Something brilliant happened at the end of The Walking Dead’s most recent issue, #144. No, I didn’t just read it. I’m just still digesting the damn thing.
Month: July 2015
The Death of "Superman Lives"
Two of my favorite subjects for nonfiction are terrible movies which got made and good movies which were never made. I always assumed we dodged a bullet when Tim Burton’s Superman Lives was cancelled, but I was wrong… probably. After seeing the Kickstarted documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? I think Tim Burton’s Superman would have beaten Snyder’s Superman fist-over-fist. It would have certainly been better than Wild Wild West, which is where Warner Bros. shifted its money and focus after cancelling Superman Lives.
I know it’s popular today to hate the comics of the 1990s (I don’t give a shit—I still like old school Spawn), but DC’s Death of Superman would have made a pretty great movie, even if it did kind of embody what was wrong with comics of that era. I remember reading Kevin Smith’s leaked script back in the AOL days when I still thought the movie was getting made: some of the dialogue was goofy and a little long, but it was a pretty exciting read as long as you imagined Christopher Reeve in the part. According to the documentary, that’s exactly what Smith was doing when he wrote it.
Since the movie was never made, Death of “Superman Lives” shows us the ocean of concept art designed in pre-production, including some of Tim Burton’s own drawings. The important thing to remember about concept art is the final product never looks as good as the preliminary sketches, but the stuff they designed for Superman Lives looks even more fantastic than most movie art, leading one to the conclusion the movie itself could have been better than most. The variety in the aliens they designed for Brainiac’s ship was enough to convince me we missed out on something special. At one point I thought, “There’s no way they could have done all of this in one movie,” and later learned the initial budget estimate was $300 million; 1995’s Waterworld cost $175 million and was the most expensive movie up until that point. Naturally, the studio ordered cuts to the script’s more expensive elements.
Still, that they spent thirty million on a movie they would never make is a testament to Hollywood’s extreme wastefulness. It’s such a shame the movie was never made. Whether it was good or not, it would have been rebooted by now anyway.
The promotional material for the documentary has been using pictures and video of Nicolas Cage in strange variations on the Superman suit to drum up hype. During the making of Superman Returns, Bryan Singer would flash a photograph of Nicolas Cage’s Superman whenever someone complained about Brandon Routh’s look in his own film: “Look, you were going to make that at one point.” Yet the documentary makes it clear Tim Burton’s crew wasn’t taking liberties with Superman’s traditional look, but experimenting with suits he’d wear later in the movie, including a regeneration suit following his death and resurrection. Tim Burton confesses it’s the reason he’s a lot more careful today about letting pre-production material get out: artists need time to experiment behind closed doors.
I’ve wanted to see The Death of “Superman Lives” for a while now and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wouldn’t say it’s a great documentary, it does what really great documentaries do: it changes my opinion about something I felt strongly about. And yes, by that I mean I really want to see Tim Burton’s Superman Lives.
Oculus Cinema in Gear VR
I think this blog can attest to the fact I’m a movie buff. I like big images and big sound. For as long as I can remember, owning a bonafide movie theater has been on my short list of dreams. This weekend the dream came true…
I held the first Ted film at arm’s length until Flash Gordon showed up. Then I was all in. Unfortunately that’s all I remember about that movie, other than a hilarious scene involving a turd. Flash Gordon’s in this one, too, but none of his scenes are as funny as they were in the first movie, so it’s safe to say this one isn’t as good.
Oh, and I hate courtroom scenes. Ted 2 spends way too much time in court. Every single joke about a courtroom has been done to death by now and these scenes always drag on. Fuck modern movies with courtroom scenes, comedies or otherwise. They all suck.
Otherwise, Ted 2 is actually pleasant if you’re as hungover as I was when I saw it, at least when the jokes work (it’s about 50/50). Most comedy talents should stay the hell away from movies. They often see Hollywood as little more than a career move. Richard Pryor was notorious for making movies “just because,” and while he made some great ones, he made a lot more stinkers. Seth MacFarlane, on the other hand, is a good fit for movies. I think he’s genuinely trying to make good movies rather than all-out laugh-fests, which often come off as forced and desperate.
I’m also the only person I know who actually enjoyed A Million Ways to Die in the West. I think it’s criminally underrated. Everyone else seems to think I’m criminally insane. I wasn’t a MacFarlane fan before that movie. Afterwards I wanted to see him in a lot more movies. He could be like the Woody Allen of our times… his hit/miss ratio is developing about the same, anyway.
The problem with Ted 2 is we’ve seen every bit of this before: The Family Guy flashback gags, the disappointingly conventional love plot, the pointless asides—it’s becoming stale. I don’t think the problem is MacFarlane. I think the problem is he won’t be able to raise enough money to make anything else.
In the beginning of the movie, Ted marries his cashier girlfriend from the first film. Soon after, he receives a letter telling him the marriage has been nullified because he’s not legally recognized as a person. This leads to him losing his job and… ugh, this is all boring, isn’t it? You’ve seen the trailer. You already know everything you need to know.
Speaking of the trailer, it makes the movie look much worse than it actually is. Usually they show all the best parts. Ted 2’s trailer manages to show some of the worst. When Ted is asked if he believes he has a soul, he breaks out into song. It’s awful and cringe-inducing. Who honestly thought that was funny?
And when Ted and Mark Wahlberg end up in the sperm storage of a fertility bank, you’ll sigh because you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen next. I don’t have a problem with shock humor. I have a problem with boring humor. To call a semen fight “boring humor” is going too far because it still suggests there’s humor there. There’s not. Not when you see it coming from a mile away. (Uh, no pun intended.)
The best part of the franchise, other than Ted and Wahlberg’s chemistry, are the special effects. They’re so good you completely forget you’re watching a movie that has CGI in nearly every scene. It’s weird that during the two hundred million dollar Age of Ultron I was constantly wincing at the phony effects and yet Ted 2 manages to be so consistently believable, you even forget he’s a talking teddy bear. But that’s part of the problem: it’s not nearly as funny when the talking teddy bear is just another human character. There’s nothing special about it anymore.
Anyway, Ted 2 is worth watching if you’re into that kind of thing, but I wouldn’t pay for it if I were you. Not unless you’re really desperate for something new to watch. Or really, really hungover.
Netflix Pick: 13 Sins (2014)
Now this is my kind of movie… at least until it all falls apart. The more out there a concept, the harder it is to wrap it all up, so 13 Sins gets a pass. It’s all about the journey, not the lackluster destination.
13 Sins is what Phone Booth could have been had it been made by a better director. Phone Booth was more of a thriller; its visual style and mood was the epitome of what I disliked about the 2000s, my least favorite era of film. 13 Sins has a lot more horror elements (blood, desecration of bodies, and Pruit Taylor Vince, the wonderfully odd-looking character actor from Jacob’s Ladder). It’s also more proof that horror is probably coming out of the depressing rut it’s been in with ad nauseam Saw sequels and found footage.
Hitchbot comes to America!
Hitchbot, the hitchhiking robot who safely made its way across Canada with the generosity of strangers, has been in the United States for a few days now. I don’t know exactly what it is about this story that makes me so giddy and gleeful, but I love Hitchbot and the social experiment behind it. For the first time in my life, I actually want to see someone’s vacation photos.
Here’s Hitchbot’s official page. Here are detailed travel logs of its Canadian trip and its vacation in the Netherlands, both of which have plenty of photos. The following photo is one of my favorites:
#hitchbot @hitchbot arrived at Sonna Krom. She will make a nice portrait of hitchBOT today pic.twitter.com/OOgk5Z50rz
— SchaddeleeFotografie (@SchaddeleeFotog) June 16, 2015
I’m disappointed Americans are reacting so pessimistically to Hitchbot’s travels in the United States. The general consensus is the police are going to mistake Hitchbot for a bomb and shoot it or some redneck’s going to scrap it or worse. I don’t know. I have a lot more faith in Americans, but then again I’m not conditioned to live my life in fear because A) I leave the house every once and a while and have a pretty good concept of this thing called reality, and B) I haven’t been brutally murdered yet. I’m willing to bet money Hitchbot isn’t going to end up in a ditch.
*Update: goddamn it, Philadelphia.*
Seriously, though, if Obama doesn’t take time out of his schedule to meet with Hitchbot, I’m going to be pretty damn disappointed. I really want this to become a national news story everyone here is talking about.
Have no fear! I didn’t swim or short circuit, I just hitched a boat ride out of Gloucester yesterday. #hitchBOTinUSA pic.twitter.com/9fc55oH83l
— hitchBOT (@hitchBOT) July 19, 2015
Seinfeld, Witcher 3, and… well, that’s about the extent of my life lately
Since all of my old drinking buddies have been missing in action lately, I’ve been dividing my free time between writing, The Witcher 3, and Seinfeld on Hulu. Despite it being my favorite sitcom, I haven’t seen Seinfeld in over a decade. I’m surprised by what I remember, but even more surprised I forgot all about ASSMAN….
The Witcher 3 is awesome, by the way. I haven’t found the time to play it since Sunday, but it may even be my favorite single player game ever. I honestly don’t think Fallout 4 can top it. Here’s hoping Cyberpunk 2077 will.
NDT and Colbert on Pluto (video)
2 separate events: NASA and Ernest Cline are live, right now
It’s 3:41 PM, Tulsa time, and NASA is doing a live conference on New Horizons here.
Ernest Cline is doing an AMA here at /r/books and still hasn’t started answering questions yet.
I bought my copy of Armada today, but probably won’t start it until this weekend. I’m still reading Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dauntless, which is fantastic.