An Idiot's Guide to the MCU: The Incredible Hulk

Time for the second entry in the Idiot’s Guide to the MCU: I held off on doing this one for a long time after hearing pretty consistently that this was one of the weaker entries. I still have 19 films to get through before the new Avengers releases in a little over a month. I wouldn’t count on that happening…

Is there any hero less interesting than the Hulk? (Other than Superman of course, he is voided from the eternal “least interesting superhero” question.) The best thing to arise from 21st century Hulk era was a pretty fun beat-em-up game on the Gamecube featuring some famous Hulk villains such as: “Abomination, U-Foes, Bi-Beast, The Enclave, and General “Thunderbolt” Ross.” Sure.

 

I saw this one in theaters and remember thinking it was pretty bland at the time. When I have mentioned that I have to re-watch it, people have generally echoed the sentiment that it’s one of the weaker Marvel movies. My expectations are pretty low but maybe I’ll be surprised.

What I Remember:

I know that this isn’t the Ang Lee version that featured some white guy with dark hair (evidently Eric Bana of ??? fame). So this must be the one with Edward Norton before they replaced him with The Kids Are Alright guy. I don’t remember much from either of those movies so at some point one or all of these things must come true:

  1. There is a scene in the Brazilian favelas.
  2. There are mutated hulk dogs.
  3. Hulk kills a tank.
  4. Hulk demonstrates incredible leaping prowess in a desert environment.

 

My Prediction:

Edward Norton is a scientist, but then a Dr. Manhattan accident happens and he runs away all Hulked.

Hulk fights in the desert and jumps really far. He eventually fights some hulk dogs at night in a suburb. He kills that Hulk enemy that’s a bigger uglier hulk-thing. Nick Fury shows up or hunts down Bruce Banner in a remote location at the very end.

Loosely Organized Running Notes:

  • Using the opening credits to breeze through the Hulk backstory and creation is a good idea and saves some time but I don’t think the execution is great. It ends up dragging a bit and is slightly disorienting but I give them credit for trying something.
  • 1/1 so far this is the Favela one.
  • Bruce is working on ways to control his heart rate, I absolutely wasn’t prepared for the breathing exercises and the terrifying visual of this guy’s stomach.

  • Bruce accidentally cuts his hand at work and panics when some blood drops down into the assembly line and potentially lands in a bottle of soda. He is smart enough to recognize that his hulk/gamma blood is potentially dangerous but confident enough there was only a single drop and no peripheral splatter.
  • (There totally was peripheral splatter, getting sloppy Bruce.)
  • It seems like a developing bit in these movies is going to be teasing the iconic character moments/lines, I like this instance.

  • Okay maybe this one doesn’t have the hulk dogs. Stan Lee shows up and drinks the Hulk soda. As much as I wish this meant we were going to get Grandpa Hulk, I assume he’s toast.
  • Mr. Green and Mr. Blue chat online exactly as you would expect two genius-level scientists to do. Bruce uses the hunt and peck typing strategy, while Mr. Blue repeatedly insists on needing more DATA. That’s how scientists talk, we all know this. This upsets Bruce because he doesn’t believe in the scientific method.

  • The movie clearly establishes Blonsky is a badder dude than Jeff Bridges from Iron Man. Blonsky one-ups Bridges by going with an even closer to literal “kick the dog” moment by tranquilizing two pups in one scene.
  • The US Military has no regard to just wrecking this poor Brazilian guys factory. There’s a semi-topical political joke in there if someone wants to make it.
  • Hulk is treated like a true monster operating mostly in the shadows and just wrecking these soldiers. Unfortunately, they waste all of that build up by then showing off Hulk’s dork-ass hair.

  • Has it always looked this ridiculous? This could only be worse/better if he emo swept it Peter Parker 3 style.
  • They kind of almost address the weird Hulk pant thing, but not really? His pants are shredded when he wakes up but still huge. I still appreciate the effort.
  • Is this the only Marvel movie with two Stan Lee cameos?

  • This film really enjoys showing Edward Norton in pitiful conditions.

For only a dollar a day.

  • The tone of the movie is a bit muddled, Norton’s not really nailing the comedy segments like posing as the pizza guy and bribing Lou Farrigno. (FAN FACT: Lou Fariggno was the original Hulk) He’s better in the more traditional dramatic scenes but a bit awkward in the action sequences.
  • Norton Antivirus, his real name is Norton, get it?
  • I love that Modern Dad is in this movie. Lady Legolas walks out on him though which is pretty rude.

  • And I thought the chemistry was lacking in A Star is Born.

This “sexual tension” is whatever the opposite of palpable is. Sexual slack.

  • Was the decision to cast Norton and Blonksy with relatively scrawny looking guys so the contrast between them and the Hulk beasts is huge? It may work but it makes some of the Bruce action scenes kinda goofy.
  • Bruce Banner gets trapped by the military and they accomplish their goal of not taking down the dork with the Ash Ketchum hat and backpack but instead turning him into the Hulk. 

Shout out to the Titanic.

  • Hulk vs Blonsky 2 highlights the difficulty with how to have a threatening villain when the hero is such a physically dominant figure. But evidently the sound of music can take him down.
  • Modern Dad is the least effectual male competitive love interest in film. They only spend half of a scene attempting to even build him up in that role and the casting choice is odd.
  • Hulk fights off sound cannons and a ton of other weapons before killing a helicopter and instantly turns day into night and starts a rainstorm. What in the world? I get there are storm clouds moving in and there’s a lot of smoke from the fire, but it’s over the top for the sake of a dramatic non-death.

“You killed the sun just like you “killed” my daughter.”

  • The cave scene continues to try and blend comedy, drama, and romance in a weird way that doesn’t seem to work at all.
  • They keep shooting Hulk-recovery Banner slouched on street corners and now he’s curled up on the shower floor. He’s got demons/green monster man blood, the struggle is real.
  • With Mr. Blue and Modern Dad, the highlight of this movie so far has been the inspired casting for these side characters.
  • Watching Bruce be force transformed into the Hulk in this lab setting confirms for me that there’s something that’s just super gross and unnerving about this entire Hulk art style they have going on.
  • I think I would like to retract that prior statement about the Mr. Blue casting being a highlight. His character flips from at least talking about wanting to use the Hulk experiments in order to cure diseases for mankind into wanting to juice-up Blonsky into an even more powerful Hulk for non-specific reasons. It also continues the odd tone the movie strikes by “cutely” name dropping the villain “It could be an Abomination” while other scenes are taking place around it that are supposed to be taken seriously.
  • I think this movie is just off the rails at this point, Bruce decides that the best way to force himself into the Hulk is to leap out of a plane and assume he will turn into Hulk instead of just dying. This is just after we are led to believe there is at least a decent chance he can no longer transform. Just dumb-dumb plot at this point.
  • I’m realizing at this point that I really remembered more from the Ang Lee version than this one. I could have sworn he does high-leaps in the desert. I guess after that failure they decided to completely flip the environment from desert to tropical.
  • Hulk shouldn’t have hair, I’m not saying Abomination looks great but he is at least properly bald. Hulk should either be bald or have Donkey Kong hair.
  • You know, he should actually just be Donkey Kong instead. This movie would immediately leapt to the top of my MCU list if this was the best Kong and when he was Bruce Banner he was Diddy Kong.
  • I get that Hulk traditionally has hair, maybe the bangs are making this particularly egregious, but it’s time for a change.
  • Hulk beats Abomination and then Bruce retreats to an isolated cabin where he can’t harm anyone else and he can focus on harnessing his Hulk powers. They call-back to the throwaway scene where Lady Legolas pawns her mom’s necklace for some desperately needed money with Bruce obtaining it and sending it back to her. It packs exactly the level of emotional punch as you would expect from a movie where two giant green monsters punch each other.
  • Tony Stark shows up instead of Nick Fury at the end, I was wrong, 1.5/4 isn’t great.
  • Still no capes and no change in our blue laser count.

Review:

Well, it’s over, this wasn’t particularly good. Norton wasn’t great at balancing the action/drama/comedy elements and Liv Tyler was barely even a character. Despite spending a decent amount of time on it I never cared about their relationship and the tone was so all over the place that it never felt cohesive. Given that neither of these characters seem to return in the broader universe I don’t think many people will disagree with me.

A complaint I had mentioned about Black Panther was that it wasn’t clear what exactly gave the edge to the hero to finally gain the advantage against the villain that had otherwise showed rather convincingly to have the advantage. Despite that, absolutely do not google “how did hulk beat the abomination”, or maybe do. There appear to be countless forum discussions concerning just that.

 

After one entry, I’m probably scrapping the review score method. I’ll just rank the Marvel movies instead. You may see other lists online claiming to rank these movies from “film critics” or snobs who “have read the comics”, phooey. This is the definite list.

  1. Iron Man 1
  2. The Incredible Hulk. (1/5 There are a few, very few, good moments (introducing Hulk as a scary monster in the dark, the parts that remind me of the video game such as cars for hands) but there isn’t much else. It feels like it exists solely to advance the “Tony is building a team” overall storyline. I would be pretty shocked if anyone from this movie, other than replacement Hulk and General Bad Dad show up later.)

The Incredible Hulk (2008) Trailer



The Tease of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

THE TEASE OF BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Bohemian Rhapsody had a very rocky path to the big screen. From director Bryan Singer’s exit, casting Freddie Mercury, and taking 20 years to get the film made, the film proved to be a huge hurdle and one that it never quite makes it over. Bohemian Rhapsody is confused about what it wants to be and the story that it wants (and should) tell.

(Spoilers ahead for Bohemian Rhapsody)

Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, and Ben Hardy in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

The Distance of Queen

When I first sat down to watch Bohemian Rhapsody, I actually didn’t know a lot about the making of the film or even Queen’s beginning as a band. I knew Queen’s hits of course (e.g., “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and of course the track that lends the film it’s name, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”).

Going into my viewing, I was intrigued to learn more about Queen’s start, their troubles and accomplishments, more about frontman Mercury, and their ascension to be one of the best bands in the world. I believe the film has good intentions and it does accomplish some narrative elements, but it always keeps us on the surface and never lets us dive deep into the film’s narrative.

One thing that I was reminded of while watching this film is the “aesthetic distance” of this film. “Aesthetic distance” is the gap between a viewer’s conscious reality and the fictional reality. When a film exhibits “closer” or “low” aesthetic distance, then it is remarked as “good.” For example, a horror film wants to exhibit low aesthetic distance because it aims to make you feel that you are in the story of the film and so close to the action on the screen (e.g., possibly being chased by a man wielding a knife).

For me, Bohemian Rhapsody had the intention of exhibiting low aesthetic distance and wanted us to dive into the world of Mercury and Queen and become emotionally attached to the narrative, but I believe it failed in some key areas. For example, throughout two thirds of the film when the film goes though the creation of some of Queen’s biggest hits, I really wanted the film to lean in a little more and explore the process of creating those songs. When we get the band coming up with the feet stomp for “We Will Rock You,” we see one of the band members begin to stomp their feet and Mercury is watching and then joins in and they develop the vocals to go over the stomping. Then we cut to them performing the song at a venue in front of an electric crowd and that’s all we get. I guess I wanted to see more of the process and the behind the scenes of creating these songs.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Credit: Alex Bailey

A Star is Born (2018), another Oscar contender this past season, exhibits a low aesthetic distance where it really lets you get close to the film’s narrative and be with those characters. You are there with Ally as she meets Jackson for the first time, them singing together, his problems with alcohol, and her ascension to celebrity. You are cut off from your own reality and there with Jackson and Ally. In Bohemian Rhapsody, I always felt we were getting close to Queen and Mercury but then it shut us out.

In my opinion, showing more of Queen’s behind the scenes would have lent the film a low aesthetic distance and let us connect with the film’s narrative and characters more. We see more of the “behind the scenes” feel when the band and it’s management visit Ray Foster (played by the wonderful Mike Myers) to discuss the new album which included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and maybe that’s why this film shares the track’s title. Cara Buckley at The New York Times article tells us,

The script was written by one prestigious writer, (Peter Morgan, “The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”), rewritten by another (Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour”) and laboriously revamped. “This is why it took so long to bring the movie to life,” said Graham King, one of the film’s producers.

Perhaps this is why we never get the chance to dive fully into Bohemian Rhapsody, and are instead teased at every turn. Watching the film, I kept wanting to turn the corner and see the band perfecting each hit, rehearsal after rehearsal for a hit, their rise to one of the best bands in the world, and possibly the effect that had on each band member’s life, but we instead focus more on Mercury’s life. Even when we view Mercury’s life, we are still left with questions and have to infer what is going on.

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Confusion about Mercury

Another aspect that hindered the film from allowing us in completely was the film’s caricature of Freddie Mercury. This definitely has nothing to do with Rami Malek’s portrayal of Mercury. Malek’s Mercury is wonderful and his dedication to getting Mercury correct is there on screen. Malek spent over a year with a dialect tutor and a movement coach to get Mercury’s mannerisms and movements down to the T and it shows. Malek also won an Oscar for his efforts so he definitely did something right.

Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and Rami Malek as Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and Rami Malek as Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Cara Buckley (NYT) mentions how some people were worried that Mercury’s queerness might be “straight-washed.” Malek responded, “It’s nothing we don’t address…that’s another thing our film is good about. I don’t think it’s exploitative or salacious.”

Jude Dry (IndieWire) argues, “By erasing his bisexuality, the movie reinforces a heteronormative view of queerness, and says it through a straight mouthpiece.” I have to agree with Dry on this topic. Not knowing a lot about Mercury’s background and his life before and during Queen, if it’s going to be an authorized biopic of Mercury then the portrayal of Mercury has to be accurate. I am not so concerned with Malek raising his hand the same way that Freddie did, but more so concerned with the fact that all of these script rewrites and the Ray Foster’s of Hollywood may have not wanted to tell the TRUE story of Mercury’s sexuality. Dry goes on to say,

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is an authorized biopic gone incredibly wrong. The movie doesn’t understand Mercury’s sexuality because May and Taylor don’t understand it, either. “Bohemian Rhapsody” crushes the life of a dynamic, free-thinking, explosive talent into easily digestible, hackneyed Hollywood stereotypes.

As I stated before, Bohemian Rhapsody had a troubled beginning to get to its 2018 premiere. I would imagine the conversation about the making of the film Bohemian Rhapsody is similar to what we see the band and it’s management go through in discussing releasing the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” with label executive Ray Foster. Ray didn’t understand the song and what it was about, the song was too long and radio stations wouldn’t pick it up, and he also believed it would not be a song that teenagers would catch onto. Brian May (Gwilym Lee) even tells Ray, “It ruins the mystery if everything is explained.” Ray responds, “Seldom ruins sales.”

You could look at the film Bohemian Rhapsody in the same way that the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” was discussed in being the band’s single. If everything was more explained, would it “ruin the mystery” of the film. What ruined mystery is yet to be determined but perhaps it would. Contrary to Ray’s point though, it did not ruin sales for Bohemian Rhapsody at all. As of 3/11/2019, total worldwide gross for Bohemian Rhapsody is over $875 million with a budget of $52 million, so not too shabby.

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).
Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).

I also wonder if part of the problem with the film’s portrayal of Freddie was due to the fact that he was not around to discuss his life and what was happening during some of the band’s highs and lows. Brian May and Roger Taylor are the only members that are still with us today. Of course they lent their experience and knowledge of being in Freddie’s presence to the screenwriters, but I would argue (just as Dry did above), that possibly May and Taylor didn’t understand Freddie’s sexuality either. It’s no coincidence that Bohemian Rhapsody is also rated PG-13. If it had leaned more into Mercury’s life, it may have not been widely viewed by a majority of audiences. A heavier rating could have possibly hurt it’s Oscar chances too. Bohemian Rhapsody racked up 5 Oscar nominations including Best Picture.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Academy Awards- Winners and Nominations. Credit: IMDB

Although more than half of the film does have some shaky moments, the ending is very emotional. The films ends with a recreation of Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, and it truly is a coaster of emotions (at least for me). I give the director and editor props for their recreation of Queen’s set, and how they edited this scene to really drive home everything we sat through. The comparisons are uncanny of course in Malik’s Mercury, but even to the beer and soda cans on the piano. Check out the video below that shows the comparison between Queen’s Live Aid performance and the recreated performance in the film.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Academy Awards- Winners and Nominations. Credit: IMDB

Although more than half of the film does have some shaky moments, the ending is very emotional. The films ends with a recreation of Queen’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, and it truly is a coaster of emotions (at least for me). I give the director and editor props for their recreation of Queen’s set, and how they edited this scene to really drive home everything we sat through. The comparisons are uncanny of course in Malik’s Mercury, but even to the beer and soda cans on the piano. Check out the video below that shows the comparison between Queen’s Live Aid performance and the recreated performance in the film.

Compared to Rocket Man, the new film coming out about Elton John’s breakthrough years, Elton is still alive so he can lend his knowledge of his own life to the story and correct elements that are inaccurate to his life. (It’s also worth noting that Dexter Fletcher is directing Rocket Man, he finished Bohemian Rhapsody once Bryan Singer exited the film). I believe if Freddie was still with us, Bohemian Rhapsody would be a very different film and would be closer to Mercury’s real life and closer to Queen.

Bohemian Rhapsody is now out on DVD.

Let me know your thoughts below or tweet me (@colbyg1991). I would love to hear your thoughts on this film.

Read Zack’s article on A Star Is Born and listen to our fourth podcast episode on A Star Is Born.


An Idiot’s Guide to the MCU: Iron Man

Lack of Actual Capes

In some early episode of this podcast, I made a comment that could easily be interpreted as me bragging that I haven’t seen many of the incredibly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Let me now be clear and forthright: there is no place in society for willful ignorance. I am not “cooler” or “more happenin” than anyone just because they have enjoyed the most popular films of the last decade or so while I have generally remained M-Celibate. These are incredibly popular films, and to my surprise, the general public seems to have actually become invested in the stories of the silly caped avengers. (I recognize there is a dramatic lack of actual capes, I will be counting capes for sure).

My Plan:

I will watch every single Disney/Marvel film that is part of the grandiose Marvel Cinematic Universe, and write something about each one. From my hasty count, I have seen five of the films so far while being roughly aware of the larger narrative (Ultron turns people into dust and there is a Raccoon/Tree buddy-up). My intention is to blitz the entire collection and write a little blurb about each movie so I can try and understand what the mono-culture enjoys so much about them. I used to really enjoy Star Wars, so I understand liking things that are bad.

Also, the 4th Avengers movie comes out on April 26th so if I’m caught up by that point, we would have so many internet points. 52 days away and there are 20 films released, woof.

I must repeat, Donkey Kong version of this suit is still my favorite.

Intro:

Iron Man. The first one. I actually saw this movie in the theater, back in the dark age of 2008 (this was roughly when the Great Recession was occurring, good times, pretty big deal for my generation and anyone looking to retire in that decade). Back then it was novel for there to be a superhero movie that wasn’t instantly panned as being absolute wet garbage.

What I Remember: Iron Man is cool, he has a scientist paired with him who helps him build a super suit eventually. There were references to the Iraq War at some point? I’m pretty sure they play The Song after Iron Man shoots at a tank and walks away all cool-like. I think Jeff Bridges turns baddie in either this movie or the sequel.

My Prediction: Given it took 4 years for the first Avengers movie to come out, I assume this was before the concrete idea of an MCU had been established. I wouldn’t be shocked to see they recorded some post-credits scene with Captain America buying Tony Stark a shot or something. Eventually Sammy Jackson starts showing up so maybe that starts here.

Loosely Organized Running Notes:


  • Oh, so this is 2 hours long, that seems a bit much for Iron Man but okay.
  • They kick things off with “not the song you expected, but your dad still really likes “Back in Black.” Shrewd move.
  • “You’ve been called the DaVinci of our time.” Yep. The dude who makes all the weapons? I realize they’re laying it on a bit thick now in order to have the pivot eventually, but that’s a bit much.
  • It really is refreshing to start off a super hero franchise without the usual “Boy, Aunt May, we have to hide this from the world.” Hard facts: before this movie was released, the only good super-hero movie was Batman Begins. I get that it’s funny to pretend any of the other Batman or Spiderman movies were decent, but they weren’t.
  • Tony Stark getting absolutely demolished from the road side bomb happens super-fast and is pretty gritty, the character reversal when he sees that it’s his weapons causing the damage is fairly predictable, but clever enough for this type of movie.
  • As I remember it, his buddy scientist is totally dying. (He did.)
  • Nice homage to the A New Hope scene where the overconfident Han chases troops down a hallway and revealing more baddies. Seems to have had a sadder ending in this version.
  • The MCU is 40% better if Iron Man never made a new suit and he was just this hilarious walking garbage can.
  • Iron Man’s escape being treated for laughs (he launches like a rocket and then crash lands in a heap) is kind of weird coming right after his buddy dies in an emotional scene.
  • Jeff Bridges, the mean CaPiTaLisT (I think the SpongeBob meme fits here?) partner, riding a Segway is a great way to make him look super intimidating.

  • So, Iron Man flies all the way across the planet? I recognize this is a stupid nit-pick complaint and is probably explained away in some comic, but they pay attention to energy/battery levels later on so it seems worth mentioning.
  • Beyond bummed it doesn’t play the actual Iron Man song during the walk-away from explosion scene. Must have been in the trailer. Actually, probably for the best given the tone of the scene.
  • All robot assistants have British accents. It doesn’t matter what movie it is, this is the law.
  • Classic kick the dog moment with evil Lebowski killing the less evil dudes
  • “I LOVE THIS SUIT!” -Evil Jeff Bridges and the rest of America. Old Iron Man suit is best Iron Man suit.
  • I must repeat, Donkey Kong version of this suit is still my favorite.

  • They essentially steal the “Never tell me the odds” line from Han Solo. British droid begins to state limited odds of survival/success and Tony interrupts, “I know the math.”
  • Most of the CGI looks good still, but the early fire effects and particularly half-man/half-suit Lebowski is a special level of terrifying.
  • WE GOT IT! WE GOT OUR FIRST BIG BLUE LAZER!
    • BIG BLUE LAZER COUNT: 1

  • Sam Jackson shows up, so there’s that.

REVIEW:

As a standalone (superhero) film, 4/5 Donkey Kong Iron Men, well-paced, only a handful of characters but they all had moments, wasn’t just a constant dredge of action scenes with no consequence. Whatsherface love interest and whatshisface Army-man friend are all we need for secondary characters, Tony Stark does all the heavy lifting, and then there’s evil Jeff Bridges, who while passable for a throwaway intromovie villain, seems like a huge waste of a fun actor. 

As an intro move, 4/5, subject to revision, gets straight into it, limited backstory but we learn what we need.

Iron Man (2008) Trailer



Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in The Favourite (2018)

Women Puke Too: Subverting Gender Stereotypes in The Favourite

Very Helpless & Scared

There was a moment while watching Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite (how is this nominated for Best Picture the same year as Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Bored, slaughter much?) where I had to pause and rewind the film because I was laughing so hard. I haven’t had to rewind a film since the VHS days of my pre-teen years (VHS stood for Very Helpless & Scared). It was this moment (skip to like the 45 second mark):

You’ve probably seen that clip in the trailer. I had. But there’s something about this rollercoaster of a movie that I forgot it was coming. And it’s so simple. It shouldn’t be that funny. But it is because in this one quick moment, Lanthimos and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) demonstrate what this entire film will be about. More on that in a moment.

Yorgos Lanthimos and Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)
Yorgos Lanthimos and Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)
Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)
Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)

The three leads, Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, each POSSESS the frame at various points on screen. Colman is especially electric. She can be frail and sick one moment, and then be extra AF the next, and you never blink. She is captivating.

Stone and Weisz play a constant game of anarchy in each other’s lives, and I am here for it.

"Hollywood needs to catch up to the world and the world needs to catch up to reality.  And we know what the reality is."

Defining American Cinema

These three women own. They make all the decisions for the country, they manipulate each other into bending to their will, and most importantly, they define what American cinema should be: Real.

Women puke.  Did you know that? And it’s not just when they’re pregnant or trying to exorcise a demon, Hollywood. Women vomit just like men do. Each of the three leads pukes in this film. The women in The Favourite enjoy sex, shoot guns for fun, and they sabotage each other by poisoning each other’s drink and then quickly getting married to usurp power while the other one falls off their horse and gets dragged away unconscious. Okay, that last one is pretty specific to this film, but it could happen. Lanthimos is forcing us to accept all of these masculine stereotypes in these three women.

The wardrobe and makeup throughout also elevate the film’s message. Nicholas Hoult’s character Robert Harley is never shown in anything other than elaborate clothing, plastered makeup, and hair upon hair upon hair.

While our three leads vary from beautiful to bloodied to literally wearing the pants.

Rachel Weisz, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)
Rachel Weisz, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018)

Demanding Obedience

Back to that first clip, the “How dare you!” clip. Colman is the queen, yes, so she demands obedience. But it’s more than that. She is a woman telling a young boy to acknowledge her presence, and when he does, she tells him not to. She will allow or deny him (us) to look upon her. So why did I laugh so hard? Because I just haven’t seen anything like it. The Favourite wouldn’t have been made thirty years ago. It wouldn’t have been made five years ago. Hollywood needs to catch up to the world and the world needs to catch up to reality.  And we know what the reality is:

The Favourite (2018) Trailer



A Star is Bored

I Am Scared

Some dude once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I’m here to announce: I’m scared. Scared because I just watched a movie that everyone around me is proclaiming as excellent. The Oscars have anointed it with eight nominations (they also handed Sandy Bullock a trophy for The Blindside, so.) The Grammys and The Golden Globes both bestowed upon it awards for its song “Shallow.” It made that money (210 million.) I’m talking of course of A Star is Born.  My problem with the film really boils down to one thing. Chemistry.

Jackson Maine and....Ally? Her name is just Ally?

Remember when Walter White said, “Chemistry is the single most important thing in a romantic film?” Don’t google that.  Heisinberg was right. The greatest romantic movies ever relied on the chemistry between the two leads to further the narrative. Moonstruck. Casablanca. Brokeback Mountain. Space Jam. Or think about a film with a dumb Hallmark movie plot like The Notebook. Gosling and McAdams took over that movie and said LOOK AT US AND LOVE US. These romances will stand the test of time because it wasn’t just that the two leads carried a charismatic sizzle between them, it’s because their chemistry infiltrated every aspect of the narrative and made a simple plot something more.  It made it electric. It made it something the audience could feeeeeeel.

 


Bradley Cooper had so much more chemistry in Wet Hot American Summer with Michael Ian Black. Their flirting, their kissing, their LOVE was more real.

Rocket’s love for Groot is more real. It’s damn near tear-inducing (and I’m not a human being so I’ve never cried).

Hell, he and that doll baby in American Sniper had more chemistry than he and Steph.
"Lady Gaga is a force in this movie.  A force in the way that gravity is a force. As in she weighs you down."

Steph, Chapelle, and That Song

Speaking of Steph. Lady Gaga is a force in this movie.  A force in the way that gravity is a force. As in she weighs you down. Can she sing? I’m genuinely asking.  Can she sing? I don’t know. I think she can, I’m definitely supposed to think she can. But I just don’t know. It always comes out so gargle-y.  But also, can Brad sing? He’s not supposed to be a great singer in this piece of cinema, but when they sing together, we are supposed to be swooned.  I wasn’t. I wanted to be, I hope you understand that. I wanted to be. I need to be. Is this a cry for help?

Did it have elements that grabbed me? Yes. THAT SONG IS GOOD. I will say that. That song rules. My spotify is a treadmill and I am burning the rubber on THAT track.

 

This movie bored me. And it’s because these two people did not connect to each other in any real way.  And because of that, I couldn’t connect to them. And because of THAT, I couldn’t connect to the film.

 

The true chemistry in this movie that should’ve been explored was Chapelle and Cooper. Also, go watch Wet Hot American Summer on Netflix.

A Star Is Born (2018) Trailer



How Spielberg Made Dinos Real

Hunky McNeutralColors

It’s freezing right now, yes.  But picture this: It’s a sunny summer day, the temperature is summer-like, the sun is being all sunny, and you’re right where you want to be—inside your local theater watching Chris Pratt do his best Han Solo meets Indiana Jones impression as Hunky McNeutralColors, the lead character of the newest Jurassic Cinematic Universe.  You want to recapture that sense of excitement you had decades ago, when you first saw Jurassic Park. So you sit through this CGI picnic, and you bite into the plot about a…black market dinosaur auction in a mansion wut. The only thing fading faster than your attention is your nostalgia.

Why do these new ones lack the intensity of the O.G.?  Simple.

These dinosaurs aren’t REAL.

I’m not talking CGI vs. Robotics (although, yeah, that’s part of it).  I’m talking about real in the world of the film.

Let’s think back to Jurassic Park and the first scene where the T. Rex is introduced.  Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is sitting in the back of the jeep. He hears a noise and looks over to the puddle nearby to see it ripple.  The noise is distant, we don’t see any part of Rexy yet, but Spielberg feeds us this one little ripple to demonstrate that there is something coming.  Not only does this begin to build tension, but it makes Malcolm understand that something is very wrong. And since he is our way into the film’s world at this specific moment, we understand that something is very wrong too.

The noise is distant, we don’t see any part of Rexy yet, but Spielberg feeds us this one little ripple to demonstrate that there is something coming.

Closer than they appear.

Ellie (Laura Dern) and Muldoon (Bob Peck) then run out of the trees to him and chasing them is The Rex.  This is the first time we see him, and my guy is big. He knocks over trees as our three adventurers escape in the jeep.  The trees help define size on Rexster because of how tiny they look in comparison, and how easily he pushes them aside. But really drives us into fearing him is the shot of the rearview mirror that reads “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

This shot provides the best perspective of how close he is because it puts us inside the car, in the middle of the action.  A typical wide shot here would have deflated that feeling of panic because it would establish us as merely a viewer outside of the action.

The final thing Spielberg does to fortify Rex Ryan’s position in the film’s world is having him run through the tree that has fallen over. It’s a quick, simple shot, but we see Ellie duck as they pass under the tree.  The tree would have easily beheaded her (which really would’ve taken this movie into a crazy turn) but when T. Rex (the dinosaur we’ve been following, not the band) encounters the tree, he demolishes it. He is bigger than giant trees, ya’ll.

Let’s compare this scene to the Indominus Rex’s introduction in Jurassic World. We get a few shots of Indy moving stealthily through the trees, and a close up of his eyes as he watches BDH (Bryce, naturally), but we never get something like the puddle or the rearview mirror or the fallen tree to help actually conceptualize him as really living in and interacting with the environment of the film.  Which makes him less real. Which makes us wish we would’ve waited for Redbox. WHICH MAKES US DUMB.

Oh well.  Chris Pratt is doing okay.