Posts Tagged ‘review’

Here there be spoilers…

Halfway through the fun cosmic adventure that is Dr. Strange, I realized that the movie followed the same structure as the failed Green Lantern movie:

In the first 15 minutes, we are introduced to the charming but deeply flawed hero. Whereas Green Lantern gave us a likable actor in Ryan Reynolds, Dr. Strange gave us a likable Benedict Cumberbatch. But Dr. Strange gave us something that Green Lantern never did: A reason why the protagonist decided to “protag.” Like the comic book creators say in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, “The question is why.” For Stephen Strange, his why is the same as Tony Stark and Thor Odinson: hubris. We never really get the “why” in Green Lantern. He just found a lantern and figured he’d become a super hero.

 

benedict_cumberbatch_as_doctor_strange

After the intro, both heroes are indoctrinated into a universe that is greater than the Earth they know. The GL Guardians can easily be substituted with the Ancient One and the rest of the sorcerers. They are a police force that protects Earth from otherworldly threats that the average person is completely unaware of.

They teach the hero how to bend reality to his imagination. They even give him a ring at one point. The hero goes through the stages of adventure, from denial to acceptance, and is soon kicking butt better than those who have trained for years. He faces off against the bad guy, who is just an appetizer for the cosmic, shapeless true evil. And his mentor turns bad.

Despite the parallels, Dr. Strange was a stronger movie. It wasn’t stuffed with characters, just enough to get through. There was only one computer-rendered character, and it was the end villain. Everything was grounded in an internal logic that explained why magic was OK. (And thank you, Marvel, for just saying it was magic, and not science or midi-chlorians or whatever.)

And finally, the fight scenes were unique to the movie. What I mean to say is that the action sequences could have only happened in this movie. In particular, the scene with mystic monks fighting while time is going backward was something I had never seen before and could only be done in this kind of movie.

What I learned: When people say that you can’t do something if it happened in another movie, you still can, if you do it better.

Other Worlds cover

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The refrain I keep hearing from viewers is that they were surprised The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t super great.

This is different from the disappointment fans had when Spider-Man 3 just didn’t work for them. This was more about having unrealistic expectations.

The Dark Knight was arguably the best comic book movie ever made. If any movie was expected to best this, it would have been Dark Knight Rises. It’s not that part 3 was bad. No one seems to be saying that. They’re just saying it’s not terrific.

Maybe there needed to be more Batman in a Batman movie.

Maybe it was more of what a friend said that it was big on a comic book scale rather than a real life scale. In the last movie, it was about people and the decisions they make. There wasn’t a Macguffin threatening to blow up the city.

But really, I think it comes down to audience expectation and the inability of the creators to ever live up to that.

 

An editing mistake in Dark Knight Rises:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/a-mistake-in-dark-knight-rises/

 

Why it doesn’t matter if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are mutants:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/why-it-doesnt-matter-if-the-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-are-mutants/

 

Being an editor, I wind up noticing the silliest mistakes.

It wasn’t continuity. Or a plot hole. Or “Batman wouldn’t do that…”

It was spelling.

When Bruce Wayne is researching Selina Kyle on the Batcave computer, he has a bunch of newspapers up on the screen. One of them has “heist” spelled “hiest.”

Mr. Nolan, you’re a great writer, but not a great speller.

 

 

You Can’t Compare Batman 3 to Batman 2:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/you-cant-compare-batman-3-to-batman-2/

How to make a Wonder Woman movie:

https://whatilearnedbywriting.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/wonder-woman-movie-ideas/

And now for something completely different: A video game spoof of Twilight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncjwZ2CJoTQ

At one point during The Avengers, I suddenly realize that here I am, in a big screen theater, full of people, watching a live action Thor and Iron Man fight. And it’s good.

Decades of comic book movies have brought us to this point: Where we can have high budget movies with A-list actors and directors bring our comics to the screen for the mass audience.

Sure, there have been some bumps along this road. But Marvel’s The Avengers paved over a lot of them.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts had more charisma in five minutes of screen time than in the previous two movies put together. (But why was she dressed like that?)

Chris Evans stopped being a boy in man’s clothes who didn’t emote (like how he was throughout the whole Captain America movie) and started being the take-charge man of principle that we all know he is.

The Hulk looked less like a cartoon, and more like a big, green Mark Ruffalo (This is a good thing). Ruffalo did a good job playing the conflicted Bruce Banner, and you could see in every scene that he’s trying to hold it together. I think Edward Norton could have done it well, too, but these things happen.

Black Widow was given something to do. Instead of just slinking around and kicking people, she was the brains of the operation in a way that Stark and Banner couldn’t be.

I should add here that I liked all of the previous movies, but The Avengers became the rug that really tied the room together.

Joss Whedon’s fingerprints were all over this thing. The bickering. The long stretches of dialogue. The humor.

There were times when a few characters are talking, then it switches to another scene where a few characters are talking, and then another. Compare that to the X-Men movies, where there’s a few minutes of dialogue and then someone is attacked. It was a welcome change, with all the testosterone flowing around, for people to have intelligent, character-revealing dialogue.

I’m very happy for Whedon. He helmed a very large, very expensive, and very high profile project and he did it well. However, I do NOT want him to direct any sequels. Whedon has a tendency to get too familiar with his characters, rendering villains harmless and heroes little more than people who just hang out together.

The plot was paper-thin, when compared to what Loki attempted in the Thor movie. But, this movie was all about bringing the heroes together, and there might not have been room for an overly elaborate villain plot. That’s debatable. The heroes spent almost as much time fighting each other. That may have been the plot, actually.

Loki was a bit too brutish with some of his combat. I don’t see him as the type to bring down helicopters with an energy weapon while riding on the back of a truck. He is the master of illusion. However, maybe his fight was just a ruse. As you see later, when he gets caught.

There was a hint of romantic subplot that may happen at some point, but there was no burden of forced romance when there are a bunch of big storylines running around.

Image

So, I’m very psyched for a sequel, although I have no idea how they’re going to top the villain they introduced (I saw it coming, for the record!) for the eventual part 3.

When Eastman and Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they gave them a ridiculous origin: They were turtles that were touched by some kind of mutagen that turned them somewhat humanoid. Then a giant rat named them and raised them. It was a goofy beginning (and a Daredevil parody) that became a serious comic and then a goofy cartoon.

The mutagen in question is just some random thing: a story starter. It could have been magic. It could have been aliens. It could have been anything, because the heroes were nothing before this.

It’s not like you’re making Bruce Wayne be bitten by a radioactive bat. Or make Peter Parker’s parents spies (grumble grumble grumble).

That said, how are they going to be named after Renaissance artists? This movie will have the problems that “Wolverine” did: They’re going to have to come up with all new reasons for everything.

I’m not the biggest TMNT fan, but Michael Bay’s announcement bodes poorly for the movie. If this is different, what else will be?

I am the biggest Transfan, but I finally said “enough” and refused to see Transformers 3. I’m sure this didn’t hurt the movie’s bottom line one bit. But if 100,000 fanboys don’t watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and don’t take their 2 kids to see it, that’s $3 million in revenue. Still, maybe not enough to make a dent in a $100+ million payday, but refuse to buy the merchandise and maybe you’ll send a message.

Of course, that also hurts two creators who were fortunate enough to make a living doing what they love on a property that took off as a pop culture touchstone.

I’m happy for Eastman and Laird, but sad for storytelling in general.

This article pretty much sums it up:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/michael-bay-signs-50m-deal-to-fuck-up-thundercats,2702/

 

For a parody to be successful, it has to be both good and first.

The official trailer for Men In Black III (shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyaFEBI_L24) went online two weeks ago. My animator sent me a link and asked what we could spoof about it. I had a script done in two days. Within two weeks of the trailer being online, my video is online (shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC-x0KkLjS0)

If you search “Men In Black 3 parody” in YouTube, my video is the first to come up. And it’s the only one that’s really relevant.

What I’m hoping by all this is that by being first to the party, I’ll get a head start on views. The script is good, and I especially love the ending. And the video is first, or at least among the first if I missed the others.

So, take a look at it, and let me know if it’s successful. Thanks!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC-x0KkLjS0

 

When something as popular as Twilight invades pop culture the way it has, it’s not hard to write about it with at least a passing knowledge.

I recently wrote a parody of it for an animated sketch. Here’s the video. I hope you like it. But you should be warned there’s some disturbing footage in here:

cartoon parody

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncjwZ2CJoTQ

When I wrote this parody, there were certain truths I kept to:

1. It’s about the characters. A lot of people rip on Twilight because of the drama. However, the drama is what drew fans to the series. Critics whine that vampires and werewolves should be more visceral, not lingering in love triangles. So I played on that.

My parody is about a Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn video game. So I made the first part of the gameplay about relationships, which I see as the strength (not the weakness) of the books.

2. Take it too far. Parodies work if you take it just far enough outside of the spectrum of what’s acceptable in the book’s real world. The second act of the video you’ll see just how far I pushed it.

3. Prey upon people’s preconceived notions. The interaction between Edward Cullen and Jacob at the end is based upon what pretty much every guy thinks Twilight is. It’s an easy joke, and I’m not proud.

4. End with a 180 degree change. The problem with some parodies is that they just keep doing the same joke over and over. So, I wanted to make sure the last thing my protagonist says is a surprise.

I had the good fortune to interview Vlas and Charley Parlapanides, screenwriters for “The Immortals,” last week in advance of their movie.

They said something that struck me, and I want to share it here. They said that in Hollywood, scriptwriting still has a meritocracy.

“If you have a good script, “ it can get made, Charley Parlapanides said.

“If you do have a big idea, they don’t care who you are,” Vlas Parlapanides said.

This is wonderful news to budding screenwriters. It means that if you have a good idea, you can make it work, providing you can get it into the right hands.

More or less.

They also said that you have to work your ass off and that you usually write 5 movies before your sixth one is sold. And then, there’s no guarantee it will be made into a movie.

Also, they said you are only as good as your last one. So, if it doesn’t make money, no one cares.

What I Learned: It’s not as much who you know. Not when it comes to this. Sure, maybe more people will look at your movie if you are famous, or have some kind of connection. But you don’t have to be anyone to start.

But you have to make yourself someone to keep going.

 

 

 

For my (sometimes inappropriate) humor videos, visit:

http://www.youtube.com/user/verylittleknowledge?feature=mhee


I was trying to read while my wife watched the 2010 version of “Alice in Wonderland.” I kept getting distracted away from the page by the amazing visuals. Then, I’d hear a sentence of dialog and think “God, this is stupid,” and go back to my book.

The visual effects were stunning, and I found myself checking every nook and cranny on the screen to find little details. It’s a shame the same amount of care wasn’t given to the script. A-list actors, top notch computer animators, and a legendary story and this is the end product?

What a waste of talent.

 

This is definitely one of those cases where I had already heard of the story, and that ruins the surprise. But I probably wouldn’t have been so eager to read it had I not known what the story was.

 

For spoilers sake, I’ll leave out as much as I can.

 

The book contains stories about all the different Scourges. If you’re like me, you thought there was just one. Honestly, they should have stopped at one.

 

The original Scourge was a vigilante who gunned down costumed villains. He didn’t just go after B- and C-listers. He actually went for Kraven and Hobgoblin, but they got away. The B- and C-listers like Miracle Man weren’t so lucky, probably because the writers saw less potential in them for future stories.

 

My biggest surprise was that the storyline crossed over into so many books. Often it was just one page. Villain shows up. Bang. Justice is served. The worst issue in the series was in The Thing, where Ben Grimm, Miracle Man and Scourge are all on the same bus.

 

The best issue in the series has him going after Hobgoblin in Spider-Man’s book. Flash Thompson was just unmasked as the Hobgoblin, even though it turns out to be a trick, so Spidey’s got to protect him from Scourge. These big crossovers tend to be awkward when they sprawl into other books, but this was a real strong way to tie in to the current Spider-Man story seamlessly.

 

Usually, when you read an older book, it’s a bit dated. Here, not too much felt old, surprisingly. I think the only thing that was glaring was that during this era Steve Rogers made his living as an artist drawing the Captain America comic book. Seriously. I don’t think this would have flown these days. Not with a character like Cap. If Peter Parker was an artist and not a photographer, then I definitely could see Marvel hiring him to draw Spider-Man. Then he’d have to draw Spidey being a bumbling fool or be told by his editor “You’re drawing him too muscular! Everyone knows Spider-man is a weakling!”

 

The entire storyline was very well done, and could have created a villain with a great future. But, the ending was perfect.

 

The later Scourge stories were less exciting. Once writer Mark Gruenwald said that there was a Scourge program, and that once one was defeated, another took his place, it started to get old. An organization like this is interesting. But I think an individual acting alone is much more interesting. The later stories tended to be retreads of the old story. I guess that’s the way it is with comics. If you like it once, they’ll try it again over and over until you don’t like it anymore. They played with the toy until it broke.

 

Several people took on the identity of Scourge over the years, mostly with the same motive. One notable stand-out was that Red Skull had hired someone to be a Scourge to take out his competition. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of this Scourge’s exploits in this book.

 

Also unfortunately, in the copy I read, the title on the cover and spine of the graphic novel read “SCOURGE of the underwolrd.” Nice job, Marvel editors. Still, it wasn’t as bad as an X-Men collection I read. There were character bios in the back, and they were completely unedited. There was actually a note from the editor to the writer (Write about this for 3 or 4 lines…) that went to print.

WHAT I LEARNED: If you’ve got a good story, know when to end it. I often retread the same thing over and over again. If it can be done once, why not again? Because it’s boring. That’s why not.