Naturally, at the end of Iron Man 3 (and, yes, I'm talking about the end right off the bat, so maybe the spoiler-phobic should go look at Gwyneth Paltrow's ridiculous premiere dress instead), the bad guy gets beaned over the head by a super-powered being who just survived a 20-story drop and is pissed off at the baddie for blowing up everything in the known universe. No, that being is not Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, it is Gwyneth Paltrow as his silly assistant Pepper Potts. Thank god, the Marvel movie universe finally has a girl with powers!
Yes, one of the cooler things about this movie was seeing Paltrow with a super power other than her own conviction that she's living the best life in the whole world. In fact, her role might even make you not hate her. The world that Marvel studios has been creating with their movies based on The Avengers franchise has man things – aliens with magic hammers, a super soldier who was frozen in time, a green monstrosity you won't like when he's angry – but there is one thing it's short on: women. Sure, there is Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, but her only power seems to be not sweating that much while wearing a red wig. Now, finally, there is some real girl power (or girls with powers) in these movies.
But the problem is that Marvel took them all away. At the end of the movie, Tony Stark, Downey Jr's character, said that he would fix Pepper's power problem and she will presumably go back to being the CEO of Stark Enterprises. One of this great movie's few problems is we don't know how the Extremis chemical — which is what gave Gwynnie her ability to regenerate limbs, invulnerability, super strength, and possibly the ability to breathe fire — really works. The rules seem sketchy. It is fine in some people and not in others, and it is life threatening but only in certain vague circumstances that seem to serve the plot more than logic. Was this just so they could erase the traces of her powers like Britney Spears did with her bad Vegas wedding?
Marvel really missed a huge opportunity here to create a great character, and one that is native to the movies. While watching Pepper bash the bad guy, she looked just like She-Hulk from the comics (and if anyone on earth has a superhuman body, it's Gwyneth Paltrow!) and I thought about how cool that would be. Wouldn't she be a great Avenger — a reluctant hero who was trust into a position to do right in the world even though she'd rather be playing house with Tony Stark. That seems facinating.
Also, these movies could use some women who do something other than get themselves in trouble and then kiss the hero when he saves the day. The Avengers comic books have more and more badass ladies among their ranks. While it's rumored that the Scarlet Witch will be joining Avengers 2, couldn't we bring Pepper Potts along for the ride?
But no. Her powers were "fixed," so her saving the day isn't a matter of a equality, it's just a cheap novelty to wrap up a damsel in distress storyline in an interesting way. Yes, it's subversive to have the "girl" save the day once, but what would be really subversive would be having her kicking ass and taking names all the time. Sure, it would have been expensive to bring Gwyneth along for the rest of the movies, but Marvel really dropped the ball on this one. The only fix to a woman with powers is to create even more of them.
Follow Brian Moylan on Facebook and Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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There's a moment in the new time travel movie Looper where Bruce Willis as Joe is explaining to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, also Joe (but wearing more makeup), just how time travel works. Joe tells Joe, "If we start talking about [time travel] now we'll be here all day making diagrams with straws." It's true, watching this movie has more twists and broken threads that watching it is like looking at a bowl of spaghetti. That, right there, is why I hate time travel, or at least the brand of convoluted cause and effect narrative structure that has been unleashed on the world of sci-fi and pop culture in recent entertainment. (Oh, and that bit about Looper above wasn't really a spoiler, but there are going to be some spoilers of that and other movies in this piece so if you're especially sensitive go back in time before you clicked on this link and don't click on it. Or hit the back button. Same deal.)
It's almost impossible to even talk about time travel. In Looper, there is Old Joe and Young Joe, and the real future and the fake future where something else happens, and an alternative timeline, and that space where these things occurred but then they didn't, and an erased future and a rewritten past, It is just enough to make the inside of your skull itch for about seven years, or maybe only seven seconds, since time doesn't really mean anything anymore.
I didn't always have this problem with time travel. HG Wells The Time Machine, the grandfather of the genre, was always one of my favorites as a teen. Maybe because of its simple logic, a Victoria man goes to the future, his time machine breaks and he is stuck there. No back and forth, no talk of the "time stream," no cause and effect, just a nice simple allegory of what life will be like if we continue to live in a strict class structure. Back to the Future, which I saw in the theater when I was knee high to a flux capacitor, wasn't nearly as high brow but was simple fun. Marty McFly goes back in time to when his mother and father met in high school and he has to make sure they still get together so that he and his siblings are born. The only complication was when his mother fell for him (gross!) and he and his siblings started to disappear in a photo.
Even in that movie, if you think about the plot for more than the duration of a Huey Lewis song, it starts to break down. When Marty tracks down the scientist who souped up a DeLorean to zip through time, does that mean he himself invent time travel by telling the past self of the professor that he is, actually, going to invent time travel? And does the future professor always know that he is going to meet a teen named Marty and have to send him back in time since he met Marty when he was a young man? And if Marty goes back to the past from the present and makes sure his parents got together, did he always get his parents together or is that something that happened only now once the present is the future and the past is the present and the future is uncertain? Trying to figure it out is like trying to take off your belt using only your mouth, something you could probably accomplish after much pain and difficulty but way too much work to really bother with.
Things have gotten even worse, from Lost bounding around from present to past to being stuck in 1972 to the complete insanity of the X-Men comics which now regularly feature at least three different characters from three different future time lines that may or may not exist anymore and all of them trying to prevent their future from happening (wouldn't that erase them altogether?) And none of these are ever suitably explained. The worst in recent memory, as far as I'm concerned, was the time-bending in JJ Abrams new version of Star Trek. In it Leonard Nimoy's Spock goes back in time with the bad guy who then destroys his home planet. He meets up with the old version of himself and his friends on the USS Enterprise to stop the baddie but gets stuck in what he considers the past. But now won't current Spock always know what is going to happen to him? What if, knowing that this bad guy will rope him back into the past in the future prevent him from getting close to the bad guy? Can't this all change? How is this even all possible.
Some say that this was done so that future Star Trek movies won't be cast into doubt because they are now operating in a "different timeline" than the original series, so they can never contradict themselves. I say: who cares! If you can't figure out that the Star Trek we are watching now is different from the Star Trek show then you are such an idiot that you won't be able to untangle all this E=MC Squared nonsense anyway. We know that James Bond has been played by different actors, but we don't ever need to explain why the guy's face changes, because we are intelligent adult humans and we know that, sometimes, a character can be played by more than one actor. We can also ascertain that the Star Trek movie can be different from the Star Trek show. The kind of quibbling fans who care so much about that integrity and continuity of the franchise are such a small percentage of your box office that trying to please them is a fool's game. Those who are going to make this a blockbuster don't care about this stuff. But to please the convention going, costume-wearing, Klingon-speaking few, the movie depends on some sort of half thought out time travel logic that will confuse more people than the answer soothes.
My other huge problem with time travel is that it is just lazy. Asking "why" is met with an answer that sounds right out of a Ryan Lochte interview, "It is different because time travel!" It just opens so many doors that don't deserve to be opened. If a movie (or show or comic or whatever) wants to prevent something from happening, just send someone back in time to stop it. If you want someone to have a change of heart, just send them to the future. If anything can be erased or changed or manipulated by time travel, it means that no action has an equal and opposite reaction. It means that nothing at all matters because it can all be changed by magic and never fully explained by something other than, "Oh, it's time travel." No wonder time travel makes people on Lost bleed from the nose, because I have the same reaction trying to make all this stuff make sense.
The logic behind turning back the clock is always a problem because not only is it something that the human mind isn't meant to comprehend, but so many movies don't even bother to fill in all the narrative gaps to make soaring through the ages seamless. The worst, by far, is Looper. Not only is there the scene between both Old and New Joe, but at one point Jeff Daniels, playing a mobster sent from the future, tells New Joe, "This time travel shit just fries your brain." He's right, and the movie is not at all interested in trying to explain its logic or trying to turn down the heat on the skillet that is currently frying the brain. This is your brain (shows an egg). This is your brain on time travel (cracks egg puts it in skillet). Any questions? Yes! I have a million questions. Answer them please.
It's not that I need some sort of linear narrative or simplistic storytelling. Everything from Roshomon to Memento to Inception proves that we can go back and forth between time and place to great effect and still have a coherent narrative. But most movie's aren't as concerned with making a closed structure that makes sense to the casual viewer instead just assuming that we're going to go along with these time travel whims accepting that they make sense when they bring up even more problems than they solve. As far as I'm concerned, time travel should have no future. Or is that the past? Or is that a different future? Who cares. Just stop it.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: AP Photo; Paramount Pictures; Sony Pictures]
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It's been over three years since Chris Brown brutally assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009 and yet the 24-year-old pop star refuses to completely erase Brown from her life. She's already collaborated with him on two new singles earlier this year, which sent fans into a bitter tirade. So why does Rihanna refuse to sever the ties between her and her former beau?
In the May issue of Elle magazine, the chart-topping "We Found Love" singer finally acknowledges — and sort of explains — why she's back in contact with her ex, even after all he's put her through.
"I respect what other people have to say. The bottom line is that everyone thinks differently," Rihanna tells the mag. "It's very hard for me to accept, but I get it. People end up wasting their time on the blogs or whatever, ranting away, and that's all right. I don't hate them for it."
But Rihanna is standing firm on her decision to keep Brown in her life — and she's not going to apologize for it. "Because tomorrow I'm still going to be the same person," she explains. "I'm still going to do what I want to do."
In fact, the singer admits that she learned a lot during that dark period of her life — and she's now much stronger because of it. "It gave me guns," she says. "I was like, well, f**k. They know more about me than I want them to know. It's embarrassing. But that was my opening. That was my liberation, my moment of bring it. I wanted people to know who I am. Whatever they take that to be, good or bad, I just want them to know the truth."
And while she still remains a prominent fixture in the public eye, Rihanna feels freer than ever before. "It's like, one less skeleton in the closet, one less burden, one less secret; now you know that, so you can say what you want about it. I don't have anything to hide," she reasons.
Bottom line: everyone wants what they can't/shouldn't have, and Rihanna is no exception.
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S4E11: Of course, after I spend the past four weeks chastising The Killing -- and seriously, I did, and did -- of COURSE, this week's would be a terrific episode. But, I must say that last night's "Missing" -- which was perhaps the best episode of the series so far -- took a completely different approach to the show's typical multi-narrative style of storytelling and just focused on Holder and Linden as they searched for Jack. This allowed some space for us to get to know Holder and Linden on a deeper level, and it finally revealed some much needed information about their pasts. The added depth made the characters suddenly feel real, rather than just like caricatures, as they have for most of the season. Will it stay this way? Well, I doubt it, especially since this episode didn't necessarily reveal much regarding the Larsen murder-case, the election and the Larsen family, but it was still nice to see the show take a moment to explore the relationships it's trying to get us to care for. Maybe, if the show is renewed for a second season, we'll have more episodes like this, and less stuff like every scene that featured Ahmed Bennet.
"Did I say that Rosie Larsen was here on Friday?" -Linden
Linden starts the episode off by following up on her discovery from last week: Rosie went to the casino. She talks with the casino owners, but doesn't have much luck. They're very standoffish, which isn't surprising considering everybody's first reaction to anything or anyone else in The Killing is to be a huge dickhead. Seriously, what's the deal with this mindset? Do people in Seattle hate the police that much? It seems like every time Linden interviews somebody for the first time, they're ready to throw down and challenge her to a duel or something. Perhaps that speaks more to Linden's interviewing techniques, but still, damn. The reality is that this falls back on one of The Killing's bad storytelling habits: trying to force drama that doesn't exist. When somebody is standoffish, it makes them look a lot more guilty than if they are welcoming and understanding of the police just doing their jobs. The show loves to stand up, point and say, "Hey! Look here! Drama! Drama!!!" But, alas. I won't focus too heavily on this poor device, considering this episode was very good overall, but it needs to be noted.
Anyway, Linden asks for tapes from the casino, they refuse (and erase the tapes after 24 hours), so she has a very smart idea to check the ATM security camera tapes. She puts in the request for the warrant (which will take a day or so), and returns back to her motel to discover that Jack's cell phone is there, but there is no Jack -- and that's where the episode really begins. Holder sees her concern and drives Linden around as they check different places for her son.
"No wonder you ain't a pro at being a moms." -Holder
They continue to search, and this journey was wonderful. Despite the poor circumstances, it was really fun to see Holder and Linden's relationship develop over the course of the episode. I wouldn't call it a "bottle episode" (mainly because we ventured all over Seattle), but it was a bottle episode in the sense that we just focused on the relationship between Holder and Linden, nothing else. And as bottle episodes go, here's the typical structure: the characters start out in a fight or conflict, are forced together (or in this case, choose to be together), and out of that time, they eventually grow to have some greater understanding of one another. (For a great example, see Mad Men's "The Suitcase.") That's what happened this week. After their initial (and typical) annoyances, the two began to take comfort in one another and reveal secrets about their pasts -- secrets to both one another, and secrets to just the audience. Holder tells Linden about his addiction to meth. Linden tells Holder that she was a foster child. The audience learns about Holder's home life, his kid, his ex, and how he blows them off for Linden.
It was very interesting, mainly because we hadn't learned anything else about these characters so far this season. We needed this so badly because the show kept asking us to care about Holder and Linden, but didn't really give us much of a reason to care outside of feeling sorry for their wet, rain-soaked clothes. But as far as real character drama? There wasn't any. So, even though "Missing" didn't necessarily press the season's overarching plot forward in an obvious way, it by no means felt stagnant. In fact, I'd argue now that this episode made me more curious about the rest of the show because now, I have some emotional investment.
I realize I'm not addressing too many specifics about what exactly happened in the episode, but that's because, honestly, there wasn't really much that actually happened. But, that's not what "Missing" was for. Yes, we did have the scene where Linden thought Jack was murdered, but that was the climax of an episode full of worry, urgency and, perhaps, regret. The characters' emotions were what drove the episode, not the plot. We weren't concerned about the murder of Rosie Larsen per se, but we were concerned about what the murder had done to these characters and we finally understood why they all cared so much. If The Killing had a few more episodes like this, and a few less scenes of Bennet standing in the rain, we might be a little more concerned about the rest of the show's characters. But, for now, I can genuinely say that for the first time since about week three, I'm genuinely interested to see what happens next.