Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

The Not-So-Amazing Spider-Man

In theory, I don’t really have a problem with a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. It’s true that it’s only been five years since the last one ended and that the reasons for making this movie now were clearly financial, but that doesn’t doom it to creative failure. Sequels and remakes are so ubiquitous now that there’s no real point in waiting if you have a fresh take on an old idea.

The problem with The Amazing Spider-Man is that there really is no fresh take at all. The story is virtually identical to the one told in the 2002 version: Peter Parker is a nerd, then he gets bitten by a spider, then his Uncle Ben gets killed, then he fights crime, then he gets the girl, then he fights a Major Bad Guy who has endangered the girl. You could argue that there’s no way to do the story without those major beats, but this movie does absolutely nothing to enliven them. It just goes through the already-familiar motions. Continue reading

Moneyball: The Art of Filming an Unfair Game

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane

Three names go conspicuously unmentioned in the new film adaptation of Moneyball: Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder. There are two ways to react to this omission.

The first is to think that their exclusion is unacceptable for a film that purports to tell the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s. After all, the trio combined to win 57 games and pitch 675 innings to a combined 3.05 ERA that year. Zito in particular led the league in wins, en route to a Cy Young Award. Without those three, a team that won 103 games would have almost certainly missed the playoffs.

The other way to react to their absence, though, is to realize that it is entirely appropriate. Moneyball is not really a movie about the 2002 Oakland A’s—it’s a movie about Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) and his radical reinvention of the game. And it doesn’t take much reinvention to stick with a trio that was coming off a 2001 season in which they won 56 games and pitched 678 innings to a 3.43 ERA.

Continue reading

A Brief Explanation of Toilet Humor

The popularity of “toilet humor” is a commonly accepted, and often lamented, fact of comedy. Some—particularly fans of “smart” comedy—complain that a meticulously well-crafted punchline will sometimes get less of a laugh than a hackneyed fart joke.

People also tend to read a lot into the popularity of crass humor, citing it as an example of society’s declining intelligence, or its immaturity. They accuse a certain type of comedian of pandering, or doing cheap jokes.

A scene from Bridesmaids provides a perfect recent example: Nearly every review I have read of this film has specifically mentioned a scene in which the bridal party gets food poisoning—of a particularly graphic kind—while trying on dresses at a fancy bridal shop. Continue reading

Scream 4: Probably Not Your Favorite Scary Movie

Fifteen years ago, the first Scream film struck a chord with the public with its ability to knowingly comment on the very genre it occupied. When it’s done correctly, this balancing act makes a very successful movie—altogether the original Scream trilogy grossed over $500 million—but it’s very hard to do correctly. When you don’t do it correctly, you get something like Scream 4.

Scream 4 begins with a new version of the iconic phone call scene, in which a new young actress (Lucy Hale replacing Drew Barrymore*) is stalked by Ghostface over the phone. When she finally gets killed in the new film, though, the murder is laughably fake, at which point it is revealed that what we’re actually watching is the opening scene of one of the Stab sequels—the movie-franchise-within-a-movie-franchise of the Scream universe. The film then cuts to two NEW young girls watching that scene on the couch. When one of THEM dies we are revealed to be watching YET ANOTHER Stab sequel. At this point the plot of Scream 4 actually begins, but by then the reality of the film has been so undercut that there is no investment at all when the “real” characters die.  Continue reading

An Ill-Informed, Underqualified Oscar Preview

Although NPI officially endorses the new Oscar voting policy for the Best Picture award, one of the major downsides of expanding the category to 10 is that it makes it twice as hard to keep up. I have seen five of the films nominated for the Academy’s grand prize tonight; you’d think that would be enough, but it leaves me without anything to say about 50% of the nominees. I mean, who has time to see 10 movies a year? I have TV to watch…

Anyway, if the Academy thinks that not having seen most of the films up for awards tonight is going to stop me from offering predictions and analysis, they were wrong. Dead wrong. Like last year (when I was 5/8), we’re sticking with the eight major awards: Continue reading

New Year’s Eve

: any ideas?

: i just want to have fun

: stop

: i just want to have fun

: i get it

: all i want, is to have fun

: you done? happy?

: this is fun

: im sure it is

so im guessing you have no ideas

: i have no ideas

aside from the having fun part

: ok, i think i have one

: really?

: i think we should see the black swan

Continue reading

A Tribute to Leslie Nielsen

One of the painful realizations of my adolescence was that I had my father’s sense of humor. A friend’s parent confirmed it for me when I was about 14, after I made an obvious play on words. I knew from that point on that, down the road, I would be unable to resist easy puns, constant references to hilarious television scenes, and fabricated ancestries for athletes with unusual names.

But if inheriting Dad’s sense of humor was the price for early access to some of his favorite comedies, well, it’s one I’d gladly pay again. Because let me tell you: There weren’t too many other fathers who didn’t balk when their seven-year-old son watched The Simpsons and made sure that by the time he was 11 or 12 had seen Airplane! and The Naked Gun and just about the entire Mel Brooks oeuvre.* Continue reading