Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, Make ME One of Your Critics!

It had not dawned on me how low the bar to admission as one of the critics of had been set until I happened upon one of the so-called "reviewers" of Toy Story 3 who saddled it with a negative review and therefore being one of only three reviewers to have done so out of over one hundred and sixty. The negative review I read was pedantic, pretentious and downright pompous. The writer seemed intoxicated on some misplaced sense of self-importance.

The thing is, I don't even blame him; I blame for giving him his fifteen minutes of infamy.

In fact, I noticed something in reading the reviews posted on that quite honestly annoyed me more than any self-dubbed critic ever could: the site apparently cherry-picked negative reviews of Toy Story 3 and planted them right in the middle of the film's otherwise perfect score to generate outrage and therefore traffic. How do I know this? One of the three reviewers whose negative reviews was cited, infamous "contrarian" Armond White, whom I wrote about previously and who was probably sharpening his knives for Toy Story 3 the day he found out it was being made, wrote a scathingly negative review about Shrek Forever After which for reasons I do not understand never made it onto the film's "tomatometer" over on RT. I've gone over it twice (during my free time, of course), and White's negative review simply does not register. For the record, the Shrek sequel registers a 53% score on the site (rotten), while the Pixar sequel is quite lofty with 98%. White's review would not have registered at all over on the fourth Shrek film, which nearly half of the reviewers polled hated anyway, but because it had the shocking effect of being the first review to spoil Toy Story 3's heretofore perfect score it made more sense to throw it into the mix. The comment count on White's TS3 review is at something like 750+ and climbing. Ironically, the same people clamoring for White to get fired keep on taking the bait again and again, which is why rottentomatoes is so ready to lay it out; in the case of Shrek 4 it would have been meaningless so they never included White's bad review.

With TS3, however, they clearly they saw the opportunity to stir up the usual gang of idiots. It strikes me that RT sought even more opportunity to generate traffic by including the rare negative reviews on their site, so they dug up some blogger whom they probably otherwise wouldn't give the time of day and slapped his review there, which is now generating traffic as well.

Now, people are free to log onto or avoid RT altogether, but what's sad about this charade is that the reason why RT rose to prominence in the first place was that it afforded people the chance to know what reviewers...serious, HONEST reviewers and not attention whores, think about movies. It's supposed to be a MOVIE LOVERS site, and while that certainly does not mean they will only post positive reviews, it should mean that they will post reviews from writers who are more or less sincere in their liking or disliking of films, not people who post purely for the attention they generate. Whatever they started out as, they've devolved into something else, something...less.

Hey rottentomatoes! Toy Story 3 was a putrid film! Make ME one of your critics!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wow, That's a Lot of Venom Intended for a Little Kid...

Last Friday, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the remake of The Karate Kid. For all its flaws (starting with the embarrassingly inappropriate title as it was set in China and the kid in question learned Wushu, not Karate), it was very engaging, with some beautiful scenery, great, albeit bone-crunching action, and a surprisingly moving, tender friendship between leads Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith as teacher Han and student Dre, respectively.

I totally get the vitriol that the fan community has spewed regarding this movie; Hollywood's addiction to remakes and sequels is truly irritating, and had I not enjoyed this movie I would be joining the bandwagon against this and other remakes.

What has honestly taken me by surprise is how many people wish so much ill on its star, Smith, who's basically just eleven years old. Granted, people feel that as the son of Hollywood megastar Will Smith, he's getting breaks that other kids might not necessarily get, and granted that both his parents are the driving force behind this remake, but here's the thing: I'm not sure he deserves all the hate.

Well, he may not be a great actor, but he certainly isn't a bad one, at least not in my opinion, or the opinion of the majority of the critics polled on and, or the opinion of a whole lot of people who went to the movies last weekend who spent something like $60 million dollars worth of their money to see this film. In fact, he carries the film, all two and a nearly-a-half hours of it, on his shoulders which is no mean feat for any actor, let alone someone who has yet to hit puberty. The feat becomes doubly impressive when one considers that this isn't a kid who's surrounded by an orgy of CGI or who is doubling with his twin to help the producers dodge child labor laws. In short, whatever break his parents have given him, Smith has made the most out of it by acting his little heart out, and by busting his ass to learn some serious Kung Fu chops.

There are a lot of famous people out there who benefited more than just a little from their parents' celebrity. Folks like Angelina Jolie, Angelica Huston, Nicolas Cage and Jason Reitman to name the few that come to mind all managed to get a leg up on the industry that they may or may not have gotten had they not been related to revered filmmakers or performers. Sure, Cage may have adopted the name of a comic book character to hide his true surname Coppola and thereby dispel any doubts that he made it in Hollywood based on merit, but there's no denying it helped him. What was important about all of these people was that they took the ball that was handed to them and ran with it. One has them on the one hand and folks like eternal-supporting-actor Colin Hanks and Sofia Coppola on the other, the latter of whom stumbled when given the opportunity to act in The Godfather Part III, though she eventually found her calling behind the camera. I'm fairly certain that on the acting front, Smith is no Sofia Coppola.

"Nepotism" isn't particularly new, even in Hollywood, but at least this kid is using the opportunity to its fullest. And besides, this film only cost about $40 million, which by today's standards is a song, and it's not as though they're tapping him to be the next Spider-Man or anchor some billion-dollar franchise. And ultimately, it's not as if they didn't make him work his ass off to be able to do the things he does in this film. Unlike Jack Black, who probably ate a box of Twinkies or something between recording sessions of Kung Fu Panda, judging by his current appearance, it's plain to see how hard Smith worked to pick up the skills necessary for this role; it's written all over his wiry little frame.

Count me, therefore, as one of those throwing their support behind Smith as a star of tomorrow. Fanboys can stew in as much hatred and concoct as many Scientology/Nepotism theories as they want, and if the rest of the world is lucky The Karate Kid will make over $200 million at the US box-office and cause those same fanboys' heads to explode from trying to figure out how Will Smith and Jada Pinkett managed to hypnotize that many people into watching their son's movie.

Friday, June 04, 2010


At the risk of getting more Chinese porn spam on my blog I have to weigh in on a recent spate of disappointments I, and quite possibly a lot of other fans of Marvel properties being turned into feature films have endured.

Iron Man 2, while a respectable enough movie, simply did not set off any of the fireworks that the first one did. It had more effects shots, more bad guys and more money thrown at it, but it simply did not up the "wow" factor the way that sequels like Spider-Man 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and (grumble) The Dark Knight did. I blame primarily the writer, Justin Theroux for a script that would at several moments and with a couple of tweaks have been better-suited to some raunchy R-rated comedy than a follow-up to a movie that TIME Magazine's Richard Corliss named as one of the 10 best of 2008, but film being a collaborative medium, in the end a lot more people involved, from director Jon Favreau to the actors deserve one form of blame or another.

Of course, the failure of this film to live up to the promise of the original is hardly the end of the world, even for Marvel movies, but I'm not entirely sure about how I feel about where they may be headed in the next couple of years. Some of the developments that have been reported about them have been encouraging, while others...not so much.

For one thing, I definitely like the choice of Joe Johnston as director of the Captain America movie, whatever other people may have had to say about it. Had Disney and Industrial Light and Magic not dropped the ball on the special effects shots of The Rocketeer, it would remain an eminently watchable and re-watchable superhero/comic book film, and for all its flaws, he can definitely take credit for everything that went right.

Also, while I'm still anxious to know about how the planned Avengers movie will come together, the virtually official involvement of Joss Whedon in the project is good news to me. Admittedly,I would much prefer to know he's writing it rather than directing it, but it is definitely a plus, especially since I know Marvel are talking to the right people, like The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner for a possible turn as Hawkeye.

I'm even fairly pleased about the look they've given Captain America, which is basically Bryan Hitch's Ultimates costume given a few tweaks here and there, though I feel it's a tad too modern-looking. The concept art they've released may or may not be the final look for the character, but though I may have my reservations I think they've pretty much gotten it down pat visually.

Unfortunately, when concept art for Thor surfaced shortly after the Cap concept was shown, I felt my stomach turn, especially after the promise that the initial teaser shot held.

When Marvel announced that Kenneth Branagh would be directing the film, I was 100% behind because the whole gambit had this it-just-seems-so-crazy-it-might-actually work vibe to it. I believe I wrote that this film would either be a huge hit or a colossal flop, or something like that, and after seeing that dreadful computer generated image of Chris Hemsworth in the one of the worst comic book costumes adaptation I've ever seen, even counting the nipple-toting batsuit, I can't help but feel like it's the latter.

It kind of stinks that for all the positive developments that seem to be surrounding Marvel's plan, the two disappointing ones, like Iron Man 2's fizzling out, and the awful Thor images, are those that really stood out for me. Maybe I am being overly negative here.

I would be happy for Marvel Films to prove me wrong.