The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Retrospecticus: The Final Two Seasons of The Office

I don’t know why, but I have been compelled as of late to re-watch the final few seasons of The Office. It might be because I recently caught a clip of Steve Carrell and was instantly reminded of the downturn the show took almost immediately after he departed it late in 2011 to start making more movies. Maybe I had been giving the final few seasons a bad rap as well, and I wanted to go back and check them out to see if there were any gems I indeed missed. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I became committed to checking them out.

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So I did. I immediately began with the Will Ferrell arc, which were Carrell’s last few eps, and just tore through the show from there. I remembered Will Ferrell’s time on the show, where he portrayed incompetent manager D’Angelo Vickers, as being completely horrible. I was not wrong. Ferrell is a gifted comic actor and has made some of the strongest comedies of the last 15 years (Step Brothers and The Other Guys are two of my favorite movies of their respective years). Ferrell just did not fit in with the rest of the cast of the show, and honestly his character was just there as a high-profile placeholder until the writers could figure out what to do with the direction of the program.

After Ferrell’s stint on The Office came to an end, the show toyed with the idea of doing interviews with multiple celebrities to see who might end up as a good fit to replace Carrell. The actors in the race included Jim Carrey, Ray Romano, Catherine Tate, Will Arnett, and James Spader. Obviously someone like Carrey, a bonafide movie star, probably wasn’t going to be a long-term replacement and was really more of a stunt-casting/cameo, but it wouldn’t have been out of place for Arnett or Romano to realistically join the cast of the show. In retrospect, Romano may have been a good replacement, but who knows how that would’ve turned out.

At the time, I remember being completely soured on Catherine Tate, and I had heard rumors she was the front-runner. I enjoyed, however, James Spader’s odd-ball appearance as the intense Robert California, and I hoped he would win the role of Carrell’s replacement. When it was announced that Spader would be joining the cast, I remember being somewhat elated at the news. I had no idea, but that would quickly change. Eventually, Tate did show up on The Office, and was even briefly manager of the Dunder-Mifflin/Sabre branch in Scranton, PA. She would never not be annoying.

When The Office returned to the Fall schedule for the 2011-12 television season without Carrell, it was revealed that Spader’s California character had been hired on, except that he would be replacing Kathy Bates’ character, Jo Bennett, as CEO of Sabre, and that Ed Helms’ character Andy Bernard would become the branch manager in Scranton. This served two purposes: it allowed Bates to gracefully exit the show so she could continue work on her CBS series Harry’s Law, and it also served to placate fans by putting Andy in charge and keeping Spader as a recurring guest star. Again, none of these decisions would really work out in the long term.

Many people would blindly point to the final season of The Office, which aired in the 2012-13 television season, as the worst in the show’s history. I would contend, however, that the penultimate season is actually far worse. It is in this year that Andy Bernard becomes truly repulsive as a character, Pam and Jim’s smug behavior grows completely out of control, and side-characters like Erin the receptionist and Kevin Malone, the “Falstaffian” accountant, become total caricatures and parodies of themselves. Minor characters like BJ Novak’s Ryan and Mindy Kaling’s Kelly also totally grow out of the roles and have very little to say or do, and basically no importance in any of the long-term arcs of the season.

The worst of that penultimate season, however, has to be the show’s ill-considered Florida arc, where a handful of the office staff is sent to Florida under orders of Robert California to help open a Sabre-themed retail space similar to the popular Apple stores. This Florida arc does little but make the characters even more insufferable, as it places long-loved characters like John Krasinski’s Jim into totally implausible scenarios. We know that Jim will never cheat on his wife, and to force Jim into a scenario would that would even be a possibility was almost offensive to me as a viewer. The Florida arc also serves to make Andy and Ryan even less likable, Erin even dumber (which I thought was basically impossible), and it completely turned Dwight Schrute into a monster.

When that arc ended, Andy eventually loses his job to Catherine Tate’s character for reasons too inexplicable and dumb to even list here. Robert California seems to go out of his way to revel in the destruction of the company he was hired to run, to the point where he closes down branches of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre after drunken binges. Nellie becomes somehow even more insufferable and annoying, and Andy is made out to be a completely moron, so much so that when he does find redemption, he isn’t even really given his redemptive moment, and he never really gets the chance to find his comeuppance against Nellie and California. Eventually, a deus ex machina allows former Dunder Mifflin CEO David Wallace to buy the company after a liquidation by Jo Bennett, for pennies on the dollar.

It is at this point, the final season, that The Office is allowed to somewhat return to a status quo. Andy Bernard is still in charge, but it seems characters like Dwight, Jim, and Pam basically return to who they were before the disastrous eighth season. We finally see the sales team actually going on sales calls and making real sales. Andy leaves the office for a good chunk of episodes as Ed Helms was filming The Hangover Part 3. This allows the show to air a pretty solid number of actually funny and interesting episodes (though there were still a number of stinkers – “Work Bus” anyone?). Unfortunately, two things hinder the final season from being pretty good, if not a complete return-to-form to at least season six or seven (it was never going to be as good as it was in Carrell’s heyday).

The first thing holding that final season back is the intrusion of the documentary crew into the lives of the office workers. Chris Diamantopolous (who has the worst luck of any actor ever apparently, having appeared in the lesser seasons of Community and Arrested Development as well) appears in several episodes of the show as boom mic operator Brian, who grows close enough to Pam that it feels creepy and wrong. Brian is never really developed as a character, and his sudden appearance into the show is intrusive, not particularly well explained, and totally unnecessary. It seems for a time that the show might use him as a romantic foil to get in the way of Jim and Pam, much as the temp, Cathy, from the previous season was used. But like Cathy, Brian is never used appropriately and kind of fades from the show quickly, almost as if the writers ended up feeling much like the viewers – that the character was just downright creepy.

The other thing holding back the final season of The Office is Jim’s ill-fated plan to leave Dunder Mifflin to start his own business, the “sports marketing” company Athlead. Jim’s decision to invest with the Athlead start-up is one he never made with Pam, and this leads to some dark and unwanted places on the show. The Office had spent the bulk of its existence building up Jim and Pam as the ultimate power couple. The two just belonged together. So for the writers to basically spend the final two seasons of the show finding contrived reasons to cause drama between them seemed silly and unnecessary. It is true that Pam and Jim became somewhat smug and unlikable in the later seasons, but there was never any reason to spend this much time trying to make the audience think they would ever split up.

The final few episodes of The Office’s last season, however, are pretty strong. Andy is eventually fired as manager and replaced by Dwight, who, though he became a caricature throughout the series’ run, is the best part of the last season. Dwight really shines throughout, and his oddball family and friends are likewise great when they show up in episodes like “Junior Salesman,” particularly Matt L. Jones as his cousin Zeke and Mark Proksch as the continually put-upon warehouse worker Nate (I wish both these guys would get more work). The less said about Andy the better, as his obnoxiousness and pompous idiocy continues. Andy’s goal revolves around becoming an actor/singer, but because he is totally incompetent, I was never able to buy into this storyline, let alone believe that Andy would ever succeed.

The series finale of The Office works incredibly well, returning the show to a high point. The whole office gathers for a retrospective on the long-running documentary surrounding their time as office workers in Scranton, PA. The finale has just enough nostalgia to work, and it’s great to see everyone together again. Even Carrell came back for a brief cameo as Michael Scott, showing up to Dwight’s wedding to Angela to be the best man. A lot of effort was clearly put into the finale to please long-time fans, and unlike other recent finales, The Office’s does not disappoint. Though the final season isn’t nearly as good as the glory days of the show, it is much better than anything in the Florida-arc and light years better than any of the Nellie or Robert California nonsense of season eight. Despite the late lulls, this show is rightfully considered one of the best sitcoms of all time at this point, and I’m glad the final season, particularly the finale, redeemed it a bit.

-Z-

50 Shades of Hypocritical Controversy

Over the past two and a half weeks, the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey has become a monster hit earning nearly 500 million dollars (against a 40 million budget) world-wide.  This should be too much of a surprise as the source material was already pretty popular, and the film falls into that “Mom Fiction” category where films are few and far between, but when they are released, they are huge.  Also not surprising is the amount of controversy surrounding the film and its overly sexual nature.

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And therein lies the problem.  Though the movie is not my kind of movie (and why should it be?), I have no objection to it.  Different movies are made for different audiences.  I am not the target audience for Fifty Shades any more than Taken is the target audiences for high school girls.  So, my critique isn’t on the film itself, but the controversy surrounding it.  And it is completely ridiculous.

With all the controversy (don’t worry – I’ll get to it), there seems to be a lot of hypocritical views at play.  The big thing that I notice is that the film is constantly been criticized as contributing to rape culture.  While I may not necessarily agree with that, I can understand the argument.  However, if so many women are upset about the rape culture aspect, how come women also have been flocking and fawning over it (or at least the idea of it)?

The reason is that the film provides a sexual thrill that really isn’t a mainstream thing.  Despite what social justice warriors otherwise think, people aren’t stupid.  They know what they are seeing is fiction and not close to reality at all.  However, it is still fun to daydream like that and Fifty Shades of Grey provides that outlet.

Plus, if these SJW are worried about young children seeing this and getting confused, then that’s just stupid too.  For one, who is letting their children in to see a movie clearly aimed at adults?  That’s just bad parenting/theater management.  What younger girls are going to see this and think “Yep, that’s the relationship for me”?  And finally, what young boys (who, apparently, will get a misguided idea of what relationships are) are going to even want to see Fifty Shades of Grey?  It is bullshit posturing.  If a movie is going to harm a child that much, then the child has other, bigger issues to deal with.

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It is also interesting that whenever a film has potentially graphic sex, people flip out and decry it claiming it is smut, trash.  However, if another film comes out that has graphic violence with people being riddled with bullets or blood spilling everywhere, there is a collective “meh” about it.  Wouldn’t that be more damaging to kids than sexual situations.  The even stranger thing about it is that one would assume that these complaints come from people with conservative view points.  It isn’t.  There are an equal amount of liberal idiots out there voicing how “wrong” sex is.

The bigger thing that gets me, however, is that people are quick the shame Fifty Shades for its depiction of sex, but at the same time, will jump down one’s throat if the negative aspects of pornography are brought up.  You criticize porn and you are labeled as being a prude, closed-minded, bible-thumper, and other negative stereotypes and the criticism is dismissed.  Does one not see the hypocrisy?  You cannot have it both ways.  That said, though I do not have any strong opinion on pornography one way or another, one can’t deny that it is much more harmful than anything in Fifty Shades given how degrading, misogynistic, abusive, or just plain weird it can be at times.  Fifty Shades is lightweight when compared with what you can find online and elsewhere.

And, finally, Fifty Shades has been accused of being inaccurate in its depiction of BDSM and that is damaging to people who practice it.  For starters, despite what they might say, people who are into BDSM are not an oppressed group.  They are into a kink.  Nothing more.  Secondly, who cares if it is inaccurate?  The film is meant to be a sexual fantasy; not real life.  If anything, it opens the door of BDSM to people and get them interested in the practice.  People are not going to go see the movie, race straight home, and start whipping their partner.  If anything, they will want to learn more about it before trying it out.spidy

Just like James Bond and espionage, Star Trek and science, or Fast and Furious and racing, it isn’t accurate in the least. However, it piques people’s interest to learn more about the respective subjects.

Plus, the film leans on the idea that BDSM isn’t for everyone and doesn’t promote that the titular Christian Grey in a positive way.  Though it is the movie’s hook, it isn’t really glorifying BDSM.  The fact that people are acting like BDSM is an oppressed group is embarrassing.

There have been hundreds of books and movies made before Fifty Shades of Grey that deal with risqué sexual behavior.  And hundreds are still to be made.  Why SJW are focusing their attacks on this movie and creating controversy is beyond me.  I guess it has to do with it being popular.  You can take a pot-shot at it and get away with it because it is big enough.  I suppose that’s fine, but the ridiculous and hypocritical nature behind the controversy just completely escapes me.

~N

I, Watched “I, Frankenstein”

I remember seeing previews for I, Frankenstein in late 2013. It looked dumb, but I was still drawn to it. I suppose there is a part of me that just likes smaller budget movies that are pure schlock and don’t try to hide it. I was one of many people who didn’t see it in January 2014 (it flopped horribly), but noticing it is available on Netflix, I was quick to stream it.

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The film is…not good. I am really not entirely sure what director Stuart Bettie was trying to say or do with this film. Perhaps he was just trying to craft a new action film. To be honest, it has a good, unique enough premise based on a solid action movie foundation. But nothing really comes together in any meaningful way and the story (what little there is of it) just is strung along connecting one set-piece to another.

You have the near-immortal Frankenstein Monster (Olympus Has Fallen’s very own Aaron Eckhart), now named Adam, at odds with a group of gargoyles (who act like angels and look like angels, so they should have just called them angels) and demons who are at a constant war with one another. Each side wants Adam for their own various needs, but, being the lone wolf, he refuses to play ball and goes his own way.

It is a totally a cheesy B-film. And that is okay. It strives to be that. There are sequences in this movie that are completely ridiculous that I cannot believe any sane director would have unintentionally done. For example, I, Frankenstein mostly takes place in London (?) during the night, yet you never see people in the streets other than our heroes and villains. For a war that is supposedly been quiet for thousands of years, the fact that these gargoyles and demons fly around so freely is completely hilarious. The same can be said that the human characters are completely unfazed by their quick discovery that gargoyles, demons, and even the Frankenstein Monster are real.

This is a film that is so bad and dumb, that it can be pretty enjoyable under the right circumstances.

Remember those Underworld films from about ten years back that goths and pretentious nerds thought were the best thing ever (they’re not)? As I watched I, Frankenstein I was completely reminded of them. It had the same kind of set-up, style, mood, and atmosphere. I later discovered that I, Frankenstein was, in its purest form, created by Kevin Grevioux, one of the co-creators of the Underworld series. Clearly, the production team was trying to ape that previous success without success.

I, Frankenstein is a bad movie, but it is entertainingly bad. Sometimes, you just need that. And, as I have always said, I’d rather see a really bad movie that is entertaining, than a really good movie that is completely boring. I, Frankenstein fits that bill.

~N

Edited to Add: WordPress tells me this is my personal 400th post on this blog.  To be honest, I wasn’t expecting I, Frankenstein to be a “milestone” entry.  Then again, few do.

We don’t need Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie

2012’s Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien-universe after a 30+ year hiatus, managed to do many things wrong and only a few things right. Prometheus featured an amazing, groundbreaking viral marketing campaign, which ultimately contributed to its 50 million dollar+ opening weekend. It gave us Michael Fassbender’s David character, another great android in a film series full of great androids (Ash in Alien, Bishop in Aliens, less so with Call in Alien: Resurrection). Prometheus also looked fantastic – the production design, special effects, creature work, and cinematography were absolutely stunning. The film is beautiful to look at, even if there’s not much beyond the surface. It’s no surprise it was nominated for an Academy Award for its special effects.

Blomkamp's Alien concept art

Blomkamp’s Alien concept art

But Prometheus never held up as a good movie – not even in my initial viewing did I think it was particularly good. It is an entirely unnecessary film filled with bad writing and middling-performances (Logan Marshall-Green is terrible in it, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba are utterly pointless to the main story). It contradicts its own science and logic in several places, and has characters act foolishly simply to advance the plot (the less said about the two guys getting lost in the caves the better). Recently, yet another film in the long-running Alien franchise has been announced, and I strongly feel that Prometheus should serve as a cautionary tale for the upcoming, still-in-pre-development Alien “mid-boot,” to be directed by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium).

Back in January, Blomkamp strategically leaked several works of concept art for an Alien film he thought about making one time. Of course, the Internet went nuts. Blomkamp is most famous for directing 2009’s Best Picture nominee (yep, that happened) District 9, a solid science fiction film shot on the relative cheap that featured an amazing performance by Sharlto Copley and made a ton of money worldwide. Blomkamp followed that film up with Elysium, one of the worst wide-released films of 2013. Elysium is so dumb that it gives me a headache just thinking about it. Really, nothing in that movie succeeds, not in its sophomoric politics or in its bad performances (Jodie Foster is particularly egregious). It was arguably the worst written big budget movie of 2013. I’m not sure where Chappie, Blomkamp’s latest movie, will lie in film history, but pre-release buzz isn’t great.

A few weeks after that initial leak, Blomkamp announced via social media that he was on tap to direct the latest Alien film based solely on his ideas and concept art. The film, as yet untitled, would go into production after Prometheus 2, a sequel none of us want (I have to imagine that soon we’ll get the news that Prometheus 2 will be sidelined and Blomkamp’s Alien film will get production priority). And then, the floodgates opened up. Almost immediately, Blomkamp came out and said that his film will ignore the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. This was met with mixed results. Neither the third nor the fourth Alien sequel is on par with the first two, but each has its defenders. I love Alien 3 and think it is quite underrated. I will not go to bat for Resurrection, which I find terrible (though because it was written by Joss Whedon, it has its share of frothing-rage fanboys at the ready to defend it).

And then, Blomkamp came out to clarify his remarks. He said that the new film won’t ignore the events of Alien 3 and Resurrection, but it will instead be more in the spirit of the first two films. Now is the time when I break it to Blomkamp that Alien and Aliens are completely different movies all together, with the first being a horror film and the second being an action film. So let’s recap this: Blomkamp strategically leaks Alien-related concept art via social media, is later announced as the architect of a new Alien film based solely on a few images he created, immediately puts his foot in his mouth regarding the events of the third and fourth films in the series, then dials that statement back. Yes, we are in the earliest of the early pre-production stages, but how is this anything other than a three-ring circus at this point?

There’s also something else to consider here – something that people might not want to hear. We don’t need another Alien movie, even if it is directed by Blomkamp. We’ve had six of them if you count the Alien vs. Predator franchise, and seven if you count Prometheus. There hasn’t been a quality Alien film since at least 1992, and even that’s debatable. Most people would probably say 1986. So really, other than audience familiarity, what is the point of bringing this franchise back to the big screen once again? Blomkamp has created three original science fiction properties thus far, meeting at least some measure of success along the way. Does he really need to become a franchise film director at this point? What is stopping him from creating his own universe of films with malevolent aliens and cool space marines? Why would he limit himself to a film with a set of rules already established? What’s the point?

I understand that nostalgia has a powerful influence on people. I just re-watched Aliens over the weekend in preparation for this write-up. The film is still amazing. It is incredibly long and exhausting, but done so purposefully so the audience essentially feels as tired and stressed as the characters in the movie (this is kind of genius – why is it not done more often?). But Aliens is also nearly 30 years old. Michael Biehn, Sigourney Weaver, and Lance Henriksen are old enough to be grandparents, and probably are. Yes, Alien 3 was a massive creative and financial disappointment in 1992, but there’s no reason to try and correct that now in 2015. Move on from this kind of thing people. Appreciate what we have in life and do something new. Don’t limit yourself, Blomkamp. Elysium wasn’t good, but you’re capable of so much more than just another franchise film. Keep giving us new stuff – don’t give up just yet.

-Z-

The Gorehound Reviews: All Hallow’s Eve (2013)

MV5BODYxNjgzOTkxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTcyNTUzMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Despite this movie being checked out for, honestly, 4 straight months at Family Video, it was not worth any wait. It was low-budget, story-absent movie with piss-poor actors. This is a Trick ‘r Treat (’07) wannabe and it’s unfortunate that the Gorehound checked the availability of this title every 2 weeks from September of 2014 to January 2015.

The movie is made up of 3 different stories encompassed by a babysitter watching two kids. One of the kids comes back from the night with a mysterious VHS tape, and dumbass babysitter lets the kids watch it. First off, what kind of dumbass babysitter lets their kids watch anything with an R rating? Even this gore-obsessed movie reviewer knows to watch horror comedies or something less than PG-13 with anyone pre-high school. I mean, really? and these kids are barely in high school! This babysitter has no self-control and deserves the result (spoiler alert: the kids die, trust me, your not missing anything).

To say the least, the antagonizing characters are pretty good through the anthology. The clown is quite an icon and if there any sequels they must include him. His silence and illogical, almost mystical appearances, are welcome on the Gorehound’s Horror Mountain. The alien too, though quite simple, is entertaining. Most aliens in horror movies as of late, have appeared completely organic, without suits and completely nude. These extraterrestrials were kind of reminiscent of the fishbowl Mars Attacks-type… but the babysitter, children, and victims, are all just so difficult to watch. As if because they had no ridiculous persona (alien or clown), they froze up and forgot how to act like a real person.

Sydney Freihofer, Katie McGuire, and Cole Mathewson

Sydney Freihofer, Katie McGuire, and Cole Mathewson

You should not watch this movie unless you absolutely love anthology movies (the Gorehound has never found anybody who likes anthologies). Don’t let the cover and awesome title deceive you. This is certainly not worth it. The cover and title are incredible though… if the Gorehound based movie ratings on covers and titles, this would get a 6/5 stars. Unfortunately, our kind actually watch movies for content, story, and character development. 2/5

Nick saw “Olympus Has Fallen”

The perfect review for Valentine’s Day Weekend!

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2013 saw the release of Olympus Has Fallen starring Gerald Butler and Aaron Eckhart.  It was one of the two “Die Hard in the White House” movies we got that year (which is interesting since that is a somewhat specific premise).  The premise is pretty simple: North Korean terrorists are able to attack and infiltrate the White house, kill all the security forces, and take the president (Eckhart) and his staff hostage.  However, one lone secret service agent (Butler) is all that remains to save the president before the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) gives in to the terrorist demands.

If you can get behind that scenario (which is completely ridiculously and full of holes), then you can probably find yourself enjoying Olympus Has Fallen.  Be warned, however, the film is fairly joyless.  It is a straight-up action film.  Though some moments do get a bit cheesy (like when Butler announces to a bad guy “I’m going to stab you in the brain” and then proceeds to do so), don’t expect any Schwarzenegger or Willis self-awareness or winking at the camera.  The same can be said about the violence – it is “movie extreme” and fairly realistic.  I wouldn’t call it graphic in the “torture porn” sense.  It just isn’t as sanitized that you would see in a standard R-rated action flick.

That, in Olympus Has Fallen’s case isn’t a bad thing.  The movie uses its style effectively and makes the movie stand out when compared to other films of its kind.  And because director Antoine Fuqua went with more of a realistic and gritty take, we are spared from mustache twirling villains and incompetent “good guys” who are trying to push their own agenda.  We are even spared a kid who was dangerously close in becoming Butler’s sidekick during the second act of the film.  The only real character who stands apart from this realistic atmosphere is the corrupt agent played by Dylan McDermott.  However, I am able to let this slide as, like Nicholas Cage, McDermott is a character actor who can, somehow, make otherwise ridiculous characters work.

But, of course this all depends on if you buy into the films initial hook of the White House being occupied.  If you can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into it, then you will probably like what this movie has to offer.  If you can’t, then Olympus Has Fallen is not for you.

~N

Trek Tuesday: Star Trek 13 Update

Lots of news came out over the last two months concerning the next Star Trek movie.  For starters, as it was already known, JJ Abrams (the director behind the previous two entries) isn’t returning as a director (due to his commitments to Star Wars).  It is reported his is still on as a producer (more on this below).  In his place, frequent collaborator and co-writer of the rebooted Star Trek, Roberto Orci was chosen to direct and co-write the next Star Trek feature.  Meanwhile, writer Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof were not returning.  Paramount wanted the film out by summer 2016 to capitalize on Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

Everything seemed to be going along normally until early December.  Then, everything changed.

Director: No More!

Director: No More!

Seemingly overnight, Orci was ousted from the director’s chair and was no longer writing the movie.  Rumors abounded online on why this was.  Some thought that because Orci would have been a first-time director, Paramount got cold feet before production really started to ramp up.  Other rumors had Orci being difficult to work with or that his script was incredibly disappointing.  Truth is, nothing is really known on why he was replaced.

According to reports (including interviews he has given), he still remains as a producer on the film.

Within weeks, it was announced that Justin Lin (the director who revitalized the Fast and Furious franchise) will helm the next adventure of the USS Enterprise.  In a more surprising movie, it was later revealed that Simon Pegg (Scotty in the new movies) signed on as a co-writer.

Lots of things to discuss.  First, it is somewhat surprising that, with the exception of producer Bryan Burk, most of the group who resurrected the franchise after it puttered out ten years ago is gone.  The so-called “Supreme Court” included Abrams, Burk, Kurtzman, Orci, and Damon Lindelof.  Kurztman and Lindelof are gone.  Abrams and Orci are still producers, but I really question how active they will be in the creative process.  Not that this is a bad thing or that all of these people need to commit their lives to Star Trek.  It is just strange when you sit down and think about it.

I know other series have their primary creative staff depart between installments, but this, somehow, feels different.  When Orci was directing, I could at least see how the visual style and themes might continue on from where Star Trek Into Darkness left off.  When he was removed and there wasn’t a director listed, I questioned if the new film would feel like an extension from what came before.

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Justin Lin

 

As for Justin Lin being announced as the new director – I’m all in.  He has an incredible eye for action and visual flare.  I completely dismissed my question of visual continuity.  Though different, he has a style that would complement what JJ Abrams started.  I truly believe that of all the other directors Paramount was considering (including Edgar Wright), Lin was the absolutely best choice.  I am really excited to see what he does with the film.

With Simon Pegg writing…that is a real head scratcher.  This can be either really good or really bad.  I generally like Pegg and he’s a comedy writer.  I like comedy, but I feel the new Trek films have the right amount of comedy in them already.  Pushing it to be more comedic might just be too much for its own good.  Then again, he’s paired with other writers, so that might balance it out (and just because Pegg typically writers comedy, doesn’t mean that’ll be his focus here).

While there were some preliminary pre-production issues, I wouldn’t label Star Trek 13 a troubled production.  Many films have these kind of issues before shooting begins.  Most don’t get reported, because most are not popular franchises that people are extremely devoted to.  I am pumped for what this new team of filmmakers can give audiences and how they will make their imprint on the Star Trek universe.  The previous two films, while not perfect, have been pretty fun so far.  I want that to continue, and I think the film has the right people in place to make that happen.

~N

Nick saw “The Interview”

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In a move that likely surprised no one, the controversial comedy film, The Interview, was released on Netflix and other streaming devices.  Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I came across it and, with nothing better to do, wanted to see what the big hub-bub was.

Shh….Don’t tell North Korea.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and laughed a lot.  It is incredibly dumb, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Many great comedies are full of dumb humor such as Dumb and Dumber, Dodgeball, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and, arguably, the earlier works of Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell.  As opposed to something painfully dumb such as 2001’s Out Cold or Freddy Got Fingered, those aforementioned film’s use their “dumb comedy” in intelligent ways be it through clever writing, deeper characterizations, or better delivery.  The Interview falls within that group, and that is why it largely worked for me.

Considering that it is a vehicle for Seth Rogan and James Franco, The Interview had its fair share of toilet humor, but not as much as one would expect.  In many respects, it has more in common with classic screwball comedies absurd characters with nutty back-and-forth exchanges.  On that level, it really succeeds.

In particular, James Franco is absolutely hilarious as a self-absorbed, over-the-top, infotainment journalist.  I think the reason why Franco works as “Dave Skylar” is that his is totally committed to the role.  There is no mugging or winking at the camera.  He is the character.  He also delivers enough pathos to where Skylar isn’t a complete caricature, and that’s what sells it.

As it has been noted by many other people (and I am going to contribute to the chorus), Randall Park as North Korean Kim Jong-un is utterly fantastic.  He shows a vast array of convincing emotional states from friendly guy-next-door to emotionally wounded to batshit crazy (sometimes all within the same scene).  As my girlfriend and I discussed later on, probably one of the reasons North Korea was so angry over this film was that their leader was a bit too accurately depicted on screen.

If I had any sort of major complaint about The Interview, it would probably be with the excessive violence that dominates the third act.  I am not opposed to violence (and in a film about the assassination of a world leader, violence is to be expected), but I think this movie could have survived without the graphic representation of biting fingers off.  Violence can work in a comedy, but it needs to fit within the tone the movie has set for it to work.  Here, it was tonally off, and felt out of place.

I enjoyed The Interview, but like many movies, it isn’t a film that I will feel the need to revisit.  I laughed and got what I wanted out of it.  It does some really great things that hinge on the performances of Franco and Park.  It is worth watching even if you temper your expectations on what kind of movie you are getting yourself into: a big, dumb, funny comedy.

~N

The Gorehound Reviews: Dead Snow 2 (’14)

Oh Krampus! Following up to the well-made and solid campy horror film with the unique influx of Nazi soldiers, Dead Snow 2 (aka Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead or Død Snø 2) succeeds in the execution of a well-progressing film, bloody entertainment, and enough aesthetics to bring you back to your first snow day.

DeadSnow2_TEASERIn the first film, five teens go to cabin and most all get killed except one. There was a really cool dreadlocked girl who gets killed by the last remaining member to carry over. The sequel starts with the survivor running from/hunting down Herzog, the Nazi leader who returns to (I think) get his treasure? Anyways, by a crazy set of events, Herzog and the protagonist switch arms surgically which really adds some fun (anyone remember Idle Hands?). It is, to say the least, a solid horror movie. Despite the a similar and insistent formula in many horror movies, it always rings true in a Gorehound’s point-of-view. Pulling nothing too extreme in the first, this entry was sure to follow through.

Including Bill (Martin Starr) from Freaks and Geeks, all the characters are all uniquely different from each other and interesting. It’s fantastic because it drives the story forwards. It isn’t another Dead Snow, but rather a separate entry within the same canon. The story carries on, but in an evolved form.

There is plenty of gore and this movie deserves an R-rating. It may have some darkly comedic elements but not quite enough to qualify as a horror comedy. It’s refreshing because it’s not torturous or sexual, just entertaining in a goretastic and horrific way!

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First zombie sex scene? Check. Russian zombies fighting Nazi zombies? Check. Bill from Freaks and Geeks? Check. Yes, this movie is wonderful. The protagonist is sincere. This guy is actually scared shitless by fact that he killed his girlfriend. On top of that, that babe had dreadlocks. While the main character’s emotions may go deep, the story doesn’t. The storyline does progress smoothly and this movie felt to go by very quickly. Perhaps the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” would best fit this movie. The final scene didn’t appear climactic but it’s like, who cares because this is awesome! It’s unfortunate that Graveyard Queens may find it heresy to watch horror during the time of frankinescene and myrrh (around the time this was released), but anyone who passes up this horror flick is sure to have (un)pleasant dreams. 5/5

Paranoia!

It has been far too long since we’ve had a movie where computers can do anything with a few keyboard taps.  The late ‘80s and most of the ‘90s were riddled with this.  But, as society has become more accustomed to and aware of how your standard home computer works, films largely dialed back that trope.

Then comes 2013’s techo-thriller Paranoia, and the “computers can do anything” trope comes roaring back with a vengeance.  And it is glorious.

Paranoia_Poster

Make no mistake, this film is absolutely abysmal.  The story is completely convoluted, over-plotted, clichéd, and lacks any sort of internal logic.  But, besides all those terrible things, the film completely embraces the fantasy aspect that you can use any sort of internet/computer technology and make it do whatever you want in just a few simple steps.

Paranoia commits to this.  Commits.

Considering that, this pushes the movie into “so bad, it’s good” territory.  But, it’s not good.  Unlike Batman & Robin, I will never watch this movie ever again.  It is entertaining enough while you are watching it.  In an Abduction kind of way (which, eerily enough, I reviewed a year ago today).

Even after watching the movie, I am still not sure what the story actually was beyond the basics.  Gary Oldman blackmails Liam Hemsworth to spy on the company of his rival, Harrison Ford, so he can get something from him and do something with it.  But, oh no!  Harrison Ford knows what is going on and tries to blackmail Hemsworth in a scheme to get Gary Oldman.

Yeah…it is a total mess.  But, on the plus side, like the writers were committed to “computers doing anything”, Ford and Oldman were committed to their roles.  Obviously, they were there for the paycheck, but they seemed to throw themselves into their respective part, particularly Oldman.  To be honest, it was fun seeing the two of them play off of one another.

As Zack noted so long ago, this film was a total disaster critically and at the box office.  Surprising lows for both Oldman and Ford.  And, to some extent, for Liam Hemsworth.  Actually, most of the cast has a pretty strong pedigree.  How did they all end up in this?

This is just an insanely bad movie, but I enjoyed how stupid it was.  If you like incredibly bad, but watchable movies, look no further than Paranoia (a title which also doesn’t make any sense).

~N

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