Monday, January 27, 2014

A Birthday Wish

There have been many variations on "The Monkey's Paw" over the years, but what follows from College Humor is, objectively speaking, the greatest of these.  You can see the original page here.





Monday, January 20, 2014

Fight Club Minus Tyler Durden

Okay...maybe not because of the man boobs.
Fight Club is one of the most memorable films and influential films of the last 30 years. It holds up after repeated viewings due to its original story, social commentary, impeccable acting, and Meat Loaf's man boobs.

What makes the film hold up the most, though, is its attention to detail with regard to (spoilers!) how the other characters are prevented from ever directly interacting with the imaginary character of Tyler Durden. Richard Trammell has taken that idea one step further and prevented the audience from interacting with Tyler in the initial fist fight in the film. Check it out below!


 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Love/Hate/Try Friday

Love it: Winnie the Hulk
Don’t make Hulk bothered. You wouldn’t like Hulk when Hulk bothered

Hate it:  The forthcoming Legend of Hercules.  
Twilight Herc?  No thanks.

Try it:  Spider-Man 3
It's not as bad as you remember!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Breaking Bad meets The Wire

I loved Breaking Bad. And I loved The Wire. Needless to say, this fan-made title sequence for Breaking Bad done up in the same style as The Wire tickled me greatly. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winnie-the-Hulk

Somethings need to go viral. Winnie-the-Hulk is one of those things.

Created by HowToBeADad.com and Charles Paul Wilson III, this imaginative asks the question "What if A. A. Milne’s classic childhood character, Winnie-the-Pooh, had been the Incredible Hulk?" and then answers that question. Yup. It's that kind of awesome. Below are a couple sample pictures. You can see the full post here.

 

Monday, January 13, 2014

In Defense of Spider-Man III

The mask hides my face,
not my shame.
Get excubriated!
With the new Andrew Garfield Spider-Man coming out (for which I would need to invent words to express my level of excitement), it's time to come to some closure on the original Spider-Man trilogy.

And that means having a good hard chat about that other movie.

Yes, Spider-Man 3.

Now, you can probably gather from the title of this blog the direction this is going to go.  And if you are reading this now and feeling a deep utter gut twinge, followed by an unrelenting conviction that no, Spidey 3 was utter gobshite, urinating on your soul with a level of atrocity akin to the genocide of puppies... well, I would ask that you humor me.  Hey, there's nothing you can say to change my mind about X-Men 3, so if this is that for you, I respect that.  But even so, humor me.  Let's take this journey together.  We might end up somewhere... interesting.

"You want me to wear a mask?
What, this isn't creepy enough
for you?"
While Bryan Singer's X-Men revitalized the notion of adapting comic book stories for the screen, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man did something far more fascinating: it proved that comic books characters could be translated to film.  Whereas X-Men streamlined the comic's concept and invented an entirely new visual vocabulary for the characters, Spider-Man brought the character directly off the page.  And while fanboys may quibble over the design of the Goblin suit, they cannot argue that the breathtaking aerial combat was anything short of authentic to a Spidey comic.

But the greatest strength of Spider-Man was not its visuals, but its story.  And here we see the deft hands of Sam Raimi guiding David Koepp to write with a comic book sensibility: accepting the world of the comic and taking it seriously.  There are many things to love in the first Spider-Man film, but they can all be traced back to a single source: every element of production existed to help tell a well crafted story.

"Yeah, no, this is definitely a job for Superman.
And that's why this is about to be one of the best
scenes in comic movie history."
And then Spider-Man II came along, and if you can't recognize what an impeccable production that was, you might as well stop reading now, because I lack the Rosetta Stone to communicate with you.

Which brings us, at length, to the subject of this musing:  Spider-Man III.  I didn't get to a theater until the third week of the film's release, and by that time the negative buzz from both friends and critics sent me in with a slight sense of dread.  But within moments, this dread turned into confusion:  because I was watching a good movie.  And what's more, I was watching Raimi (as he had with the first sequel) presenting something new.

Now, that is not to say the film is without flaw.  But only, I would argue, one.  And, sure, it's a doozie of a flaw, but it's important to note that it exists as a singularity.  It's also important to note that this flaw can be traced back to the studio, not Raimi.  The central flaw of Spider-Man III is that it suffers from a weak third act climax.

"Dude, I know. Paul Giamatti is TOTALLY a
better actor than me. But he's going to have to
wait a decade after Sideways to be in one of
these, because I'm pretty."
Why is the third act climax weak?  Because it sidesteps the primary conflict that the film had been building: Peter Parker's battle with hubris.  This inner conflict manifests itself in three external conflicts throughout the story: first, in Peter's relationship with Mary Jane, where hubris becomes selfishness.  Second, in Peter's relationship with Harry, where hubris becomes carelessness.  Finally, in Peter's relationship with the Sandman, where hubris becomes deadly.  It is this third external manifestation that had the most possibility for dramatization in the third act climax, because it dealt with the foundation of Spider-Man: power and responsibility.  The fact that midway through the film Peter is willing to kill to avenge his uncle is not insignificant; it is the epitome of power without responsibility.

The Sandman's story follows a simple linear arc: he is hitting up increasingly bigger targets to steal money to pay for his daughter's healthcare (first an armored car, later a bank).  Why does he have to keep doing this?  Well, because each time Spider-Man thwarts him.  The story is cleverly developing a dynamic of dual intentions: on the surface, you have Sandman playing the thief, and Spider-Man playing the "sheriff." But below that, you have a far more personal conflict building: for the Sandman, Spider-Man's interference could mean the death of his daughter.  For Peter Parker, killing the Sandman means avenging his uncle.  This is the sort of sophisticated conflict that worked so well in the third act climax of the original X-Men film, and it's a terrible shame that this conflict -- which was built so deftly throughout the first two acts -- was kept from blossoming in the third.  Instead, the Sandman was relegated to the role of a giant-sand-monster-thing, acting with an apparent lack of intention -- and if one can divine one, it is inconsistent with the motives established in the first two acts.

"Is this it, Sam? Is this the face you made
after your meeting with the executives?"
It is unfortunate that production mandates caused Venom to hijack the third act, because his existence in the story was entirely ancillary to Peter Parker's journey.  Please don't misunderstand my meaning: Eddie Brock was a fantastic addition to the film, and Topher Grace's interpretation of the character was nothing short of inspired.  But the arc from Eddie's first appearance at the crane to being consumed by the black suit is a full story arc; if that were the last time we saw him in the film, it would have been a complete and satisfying subplot.

It's clear that the struggle the production faced was that a release date was set before a script was complete, so Raimi had to begin shooting before a complete picture of the film had been crystalized.  As a result, the story had to be written to take structure around the action sequences, rather than vice versa.  But it is a testament to Raimi's skills as a storyteller and Alvin Sargent's skills as a screenwriter that, despite this, the first two acts of the film are so precise and cogent.  But storytelling is like sex -- while the experience is not about the climax, without it one walks away feeling incomplete -- regardless of the quality of what came before.

That said, what came before was tremendous.  This is simply a case where the sum of the movie's parts are greater than the whole.

But if you've gotten to the end of this and you're still complaining about Mary Jane singing and Peter Parker dancing... well, then you didn't go into a theater to enjoy a movie, you went to hear and see a validation of preconceived ideas.  Of course fans are going to bring a host of expectations to a work of art that seeks to capture something they love.  But only two of these expectations should be brought past the door:
"Wait... so I'm not in the reboot?"

1)  That, in their heart and artistic vision, the filmmaker has respected the source material

2)  That they've told a good story.

It's impossible to fault Sam Raimi on the first of these points.  And on the second point, he has very nearly succeeded.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What The Pupils In Your Instagram and Facebook Photos Reveal (aka CSI was [kinda] right!)

I loooved to hate-watch CSI:Miami. David Caruso's sunglass acting was the stuff of legend. But the part that killed me the most was in each episode he would tell some random CSI tech that he should essentially push the "enhance" button to magically see impossible details on a photo taken on a terrible security camera, like the reflection of the killer in a person's cornea. Hahah. Stupid CSI.

Well…not so fast, say researchers at the University of York.

According to they research, the cornea of the eye in a photograph of a face often displays hidden information, such as the reflected faces of bystanders. So in crimes in which victims are photographed, like a hostage situation, reflections in the subject's eyes could actually identify perpetrators. The researchers demonstrated this by zooming in on high-resolution passport-style photographs and recovering bystander images that could be identified accurately by observers.



The caveat to that, of course, is "high-resolution style photographs." So while you can definitely still call laugh at the outrageousness of the magic CSI "enhance!" button, it won't be long until the resolution on our smartphone cameras is high enough to allow the techniques used by the University of York team to work on your own photos. Okay fine, not this much, but still...

From kurzweilai.net.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wonder Woman vs. The 9000 Shekel Boobs

Comic book movie casting has become increasingly contentious on the internet (read: no where important), with people roundly condemning each new casting (see: Affleck, Ben) even though their prior hand wringing is often proven needless (see: Garfield, Andrew and Cavill, Henry).

So it's no surprise that the inter webs would have opinions about the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Everyone has their favorite celebrity they'd like to see play their favorite super hero so that's not surprising.

What is surprising is that the loudest complaint against Gadot is her skinny-ness and correlating breast size.

Seriously? It's 2014 and we still think that's an okay thing to complain about? Just because in the comics Wonder Woman had irrationally large boobs? Seriously?

Gadot, to her credit, has stayed above the fray. But she recently gave an interview in Israel where she briefly sounded off on the topic of breast size and its relevance (or more specifically lack there of) to life and her character. And she had this gem to offer:
"Breasts... Anyone can buy for 9,000 shekels and everything is fine...Wonder Woman is Amazonian, and historically accurate Amazonian women actually had only one breast. So, if I'd really go 'by the book,' it'd be problematic." 
Well played, Ms. Gadot. Well played. Here's looking forward to the time when the inter webs complain most loudly about an actor's ability to play a character (see: Lively, Blake in Green Lantern) and less about how closely they match the impossible proportions of pencil-drawn heroes. I mean…it's not like anyone wanted to see Chris Evans match up THIS well with his comic book character, right?

You can see Gadot's interview--in Hebrew!--below.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pope Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, I'm seriously digging Pope Francis' thousand words compared to his predecessor's as seen in these pictures from the last two Christmas Day mass services.


However you feel about Christianity or Catholicism in particular, it's refreshing (to say the least) to see the leader of 15% of the world---whose organization is equivalent of a Fortune 100 company---intentionally choose less opulence for himself. In a time when CEO pay has risen from 120 times more money than their average workers in 2000 to 204-to-1 today, any organizational leader than intentionally goes the other way gets my Magnetic Monkey Seal of Approval!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

American Heat Map of the 7 Deadly Sins

"What's in the box??!?" 

When I hear "7 Deadly Sins," I'm immediately reminded of (up to that point) the most terrifying movie experience of my life, aka watching Brad Pitt beg Morgan Freeman to tell him what Kevin Spacey had in the box. If you don't know, I won't spoil it for you. If you do know, I'm sorry if I've inadvertently triggered any PTSD.

When the geographers from Kansas State University thought about the 7 Deadly Sins, they went a different direction. They created a heat map of the spatial distribution of the 7 Deadly Sins across the United States by mapping demographic data related to each of the Sins. For example, to map "wrath" they mapped out murder, assault, and rape. For "gluttony," they mapped out the number of fast food restaurants per capita. It looks like this:



It's all pretty interesting stuff. My biggest take away after looking at all the maps is that people in North Dakota are better than all other Americans. Potentially more bored than the rest of us as well, but still better.

Check out all 7 Deadly Sins at memolition.com.