Monday, May 28, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Finally saw Spider-Man 3 this weekend. I could relate its flaws but they would be news to no one, and John August has done a fine job cataloging the various plot contrivances here. Some of August's solutions would require breaking from the comic book source material, but the real, sensible solution would have been to not have two movies' worth of story shoehorned into one movie.

That said, I enjoyed the movie just fine, although going in with lowered expectations and a purposely heightened willingness to suspend disbelief no doubt helped.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW:

I even enjoyed the "evil" Peter Parker montage, although I do think they overplayed their hand a bit and dragged it on about three times longer than it needed to be. It's pretty much the same scene as the "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" montage from Spider-Man 2, when Peter gives up being Spider-Man and sees his life improve... sort of. Just as that montage undercut Peter's improved life with reminders that he was still a klutz and a loser, this one undercuts his overconfidence with endless shots of women reacting to him with disgust. Which, given his hairstyle, makes sense, but still, I felt like it would be nice for his character transformation to actually work a little bit. Even his cruel ploy to bring Gwen Stacy to the jazz club blows up in his face, and ends up feeling more foolish and ill-conceived than mean.

One of the worst parts was when the butler told Harry the thing that Peter should have told him a long time ago. To give Peter credit, at least in this one he tries to say that Osborne killed himself. I was waiting the whole second movie for someone to bring up that simple fact. But I was so relieved that someone finally got through Harry's illogical Spider-Man blame that I was almost willing to forgive the fact that it came at an overly convenient moment from a character who had no way of knowing the information nor any reason for withholding it as long as he did.

But the very worst part of Spider-Man 3 is by far the Uncle Ben retcon. My favorite sequence in the first movie is when Peter lets the thief go, then discovers that the same thief has killed Uncle Ben. It's a good use of coincidence, one with grand, tragic consequences, and the action scene that follows, with Peter swinging after Uncle Ben's car in a rage, is both viscerally thrilling and wonderfully emotional. The Flint Marko addition to the story spoils all that. Peter is still sort of responsible for Ben's death, since he dragged him into town to pick him up from the wrestling match, but less directly responsible. Flint Marko might have killed Uncle Ben whether his partner escaped or not. Or maybe not. Now it's all muddled. Not to mention, the logic of a two-man robbery where one guy is solely responsible for the getaway yet doesn't procure a car ahead of time is dubious at best.

The end of the movie is also very soft. Not just the deus ex machina solutions to defeating the villains, although those were bad too. How do you resolve your plot when you've set up powerful, unbeatable villains? This movie offers two ways out--one, invent a weakness out of thin air with only the most tenuous of setups, regardless of whether that weakness makes any sense; or two, forgive the villain so you don't actually have to beat him. But sorry, I was going to talk about the real ending, the Mary Jane ending. The previous two entries in the series ended on very clear notes: Peter rejecting Mary Jane in favor of his responsibility, and Mary Jane getting together with Peter, only to realize the struggles that lay ahead. Considering that Peter spent the whole movie planning to propose, it would have been nice to end on a more definite resolution of any kind. At least something more than just, Hey, I'm back.

Hey look, I ended up listing a bunch of flaws anyway. But I don't mean to be griping about the movie. My purpose in mentioning these things is simply to support my point, which is that I enjoyed the movie okay in spite of all this. So if you are in as forgiving a mood as, say, Spider-Man is when Flint Marko apologizes to him, you may just be forgiving enough to have a good time at Spider-Man 3.

--

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Font

As someone who likes fonts but doesn't know that much about them, I found this Slate piece on Helvetica absolutely fascinating. I know, sounds boring, but it's not. I notice fonts a lot, but Helvetica is so ubiquitous that I never really identify it when I see it everywhere. I love the story behind it, and the confirmation that Arial is literally a cut-rate alternative.

I also like that there's an anti-Comic-Sans movement out there. Shame about the merchandise, though. I understand the necessity of including the Comic Sans font on their shirts but that also makes designing an attractive shirt impossible. For me, the most aggravating thing about Comic Sans is that it doesn't actually look like comic lettering at all. It's an insult to comic lettering, is what it is; comic lettering as imagined by someone who hates comics and has never read one. The photo gallery is also amusing in light of the site's manifesto--the implicit criticism of every sign pictured is somehow hilarious.

Also, this site takes to task anachronistic typesetting in movies, something else I've occasionally noticed but never to this extent, with this amazing depth of expertise.

--

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Snorg" Is "Groans" Backwards, Almost

Hey, are you the kind of asshole who repeats catchphrases from movies and shows funnier than you are as if you are clever even though you didn't think of those jokes yourself? Well, now you can wear T-shirts that do the same thing. Just think, if you were just a little bit more of an asshole, you could have been the guy who thought up a whole website that sells T-shirts with references to funny lines and ideas from other people's movies and shows that you technically don't even have the rights to. Brilliant!

--

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Transformers



The new Transformers trailer is up*, and it's exciting enough that nerds all over the internet seem to be ready to forgive Michael Bay.

One of my biggest initial disappointments with the Transformers movie was hearing that Bumblebee would not be played by a Volkswagen Bug. Isn't that the whole point of his name? Someone told me that part of the reason was that they wanted to avoid reminding people of Herbie.

It's easier to see why after watching the opening scenes of the new trailer, which could easily be straight out of a Herbie movie. Shia LaBeouf picks out a used car while a salesman tells him, "A driver doesn't pick a car, a car picks the driver...there's a mystical bond between man and machine," and in the next scene, the car drives off on its own. If he were sitting in a Volkwagen, the comparison would be unavoidable. As a little tease/homage, a yellow Bug is parked next to Bumblebee in the used car lot.

Now that I see it, Bumblebee as a vintage Camaro is actually pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that his later form as a new Camaro feels unnecessary, a crass cash in. As do all the GM-branded Autobots. A new Camaro is not as cool as a vintage Camaro, unless you're GM and want everyone to know how cool the new one is. I've always thought that cars gained a certain coolness from being featured distinctively and prominently in a movie, but once you start advertising that connection with explicitly commercial tie-ins, you ruin what makes it special. If you're an auto company, even if you are lending your vehicles as a commercial tie-in, you'd be better off not making it so obvious. Don't run commercials about the GM Autobots. That would have made your cars feel cool, but now it just makes the Autobots feel like sellouts. Did they all really have to be GM cars? Did Optimus Prime sign an endorsement deal? At a certain point it takes you out of the movie.

James Bond driving BMWs meant nothing, because we knew that he was only driving them because BMW had paid. The Cadillacs in Matrix Reloaded could have gained a certain cachet from being in a cool car chase (if the movie had been good), but it was really obvious that they were only there as a brand tie-in. It's not like the heroes drove an awesome car that happened to be a Cadillac, it was just some car they grabbed in a garage. And the fact that the heroes and the villains drove Cadillacs made the brand tie in even more obvious and meaningless. Why get greedy? It's not the number of cars featured, it's the quality of the appearance. If it feels too much like a car commercial, you've blown it.

How on earth are they going to justify Bumblebee being updated from a vintage Camaro to a new Camaro that's not even on the market yet? He's going to get wrecked, and rebuilt, and they seek out blueprints from the GM factory? I don't know, it seems a little forced. In the trailer, it appears that he has his new form by the time Shia meets Optimus, which you'd think would be early in the movie.

Aside from the choice of vehicles and my theories on automobile/movie tie-ins, this trailer is a lot better than the ones we've seen before. The Shia/Bumblebee scenes finally allow us to connect a little bit with at least two of the characters, which helps create the impression that there is some scrap of story and context for all the mayhem that follows.

*Incidentally, how awful is Yahoo's new non-Quicktime trailer page? If you don't take the time to get the HD version, you get this fuzzy streaming clip seemingly designed for people who hate sharpness and detail. You can barely see the human faces, let alone the robots. What's the point of this terrible proprietary player? It's still not embeddable or anything.

--

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Dearth Of Posts

Besides the fact that I've been neglecting blogging in general, I seem to be having trouble logging into Blogger on my Mac lately. Every time I try, it's unable to load the Blogger sign-in page.

Monday, May 14, 2007

First

Also! This week the show I work on finally begins production. Today was the first day of shooting. And because my episode takes place all in one location and is therefore production-friendly, it was scheduled to shoot first. Which means that today was the first day of shooting on my first produced script for TV!

I wish I had something more specific to tell you about it besides it's cool. Maybe later I'll think of something.

--

Men of the CIA

I don't know if this video actually makes any sense. But if you are a fan of Little Kenny, it is a must see:



Men of the CIA: Ten Years Later from kennybloggerly on Vimeo

A few weeks ago, my old friend James came to visit. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, but growing up, we used to make a series of videos called Men of the CIA. We had a notion to relive our past and make another video, but didn't know what to shoot until we re-watched our old work and found ourselves embarrassed and inspired in equal measure. We decided that something fun to do (and more importantly, easily shootable in one afternoon with no planning) would be to recreate our characters, looking back on their CIA past the way we were looking at ours.

This also resulted in shooting tons of footage and figuring out the shape of the video in editing, which means it ended up taking a really long time to edit. It didn't help that in iMovie I couldn't figure out how to link the audio to the video clips, so every time I cut something out I had to re-arrange the whole thing. Anyway, the point is, I spent a lot of effort putting together something that may just be completely strange and inaccessible to anyone. Enjoy.

--