Monsters and Machines

After a brief work forced break, Movie Season is back in swing. I went to go see Monsters University yesterday. I’m not even going to bother reviewing it. I was so disappointed, that I’m giving it an incomplete. You can do better Disney/Pixar, I have seen your potential and this does not meet it. No one can hit a home run every at bat, but I expect at least a fly out from you. (A Bug’s Life would be an example.) This was a walk.

Moving on, today I saw Pacific Rim.

Look How Epic!

Look How Epic!

I am going to spend the rest of the summer asking people if they’ve seen Pacific Rim and if they haven’t telling them to go see it immediately. I was sure that it was going to be a stupid action movie about giant robots that fight giant sea monsters.

I was surprised.

Not because it wasn’t that. This is absolutely a stupid action movie about giant robots that fight giant seas monsters. But here’s the thing, it’s a very very good stupid action movie about giant robots that fight giant sea monsters.

It had a decently original story, compelling characters who you want to win, killer action and special effects, great comic relief and Charlie Hunnam’s abs.

It has all the makings of a classic.

Let’s start with the premise. The idea is that a space time rift opened deep in the Pacific Ocean, through that rift came giant monsters, quickly named Kaiju, the Japanese word for “strange beast.” In order to fight the Kaiju, which mindlessly destroyed San Francisco, Manila and a city in Japan I can’t remember that name of, mankind got their shit together and built giant robots manned by two people, called Jaegers.

We are told all of this in a brief flashback and voice over sequence by Charlie Hunnam’s character Raliegh Becket. Now, I watch Son’s of Anarchy so I know that when Charlie Hunnam does a voice over, we’re about to be lunged into a world of violent confusion. Of course, unlike Jax Teller, Raliegh is just kind of a regular Joe who it turns out is really good at piloting Jaegers with his brother Yancy. The brothers are the best of friends and go kill monsters and then Yancy dies.

In his grief, Raliegh leaves the Jaeger program, just as it’s being shut down to divert funding to a giant wall that’s being built around the Pacific Rim. Raliegh works building the wall. Five years later he’s recruited back in to the scrappy resistance of left over Jaegers and pilots by Marshall Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba. (Great names in this movie) He heads to Hong Kong reluctantly, he wants to help save the world, but he also kind of wants to be left alone. Hunnam plays laid back California Dude so well that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s actually a Brit.

Once in Hong Kong, enter those characters I was talking about. Raliegh and Pentecost would be interesting enough on their own, but once we get to the base we meet Mako Mori, a young Japanese survivor of a Kaiju attack, who was raised by Pentecost and wants to become a Jaeger pilot. Mako is played wonderfully by Rinko Kikuchi and the chemistry between her and Hunnam is staggeringly great. The scene where they spar with one another to test their compatibility is one of the sexiest scenes I’ve seen in a while. We also meet an Australian Father-Son Duo, Herc and Chuck Hansen. Chuck is a militant ass hole who decides to spend as much time as possible antagonizing Raliegh.

Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned in five seasons of SOA it’s that if you want to get your skull bashed in, you can insult Charlie Hunnam’s brothers or his woman. Chuck does both. So they do reach a point where they beat the snot out of each other.

On the other end, doing what I’ve decided to call “The Goldblum Work” are Dr. Newton Geiszler and Dr. Herman Gottlieb played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman respectively, are trying to figure out a way to stop the Kaiju’s from getting through the rift. Gottlieb has a practically perfect formula for predicting the frequency of the attacks, but they can’t explain why they keep getting closer and closer.

When the Jaegers are piloted, the pair in them sort of merge in a mind meld called a drift. Newt decides to drift with a Kaiju to figure out more about them. He does so, and the plot reveals itself.

Ron Perlman plays a black market dealer of Kaiju body parts named Hannibal Chau (A name he chose from his favorite historical figure and his second favorite Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn) who Newt tracks down to find him a second Kaiju brain. This is fun for me, especially when Pentecost tells him absolutely not to trust Chau. (I wanted to scream “Clay is a lying liar who lies!” at the screen, but it was a pretty intense moment that I didn’t want to ruin.) Sadly, Perlman and Hunnam never cross paths, and we certainly don’t get to see them glower at one another and make vague threats. Missed  opportunity.

I really wanted this movie to be good for Charlie Day’s sake. The man is absurdly talented, as anyone who has ever watched It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia can tell you. But I expected him to be great.

I didn’t expect Hunnam to be much good at all. Mostly because for the past couple of seasons on SOA he’s done little but growl and chew scenery. He blew me away. Perhaps it was low expectations, but he played the mostly light and optimistic Raliegh very well. And without his scruffy beard, biker club ink and long hair, he looked about ten years younger. Also his voice didn’t drop into a whisper to cover his accent at all. Which is huge. He, Ed Westwick and Robert Pattinson are masters of this technique.

Basically, this was probably the best of the movies I’ve seen all summer. I’m bummed it didn’t do as well in the box office as expected, but I’m hoping it’ll be a sleeper hit and come out strong. So, now we rank.

1. Pacific Rim

2. The Great Gatsby

3. Man of Steel

4. Iron Man 3

5. Star Trek Into Darkness

6. Monsters University (I won’t even review it, it was still better than After Earth)

7. After Earth

Trailers:

I have two movies worth of trailers to cover and a good amount of new stuff:

There is going to be a movie where Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson voice turkeys who go back in time to change the Thanksgiving menu coming out in November. It will be called Free Birds. I will not be paying money to see this movie. I would love to see a straight up time travel comedy starring these two actors.

The Frozen teaser was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, we didn’t see new Princess Anna, but we did meet her magical friends, a talking snowman and a reindeer who seem to befriend one another. If it’s anything like Tangled, will love every minute of this movie.

The new trailer for The Wolverine actually made me want to see it for once, instead of just dragging my butt there out of obligation. If Logan is really having nightmares about Jean (who was in Phoenix form when he killed her, don’t forget) this could bode very well for the X-Men franchise and of course for Days of Future Past.

I need to read Ender’s Game. I’m going to the beach next week. I’ll probably take it with me. I’m just so psyched that Harrison Ford has decided to be in movies again. And I love Octavia Spencer.

New Elysium trailer that reveals more plot details. So psyched for that one.

I could watch the Thor: The Dark World trailer on loop. It’s so good. The movie may wind up being a big stinking turd, but it’s a perfect trailer.

It doesn’t matter how many movies they stick the Gravity trailer before. I will not go see that movie.

I got choked up during the brilliantly edited The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary reissue trailer. Also, when did Warner Brothers acquire it from MGM? Is MGM even a thing anymore? It seems unlikely that they’d let The Wizard of Oz go if they were.

That’s all for now! Thinking of lightening up a little next week and checking out Despicable Me 2 or The Heat. Stay tuned!

 

 

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RIP Cory Monteith

I had every intention of recapping The Newsroom today. I was going to in to awesome insane detail about Sorkin’s decision to continue plagiarizing himself, (I love when he does that), Allison Pill’s hair, the fact that I think Olivia Munn looks too skinny (eat some pie lady! I’ve read your book I know you love it.), but instead I decided to not let the passing of Corey Monteith be ignored by this blog.

I was stunned and sad when I heard about the death of the 31 year old actor. It’s always sad when someone dies in an untimely way, even someone you’ve never met. But when it’s an artist (I use the term loosely here, as in “one who participates in the arts”) who’s work you’ve connected with, then it hits kind of hard.

I’ve watched Glee since it premiered, and I’ve always liked the way that Cory Monteith played Finn Hudson. Finn is an everyman and Cory looked and acted like one. (I mean, a more attractive one, because, this is television). He sang well, but not insanely well and he and Lea Michelle always looked quite sweet together and I loved when they sang duets.

I’m not going to get super elegiac here. Really, I just wanted to mark this by saying it’s a shame that someone with some talent and a chance to make it lost his life.

Also, I’m probably not going to watch Glee next season. Not because I thought Finn was such an awesome and intergral character anymore. The show could go on without him, and if Monteith had quit or been fired, I would have been fine, but because Glee doesn’t really handle “sensitive” terribly well. They think they do, which is nice, I guess. They’re very well intentioned. But it always winds up feeling like I’m being beat over the head with a hammer.

Also, if they don’t use this as an opportunity for Chris Colfer and Matthew Morrison to sing “Fire and Rain,” they’re making a huge mistake.

 

 

Lies Musical Theatre Told Me: For God’s Sake John Sit Down!

Welcome back to Lies Musical Theatre Told Me! This is one that I think about frequently this time of year.

With the exception of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson The Continental Congress was a bunch of indecisive idiots (and they were ALL super horny)

The culprit here is of course the amazing 1776.

We're waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born...

We’re waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born…

If you aren’t familiar, 1776 chronicles the week leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s insightful, funny, brilliant and, being that it’s a musical about the founding fathers, totally dorky.

I think it can go without saying that I love 1776. I love it because I love musicals, and I love American history, and I really love The Declaration of Independence. In my early American Lit course in college we read both the Declaration and the Constitution and analyzed them as non fiction literature and it was one of the best experiences of analysis I’ve ever had.

Anyway, my love affair with 1776 began when I was about twelve. Our local high school put on a production of the show, starring now almost famous Brad Weinstock as John Adams.

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we're all very proud

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we’re all very proud

I’m pretty sure that Brad was great, but I don’t really remember because my memories of that production are clouded by my friend Joe’s older brother Sean playing Richard Henry Lee. To be fair, “The Lees of Old Virginia,” is a big show stealing number, but Sean was consistently stealing shows from the other kids. The next year he stole Into The Woods from the boy playing The Baker, but that’s a different story.

I was transfixed by this odd little show, which only had a few songs and no women. Well, 2 women. I loved it in fact. I wanted to go right out to Sam Goody or Tower Records and buy the OBC Recording. I didn’t, but that’s only because my mom owned it on vinyl. Because I wasn’t yet a full blown theatre geek, I didn’t quite understand how cool it was that my mother owned a vinyl copy of the 1776 OBC Recording. I did understand how cool it was that William Daniels was the original John Adams.

That's young Mr. Feeney. That's why they went to John Adams High School. It's a joke. Get it?

That’s young Mr. Feeney. That’s why Corey and Co. went to John Adams High School. It’s a joke. Get it?

I also may be using the word “cool” incorrectly here. But I listened to the record over and over again. The reason that my mother owned this record was simple.

To celebrate the bicentenial in 1976, the parish my mom grew up in put on a production of 1776. My grandfather played Thomas Jefferson. Now, there’s a number, “But Mr. Adams,” that is basically John Adams trying to convince various members of the committee of five to write the Declaration of Independence. When he goes to Jefferson, who of course ends up writing it, (if you don’t know this go find your middle school social studies teacher and punch them in the face.) Jefferson simply says “Mr. Adams, leave me alone.” Here’s the thing though, the “alone” is on a high G and the entire phrase is belted. It’s incredibly difficult. So, when my Grampy would practice the song, while his five young children tried to sleep. He would reach that moment, this beautiful dramatic vocal fanfare and miss the note. Now messing up a note is not a big deal in rehearsal but can be quite frustrating. To vent said frustration, Grampy would shout, “God damnit Irene! (My grandmother) I can’t hit that note!” This is a little bit of family lore that my mother spins frequently and always giggles her way through it.

Anyway, this is all a prelude, because 1776, like so many other shows that I love is a big fat liar.

Lie #1, of course is that the congress was super lazy and petty. Except John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The first half of the show is Adams imposing his will on the congress about Independence. He is labeled as “obnoxious and disliked” and no one agrees with him. But no one else even wants to talk about independence. Not John Hancock, no one, except Ben Franklin, and Richard Henry Lee, sort of. Obviously Adams wins and then America becomes a thing.

Here’s the main reason that 1776 decides that the reason the Declaration of Independence almost didn’t happen is because Thomas Jefferson wanted to go home and have sex with his wife.

This is an actual plot point. Thomas Jefferson is asking John Adams to leave him alone, so that he can go home and boink Martha Jefferson. This is resolved when Adams and Franklin bring Martha to Philadelphia, somehow, and then she and Tom have sex in the middle of the day and it’s very scandalous. This also leads to one of the best character songs in the history of theatre, “He Plays The Violin.” It also leads to a really boring duet between John and Abigail Adams where they sing about how they miss having sex.

That’s the only reason there are even women in the show at all. That’s why you don’t see many amateur productions of it anymore. No girl parts.

Katie and I fight about it yearly, because I want to put it on with our company Tom Foolery Theatre so badly it makes my head hurt, and we can’t, because Katie refuses to allow gender blind casting. (She is, by the way mostly right, and I mostly start these fights after a few drinks.) However, if you’re in Allendale, New Jersey tonight and you see a dark blond haired girl and a red haired girl marching drunkenly through the streets shouting, “SOMEONE GO AND OPEN UP A WINDOW!” “WELL FOR GOD’S SAKE JOHN SIT DOWN!” at the top of their lungs, that’s me and Katie.

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!