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So you may have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of comedies on Bad Movie Beatdown. Not really a completely intentional thing, it just sort of happened that way. Now, I’ll be willing to admit that the next episode I have planned is actually going to be a straightforward action movie, tied to White House Down. I was going to do An American Carol, but given the fact I’ve done so many lately, and that I’m about to plough ahead into a Happy Madison month, I don’t think the time is really right for it. Moreover, I’ve noticed the commenters getting more and more tetchy about me doing comedies as of late, which might just be an element of fatigue.
That fatigue is kind of why I ended up putting pretty much a halt on doing almost action movies. Any time I read about myself or my work on a site, it’s almost invaraibly “he’s alright, when he’s not doing a boring action movie”. That makes me a bit sad, because I do try and go out of my way to do interesting targets, and I have rejected a whole slew of really boring action movies that you will never know nor care about. But I think that’s primarily due to the fact that in Season 4, I did a lot of action movies and the two theme months were primarily around action movies. The response to Snipes Month was not what I had hoped, but not entirely unexpected given the behind-the-scenes troubles I had. Action and comedy are my two particularly strong genres to cover, so I re-focused more on that lately. I get a lot of positive notice for doing comedies - in fact, many of my fan’s favourite episodes are on things like Bride Wars or The Ugly Truth - and that is an area that many online producers don’t really delve into all that often. People still commend my reviews for romantic comedies, even though I’ve not done one of those in years (although I keep meaning to).
What I will say is that writing a review about a comedy and trying to make it funny is difficult. But I do my best at it; and sometimes I’m not entirely sure if that’s good enough. A complaint a few viewers have had (and myself) is that I get too “shouty”, and there is a reason for that, even if I do acknowledge it as a fault. Watching a bad comedy is truly terrible experience: most genres have comic value from watching them fail at their particular genre tropes, but watching humour fail is a mirthless and joyless agony. I had to break up watching Fat Slags because that movie hurt me. I shed tears at The Master of Disguise. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I should make my viewers watching 30 minutes of me being angry and forgetting to be funny. I’ve actually been trying to take a better, more restrained tack with the last few episodes, particularly in something I think could be so easily misconstrued as Project X. My goal for writing that episode is be funny, really hit the movie hard, but don’t condemn people for partying. Partying can be fun - I go to some on occasion to hang out, and while you’re unlikely to see me at a rave, I shouldn’t villainize people for doing it. Now can make fun of elements of that scene that I don’t understand: sure, and I did. And I’m really pleased with how the episode came out and I think it hits the right tone I was aiming for.
Increasingly, though, I’m seeing another complaint about me doing comedies. That I’m too prudish, that I’m too politically correct and I get offended over everything. Now, first off, these people are incorrect, and as I’ve already mentioned before, I love comedies. I grew up on Jim Carrey movies - I think Dumb and Dumber is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and that’s hardly politically correct. What it does do is work: a job of a comedy is to make the audience laugh, and when I’m doing my videos, I’m the personal barometer. Comedy is subjective and I don’t expect people to agree with everything I say. I don’t think of any of my viewers (nor would I want to) as sheep. When I do an episode on a comedy, I am reviewing one I don’t think works, one that I felt was horrible; I’m not being disingenuous by going after The Hangover Part II, that’s honestly how I felt about it. And when I write an episode the objective is explain why it doesn’t work - anyone can say something isn’t funny, digging deeper is the trick. And often it’s the context and/or the target of the joke that is why a particular gag fails, or it doesn’t make sense in the overall narrative. Or, as the case may be, I might find a gag to be offensive and demeaning.
Which brings us to Hangover Part II again, probably one of the most divisive episodes I’ve released recently. And I get it, The Hangover is a popular series, even if I don’t care for it. And I tried to be positive about the first (and better) film even as I reviewed it’s follow-up, where you can tell there’s a noticeable shift, right down to how the characters are written. And I’ve had plenty of people praise the episode, that’s it managed to pinpoint issues people felt with the movies but couldn’t quite identify, and it’s even been featured on Blip’s Entertainment section, which I’m eternally grateful for. However, there’s that one scene. You know which scene I’m talking about. The one that almost every single comment discusses and seems to overshadow everything else. That damn dancer scene. And I stand by what I said in the review, I think it’s offensive because it’s demeaning and nasty to transsexual people and it plays off the idea of male rape for laughs, not to mention it’s broken in terms of the narrative. But there have been some claiming I was too sensitive, that it’s perfectly acceptable to portray things this way, and perhaps most disturbingly, that what happened to Stu wasn’t rape if he consented to it. He was drunk, drugged, was not in a logical state of mind to pass consent, and he didn’t have a clue about what happened until it was revealed to him - in every definable legal term, it’s wrong. It makes the sex worker look particularly predatory by taking advantage of him - he was clearly not in state of mind to pass consent. Worryingly, it seems to be because he was a dude, it was okay - trying pulling that same defence with a woman: “oh, she gave me her permission; she was drunk, but that just means she was gagging for it.” (Oh, wait, people do use that as a “defence”. INCORRECT TO A DEGREE OF A THOUSAND SUNS.) Could someone justifiably defend that scene? Maybe, but I sure haven’t seen it yet.
More over, I think The Hangover movies are a rather worrying trend of lad culture, where you can act like a total pillock and not suffer a damn consequence for it, even when someone loses a finger or the entire neighbourhood lies in flames. In many respects it’s a mirror of the many of the “chick flick” movies I’ve gone after, but I think men are more defensive about it than women are. It’s more acceptable to laugh at rom-coms, because everyone knows they’re silly and cliché, but don’t mess with our frat party! It’s not really like me getting offended or taking the moral high ground is anything new - it’s been there since Seven Pounds, and is a core element of why people like my takes on All About Steve or The Ugly Truth. So please don’t dismiss me simply because I’ve had a lot of episodes where I do that lately.
But there’s a grain of truth to the complaint, and that is that I think I need to do go back a little bit more to other genres, to more traditionally bad movies that we can laugh at. Now I’ve done that a few times this season with Awake or Don’t Look Down, but moving away from cheesy action has kind of taken away a lot of that aspect, so I think it’s a relief to know that the next episode I’ve scripted is on an action movie and hopefully feels like an old-school episode (that’s what I was trying to write it to be, at least). I was planning to do An American Carol this month, but I don’t think it’s the right time for it - especially since I’m doing I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry to kick off Happy Madison Month and I’m bracing for the inevitable storm that’s sure to follow if the response to Hangover Part II is anything to go by. Can you imagine two politically-minded episodes in a row? That smiley getting blasted by a computer monitor of flames springs to mind, at least in my head. A cheesy action movie is probably the episode we need right now.
Comedy. It’s serious business.
Man of Steel
I’m probably not going to do this for every single movie I review and normally keep it to those concise Twitter blurbs. However, every so often there will be a big movie out and sometimes it’s got plenty to talk about. And, ooh, boy, is there plenty to talk about here.
I’ll try to avoid spoiling too much of Man of Steel. Truth be told, there isn’t that much to spoil, not because it’s another rendition of the familiar origin story, but because there isn’t much plot. There really isn’t. The script of this thing is more a synopsis than a fully-fleshed out story. I’ve started developing problems with the Nolan/Goyer DC Universe films, starting last year with The Dark Knight Rises which mistakes dourness and po-faced seriousness for depth and nuance; a trowel to cover all faults and weaknesses. Well, it doesn’t. The origin story of Superman is meant to be a story of humanity and finding it, that’s what makes the character work. The previous Donner film did that. And, in it’s best moments, on occasion so does Man of Steel. There are times when it’s wonderfully intimate and the moodier viewpoint yields some surprisingly effective results, especially the idea that Clark has to focus his powers to stop his x-ray vision and sensitive hearing paralysing him. It’s both human and alien. Any scene with Kevin Costner gets the right tone. And it’s those little touches that shine the brightest.
But Zack Snyder is a horrible storyteller. He’s so full of ideas he puts them full-pelt onto the screen, with an abject disregard for subtlety. Right from the very start on Krypton, the tone is set with these huge CGI vistas and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El riding a dragon. Yes, a dragon. It’s one of many things that is astonishingly silly, for a movie which takes itself so reverentially. And this happens again and again. Emotional moments don’t happen, they have to be forced by the hand of gigantic action sequences, like buses going over bridges, tornadoes or burning oil rigs. And the camera angles adopt a weird documentary style where they never stand still - several establishing shots do camcorder-style crash zooms. And it becomes exhausting.
The vision that brought this movie to life isn’t even that original. The influences that brought this vision to the screen are so obvious it’s like playing “spot the lifted blockbuster”. Of course, there’s the obvious Nolan influences, most particularly that it borrows it’s structure from Batman Begins, which makes the characters feel even more distant. There’s an attack of Smallville which heavily brought to mind Thor. The planet Krypton looks like a mis-mash of Avatar and Alien, especially the phallic and vaginal Giger-esque doors and corridors. When Zod and his goons are being sent into the Phantom Zone, they look like a squadron of flying penises. Remember, this is all very serious.
And the characters aren’t there because any scene where someone’s talking only last about 30 seconds and they’re usually to establish plot points cack-handedly (“I will remember the man you once were, not the monster you’ve become”, Jor-El tells Zod, which gets no elaboration upon in his characterisation in the rest of the film). And if you dared to call Superman boring, prepare to eat those words, because it’s the dullest rendition yet. All introverted and brooding, it barely conveys anything about him, and his compassion is suffocated under a dollop of angst. I can’t fault Henry Cavill, in fact, I liked him when the movie allows him to Superman, the one we all know and love. But it seldom offers him the chance, because even the name “Superman” is too silly for all this seriousness, so we’ll only say 3.5 times, and lampshade how ridiculous it is. It’s like a zombie film that’s afraid of saying the z-word - it’s scared of embracing the very thing we came see in the first place. Oh, but they do at one point put him front of a stained glass church window of Jesus; all together now - SYMBOLISM!
But the truly horrendous thing about Zack Snyder’s storytelling is his action scenes. It seems unfair to compare this to Donner’s earlier film considering the 1978 movie was made in a vastly different time to now, but there’s definitely something about working within restraint that brings out the best in a film. Flashforward to 2013, and it’s become possible to do anything and everything and throw it up on screen via the magic of CGI. Except you shouldn’t. Snyder’s previous film, Sucker Punch, was basically a pretentious video game cum music video that was aggressively self-indulgent and messy, and whatever themes were lying under the surface were lost. You’d think he’d purged his system at least. Nope. He’s done it again. The problem with excessive CGI is one of two things: one, that the imagery is hollow and weightless which means we have action sequences where millions of people die horrible deaths but that doesn’t matter because these buildings aren’t real, those civilians weren’t on-screen, so we don’t have to feel guilty about it; two, spectacle piled upon spectacle becomes boring and numbing incredibly quick. He’s taken the wonder out of Superman. He’s forgotten the man part and just took the steel, and whacks you over the head with it. Over and over, until you beg. This is a story about the goodness of mankind where millions of people die, buildings fall like dominoes and the damage has likely bankrupted whole cities. It’s okay, Superman saved the day. Even though he just had a fight through Metropolis and didn’t even try to avoid it happening in a populated area. Good job, sir.
And I really wanted it to end after the Smallville sequence. I was tapped out by that point. But it kept on going and going and going and going. And my packed morning audience seemed to feel the same sense of exhaustion because they left within 45 seconds of the closing credits. Although the fact that the film has the dumbest ending of any movie I’ve seen this year (and likely any to come), that completely contradicts everything that came before, might have also contributed to that. This is going to open big, but then it’s going to have a bumpy landing.
The people who complained about Iron Man Three? You didn’t know how good you had it.
That’s really awesome and of course I happily clicked the “follow” button, and so should all of you.
But what does that mean for this blog? I originally made this because I loved Mathew and thought he deserved a little more attention in the TGWTG Tumblr community. My hope was that maybe the people who didn’t quite keep up with him could see me posting in the tags all the time and be a little more aware of what he’s up to.
But, really, you don’t need me anymore. Mathew will surely be posting his own videos, answering your questions, and writing just generally wonderful things from now on. It would feel redundant for me to keep this running when you can just go enjoy the source.
Ultimately, I’m proud of this little blog, and I’m grateful to everyone who followed over the year and a half (!) I’ve been running it. Thank you, Mathew, for always being brilliant and I promise to watch your work until the day you retire. <3