyond the pilot.
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 11:02 PM
Sunday, April 24, 2016
HERE at Libsyn), with Russ Burlingame and Zach Roberts talking about two new theatrical releases.
Why all the changes from our formula?
Well, first of all, this is Episode 3. Episode 2? Still in editing.
Secondly, Zach and I are the only ones who had seen Criminal.
This episode, we talk about our feelings on Criminal, the new Kevin Costner movie from the studio that brought you Twilight and the writers who brought you The Rock.
If (for whatever reason) you want to see us talk about it, you can check out the YouTube link below. I'd recommend downloading the audio, though, because it's nearly three hours long.
If (for whatever reason) you want to see us talk about it, you can check out the YouTube link below. I'd recommend downloading the audio, though, because it's nearly three hours long.
Here are my notes on Criminal:
Given the fact that Criminal, Lionsgate/Summit’s new thriller, features a number of actors prominent in recent comic book movies, it might seem like the kind of film our audience would turn out for.
Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, Deadpool, RIPD, Blade Trinity) is joined by Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever, Men in Black), Gal Gadot (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman), Kevin Costner (Man of Steel), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Scott Adkins (Doctor Strange), Colin Salmon (Arrow), and more in what is ultimately a movie so bafflingly bad, it’s kind of incredible to watch it unfold.
First of all, Ryan Reynolds has already done this whole brain-swap-in-a-bad-movie thing, so I’m not sure how he fell for that trick twice.
It’s a bizarrely antifeminist movie. Coming at a time when big blockbusters are turning out Katniss, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Wonder Woman, and more, Criminal delivers us a sequence of Kevin Costner’s character binding and mounting a woman with the clear intent to rape her.
Remember, folks, this is a character we’re supposed to sympathize with.
When he returns to that woman’s house later, she goes from “I’m gonna kill the guy who attacked me” to the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome remarkably quickly. She’s also kind of a terrible mom.
Alice Eve’s character is killed in a scene that means absolutely nothing, and later, Antje Traue’s character gets an incredibly brutal beating. Neither of these felt inherently antifeminist, because male characters got nearly identical treatment in similar story circumstances...but it’s worth mentioning because they both felt...gratuitous? Certainly it wasn’t a comfortable feeling watching those scenes.
All in all, I’d say the violence in this film didn’t really work. They couldn’t seem to decide whether they wanted to play it for laughs, to play it as “video game violence,” or to depict the very real consequences of the kind of violence they depict. The result is a film that does a little of each, and none of them ever feels quite right.
The whole movie feels like it would have been at home in the early to mid-’90s -- which is interesting because the writing team hasn’t had a major motion picture produced since 1999, according to their IMDb pages. Leaving aside that whole Ryan Reynolds/Ben Kingsley thing, this film feels like what would happen if Face/Off and Falling Down had a baby, and that baby couldn’t decide what kind of movie it wanted to be.
I went to see this film with Zach Roberts, a contributing photographer and videographer here at the site. He pointed out something that seems worth mentioning: this whole movie revolves around a small cell of (apparently American?) spies operating out of the U.K. There are Germans, Russians, and Americans having gun battles, car chases, and setting off terrorist attacks throughout London...with no visible presence from the British government at any point in the story. Do they even know what’s going on?
For that matter, does Langley? In the trailer you’re clued in that this is a CIA operation -- but I got through the whole movie and had to really scour my memory for any specific mention of what organization we’re watching this whole time.
You can see my review of both Criminal and Iris, which is referenced in the podcast, over at ComicBook.com.
Next up, we talked about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both of us loved the movie, but since it's received mostly negative reviews and is on the receiving end of some truly toxic social media chatter, we spend most of our conversation defending it, or trash-talking some of the arguments against it.
That said, here's a small section of my copious thoughts, still in draft form, dealing with the negatives.
What's wrong with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice?
This is a two-pronged question. There's a question of what I perceive to be wrong with the film, and there's what is wrong from a big-picture perspective, in terms of public perception, reception from critics and casual moviegoers, and the like.
For me personally, I had no major issues with Batman V Superman. If I had to pick one thing to go after, it would be Clark Kent and his world. Sure, the Daily Planet was fun and it was fairly well-defined, but Martha Kent, like her husband before her, utterly lacked any sense of being an inspirational figure, or raising someone who is capable of being as good as Superman needs to be.
In the comics I read growing up -- the ones on which the world of Batman V Superman are largely based -- Clark Kent was the "real guy," and Superman was a means to an end. Here, we get the opposite: like in the Silver and Bronze Ages, Superman spends a lot of time fixating on Krypton -- a world he never actually lived on. That never sat right with me in the comics, and it doesn't work for me in the film, either. The idea of making Superman a true outsider doesn't work for me: I like him as more a Captain America figure: he may be from somewhere else, but it doesn't get him down.
In this film, Clark's parents are not inspirational. His job is an interesting backdrop but little else. He's not particularly good at his job, and that aloofness and disobedience begs the question of how he would maintain employment at a place like the Daily Planet, effectively undercutting the profoundly "real" and "grounded" world they're trying to build. In short, this isn't John Byrne's Clark Kent, but Elliot S. Maggin's...and in that version, Clark was never all that compelling a character.
This bleeds over into the love story with Lois; it's hard to know what she sees in him as Clark, other than the fact that he's Superman when they're at home. Part of that is the Cavill defies the odds and makes himself the one and only person alive who has no chemistry with Amy Adams -- but most of it is the way the character is written.
All in all, Clark Kent feels like a man completely defined by his other-ness, by his life as Superman. And that's driven home at the end when he's buried in a coffin in Smallville before friends of the family.
Why is the Smallville funeral such a problem for me?
There was something absolutely heartbreaking about Jonathan and Martha Kent in "Funeral For a Friend." They had to bury a box of their son's toys and childhood things, alone in a cornfield, because they couldn't gain access to their son's body. Superman, after all, belonged to the world.
There was an upside, though: When Superman came back, Clark's body had never been found. This meant it was plausible enough for him to ave been trapped under rubble, only to be "discovered" and rescued a few days after Superman's return.
Once you put that pine box in the ground in Smallville, you're declaring that you have nothing more to say about Clark Kent. And that's a huge loss.
I liken it to one of my big problems with recent comic books. They're so event-driven, so preocuppied with world-building, that it's rare for a superhero's supporting cast to get much, if any, attention. More often than not, superheroes surround themselves only with other superheroes, which makes the Marvel and DC Comics Universes fairly one-note a lot of the time.
So, that's me. What's wrong with the film from the perspective of others?
There are a lot of answers to this; it's a deeply divisive film. Because so much focus right now has been on the box office numbers and its seeming inability to reach the $1 billion mark as the studio had reportedly hoped, I'll focus on that and maybe touch on some other points as I go.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is having a hard time connecting with casual moviegoers, which is likely at least in part because of the critical response and lukewarm word-of-mouth. Fans turned out in force on opening weekend, and then a significant number of them are buying another ticket (per presale retailer Fandango) -- but if you have a high volume of repeat buyers AND a huge drop, it means Joe Public isn't going.
That's borne out, anecdotally, by the fact that I haven't spoken with nearly as many people who feel like they have to see this as I did when Deadpool was in theaters, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My wife, who saw and enjoyed the movie, is and was exponentially more excited for Suicide Squad. Somehow, the fanboy wet dream that blew up Hall H when it was announced has become something that appeals to fewer everyday people than Guardians of the Galaxy.
There are also incredibly high expectations at play for this movie, based on the performance of the Marvel franchise and the Batman franchise over the last ten years. It's not really an apples to apples comparison to try and pick something in that vein to compare it to -- let's say Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk, Marvel's first couple of movies. In fact, I'd argue that there isn't an apples to apples comparison when you're trying to look at any two films in a constantly-changing landscape. In the last ten years, Iron Man changed the game; then The Dark Knight; then The Avengers; then Guardians of the Galaxy; and now Deadpool. All along the way, Warners has been trying to figure out how to make a Superman movie that appeals to an audience that for years said loudly and often that Superman Returns was a disappointment.
There's a story out there that argues "Batman V Superman is Too Smart For Marvel Fans," and while that's reductive, there's absolutely an element of truth to it.
Where the piece is right is that director Zack Snyder uses this film -- as he did Man of Steel -- to make a statement about the nature of superheroes. What would the real world -- our world -- be like if Superman were to suddenly appear? What would Donald Trump's America be like if we woke up one morning and not only were there strange visitors from another planet, but they come to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men? The world would go apeshit.
Where the piece goes wrong is that it maligns other approaches to superhero fiction, as if Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool were somehow not excellent films because they elected (not failed, by the way -- elected) not to address such issues. It's an asinine argument that undercuts the seriousness of the arguments the piece makes in favor of Snyder and his approach, and guaranteed that the comments thread would become a shitstorm of Marvel fanboys and DC fanboys yelling at each other in ALL CAPS. It was not only wrong and wrong-headed but actively self-sabotaging.
All that said, it was about a month before the movie came out that people started talking about how it might not perform at the level Warner Bros. hoped at the box office. While the first reports came out basically saying "test audiences didn't like it," soon thereafter follow-up reports said that the movie was very similar to Man of Steel: that it was challenging, philosophical, political, and ultimately divisive.
That second batch of impressions turned out to be true, of course, and that's why it was unlikely that this film was ever realistically going to make Dark Knight or Avengers kind of money.
While excellent films, those movies were narratively straightforward and morally unambiguous. They asked relatively little of their audience and provided a great deal of entertainment in return.
They also didn't ask anyone to take too much of a leap of faith in terms of worldbuilding. The Dark Knight was the sixth Batman movie in 20 years at that point and the second in a franchise, with the Gotham City of Christopher Nolan's movies already established. The Avengers was the culmination of a half-dozen prior narratively-straightforward, morally-unambiguous Marvel films.
While there isn't anything inherently superior about movies that are challenging, narratively complicated, and morally ambiguous, those sorts of films are rarely rewarded at the box office. Putting that kind of baggage onto a movie you hoped to make a billion dollars was likely a poor idea.
That said, the movie will end up making more money than the first installments of almost any Marvel franchise. That might not be a fair basis for comparison, since technically it's Man of Steel that was the first of these films, but certainly this is the first appearance of Affleck's Batman and, as DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns told me on the red carpet, the first true DC Universe film. The expectations of a billion-dollar film were set by The Dark Knight and The Avengers, but this movie will outgross Batman Begins and most or all of the pre-Avengers Marvel Studios films.
That isn't to say the box office won't be a disappointment to people at Warner who had imagined this would do Avengers-level numbers. It's just to say that it's also not the total fiasco people are making it out to be. It's almost certain to turn a modest profit even before the merchandising and home video numbers that fans like to flaunt so much, and using any comparable film as a basis for comparison, Batman V Superman comes out looking pretty good.
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 5:14 PM
Saturday, January 30, 2016
The first film was a masterpiece -- building a world and defining characters who would live and breathe for decades, becoming beloved archetypes in the cinematic landscape.
The second? Arguably better than the first in some ways, although without actually recapturing the magic of being the first time you fell in love with these characters. But that ending...just wow.
In the third movie, things started to get silly. The rules of the film's universe were starting to bend under the weight of franchise expectations, but at the end of the day it was still better than most movies you'll see in any given year.
The fourth film was bizarre, but had promise.
The fifth? Awful, showing the excesses and poor decisions that people with far too much money and misplaced priorities can so often make.
The sixth wasn't perfect, but it was a satisfying ending, giving fans of the franchise a solid note to end on if there was -- as seemed possible at the time -- never another in the series.
And then, this year, the seventh movie. It's essentially just a remake of the first, with some contemporary twists and a focus on diversity, but it's still absolutely inspired, and stands up to the best of the bunch.
Of course, I'm talking about Creed.
...Why, what did you think I was talking about?
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 6:08 PM
Monday, January 18, 2016
Hey, it's Russ.
We will be releasing a remixed version of Episode 1 soon. When I was working in Audacity, the mix of my audio to the music and From Crisis to Crisis trailer didn't sound NEARLY as terrible as it does in the final version. I should have listened to it in another app before uploading to Libsyn, but sadly, I don't have the time required to remix it right now and won't probably until Thursday or Friday.
So there's that.
Speaking of From Crisis to Crisis, I guest-hosted an episode recently, which you can check out here.
ALSO, the Emerald City Video Podcast is now on iTunes.
Also, I know I had promised these show notes earlier, but I got swamped. That's likely to happen. In the future, there will be fewer show notes, but I'll also attempt to pre-write them so that by the time the episode hits is finished being edited, I'm ready to roll.
During Episode 1a, you hear me mention that I was taking some notes -- more or less in chronological order -- about specific beats, as you might do for a commentary track -- for Josie and the Pussycats. This fell by the wayside as I got distracted by the movie, and by trying to set up recording times and all that good stuff for the actual podcasts.
What notes I did take, you can check out below:
- “Backdoor Lover” should probably have been a clue that this movie wasn’t going to take itself seriously.
- This is obviously the second-best performance from Donald Faison (after Scrubs). And his best comic book movie. Sorry, Kick-Ass 2.
- A few token mentions of Riverdale is pretty much the only nod to the fact that this is an Archie Comics adaptation.
- Well, that and “I’m here because I was in the comic book.”
- I kind of want a tshirt that says “DuJour means hygiene.”
- I love “Take the Chevy to the levy” as code for crashing the band’s plane. That’s darkly genius.
- For whatever reason, when I see a cute girl fixing a truck like we see from Josie in the first act, all I can think of is Diane Franklin in Better Off Dead.
- “But they didn’t say they were dead; they said they were missing,” says Melody in what is probably the weirdest bit of foreshadowing in movie history.
- Aww...there’s a record store scene. They’re like our brothers-in-arms!
- Weirdly, there are at least two people in this film who would later appear in iZombie: one of the girls at the megastore played a minor character in “Real Dead Housewife of Beverly Hills,” and Hiro Kanazawa, the Japanese delegate to Parker Posey’s presentation, was Lt. Suzuki.
- I love the fact that they gave us the only legitimate reason for Behind the Music to be a thing.
- Also, I don't remember autotune being a hugely known thing when this movie came out, so probably there are people out there -- even though it had been around for years by this point -- who thought this movie gave the inventors a bad idea.
- Melody’s Big Mac moment is the weak with the Force moment of the film. Just flat-out Jedi Mind Tricking these ladies.
- It’s interesting to me that they make no real attempt to make the music videos interesting. Usually when they do a fullon music video in the middle of a movie — outside of Tapeheads or UHF — it’s the filmmaker trying to say something interesting. This just looks like what a Josie & the Pussycats video would probably look like.
- I love the Charlie’s Angels stars-As-Pussycats joke in the “Pretend to Be Nice” music video. This movie came out right around the time that those three could have been cast in such a movie.
- Nice that when the hysterical fans showed up now for THEM, they had them all dressed as the girls and the one person of color wasn’t automatically Valerie.
- Okay, so when we get to Operation Big Concert, let’s just point out that it shares a plot with that boy band episode of The Simpsons.
- I think the little stuffed Ronald McDonald doll next to the mirror where the warning for Melody is written, is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a film.
- Josie.com doesn’t work anymore, and that makes me sad.
- There’s a TON of “I caught your nonsense, but bought the transparently terrible excuse” in this movie.
- I hate the “obligatory misunderstanding” plot thread they use with Alan M, but at least it’s fairly organic.
- I kind of love the thing with the Matt Damon cut-out at the Other TRL stage.
- “Puppies turn into dogs, who grow old and die.” I also want that on a t-shirt.
- What the fuck was going on with the clown eating from the garbage in Josie's hallucination?
Also, if you haven't seen iZombie, Tapeheads, UHF, or Better Off Dead, you should rectify that immediately. The latter three would actually be great recommendations for anyone who liked Josie and the Pussycats.
So, you want to keep tabs on your friendly hosts? Here's how you can:
And the archives, which have some good stuff:
bitterbooks.blogspot.com (first thrift store blog)
whatwouldyouaxit.blogspot.com (first taste test blog)
My Twitter and FB are private, and will be staying that way. If people want to contact me directly (HAH), maybe we can set up something through the group page or whatever.
Oh, and just for pure writing:
imaginarybookquotes.tumblr.com although that one's not for the faint of heart. It gets pretty heavy. The other ones are at least marginally joke-based.
My Twitter handle is @RussBurlingame, and my Instagram is @Russ.Burlingame. I have a Facebook page where I'm verified, but if you're one of our old customers or co-workers and we aren't friends on Facebook yet, either look me up as Russell Burlingame or drop me a DM on the professional page if you want.
My channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrAn0n3
Also Logan and I have a WIP board game channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB7hh6gyJ1PEmxsQJTXZu-Q
Posted by Russ Burlingame at 11:19 PM