In 2017 The Last Jedi ignited a culture war between lovers of Star Wars on the one side and…well, lovers of Star Wars on the other side. This war was ostensibly borne of debate over the film, praise versus criticism, and there certainly is a battlefront of this war that does engage in genuine discourse over Jedi. There’s another front, of course, comprised mostly of warriors fighting with a willing blindness to the merits or pitfalls of the film as a film; some people just despise Jedi for puerile personal reasons, some just defend it simply because it’s Star Wars. This is the Ultimate First World Problem, such hatred and ire thrown about over the seventh sequel to a space fantasy from 1977. But intentionally or not, a particular faction of “critics” revealed themselves during this war. We’ll call them the Shitboys, because they’re mostly boys and they mostly shit on everything.
The Shitboys are that splinter cell of Jedi-haters that conspired to sink the Rotten Tomatoes score of the film by flooding the internet with bad reviews. They sent death threats to director Rian Johnson from the safety of their mother’s basements. They made cute little petitions that proposed Disney literally remake the movie they just released. Eventually, they shit the same shit over Black Panther, actually claiming that white males were becoming a marginalized group in Hollywood. Once the rest of us stopped laughing/crying and once Panther walked home with billions of dollars and a few Oscars, the Shitboys regrouped and set to work on Captain Marvel:
Continue reading Captain Marvel (2019)
Sometimes drama is hard. Part of the reason why people are throwing around phrases like The Golden Age of Television is because great drama often implies a certain longevity, a depth not only of feeling but of space and time as well. Rust Cohle’s True Detective arc spans more than a decade, and we’re allowed insight into that arc for eight hours rather than for the limited runtime of a film. Walter White’s (d)evolution is likewise more effective for the time it takes building itself. In the coldest sense television allows what comic book chronology allows, simply more, and thus more of a compounding effect in the later hours or later seasons. True Detective and Breaking Bad are intense in their final sequences mostly due to brilliant writing, brilliant directing, brilliant acting — nothing replaces storytelling (preach!) — but partially due to what came before.
And yes: sometimes drama is easy. Fabricated drama isn’t hard to find. Heck, take Best Picture winner Argo, which climaxes with a harrowing scene at the airport where the heroes are really just standing in a room sweating as to whether they’re about to be let out of the country or not. Quick cuts are made to the drama, vehicles holding the bad guys hurtling along the tarmac. It’s all spiced up, and usually when you have to spice up your scene with cuts to action that simply happen faster and faster as the music plays faster and faster — well, maybe there’s another way to extract drama, a less easy way, an infinitely more effective way. Argo is hardly the worst example. The cringeworthiest one that leaps to mind is all the extraneous shit going down at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, because Spidey battling his enemy isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies isn’t enough. And Spidey battling two enemies while a hospital full of people is in danger and a plane full of people is about to crash isn’t even enough, so throw Gwen Stacey in there. There we go: amazing.
Continue reading The Leftovers 1.10 – “The Prodigal Son Returns”
Blah blah Agent Carter blah. The second episode of the series (which premiered immediately following the first) was fine — but forget that! The Ant-Man teaser debuted during the commercial! Isn’t that so much more exciting?!
This is how I feel sometimes when I’m watching in-universe Marvel stuff, be it Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or even lesser MCU films like Iron Man 2. Even if the plot at hand is going along smoothly, a heavy-handed mention or knowing wink toward an entirely different Marvel thing places a pothole right in the path. “Bridge and Tunnel” progressed the plot of the pilot episode “Now is Not the End” fairly well, but it had the added obstacle of a teaser for the Ant-Man teaser during every single commercial break. Agent Carter could be one of the most distinct and independent entries in the grander MCU once it gets over the Peggy-and-Cap romance, but not if trailers for trailers and endless winks toward other shows and movies keep getting shoehorned into the middle of it all.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.2 – “Bridge and Tunnel”
Marvel’s Captain America spinoff Agent Carter premiered tonight in two parts, bringing Hayley Atwell’s ’40s can-do spy Peggy Carter to the small screen. If your barometer for the show is the other Marvel Cinematic Universe cable tie-in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the quality of Agent Carter and the willingness of the show to shed those ties to the larger MCU. If your barometer is a true 1940s spy serial, you might be just a tad disappointed.
Peggy first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger (set during WWII, when Peg has a passionate fling with Steve Rogers) and popped up again in The Winter Soldier (set in the present day, so Peggy’s old as hell). Agent Carter takes place immediately following the war, and scenes from First Avenger kickstart the pilot episode and continue to frame Peggy’s loss after Cap plunged into the ice at the end of that film. Squeezing Chris Evans into your show without actually paying to cast him, or creating a new contract or convincing him to film new scenes? Nice, Marvel.
Continue reading Agent Carter 1.1 – “Now is Not the End”
‘Tis the season! ‘Tis a time for merriment, gaiety, festivity, and a bunch of other synonyms! ‘Tis also a time in which box-office turnouts for fifth and sixth installments of Saw or Fast and Furious vastly outweigh those for fresh, original film — a time in which the popularity of one kind of movie seems almost contingent on the failure of the other. ‘Tis a good time for cynicism, evidently.
Batman Returns is a superhero sequel, obviously, but it’s not the kind of assembly-line movie that phrase conjures up today (it’s also a Christmas movie, hence my yuletide cheer). This isn’t an instantly forgettable Marvel sequel like Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, seemingly intent only on filling the space between Avengers team-ups. Returns, like Burton’s first Batman film, takes pride in originality even in the face of decades of established Bat-lore, flipping things upside down and ignoring long character histories and comic book arcs in favor of new things, for better or worse. So in Batman we discover that the Joker is the one who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, not some nobody named Joe Chill; here in Returns, Penguin isn’t a respected sophisticate but instead a literal man-bird. Returns basically says f*ck you to so much of the Batman canon that it’s difficult to imagine it being released today without causing fanboydom to implode.
Continue reading Batman Returns (1992)