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May 19, 2015

Podcast Episode 57: What A Lovely Day For MAD MAX FURY ROAD!


What a lovely day indeed!

I don't even know where to start with Mad Max: Fury Road except to say that I wish every blockbuster was so richly detailed, visceral and exciting.  This is pure, uncut, balls-to-the-wall cinema and it is unlike anything else you have ever seen.  Director George Miller has crafted a career best film, which is really saying something considering the career in question.  Seriously, the man is 70 years old (!) and he's crafted the type of film that looks like it was made by an energetic 28 year old and is also better than anything currently being made by such young and hungry filmmakers.

I could go on and on about the incomparable action sequences, the strong pacing and the rich, nuanced performances, but there's something else about Fury Road that sets it apart from every other modern blockbuster and it's the thing that elevates the film from being great to being an outright masterpiece.  That thing is minimalism.  There is an economy of story here to which more films should aspire.  Make no mistake, Miller has created a uniquely detailed world and has considered every possible detail and eventuality.  That crazy guy you've seen in the trailer with the flame-throwing guitar?  His fucking name is The Doof Warrior.  He may not have any dialogue and he may have only a minimal interaction with the story, but The Doof Warrior has a long character history as devised by Miller.  And yet, none of it is on screen.  It's left largely open to interpretation.  This is literally true of every character, vehicle and location in the film.  Everything has been mapped out and connected in Miller's head but he only reveals the absolute bare minimum of information needed to propel the story forward.

By eschewing long expository monologues or overly complex explanations, Miller allows the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.  He makes you work for it.  Go see this movie with a group of friends and I guarantee you will all walk out of the theater not only with a dozen questions, but also with a dozen different answers to each of those questions.  And yet, the film is in no way unsatisfying; you're left wanting more, but in the best way possible.  Fury Road is a film that spurs long and fascinating conversations, whether it be about large scale thematic elements or something as small as "What about those guys on the stilts?"  At the end of the day, there's no greater compliment I can pay a film.

My only regret is that we only got a chance to see the film once before we recorded this week's podcast.  More than any film in recent memory, Fury Road will unquestionably reward repeat viewings.  I could watch it ten times and discover something new every time.  It's going to take me years to fully unpack this movie.  But there's also value in what you come away with after the first show.  Bart, Jamie, Jeff and I all do our best to wrap our heads around this mind-bending film as well as its three predecessors.  We pick our favorite vehicles, we give ourselves warrior wasteland names, and we talk about that one time that George Miller almost made a Justice League movie.

As always, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Soundcoud!


Next Week: Brad Bird's Tomorrowland!




May 15, 2015

Asa Butterfield Is Probably Your New Spider-Man



According to the fine folks at Latino Review, Sony and Marvel are currently negotiating with young Asa Butterfield to take up the web-slinging mantle as the next Spider-Man.  The webhead is set to appear in a limited fashion in Captain America: Civil War, which is filming in Atlanta as you're reading this, so I suspect that we'll get an official press release any day now.  Spidey won't be alone, as the film will also feature the entire team of New Avengers as seen at the end of Age Of Ultron, along with Hawkeye, Agent 13, Ant-Man, Black Panther and whoever the hell Martin Freeman is playing.

There was a short list of young actors circulating a few weeks back and aside from Liam James, star of The Way Way Back, Butterfield was pretty much my top choice.  While Ender's Game was at best a mediocre adaptation of the book, Butterfield's work is top notch.  He adeptly portrayed Ender's peculiar mix of strategic genius, ruthless efficiency and emotional pathos, all of which will come in handy for playing nerdy-boy-genius-turned-superhero Peter Parker.  Mostly I'm just excited to have a Peter Parker that doesn't look like a 30 year old pretending to be in high school.

I've been meaning to rewatch Martin Scorcese's Hugo for months now, but despite a few long flights I still haven't gotten around to it.  Maybe this news will finally get me off my ass.







Watch RICK & MORTY Kill The Simpsons


I don't typically write much about TV, despite the fact that I watch an official metric fuck-ton of it.  Easily the show I've been missing the most as of late is Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's incredible Adult Swim series Rick & Morty, which is a very loose riff on the Doc and Marty relationship from Back To The Future.  It's weird and violent and sweet and twisted and, above all, fucking hilarious.  If I had to point to a single episode to introduce the show, it would probably be "Meseeks And Destroy," but that's just one of many episodes that I'd be willing to watch on a loop forever.

The show returns July 26th and I can't goddamn wait.  In the meantime, I'll have to make do with the video below, in which the folks at The Simpsons allowed Harmon and Roiland to step in and animate this coming week's couch gag, in which drunken mad scientist Rick and his sweet but ill-fated grandson Morty accidentally murder the Simpson family if horrific fashion.  It's magnificent.


Seriously, I cannot recommend this show highly enough.  Even if Community can't milk another season out of Yahoo, at least we have lots of Rick & Morty in our future.





May 13, 2015

My Wife Is Pretty Pissed About This JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS Trailer


I have only vague recollections of the original Jem And The Holograms cartoon.  My sister was just this side of too young for the show's prime demographic, but I remember some of my female childhood friends who loved that shit.

In retrospect, the actual premise sounds pretty cool!  Jerrica Benton is a badass record company exec by day and pink-haired rocker Jem by night, performing with her band The Holograms with the aid of Synergy, a special talking holographic computer that her father built for her before his death.  Synergy literally projects a hologram over Jerrica and her friends thanks to projectors in her earrings, allowing their alter egos to battle it out with rival band The Misfits and getting Jerrica/Jem entangled in a Clark Kent/Superman-esque love triangle with her purple-haired boyfriend Rio.  I make the superhero comparison because the premise so easily lends itself to a Marvel-style, globe-trotting girl power adventure.  Awesome!

So of course this live action adaptation is about a shy teenager who becomes a YouTube star.  Ugh.


Look, I have no real dog in this fight other than a general annoyance at cashing in on long dormant and slightly familiar intellectual property in the simplest and laziest way imaginable.  This movie clearly caters to the worst instincts of teenage America, the self-entitled desire for 15 minutes of Kardashian-level notoriety without having to actually work for it.  Animated Jerrica Benton is a savvy business woman and talented musician who cares for orphans and gets shit done.  Live action Jerrica Benton is all about shrugging off her "unremarkable life" in favor of fashion makeovers and signing autographs on Ryan Hanson's limbs.

My wife Jamie probably put it best: "This movie bears no resemblance to the source material.  It seem slapdash and unfatihful.  It's just no fun!  If we can have a Norse god with a magic hammer and an AI hero dude, why can't we have actual holograms?  The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie might have sucked but at least it wasn't a story about four pet turtles and their owner who all go to school and run a pizza shop."

Not even the presence of a One Direction song was enough for this trailer to win her over.  That's saying something.




May 12, 2015

Podcast Episode 56: This Just In! CITIZEN KANE Is Still Amazing


Last week was the 100th birthday of Orson Welles, so it only seemed appropriate that, with a dearth of compelling new releases at the box office, we should take this opportunity to re-evaluate Welles' greatest cinematic work, Citizen Kane.  Spoilers: it still totally holds up.

If you've never seen Citizen Kane, you'd be forgiven for expecting it to be kind of overrated.  It's been at the top of every "Greatest Movie Of All Time" list for decades now.  How can one movie really be THAT good?  But then you watch it and you have to keep reminding yourself that not only was it shot over 70 years ago, but that Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in the film at the ripe old age of 25.  It's one of those facts that instantly forces you to question all of your life choices.  Kane is astoundingly ahead of its time and it continues to influence countless modern day features, everything from Pulp Fiction to Birdman.  There's one scene in particular that is now impossible to watch without immediately recalling The Wolf Of Wall Street.  Bart and I even found a number of things that reminded us of our own film projects over the years.  Looking back it seems like we're doing direct homages, but we hadn't actually seen Kane at the time.  But Welles' contribution to the visual language of cinema have become so ubiquitous that film fans like us have been internalizing them for years without even knowing it.

I'm rather proud of this episode.  It's relatively short and we spent a lot more time discussing theme and subtext than the actual plotting of the film.  I'd like more of our podcasts to be like this.  We also attempted a new method of podcasting remotely, as Bart could not actually be on the premises at the time.  The audio quality suffers a bit for it, (for some reason I can't explain, Bart actually sounds louder and clearer than Jeff and I do) but we'll perfect the process eventually.  At the end we also get revved up for Mad Max: Fury Road and start to take stock of the string of summer blockbusters peeking out over the horizon.

As always, please subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud!


Next Week: The whole damn Mad Max franchise!




May 06, 2015

Podcast Episode 55: We Assemble For AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON


We're passing what feels like the halfway mark of the Marvel's grand cinematic plan and I'm happy to report that the state of the MCU is strong.

I'm a big fan of the first Avengers. It's one of those movies that my wife and I can pretty much watch at the drop of a hat, whether it be for 20 minutes for the full running time. It's light and it's fun and it's full of of these incredible moments of unbridled joy. I would caution you not to expect quite the same experience from Age Of Ultron, which isn't to say it's not an expertly crafted summer blockbuster or that it somehow lacks in entertainment value. It's just a different kind of beast. In a way, Ultron is a collection of contradictions; compared to the first Avengers, the latest entry is both darker and more exhilarating, more epic in scope yet also far more intimate in dealing with its characters. 

All your favorite Avengers are back and in fine form, but we’ve also got a host of new additions to the cast.  Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are fine as “the twins” Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (the accents are pretty hit-or-miss) but the real standouts are Paul Bettany, who absolutely kills it with only a few scenes as The Vision, and James Spader as the titular Ultron.  Spader is such a natural fit for Whedon’s trademark quippy dialogue that I can’t believe the pairing never occurred to me earlier.  It seems so obvious in retrospect.  

I just wish that, while Ultron does actually threaten to cause a global extinction level event, the action wasn't quite so contained.  With a title like Age Of Ultron, I was expecting, well, an age.  Something that redefines civilization, the kind of singular event that is spoken about in hushed tones from generation to generation, not just a week of individual battles where it feels like the villain is largely operating in the shadows.  I wanted Ultron to truly fuck up the world for a while, crashing communications networks or global finance or something.  Ultron drones descending upon major cities all across the globe.  Chaos on an epic fucking scale.  Granted this movie is certainly very globe-trotting, with major set pieces in Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, New York and South Korea, but each incident is pretty isolated and somewhat small scale.  The new status quo at the end also feels a bit too easy.  Sure, Hulk has sent himself into mysterious exile, but Thor has just gone back to Asgard while Hawkeye has retired to his family farm and Tony Stark has very politely and amicably gone into semi-retirement.  It basically feels like, while most everyone has left the Avengers, they can all come back whenever they get bored.  If you're gonna break up the band and replace them with the B-team, I'd like there to be some real dramatic obstacles to bringing everyone together again.

Since we’re dealing with a team of superheroes, it seemed only appropriate that I assemble a team of my own for this week’s podcast.  Believe it or not, our conversation actually went much, MUCH longer but, at Jamie's suggestion, I'm trying to keep the podcasts shorter than the running time of the movies we're talking about.  We tackle Joss Whedon’s propensity for killing beloved characters, the film’s tricky onscreen romance and even answer some listener questions!

As always, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and/or on SoundCloud.



Next Week: We get classy and celebrate Orson Welles' 100th birthday with Citizen Kane!

May 05, 2015

Martin Freeman Enlists For CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR


Fans of the BBC's spectacular Sherlock series should be fairly ecstatic today, as both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have now officially joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  As Bart just pointed out to me on Facebook, they also played in the Tolkien sandbox together as Smaug and Bilbo, so I guess fans of The Hobbit trilogy would be pretty excited too if such fans existed. 

It's old news that Benedict Cumberbatch will be starring in Doctor Strange next year, but today Marvel announced that Martin Freeman has joined the cast of Captain America: Civil War in some unknown capacity.  I don't expect Freeman to have any super powers.  He's got government bureaucrat written all over his face.  I do expect him to play a good guy who's eventually revealed to be a bad guy.  Or perhaps a bad guy who eventually does the right thing and becomes a good guy.  Maybe he'll be a secret robot.  You never can tell when it comes to Marvel.

Expect this to fuel endless amounts of Holmes/Watson/Smaug/Bilbo/Strange/Other Dude slash fic on the Tumblrs.