Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I despise the fact that 'Hollywood remakes' are a thing.

As a writer, it fills me with an odd sense to despair to see people continuously recycling the same trash repeatedly, and even worse, still manage to make a fortune doing so.
And in the case of Spider-Man movies, I was even more disappointed to see the franchise being "rebooted" (because 'remake' has become a dirty word which people are no longer encouraged to use, apparently) so soon after the Tobey Maguire trilogy was put to rest.

Honestly, I was as about excited to watch an origin story all over again as I was to see Peter Parker battle a large lizard, but I watched the first 'Amazing Spider-Man' anyway, because ... Spider-Man!!
Pros & cons considered, it really wasn't the disaster I had anticipated. I mean, I don't expect to watch it again anytime in the near future, but it did manage to open me up to the possibility of watching the next film in the series.

A little while later, I find out that the main villain this time around would be Electro.
For those of you who didn't grow up watching '90s Spider-Man cartoons, Electro is about the most vapid bad guy anyone could give an insipid character design to, specifically meant to be inserted into filler episodes. This, of course, is less of a fact than an ultra-strong opinion on my end, but trust me on this one.

So, anyway, my hopes of seeing a great sequel were instantly dashed - especially after finding out that the part would be played by one Jamie Foxx after his performance in the magnificent Django Unchained (which I have yet to review! #Patience).
Now, Foxx is a terrific performer, but I was definitely afraid that he'd fall right into the curse of doing a terrible movie after shining in an Oscar-worthy film.

But then, I saw the first image of Jamie in character.
And then, I saw the movie preview.
And that's when I realized that there was no way I was going to pass up seeing this movie in theaters.

But you know what I truly appreciate about the Spider-Man character?
It's that even as a young adult, Peter Parker is a hero with a truly tragic story. Despite his incredible strength, agility and smarts, he's not invincible.
But it's not his physical body which gets torn apart; it's his heart.
The very same heart which gives him the courage to rise up each morning to fight malicious adversaries without ever feeling sorry for himself, or crying about why his life turned out the way it did.
He was cursed with an exceptional gift, and he uses it to help others.

And so, hope is brought up to become the main theme in the movie. Not just hope itself, but the act of giving hope to others when they most need it.
Hope of living to see better days.
Hope of seeing a movie which doesn't entirely disappoint.

And in that respect, this movie blew away my expectations.
First, the good:

Peter & Gwen.
After going through a trilogy of Peter & Mary Jane, this was a much needed breath of fresh air (despite my absolute love for redheads). And the fact that their relationship is portrayed more realistically than overly romanticized made me like it even more. Were it up to me, I would never even mention the 'Watson' name for as long as this series lasts.

That said, apparently plenty of people disliked the fact that a love story even exists as a subplot in this movie.
It is my sincere opinion that these people have never been in love before.
Moving on....

Also good, Electro!
Seriously! Props to the movie makers for taking a bum of a bad guy (indeed, his character is portrayed as an invisible individual who people rarely acknowledge - and when they do he's merely looked down upon) and transforming him into a misunderstood and sympathetic villain of epic, 'final boss' proportions.

I have no clue how they plan on making any future bad guys appear as an even bigger threat than this guy, but good luck to them!
But I also wonder if maybe they didn't purposely single out a 'piece-of-crap' character with high potential just to mold him into an unstoppable force - knowing fully well that nobody would expect the results.

And Harry Osborn!
One of the most annoying and terrible characters in the comic and cartoon actually becomes very important in this story, and nothing really comes off as being too strongly forced. The strands of conflict just naturally and gracefully fall into place, entwine and tighten into a mess which everyone becomes involved in and must fight in order to survive.
Major points to the writers and director for creating something this awesome.

On a separate note, I would also like to mention that Electro is not the only villain in the movie, but the way each fight is choreographed is also very refreshing to witness as Spidey has to learn to adapt and approach each battle differently.
Also, fighting in Times Square in my hometown of NYC??
Amazing stuff!

Final Grade: A+

Now, I can't pretend that this movie is perfect, as I did have a few tiny issues with a line or two, and a scene or two which should really have been cut out of the final edit.
On a final note, I'd also like to mention that although I really would have loved an entirely different ending which would create its own path and in no way follow the comic books, you can't truly blame them for the way it ends.
In any case, none of this is enough to prevent me from granting this film the highest rating.

I truly worry about the announcement of ASM 3, 4, and two separate spin-offs (despite the fact that this movie was inexplicably given a rather shitty reception), but there's always hope to hold on to.
Hope that things will turn out better than we fear.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Second Skin

Forgive me, for I have forgotten how to blog, but I'll never forget how to dream.
Looking back at this dear and major project of mine, our last entry (numero 95, for those keeping score! That's a shitload of time and dedication....) was from December 30th.
Of 20-fucking-12!!

You know what, though? I used to go crazy and try to promote my blog wherever I knew I could, while at the same time avoiding ever coming off as annoying, or pretentious.
I think I did a pretty decent job, all things considered.
What's rather peculiar, however, is that I have barely even touched this account since that last entry, and yet this blog has received some of the highest number of views over this summer. In fact, 3x the number of hits that it used to get right before my last entry.

I mean, WTFF, people?!

So where are we at right now, you and me?
Are we in it for the long haul, or are we just wasting our time?
Here's the plan, and why:

On one hand, I have not been "consuming" as much entertainment media as I used to back in the day.
Books? Movies? Games? There's never enough time!

And yet, it's been fairly easy (and costly!) to make time for the booze in my life.
For those of you that know me personally, yes, I had given up drinking once before.
[This is the part where things start to get a little personal.]

I went a good handful of years without ever touching a drop and without any cravings, but before I knew it, I was back in the game again.
As a drug that amplifies your emotions, I just really missed the incredibly fun times that I used to have with my friends.
And that's where the problem - or lack thereof - lies (at least, in my mind).

You see, I'm a pretty happy person by default, and a really happy drunk.
Some of my favorite memories - and yes, plenty of blackouts - have taken place in a state of heavy intoxication.

I know I get a little playfully aggressive at times, but I sincerely blame that on my overwhelming amount of energy.
Honestly, I often want to run around and break things even when I'm sober.
[Don't ask me; can't quite explain.]
But don't have any real problems getting in trouble with people, or the law, or losing something important, or getting irresponsibly intimate with someone I shouldn't.

In short, it's been nothing but the best of times.
Which is why it actually makes me a bit sad to have to change my habits.
It also doesn't help that I live comfortably and thus usually have money to blow off getting trashed and leaving hefty tips.

But I must confess that this is probably the best time to hit the brakes, as I've really been contemplating experimenting with a wide assortment of other drugs as of late. There are such things in life which I really don't want to die without ever experiencing at least once, but I know myself too well.
If I happen to enjoy something good, I'll make sure to do it more than once. And I'll be damned if I don't have more than enough distractions keeping me from achieving my long-term goals at the moment.

But, hell, even exercising and maintaining this blog takes up precious hours of my life.
As far as this blog is concerned, I can only promise that we'll make it to entry #100 before the year is over.
You better believe that I have nearly as many drafts waiting in line to get published.

But enough about me!

Today's crown jewel (and very appropriately titled music track!) is 'Second Skin', by 'The Gits', from their 1992 album, 'Frenching the Bully'.
I first heard it playing one day (not that long ago) at my favorite bar. As soon as it was over, I just had to ask my favorite bartender what it was that we had just listened to, and this was it.

Like many songs, the song's meaning really depend's on what is coursing through the listener's heart.

Second skin.
Applied to me, it talks about shedding your dying skin, and growing a set which enables you to become bigger, stronger, faster (see what I did there?).
It's about taking the opportunity to reinvent yourself, picking up where you last left off, and moving on to take part in a better world.
It's about giving up a lifetime of alcohol so that you can become someone that your little sisters can truly look up to.

In all honesty, I have never wanted to become a role model of sorts for anyone.
I'd be more than content to live my life as I see fit, and making an over-abundance of careless mistakes.
But sometimes, we're not really left with much of a choice in the matter.
You have a job to do, and you do it.
Simple as that.

"...Each time I close my eyes, I see another chain,
It's one I can't forget, something I can not break out of

Unfortunately, many people are robbed of their life duties.
Such was the case with singer Mia Zapata, from The Gits.
A flowering artist who had much to accomplish and plenty to say, her life was cut short after being raped and brutally murdered.

It wasn't my intention to end a returning post on such a mournful note, but I did feel that it was necessary to mention when paying tribute to such a powerful spirit that has been gone for so long.
Viva Zapata!!

We'll talk again soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Apparently I missed two weeks of updates. Once, because I ended up going to some seminar (which was unexpected), and again because I forgot that what day of the week it was. Yeah, that's how my brain has been running as of late.
On to the show!

Today we'll be taking a look at an important documentary which seems to have slipped right under the radar. The Christopher Bell film is titled 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster*', and it's a movie about athletes who wish to become larger than life. But as far as the consequences and the origins of their desires go, well, that's all up for discussion.

To spoil the introductory scene for you, the opening talks about the influence that personalities like Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all had on the impressionable minds of young boys.
These are supposed to be the heroes that always triumph over evil, shooting and blowing up the bad guys, getting the big paychecks and winning the heart of all of the women around them. What's not to like?

Of course, what all of these guys had in common was a tremendous physique which many men only dream of having, but which are not achievable without the use of steroids.
But is it really "cheating" if you use steroids? What are the potential dangers of use, if any? And what of Olympic competitions?

The film largely is partly autobiographical and largely revolves around the director, Chris Bell, and his brothers, 'Smelly' and 'Mad Dog' - all brothers having been bitten by the 'muscles' bug. Despite the first hand experience, the film manages to remain neutral as statistics, both pro and con, and presented throughout.

In fact, the evidence presented by experts would lead you to consider that steroid use is not as harmful for you physically or mentally, as detrimental as it may to your self-confidence (namely, never feeling satisfied and constantly fighting a power struggle for more).

Arguments are made explaining that steroids don't magically enhance your physique or athleticism, as much as they increase your potential to improve - and that's a large difference.
Also taken into account, how widespread forms of steroid use actually is, from the porn industry, to college students studying for exams, and musicians playing in orchestras.

A third variable that comes into the picture, however, are drug companies which only see the potential to make money off of the men (and women) who are seeking to sculpt their bodies. As well as the magazines that sell their products, and the models which don't look exactly as depicted.
And then, there's the government which has passed legislation in favor of the drug companies which are screwing over consumers.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Final Grade: A+

To be completely honest, I've also been attracted to this sort of 'lifestyle' and culture scene before, but generally speaking, I've mostly always been in favor of doing things as naturally as possible. Protein bars are as far as I've personally gone, but even that didn't last too long.

In the end, it's a great big mindfuck that's left America insecure and striving to win a shameful dick-measuring contest which goes on unregulated. Much like our obsession with money, war, and photoshop.
But all in all, it's a great, informative, and surprisingly entertaining presentation.

Highly recommended! And if you act now, you can actually find the whole movie (in parts) up for streaming on YouTube!!

P.S. The movie has a good number of equally great deleted scenes. It'd be great to get an extended cut. 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Longer', anyone?
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