Want to do a simple test to see which of your friends are gigantic nerds? Post this sentence on your Facebook feed. "Michael Rooker is going to play Yondu!" Everyone who likes it is a Big Bang Theory-loving, Comic Con attending, Ain't It Cool News commenter account-having dork.
See, only those obsessed with the sort of pop culture a certain subset of the world is into would know that Michael Rooker was recently dispatched from his role as vile one-handed zombie killer Merle on The Walking Dead and that Yondu is one of the characters in Marvel's upcoming movie Guardians of the Galaxy. Now that I broke it down, that all makes much more sense, don't you think? Though it is a huge show and a big-studio movie it still doesn't really resonate though.
That's what's kind of crazy about Guardians of the Galaxy. It is the nerdiest, most niche project in the whole world. Consider this sentence from Dateline's casting announcement. "[Rooker] will play Yondu, who in Marvel lore was a game hunter of a primitive tribe native to Centauri IV, the first planet system to be colonized outside of the Sun’s solar system." What? Is that even English? I've read the past three iterations of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book and I don't even know what that means.
Yondu, however, is a really cool character. Smart and powerful, he has a giant red mohawk and is an archer. Of course. Everything has an archer in it these days. Thanks, Katniss. There's even one on Walking Dead. But does Merle's brother Daryl have arrows that return to him when he whistles? Of course not!
See, I know that and I am a class-A nerd. But what about everyone else out there in the movie-buying public? Do they want to go to see a blockbuster writen by a funny superfan based on an obscure comic starring a second-string player on a low-rated cable comedy (Chris Pratt), a WWE wrestler (Dave Bautista), and (possibly) the woman from the new Star Trek movies (Zoe Saldana)? Everything is so hyper specific to certain mass consumers of culture that it doesn't seem like it would translate to mass success. Unless Marvel is pulling the most genius move ever and every fandom (comic geeks, Parks & Recreation comedy snobs, Trekkers, Walking Dead heads, whatever WWE fans call themselves) will have a reason to show up and this thing will make $176 billion dollars. Maybe going after every single nerd in their individual fiefdom means you attract everyone on the planet.
Going geeky is the new mass audience! Get into it.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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When looking to cast a giant green alien death machine with more muscle than tolerence, the pool of actors to choose from is, well, small. It totally makes sense that Marvel Studios went to the WWE when looking for someone to play Drax the Destroyer for their upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy flick. After all those powerhouses have the muscle and they're some of the greatest soap opera actors of our time! The green stuff, well, that's what makeup is for.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel added Dave Bautista to the cast as Drax, a green ball of rage with a giant sword that is bent on destroying Thanos, the purple villain we all saw at the end of The Avengers. Well, not the end the end, the bonus ending in the credits. No, not the one where they were sitting around in the diner, the one before that. Man, these endings get so confusing.
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The only other major casting of the band of misfits trying to stop an intergalactic war is the inspired choice of Parks and Recreation's Chris Pratt as their leader Peter Quill. This seems to be another perfect choice for the part. Now, what are they going to do about Groot, the walking tree? Well, the Ents haven't been doing much since Lord of the Rings ended....
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage]
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Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.