How to Destroy Cities

Heads up, kids. This is going to be spoilery. I’ve been rather flippant with my money spending lately, which is why I have seen both Man of Steel and Pacific Rim at the cinema. Full disclosure: I LOVED PACIFIC RIM. IT WAS SO GOOD AND SO MUCH FUN. On the other hand, I hated Man of Steel. Now, aside from the fact that I saw them almost back-to-back, the films do have something in common that I’ve started to notice in a lot of big budget productions: monumental destruction. Both Man of Steel and Pacific Rim feature the annihilation of entire (heavily populated) cities that the audience is supposed to disregard in favour of… I dunno…plot or something.

GO SEE IT

GO SEE IT

Normally I’m not a fan of that kind of thing. Even in The Avengers (which I loved and saw multiple times), the fact that the final fight scene featured an entire city being flattened and probably a couple of thousand people being wiped out never sat well with me. It’s probably because there’s never any real consequence to these sort of scenes shown in the film. Star Trek: Into Darkness, for example featured a city being totally flattened by a giant spaceship, and then ten seconds spent mourning the death of the people on board. The Avengers featured a gratuitous 20 second montage of people laying wreaths on the wreckage of buildings.

So it is with Man of Steel. I didn’t like the movie for a lot of reasons… many of them based on the fact that we’re apparently supposed to ignore the entire history of Superman and his whole ethos because they wanted to make it less like Superman and more like Batman. (Christopher Nolan is producing…is Superman gritty enough yet? We’ve given him a beard. How ’bout now? We’ve made him choose a life of solitude and deep-sea fishing. IS IT GRITTY YET? IS THERE ANY WAY WE COULD ADD MORE GRIT?)

"Are you finding me gritty enough yet? I grew a beard. How 'bout if this fight takes place at night? Would that make it better? Why don't you like me as much as Batman?

“Are you finding me gritty enough yet? I grew a beard. How ’bout if this fight takes place at night? Would that make it better? Why don’t you like me as much as Batman?

But my main problem lay with the fact everything got flattened. EVERYTHING. First, it was Clark Kent’s home town. Rather than, oh I dunno…taking the fight to space (which he is perfectly capable of doing), he instead tells everyone on the streets of Smallville to “go inside, stay there” so that he can attempt to beat the ever-loving Christ out of a bunch of super-charged, super-angry alien beings. In the process he manages to destroy the entire main street and eventually blow up a gas station, ensuring that anything that didn’t get punched to death caught fire.

Then, since wiping out Smallville isn’t enough to stop General Zod (our villain…I probably should have mentioned that earlier), he continues on with his genius plan to terraform earth so that it becomes a reborn Krypton. The fake science involves plugging two really big things in either side of the earth, getting them to make a dramatic “wump wump wump” noise, something-something-magents and hey-presto! Basically it picks everything up and then drops it, so that that it flattens down and eventually transforms the atmosphere. Superman does pratically nothing to stop this for a really long time. It just kind of happens and the people of Metropolis watch their city crumble before getting pounded into dust themselves.

The only time we’re given any insight into the human impact of the destruction is when we briefly look 3 staff members from the Daily Planet who we don’t really give a fuck about who calmly sit down and wait for death. (Lawrence Fishburne is one of the people, so I think we’re supposed to care, but I couldn’t muster it.) Superman eventually manages to stop the ‘wump wump wump’ machine from doing the thing, but that doesn’t actually stop Zod either. So, amongst the ruins of Metropolis they proceed to have another punching contest to destroy the rest of the city (just in case anything escaped unscathed). Eventually, Superman kills Zod (spoilers) to save four people. No word on why those four people are more important than the tens of thousands of people who were wiped out while the Soops and co. were dicking around elsewhere, but whatever.

And then the movie ends with exactly no acknowledgment of the fact that everyone is dead. It’s not just the fact that Metropolis (clearly a parallel for NYC) is flattened either. As I mentioned before, we’re explicitly shown the machine plugging into either side of the globe… Then it’s never mentioned again. I realise that it’s an America-centric movie, but why even show the fact that Zod’s quest for world domination has global implications if you’re not going to follow through with any of it?

In short, the reason this kind of mass destruction doesn’t work for me, is because we’re only supposed to care about the destruction of the city insofar as it has an impact on the main characters. Superman simultaneously destroys the world and saves it, no one calls him out on the death toll and Metropolis is mysteriously in tact. There are literally no repercussions for Superman making some seriously stupid decisions and thus the audience is supposed to assume that the city was eventually fine and/or that it wasn’t important anway. Considering how directly a lot of these films reference 9/11 imagery in their city-destroying sequences, there’s something inherently disturbing about pushing that sort of chaos to the side in favour of snappy one-liners about drone planes. (Spoiler: they’re not good snappy-oneliners.)

Pacific Rim features similar large scale destruction. It has to – it’s a Godzilla movie. However, Pacific Rim deals with its crumbling cities in a very different way. Unlike your usual disaster film, the action in Pacific Rim takes place in a world that’s become accustomed to being laid low by monsters. Kaiju are coming through a interdimensional portal…and they just keep coming, squishing cities and battling Jaeger robots. An effort is made by humanity to battle to monsters at the source. Several of the fights take place in the middle of the ocean, which is pretty spectacular. As we’re slowly introduced to more of the Jaeger program, it becomes apparent that the main purpose of the program is border patrol – to keep the kaiju away from heavily populated areas and generally just minimise the death toll.

When the city finally becomes the battle ground it’s Hong Kong being destroyed, which is just such a nice step away from a US-centric cinematic vision that it made my soul weirdly happy despite the fact that the Hong Kongwas being flattened in the process. Anyway, as the kaiju hits the coastline an alarm sounds, much like the sort of alarm that rang during air raids in WWII and everyone just very calmly heads underground. Because that’s what this world is. Humans have just kind of adapted to the idea that their home could be wiped out at any minute. They’re not happy about it, but they’ve learned to live with it. At one point a news report flashes up talking about Australians in Sydney rioting over the fact that the Jaeger program was discontinued just days before another kaiju attack. Black markets have sprung up around the sale of kaiju organs. Jaeger pilots are elevated to the status of rockstars and made into collector cards. It’s all just so human. They just kind of get on with life because what else are they going to do?

All throughout the film, it has been subtly implied that people are just soldiering on despite the dramatic heroics happening elsewhere. There’s something really wonderful about that and, more importantly, it means that seeing an entire city being wiped out doesn’t feel meaningless. It feels like, despite the destruction there is potential. And that’s kind of fantastic.

What I’m trying to say is that somewhere, somehow the roles of Man of Steel and Pacific Rim got reverse. Man of Steel is a superhero flick that shows a blatant disregard for human life and wantonly destroys entire cities because it has the budget to do so. To quote a friend of mine, Superman has basically become a pub brawler with super powers. It’s a superhero film that lacks a hero (and a sense of humor). Pacific Rim is a cross between a Western disaster movie and an Eastern monster movie that actually cares about the things it’s wrecking and takes pains to ensure that the audience isn’t going to be distracted from the actual plot by the carnage.

Obviously, this is just a review of the way the these two films treat the scenery. I have a lot of feelings about the characters in Pacific Rim (MAKO MORI! PLEASE MARRY ME!) and also about Idris Elba’s butt in tight pants. In terms of Man of Steel, I have a lot of feelings about Lois Lane (who was pretty great). But they’re stories for another day. Feel free to ask me about my feelings in the comments. I’d love to hear yours.

On another note, I’ve decided to stick to blogging once a week. The blog will now be updated on Fridays only. I figured “quality” over quantity, right? Right? Guys?

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Jack Reacher: The Worst

Sorry for the brief absence. I wish I had an excuse, but I basically got drunk and then lazy and then busy. I don’t even know why I’m telling you that. It just makes me sound like a jerk. Anway, while I was very busy not posting here I went and saw Jack Reacher. I’m not really sure why. I had a free movie ticket. A friend told me it was terrible. It was raining. The stars aligned and I found myself with an oversized drink and popcorn, in a room full of dudes, watching Tom Cruise be a muscle-bound pocket rocket pretending he’s taller than the woman they cast alongside him. Believe me when I say, it was awful.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Jack Reacher character before, allow me to enlighten you. Jack Reacher is the protagonist in a series of books by a British author named Jim Grant, who operates under the pen name of Lee Child. The books are a bunch of boy’s-own detective type stories and are alright if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess. There are something like 17 of these damn books, so you can imagine that the backstory for Jack Reacher is fairly thorough. Keeping it short: Reacher was like a super-cop for the military police. Upon being discharged from the military he became a drifter, hitching-hiking or riding Greyhound buses across the US. Naturally, he finds trouble. Or trouble finds him. Or some other cliche about trouble. Anyway, they all pan out in much the same way, with Reacher fighting off a bunch of dudes and then walking off into the sunset, possibly leaving some busty lass with her heart all aflutter. Pretty standard stuff.

So the film Jack Reacher is an adaptation of Child’s 2005 novel, One Shot. Basically a maniac with a gun kills six people in what seems like an open and shut case, until the accused scrawls “GET JACK REACHER” on a piece of paper. Shenanigans and fisty cuffs ensue. Yada yada. Walking into the cinema, knowing all of this, I was prepared for the movie to be bad. What I did not understand was exactly how bad the movie was going to be. To start off with, Reacher’s character is not in the least bit likeable. Don’t get me wrong: I love a charming asshole. In fact I think most of the problem with my dating history lies in the fact that I am almost exclusively attracted to men who fall into the “charming asshole” category. But Reacher isn’t actually charming. He’s just an asshole. I can’t even really begin to isolate specific elements of his character that make him so unlikeable, because it’s just such an overwhelming impression. The introductory shot of features him sprawled on the bed of a cheap motel while some faceless woman puts her underwear on. (Out of interest: how do you think they credit the actress that did that? “Faceless shag number 1”? How much was she paid for the days work? What’s her story?) He refuses to answer questions, or be in any way helpful. He’s generally obnoxious to everyone and sometimes just kills people because it suits his idea of justice. From what I gather, the audience is supposed to just immediately grasp why he eventually chooses to provide help in any scenario based on the fact that he stares into the middle distance and clenches and unclenches his jaw a bunch of times.

I’ve heard of Reacher’s character as belonging to the “hard-boiled” detective genre and frankly, I’m a little insulted. This is a hard-boiled detective:

Be still, my beating heart.

This is not a hard-boiled detective:

This is a man in a plaid shirt.

Your hard-boiled detective gets to be the way he is through years of alcoholism and too much time spent on the wrong side of the law. (And it’s really hot and I’m super into Bogart and just shut up, OK? Because… reasons.) By contrast, Reacher’s main monologue tells us that he spent all his youth “fighting for freedom” and when he came back to see what that freedom meant, he didn’t think it was worth anything. All of this is, of course, delivered whilst looking into a grey-lit office building at some depressed workers or something. CLICHES ABOUND.

Anyway, aside from a completely unlikeable main character, my other main problem with this film was its attitude towards women (which the audience full of 20-something year old dude-bros seemed to find HIGH-larious). There is the obligatory central female character who is “smart and sassy”, but not in the sense that she actually does anything. Basically, she gets flustered whenever Tom Cruise takes his shirt off, which confuses me because this is not 1986 and this is not Top Gun and he is so clearly sucking it in that it’s actually a little embarrassing. Sometimes, she figures stuff out but it’s usually because Reacher has pointed it out to her. I can’t even remember what her name was. (Just looked it up: the character was Helen and she’s played byRosamund Pike, who I didn’t think I’d seen anywhere but it turns out she was in The Libertine and Die Another Day. The more you know.) So she exists and is a character and there is very little else that can be said about her but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The one that really irked me, however, was the younger girl, Sandy. Sandy is used as bait to lure Reacher into a bar fight. He doesn’t really take the bait, but he does take the opportunity to tell Sandy that he couldn’t afford her. When she tells him she isn’t a hooker, he then says, “Then I really couldn’t afford you.” CLASSIC LINE. Poor Sandy doesn’t get the joke and keeps telling him that she isn’t a hooker. To which he replies, “I know. A hooker would’ve gotten the joke.” ANOTHER CLASSIC REACHER LINE. Yada yada. Bar fight, bar fight. Turns out people are hunting Reacher. Jump 30 mins down the storyline, turns out that Sandy is actually “a smart kid” who does accounts and dates drug dealers. She offers to sleep with him and he valiantly turns her down but Reacher is suddenly all protective of her and her death is used as a motivation for him to go on a car chase/ killing spree. I dunno. Maybe it makes more sense in the book? I lost track of it somewhere in the middle but the rest of the audience seemed to like it. (“I dunno, dude. I just really liked the bit where he didn’t call her a hooker.”)

The film ends with all the gunfire and vicious fist fights you need. The Russian bad guy is killed. (Of course the bad guy is Russian. The bad guy is always Russian.) All is settled in the name of “Justice”. Anyway, I walked away shaking my head. Maybe it’s cos I haven’t read the books. Maybe it’s cos it’s not the kind of movie that is marketed towards me. Maybe some people loved it. But maybe I’m right and it is the stupidest thing you’ll watch all year.

PUPPIES!

Yesterday was my the last official day in my old house. I returned the keys, bid farewell to the built up mould and crumbling ceiling and spent 4 hours wandering around waiting for someone to let me into the house I’m staying at. So, all my stuff is in boxes, my laptop is broken and I’m sleeping on a couch. BUT, the house I am moving into (and, coincidentally, sleeping on the couch of right now) has a dog. A DOG! Do you have any idea how excited I am by this prospect? Probably not. I love having pets, and due to the fact that I’ve spent the last three years living in a decaying concrete box on very little money I have not been able to have one. JUST LOOK AT THIS THING, WILL YOU!?

Snapshot_20130104_1

It’s pretty much the cutest and it’s super affectionate and I love it. So, that happened. Now, there are two things that absolutely guarentee I will cry during a film: a) is it a war movie? Because I’m already crying. I have a totally unreasonable emotional reaction (always against my better judgement) to any and all war films. Any era. Sobbing, regardless of context. And b) animals with vaguely human characteristics as central characters. Shoot me in my face, I can’t even handle it. They don’t even have to die… they just have to be loyal or defend each other or something and I’m wailing. With that in mind and knowing the fact that I now have a dog around me at all times, I thought we could look at my favourite five dogs from TV and cinema. But not Lassie. No Lassie on this blog. Not now. Not ever.

  1. Jack from The Artist – Jack was played by a Jack Russell Terrier named Uggie. Uggie has been in a bunch of things including Water For Elephants and The Campaign, but his role in The Artist got him the most attention.
    Uggie
    Given the fact that he outperformed most of the actors in the film, this is probably warranted and S.T. VanAirsdale, an editor at Movieline started a campaign for him to be nominated for an Oscar, saying that the dog “outdid Leonardo Dicaprio’s performance in J. Edgar but probably wasn’t as good as George Clooney in The Descendents.” A similar campaign was run for the BAFTAs and after being contacted by several members to ask if they could vote for Uggie the board released the following statement: “”Regretfully, we must advise that as he is not a human being and as his unique motivation as an actor was sausages, Uggie is not qualified to compete for the BAFTA in this category.” The British are always so sassy when responding to things they find ridiculous. I love it.
  2. Otis from Milo and OtisMilo and Otis should be retitled, The Movie That Traumatised Me for Many of My Formative Years. Seriously though. Trauma.
    The pug is a noble beast.

    The pug is a noble beast.

    The dog and the cat just want to be friends and have adventures but they get separated and ARGH! The sadness I feel every time. What I didn’t realise from the initial watching (because I was too busy crying tears of blood) is that it’s actually a English redub and recut of a Japanese film called Koneko Monogatari (A Kittens Story). Which would explain several things including the fact that it’s actually just a really weird, kind of surreal film. There’s no people, but there’s some train tracks and a barn and a lot of talking animals. Anyway, I don’t think there’s been a pug before or since that was so into adventuring. High fives to Otis. (Warning: On the re-watch, this film can be actually genuinely quite upsetting because it’s not entirely clear whether or not everything was done quite up to standard on the whole animal rights front. The reason it’s here is because I watched it when I was younger and was emotionally traumatised by it for a completely different set of a reasons.)

  3. Copper from The Fox and the Hound – ARGH. MY SOUL. IT HURTS. If they were in anyway related, this would be the sequel to Milo and Otis and it would be called The Movie That Traumatised Me for Many of My Formative Years Part 2: The Reckoning. All the tears of my life.
    the-fox-and-the-hound-image
    Copper and Tod are BBFs, but then Copper is a bloodhound and Tod is a fox and people keep threatening to kill Tod and it’s just the saddest thing ever. This is one of those times that I’m way too emotionally involved in the film to write anything other than gross sobbing noises.
  4. Charlie B. Barkin from All Dogs Go to Heaven –  Another animated dog. This one is voiced by Burt Reynolds. Much like Burt Reynolds, Charlie is a jerk, but he’s kind of a loveable jerk, who redeems himself in the end, so it’s all good.
    Charlie-charlie-b-barkin-23379551-717-613
    Also, there’s a singing alligator, but since this post is about dogs, we can all just stop, take a minute and appreciate Burt Reynolds reaching a point in his career where he was like “Yes, yes I will voice that cartoon dog.”
  5. Rex from Inspector Rex  – Inspector Rex is a badass Alsatian that solves crime. This is literally all you need to know.
    rex_wideweb__470x322,0
    Rex warrants a mention those whacky Austrians have come up with a show where the dog is legitimately the star without being at all anthropomorphised. He’s just a really smart dog who is super good as solving crimes and alerting people to gas leaks. If you’ve never watched Inspector Rex (or Kommissar Rex, for those of you playing along in Vienna) then now would be a really good time to start.

Dishonourable mentions go to Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which I had done seriously well to avoid but then looked it up because I was having some trouble finding some canine friends to write about. Anyway, watch this trailer and if it doesn’t looks like the worst thing that could’ve happened to film since they invented CGI the please leave.

Bandwagon Ahoy!: Just a Bit o’ the Ol’ Ultraviolence

So, after a weekend of loitering in the Australian bush, dancing like crazy for 12 hours a day and nursing hangovers on my friend’s couch I am back and ready to blog. Whilst nursing aforementioned hangover, I rewatched The Hunger Games, which in turn launched me down the path of re-reading/re-watching the Japanese cult hit that shares a suspiciously similar concept, Battle Royale. 

Hunger

I’m assuming most of you know the concept of The Hunger Games – kids are offered up as tribute to fight to the death in an arena controlled by the government as punishment for a rebellion that tore the country up for a while. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, uses her hunting skills, brought about by intense poverty, to survive and win the games. Revolution  ensues, etc. etc. Battle Royale runs along the same lines. A class of high school students is offered up for “research purposes” to fight to the death on an island controlled by the government. The winner gets to live on a government pension for the rest of their lives and the winner is shown (often sent raving mad and covered in blood) to the public to keep the fear and paranoia going. Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa both manage to survive, but there’s no revolution or glorious ending. They just end up on the run, trying to escape to the US so that they can continue to live.

I’m not pointing out the similarities in plot to criticise. I think both books and their filmic adaptations are trying to achieve something different. They’re also directed at significantly different audiences, so where The Hunger Games has a lot of implied violence, Battle Royale is a mass of gun violence and psychosis.

So, if I’m not here to tear Suzanne Collins apart for ripping off Battle Royale what am I even doing? Excellent question. I was catching up on what I missed in my little week off I came across an article on EW talking about the two new reality shows that American network The CW has ordered for their lineup, one of which is called The Hunt and sounds suspiciously like they’ve turned The Hunger Games into a reality TV show. Wait…in the book it is already a TV show… Well, they’ve just taken the death out of The Hunger Games and put it on TV essentially.

In this show, 12 teams of two are dropped into the forest and have to capture other players in order to win a cash prize. They’ll spend a month running around in the wilderness, using their hunting skills and whatnot to survive. On top of that the network is also apparently developing a drama series based around Battle Royale. Like, not just a sneaky rip off in the way The Hunt sounds like it’s going to be. They’ve actually made calls to Japan to inquire about buying the rights to a TV show. Their reasoning? “Battle Royale comes with a nice cult following, as you all know.” That’s Mark Pedowitz, chief at CW, speaking about it. Heaven forbid they have to come up with an original idea to gain a cult following.

Anyway, having read through the concept for each of the programs I have to say, it sounds like the networks have found a new bandwagon to jump on. For ages there we had the recent resurgence vampire craze, which spawned about a million different things, the most successful of which were The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. We’ve also had a bit of zombie love filling up the airways with The Walking DeadGame of the Thrones has killed it every which way. So, where to? Well, apparently what we’re all lacking in our day to day is a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence, me lovelies. We want gutsy extreme survival with a bit of blood thrown in for good measure.

This is the kind of creepy-ass shit I wanna see on my TV... Or not.

This is the kind of creepy-ass shit I wanna see on my TV… Or not.

There’s something about the network commissioning these shows that, to me, smacks of irony.These books both show total government control. Battle Royale in particular can be read both as a rollicking piece of pulp fiction and a critique of governmental power taken to its absolute extreme. Both the book and the film were shrouded in controversy on their release, with various government bodies threatening censorship of the more extreme content. Similarly, both Battle Royale and The Hunger Games show the television as a way of controlling a population. Obviously, it’s a much more prominent trope in The Hunger Games where the games are broadcast as a television program, but it exists in the Japanese story as well, with the main character having flashbacks of seeing a female winner of the battle brought before the cameras, covered in blood and cackling.

So, to me (and feel free to stop me if you think differently), with these books and films presenting the kind of commentary that they do, the idea of adapting them for reality television especially seems to have totally missed the point. Kind of like the way Big Brother did when it was first released, having taken the entirety of its concept from something that was essentially a critique of its own existence. I think it’s all a bit ridiculous. What about you? Would you watch The Hunt? Or would you be part of Pedowitz’ ready-made cult audience for a Battle Royale adaptation?

Smells Like… Avenging?

Y’all know that I loved the Avengers movie (see: that post I did where I just vomited feelings for 1000 plus words). Having said that, I can’t say that, whilst watching the film, I ever thought “Goddamn, I wish I could smell like an Avenger. I bet Thor smells fucking amazing.” Thankfully, someone did and you can now buy a full range of Avengers themed colognes for the man in your life.

Well… that certainly is a thing.

So, what exactly does a “heroic men’s frangrance” smell like? Shall we take a  gander at the product tags? Yes, let’s… because apparently each perfume is “painstakingly created to invoke affinity for its character.”

Mark VII Armor Up Cologne: A resolutely sophisticated cologne forged from the elements and a touch of devil-may-care whimsy. Smell just like Tony Stark!

SMASH! Be Angry Cologne: Rare materials create a cologne evoking both timeless freedom and a single-minded passion for life. Smell just like Bruce Banner!

Worthy Possess the Power Cologne: Sensual. seductive dark amber and cedar wood protect and enhance a deep, almost God-like musk. Smell just like Thor!

Patriot Your Attack Plan Cologne: Paying homage to the confident, stand-up-to-bullies, hard-working average Joe in every man. Smell just Steve Rogers!

I did not make any of that up. That’s the actual product description on the website. I love whoever writes the taglines for perfumes. Genuinely. Without them, this blog wouldn’t have half as much content as it does. I mean, they actually used the phrase “deep, almost God-like musk” to talk about a perfume that’s supposed to smell like Thor. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, what interests me most about product is the fact that they claim to “smell just like” whichever character they’re talking about. Honestly though, I don’t know if the first thing that comes to mind when I think of “stuff the Hulk would smell like” is “timeless freedom.” In fact, I’m not sure if I know what “timeless freedom” is, let alone what it smells like. Does freedom have a smell? As such, I have revamped the character-based cologne to be a little more accurate.

Money Charmingly Smug Cologne: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the cologne based on Iron Man smells a little bit like a the inside of the metal shop class that your school made you take – tangy and a bit like rust. But becuase it’s based on Iron Man and not just iron, you more subtle after-notes of alcoholism in the form of expensive whiskey fumes. Smell just like Tony Stark (and his drinking problem)!

SMASH! Emotional Instablity Cologne: It’s hard work being an over-sized, emotionally unstable, slightly radioactive green guy, and as such, the Hulk cologne smells predominantly like sweat with competing scents of brick dust from all the buildings Hulk has inadvertently smashed. In tribute to Bruce Banner and his science-y ways, there has been also a subtle after-smell of disinfectant. Smell just like the Hulk!

Hammer Time Luscious Flowing Golden God Hair Cologne: Given that Thor is a God from another dimension, we couldn’t really make his perfume smell like all the things that Thor actually smells like on a day -to-day basis. However, upon arriving in our dimension, Thor did quickly discover the wide range of hair care products needed to keep his golden God-locks in check. Thor’s cologne is a heady mix of floral shampoo and conditioner scents. Smell just like Thor (and also like Chris Hemsworth, because that isn’t a wig, so I assume he mostly just smells like the hair care aisle at a supermarket)!

‘MURICA! Patriotism n’ Eagles n’ Shit Cologne:  Last but not least, we have The Cap. Naturally Captain America smells exactly like what America should smell like: a giddy mix of hotdogs, bald eagle feathers and the inside of a baseball glove. It’s the perfect cologne for the patriot you know you are. Smell exactly like Steve Rogers!

What do you think? Sound a little more true to character? I like the fact that they neglected to include Hawkeye and the Black Widow as part of their team, but since those two are basically just shiny assassains they’d probably smell like blood and the tears of the doomed. Nobody wants that, really. If you’re interested and didn’t click the link before, the box set of four retails for $59.99 and is apparently perfect for father’s day or graduation gifts. They also have a range of Star Trek themed colognes, one of which features George Takei’s face. Awesome.

 

 

 

No One Hates Twilight More Than Robert Pattinson

Today, I would like to give thanks to Tumblr for pointing out to me that Robert Pattinson is a funny, funny man who is just as skeptical about this whole Twilight shebang as the rest of us. Like many of you, I saw the first movie and went “Why is Cedric Diggory playing an angsty ball of glitter?” and then spent the next 4 years trying desperately trying to ignore the fact that Twilight existed (no mean feat when  you have access to the internet). But because of that I’ve missed the fact that Robert Pattinson is actually hilarious. Because the final installment in the saga is due out this month, this post rounded up some of the best of Pattinson from all the press he’s had to do over the years.

Interviewer: What do you think of ‘R-Pattz’, actually?

Pattinson: I want to break the hands and mouth of the person who came up with it.

Interviewer: What do you want your fans to know about your personal life?

Pattinson: I want them to know that….cinnamon toast crunch has only 30 calories in a bowl. (Note: Robert Pattinson is a dirty liar.)

Bless your weird little soul. That’s just the press junket though. At one point, someone thought it would be a good idea to get him to do the DVD commentary of the first Twilight movie. Results were… probably not what the studio was looking for?

The man has a point. Have a look at some of the other gems he manages to come up with.

On the kissing scene:

“This is quite difficult ’cause I have a really flat head, and so it’s quite difficult to get a correct angle. And you can’t go up from down below as well, ’cause I’ve got, like, rock solid gelled hair. And so, like, it was odd. I don’t know, sometimes I feel like my head is being, like, turned inside out. Like that episode of Ren & Stimpy when he’s inside his own belly button.  I don’t know.”

I am so very pleased that I am not the only one who thinks that his head is ridiculously flat. He looks like he’s run into a wall… or, in his own words, “my whole head is like I’ve had a face lift.”

On being a scary vampire:

“So he wears lipstick, has a little bouffant and does little circus acts as well. Oh he’s so sexy.”

“Looking scary with a baseball outfit on and a little bouffant, you know, it just does not work. Especially when you’ve got sculpted eyebrows.”

“I wonder if a vampire’s eyebrows can grow back?”

“Never trust a man with sculpted eyebrows.”

“I thought I was supposed to have a fake six-pack for this scene.”

I mean… that shit is almost enough to make me watch the film for the commentary. But then I remember I’d have to deal with the movie AND every other person involved in the production just taking themselves way too seriously and I think “naaah”.

Anyway, thank you to Robert Pattinson for being snarky about Twilight, because it’s really nice to hear someone involved with it point out that the relationship between Edward and Bella is bordering on creepy. And thank you to Tumblr, for obsessively finding moments where he is funny to make it seem like maybe I should give Twilight a second chance, even though we all know that it’s a terrible idea and I’d just end up regretting it.

On a side note, this has been some supremely lazy blogging because I’ve been ridiculously busy. It’ll be back on track at some point. Promise. Also, the blog seems to have a problem with me making the first two pictures any bigger than they are. My humble apologies. Stupid. Bah!

Disney Buys Star Wars: Nerds React

In a movie that made everyone go “OoohGodwhat?askjdhfkflHelp!Why?Argh!” the Walt Disney Co. bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced that they were going to be making another Star Wars movie. I’m torn. <Cue musical interlude.>

You’re welcome. Anyway, back to the point…I really am torn. I love Star Wars. A lot. Seriously…like, a lot. I could go into all the nostalgia I have associated with them, but we all have those stories and they’re pretty boring, so let’s just say that I may or may not have once handed in an essay three days late because I was re-watching the trilogy on loop and that I definitely cried in the cinema in the late 90s because The Phantom Menace was so bad. I just really like Star Wars, OK? So the idea of more Star Wars for me is both exciting and horrifying. Exciting because MORE FUCKING STAR WARS! FUCK YES! Horrifying because if they’re as terrible as the prequel trilogy I may have to throw myself under a bus, and because Disney has taken the reins.

Let that sink in for a moment. Disney. Has taken over. Star Wars. I’m mad at Disney at the moment for The Lone Ranger, so the idea that they could be doing something equally terrible to something that I’m actually intensely emotionally invested in is worrying, to say the least.

In times of crisis, I often turn to the internet for comfort. So naturally, the first thing I did was check the social media of all my favourite high profile nerds in order to determine what their thoughts were on the issue.

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and several Family-Guy-related parodies of the Star Wars films, was sufficiently unimpressed.

He then went on to respond to a fan who asked whether Disney’s new ownership would mean that the Family Guy parodies would have to cease and desist.

So, if nothing else, at least the public won’t be subjected to any more Family Guy parodies of Star Wars. Silver linings, people.

Everyone’s favourite super-nerd, Simon Pegg, had this to say:

Insert an appropriate “badum-tish” noise here. He did then say that he was excited about the new films, which may or may not be a ploy to extend his reign as the ultimate Hollywood nerd by starring in both Star Trek and Star Wars. GEEK SUPREMACY 50% COMPLETE!

That’ll do, Pegg. That’ll do.

It wouldn’t be a geek post without checking what Seth Green is up to. He didn’t post anything personally, but he did retweet a couple of things that would suggest that he is probably mostly just pleased about it.

Maybe, if we all think positive things about new Star Wars then everything will be OK? Is that just called wishing? I think it might be.

Final words go to two of my favourite people: Ewan McGregor and Nathan Fillion. You may recognise Nathan Fillion as Castle from Castle. Or, because you’re reading this blog, chances are you also recognise him as Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly (and you just crossed yourself and mumbled “rest in peace” at the mention of Firefly because the cancellation of that show IS NEVER GOING TO BE OK). He retweeted this (from Grant, the Mythbusters guy, no less):

As for Ewan McGregor, he played Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy and is probably the only reason I’ve watched those trainwrecks more than once (…well, that and CGI Yoda ripping everyone to shreds, because that shit is FUNNY). He started by wishing George Lucas good luck in his future endeavours, and then finished it up with this:

I could get behind that… I think.

After lurking around, I’m still torn. I want it to be good so badly, but it could just be like that time they tried to give me more Indiana Jones and it was awful and had aliens and Shia Labeouf (I would seriously, SERIOUSLY recommend clicking that link). What do you think, internet!? Make up my mind for me! Is it the best or worst thing to ever happen?

Note: So, this blog is late. I wish I had a good excuse but basically I worked for 9 hours and then tequila happened (I shouldn’t be allowed in Mexican themed bars). If it’s any consolation, the McDonalds that I drunkenly consumed is really disagreeing with me.

Wa-hey! Generic Halloween Post!

It’s Halloween folks! It’s conveniently fallen on a Wednesday, which means that while most people got their partying out of the way last Friday and Saturday, we can still celebrate by reading my blog… preferably while wearing a costume. I may or may not be wearing one right now. (I definitely am.) So, what does a pop culture blog do on Halloween?  Best pop culture themed costumes? Worst pop culture themed costumes? Pop culture pumpking carving? There are so many options.

Since it’s a Wednesday and you’re all probably a little partied out after the weekend, I thought maybe you could all share a quiet night in having the bejeezus scared out of you with some of my favourite horror films. Because it’s hard to choose, I have helpfully divided them up into categories of “things that are going to rip you into tiny pieces” in order to include more films. Lets get this show on the road.

Vampires

Vampires have always trod a difficult ground between sexy and scary. Unfortunately, recent cinematic history has not been kind to the fanged ones,with Twilight turning them essentially into fanged disco balls. If you’re into your vampire angst, but want something better than the clap trap Stephanie Meyer scribbles, then Anne Rice is your obvious next stop. Interview with a Vampire has better writing, better character development and a better movie.

I always wonder if Tom Cruise was aware of the rampant homoerotic subtext in this film…

If you’re a scaredy cat who doesn’t want too much horror but would also like your vampires slightly more badass than Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, I would recommend The Lost Boys, because it’s a flipping excellent film. Vampires + the 80s + motorcycles = cinematic gold.

The scariest thing about this film is probably Keifer Sutherland’s mullet, to be honest.

Personally though, on Halloween and generally, I like my vampirism either creepy or outright bloody. For creepy you can’t go past the 1922 German Expressionist nightmare Nosferatu, which, if watched in an appropriate setting absolutely sends shivers up my spine.

For blood I love 30 Days of Night, which surprised me by being a film I enjoy that also stars Josh Hartnett. What I really like about this is that there is nothing even remotely sexy or alluring about these vampires. They’re not tortured, they don’t want redemption and drinking your blood is not a metaphor for the sex. They’re totally nihilistic and they’re going to rip you to shreds and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it because the sun is never coming. Excellent. If you’re interested, the graphic novel is also worth a read.

The trailer really doesn’t do the film any justice, but you should definitely watch it.

Zombies

So many good zombie movies, I don’t even really know where to start. Night of the Living Dead is an obvious one… actually, all of George Romero’s Living Dead films, but particularly the first three – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. These are obvious because when people think of zombie movies they’re basically just thinking about the Romero archetype of what a zombie is. Obviously you should watch the originals rather than the remakes (yes… this is that kind of pretentious blog).

My favourite modern zombie movies have to be the British stand outs, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. These ones move away from the slow, lumbering reanimated corpses of Romero’s films and make zombies super-fast, super-aggressive attack zombies. As far as I am concerned these are the worst kind of zombie and these are films that I do not watch with the lights off or expecting to get a good night’s sleep afterwards.

Again, that might actually be the worst trailer ever made…Wow. Sorry. It’s a good movie though, I swear.

The Occult – Possessions, Ghosts and Stuff

This is basically “pick your poison” kind of area because there’s a lot of different ways an occult-themed movie can pan out. You’ve got your regular everyday possessions by Satan, because Satan has nothing better to do than hijack the bodies of virginal girls, apparently. (Does anyone else feel like Satan should be finding things to fill his time? Knitting, perhaps?) The Exorcist is probably one of the best known examples of this – one of my flatmates finds it so scary he considers the fact that he managed to sit through it at all a badge of honour. Apparently, on release it had people vomitting in terror in the cinemas. This is a reaction I understand, but only because the repeated crotch-stabbings the possessed gives herself make me physically cringe.

Bad hair day. (Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week. Try the salmon.)

In terms of modern possessions, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is legitimately terrifying. You know those films where not heaps of stuff happens, but you’re filled with a creeping sense of dread anyway so that by the time something actually scary happens you’re so wound up that you nearly die? This is one of those. Also, from memory, it features crabwalking, which is a sure-fire way to freak me the fuck out. IhateitIhateitIhateit, ohmygod. It scares me so much more than it should.

If possession isn’t your thing, there’s also actual rebirth of Satan, usually featuring a creepy child. You all know that I’m thinking of The Omen here. I recommend all The Omen films highly, to anyone and everyone, because they’re scary and they also have the best and most melodramatic soundtrack of any horror movie ever made.

Seriously, sometimes, when my life needs more melodrama, I like to just put the sound track on and walk around my house.

If you’re looking for less specific supernatural themes (see: I need less Satan, more weird happenings), The Shining is a particular favourite of mine and also of my housemate. It’s possibly the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever made… unless you want to talk about It, which I don’t. Jack Nicholsan is kind of scary anyway, so when you put him in an isolated house with elevators full of blood and creepy twins it’s a recipe for weird.


If you’re into ghosts and things, I will forever be recommending Poltergeist to people (only the first one), but if you want to actually be scared out of your mind you can’t really go past Japanese cinema because they’ve got it down. Most people have seen the Hollywood adaptations of The Ring and The Grudge, and they’re pretty good but the original Japanese films are genuinely scary. Like, I once watched the original Grudge alone in a hotel room and was later found hoarding snacks and bottles of water under a doona which didn’t make any sense because even in the film beds aren’t safe. BEDS AREN’T SAFE. It’s really good. Same goes for The Ring (I’ve never made the mistake of watching that one by myself though). If you’re looking for the biggest scare available, Ring is the highest grossing horror film in Japan, and was also voted scariest Japanese film in an Oricon survey. So there you go.

The disco soundtrack really takes the edge off.

Really Big Animals

Mostly things involving really big animals aren’t actually that scary, although I remember being terrified of Anaconda as a 9 year old. Then I realised that it stars Jennifer Lopez AND Ice Cube AND Owen Wilson, so as an adult I don’t actually find it that intimidating.

The least threatening movie about giant snakes ever made.

Bascially, we all know that the best and scariest film involving a gigantic animal is Jaws, because despite it very obviously being a a giant rubber shark I still didn’t want to go swimming after a saw it (admit it… you didn’t either). I have also developed issues with not being able to see the bottom of bodies of water. Essentially, Steven Spielberg has ruined the beach for me. Thanks, Steven. You dick.

Humans

We all know that the scariest villains of all are always just people, because unlike scenarios in which Satan kidnaps your virginal body and uses it as a meat puppet, there is always the chance that people are gonna get you. In terms of films that are going to stick with you, I always find 1971’s Blind Terror (also known as, See No Evil)  to be horrifying. It stars Mia Farrow as Sarah, who is visually impaired. She comes home and her whole family has been murdered and are scattered in gory poses around the house… BUT SHE CAN’T SEE THEM OR THE KILLER WHO IS STILL LURKING AROUND. So she comes home and just goes about her business assuming that nothing is wrong. It’s really good.

Last House on the Left is an oldie but a goodie. Having said that it’s less scary than vaguely traumatic. It’s directed by Wes Craven, who is very good at what he does, and it provides an interesting commentary on post-Vietnam America. But you probably don’t want that. It’s Halloween. You just want blood.

In which case, look no further than Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  There’s nothing supernatural going on here, there’s no reasoning – it’s just a bunch of backwoods weirdos who wipe out a group of teens using a chainsaw and store their meat in the freezer. It also has probably one of the best final scenes in horror movie history.

So, thus concludes a not-very-comprehensive list of horror films that I like. Share some of yours in the comments and we can give each other the heeby jeebies.

Oh Johnny… Honey. No. Just No.

Hands up if you’d almost totally forgotten that they were remaking The Lone Ranger? Me too. I probably shouldn’t have because it just meant that I got a nasty surprise when I remembered its existence. I was casually strolling through the internet, doing my morning rounds, when I came across the newly released poster.

Admittedly, it’s a pretty sassy new poster. I really enjoy the design. HOWEVER, I have issues. Many issues. Allow me to go into minute detail about them.

For those of you who don’t know, The Lone Ranger was originally a TV show that ran from 1949 to 1957 about a masked Texas ranger, his horse named Silver and his trusty Native American sidekick, Tonto. It spawned the classic line “Hi-ho, Silver! Away!” which was generally followed up by someone asking, “Who was that masked man?” as aforementioned masked man rides off into the sunset. These lines were frequently shouted at random intervals in my household while I was growing up by parents who were brought up on a steady diet of Westerns. In other words, it’s very kitsch and was very much a product of its time and, as much as I like/d it, like most things that rely on particular stereotypes of race or culture to create characters, it does not need a reboot.

When the first promotional images were released back in March, I spent a lot of time going “Oh my gosh, they can’t be serious.” Because I was positive they couldn’t be serious. Because Johnny Depp was playing Tonto. And he was dressed like this:

They can’t be serious…

Does that not scream “terrible fucking idea”, to you? Because it should. This blog isn’t really a political blog. I’m not here to get on my soapbox and preach the ways of the world. Honestly, I think that would be a waste of my time and yours considering that my idea of a productive day is to watch and have thoughts on at least 4 randomly chosen films. But some things are just so blindingly obvious, I don’t even really feel like I should have to say them. This is one of them.

Resurrecting Tonto is problematic for a lot of reasons. For starters, let’s talk about the makeup. It’s inspired by this painting by Kirby Sattler, titled I Am Crow. Now, Sattler isn’t a Native American. His artist statement says that he “purposely does not denote a tribal affiliation to the majority of my subjects, rather, I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.” If that sounds like a load of wank to you, it’s because it is. Sattler’s “innate interest in the world’s indigenous cultures” amounts to nothing more than cultural appropriation to create an exotic ‘Other’. To put it in simpler terms: Sattler is grabbing the stuff he likes from different cultures and mooshing them up without thinking about how that might affect the people that he’s stealing imagery from, so that he can make an interesting painting about something wild and exotic. Which is just a bit shit, really.

Then, on top of that, Tonto’s character is a identified repeatedly throughout all incarnations of The Lone Ranger, as being a full-blooded member of the Comanche Nation. So, taking inspiration from Sattler’s painting of someone who is supposed to be a vague reference to the Crow Nation (but not one constrained by historical accuracy, thank God), is just a further blending of cultural innaccuracies, so that we eventually end up with a visual that screams “Indian” at the audience, in the most traditional “Cowboys and Indians” sense, without them having to examine anything beyond the surface. And that’s bollocks.

Then, THEN, we have Tonto played by Johnny Depp. JOHNNY DEPP! I love Johnny Depp. I don’t think I can emphasise that enough. I went and saw Pirates of the Carribean at least 10 times at our local cinema. I even watch and enjoy the more questionable (repetitive) Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaborations regularly. I just really fucking love Johnny Depp, OK? Which is why, when I looked at my computer this morning I just kind of had to go “aaaaarrrrgghh”. Because essentially, you’re casting a white dude to play a person of colour, which is what ALWAYS FUCKING HAPPENS and it’s SHIT. If you’re going to write people of colour, for a start, don’t make them hollow, two-dimensional caricatures, and then, when you’ve written something substantial, don’t cast a rich white dude to play that character. Because it’s stupid and it makes you look stupid.

Essentially, I said all of that when that initial press photo came out in a much shorter and more swear-y way on my Tumblr back in March. And now the trailer has happened. It looks like this:

The thing that I was holding hope for was the fact that they would at least maybe skip over the fact that Tonto spoke in broken pidgin English. It is apparent from that trailer that they’re sticking with the pidgin English. Which is…I don’t even know. I can’t. I just can’t with this film.

So, I should probably end this blog with the following statement. I am a middle class, white girl from Sydney. I am far and away not the most politically correct person you will ever meet. Sometimes, I put my foot in it. I’m working on that. But I am a big fan of the idea that words are as powerful as the person being victimised by them tells you they are. To me, the fact that several prominent Native American people have come out and said that this portrayal upsets them is enough to make me more than a little uncomfortable. Popular culture is one of those things that seeps into your brain when you least expect it. If you’re not paying attention and thinking critically then you can let it drastically alter your perceptions without even realising it.

TL;DR: Disney, this is a terrible idea and you should really consider firing whoever was responsible for greenlighting this shit. I leave you with a really great article from 1998, by Sherman Alexie called I Hated Tonto (Still Do). This blog will return to regular programming next week.

Hansel and Gretel… Witch Hunters?

Allow me to begin this post with a really long and exasperated ‘EUUUUURGH.’ “But why, Alex?” you ask, “What has happened that could possibly bring forth such tones of displeasure? Did Peter Jackson announce they they were splitting The Hobbit into four parts?” HUSH! Don’t even speak of such things. It’s nothing that bad. It’s just that Hollywood has gotten stuck in a rut recently where they’ve started taking these iconic tales, amping up the supernatural element and calling it a blockbuster.

Here, I’ve broken it down into simple studio math for you:

Found scrawled on a napkin in a dive bar in L.A.

Of course, they haven’t just tried this with fairytales (they recently released Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) but it’s probably a good focal point considering that the trailer for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has just been released. Check out this hot mess.

Gee, that looks like a witty and original taken on a….NO! NO IT DOESN’T! IT LOOKS STUPID AND THIS IS STUPID! You know you’re doing something wrong when, having seen two minutes of the film, out of order, I can tell you exactly what is going to happen and who will watch and enjoy this film. In fact, I can tell you all of the ingredients this film is going to have, just from the trailer.

Let’s break it down, shall we? We’re in the middle of Europe – non-specific Europe, but the bit of Europe with a lot of creepy forests and vaguely threatening accents. Kind of like Germany, but with a bit more mystery and menace… so probably further east. Doesn’t matter though. Audience doesn’t care. Getting the lead actors to work on having accents to match the setting is too hard though, so that’ll be left up to the extras, who (let’s be honest) are probably gonna be killed off later anyway. The setting lends itself to the supernatural, so it’s just a matter of picking which one you like.The vampire craze is slowing down a little cinematically, and Red Riding Hood has only just been redone, so wolves are out. No matter. With a couple of remakes of Snow White under the belt and a Disney rendition of Maleficent not out yet, witches looks like they might be making a come back. Hansel and Gretel has witches. Hansel and Gretel can fight witches. Boom! Plotline! Now that that’s been established, it’s time to throw in the other elements that we need to send this baby sky high.

Other successful films have been made in this genre, so rather than having to come up with anything original, just pull elements that work from other franchises. Based on extensive market research (i.e. watching a bunch of other films in the same vein), we can surmise that audiences like a few things. The evil needs to be obvious – so we must dress it up like a cyber-goth at a warehouse party. Observe.

Ah, black lipstick. Contact lenses. Long black hair. I see you are the bad guy in this film. Carry on.

Voila! So, that was easy enough. What else do people like? Period costume! Well… they like women in corsets anyway. It’s practically the same thing. But they also like lots of weapons and explosions. Oh no! A dilemma. Fear not kids! That’s what steam punk is for. So we can dress women in corsets, but also give them practical, crime-fighting (leather) pants to wear. And guns. Lots of guns. Think like Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. And then cross it with some Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing business. Bam! You’ve got your Hansel and Gretel.

Honestly, I’m not sensing enough leather here, but whatever. We can work with it.

Well that was easy. Now just add heavy rock sound track, poorly written script and some explosions and you guys’ll be good to go. I’m expecting my royalty cheque in the mail any day now.

In all seriousness though, who came up with this? Because it looks awful. I’m a big fan of Jeremy Renner, although I am firmly of the opinion that he should just play those strong silent types that don’t do a lot of talking. A “shoot first, ask very few questions later because that would involve talking and it’s not really my area”, kind of guy. And they have him doing a voice over on the trailer! To a terrible script!

“Me and my sister. We have a past. We almost died at the hands of a witch. But that past made us stronger. We’d gotten a taste of blood. Witch blood.”

Oh! You mean it was witch blood you’d gotten a taste for!? Because I couldn’t have fucking guessed that from the goddamn witches that were popping up all over the trailer, the fact that the movie is called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters or the fact that the opening three seconds of the fucking trailer is you two killing a bloody witch. AH!

It’s alright. I’m calm, I’m calm. It’s just that, as an audience member who really enjoys going to the movies, who really enjoys horror movies, blockbusters and blockbuster horror movies, I resent being treated like an idiot. And that is what this trailer/film is doing. It’s holding your hand and taking you on a walk through a bunch of things that have worked previously and carefully explaining them to you. It’s not challenging, it’s not interesting and it’s insulting. TL;DR: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is coming soon. I will not be giving them my money.

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