29 June 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: Madea's Stripper Teddy Bear

Hello everyone! It's another balmy Friday, the last in June and it's time for another installment of our Road to a Blockbuster series, a Summer-long examination of what it takes to become the next big thing critically, commercially, and culturally via the Hollywood Express. Today we see the release of three films with mid-level profiles that are all kind of randomly plopped in. Will audiences go out to see Tyler Perry in drag, Channing Tatum doing what he does best, or a Teddy Bear that sounds like Peter Griffin?

Let's start with Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection (2012). I can't believe they didn't go for "Witless Protection," it's not like any film by that name has done poorly. I haven't really expressed how much I dislike Tyler Perry on this blog, I guess it's the kind of thing that should go without saying. It's far to easy to criticise the man's penchant for black stereotypes, lazy writing, and irritating characters. Still, for all the haters, Tyler knows his market and he rocks the hell out of his niche and is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Hollywood. Still, you gotta think what the shit is he doing STILL making these kinds of movies when there isn't really a limit to what he could pull off right now. I guess if it ain't broke you don't fix it. Hey, the Commander of Starfleet can do what he wants. I still can't believe he's in that movie, and...nothing else.

So what about Madea? Although this will be Tyler Perry's 11th film in the past seven years, it's only the fourth starring Madea, although it seems like that thing has been everywhere. All his films do pretty well and the introduction of some recognizable white comic names like Eugene Levy and Tom Arnold may help it even cross outside of the African American market. That and a pretty decent add campaign that has relied less on Madea aggravating everyone and more on her put upon by whitey has marketed this thing at a higher level than most flicks.

This ought to do well, but there's a tremendous amount of competition from the soaring pair of animated flicks, Brave (2012) and Madagascar 3: Dumblefuck (2012), not to mention the other pair of releases this weekend. As for cultural impact, I don't think anyone who hasn't already turned on to Madea is turning on to Madea with this one.

Next is Magic Mike (2012), otherwise known as that Channing Tatum stripping movie. Advance reviews from this are actually fairly positive and there's good likelihood that it gets some decent word of mouth. Of course, it's a movie centering on MALE STRIPPERS. I'm not going to see a movie about male strippers. It's not a homophobic thing, I just...don't want to see a movie about male strippers. It had better be relying on the female dollar, or at least the put-upon boyfriend dollar who is trying to get his girl in the sack. Call me, Channing when we bang, I don't care.

This movie will, however, cement two things. 1) It's apparently one of Matty McConaughey's career best roles and it's him doing exactly what he should be, which is basically being swarthy and sexy, and also dumb and drawling. 2) It adds to 2012 universally being the YEAR OF C-TATES. If only G.I. Joe: Retaliation (20whatever) was still coming out this summer we'd really be laying the Tatum on thick. Does the fact it was shelved to re-tool more of the bro into it count as his growing Hollywood power? Can he and Jonah produce a 22 Jump Street (2014) soon? Heed our prayers, oh god of Channing.

Finally, the one movie I'm fairly excited for and what I think could become one of the Summer's Break-out hits, TED (2012). It's about a Teddy Bear that comes to life through boyhood dreams. Flash forward 27 years and that boy has grown up to be Marky Mark and the bear has grown into Seth MacFarlane. It's an elegant high concept, the marketing has been outstanding, and Wahlberg has been at his best lately doing comedy instead of action.

There have been a few R-rated comedies this summer that have done awful, namely The Dictator (2012) and That's My Boy (2012). Still, these films failed mostly on the weakness of their premises, the uninterestingness of their trailers, and in one way or another the failing pedigrees of their stars. TED has none of these, and America is itchy in its pants for the next great R-rated comedy. It's time, children.

So that's it. I don't see a reason why any of these films shouldn't do well besides the fact that they're cannibalizing each other for theater space. They're all opening around 2 - 3,000 theaters, and considering how even flicks like The Avengers (2012) are still in that many theaters, it's kind of ridiculous for them to break in. The marketing and hype has been good for these guys, even if it its fairly niche - but hey, that's good targeting.

Fuck you, thunder.

25 June 2012

First Impressions: Brave

There has only been 13 of them, and they're usually amidst the best films of the year, so it's always kind of a big deal when Pixar releases whatever it's been cooking on for years. This weekend past they let loose Brave (2012) on to the world and it's certainly better for it. Brave certainly belongs in the upper echelon of Pixar films, close to the Nemo (2003) / Wall-E (2008) / Up (2009) category, though it may not surpass any of them. Here there be SPOILERS from this point on, so o sum up the courage to see Brave if you haven't already.

It has become almost a classic Pixar move to write stories like this in their better films. Brave is a stripped down, elegant glance at a handful of characters that inhabit a well-defined unique world. The narrative is fast-paced, mysterious without being complex, and has equal parts light and heavy, both tonally and thematically. It's that rare film that Pixar makes to look easy - a film authentically designed for all ages to enjoy.

Technically, this may be Pixar's most impressive film. They love jumping after a challenge, and they go nuts with two of animations biggest challenges - hair and water here (including some impressive scenes where they do both). Lead Princess, Merida's defining feature is the huge tangled red mop on her head, and it's gorgeously animated here, every curl and bounce both defining character traits and showcasing how good Pixar's animators really are (as if they have had any detractors, ever). Beyond that though, the scenery from the forests to the mountains along with the grass, fur, and cloth of everyone else has a real weight and feel to it. It's breathtaking and a true accomplishment.

That's never all Pixar does, however. They usually try to jump on some compelling story, and Brave doesn't slouch with this, either. It's a Princess Story, and while at the outset it looks like a typical teenage rebellion tale (and, Pixar must have some unruly daughters in their home, they really nail that frustration perfectly), it becomes a very different story after (SPOILER) Merida turns her mom into a bear. Yeah, they did a great job of not letting that one slip out of the gate. Usually in stories like this the Queen is a big bitch and it's just left at that. There might be a conclusion at the end of the story because that's where the conclusion is supposed to go. Princesses find their happiness and lose their rebellious nature from settling with a man, not actually making up with their parents. Pixar doesn't buy that, and it really authentically reforges the torn relationship between mother and daughter after getting into the heart of the problem.

There's this interesting set of parallel stories running through the movie, which become more apparent when it's revealed that the evil Demon Bear Mor'du is actually the long-lost evil brother of an ancient kingdom - victim to the same fate as Queen Elinor. Yes, apparently the Witch that Merida sees has the same solution to every problem: turn people into bears. So, to back up and set some context, Elinor tells the tale of an Ancient King who divided his kingdom among his four sons. One of those sons, though, was a dick, and upset at his Father's ruling went to the Witch to change his fate. The witch then turned him into a Bear, he eventually lost his mind and his kingdom was ruined. On the way, he became known as the Demon Bear Mor'du and chomped off Merida's pappy's leg, causing him to have an unending grudge with all bears. Ouch.

This is interesting though, because while King Fergus is on an unending quest to kill Bears, he's really peeved at his own history. The pride, jealousy, and competition has never ceased, as evident when the descendents of the four kingdoms arrive to vie for Merida's hand, and end up just rough-housing each other. There's this communication breakdown based on the mistakes of the past and the need to rebel against forefathers. Any Prometheus (2012) connection, eh? It's clear that Fergus' feud represents the themes inherent in Brave on a more macro-level, the political strife and inability to lead without overcoming personal issues.

The brother's spirit lived on through the bear, though, and full of regret, used Will O' Wisps to lead Merida to the answers to a similar problem. Out of pride Merida fought with her mother and their relationship suffered. They also could not communicate with each other, which ironically becomes less of an issue when Elinor turns into a bear and can then only speak in the Language of Bears.

There is also a lot in this film about breaking tradition. Mor'du broke tradition when he went against his father, which lead to the collapse of the kingdom. It's interesting that this is the film's primary villain, though it's not the bear itself that's the biggest threat, though its presence does loom over the whole movie. It's more the threat of what Mor'du represents - the worst of everything that can happen when people are victims of their own pride. Merida, however, is able to break the tradition of it being bad to break tradition by breaking tradition all the time. Get that? She rebuffs against the idea of suitors shooting for her hand and wants to be a warrior more than a princess. There are no Xenas allowed in this kingdom. She is eventually able to inspire the kingdoms to allow their progeny to find their own love, instead of arranging courtship.

So there's a lot going on at once, but the heart of this story is the relationship between mother and daughter and the bond they rupture then repair. Elinor's also a babe and naked for most of the film (although...a bear). The movie does have a lot of cuteness, from the Triplets mischief, both in child form and bear form, to Merida's own precociousness. Even Fergus, the rapscallion. It is cuteness of the highest caliber, enhanced by real relationships.

Lastly, the film chroncles the age-old struggle between Bears and Scots. It certainly captures all the Scottish stereotypes - kilts, drinking, fighting, incomprehensible accents - it's all there. It also captures Bear stereotypes - river fishing, cute human-like behavior, omnivorous behavior, being godless killing machines. Not a stone left unturned. It's good to have a film that centers both on Scots and Bears. We needed this.

So that's Brave. It's a great film, maybe not as compelling as Wall-E or the first 10 minutes of Up, but it's definitely up there in that solitary distinctive classy Pixar territory. In the face of Monsters University (2013) next year, we ought not to get another one as good as this in a while as the studio keeps going back to the well instead of innovating and pushing both its technical and narrative capabilities.

Summer Jam Week 7: RHCP, Nicki, & Colbie Caillat Head Up Graduation Weekend

Here we are, another week of Summer down and another set of jamworthy songs to bounce to in the Summer Heat. All Summer long we've been taking a look at the biggest tracks of the week with the obvious goal being to eventually crown one of them as the Champion Jam of Summer. It's a thoroughly purposeless exercise, but here we go:

Hot Track of the Week: "Brendan's Death Song" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

No official video for this yet, but the Chili Peppers' latest single is the Hot Jam of the week. "Brendan's Death Song" is probably the best track off of I'm With You, released by the Peppers last summer, and it could catch on and do pretty well during the next few weeks. RHCP are coming off a great Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction and one of their more successful years in years. This is a chill track and a great compliment to a hazy Summer Afternoon.

Chill Rock Continues: "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons

This song has been around for some time now but it seemed to pick up a bit this week. It's become one of those tracks that is somehow always on alternative radio stations and good enough to halt a rapid channel change. It's another cool song to groove to but it probably won't last all that much longer. It's got an addictive beat but all these pop-rock songs of late have trouble catching on beyond their specific niches.

Killer Collabo: "Favorite Song" Colbie Caillat ft. Common

This is an epic Summer-y song, light, fluffy, bubbly, and bouncey. Colbie has had a lot of really upbeat tracks like this lately and it's kind of wacky that Common shows up here rapping in between her breezy vocals. Still, it should catch as much as some of her other works has of late, which isn't to say a monster jam, but good enough to jam to for the week.

Beezarre on Display: "Beez in the Trap" by Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz

"Starships" is still doing well, but "Beez in the Trap" is the Nicki song of the nearby future. It's kind of a crazy song and it has plenty of detractors but there are some really great parts and an exceptional flow. Nicki has this weird divergent career where she puts out harder true rap tracks like this around her broad crazy pop stuff like "Starships," and then more typical chick pop like "Right By My Side." It's kind of crazy but she tries to be everything at once and actually pulls it off half the time. In her revolving door of personas the gangsta in her is shining for the moment now though.

Iron Woman: "Titanium" by David Guetta ft. Sia

I still feel like this should be Sia ft. David Guetta, because she adds much more to make this song a distinctive hit than the cookie cutter beat supplied by the Frenchman. Still, Sia yelps her way through this track and its upward path should continue through the Sunny Months.

The Purple Vampirella: "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry

She's got kind of an Emily Blunt thing going on in this vid
Katy Perry is an idiot. There isn't much to her act at all, but she's trying with this one. It's perhaps a rebuttal of some of her earlier poppy hits, but it still goes into bizarre territory with her new goth video that came out this past week. Yeah, fame really sucks and I'm sure Katy hates all the attention. Still, even tho this vid is serving more as an advertisement for the Katy Perry Concert movie coming out soon as well as the Katy Perry brand in general, it's a solid effort for the lass.

Maroon Cartoons: "Payphone" by Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa

The most interesting thing about this song is the presence of Khalifa. Wiz is probably the best up and coming rapper out there and the precedent set by this collabo could lead to some interesting new songs. Next summer will we see Chili Peppers featuring Kanye West? I'm not sure it could ever work, it doesn't really work here, but the collusion of rap and rock through the all-encompassing spectre of pop is intriguing.

So Cute it Makes You Want to Puke: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Once again Carly Rae is hitting the top of the charts, tho I think the intensity of her novelty may be dying down. As of not this is the only song really close to being on track to be crowned the Summer's Champ, which is kind of bizarre, considering how grating and almost universally panned it's become. Still, you can definitely have a soft spot for the girl and it's a great guilty pleasure for sure.

Next Week...

I'm looking for a couple fun. songs that were squeezed out this week as well as Nicki's aforementioned revolving door of popular tracks. I'd bet the future of Summer is Katy again, though, "Wide Awake" is ready to catch fire. I'm also paying attention, however, to surging artists like Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar, and The Lumineers.

24 June 2012

The Long Halloween Vol. III - Graduation Day

Once again it's time for The Long Halloween - the year-long look at different holidays during each month of the year. June is kind of a bizarre holiday month, we've had plenty of Flag Day posts, and of course That's My Boy (2012) filled us with all kinds of paternal warmth this year. But around this time of June everyone is thinking of their precious little High School youths commencing and trotting off to college. So what's the best flick to watch during this end-of-school-year triumph? It's got to be Superbad (2007).

If not for Knocked Up (2007) we would have called Superbad THE secret hit of the Summer of 2007. It's a hilarious flick that has spawned plenty of other Teen Sexcapades as of late, like Sex Drive (2008), Fired Up! (2009), and Miss March (2009). Oh, it's an intriguing sub-genre to be sure. So how does Superbad shine where these falter? McLovin? The fantastic opening sequence?

More than just the eternal quest for Sex, though, Superbad is about commencement. It's the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. More than just virgin / post-virgin phases (and of course, the only one to get laid is McLovin), the film is about changing friendships, relationships, and gaining new experiences. Yes, even if those experiences are running from the cops, crashing coke parties, or getting into hobo bus fights.

So that's why this is all about graduation. It's not only set in the proper season, but everything about the film is about dealing with the end of something you can't hold on to anymore. Despite their efforts, Jonah and Micheal must deal with putting High School behind them, which is bizarre because they aren't that popular. Still, they have fun in their own way and share a bond that they continue stress about breaking. Still, as they finish the wild night they have in Ceratops' basement they realise that final truth - that they can move into the next phase of life without destroying that bond.

Besides, who wouldn't want to bang Emma Stone instead of hanging out with Michael Cera for an afternoon. Happy Graduation High Schoolers, it's all downhill from here.

22 June 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: Redheads & Abe Lincoln

Another Summer Friday has dawned and naturally it's time to examine the movies premiering across the nation. All Summer long we've been trying to judge the commercial, critical, and cultural impact these flicks will have. This weekend presents an interesting combination - we've got Brave (2012) from Pixar that looks very much like a return to form after the Cars 2 (2011) debacle last year. On the other side of the spectrum is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), based on the only book I've read in the past three years. While both are period films in their own right, both should be anything but average in their delivery.

Let's start talking about Brave and how ridiculous Pixar is. Lately they've had somewhat of a sequelitis phase, what with Toy Story 3 (2010), the aforementioned Cars 2, and the forthcoming Monsters University (2013). None of these were really asked for, tho we're pretty thankful for Toy Story 3. That said, Pixar seems like it's getting on to the kind of slippery slope usually reserved for Ben Stiller animated films - concentrating on celebrity voices and toy sales more than story. This is in the wake of Wall-E (2008) and Up (2009), which remain two of the best films of any kind in the past decade.

So the big question becomes where will Brave land? Apparently there is more to the film than what the marketing seems, if Director Mark Andrews' word is correct. Needless to say though, the Pixar brand is ridiculously strong and they've built their pedigree on both both an extremely high quality of filmmaking as well as friendly broad appeal. It's the perfect critical and commercial nexus that is rarely seen in media outside of Seinfeld. They have positioned Brave pretty well both building upon the Pixar Prestige as well as introducing an interesting, if not somewhat played-out premise. You've got the Katniss-like heroine reluctant princess who apparently fights bears. This particular trailer was brilliant, though, encapsulating everything you need to know about the premise and setting up every important character in a single scene.

Let's get back at that last thought for a second though. This is Pixar's first female-centric film, and of course it seems like another Disney Princess. Why can't the lady stars of any kid's film be anything besides a Princess? It's kind of bizarre, tho that's not to detract from the obvious fact that Merida seems like a great new character for the Pixar Canon. It's also probably the most gorgeous of anything Pixar's done to date, which is kind of stunning.

So while this is taking the kid market we've got Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to occupy the adults. The major problem with this concept is that most Pixar movies have such a broad appeal that lots of adults or at least young twenty-somethings smack dab in the middle of Abe's demographic would also love to check out Brave. So, who's going to see this movie? Probably the crazy R-rated extreme movie lovers - the same dudes who went out to see director Timur Bekmambetov's last major flick, Wanted (2008). That's really not that big of a number.

Vampire Hunter has done a nice job as of late, however. The thing about this movie, though, is that it works more as a high concept than an actual film. It's enough to check out the Badass Presidents series to get the joke inherent to this kind of historical fiction. The most interesting this about this kind of stuff is reflective. Is this the sort of revisionist history that made the ending of Inglourious Basterds (2009) so memorable and entertaining? Or is it just to make History interesting again?

Here is an interesting take - positing that the new insane revisionism is the modern incarnation of telling tall tales, which I can buy in a folksy sort of way. The big question is what will people see more - this or Spielberg's December-bound Lincoln (2012)? Is there more of an interest for a sincere take or are we really full of that much postmodernism to advance this kind of story? These are all big questions and the success or failure of Vampire Hunter isn't sure to answer them, but I am pretty curious to see if this shit catches on.

This is a rarity, actually. I'm not sure I've read any book before seeing the movie first. Maybe James and the Giant Peach (1996). I think that was one of the few books I read in school before seeing the movie - and as a result I hated that movie. Is this how all you book readers feel all the time? What an awful feeling. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the book is actually an incredible read. It captures the tone it needs to perfectly, bouncing with equally genuine appreciation from authentic Lincoln biography to insane vampire hunting tales. It is all consistent with Lincoln's character, though, and the writing is competent, reverent, and intelligent. Writer, Seth Grahame-Smith also composed the screenplay for the film, which gives me hope, but films are so collaborative who knows where his voice ended up.

So where are we? It's a choice between an intriguing animated film from one of Hollywood's all-time most reliable studios and a fairly insane horror-based historical fiction that offers to mash tropes together instead of innovate and move beyond them. It's gingers vs. vampires in the ultimate battle of the Soulless. Where do we go from here?

Read more books, I suppose.

18 June 2012

First Impressions: That's My Boy!

The failure of That's My Boy (2012) this weekend is somewhat surprising. While it's true that Sandler was slightly playing outside of his normal High School-Level maturity crowd with the R-Rating (meaning that everyone bought tickets to Madagascar 3: Who Cares [2012] and snuck into That's My Boy?), stars playing against type, especially in the R Department have done well lately, just check out last summer's 1-2 punch of Horrible Bosses (2011) and Bad Teacher (2011).

At any rate, That's My Boy was a supremely enjoyable movie - if you're into it. I'll give a SPOILER warning here, because there are some great shocking moments that are worth seeing for yourself, but if you've caught the flick already or just don't care, feel free to press on:

This is really another convergence of Happy Madison and SNL alumni, as could be guessed by the featured stars, Sandler and Samberg. For once though, the Happy Madison crowd is kept at bay. Blake Clark puts in equal doses of human and disturbingly weird. Nick Swardson is also in the film exactly as much as he needs to be and does exactly what he needs to do - act really insane all the time and at one point get punched in the face. Peter Dante is also very briefly included as the hated stoner son of Samberg's father (inexplicably played by Tony Orlando).

That's one of many really random roles in this film. Yeah, it's that Tony Orlando of Orlando and Dawn fame - what the hell? There are also three sports personalities - Erin Andrews as a secretary for some reason, Dan Patrick as a reality show king, and strangest of all, Rex Ryan as Adam Sandler's Tom Brady-loving Lawyer. Has any other NFL coach acted in a Hollywood movie playing someone other than themselves or in stock footage? What is he doing here other than to make New England Patriots jokes?! At least those jokes are hilarious.

Other than that, we've got SNL alums Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Colin Quinn, and Will Forte all doing their various little roles, although none but Forte are really used for anything worthwhile. I'm more interested in James Caan as a psychotic reverend, Luenell finding another apt role as a stripper and Ciara as her surprisingly approachable Babe Daughter. Rounding out the cast we have a hilarious and somewhat disturbingly douchey performance by Peter Petrelli himself, Milo Ventimiglia as the fake-Marine brother of the bride, and again inexplicably, a huge role for Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges as his chicken nugget stand boss.

Let that sink in a bit. Vanilla Ice has a huge role in this movie. Still, it's played absolutely for laughs, and even though this could very well be a documentary about Vanilla Ice's life, his inclusion is hilarious. Most cameos are used pretty well. The best may be Eva Amurri playing the sexual predator teacher who gets herself preggers by a 12-year old Adam Sandler, leading to the birth of Andy Samberg aka Han Solo Berger - flash forward thirty years to the version of her in the present day and the character is played by Eva's actual mother, Susan Sarandon. Sarandon must have a thing for playing Samberg's mother, and both actresses are fantastic here, naturally. Eva, maybe less so, but she sure is a babe. The kind of babe that no 12-year old could ever say no to.

Lastly we have Leighton Meester as the put upon but kind of insane Bride-to-be, and Samberg doing an excellent job playing the straight man who is eventually goaded into accepting the insanity inherent to his conception and raising. That's the thing about Samberg - he may be one of the funniest dudes on the planet, but his sense of humour is so off-kilter that it really works best in shorter formats - unless he's in a movie like this that doesn't assault you with his mugging for two hours. What he does best here is take punches and get hurt, which is awesome.

Finally there's Sandler himself, who dons the most obnoxious Beantown accent since The Departed (2006). Actually it's far more outrageous. He's playing this really insanely - a chronic alcoholic, sexaholic, worthless father to the hapless Samberg.

What this film is actually about is a bit hazy. It keenly makes the claim that a 12-year old boy who has sex with his hot teacher isn't a victim, he's a hero. Then again, that's been done before. There isn't a single woman in this film who is not a sexual object. Not even Tony Orlando's elderly mother, who manages to bang both Sandler and Vanilla Ice. In one night. It's that kind of movie. If you think this kind of thing is funny, it's worth watching. I couldn't stop laughing.

There is also a bachelor party to rival some of the craziest nights out from recent films like The Hangover (2009) and Project X (2012). It's certainly a film filled with depravity, though, from incest to mannequin-fucking to shotguns aimed and fired at children, this movie has a bit of everything.

There are some parts of That's My Boy that try to be a sentimental Father's Day movie. It is about a Father and Son bonding after years of neglect, but it's also clearly a documentary about what happens to Sandler and his kid from Big Daddy (1999) after years of ice cream for breakfast, no showers, and decades of shitty parenting. The big speeches at the end aren't revelatory, they're fairly retarded, which nicely keeps with Sandler's character. It's also about accepting who you are, even if that person is poor and shitty. Thus, Samberg's Todd Peterson becomes Han Solo Berger, and instead of hanging out with Leighton Meester on Wall Street, hangs out with Ciara in a strip club. It's a tough choice to be sure, but we all know the right choice. Right?

There are a few problems here. It's mercilessly racist, slightly homophobic, and makes fun of fat disgusting people, uptight rich people, white trash, and even some off-colour remarks over African-Americans. It's kind of awful, but awful in an all-encompassing sense that doesn't leave anyone out. Does that make it better? That's always the argument in South Park-like media like this, but there isn't a ton of redemption for any of it. So there's that, but I'll say again, this flick is hilarious - and with a movie like this, that's all it has to be.

Yay for dads!

Summer Jam Week 6: Katy Perry, The Wanted, & fun. Return

Here we are in the middle of June now, Six Weeks into the Greatest Season of them all - Summertime, baby. Every Summer there is one song that really stands out as truly encapsulating the musical zeitgeist of its year - that one completely ubiquitous irritating track that creeps itself into the background of every beach party, every amusement park, and every jeep ride through the country. Our job here is to find that Immortal Song and Crown them the Summer Champion.

Hot Track of the Week: "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry

No official video for this yet, just a weird Facebook Timeline Lyric thing above, but this could be another great Katy hit. Her past couple songs haven't really been that distinctive or memorable, but this one has a cool rip to it and post-breakup songs are always more fun creatively. It's a good chance the best thing Russell Brand did was leave those big boobs behind. None of her stuff has caught on like gangbusters going back from her ridiculous stretch from "California Gurls" to "E.T." but hey, this has got a shot.

Back for More: "Glad You Came" by The Wanted

I thought this thing was dead but somehow it really surged up this week. I heard it about six times today alone, what the hell. It's still not a particular good song by any means and there's no reason to ever want to listen to it - but that's the key to a Great Summer Jam - it's there long after you wish it wasn't.

Indy Summer Tunes: "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes

I really like this track, it's got a nice groovy vibe and some really nice vocal work by lead singer Brittany Howard. Yeah, it's a chick singing it and she pours in an incredible amount of passion into it here. It's a very jamworthy song, I'm not sure it catches on to Unequivocal Summer Jam status, but it can enjoy its week of fame here.

Our Second Hot Track of the Week: "Some Nights" by fun.

This is a pretty good sophomore effort from fun., whose "We Are Young" reappears on this list a bit later. While this is another pretty riveting, exciting, sublimely jamable track, it is a hell of a lot like Paul Simon's "Cecilia." We ought to have fun with "Some Nights" before they pull a Vanilla Ice. Though if that leads to a pathetic appearance by them in an Adam Sandler film twenty years from now, that may be okay.

Anachronism at its Best: "Payphone" by Maroon 5

This was another song I thought was dying a bit but then I heard it incessantly on the radio this week. Nothing about this track is good besides Wiz Khalifa's addition. What is with more and more rappers appearing on otherwise pop alternative tracks? Sometimes it works but here it's just really bizarre and out of place. This tune may not be going anywhere though, so we had all better learn to like it.

Good Set of Pipes: "Titanium" by Sia ft. David Guetta

A few weeks ago this was the Hot Track of the Week and it's coming back now as a legit Summer Jam. Which is good. It's a powerful track, although I still don't think the Guetta beat necessarily fits with what Sia is trying to say. Will Sia have a career or flame out like every singer she's emulating right now? She's got a nice voice, but nothing else about her is really distinctive.

Anyone else see a little Guy Pearce in this dude?
Designed Not for Octogenarians: "We Are Young" by fun.

This track also came back this week, perhaps from surging interest in their other song, "Some Nights" that's about to pick up. This is still somehow tough to get sick of, maybe it's the obnoxiousness, the cheekiness, or its status as an anthem for the newest drunkest generation, but just when it seemed dead it rose like the Necronomincon Worshipers of Old.

Celebrating Father's Day: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepson

The week completes and no song title is greater than three words. Fantastic. Carly Rae comes in again at #1 but I would say her hold on the spot is more tenuous than it's been in a while. I think there's better tracks out there and some of the New Jams we heard this week ought to attest to that. This is fine as a Great Summer Jam, but I think some of the heavy hitters are going to come in and start teaching this intrepid Canadien what Jammin is really about.

Next week...

You'll notice no Gotye this week, "Somebody That I Used to Know" was still pretty big this week, but I feel like these eight songs were just much more relevant. We're definitely looking at Katy and fun. but there's a lot of potential everywhere. This time of June is usually when the Summer Jam lands. No hip-hop this week but I've had my ears on Kendrick Lamar & Dre's "The Recipe" among others. Stay tuned!

17 June 2012

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! Three Year Anniversary Post!

It truly does seem unbelievable to me - how has this website lasted so consistently over the past three years? Surely it has something to do with great intakes of booze and steady viewings of MacGruber (2010) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). Nevertheless, in our solitary annual moment of self-congratulation, let's look back at our greatest posts in the past year. In fact, we have some superlatives:

Best Look at Television:
Because it was on TV: The Strange Sitcom Reality of Two and a Half Men 22 Sep 2011

I still think this is fairly interesting and it's not really commented on by anyone else. Fictional Realities are really intriguing - that is, anything that conforms to a Show Bible that could be outlandish or outrageous in any other Reality. Two and a Half Men has one of the weirdest realities in all of television - the acceptable norm for the characters that occupy it are far and large away from anything conventional. It doesn't really make it a necessarily good show, but the post gets a shout out here because no one else comments on the fact.

Best in Humour:
Six Inappropriate Halloween Costumes Inspired by Movies 28 Oct 2011

The Long Halloween Special: LEAP DAY 29 Feb 2012

I thought the inappropriate Halloween Costumes was really funny, especially how wrong it would be going as Kevin Bacon's Woodsman out on All Hallow's Eve. C'mon, that's terrible. Another holiday post is a close second in its praise of all things Leap Day. May Leap Dave Williams come and bless all of you.

Best Character Study:
Profiles: Liam Neeson, A Clinic in Badass 28 Jan 2012

I always do a few Profiles of actors or sometimes just fictional characters each year, and in honour of The Grey (2012), Liam Neeson's Profile really stands out. From navigating the intricacies of his escalating badass and shifting, resurgent career, this post captured much of what we love about the man supposedly too old to play Lincoln, but just old enough to Fight Wolves and train Batman.

Most Accurate Impressions:
John Carter 11 Mar 2012, The Avengers, Part 1 07 May 2012 and Part 2 08 May 2012, and Prometheus, Part 1 13 Jun 2012, Part 2 14 Jun 2012, and Part 3 14 Jun 2012.

I included a lot of posts here, but only from three films. It's decently rare that I can encompass everything I want to say about a film. Needless to say, a movie's worth is beyond its narrative competency, actors, or even its box office draw. Films need to also be analysed for their marketing and cultural contributions as well as the trends they may adhere to, exhibit, or create. All of these posts truly envelope those ideas and proved the need for multiple posts to cover all the diverse kinds of reactions films can elicit. I really went off the board with this past week's Prometheus (2012), with an unprecedented three posts summing up all my feelings about that film. Actually, I think I have some more...

Most Comprehensive:
The Five Degrees of Superhero Films 31 May 2012

I get fed up with a lot of Internet opinions. I tried to justify and categorize some of the most divisive of the day with this post where I sorted and analysed every Comic Book Superhero film made in the current Millennium. I'm not really sure how successful I was, but if you're looking for an opinion on any and all films that fit the category (29 in all), this is the place to go.

Most Accurate Zeitgeist:
Trends: March is the New Summer 21 Mar 2012

This kind of post is sort of unusual - but I really summed up that one week in March where people were going crazy from the heat, Nicki Minaj, and The Hunger Games (2012). It's a classic time portal post and will stay that way FOREVER.

Most Intellectual Theory:
Because it was on TV: An Examination of Anglo-American Cultural Relations via Michael Bay's The Rock 30 Mar 2012

This is probably my favourite post of the year. It's a concept referenced to plenty of times before, but this really sank its teeth into the idea that Sean Connery's character in The Rock (1996) is an extension of his portrayl of James Bond in the 1960s. More importantly than that, though, was the subtext of Michael Bay stealing and repositioning a British National Icon into one of the most jingoistic American films of all time. And all from The Rock playing on Spike, I believe.

Onwards and Sidewards:

What's next you ask? Four posts chronicling The Dark Knight Rises (2012) perhaps? Let's keep it to three, but with the new Road to Blockbuster section, NMW has taken a bigger interest and investment in what makes movies tick financially and culturally. To me, that's the point of going to the movies and writing about them and their reaction and that's a path Norwegian Morning Wood is going to stay on.

15 June 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: 80s Rock & Adam Sandler

Ah, so another Friday is upon us. More than that - it's a Summer Friday, baby. This means that a new crop of flicks are hitting the theaters with the hope of emerging with not only some great immediate cheddar but a sustainable cultural mark that will ensure quotes, DVD purchases, and Weekend Specials on F/X for decades to come. This week we have a pair of lighter fare after a couple of fairly self-serious entries: Rock of Ages (2012) and That's My Boy (2012).

Both of these flicks have had some great advertising campaigns over the past few weeks. That's My Boy has relied heavily on "Shots" by Lil Jon ft. LMFAO, which may be the greatest Party Drinking Song ever. When I hear that song all I want to do is take shots, followed by shots, shots, shots, shots, shots. It's been such a successful pairing that one makes you think of the other. If you're in the other room and you start hearing "SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS!!" you think, "Hrmm, I might go see That's My Boy this weekend." Of course, Samberg is no stranger to wild nights. That's real.

The inclusion of Samberg in a Sandler film is a great benefit. It helps him get away from some of that Happy Madison fare that has been pretty universally awful lately. It's rare that he's paired up with someone who's not Kevin James these days, and Samberg playing the straight man who indulges his wild side looks promising. It also has a fantastic release date on Father's Day - what better bonding can you ask for?

The same weekend we have Rock of Ages. This is apparently a successful musical, but I can't really fathom why. Oh, I guess it's because the kind of Arena Glam Rock that fills this film is still massively popular with the aging population who actually enjoyed that era. It seems tremendously specific, counting on the fact that everyone wants to hear Tom Cruise sing some of the worst songs ever sang. Advance reviews indicate that the film has no idea how stupid it actually is, which is a big problem. Still, this has enough Star Power, a rarity in this age, to do well, although Tom Cruise's presence way off type hasn't really been played up, and nothing is guaranteed anymore. Still, musicals tend to perform well in Summer and this has a great chance to do well.

But what of their lasting legacies? If That's My Boy is indeed funny it has the potential to join a pantheon of recent successful R-Rated comedies like 21 Jump Street (2012), Bad Teacher (2011), and Horrible Bosses (2011). The depravity really needs to be ratcheted up, though - if it holds its promise of blood, drugs, & titties, it should turn into traditional Father's Day viewing for years to come. Clearly.

So what of Rock of Ages? Does anyone under 30 care about this music anymore? That's about how well this thing's legs will carry.

Both films open today - hooray!

14 June 2012

First Impressions: Prometheus, Part 3: Value

This is the third of three posts to conclude Prometheus Week and should be our final opinion on the film, at least until the Ridley Extended Director's Cut DVD comes out. We have first taken a look at the general plot and acting talent involved, then some of the heavier concepts hidden or not so hidden within the film. To conclude today we're looking at the discussion itself, judging the critical reaction to this film and what, if any, Legacy it is to have.


There have been plenty of intelligent film-goers and strong critical minds who have just hated this film. Many have given it an incredibly close look and come up frustrated. Some it would seem, like this dude, find that their Classical Education has betrayed them, and since this film did not add up in an neat way, it's garbage. He tends to dismiss the film almost immediately. Others like this dedicated, intelligent but admitted conspiracy theorist seem to be trying desperately to find the answers and when they aren't apparent after some thorough sleuthing, it's garbage. This seems to undermine the clear overall message of Prometheus, though, which is that the answers kind of suck, and it's more important to have a need for those answers. So we're all good, baby.

I'm not saying that these people are wrong or that Prometheus (2012) is without fault, but critics seem to be focusing on the wrong thing. The depth of Prometheus isn't in finding out that Jesus is an Alien, Ridley Scott and most of the History Channel have blatantly said that already. The depth is a technically superior film visually and tonally that engages an audience emotionally and intellectually long after they leave the theater. As I suggested in my preview, it is sort of like Inception (2010). The surface elements are fairly easy to derive and it can be frustrating because it seems like there should be something more for all it was supposed to be. It's not an incomprehensible film, you can get out of it what you like. If it really is wholly without redeeming value, then my guess is you wanted it to tell you something instead of applying your own answers. Which granted, is tough.

One quick note - the above-cited pink-haired girl quickly runs over the kind of stupid possible hokey connection that I tend to ignore in films like this. She suggests that the Planet's name of LV223 is a reference to Leviticus 22:3. Although she claims to be a Bible Belt resident (so naturally she has a supreme understanding of Christian Theology), this actually seems like a relevant passage which she obviously didn't check. Here it is, from NRSV Bible:

Say to them: If anyone among all your offspring throughout your generations comes near the sacred donations, which the people of Israel dedicate to the Lord, while he is in a state of uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord.

That ought to click fairly immediately with anyone who remotely understands the plot of Prometheus, the Goo, the Creators, and the unclean humans. In Prometheus' vein of encouraging self-exploration, I'll leave you with that.


Now, I heard one of you loves rocks...
Both Ridley Scott and the Alien franchises have had some odious entries that have later been heralded as ultimate classics. This interesting article by John Gholson suggests that its fate may eventually be similar to Blade Runner (1982), which originally experienced an equally cold reception. Like that film and Ridley's later Kingdom of Heaven (2005), might Prometheus be improved with a substantial Director's Cut? As I've said many times by now, I don't think giving the answers is the best direction to take - such a huge part of this film is the ambiguity and misunderstanding of the relationship between creation and creators.

Tho not explicitly saying that Prometheus will suffer the same fate, John Kenneth Muir makes a convincing argument that the failure and tarnished legacy of Alien 3 (1992) for many years was due to the movie being filled with failed or upturned expectations. Prometheus is no different. It has been twisted by the expectations of its genre, its Summer Release date, and even its premise. We really shouldn't have expected different from the director, though.

So, what's next? I for one am extremely excited for the concept of Noomi Rapace and Fassbender's Head exploring the galaxy together. Doesn't that sound like an excellent Saturday Morning Cartoon spin-off? Every week they'd land on a strange new planet that they think might be housing an Engineer. Hijinx ensue!

Of course, the real trick to Prometheus is the fact that Fassy isn't playing a human-looking robot at all, but a human-looking robotic SHARK. In space. Terrifying.

First Impressions: Prometheus, Part 2, The Heavy Stuff

Welcome back, folks. This week, Prometheus (2012) is on everyone's mind and there's just not enough room or patience in one post to cover it all. Yesterday we gave some surface impressions of the general plot, cast, and some of the stupidness. Today, though, we're diving into the real meat of this flick lying beneath the surface. Imagine that - a planet full of meat. I would pet snakes from that place. Before journeying further, naturally there are plenty of SPOILERS and FUCK WORDS from here on out, so if you want to see Promie for yourselves, do that first. Do that right now, actually.


First and foremost, this is the key to understanding as well as enjoying this film. It is incredibly and intentionally ambiguous, opening the gate for discussion, theory building, and critical and imaginative ininterpretation. This is the same kind of schtick writer Damon Lindelof pulled on LOST, and if you liked joining in on the conversation there, you'll like Promie as well. If you're someone who expected many direct answers, then you'll never be satisfied with this film. Lindelof has essentially stated that he understands he has this effect - and for all the complaints, his work leads to far more cultural discourse and discussion than anything else put out by his contemporaries.

This idea is entirely the purpose of Prometheus. It shouldn't be a huge revelation to make the connection between an audience whose expectations were pulled out from underneath them and a group of scientists in space who are experiencing the very same thing. The Team of the Prometheus wants answers to their existence, to immortality, to everything. The obvious narrative response is that like the god of Greek myth, they have outstretched themselves and are punished for hubris - trying to steal from their "gods" (the Engineers) and use for their own, lesser kind. On a more metaphysical level, though, the film is about how answers kind of suck.

"Hey cutie. You like Mexican?"
There's nothing that could really satisfy Weyland or Noomi or Tom Hardy. Maybe David. As the film positions itself to answer the meaning of life and creation as well, it would also come up short if it actually tried to answer anything. Instead, and this is important, what is more essential to life, faith, science, or whatever, is the need for the search. This parallels the frustrations of thousands of film-goers. We have such a desire to find out what the hell is the meaning of what we're watching we forget that it wouldn't really be any fun if we knew anything. And you know what, if I was a biologist who was the first human to ever encounter an alien life-form, I might try to check it out, too, dammit!

Creations vs. Creators

Christianity, Gods, and Chestbursters

The Myth of Prometheus and the Story of Christ have both been heavily alluded to in countless media over the past couple millennia. Considering there are still dudes like Weyland out there (who clearly understand the myth's purpose), it doesn't seem to hurt to trot it out again, especially if it is still interesting. In Prometheus, it is. The film makes clear reference, though, to the possibility of other gods and the reconciliation of their existences with faith in a personal belief, regardless of what that belief may be.

There has been quite a bit of discussion over the heavy Christian themes of this film around the Internet. From the significance of David's name, the possibility of Jesus Christ being an Engineer (from the mouth of Ridley himself, no less) or the simple fact that everything bad happens when Noomi's cross is removed, there's a lot here. There is also tons of references to Sacrificial Abdomen Wounds, essentially driving home the idea that creating anything, from stolen fire to eternal salvation requires a tremendous amount of physical pain and sacrifice. Kind of like childbirth. Or Squiddiebirth.

The Squid & The Noomi

One of the continued themes in Prometheus is the battle between Creators and their Creations. This has been going on in literature since the Modern Prometheus himself, Frankenstein. There's actually a surprising lack of Frankenstein references, considering how apt it would be. I guess Squiddie Shaw Jr. is born on a slab. There is much more of a Christian Thing going on here, which is interesting, disturbing, and cool in its own right.

Noomi may as well be a experiencing a Virgin Birth in the sense that she was not supposed to be able to have a child. That Virgin Birth instead of giving birth to the Saviour of Man, gives birth to the Saviour of Xenomorphs. Maybe. It's certainly her own Saviour from the vengeful Engineer who's coming to mess up her day. In this sense then, Noomi kills her creator with her own creation. Could this have been why the Engineers were so hell-bent on eliminating Humanity? Because of their purity and sacrifice, the Engineers mixed with goo to make the Humans, but because of their sin, Humanity mixed with goo makes this fucking shit. So where does that leave dogs?

This is just a theory. An interpretation of ambiguous facts that the characters are trying to figure out alongside the audience to an about even rate of success based on their background. Why does Idris Elba think they've arrived at a biological weapons facility? He has a military background - it's what he reads into his surroundings. Why does Noomi think the cave paintings are an invitation? She's a nice girl, if she was going to leave a map, that's why she would do so. Why does Weyland spend a trillion dollars to try to achieve immortality? Because he can.

David, Vickers, & Weyland

This is perhaps the most interesting trio in the film. It's fairly possible that Charlize Theron is still an android. Sure, she told Idris to come fuck her, but is that really a done deal? She could have A) Robot Vagina or B) No Vagina. Either way, once Idris came to her room would he tell anyone else?

"You'll never believe this, Chance, Vickers is an android!"

"Whoa! How'd you figure that out?"

"Well, she was so dry when I was banging her-"

"Wait - you just banged our Robot Boss?"

I'm not sure it would work out that well. At any rate, Weyland is father both to David and Vickers, and damn that must be one hell of a Thanksgiving. Weyland is clearly favourable to David despite making it very clear that he is a lesser lifeform. As he says himself, by creating David he has become not a patriarch as much as a god - one that must be served. It's more or less like Weyland isn't paying attention to his daughter because he's obsessed with continuously buffing his brand new Aston Martin.

"Shut up and find out what the hell you're actually doing here."
He also just won't die. Can you imagine poor Charlize, from the looks of it being born to the richest man in the world when he's in his late-60s, at least? Jackpot baby. Then what the hell, this cat lives for another 30-some years? This is the kind of bitch lobbying for Romney to clear a ban on inheritance tax, folks. Not only for the cash, but she's sick of her father's shadow, his lack of attention, and devotion to a lesser lifeform (more on that shortly). It's her dream to take his place - just as it's Weyland's dream to take the place of the Engineers, and perhaps David's dream to take the place of humanity.

The clearest reason for the Engineers' desire to wipe out humanity (if it even is their desire, again, that concept is more ambiguous than it seems) is that Humanity is just inconsequential. Weyland clearly points out that David lacks a soul, but a more accurate assessment would be that he lacks a soul as a concept constructed by humans. It's very possible that humans also lack a soul as constructed by the Engineers. In that sense, there's nothing really malicious in wiping us out. It's just like deleting a corrupted computer file - some good ideas once, but they just really needed to upgrade to something that masturbated less. It's no big deal to kill humanity. They probably have a ton more cave paintings on a ton more worlds. We are not special (no beautiful or unique snowflake). This kind of sucks for you know, the humans present at the time, but what are they going to do about it? Come back with the Hulk to beat up their puny gods?

See, that would be interesting. When will the gods learn not to mess with Humanity? Noomi and the Shark Head are going to travel the cosmos and come back with Thor, or at least Beta Ray Bill to kick some Ripped White Ass all over the Wasteland. To conclude this tangent, The Avengers (2012) makes Humanity feel exceptional in a Galactic Sense, Prometheus renders our existence inconsequential.

Bad Black Goo

What the Fuck is It?

There are two major camps on the Internet on this topic. There are those that are hopelessly perplexed by the Goo and its seeming inconsistencies, and those that at least offer some kind of hypothesis. I think the initial problem for the average movie goer is reclining oneself to convention. Convention isn't a bad thing. It is the building block for just about every image we see and allows us to quickly and thoroughly understand symbols, layouts, and set-ups, both visually and narratively.

Prometheus doesn't exactly stick with its conventions. It doesn't lay out Black Goo rules at any point, in fact, it ends with the Goo still being pretty ambiguous. It requires some careful thinking, observation, and understanding of each character at their point of exposure. We only have five characters that are Goo-Exposed, so let's start there.

If we can't trust Robots in Space, who is there left to trust?!
1) The First Jacked-Up White Dude in the prologue. As Ridley has stated, regardless if this is earth, he's in a state of willing and selfless sacrifice. With this extremely high level of altruism he's able to actually create new life. 2) David doesn't really have DNA, which seems to be what the Black Goo reacts with, so moot point. 3) Holloway is in a state of rekindled hope due to a conversation with David, but nothing is all that strong. We don't know what would happen to him or what he would turn into, but he sure wasn't feeling all that great - we know he had a lot of love for Noomi but is also a selfish character, and thus the goo causes him to collapse in on himself. 4) The poor worms got stepped on - fuck that, they say and they become huge Penis/Vagina symbolic Cobras and fuck up the days of the Shoe-wearing oppressors. 5) Finally, Fifield was in a state of extreme fear and anger that the Goo mutates him into an apparently near-invincible crazy maniac who won't quit until a truck runs over his noggin. Rough, mate.

There are two big conclusions to be reached here: the first is that since no one else actually dies (it sure looked like Holloway wasn't going to be opening any more Christmas presents, though) from the Goo, it may not be the same as from the prologue. Secondly, considering how much this thing reacts to negative emotion, seemingly granting evil tremendous power but fucking over do-gooders, is it any surprise that this shit got out of control in the wrong hands? Those poor White Gods.


The Alien series has always been about the transposition of genitalia and rape imagery in some way. This ranges from the vaginal facehugger mouth rape to the phallic chestburster, although there's certainly much weirder stuff, like the Weird Human/Alien from Resurrection (1997) that was originally supposed to have both sets of nards.

"That's it, young man, no ice cream for a whole week!"
Prometheus has a little roofie action in David poisoning Tom Hardy's drink. Holloway is then forced to do exactly as David wants him to, which I guess is just to be a test subject to see if the Black Goo can have any beneficial effect on the dying Weyland. Beyond that the Big Nasty Cobraworms already look like a weird vagina (the biologist's been asleep for years and the only chicks around are either married or a robot! Maybe he just wanted some puss, give him a break) and then unwillingly penetrate over and over again, traumatizing Fifield so that he's in a state ready to mutate into a vengeful evil maniac monster. Powerful stuff.

Finally there's literally the Mother of All Facehuggers, young Noomi Squiddie Shaw, Jr., who has obvious vaginal dentata imagery but then forcibly impregnates the hapless Engineer. Does anyone else realise the penultimate scene in this flick is a hardcore Alien on Alien rape scene? It's bizarre and disturbing and has everything to do in a film featuring three main species who all compete with each others' gene pool to procreate. It's the struggle of creation v. creator, possibly incestuous in this sense. As Holloway said though, when you're willing to go all the way to find the answers you came for, this is what you end up with.

The Engineers vs. The Destroyers

This article, which has gained a surprising amount of notice for a livejournal entry, and I've referenced plenty, got me thinking about the concept of the Engineers and the Destroyers. The Destroyers, of course, being these guys again, exist for a single purpose, how did Ash put it? "Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility...I admire its purity. A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." They are an infection, a corruption, a side-effect of the Creating Black Goo that crafted something as beautiful as it is horrible.

After thirty years of The Destroyers being the main adversary in these films, Prometheus introduces their opposite, the Creators or the Engineers as Noomi loves to call them. They create through destruction and turn old life into new. Their problem comes when their benevolent ways are met by the sins of not only Humanity, but their own Elephant People. As the tapestries in their temple clearly indicate, the Destroyer has been around for quite some time, always the reflection of the sinful pride of the Engineers' creation turning uncontrollably on the creator. For all their goodwill and sacrifice, the Destroyer exists within each to literally burst out and ruin dinner. I guess it's equivalent to a bad fart.

That's the point of this movie. We created the Alien, we created that kind of fear and ugliness that lies inside us, regardless of our abdominal holes.

Next up...

I do owe a debt to the tremendous amount of discussion available on the Internet already, I've cited a ton of it here and always looking for the kind of intelligent conversation and criticism that this movie will elicit.This kind of extensive post may seem difficult to follow, but in our next post right here, we'll try to examine this criticism and impending legacy of one of the best films of the year. Or was it actually the worst? We really ought to just watch The Tree of Life (2011) to find out.

13 June 2012

First Impressions: Prometheus, Part 1: The Basics

This weekend past saw the release of Ridley Scott's latest film, Prometheus (2012), and in the short time since then it has been thoroughly dissected by the Internet at large. It has been either praised or lambasted to such an extent that it is almost overwhelming and dangerous to join in on the conversation lest I be honoured or sanctioned myself. Suffice it to say though that there is plenty more to discuss, which is telling of the richness of this film, a rarity in Modern Summer Blockbusters. For this film, NMW will split into an unprecedented 3 Impressions, first a summation of the basic components of this film, next all the Big Ideas and Themes, and finally, its place in both a critical and commercial culture. There are going to be plenty of SPOILERS from this point on, so shy away, nimble viewers, if ye have yet virgin eyes.

So for starters, folks, let's get into the surface. Yes, just the surface of this film for now. Visuals, characters, plot, setting, effects, everything that should make a Summer Tentpole nice and pretty and make lots of cheddar.

The first thing that stands out about this film is its technical achievement. Both its visuals and sound stand to reckon alongside any other film every made (by Humanity) and are immense to take in. Whereas the low-budget of Alien (1979) simultaneously forced director, Ridley Scott into a very confined and intimate shoot (which elevated the tension and horror), Prometheus' scope and budget allowed him to indulge his epic side (He did make Gladiator [2000], after all). This helps in setting one thing straight off the bat - Prometheus really has nothing to do with Alien cinematically. It's not quite a prequel, merely an exploration of the universe. It doesn't really deal with the same controlling idea, although there are plenty of similar themes. Despite this though, the grandiosity and lofty ambition of Prometheus' story positions itself as almost a direct counter to the visceral, if not greatly inferrable nature of Alien. This has been discussed ad infinitum.

Lest we journey too far into what this film actually means, suffice it to say that Prometheus is a big film, it's shot in open expanses with breathtaking, if not sullen landscapes and gripping cinematography. It's sound is also a great boon, at this point it ought to be an early candidate for Best Sound Mixing at the Academy Awards. Its gripping auditory and visual qualities ideally pair with its narrative content.

The cast is also fantastic. We'll circle around here. From ribbings between Sean Harris (The crackhead fro Harry Brown [2009]!) and Rafe Spall (The moustached guy from Hot Fuzz [2007]!) to a guy who really looks like Tom Hardy, what's perhaps most impressive is that three white guys with speaking roles are the first three to die. If this film actually had Tom Hardy in it, it would have just about every in-demand actor from 2011 - 2013. Beyond that outer circle we have Guy Pierce in not great age-make-up (How come the Jackass make-up guys are so good at this but big mainstream movies like this and J. Edgar [2011] are terrible?), and it's interesting to think that his strongest contribution to the flick is his fake TED video. And thanks to that video, I know what TED is (6/13 EDIT: Some behind-the-scenes reasoning for Guy Pierce's existence in this film only as an old dude can be found here, apparently there were once going to be tons of flashback scenes and Geezer Weyland would have been Max von Sydow [great choice], but then Ridley was like fuck it).

Getting into the main cast, let's talk Idris Elba and Charlize Theron. Both have had a pretty huge year, and when throwing Fassbender into the mix, you've got one of the most buzz-filled casts of any zeitgeist ever. Idris is coming off his Golden Globe win for the mini-series Luther, and Heimdall be damned, I really want him as Black Panther. Charlize is pulling double icy-bitch duty with this and Snow White & The Huntsman (2012) coming out back-to-back as well as building on one of her career best roles in Young Adult (2011). It's only natural that these two get it on in perhaps the film's only hilarious moment, and that Charlize is later crushed to death by an inescapable black phallus falling out of the air (caused by Elba crashing into the Engineer's departing vessel). Sure, she could have run to the left or right...but you know she kind of wanted it (or is at least not as obsessed with immortality as her father - more on that later).

Let's spend our last round on The Human Shark and Noomi Rapace. Fassbender's quickly proving that he can play about anything. I mean, didn't you see him in Jonah Hex (2010)?! You didn't?! Good choice. See, Fassy can play two comic book characters, why can't Idris. He's the stand-out dude in this flick as the android David, and most of any kind of Promie theory should center around his creation, existence, motivations, and significance. This is kind of what Fassbender did in X-Men: First Class (2011), absolutely rise above everyone else of interest in a well-cast, well-done film. Noomi joins him in only her second English language film and fittingly inherits Sigourney Weaver's heroine role. Oh, we weren't comparing this to Alien?! Fuck. She delivers the right doses of compassion, strength, caring, and wrath to deliver a well-rounded performance that tries to steal back the spotlight from Fassy.

The tone and tension of the film is near-perfect throughout and there are oodles of great squeamish painful moments that stay with you long after the flick has played out, including an unorthodox surgery that should remain this film's signature scene. Can we compare it with the chestburster scene (-No Alien comparisons! Oh fuck it), certainly, though it may not be as fast and shocking, it's no less the unexpected birth.

So, at this point we ought to talk about the stupidness.There is quite a bit of stupidness in this film, and I'm going to try to get it out of the way here, because all in all this was still one of the greatest filsm of the year. The stupid stuff is all kind of obvious by now, though. I don't think it's all that hugely stupid that they take their helmets off to breath the air or rush to explore the Alien structure in a short time span. The Tom Hardy-wannabe is a dive head-first, impulsive kind of guy, and while that could be stupid, it's not inconsistent with character. The not getting out of the way of a long falling structure, yeah, I've never understood that. It happens all the time.

The two big stupid problems I do have are with the aforementioned former crack addict and his partner in crime, the moustached Sanford Detective. The former supposedly specialises in his "pups," one of the cooler bits of technology that maps out the whole structure. Still, despite being the main map-making dude, this guy gets horribly lost. The latter supposedly specialises in "biology," although he has apparently never seen or heard of a cobra or any other animal displaying cobra-like behavior. That thing does not want to be petted, sir. What the hell is wrong with you.

Check out our second post here, where we talk about some of the incredibly heavy themes, address some of the seeming inconsistencies, and make some conjecture. This is really the best kind of movie there is - because there can be so much interpretation and conjecture to engage audience interaction. That's building a brand in the 21st-Century, ya'll.

11 June 2012

Summer Jam Week 5: Flo Rida, Wiz, & Bieber Mix it up

Well folks, we're in the middle of June and it's time for a bit of a shake-up. The tracks that have made it this far have a great chance to be anointed the Jam of Summer, and there's also some great tracks that have landed on their feet with plenty of opportunity to Jam through the rest of the Sunny Months.

Hot Track of the Week: "Run" by Flo Rida ft. RedFoo

This is a perfect Summer Song, and if it catches on there's no question it Jams to the top. Flo Rida is a Summer God, the beat is both fast, exciting, and innocuous enough to simultaneously exist in the background of anywhere and allow true jammers to focus in and groove. RedFoo of LMFAO and all his douchey glory has been everywhere since "Party Rock Anthem" King-Jammed last year and this track even recalls some of that song directly. And c'mon, that video is incredible. A big-tittied chick running on a beach is what Summer is all about. It's glorious.

Blue Collar Khalifa: "Work Hard Play Hard" by Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa is one of the most talented recent rapper, even though all he does is clearly smoke weed and party. This is a killer track though, and after starting the week at the MTV Movie Awards it's had a nice little upsurge. It exists in that perfect popular circle between rap and pop and its central thesis, work hard - play hard is a true anthem for an increasingly drunk professional generation.

Hanging Around: "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye ft. Kimbra

This track isn't as big as it was a few weeks ago, but it certainly still has a presence that we can't ignore this week. Its past its peak hotness, though, and while it will remain a very good song, it's about time for it to move over and let Carly Rae take her spot at the top of the charts.

The Station-Turner: "The Fighter" by Gym Class Heroes ft. Ryan Tedder

I really hate Travie McCoy. He's so trashy and really can't sing or rap anyway. Gym Class Heroes are the kind of band that sums up everything wrong with pop music, just full of corny, clichéd hooks that do little to advance culture. Anyway, this is a kind of typical song from these guys that almost sounds like a Bruno Mars-esque track, kind of reminiscent of last year's "Lighters," except lesser in every way. It should be pretty popular.

Let's Get Drunk: "We Are Young" by fun. ft. Janelle Monáe

After an absence the last few weeks, fun. comes back this week and this track was seemingly everywhere again. To their credit, the track is super-catchy and actually somewhat difficult to sing well. It's an apt zeitgeist song, full of hipster intoxication and less youthful rebellion than youthful assimilation into a shared shittiness. This of course requires nothing less than a party and hooking up with the drunkest chick at the bar. I heard little kids singing this song and it played at weddings - c'mon guys.

More Loud Obnoxious Beach Jams: "Starships" by Nicki Minaj

Okay Nicki, we get it - you're weird. Thanks for beating us over the head with that. While this isn't nearly as good as other great Summer Minaj tracks like "Your Love" or "Super Bass" it's still a good pump-up song, even if the lyrical content is fairly indecipherable. Has Nicki made the final transition from Rapper to Pop Goddess? She tends instead to continue walking the line, as her parallel jam "Beez in the Trap" would attest to.

The Greatest Rapper on Earth: "Boyfriend" by Justin Bieber

I've seriously been hearing this track all the time on local hip-hop stations. What the hell is going on? This may be the Bieb's most mainstream hit in his lifetime and it's been pretty huge. I can get through the opening riffs but it's just downhill from there. It's just not right. I don't really have the writhing, seething hatred that most people have for the lil' guy and until this track he's been a novelty more than anything else. I think this is his Jam though, and considering the growth of its popularity and acceptance into the mainstream world outside of his typical fans (tiny girls who he's teaching to touch themselves for the first time) it's a fairly significant track.

The Female Bieber: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Apparently after hearing this runner-up of Canadian Idol's track, Justin Bieber just had to give her a chance. That's right, Canadians helping Canadians - they are banding together to destroy us all with their inoffensive pop music. Carly Rae is blowing up so huge so fast though that it's tough to judge when the little bitch is going to burn out. For now though, "Call Me Maybe" remains a crack-like track for the Summer Months, eating up radio time, internet time, and magazine space everywhere. Who knows, maybe she'll have a career if anything else she does is as insanely catchy.

Next Week...

There's a lot more to go, folks. Not a whole lot of Rock Songs this week but I predict that one of these tracks we'll agree becomes the Jam of the Last Summer. Through Father's Day we'll have a pretty good idea of who's rising and falling - stay tuned!

07 June 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: Madagascar v. Prometheus

Another Summer Weekend is almost upon us and that means that some new movies are set to duke it out at the Box Office. This column seeks to discover more than just the fat paychecks these flicks will bring in to their creators - but also analyze the extent of the cultural waves made on this great nation. Actually in the current market the United States return is slim compared to the global appetite for great mindless action. It's for this reason that the biggest films have to be sparse on dialogue, relying on visual spectacle instead of the English language.

But at any rate we have two very different films coming at us this weekend. The first is another in a seemingly long line of extraterrestrial-themed movies we've encountered thus far in 2012 (The Avengers, Battleship, Men in Black 3, for starters) but Prometheus seems to present something different. Is it an Alien (1979) prequel? Probably, maybe, kind of? It has an intensity to the marketing that alludes to both its director and its familiar iconography of that great film of thirty years prior.

Here's the deal with Prometheus: even if it is some kind of direct successor to Alien, it hasn't really been marketed as such. Ever since its announcement and subsequent successful trailers (even if they seem to be spoiler-heavy [I've been avoiding them]) it has built up the kind of anticipation for an original story by a visionary director unheard of since Inception (2010). It's going after a very specific demographic, a cadre of nerds who want this to be the kind of truly harsh and disturbing sci-fi reality they can share with themselves that isn't as broad as The Avengers, doesn't have the stigma of Battleship, and doesn't try as hard to be as self-serious and edgy as Snow White & The Huntsman (2012). Is it weird that Snow White is the film that could steal the most of Promie's business this weekend? They're both pretty dark for Summer Flicks, but with certainly high aspirations. Still, Promie has an aura of authenticity and coolness replete from Snow White's gothic, desperate, revisionist tone. It almost seems destined to jump headfirst into the kind of pulp culture that's featured on a site like this. The only other film to really do that in recent memory is...well, Inception.

Positioned against Prometheus couldn't be more perfect counter-programming for kids (and weak-stomached adults, I guess) is Madagascar 3: Who Gives a Fuck (2012). Somehow in the long annals of animated trilogies this has survived and wins back DreamWorks nearly $200 mill domestic a pop. I actually had no idea what the subtitle was for this film, apparently it's Europe's Most Wanted. Apparently these critters are in Europe now? On some kind of Afro Circus I gather? The advertising for this flick has been short and intense. Suddenly last week there was a commercial blaring Afro Circus on television every 45 seconds. This is probably the most grating sequence ever unleashed upon mankind. Sometimes I can't believe Chris Rock would sink to this kind of level. Then I remember this and it all makes sense.

About to tear up the Orca
So where are we? It ought to be a close race to the top this weekend. I actually think tho that Prometheus has a bit more momentum behind it to come out on top. Culturally, I also think that this ought to be pretty hot, if only from being the second Charlize Theron flick to drop in two weeks, along with the growing clout of Noomi Rapace, and of course, the Shark himself, Michael Fassbender. Of course, as appropriate, it's more and more evident that the love for Fassbender is actually quite confined, as Russell Brand's failed MTV Movie Award jokes would attest to.

Of course the big question here is...Is Michael Fassbender actually a shark that has taught himself to walk on land? There is a tremendous amount of evidence to support this cutting edge theory. Basically, he has huge teeth, a fearsome smile, and the combination of handsomeness and charm that is only befitting of one of nature's oldest and most efficient predators. Naturally then, it would appear that Prometheus features Sharks in Space - and that, my friends, is quite the frightening concept indeed. I don't think we should be lulled into security around this guy. Think about it - a Shark who is a sex addict psychoanalyst who can bend metal with his mind? IN SPACE?! Holy dick. And I mean dick, because that Shark has a huge fucking dick as well.

This is the last post of Norwegian Morning Wood.
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