Green Hornet / Blue Valentine
I saw two films in theaters over the weekend, the first being The Green Hornet.
I actually liked it a decent amount. But I may be biased as I'm a self-admitted fan of Seth Rogan and his career (I feel like he's an ambassador for people who like like me). So if you like the "two dudes hanging out and getting in trouble" schtick that always show up in his movies, then you will probably enjoy The Green Hornet (Rogan co-wrote it as well). I actually found this Rogan buddy film to be a more interesting dynamic than usual, as it wasn't two stoned losers like usual, as Seth played a snobby rich guy, and his partner was a brilliant mechanic/martial arts expert. It wasn't just two lowlifes running around aimlessly like Pineapple Express (not to badmouth Pineapple Express, I like that movie too).
I've actually watched most, if not all of the Green Hornet TV show from the 60s, I burned through it a few years ago. Obviously the tone is a bit different in this new film remake, but the general (very general) story line is there. But this film was more of an excuse for Rogan to make an action-comedy. To be honest, I liked this movie more than I liked the TV show. I thought the film was funny, fast paced, and had some cool action scenes too. Again, if you're down with Seth Rogan, I'm sure you'll like it, otherwise it probably the same situation as me trying to get you to watch Knocked Up or something.
I was also happy that Michel Gondry directed it. Eternal Sunshine is one of my favorite modern films, and he's done some great work on music videos as well. Be Kind Rewind and Science of Sleep were both great successes and glorious failures at the same time. Obviously Gondry had to play Green Hornet more straight than he likely would have wanted to, as it is a big budget studio picture, but the Gondry touch is definitely evident here and there.
Also, I found it funny that The King's Speech was rated R for just like 2 scenes of vulgar language used in an effort to help a man with a stutter, but Green Hornet had foul language throughout (often in a more mean-spirited way) and was layered with graphic violence, but it got a PG-13 rating... I just don't get the MPAA logic sometimes.
And that leads into the other film I saw this weekend, Blue Valentine. It notoriously got an initial NC-17 rating, but was argued down by Harvey Weinstein to an R rating. Now that I've seen the movie, I don't understand AT ALL why it was considered for the NC-17 rating, at least in comparison to so many other R rated films that probably got away with worse. Blue Valentine deserved to be labeled NC-17 like Happy Feet would deserve to be labeled R. The logic in comparison to other films just doesn't add up. Someone needs to work out a better (more unified) rating system. I know ratings don't seem that important, but they definitely impact marketing and distributing films, and often times impact whether or not they end up at a theater near you. Well, whatever, I don't see the MPAA giving up their oddly given power anytime soon.
But Blue Valentine itself, very good movie. It's just a greatly acted little film that really plays with your emotions. The story shifts back and forth between the happy beginnings of a relationship and the painful endings. It just makes the end of the relationship scenes crushing, and the early, happy moments of the relationship seem devastating. It's a very real feeling movie, and it doesn't have to force silly plot devices in it at all to move the story along. Thumbs up!
Ever seen the film "This film has not been rated"? About the MPAA rating process.
As far as Hornet, I agree with Ebert 99 percent of the time, and he hated it. I'll see it when it gets out on DVD, but my sense is that the Rogan stoner style gets old quick with a more general audience. Rogan I thought was very good in his film with Adam Sandler, actually. And Gondry is a genius, so I *should* like this when I see it. However, as I get older, I find I get ever more demanding in terms of script and plot for my viewing dollar.
I have to agree with Mark - Seth Rogen as an actor is a lot like his movie characters - one dimensional. Sure he has had some funny movies. But all I have read are reviews saying things like "the Green Hornet is the first truly boring superhero movie" etc.
It looks funny from the previews. But superhero movies are not supposed to be funny (says the guy writing a comedic superhero screenplay).
Ok, Kick-A$$ was funny. Heath Ledger's Joker was funny in a sick deranged way. I guess if you leave your intellect at the door, the Green Hornet might be a good ride, much like the following two movies I saw recently:
Knight and Day
Both of those films featured a superhero-like protagonist (Cruise, Jolie) with truly ridiculous plots and good action and explosions.
The above sentence seems to be the Hollywood mantra at the moment. Not good for a sophisticated audience. But H-Wood wants people to buy movie tickets and lunchboxes - plot and meaning be damned.
Also saw Iron Man 2, back to back with part 1 which my wife had not seen. These movies both use humor to lighten the mood and add to the entertainment value. I actually think the best moments of Iron Man are when Iron Man is not in the scene. Compared to part 1, part 2 was kind of silly (really, more robots is the best you could come up with?). The best things about part 2 were the depiction of Tony Stark as a human being with social problems, and of course Gwyneth Paltrow's dimples. Good action and explosions, of course, but since all big budget superhero movies have those, they cancel out.
From the previews, it looks like Green Hornet has explosions, jokes, dimples and if we are lucky, a plot.
You don't HAVE to agree with me Mike, you just want to, because I'm just right a lot of the time.:-)
Yeah, I definitely wouldn't recommend Green Hornet unless you like Seth Rogen's brand of humor. For whatever reason, I've related to him since back in the Freaks and Geeks days, so I have a soft spot for the Rogen. But Green Hornet is without a doubt a "sit back and enjoy the ride" kind of movie with not a great deal of depth, but I found the characters/character dynamics enjoyable and it has more heart than any of the advertisements lead you to believe. I also forgot to mention that the villain, played by Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds), is wonderfully fun as well. Waltz is goin' places!
I'm not sure I'd recommend Green Hornet to see in theaters to even my closest friends, because a lot of them can't stomach Rogen anymore, but it's worth renting a few months from now for sure.
In regards to Iron Man 2:
"Compared to part 1, part 2 was kind of silly (really, more robots is the best you could come up with?)."
I read some comic books here and there, but I've never really read any Iron Man stuff. But when I asked my friend a while ago (who does read Iron Man) about what kinds of villains are in the series, he pretty much said "yeah, basically different people keep stealing or replicating the Iron Man technology and use it against him..." I'm sure he's generalizing, but I think he was saying the Iron Man villains are typically more technology-based than supernatural or bizarre. But I don't read Iron Man so that's just what I've heard. So I think you can expect more robots in the 3rd one.
I've been reading the Iron Man comics since about 1967. Only one I read, actually. They basically re-do his origin story at least every 14 months, slowly updating it to match the most recent war as historic backdrop. Then they do a variation on the 'Armor Wars' where Tony has to take back his technology from people or governments that have stolen it, in a kind of Randian jihad. That they recycle these two tropes, I put down to the fact that the comics audience ages out and new kids start reading every 3 years or so, and those stories seem fresh to new eyes.
What made Iron Man famous and of interest to me was that he was the first alcoholic superhero (recovered) ever depicted, but after that initial splash, they rarely revisit that aspect of his nature except very parenthetically.
Iron Man/ Stark has two major villains, and a larger base of second-tier foes.
The top dog is a guy called the Mandarin, a Chinese peasant/brigand who comes across a crashed spaceship and recovers ten "magic" rings with various powers. Stark/ Iron Man constantly interfere with Mandarin's schemes to attain global domination. For all his brilliance and power, Mandarin still doesn't know stark IS Iron Man. Rumor is that Mandarin will be in Iron Man III, the references in the first two movies to a terrorist organization called "the ten rings" hints at this. Favreau has dropped out of directing the next one, so no telling what may happen, but the ground work is there.
Similarly Stark clashes with Doctor Doom a lot, though Doom is more famous as the main enemy of the Fantastic Four.
Stark's other main enemies are all decidedly second-tier: there is The Maggia, an analogue of the Mafia, there is AIM, Advanced Idea Mechanics, essentially a cult of super-scientist types who want to rule the world thru evil technology. And there are the corporate threats; Obedia Stane, and Justin Hammer, who want to take over Tony's business empire and make weapons based on his inventions. Those two guys in various combinations bankroll dozens of low-level costumed crazies to take on Tony with various themed techno-gear.
That's really all you need to know out of 40-some years of the title. The best things in the comic were barely touched on in the movies. In the comics, Tony has a prediliction to being an alcoholic, but is quite functional. Then one day the worst happens.
One of a long series of plots by Stane actually succeeds at one point: while Iron man, as Stark Industries' international goodwill ambassador, is visiting a foreign dignitary at a public event, the bad guys find a way to secretly hack the armor's controls, and make it look like Tony has shot the foreign leader thru the chest, killing him instantly and publicly. In the wake of the "accident" public opinion of Stark, his company, and Iron Man plummets and he is publicly shunned. Stark finds his empty lifestyle has him ill-prepared for this pariah existence, and it is then that he crawls into a bottle, loses his grip on his company, becomes too unstable and unreliable to be Iron Man as well. He loses everything, Stane takes over the company, His buddy from 'nam, Jim Rhodes, takes over being Iron Man, Stark is a penniless bum on the streets for most of a year's worth of issues. His comeback is slow and dramatically very satisfying. Downey Junior could have done amazing things with this arc, but the movie format would have required splitting that idea over two movies and that was not what the marketing people wanted to do. Far easier to re-hash the origin story which is very stand-alone, and maybe do a battle royale against a big heavy like the Mandarin.
The better story, battling your inner demons, doesn't sell happy meals as well.
Wow, the fall of Tony Stark and his alcoholism would be a great a story line. It's probably a more mature concept than any studio would be willing to invest $200 million dollars for their summer tentpole picture, and I don't really see Robert Downey Jr sticking around for a 4th film. But maybe it will get a complete reboot in 5 years or so. Hey, it's happening to Spiderman! So long Tobey!
I *liked* Tobey's work. The first Spiderman movie I thought was perfect, except for the organic web shooters. The second movie's biggest faults were things imposed on the script and director by the studio, but it was still a decent flick.
I don't think anyone has topped Donner and Reeves' take on Superman yet, and I think the Tobey Spiderman will be similarly hard to top.
[Mark Suszko] "I *liked* Tobey's work. The first Spiderman movie I thought was perfect, except for the organic web shooters."
TMac was fine by me too...but by the time of the 3rd movie, he was literally old enough to be Spiderman's FATHER. Peter Parker was in HIGH SCHOOL...which was indeed the setting of the first movie, but wow, these were the oldest high schoolers since 21 Jump St. Look at Justin Bieber - he's 16. The hair notwithstanding, THAT's what a teenager looks like.
The thing I hate about so many of these reboots is that they're origin stories. The movies bear too much weight, and the stories run out of gas too fast because you can't get far from a standing start. And besides, I know the origins! Give me something new!
The exceptions for me are Iron Man, but that was as much for Downey as anything else, and the Abrams Star Trek, which blew me away.
Anyway, I'm not going to sign off on any Spiderman reboot that doesn't have someone who looks a lot, lot younger than Tobey did in even the first one. He was 24 for pete's sake, and looked very nearly his age.
Hey, and easy to forget: Christopher Reeve was 24 for the first Superman. Watch it again - he really does look that young....which is very, very different from looking that OLD.
(For what little it's worth, that's a textbook example of a bloated, slow-moving origin story to me. A few flashes with his parents were fine, but otherwise, wow. Get me to the sequel, STAT.)
But the Spiderman reboot has non-CG front flips into pickup trucks!
And Spidey with a backpack!
I wouldn't go as far as to say Tobey MacGuire did a bad job in the Spiderman movies, but I am of the opinion that he didn't do anything I would consider special, either. You could have subbed in Jake Gyllenhaul, that one kid from Almost Famous, or even (shutters) Zac Effron, and I think you would have gotten a very similar performance.
At least the new guy, Andrew Garfield, showed us he has some acting ability in The Social Network. Even if he is about to play a 27 year old high schooler...
[Scott Roberts] "You could have subbed in Jake Gyllenhaul, that one kid from Almost Famous, or even (shutters) Zac Effron"
Maybe it's because I was once a teenager from New York, but the MOST interesting thing to me about Spiderman was that he was in high school in Brooklyn. It explains his exuberance, maybe the one and only superhero to take true, true joy in his new powers.
Did Superman think his powers were "cool"? No. None of them did. The one possible exception is the rubbery guy in Fantastic Four, but otherwise, powers have often been the cause for existential crisis if not agony. The kids in X-men were overt sad sacks.
Now that I think about it, in addition to his age, I never felt that Tobey's Peter was giddy, over-the-top exploding with delight. THAT's what I want from the new Spiderman. If they give me somebody who looks like a kid and ACTS as happy as only a kid can, then they've got something. Otherwise, whatever dude.
Bonus points if they can give him the distinctly New York flavor of the comics, which of course is entirely lacking from Spiderman movie 1.0.
Spiderman was a breakthru comic in that it was considered by many the first one where the hero's secret mundane identity was the same as the readership: teenagers facing their typical existential crises, romances and relationships and finding or making their own place in the world. Also that every day, Parker has to make choices because being Spidey generally is a curse to being a successful Parker. Before this title, most supers with dual identities had relatively easy and boring lives off the clock, as millionaires or what-have-you.
So yeah, Tim, I get what you're driving at about expressing the simple joy of discovery when a normal nerdy kid comes into Godlike powers. And Brooklynites, especially as depicted in Marvel titles, are portrayed as very extroverted and practical people, world-wise yet personally optimistic and purposeful. Look at Ben Grim's The Thing, or Matt Murdock's Daredevil, (though he's from Hell's Kitchen, the attitude is similar).
As far as Effron, you might want to check him out in the 2008 movie "Me and Orson Welles". I really enjoyed that little movie, and Effron's ingenue character demonstrated that sort of Brooklyn bravado and "moxie". The guy that played Welles was fantastic in it.
I like Efron too, but I think that at 23 and looking more mature than that, his window has closed for ME on Spiderman. He's getting into Tobey territory. If I'd heard that he was going to do the part 4 or 5 years ago, I'd have been happy to hear it. He was good enough to carry a major motion picture, for sure. (Still is, but still....) This is one reason I'll be fine with an unknown.
Okay, I took a break this afternoon to see Green Hornet. A couple of observations:
1) Best live-action non-Avatar 3D ever, period. Fantastic. The visual sensibility of Michel Gondry was definitely at work *in 3D.* He has said that he wasn't willing to shoot in 3D because it didn't give him enough flexibility in post. I'm on board.
This actually confirms a thesis I've had for a long time. Just as in-camera looks are good things...but introduce limits that filmmakers are increasingly less willing to live with....I think that we're going to see MORE post-processed 3D. And if it's this good, I don't care if anyone shoots in 3D again. The object is to get the best result. This did.
And hey, as people find the way to combine the best of both, that's cool too. But enough of the idolatry of in-camera effects only. You don't see 2D movies that way - EVER. Even the most straightforward narrative piece is chockablock with post-camera work.
2) To flesh out my thesis about origin stories: all of them are anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour too long. Zero exceptions for me. Toooooooo looooooong. This isn't a matter of attention span. I own more long movies than short ones, but jeez louise, this thing was going on forever.
2)a) Sequels are often even more overstuffed - multiple villains (looking at you, Batman: Heath Ledger's Joker was all you needed), more noise than the first, and more noise than needed for the story (looking at you Iron Man), and generally suffocating under the weight of the oppressive weight of the first.
3) Rogen was the problem to me...although he's on the verge of Jack Black-ing for me, that is, not doing enough to stretch his persona. There are certainly plenty of successful players who never did (looking at you, Groucho) - but I know he's capable of more.
I found that the problem is that I'm too old for the general sensibility of the movie - how mean the two main characters were too each, demeaning and sexist nonsense, and while I get that the man behind the mask was supposed to be an immature lout, it all would have worked fine for me if there had been 30% less movie to fill.
Because the 3D was great.
3)a) Enough with the subtle 3D already. This hyper-sensitivity to keeping things inside the screen has got to go. I'm absolutely convinced that one thing getting on people's nerves is that it's like watching a diorama. I want stuff jumping out of the screen, dagnabbit.
3)b) That said, Price Waterhouse Coopers just published a study: up to 70% of box office revenue is coming from 3D screens. Since there's only a $2-4 upcharge on a $7-10 ticket, the money points to 3D actually putting a lot of new people into the seats. I don't care what you think about it being a fad, and neither do the people making movies, and at least for the forseeable future, neither do enough people going to movies.
I think it's like privacy concerns and Facebook: lots of punditry energy being expended, but after all the yapping, growth is growth. Get used to it. Better still, start making money from it.
3)c) The highest percentage of 3D ticketbuyers for any movie in 2010: Step Up 3D. Turns out that nothing else was even all that close, including Avatar. (Although I suspect that if the nearly 2 weeks at the end of 2009 were included, it would have been a lot closer.)
3)d) Turns out that the US is lagging behind in 3D adoption. You'd probably never guess it from all the yapping...which once again is simply wrong. We're a little ahead of Russia, anyway. But just a little. The race is on!
Anyway, the bottom line for me is that Green Hornet took enough wind out of my sails that I'm probably not going to see another movie in a theater before Harry Potter....in 3D...even having bought tickets for King's Speech already. Curse you, Fandango!
Okay, back to work for me....
I forgot to mention the 3D earlier, I thought Green Hornet had great 3D as well. At least in the action scenes. I realize I'm probably a sucker for the 3D and I barely even recognize I'm that way. If I go to the theater, and a movie is in 3D, my brain usually says "OK, well if you don't pay the $3 extra charge see this in 3D right now, they surely won't release it in 3D on Blu-ray, so you'll NEVER be able to see it in 3D!" I didn't really think I was a sucker like this, but then I thought about it, and the however many (6? 7?) films that have had the option for 3D last year, I've 100% of the time paid the extra $3, haha. Whatever, it's $3.
But yeah, I thought the action scenes, and there were plenty of them, looked great in 3D.
But after reading what you wrote, Tim, I'm just going to make the assumption that basically this entire film's overall likability rides on whether or not you like Seth Rogen. And not just the acting, because he wrote it as well, so also the dialogue. I happen to understand and relate to the mean-spirited buddy relationships that occur in things like this. I definitely find that kind of almost sadistically loyal bond that show up in probably all of Seth Rogen's films, and in shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to be hilarious. But that's just me. It's like no matter how big a jerk you are to your friends, you know in the end they still have your back (for some reason). It's charming in an evil kind of way. Mean spirited friendship films have almost become a genre since Judd Apatow became relevant.
I liked The Green Hornet, didn't love it, but I will agree they could have (and should have) lopped 20-25 minutes off of its total running time.
[Tim Wilson] "This hyper-sensitivity to keeping things inside the screen has got to go. I'm absolutely convinced that one thing getting on people's nerves is that it's like watching a diorama. I want stuff jumping out of the screen, dagnabbit."
I thought the best 3D parts of Avatar were the "Viewmaster" like diorama-ness. If I want stuff jumping out of the screen (ie, Bug's Life and Muppetvision at Disney MGM Studios) I will see an animated feature. What I liked about Avatar 3D is that it did not call attention to itself. 3D that pops out of the screen is saying "hey, look what we can do (ie, Jar Jar - not 3d but same concept).
That being said, there have been much better Jar Jars since and likely 3d will get better over time - probably quickly.
I saw Tron in 3d and didn't really notice the 3D per se.
Reading posts from Tim and Mark and Scott - I feel I am falling behind in my movie viewing. I resolve in 2011 to see at least 1 movie theater movie per month - 3D or even 2D!
Late to the party, I finally redboxed green Hornet this past weekend.
It wasn't worth the wait. Holy (redacted), I had no idea I was watching a Michel Gondry movie. I couldn't find anything of him in this.
The pacing was glacial. The film was all about the car and the special effects. The plot was poor, and that's saying something because every comic origin story should be a slam-dunk. Kato was okay, but playing up how useless Britt actually is hurt the movie. If you dig, you'll find stuff that describes Britt and the Hornet as genetic descendents (great nephew) of The Lone Ranger. None of that is in here. The plot goes out of the way to make Reid's publisher father into an unsympathetic figure. My take is that this is a corrolary to the Disney orphan formula, where two normal and alive parents are exceptionally rare, and the kids almost always are orphans or have only a single parent. Here I'm taking the theory out on a limb, but the youth audiences Rogan plays to I think are mostly children of divorce and single-parent families, over-indulged in material wealth but poor in terms of quality relationship time... and Rogan allows his Britt Reid charcterization to stand-in for all the messed-up rebellious kids who themselves have complicated or broken parental relationships and thus by extension with all authority figures and the "adult world". Britt is adrift and without responsibility, without direction or motivation (outside of hedonistic self enjoyment) taken care of by his dad's wealth, couch surfing in his dad's Estate garage, care-free, until he decides to do something "adult" by his warped world view, and take a stand against crime, as a way of getting back at his father for witholding love, rather than for the sake of stopping crime itself.
And that's our hour for today, let's pick it up again next week, shall we?
Anyhow, I think by trying to make a counterculture film out of Hornet, and mocking it's origins, The script set up the movie to fail, because an audience likes to have relatable heroes being actually heroic. In this case, Rogan and Jay Chou are really just Harold and Kumar, not Batman and Robin. Their motivations for their quest are muddled and immature and thus the stakes for failure or success are irrelvant.
This is the first Gondry film I didn't like. As I said earlier, I can't find his voice anywhere in this film. Maybe he sweded himself and sent a look-alike to the set to direct this.
This is what can potentially happen when an artsy director goes mainstream. Let us discuss:
While "Be Kind Rewind" had Jack Black, it was basically an indy film. And Jack Black ain't what he used to be.
While "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" had Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, it was still not really a mainstream movie. It was good and clearly the director had more control over the final product.
District 9 was an independent movie with an artistic director. Just because Peter Jackson was the producer and it was a commercial success does not mean it was a mainstream movie. It certainly changed the look and feel of future mainstream science fiction/action movies. It will be interesting to see if Neill Blomkamp's next sci-fi mainstream movie is any good or if the studio will ruin it. Sharlto Copley will be 2nd banana to Matt Damon in Elysium. Matt Damon does not make bad movies if he can help it (and he can help it). Nor does Jodie Foster. I have high hopes.
Spike Jonze is another artistic director (do not think that I am calling mainstream directors non-artistic. I mean directors who got into directing after doing art direction or simply art projects - yes this is oversimplifying things). Being John Malkovich was brilliant, essentially an indy film. Adaptation was also good, with bigger name stars and some Oscars - however few people had heard of the movie when it won these awards.
Where the Wild Things Are was already established and well loved material - part of pop culture really - and interpreted in an unusual visually interesting way. The result was a fairly unwatchable movie - likely very scary for the intended audience of 5-12 year olds. I slogged through the movie and it was depressing to watch. Perhaps that was the intent (child escapes tumultuous reality for fantasy world that is also tumultuous), but it was promoted as a nice family movie. Was that the studio's influence? I think Jonze did a decent job in making a 15 page picture book into a movie, but it was an indy movie in that the story, emotional toll on the audience and themes were not what was advertised. So Jonze does not yet have a Green Hornet on his resume.
[Mike Cohen] "Peter Jackson was the producer and it was a commercial success does not mean it was a mainstream movie."
Actually, Peter Jackson is one of my favorite examples of an arty director going mainstream. Check out Heavenly Creatures: grossed $3m on a $5m production budget. (Oops.) The Frighteners was certainly a move to the mainstream, with a gross of $16m and change. (Oops.)
I still have no idea how he got the LOTR job, but the very picture of Serendipity.
And we have Joseph Kosinski moving from spots to Tron. I wrote about it here back in 2009, when we first learned he got the job. Definitely artsy, and I think that's WHY he got the job as a first-time feature.
Just viewed the RedBoxed Green Hornet. No point in starting a new thread.
I liked the movie - good action, cool gadgets, and Seth Rogen, while not as funny as when he was less skinny, was a decent character. He admitted that he was a loser who didn't know what he was doing - in other words he was playing Seth Rogen.
I will say the movie seemed too long. And as soon as Cameron Diaz appeared I thought about stopping. While she is good at playing the ditzy blond who sometimes is not so ditzy, it gets old. She and Jennifer Aniston should make a movie together in which neither of them play their usual roles.
Similarities to Iron Man (rich heir uses his inherited wealth for good and has a hot blond assistant, and the Dark Knight (Morgan Freeman and Edward Olmos play similar characters) and obviously Batman also uses his father's money to do good things, and is also hunted by the police.
But perhaps those similarities are in the comics too. If there are no Wookies, I generally don't read comics :)
Anyway, just a quick note. Gotta hit the hay.