Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

ANCC: Green Lantern

Goin’ green!  Goin’ Solo!  This week, it is just Nick as he discusses the 2011 superhero film Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds!  He discusses all of the cons and manages to even find a pro!  Will this one-person episode work?  Download the episode to find out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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What Went Wrong?: Vol. 33 – R.I.P.D.

It’s been a banner year for Universal, as almost every film they’ve put into wide release has seen significant box office returns. Last winter’s fright film Mama, early summer’s actioner Fast 6, and mid-summer’s animated sequel Despicable Me 2 have all been big hits for the prolific film studio, with Fast 6 and Despicable Me 2 being two of the highest grossing films of the summer thus far. But like Icarus, who flew too close to the sun on wings of wax and feathers, all things must come crashing back to earth to die horribly. The studio’s unbelievable hot streak came to an ignoble end with last weekend’s release of R.I.P.D., which bombed in theaters with a paltry 12 million dollar take.

R.I.P.D._Poster

R.I.P.D. is a Dark Horse comic book adaptation starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges and directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, The Time Traveler’s Wife). When veteran cop Ryan Reynolds (come on, let’s just admit he plays himself over and over again) is murdered by a corrupt police officer, he teams up in the afterlife with Jeff Bridges (also pretty much playing himself at this point) as a member of the Rest In Peace Department, a sort-of FBI for the afterlife. The two must use their supernatural powers to save the world from the horrors of some nonsensical Macguffin or something. Otherwise the dead will be able to return to the earth I guess. Yeah, that sounds about right. So, what exactly went wrong?

Budgeted at a mammoth 130 million dollars, the film received almost zero studio backing in terms of advertising up until its release. I didn’t even see a trailer for the film until at least May of this year, which is highly unusual for a summer tent-pole release that cost such a significant amount of money. It was almost as if Universal had zero confidence in the film, and felt compelled to just dump it off in the midst of a super-competitive July, sandwiched amongst films like studio stablemate Despicable Me 2, RED 2, Turbo (also featuring Ryan Reynolds), and Pacific Rim (which it would have shared an audience with). Of course it didn’t help that Universal ultimately chose not to screen the film for critics. When it eventually began to accumulate reviews, R.I.P.D. scored an abysmal 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the kindest words reserved for Jeff Bridges’ performance.

The film of course also looks and probably feels like a much more successful series of films, Sony’s Men in Black trilogy. Obvious comparisons have been drawn between the two for quite some time, and the fact that R.I.P.D. has been in development for some odd 15 years lends credence to this theory as well, as the original Men in Black movie came out roughly 15 years ago. R.I.P.D. even features a very Men In Black-style relationship between its lead characters, with the always cocky and arrogant Ryan Reynolds playing off of the more mellow Jeff Bridges much in the same way that Will Smith played off of Tommy Lee Jones in that more successful film series. Lastly, it also seems like R.I.P.D. has had a somewhat troubled production history, considering the lengthy development time as well the several announced release dates for the film. It was also shot about a year and a half ago, indicating it has sat on a studio shelf for quite some time.

This has been an incredibly competitive summer at the box office. Even big hits like Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and World War Z have had their grosses eaten into due to too many big movies on the schedule, and again these were the hit films. This doesn’t count outright flops like After Earth, White House Down, and The Lone Ranger. Universal obviously didn’t have any faith that R.I.P.D. would do well at the box office, and considering the circumstances I don’t blame them. The film will probably ultimately be a 100 million+ write-off for the company and will probably also serve as their only major blunder this year. But what a blunder R.I.P.D. has turned out to be. At least James Hong is still getting work.

-Z-

What Went Wrong?: Vol. 32 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

In honor of the impending release of the upcoming comic book adaptation The Wolverine, I have decided to write about the previous installment in Wolverine’s film oeuvre. X-Men has been a popular film franchise since the first movie topped the box office during the summer of 2000, spawning a series of sequels (which include next summer’s much anticipated Days of Future Past) and largely reviving interest in adapting comic books for the big screen. A film adaptation of one of the most popular comic book characters in the Marvel canon should have been an enormous hit, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine grossed less than the two previous X-Men films, and led to a four-year lull in the Wolverine film spin-off franchise. So, what exactly went wrong?

X-Men_Origins_Wolverine

Wolverine has long been one of, if not the, most popular comic book characters. The first three X-Men films largely revolved around him as a centralized figure. The first film featured a growing bond between Rogue and Wolverine, who were both new to the group and thusly outsiders. The second film explored Wolverine’s connection to Col. Stryker, featuring Stryker as the main antagonist of the movie. X-Men: The Last Stand largely revolved around the relationship between Wolverine and would-be love interest Jean Grey, who had been reborn as the dark, villainous Phoenix. Having devoted so much screen time already to the character, an entire movie based around the origins of Wolverine might not have been such a great idea from the start. There is only so much of a character a film can feature before it just starts to get old and boring, and in many places X-Men Origins: Wolverine really feels sluggish and boring (and dumb).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine has been a punching bag of a movie since its release during the summer movie season of 2009. The film was met with an overwhelmingly negative reception, from both critics and audiences. On the critical end, the film garnered largely negative reviews (scoring a cumulative 38% on Rotten Tomatoes), and it was also met with scorn online by many comic book fans, who decried the treatment of fan favorite side characters like Deadpool and Gambit. Though Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber were both praised for their roles as Wolverine and arch-villain Sabretooth, the two men ultimately couldn’t save the production’s mostly negative reception. It didn’t help that X-Men Origins: Wolverine also had an incredibly troubled production, which included a lengthy shooting schedule, tension between Fox executives and director Gavin Hood, and an online leak of a nearly finished print of the film that was downloaded millions of times months before the movie’s summer release date.

On opening weekend, X-Men Origins: Wolverine debuted to lower numbers than Fox anticipated. The studio publicly blamed a leaked, nearly completed version of the film for the lower box office gross. In March of 2009, a leaked version of the movie began appearing online, and was subsequently downloaded millions of times. At least one reporter, Roger Friedman, reviewed the film from this incomplete, illegally shared workprint, and was notably fired for doing so (ironically, he worked for Fox News). In addition to the leaked version of the film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine also had to contend with a real-life illness, the much publicized H1N1 or “Swine Flu” virus, that had been rolling through various countries all spring long. Pundits estimated that the film lost millions in potential dollars due to this outbreak.

I noted earlier that X-Men Origins: Wolverine feels kind of sluggish in places. The script for the film was originally written by David Benioff, known primarily these days for adapting Game of Thrones for HBO. Benioff is credited as screenwriter along with Skip Woods, who rewrote the script. Skip Woods is largely known for writing incredibly bad screenplays, including the script to the recently-released, dreadfully dire sequel A Good Day to Die Hard. Even after Woods’ rewrite, Fox brought on two additional writers to contribute to the script as well. The shooting script for X-Men Origins: Wolverine was clearly a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, leaving the film with a sluggish feel that is also over-stuffed, muddled, and needlessly confusing. Take for instance the opening scene to the film, where a young Wolverine, named James for some reason, kills the man who turns out to be his father. The scene should be powerful and dramatic, but comes off as a confused mess of a moment. Four years and many viewings later, and I’m still not exactly sure what was going on there.

I don’t entirely find the film without merit, however. Jackman gives a great performance as Wolverine, and as far as I’m concerned he really owns the character and can play him for the next ten years in many more movies. Liev Schreiber’s performance as Sabretooth is also completely unpredictable and terrifying, and he serves as a great foil and villain to Wolverine. The opening credits montage for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is also really well done, capturing the essence of the main character and his antagonistic brother in just a few minutes. Additionally, the first twenty minutes or so of the film after the credits, featuring the top-secret mutant team is really cool (if only the whole movie could have been like that). There are places in the film where Hood’s direction works very well, and nicely complements the melodramatic nature of the movie’s tone (there are also other places where Hood’s incompetence as an action director hamstring’s the production, however).

Watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine over four years after its initial release, I didn’t hate it as much as I expected to. Then again, I didn’t really hate it when I saw it in theaters originally either. It’s certainly not a great film, but it has its share of cool moments, even if it doesn’t really do justice to fan-favorite characters like Deadpool and Gambit (The Blob is still really fucking funny, though). On the whole, I don’t think the film is nearly as odious as the internet has made it out to be, and I certainly enjoyed it much more than X-Men: The Last Stand, which I think is the obvious weakest film in the X-Men film franchise. There are certainly problems with the script and the direction in a lot of places, but the principle performances are pretty good and there’s enough interesting material here to hold my attention, even on a repeat viewing. I can certainly see, however, why the film ended up being such a failure. I really hope The Wolverine is a lot better.

-Z-

I Saw The Croods

The staff of DreamWorks Animation may be overexerting themselves. This is their second feature-length film in five months, after November’s disastrous Rise of the Guardians. DreamWorks Animation has never been a studio to do the Pixar thing and release one film every year to year and a half. Even Blue Sky, the Fox-owned animation studio behind such hits as the Ice Age franchise and 2011’s Rio, doesn’t seem to release half as many computer-animated films as DreamWorks Animation. It makes sense then that the recently-released The Croods feels so inessential in a lot of ways. It is very much a B-tier film in the pantheon of computer-animated features. That’s not to say The Croods is a bad film – it has its moments for sure, but many parts are fairly lackluster when compared to the best of the Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky animated films.

The_Croods_poster

The Croods is essentially the story of a family of cave people struggling to survive in an incredibly harsh environment. Everything in their lives is difficult, exhausting, and trying, and all the family has is each other. Patriarch Grug (voice of a spirited Nicolas Cage) is often at odds with his enthusiastic daughter Eep (Emma Stone, whose voice works incredibly well for animation) due to her naïve nature and inherent curiosity. When a mysterious nomad named Guy (voice of a low-key Ryan Reynolds) shows up portending doom and gloom for the caves, the Crood family must head to safer grounds, exploring their strange and exotic world for essentially the first time. The family runs afoul of strange creatures constantly trying to eat them, fierce volcanoes spewing ash and smoke, and treacherous tar pits  out to trap them for eternity.

The plot isn’t much more complicated than that. The Croods must escape the various earthquakes, volcanoes, and wild animals that continually threaten their existence. The heart of the story lies with Grug, who must come to accept that mankind must evolve and move beyond the caves, and who must also reconcile with a daughter he truly loves but does not understand. The best moments in The Croods are not in the CGI-slapstick, cheap one-liners, and exotic landscape and animal designs. The best moments of the film come from the interactions between Grug, Eep, and Guy as they all come to an understanding and respect about how to best deal with the end of an era for humanity. The film is targeted at children so it doesn’t get too deep all too often unfortunately, but I did appreciate the parts focusing on these three characters.

The film also features the voice work of Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman, who voices Gran, Grug’s mother-in-law. There is a recurring gag where Grug gets momentarily excited at the thought of Gran perishing horribly that is funny without being mortifying, but other than that there aren’t too many attempts to round-out these side characters. Additionally, the landscapes and animals are often exotically designed and animated, but they can be incredibly ugly to look at. I feel the same way about The Croods themselves. The titular family can be hard to look at, but Eep and younger sister Sandy (a toddler who cannot speak yet and therefore communicates in feral grunts) are adorable in their own way. Grug himself looks just enough like Nicolas Cage to be entertaining to me.

The Croods was originally intended as a stop-motion feature, and began production way back in 2005. Various delays, departures, and director changes resulted in quite the lengthy production schedule for the film. The final product itself is decent, but the script ends up being a bit of a disappointment for me. The movie had the potential as well as the talent (co-director Chris Sanders is largely responsible for Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon) to be great, but fell more on the side of average-to-good. I liked the interplay between Grug, Guy, and especially daughter Eep, but it wasn’t quite enough to sustain a 90-minute movie. Despite a few solid voice performances from Cage, Stone, and Reynolds (whose low-key attitude works well for Guy), The Croods is merely a decent computer-animated movie overall. It’s a trifle for sure, but worth at least the price of a rental.

-Z-

Breakdown: Green Lantern (Part 4)

Continued from Part 3:

Hal learns that Parallax is coming to Earth (shit…I completely forgot about him!), so he heads to Planet X-Box for help.  However, because the Green Lantern Corps are bigots, they refuse (even though it is their job to stop stuff like this).  Hal then asks for permission to do it himself which they grant, but since he’s had the ring the entire time without anyone caring it begs the question on why he went to Oa in the first place.  The scene added nothing.  They don’t give him any help.  They don’t give him any tools to fight.  Just a “Good Luck”.

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“I don’t remember saying ‘good luck’.”

Honestly, why do they not want to defend Earth?  Not only is it their job, but it gives them a strategic advantage.  They know where the bad guy is going to be!  Can’t they devise some sort of surprise attack?  Why are they completely fine with Parallax destroying all life on Earth (especially since destroying such life will make Parallax strong enough to destroy the Green Lantern Corps)?

Hal returns to Earth where Hector has kidnapped Carol and reveals that he turned to evil partially because he was jealous of Hal’s lifestyle.  Interesting message.

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Hal gets Carol out of trouble just as Parallax arrives and kills Hammond for his failures (thereby making Hammond ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things).

Parallax then starts to invade the city and, presumably kills thousands inadvertently making this movie much more horrific than the filmmakers probably intended.  The problem with all of this is that we never learn what any of the ramifications from any of this are.  Wouldn’t the government and the world population be going nuts that a giant evil cloud was vaporizing thousands.  We get nothing.  The next time we are back on Earth, all seems fine.  Granted, we’d be opening up a giant can of worms if the movie dealt with what came next.  The fact that it isn’t even mentioned seems troubling.

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Ramifications? The movie has no time for such things!

Hal confronts it and eventually gets it to go off planet.  A chase ensues and, because the movie has no sense of how our solar system is arranged, Hal and Parallax make their way from Earth to the Asteroid Belt and then the sun in under two minutes.

Science!

Science!

Hal is able to get the evil cloud to fall into the sun.  Thank goodness for Kilowog’s completely forgettable line of common knowledge (which wasn’t even referenced here – Hal comes up with this idea under a completely different rationale).

Now, as an aside, I am not saying that this wasn’t challenging.  But it seemed as if Hal took down Parallax a bit too easily on his own.  I mean, afterall, all Hal did was punch Parallax into the sun.

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This actually happens.

Remember how Parallax was built up earlier by killing off the “strongest Lanterns” who were acting as a team (all of whom were, presumably, Green Lanterns for more than a day).  It was also implied that Parallax was much stronger when he faced Hal than he was in that earlier battle.  Who knew punching a cloud was the key to victory?

So, Sinestro, Kilowg, and Tomar-Re arrive right after the battle finishes – nice timing guys – and bring Hal back to Oa where Hal becomes Employee of the Month.  Also Kilowg takes credit for training Hal.  What training?  You just punched him a bunch of times and reminded him about gravity.   Is that what you are taking credit for?

We are then treated to the exact same clip we saw earlier in the movie during Sinestro’s mid-movie speech.  With the exception of planet shot mirrored, the movie doesn’t even try to hide it.  Just look.  See!

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Hal gets back to Earth, kisses the girl, and goes “looking for trouble”.  And that’s Green Lantern.

Oh yeah..and this:

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For the sequel that will never happen.

Boy is this movie bad.  Not, awful-awful.  It’s watchable, but largely forgettable.  It is as mediocre as mediocre can be.  The plot is unfocused, the characters are bland, and they rush through some of the more high-concept stuff.  The special effects can be kind of cool at times – I particularly liked what they did with the Green Lantern suit, but some of the other visuals can be incredibly dodgy at times.

The way this movie was executed reminds me of something from the mid-90s.  Sci-Fi movies such as Supernova or Event Horizon which are not really all that good, but have become cult favorites.  Granted, it is a different type of movie from those two, but Green Lantern sort of falls into that mold.  Even the soundtrack sounds like “90s generic”. If this was made during that time period, I think people would be kinder to it.  However, it was made in 2011 in the midst of a superhero movie renaissance where the competition is much stiffer and the critical eye more cynical.

The problem really lies with the script.  The acting was pretty good.  Ryan Reynolds was fine as Hal Jordan.  I’m not one who thinks he was miscast.  He just did the best he could with the material given which is a shame because there are a lot of things you could do with this fictional world.  Peter Sarsgaard is clearly having the time of his life camping it up, and Blake Lively really turned out to be the welcomed surprise of the bunch.

In the end, the filmmakers were simply trying too hard when they didn’t need to.  The Green Lanterns are basically space cops.  Use that formula!  It works and is easily accessible for mainstream audiences.  Instead, the filmmakers felt like giving the finger to the audience by confusing the hell out of them.

finger

It is almost as if Ryan Reynolds was trying to tell us.

Well, that’s my breakdown of Green Lantern.  Again, if you liked this movie for whatever reason –  great!  I didn’t, and I feel it is one of the reasons I won’t be seeing a Flash movie anytime soon.

I hope you enjoyed my scene-by-scene breakdown!  Do you want to see more posts like this?  Sound off below and let me know what movies you want me to look at!

~N

Green Lantern Scene-by-Scene Breakdown:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Also, check out Zack’s What Went Wrong feature on Green Lantern!

Breakdown: Green Lantern (Part 3)

Continuing on from Part 2:

We learn that the Green Lantern Corps are not faring too well against Parallax.  My question: if Parallax was defeated before by Abin Sur, why not do what he did?  Clearly, it worked.  Wouldn’t that be the first course of action?  Or did Sur never write it down?  The fact that Sur defeated Parallax is never really referenced again nor his method of doing so.

Hal then gets trained.  And by trained, I mean thrown into the fire and sucker punched constantly.  Is this really how they train new recruits, especially ones who *just* learned of the Green Lantern Corps existence?  Seems harsh.  Kilowog, in a completely throwaway line (which shouldn’t have been) mentions how the sun has gravity.  Training complete!

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Proper Training

Hal also meets Sinestro (with a name like that, I’m sure he isn’t evil) and the purple alien takes his anger out on Hal.  He’s upset that Hal is disrespecting Abin-Sur’s memory by not being the perfect Green Lantern right away.  Wouldn’t it make more sense for Sinestro, who revered Sur, would want to take Hal under his wing the way Sur did him?  No, that’s too rational (and there wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t outright reject Hal).  Granted, it is misplaced anger, but Sinestro never acknowledges this (even after he takes a liking to Hal at the end).

"Hi.  I'm racist."

“Hi. I’m racist.”

Hal agrees that he sucks and goes home.  For some reason, he is allowed to keep the ring.  Why?  Wouldn’t that be like letting a cop quit his job, but the force allowing him to keep his issued gun?  That’s stupid.  Plus, how long was Hal gone for?  A couple of days, maybe?  And no one notices him missing.  Is disappearing for days on end common for Hal?

Meanwhile, Hammond begins hearing people’s thoughts and lives out every teacher’s fantasy by slapping his students around via telekinesis.

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Any teacher who claims they would never think of doing this is lying.

Later on, we are at a big party.  Apparently the US military agreed to use the automatic planes shown at the beginning.  Even though the military expressed enough disinterest in the project for Ferris Air to lay people off, we are given a nice hand-wave explanation on why this is happening.  However, this plot element is completely worthless as the military having these planes as it doesn’t have any real impact on the story.  Ah, whatever.

We also learn that Hal and Hammond know each other and clearly don’t like each other.   Why, you may ask?  Well, that is never established.  I guess you can argue that Hammond is jealous of Hal since Hammond’s father treats Hal like a son, but we don’t know what Hal’s problem with Hammond is.  They just act cold towards each other, even when Hal tries to subtly champion what Hammond does.  Then again, Hal is a bit of a jerk, so perhaps that’s just Hal being Hal.

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“We don’t like each other for reasons neither of us are completely sure of.”

I guess my major problem is that we are an hour into the movie and this is the first time these characters are actually meeting.  And, even more problematic, is that the movie is trying to shove some sort of backstory between the two.  With only 40 minutes of movie left, it comes off a bit contrived.  I feel we needed some of this rivalry earlier, and then build on it, so we can have some sort of reason to care when these two eventually go at it.  I guess this is a minor point, but one that still bugs me.  Maybe they should have put it in the opening narration with everything else.

Also, why is Hammond even at this party?  Other than being the senator’s son, there is absolutely no reason for him to be there.  And since he doesn’t like his father, even if he got an invite (which, logically, Hammon probably wouldn’t), why would he come to something that celebrates the senator?  Oh, I know.  Because the plot demanded he be there.  And, I guess, to have a needless bit of him creeping on Carol.

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“I’ve turned into a complete cliche!”

So, the senator leaves the party and Hammond decides he’s had enough of his father by using his new powers to get his helicopter to crash.  Of course, no one runs when they see this helicopter fall to the ground, then again, who would run from the slowest falling helicopter in the world?  And of course, when it does hit the ground, no one gets shredded into bits from the propeller (even though numerous people are close by).

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No one was killed in this horrific accident.

Hal jumps into action as Green Lantern and saves the helicopter by putting it on a toy race track.  Earlier scene explained.  I guess using a giant hand to grab it would have been too easy.  Perhaps I’m being too critical.  Wait, no I’m not!

Later, Hal visits Carol, who immediately recognizes him through his mask.  I’ll give credit where credit is due.  It is a funny bit.

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“I’ve known you my whole life! I’ve seen you naked! You don’t think I would recognize you because I can’t see your cheek bones?!”

Meanwhile, Hammond tweaks and gets a big head, literally, and the government nabs him.  Of course, they cannot control him and chaos ensues.  Fortunately, Hal’s ring senses it and he intervenes.

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Marvel as the two guys who apparently didn’t like each other in real life just happen to both independently get superpowers!

After some fisticuffs, Hector destroys the government compound (killing his father in the process).  Of course, this goes unmentioned the rest of the movie.  You’d think the government would send some sort of man hunt on either Hammond or the strange green guy floating around since they were sighted at the location.  Then again, this is the same movie where the shadowy government agencies move at a snail’s pace.  Good consistency.

In fact, this scene just sorta ends.  Hal zaps Hammond across the room, Hammond screams in defeat (for some reason), and Hal just sits there catching his breath.  Cut to next scene with Hal in his apartment.  This is just incredibly lazy writing.

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“Should I go get that guy and bring him to justice? I mean, he’s just across the room. Nah…I’ll do it later.”

Tune in tomorrow for the “thrilling” conclusion!

~N

Breakdown: Green Lantern (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my scene-by-scene breakdown of 2011’s Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.  Continuing from Part 1:

Hal goes to his nephew’s birthday party and parks like an a-hole for no reason.

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Seriously…why does he park like this? Was he re-wrapping the gift?

He discovers his nephew is sad at the near-miss Hal had that day. They have a really genuine heart-to-heart that really plays well.  Renyonds and the kid have a good chemistry (and the kid isn’t that bad of a child actor).  I bet this relationship will play off later in the movie.

Bawhahahahaha!  Who am I kidding?  We never see this kid again.  Nothing of real value came from this scene other than the race car set.

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Up yours, race car set!

Anyway, Hal is then abducted and brought to a crashed Abin Sur and is given Sur’s ring before the alien dies.  Tom comes by to collect him right before the government comes by to see the downed alien ship.

Question: how long has it been since Sur crashed?  The movie implies it’s been a few hours at least.  Why did it take the feds that long to mobilize?  Oh, wait.  Because the script called for it.  Silly me.

Also, is it me, or does Hal accept the fact that an alien died in front of him a bit too easily?  Well, perhaps I’m just being too nitpicky.  I should focus on the big things like Hal’s car.   It should still be at his brother’s house.  Wouldn’t his family notice—ah, who cares?  We’re never going to see Hal’s family again.

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Perhaps Hal getting abducted by glowing green balls (thereby abandoning his car) is just Hal’s thing, and his family simply accepts it at this point.

Meanwhile, college professor Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is recruited to look at the body of Abin Sur, now in the government’s custody.  We learn that he was given the chance to look at the alien because his father is Senator Tim Robbins.

The strange thing (more so than everyone acting nonchalant that there is a FREAKIN’ ALIEN BODY just laying there) is that there doesn’t seem to be any other scientists on this project.  I know there is Amanda Waller, but that seems to be it.  Oh yeah, he also gets infected with yellow power.  Gee, maybe having an assistant would have prevented that.

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You would think the government would have guards or something to shoot this guy down just in case things like this would happen.

While that is going on, Hal mucks around with the lantern before going out drinking and getting into a fight.  Apparently, his earlier showboating caused Ferris Air to not get the government contract prompting massive layoffs.  Gee, his co-workers are mad at getting fired.  Imagine that.  Hal fights them off with the ring and is taken to the Green Lantern planet, Oa.

On Oa, we get an exposition dump of everything that was said during the opening narration.  So, why was that opening narration needed?  Beats me!

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“I am Tomar-Re, protector of sector 2813, and I love exposition!”

The one thing they don’t delve much into is the ring.  Here is my problem with the ring.  It is never really explained how it works.  We are told that it can create anything the wearer imagines.  But does that mean it takes on the complete properties of said item?

For instance, when Hal makes a gun, it fires bullets.  Why would it do this?  Are those bullets effective since they are not “attached” to the ring?  Same with the necklace he later gives Carol.  Is there a distance factor with the ring?  Or when Hal makes the jets, they work as jets would with logical working jet engines.

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How is this possible?

This is fine, but the movie doesn’t explain that, and the ring’s functionality is left incredibly hazy.  Can he make fictional items?  Like what if he made the USS Enterprise and made it go to warp speed.  Can the ring do that?  If not, why?  It can make fully functional jets.  How does the ring know real items from fictional?  One line probably would have solved this problem.

Remember when you were a kid and you played make-believe with your friends?  And you would say how you would have a power, but then your friend would counter with a power that outdid your power, so you would come up with one that outdid your friend’s?  And things would keep escalating with utter nonsense until someone throws down the “infinity” card?  That is kinda how the ring is presented in here.  And because of that, it makes the ring seem too powerful and that, willpower aside, limits the dramatic effectiveness of it.

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Definitely not the One Ring.

Tomorrow: Part 3, in which Hal gets “trained” and Hammond goes crazy!

~N

Breakdown: Green Lantern (Part 1)

Welcome to our scene by scene breakdown of Green Lantern, the 2011 superhero flick starring Ryan Reynolds.  I promised this entry well over a year ago.  Sorry it took so long.  Originally, I wanted to do a video breakdown, Nostalgic Critic style.  Unfortunately, during editing (and, subsequently, pretty far into the project), I determined that it was not working.  I simply do not have the voice or talent to pull something off as clever or interesting.  I do want to add a video component to the Culture Cast someday, but it is not going to be today.

Anyway, Green Lantern — this movie is bad.  Whatever potential it had, it completely squanders it.  The truth of the matter is that it was not one big thing that destroyed the movie, but a lot of little, smaller things that just added up.  Today, I am hoping go through the movie, scene by scene to see what just did not work.

One thing before we begin.  If you liked this movie, great!  These are just my opinions.  I did not like it, and these are my reasons why.  I do not think less of anyone who likes this movie.  That is just arrogant, and I really try not to be.  Without further ado, here is Green Lantern.

01

We start with an opening narration given by Tomar-Rey (who is voiced by Geoffrey Rush).  This was my first warning sign of bad things to come.  I am always leery of movies that try to cram a lot of information in some sort of opening narration or scroll.

Look at movies like Super Mario Bros. or Judge Dredd.  I realize they are trying to get the viewer up to speed with the backstory, but it rarely works out.  Especially so since they are forcing the audience to swallow these insane and goofy concepts.  Green willpower?  Yellow fear?

It’s laughable at face value.   In a movie with space aliens, giant head creatures, and evil clouds, you need to ease your audience into these concepts.  In a high concept movie such as it, you need to first ground it, and then bring on the crazy.

02

Abstract images of strange looking people do not help.

Look at the Star Wars movies.  They did it right.  None of the opening crawls wasted time on the history of the Jedi or Republic.  It just told us what was going on in that particular moment.  The rest was filled in as the movie went on.

I guess I would not go on about this so much considering that an hour later (when this stuff actually matters), the movie repeats everything established here.  It is even said by the same character.

Anyway, we start out on “The Lost Planet” in the “Lost Sector”, even though people know where it is.  We see some hapless aliens release Parallax, our principle villain.  He then attacks Green Lantern Abin Sur.  Sur gets away, but not before being gravely injured.

07

Rumor has it that Parallax and Galactus from Fantastic Four were roommates in college.

We then cut and meet our hero, Hal Jordan.  And, since it is important to show him being an irresponsible douche, we get him trying to wrap a present while driving recklessly on his way to work (of which he is already late to).

03

Who will be able to forget the iconic gift wrapping scene? Cinema was forever changed.

Why is he wrapping the gift then?  We see later on he has plenty of time before the party when he is standing around at work doing nothing.  What went through his head when driving to work?  “Hey, I’m late to work.  I can’t think of a better time than now to wrap a present.”

The movie is trying too hard all at once to make him irresponsible.  You can show it bit by bit.  We the audience will get it.

So, Ferris Air is giving a demonstration about some new automatic planes they are trying to sell to the government.  Hal and love-interest Carol (played by Blake Lively) are facing off against new technology to prove the new tech’s worth — I think.

08

“Honestly, Hal, that mysterious Gossip Girl couldn’t make heads or tails out of what we’re suppose to be doing today.”

It is never made clear what the goals and motivations are from the different people involved.  Hal and Carol seem as if they need to show up the new unmanned planes.  The higher-ups at Ferris Air want the unmanned planes to win (so they can get the lucrative government contract).  And Tom, the guy who invented the new planes, seems happy when Hal wins against them.

Why does he get this excited over Hal winning?  Especially in front of the generals, who the company hopes will buy the planes.  That’s like Bill Gates being happy in front of investors that the next version of Windows fails.

04

“Awesome! The thing I worked tirelessly on has completely failed the test to impress the people my bosses hope to sell it to and save the company I work for!”

So, as I mentioned, Hal wins against the new planes after a crazy maneuver.  But, of course, he causes his plane to go out of control which, in turn, triggers the memory of his father’s death.  Why is this here?  It is totally shoehorned in.   Does he get flashbacks like this often?  Was it because he was in a dangerous situation?  If so, why is he allowed to fly?  You’d think that would come up during a psych test.  Well, Hal ejects and his plane crashes.

05

Nice job, Ace. Next time, don’t showboat.

We then cut to a scene where Hal gets chewed out, and I am left wondering why Hal couldn’t wait to wrap his nephew’s gift.  I mean, they are all just standing around doing nothing.

06

“Hmm…Good thing I wrapped that gift when I did!”

Tomorrow: Part 2!

~N

New Feature: What Went Wrong?

Failure has always been more appealing to me than success. When a film succeeds, it’s all well and good, but it can also be kind of boring. When a film fails, or even bombs, I find it so much more interesting. In this brand-new feature I will be exploring why certain films failed at the box office. I may feature up to three movies at a time, or just write extensively about one movie. I plan to make this a regular feature here at The Culture Cast, so I do hope you will enjoy it.

Battleship (2012)

Released only a few short weeks ago, Battleship has managed to do less than 50 million at the domestic box office. Though it has grossed over 200 million worldwide, Battleship still looks to be a massive write-off for Universal on par with Disney’s John Carter (which I’m sure will be covered soon enough). After the enormous success of the Transformers movies (another Hasbro property), Battleship was poised to do humongous numbers, but fizzled out spectacularly. So, what exactly went wrong? Battleship seemed to be two parts Transformers and one part Pearl Harbor, only without Michael Bay (and Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg and any interesting premise whatsoever). Turns out, it just ended up looking extremely generic.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the success of Battleship was that no one asked for this movie in the first place. Ostensibly based upon, but not resembling whatsoever, the classic children’s board game, Battleship seems like a movie created in an executive’s office by studio heads who *think* they know what the public wants, but who are very rarely correct (and when they are correct, it’s usually by sheer circumstance). Though Nick might cringe at this statement, Battleship was really something the fans (if they even exist in the first place) didn’t want. It didn’t help that the studio hired director-for-hire Peter Berg to make the film. Berg has absolutely no style as a director, adding to the film’s perceived blandness.

Marketing for Battleship was also disastrous. Universal seemed to go out of its way to feature Rihanna, a pop star more known for her awful music and dancing than her acting, in the film’s trailers and ads. Taylor Kitsch is the star of Battleship, but even Liam Neeson seemed to draw more screen time in commercials (and he only worked on the film for something like four days). Lastly, an hilarious Subway restaurant advertisement for the film attempted to buoy Battleship by proclaiming that the movie itself “has battleships” in it just in case the title wasn’t clear enough.

Green Lantern (2011)

What began as a film project for Kevin Smith (seriously) in 1997 finally came to theaters in what was then the far off year of 2011. The end product probably should have just been scrapped in the Clinton era. A woefully miscast Ryan Reynolds (and he actually drew positive notices for his performance) stars as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, fighting across the galaxy as a member of an elite group of space cops. While the Green Lantern comics have long been heralded as some of the best DC has to offer, the movie earned atrocious reviews and was absolutely devastated in the box office. So, what exactly went wrong? Green Lantern seemed doomed from the start. After Smith passed on the project, it languished in development hell for about ten years. At that point, Warner Bros. decided it would attempt to include all manner of Green Lantern mythos into the movie, ending up with a jumbled mess of a film that just did not work in a narrative sense.

Streamlining Green Lantern may have saved the film. Instead of attempting to bring in an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, Warner Bros. probably should have stuck with the Geoff Johns mid-2000s Lantern stories as the basis for the film. A great trilogy could have easily been lifted from these works, culminating perhaps in an ambitious Blackest Night movie that would also potentially serve as DC’s answer to Marvel’s hugely successful The Avengers. But it was not to be.

An initial trailer for the film, released in November 2010, was met with absolute scorn on the internet. Warner later admitted the film wasn’t ready for such a showing (special effects were still incomplete at that time). The studio sank an additional nine million dollars into an already bloated budget of over 200 million in order to enhance the effects even further. The glut of complaints about Green Lantern, however, lay with the script. Almost universally described as “paper-thin,” Green Lantern’s story still managed to make almost zero sense in the eyes of critics. Ryan Reynolds, Geoffrey Rush, and Mark Strong (all actors received positive notices for their roles, especially Strong), were left out in the cold, and Warner took a huge loss on the project. Not even the international markets could stomach Green Lantern.

The Dilemma (2011)

After a somewhat extended break from the silver screen, Vince Vaughn seemed primed to return with the 2011 winter comedy release The Dilemma. Boasting a fine pedigree in director Ron Howard and an excellent supporting cast featuring a red-hot Kevin James (coming off a few megahits of his own), Queen Latifah, Channing Tatum, and Jennifer Connelly, The Dilemma had the potential to be a potent comedy hit. So, what exactly went wrong? For starters, marketing for this film suffered a huge blow when Vaughn made what many perceived to be an anti-gay remark in the trailer. Universal relented to a public outcry, removing the “joke” from the film’s trailer.

The damage had been done, however, as it turns out that not all publicity is good publicity. The Dilemma flopped at the box office, grossing only 48 million dollars domestically on a budget of 70 million. It was Kevin James’ first big disappointment at the box office since his ascent to the A-list. It was an obvious misfire for Vaughn, too, as his brand of comedy seemed to be seen as out-of-style when the film failed. Ron Howard, who had not helmed a hit comedy in over a decade at that point (and who has actually had quite a shoddy filmography recently) took yet another box office blow.

The Dilemma attempted to straddle the line between quirky, slap-stick humor and dark humor, and was soundly rejected by audiences. Few movies featuring primarily dark humor succeed at the box office, and The Dilemma was not an exception to this rule. Though the supporting cast was well-received, the movie’s inability to decide what it wanted to be as well as its disastrous marketing campaign ultimately cost it the box office highs of previous Vaughn, James, and Howard films.

-Z-

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