Random Review – The Comic Book Movie Conundrum

I think it’s been a respectable time since Avengers Age of Ultron came out and now we can point out all of the things that seem to be pushing Hollywood in an oddly peculiar direction. X-Men Days of Future Past came out last year, and with the Rogue Cut just released it’s time we do a piece on comic book movies that may point out why they need to better, what they can do better on their own, and how they can work on their flaws (which may seem like the same thing but believe me, they’re not).

Days of Future PastAvengers Age of Ultron

Movies are coming out all of the time, so many in fact that most people will never see all of the movies from a given year. Comic book movies seem to be clogging up the schedule and with Sony knocked out of the fight (having partially given Spider-Man’s rights back to Marvel), there are three studios left in Marvel, D.C., and Fox. Of course we’re letting everyone know that this is alright but continuing to accept subpar and, even worse, formulaic movies from these studios and others.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Just because a movie makes a several hundred million to over a billion dollars does not mean that you should do the exact same formula, and at times Age of Ultron truly felt like it was the same formula as the original Avengers (not that it was bad but it was underwhelming). There were many issues that went into the final product of this box office smash, and while I ultimately love the movie that doesn’t mean that Marvel, Fox, and especially D.C. should sit back on their laurels and shovel shit down our throats with the expectation of it continuing in this manner. Even X-Men Days of Future Past found itself floundering at certain points and this film is almost universally considered the best film in the franchise thus far. Here are a few points that Ultron and Days of Future Past failed on and a few succeeded on.

Both are interlaced as they are interconnected production wise no matter how much they’d like you to forget that little detail.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen)..Ph: Jay Maidment..?Marvel 2015

X-Men Quicksilver

For one, many of you might have heard about a character named Quicksilver from Marvel Comics. In the comic books Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff and is here played by Aaron Taylor Johnson of Kickass fame) is the son of Magneto and twin brother of the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff played by Elizabeth Olsen), they’re mutants and members of the Brotherhood of (sometimes Evil) Mutants. Notorious or being in an incestuous relationship in the Ultimate Universe, many viewers may have found themselves chuckling at the fact that Olsen and Johnson played husband and wife in Godzilla just a little over a year earlier. But Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were made further notorious because of the fight that Fox and Marvel went through over two of the most unimportant and uninteresting characters in the catalogue and they were battled over as if they were Wolverine.Wolverine

Aside from a few storylines, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch did nothing of any note and yet they warranted what almost amounted to an all-out war over characters who aren’t really all that much to look at. Days of Future Past featured, inarguably, the winner of the two Quicksilver’s (for one there’s the obvious that will not be spoiled for those who haven’t seen them both), but in DoFP he was underutilized to the point where he was introduced and then disappeared (much like Rogue in The Rogue Cut). And as many of you now know (what with it having made well over a billion dollars) the fight ended up proving my point. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were treated like secondary characters (or ignored entirely). So two multi-billion dollar companies almost shut down production on two films that cost almost half a billion combined over characters that were outright ignored or misused to the point where they could have been cut and I doubt it would have made a difference.

Black Widow UltronBlack Widow Civil WarBlack Widow Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson is an interesting actress who is starting to branch out and find what it is she wants to do. Whoever it is that is in charge of hair and makeup needs to stop making so many drastic changes to her look between films. Long to short back to long then back to short and finally it’s long again. One or two is understandable, and I understand that hair changes can happen at the drop of a hat for some people. But five different hairstyles over five different films that take place over the span of a few months? Now this one can be mitigated by her profession as a top assassin. Being a chameleon is a must. Maybe it wouldn’t be as drastic if there were (GASP!) more than a single female character of import in the series (Colbie Smulders is amazing but she’s barely a supporting character). This is cast aside in Age of Ultron of course, what with the Scarlet Witch joining up but that still leaves two women to four men. At least there’s a chance that Scarlet and Black Widow could pass the Bechdel Test….

Jubilee and Jean Grey

This leads into a major problem for all three studios, which seems to be being addressed in the upcoming sequels (X-Men: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War). There are hundreds of strong female characters in various levels of Marvel and DC, the problem is we’re not seeing them or they’re being represented in a painfully bad manner. For the longest time there wasn’t a single female superhero in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (it took until Iron X-Men StormMan 2 for one to be introduced and she was impressive but not overly so). X-Men on the other hand started out with three, count them three, of the most impressive female characters to have ever graced Marvel’s pages; Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue. No matter how much I The Rogue Cutprefer Bryan Singer to everyone else, he royally screwed them over and (while he may not be the only one to blame he was the Director) they proceeded to grow worse over the franchise as (expected of course) Wolverine gained more screen time. In DoFP Jean Grey is a cameo (it’s been a year it’s not a spoiler) and Storm and Rogue are glorified cameos (Rogue to the point where she was in three seconds of the original cut and overly limited in The Rogue Cut). For a film series that managed to mishmash powers with characters without abandon, I’m surprised they couldn’t just craft someone with similar powers to Carol Danvers (AKA Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel who will be debuting in the MCU during phase three) or thrown a grab bag together like they did to poor Callisto and Psylocke in The Last Stand. If only to give Rogue something other to do than angst. But simply having an abundance of female characters does not mean that they’re good female characters.

Age of Ultron

Up until Phase two the only film to pass the Bechdel Test of the MCU was Thor… Phase Two had more success with far fewer films failing it. X-Men, on the other hand, only has its first film and DoFP as having failed the test despite each film having four or five named female characters in it. It is notable that the failure is only because none of them have a single conversation with one another in either film that lasts more than a few lines (If that for Days of Future Past). The second (United), third (The Last Stand), fourth (Wolverine Origins), fifth (First Class) and sixth (The Wolverine) all pass it with flying characters even though The Wolverine only features four female characters of any import. This is where I personally believe Batman v. Superman will fail.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is being advertised as part of the power trio (As she should be) but it doesn’t feel as if it will do much better than Man of Steel (in which there were a few named female characters who interacted with one another throughout the movie but had entirely one sided conversations when two need to mutually talk with one another in order to pass). With Amy Adams playing Lois Lane, Holly Hunter playing a Senator, and Diane Lane returning as Martha Kent there is some hope what with four big name actresses playing supposedly integral roles in what looks to be a movie all about Batman (much like the eighties, nineties, and noughties) and Superman (much like the eighties, nineties, and noughties) next to Wonder Woman (not a single film).

Ultron

Finally, we are left with the most grating things that Age of Ultron and Days of Future Past has put before us, an average villain played by a superb actor. Ultron is a complex character, there’s no doubt about that, but he was simplified for the casual movie goer and a lot of what makes a complex character complex is the finer details that are often left out of the final product. Do not misunderstand me, for a villain Ultron was interesting and had some weight to him, but I felt as if there was more that could have been done with the character. There was a lot that could have been done for each character (sans Hawkeye who finally got some attention after two lackluster appearances in Thor and The Avengers and not even a mention in Captain America: The Winter Soldier). In Days of Future Past we had unstoppable enemies in the Future Sentinels and an interesting villain in Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage (Of course Magneto as well because there cannot be an X-Men film where he doesn’t usurp the villainous position in the same vein as Wolverine does for the heroes side). A movie tends to be as good as its villain, and each film features strong villains that simply need more material. That doesn’t mean more scenes, however, just more material to build off of their characters where they should logically show up. James Spader had many scenes as Ultron and during his fights against the Avengers it felt a little forced in his favor. He was built up as a badass, and did manage to win several times, but it always seemed to be contrived in my humble opinion. Bolivar Trask never really fights the main characters of Days of Future Past, which is good because a normal human versus the likes of mutants would not be in his favor.

Psylocke, Apocalypse, and Magneto

The good news for Marvel is that all of this can be addressed. The new sequels, Apocalypse, Civil War, and of course the myriad of movies coming after each of them in their respective franchises which include: New Mutants Deadpool, Gambit, and the third Wolverine movie supposedly based on Old Man Logan for X-Men, Thor Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, Black Panther, An untitled Spider-Man reboot that should be taken out back and shot like Superman and Batman, The Inhumans, and Avengers Infinity War for the MCU, and of course DC is trying to figure out their slate so they can play catch up.

DC FilmsX-Men ApocalypseSuicide Squad

NightcrawlerThere are dozens of movies coming out based on comic books featuring more characters than you can shake a stick at. With Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman as the only two listed (Fox come on with Storm or Rogue!) there are only two comic book movies featuring female leads, which is a major step forward if we’re being quite honest. Characters that aren’t Superman, Ironman, Batman, Spiderman, or such other White Heroes are also being set aside (for the most part) for characters whom have been ignored for the most part like the (unfortunately named) Black Panther, and films featuring ensembles with strong female and minority presences such as New Mutants (Kama, Mirage and Sunspot being notable members who are Vietnamese, Native American, and Brazilian respectively) and the Inhumans (We swear they’re not mutants, they’re just so like mutants that no one in the universe can tell the difference or cares to) which can build on dozens of characters from the vault. Really there is so much material to work with here for each industry and it’s time we stand back and say “Enough with the tried and true let’s try the new and unexpected!”

Fantastic Four

Let’s hope the new Fantastic Four will exceed expectations.

Thank you for enjoying this Random Review on Comic Book Movies!

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Random Review – Male Objectification

You might be wondering why you’re looking at these two particular movie posters, especially since Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey seemingly have no commonalities. I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken on that, and for that reason we’re going to delve into an unfortunate double standard that Hollywood, especially big budget films, perpetuates: Female Objectification versus Male Objectification.

Magic MikeFifty Shades of Grey

These two movies are very similar in what they’re supposedly trying to sell us. They’re both aimed towards women, they’re both heavy on sex or the sexualization of its characters, both of them have a far more complicated plot than “Sex: The Movie” (regardless of your opinions on Grey, it’s true no matter how many ways you throw shade… pun intended), and both of them want you to believe that this film is going to change things drastically.

Magic Mike Joe

That last thing is wrong on all accounts. Tell me, in a movie about male strippers, how many times do you recall seeing a penis? How many times do you recall seeing a pair of breasts? If you’re counting Joe Manganiello’s scene I’m discounting points (because it was off center and blurry the first time and behind a curtain in shadow the second. It doesn’t count).

On the other hand, Olivia Munn (beautiful woman that she is who’ll be portraying Psylocke next year in X-Men: Apocalypse) bares her breasts, random extras bare their breasts, and if they could’ve gotten away with it Channing Tatum’s love interest would have bared them two minutes after the credits started to roll.

Fifty ShadesWhereas Fifty Shades of Grey, a movie based on a steamy book (based on Twilight, but no one sued so no one cares) which describes Christian Grey’s penis quite well (Jamie Dornan doesn’t even disappoint in this area if his modeling career is to be believed!), discounts all of the scenes in which it would have been appropriate and then went all out and bared Dakota Johnson’s breasts on several occasions.

Here’s the thing, I like both movies, but they’ve failed this industry and its targeted demographics. Please tell me, ladies and gay men, what do you want to see in a movie targeted towards you? That’s right, the man. If your movie is targeted towards a particular demographic, cater it to them. If this movie is targeted towards a particular demographic and is rated R, then why are you going to bare anything that is not targeted towards your demographic?

MPAA_R_Rating_Screen_Red_dThe simple fact is, a PG-13 movie can bare a woman’s breasts for upwards of ten seconds whereas an R-rated movie can get slapped with an NC-17 rating if it shows a man’s penis for more than five seconds. The normal arguments that moral guardians are going to make are sorely misguided. If you’re going to take your under aged (13-17) child to one of these movies and they’re scarred my male frontal nudity but not by female fronted nudity, you’re obviously holding on to a ridiculous social more that should be discontinued, taken out back, and shot like Lassie. The point of the R-rating is to show audiences anything short of full on pornography and in most cases male frontal nudity is played for laughs (I’m looking at you Seth Rogen and Jason Segel!).

Magic Mike Matt BomerWhy is it societally acceptable for women to be naked on film and there be little to no groans but one man gets naked and suddenly it’s the Inquisition? Because even in films targeted towards women (and gay men) we’re in a male dominated society that is trying to tell us to sit down and accept being shovel-fed female nudity in film and deprived of that same equal treatment of men. It’s stupid, plain and simple. We say we are, but the fact of the matter is we aren’t. Film is representative of society and as such it portrays things based on what it believes we want. Unfortunately, Hollywood is run almost entirely by white men to the point where you have to struggle to find anything outside of that “norm.” This doesn’t mean that all films are controlled by white men, but if you look at the vast majority of production studios and find the true power… It explains why even movies targeting women still need to consider the white, straight male ego.

Fifty Shades Christian Red RoomWhen I saw Fifty Shades in theaters I was distraught to find someone bringing a child (under ten) to the showing, I didn’t care that there wasn’t going to be male nudity to scar them, I was caring about the fact that this was a film that was unsuitable for someone of that age. If only because I wanted there to be male nudity in the film about sex (and romance, never forget the romance).Magic Mike strip

When I saw Magic Mike, a film ostensibly about male strippers that ultimately didn’t deliver on its promise. Yes I was pleasantly surprised that it had a decent plot and practical character development, all of which I would have accepted had it been advertised in the least, but all of which made me feel like I wasted ten bucks. I was promised a movie about male strippers. Breasts do not belong in a movie about male strippers. We’re here to objectify men and not women so why is it so hard (pun intended) to just sit back and f-ing do that in a movie advertised as Male Objectification: The Movie?

Fifty Shades Darker Magic MIke XXL

With the sequel coming out (and from what I’ve heard about XXL it also lacks any substantial in your face male nudity. I’m still going to see it because REASONS) for both movies, I think it’s time we challenge Hollywood to actually objectify the men as we’ve been told. Otherwise, I want an f-ing refund.

Random Review – The Deconstruction

We have spent the entire week looking over what a deconstruction is, why and how they are important, and how they can breathe new life into a stalled industry. Whether comedy is at the core of a deconstruction ultimately depends on two things, your definition of comedy and how devolved the tropes and clichés are within that genre.

deconstruction_logo

A perfect example is Mean Girls, which is a deconstruction of the high school movie. We expect the hot jock and the mean girl to be in a relationship because they’re both vapid people, but when looking deeper there is more to them both. When Aaron Samuels is presented with the chance to get with Cady, he doesn’t because she is too like Regina and he has finally realized that that isn’t for him.

Mean Girls (2004) (l to r) Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried

 

This is clearly what you wanted!

Look at Cabin in the Woods, how many of you recognized the tried and true tropes of the horror genre being given what amounts to a laughable but tolerable explanation. Why don’t the heroes hold onto the weapons they just used to brutally tear through a monster? Electricity shocks you so you drop it! Why is leaving the area where you know there is a maniacal killer out there stalking, killing, and doing god knows what else to your friends? A barrier is going to be your end, of course!

Cabin-in-the-Woods

This is what you really wanted, though!

The tried and true is funny when it is so overblown that it is simply stale and uninteresting. Seeing the same archetypes be plagued with the same problems over and over again with the same old solutions isn’t entertaining. It’s boring, and the deconstruction knows that. When it plays one of those tropes it is manipulating it to the point where the result is nothing like what we as the audience expects.

How seriously are you going to take teen victims who are stupid in a day an age where Netflix has a larger catalogue of slasher flicks than you know what to do with? That’s right, we’re not. How about the hot young thing who’s surprised her minions have revolted because they really don’t like her and fear isn’t as powerful a binding agent as eggs or love (oooh, eat your heart out Azula!)? What you expect is boring. But does that then lead to what you want being refreshing?

No. It doesn’t. We think we want new, fresh, and original ideas but simply look at the different films that are coming out and tell me how many of the original ones were successful? Can you name any of them?

That’s because we don’t like change. At least, we don’t like big change.

A slew of movies are coming out this year that are changing a few things. Things that you wouldn’t really expect and are taking some time in getting used to. The Human Torch is black, Scream is a TV series, Netflix is doing original content, and DC is…. I don’t even know what DC is doing. But they’re trying something new (and by new I mean they’re focusing their entire empire around two characters who have more films behind their belt than Barbie… Maybe not, Barbie has a lot of films these days).

The new thing in Hollywood, which is already annoying the masses to death, is the YA Dystopic Trilogy fest (which may or may not be turned into tetralogies: box office pending of course). The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent and so on and so forth. It wasn’t just enough to adapt books into movies, now we must adapt an entire genre of books into movies! The only saving grace is that they’ve chosen some interesting tales to tell. Okay, there are more but really, who’s counting… Oh…. Oh you are? Good luck with that.

Back on track.

The deconstruction is a treasured outlet to many. It charges us with letting go of the tried and true and opening ourselves up to new and different ways of experiencing a movie.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot of fun?

Random Blog – Comparison of Friday the 13th Original and Remake and the Reason You Need to Stop Judging Slasher Film Victims

Here is our very first RANDOM BLOG!!!

Friday the 13th - OriginalFriday the 13th - RemakeI sit down every once in a while and appreciate the fact that Hollywood is so awesome and overflowing with ideas that all that’s really left are remakes, reboots, bad sequels, good sequels (occasionally), and the dreaded ORIGINAL IDEA!!!! So, let’s compare a classic with its remake dubbed reboot which is really just an homage of the first half of the series (You know, the GOOD half).

Friday the 13th as many people might know is a classic slasher film. It started what others didn’t. It wasn’t the first slasher film as that title belongs to Peeping Tom (but who really cares, it might not even be the first one), it wasn’t even the first of the most well-known slasher film as that title belongs to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it didn’t star anyone who would eventually become the quintessential Scream Queen, as that title appropriately belongs to Jamie Lee Curtis (Daughter of Janet Leigh from Psycho which ISN’T a slasher film mind you) whose acting debut was Halloween.

No, Friday the 13th doesn’t have any of that. What it did start was the archetypes that we know and love to this very day. All of the others had a few of the stereotypes but none of them fit the mold that Cabin in the Woods would point out with more aggression than a high school football linebacker. You have the popular guys, Jack (Kevin Bacon when he was Cheap, courtesy of Everything Wrong with Friday the 13th by Cinema Sins), and Bill (Harry Crosby), the popular girl Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), the joker, Ned (Mark Nelson), the ‘virgin’ Alice (Adrienne King) and the brainy girl Brenda (Laurie Bartram). What was nice about Friday the 13th, the original of course, was that while their basic character types were just that, their basic traits. While none of them had any real characterization (half of them die within the first hour), they had a few things about them that made them stick out. Further sequels would ignore this for most characters and simply make them carbon copies or just stereotypes.

Almost thirty years later came a reboot that managed to cram the concepts of the first four films into one with literally half the number of teenagers, twice the number of stereotypes paired with less characterization for each. We open with five teens, two couples and a fifth wheel because that is precisely how friends go about their vacations these days. Meet Whitney (Amanda Rigetti), obviously beautiful and spirited, her boyfriend Mike (Nick Mennell), a little sexual and definitely caring of his girlfriend’s feelings, fun-loving jokester Wade (Jonathan Sadowski), and the sexually overcharged Richie and Amanda (Ben Feldman and America Olivo) people who might as well be cardboard cutouts of actual human beings. Thankfully they weren’t even trying to make us believe that these people are under the age of eighteen, it wasn’t that believable. Twenty minutes in, of course, they all die in horrible awful, brutal ways that are rather imaginative considering what we get for the rest of the movie.

We move on to other teenagers played by people you probably know by the year 2015; Danielle Panabaker plays good girl Jenna, Travis Van Winkle plays the asshole Trent, Aaron Yoo plays weed obsessed Chewie who is breaking down stereotypes, Arlen Escarpeta plays similarly weed obsessed Lawrence who is also breaking down stereotypes, Willa Ford (I Wanna Be Bad!!!) plays bland blonde Chelsea, Ryan Hansen plays Nolan, her fratboy boyfriend who is… basically Dick Casablancas sans a few hundred thousand dollars in the bank account, and Julianna Guill plays the smoldering temptress Bree (thank god someone is grounded enough in the situation as to ignore the fact that her boyfriend is cheating on her with someone we can only assume is one of her best friends and remember that there is a PSYCHOPATH chasing them with a wide array of sharp objects). Outside of all of them is the Memetic Sex God that is Sam Winchester…. Oh? That’s not his name? Seriously Jared Padalecki was basically Sam Winchester sans a brother and plus a sister but that’s beside the point.

This just goes to show that if you make a formula that is semi-successful that you shouldn’t ever change that formula no matter how sick and tired of it people grow over the years. Formulas good, originality bad.

Not only is Friday the 13th steeped in formulaic tradition, each and every version is a prime example of one of my favorite pet peeves… where film goers are concerned. One of the number one complaints that I always hear when talking about the slash film subgenre in general is that these people are idiots for not acting like they’re in a horror film…. Crickets literally sound in the background whenever I hear this or any variation of this.

Let’s look at the reason as to why this is not only an unfair statement but an ignorant one at that. Go back to the last horror film you watched and take notes on what the characters do. How many of these things are something you do on a regular or semi-regular basis. When you’re on vacation, generally your inhibitions are lowered for one, but you’re also with your friends and in this genre it’s always a large group of five+ individuals. How often in your life do you act as if your friends have been brutally butchered throughout the day? Now, how many of these characters act like their friends have been brutally butchered throughout the day until they actually learn that their friends have spent the day, or weekend, being brutally butchered? That’s right! You don’t act like your friends have been brutally butchered because you really don’t know that until the first body lands in front of you spewing blood all over your precariously white jean shorts. Who would have thought that acting like nothing is going on is the correct way to act when you legitimately don’t know that anything is going on? It isn’t stupid to think that your friends are playing a joke on you, it isn’t stupid to ask if someone’s out there when you hear a strange noise, it isn’t stupid to walk around the house in the dark at night because you don’t want to disturb your friends who you don’t know are already in the process of rigor mortis, you have absolutely nothing to fear because you don’t know that there is some violent murderer wandering the camp grounds, suburban streets, or recreation center or whatever else teenagers are getting butchered left and right in.

The first thing people need to remember about slasher films. The characters don’t know they’re in a slasher film. They don’t know they are being stalked by a psychopath. How many times do you sit in front of a police procedural’s opening scene lamenting the poor person who’s about to be brutally beaten, raped, murdered or all three in varying order? Do they act like they know they’re being stalked?

So remember, the next time you sit down and watch a horror movie, slashers in particular, don’t yell at the characters for their actions. Imagine yourself in the situation. You wouldn’t act any differently because you also don’t know that you’re being stalked by a psychopath.