Me, Myself and The Avengers

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be less personal as possible. Well, I know that when it comes to film I can get very personal, but I just wanted it to be a place where I could write and share my thoughts without being strictly academic (for those of you who haven’t realized it yet, I’m a film scholar). And where I could virtually meet people who wanted to do the same.

Last night I saw The Avengers (yes, Americans: it has been released in Italy one week before the States!!! Yay for Italian distribution! BTW, this doesn’t make up for all the other very disappointing cases). I obviously have to write something, not only because I’ve been waiting for this films for years, but above all because it is a great movie, definitely worthy. So here I am, in front of this blank page, thinking about the right and catchy way to start the post. But the only thing that comes to my mind right now, is very personal. So I have to give up my initial resolution.
Few days ago, one of the most important persons in my life suddenly passed away. It was a shock, and I literally couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. I know that shit happens, but it hurts all the same: I’ve never experienced such a pain. Then, friends reminded me that The Avengers, the film we’ve been dreaming about since we were kids, was about to be released. Firstly, I decided not to go for the moment. But then I thought: this has to be overcome, somehow. So I resolved that going to see The Avengers could be a good start.
I was right. The Avengers did what film are meant for: it entertained me and it took me out of the real world for 140 minutes. It made me laugh and it made me enjoy time out of the bed. It just brought me back to life. The pain is still here and always will, I think. But at least I was reminded that there still can be good moments in life.
As for the movie itself… Yeah, that was freaking awesome! Joss Whedon perfectly managed a very complex multistrand narration, equally distributing time and space to all of the different leading characters. Leading characters who, actually, were also supporting one another.
Guys, hurry up and go see what entertainment is really about! 

The Running Man

I was thinking about Jack Bauer Kiefer Sutherland. Have you noticed? He’s actually not Kiefer anymore – he’s just… Jack Bauer. All the times. Take The Confession, the webseries streamed on Hulu. Sutherland plays a nameless killer, a hitman who murders in cold blood and then goes to a priest to confess his sins. Well, he’s just Jack Bauer gone completely bad. Not that Jack Bauer was a saint. Au contraire. That’s why the connection is easy.
Now, take Tim Kring’s new series, Touch. Kiefer plays a single father (Martin Bohm) who, after the death of his wife on 9/11, has to deal with a “weird” son. Given the kind of spiritual premise that we are all interconnected in this world, that little kid uses math and numbers to find these connections. It’s up to Martin, then, looking for the people whose life are destined to “touch”, to impact on each other in an unpredictable chain of events. Matin Bohn is no hero, he’s just an average man who finds himself stuck in an extraordinary situation. Yet, I keep on seeing Jack Bauer. Especially because he can spend an entire episode running from one place to another with a cell phone in his hand, not really sure where he’s going to end up to. But I also must admit that it hurts when people treat him bad or punch him and he doesn’t react like he should. C’mon Martin, we all know that there’s a little Jack Bauer in you! Anyway, this is not my point. My point is: Jack Bauer lives. No matter who Kiefer Sutherland is going to play: agent Bauer is one of the strongest characters in the history of TV. He’s an icon, he’s pop culture. And if you cast Kiefer Sutherland and make him run, talk to the cell phone and chase people… Well, you don’t need to put a gun in his hand and another terrorist threat in the world to remind us of the 24 world. That’s the power of very good shows and their franchise.

By the way, I really like Touch so far. I find it gripping and fascinating… Though I’m a little afraid of the Heroes‘ effect. I mean, Tim Kring is the creator and we all know how it ended up with Heroes: great first season, then just too much mess.
Let’s just wait, hope and see.

A Song of Ice and Fire

(FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ONLY SEEN THE SERIES OR READ SOME OF THE BOOKS, I WILL TRY NOT TO SPOIL ANYTHING IMPORTANT THROUGHOUT THE POST, BUT I CAN’T GUARANTEE ON WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WRITE IN THEIR COMMENTS!)

Last night I watched Disney’s The Sword in Stone. It’s a classic, so I’m taking for granted that all of you saw it too. Do you remember when Arthur takes out the sword from the stone, his master bows to him and then says to his son: “Bow to your king”? Well, what I thought in that moment was: if we were in Westeros, Arthut would be dead in 5 years. It just takes someone like a eunuch in silk slippers, a Lannister in golden gown or a turncloak ward. Here’s what George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire does to you. Then I also watched Camelot‘s pilot, but that’s another story.
As you could tell, I’ve just finished the last book available, A Dance With Dragons. Actually, I must say that I’m really disappointed. Not only because of the awful ending, but above all because after a sort of preparatory book like A Feast For Crows, where nothing really happens, you expect a huge blow on the following chapter. Nothing like this. Everything that really happens could have been told in 200 pages, instead of 800… Seriously Mr. Martin, do your editors pay you per page like in the 19th century? Do we really need to know the deatils of every meal? Do we really need to read every character’s thoughts, even if they’re just about taking a piss or not? I swore I wouldn’t spoil anything important, but let me also ask you this: why do you hate us, Mr. Martin?
That being said, aside from a huge amount of useless and totally uninteresting pages in the last two books, the saga is just awesome, as you may have noticed from HBO’s A Game of Thrones. The first three books (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords) are mind-gripping, breath-taking and every other absolutely cool adjective you can add to the list. They just surprise you every time you turn the page. So I’m really hopeful and enthusiastic about HBO’s series: first season was just perfect. I think that second, third and fourth (the third book is going to be split up in two seasons) will be on the same page. As for the other books remaining… Mr. Martin, here’s your chance to make things right. I’m not suggesting to change the story. But I’m sure that nobody is going to let you write a one hour episode about Cersei’s breakfast. That’s why, Mr. Bienoff and Mr. Weiss, we also rely on you and your cinematic wisdom: Winter has come. Don’t let us freeze.

Counting Money With AMC

I’ve seen the first three episodes of AMC’s Hell on Wheels, and I guess it’s time to say something about it. Firstly, I think that Mr. Durant is Michel Platini’s doppelgänger. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of western flicks so, whenever I see a cowboy moving in slow motion on a desert environment, it’s usually love at first sight. Weird thing about Hell on Wheels is that the leading cowboy, Mr. Superhot Bonhannon, moves in slow motion even when the rest of the world (his long coat included) doesn’t. Interesting.
Anyway, it’s good. But not really as great as I expected. So far I found it a little bit confused. The storylines are fascinating, but I feel like the writers don’t really know where they want to end up to. The focus shifts too quickly from one storyline to another , leaving behind blind spots and unsolved issues. Actually it seemed things were getting better on the third episodes, so I’m still full of hopes.
Now, let’s talk about AMC. Hell on Wheels is another high budget series, where technical proficiency has a first line spot. Just like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead. Partially Rubicon and The Killing too, but in those cases the plot ruled more than everything else. Though we all now how it ended up with Rubicon… And how I hope it’s going to end up with The Killing if they don’t tell who the hell killed Rosie Larson! That being said, let’s go back to the point. Can AMC really afford another series like these? I mean, yes, it’s basic ad-supported cable, so they kind of have the money to do it. But not to exaggerate because, after all, it’s not premium. I think we’ve all heard about the latest issues with the channel’s executive producers struggling against budget cuts. Matthew Weiner “won” two more seasons for Mad Men. Vince Gilligan ended Breaking Bad without any cut, threatening to move the show to another network. Frank Darabont got fired. I’ve been doing some researches (just to be clear: I don’t usually analyze networks’ revenues in my spare time. I did it because I’m writing my thesis about TV Series economics) and I found out that AMC original programming budget went from 123.3 million dollars in 2006 to 174.5 millions in 2011. And that was a bet already five years ago.

Dear AMC,

I appreciate every new series you bring us. But you should know that I usually grow really fond of those series, so it’s really annoying when you try to cut their budget or you fire an awesome executive producer AFTER LETTING THE WORLD HAVING FUN WITH HIM AT  2011 COMIC CON!
So, dear AMC, please try to behave. How about not adding anymore new series for a while, but taking really good care of the ones you already have?

Thanks.

Let’s Talk About Terra Nova

Two posts ago, I tried to behave. I turned my disappointment about Terra Nova into a praise of what I consider one of the best movie ever: Jurassic Park. Now, after 3 episodes, I think the time has come for some remarks. I actually hate to list all the flaws of a series, ’cause sometimes I feel like The Simpson‘s Comic Book Guy and I just want to say to myself: Jeez, get a life! Anyway, I just can’t refrain:

– Worst CGI ever. Seriously Fox? Ok, nevermind Fox. Seriously Mr. Spielberg?! Do you really want your name to be linked up to those “dinosaurs” and those faker than fake backgrounds?! I can’t believe it.
– Episode 1. how did the father went through the security checks when his family is going to Terra Nova? I mean, he joins them while they’re in line already, carrying a kid in his backpack. The security guards that checked everyone else’s super-reliable and super-cool digital ID must have been asleep when it came to him. Or on a coffee break. Or… Oh, right: The answer is sy-fy… :S
– Episode 2. I confess: I wanted the son dead (I don’t remember the names). C’mon you idiot, what did you expect? You go out in the jungle with a hip girl you just met… In Jurassic times… You deserve to be eaten by a dinosaur!
– The “Sixers”: dear Lost writers, please, report the Terra Nova guys. This is plagiarism! The Sixers are The Others!
– Episode 3. First of all: what’s with the X-Men Uniforms? Second: the tough guys find two dead bodies in the jungle. And obviously they ask themselves: “What the hell killed them?”. Uhm. That one is difficult… You’re in a jungle, in the middle of the Jurassic Era, so I’d go for… The Smoke Monster! No? Alright, then… Predator! Yeah, could be… Or perhaps… Wait, I got it: DINOSAURS!!! Yes, I’m a fucking genius.

The Comic Book Guy would say that this is the worst series ever. I won’t say it, just because “ever” is not over yet. And also because it could become one of those bad but laughable shows that allows you to write funny posts on your blog.

Drive (2011)

Everybody says that this is the best movie of the year. I haven’t seen A Dangerous Method yet (Cronenberg + Mortensen + Fassbender + Knightley + Jung + Freud + Folly… If it’s not one of the best movie ever, I’ll be very disappointed), but I can say that I do agree with the rest of the world. Not because of Ryan Gosling exceedingly hot masculinity, but because of the entire film.
Drive is about this unnamed, very skilled stunt and occasionally getaway driver. One day, he meets his neighbor Irene, a girl with a kid and a husband in prison. He’s usually a very solitary man, but he happens to like them both, so he takes them for a drive… Which is his best way of showing that he likes them both. But the girl’s husband, Standard, comes home from prison and one of his old enemies threatens him and his family. Concerned for Irene and the kid, the driver agrees to help Standard rob a pawn shop, so he can pay his debts and hopefully free himself and his family from mobsters. But things get bad. Very bad. (The plot is not just that, there’s actually a lot more going on. But I’m not good at this cuz I usually give away too much… So, just go and see the movie).
It’s amazing how this movie conveys action movie feelings without being exactly an action movie. Of course there are some action scenes, but silence rules. And maybe that’s why we get the feeling that every thing it’s amplified: speed-ups, slowing downs, gun shots… In a silent world, when something breaks, you can’t help but hear it. Throughout the entire movie, it’s like we live inside the driver’s head. He’s a very solitary and silent man, and so is the film. Electronic music is constantly playing, like in a radio car, so we actually got the feeling that we’re in his car. Still, despite the music, silence is overwhelming all the time… Except when violence breaks it. The pace is very slow, except when the driver enters his car and shuts the rest outside: then his world and the movie speed up and, as I said before, everything gets amplified. Los Angeles by night is such an evocative setting: in a city where everybody drives, it’s like there is only one driver out there this time. Do you remember Michael Mann’s Collateral,  the scene where the taxi meet a wandering coyote at a crossroad? Well, our driver reminded me of that coyote.

Long story short: A MUST-SEE.