The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Lists, by their very nature, are arbitrary and ephemeral. For the most part, they are made out of boredom, or for the purpose of inciting an arguement; I learned that from High Fidelity.

The fourth best Beatles song is still a great song, while the fourth best Beatle is Ringo Starr–on this we can all agree. Everything else is a matter of personal preference. I am not you, and you are not me, and if the both of us agreed on every subject, one of us would be redundant, and we both know which one of us that would be.

It would be me.

I think it is safe to say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the fourth best comic book movie of the year, and by “comic book I mean “superhero.” If there was a Batman film this year someone would make the arguement that he is not a superhero. It’s a fair point, but then I would feel compelled to include all films based on comic books and I don’t want to go there.

It’s up to you to decide if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a Beatles song, or Ringo Starr, and I have a sneaking suspicion I know the answer. I liked TASM 2, but I am weird like that. I can understand why so many people, and critics, disliked it.

BEGINING OF SPOILERS!!!

Electro was a bit of a weak villain, with no motivation other than revenge against ol’ Webhead. So far, the filmmakers have stayed away from the villains used in the previous series of films; the exception being Green Goblin, or Hobgoblin–it was never stated.

We knew at some point Harry Osborn would show up, since he is an important character, and it seems that the only reason he was in TASM 2 is so that he could be responsible for the death of Gwen Stacy, because that is how it happened in the comics. If Gwen died any other way the fans would have gone even more nuts. Never mind the fact that Gwen’s father died in the previous film during Spidey’s fight with Curt Conners, but in the comics Spider-Man was battling Doctor Octopus. No one seemed too bothered with that.

The film was bookended by Spidey going up against Aleksei Sytsevich a.k.a The Rhino. I thought these were fun and not at all superfluous, unlike in certain unnamed films that I otherwise love.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did spend quite a bit of time setting up the Sinister Six film, that is if Sony decides to go ahead with it. It may come out in 2016 because TASM 3 has been pushed back to 2018; if the stories are true.

I liked the action scenes, and I think that the relationship between Peter and Gwen was very acted. It helps matters somewhat that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are in a real life relationship. Then again we have seen real life couples who have absolutely zero chemestry on screen.

I didn’t write anything about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when I saw it in the theatre, make of that what you will. Sometimes I have nothing to say, and sometimes I want to wait until I see it on blu-ray, because I need a second look.

Sometimes a behind the scenes feature and/or commentary track help me with putting my thoughts together. And sometimes it only further conufses me. There weren’t any deleted/extended scenes that should have been included in the move; that includes the “Peter meets his father” scene that gets mentioned in the commercials. I don’t know why anyone thought that was a good idea. Sure, these sorts of things happen all the time in comic books, but that is a different medium altogether.

You really need a good reason to bring a character back from the dead. That is something we saw in other comic book films this year. I’ll let you decide which one did it best.

Comic Book Movies are No Laughing Matter

It seems that Warner Bros is taking comic book films seriously. Maybe too seriously.

Many of you have read Drew McWeeney’s article on HitFix.com about how WB has declared films based on DC Comics characters a joke free zone. Some have speculated that this edict is in response to the failure of the Green Lantern movie. Trust me, it wasn’t the jokes, or the costume for that matter, that made GL a disappointment–it was the story.

I liked the fact that the filmmakers chose to go with CGI rather than spandex for the costume, since in the comics, GL’s costume is made of energy which is created by the ring. Okay, they could have put Ryan Reynolds in a spandex costume and added in effects to make it glow in post production, but it doesn’t matter anyway.

And far too many have heaped far too much blame on director Martin Campbell, but he didn’t write the script; that was the responsibility of Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Mark Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg. You may recognize Berlanti and Guggenheim from the TV series Arrow, which is excellent. So, what happened with Green Lantern?

Yes, the buck stops with the director, but some of the criticism went overboard. Martin Campbell is not a hack who was in it just for the money; he directed the only great James Bond film of the Pierce Brosnan era–Goldeneye–and the film that gave 007 his balls back–Casino Royale. Okay, LeChiffre proceeded to pulverize said balls, but at least Bond had a pair to begin with.

Rant over.

Maybe I’m wrong, I usually am, but I take the idea that WB may not want jokes in their comic book films to mean that they are not going to make a movie in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy, and that’s okay. I don’t want to see a “funny” Batman film.

I’m just going to leave that there.

For a while now, I have been planning on writing a post about what DC/WB could learn from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now is a good time as any to hit the highlight. It’s not a stretch to say that the Captain America films are the most serious in tone of the Marvel Cimematic Universe. That is not to say they are joyless or without humor. There are some funny moments that come from character, which I will not spoil for those of you who are waiting to purchase the film on DVD or blu-ray on September 9. Speaking of waiting, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still hasn’t shown up yet.. WTF, Amazon!?!

Yeah, I hear you saying, “You are better off without it,” but I didn’t hate it. It was better than Green Lantern, but that’s kind of a low bar.

Rock of Ages

Yeah, I watched a musical. Deal with it. I’ve also seen Les Miserables, so I’ve got going for me as well.

I was a bit reticent about watching Rock of Ages, not because it’s a musical, but because so many films set in the 80s try to cram all the 80s into their running time. They might as well include a flashing neon sign that says, “Look! It’s a Rubik’s Cube!” The Wedding Singer was set in 1984, so they just had to include a joke about the possibility of Van Halen breaking up. That sort of self awareness looks good on paper, but can often be cringeworthy when executed on screen.

Rock of Ages is set in 1987, but the music is representitive of the entire era of “Hair Metal.” At first I was a bit put off, but I went along with it. I decided to think of the film as taking place in an alternate universe; albeit one without airships cluttering up the sky. This approach came in handy when Drew (Diego Boneta) “wrote” a song we all know as “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. It’s actually a sweet scene.

When I got into the film I really enjoyed it.
Knowing what I now know, I need to rewatch it. At some point, I realized Rock of Ages is well and truly an 80s movie.

Julianne Hough plays Sherrie, a small town girl, who moves to LA because it beats being stuck in Oklahoma. Not long after she gets off the bus, Sherrie meets Drew, who just so happens to tend bar at the Bourbon Room, which is the epicenter of the Sunset Strip music scene. You can pretty much guess what happens next. We have seen this plot in many films and plays before, but the reason writers keep using it is because it works so well.

One thing Rock of Ages got one hundred percent correct is the fashion and the hair. So many films go way over the top when depicting the 80s; which is an easy thing to do since it was an over the top decade. It was the fans of pop, new wave, new romantic, and goth music that wore the outlandish clothing, whereas the rock and metal fans wore mostly demim and leather. There were times in the 80s where I didn’t know if I was attending a rock concert or a fetish club. Either one was fine by me.

The blu-ray includes interviews with a number of musicians from the 80s. I had forgotten about some of the bands, such as London and Odin. That makes me wonder what else I have forgotten about the 80s. Or should I say repressed?

One of the interviewees was Chris Holmes of the band WASP, which led me to exclaim: “How the hell is he still alive!?! How is this even possible!?!” Those of you who have seen the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years know what I am talking about. I may have forgotten about Odin and London, both of whom appear in the documentary, (I had to Google it) but I will never forget Chris Holmes in the swimming pool. Part of me wishes I could, and another part of sees it as a cautionary tale.

How some of us survived the 80s, God only knows.

The Star Wars

As everyone knows, I am a Star Wars fan. But I’m not one of those superfans that knows every minute detail and obscure fact. So, to some I’m a geek, and to others, I’m a poser. What can I say? It’s my cross to bear.

I have read a few of the “Extended Universe” novels, and some of them were pretty good. Thankfully I wasn’t obsessive about it because none of them are canon, and the new films may or may not use elements found in them.

The one thing that did intrigue me was George Lucas’ first draft, which was refered to as “The Star Wars.” Every once in a while there would be an article or interview that made reference to it, but I figured that it was either lost to the annals of history or would never see the light of day. Sure, there was always someone who claimed to have read it, but it was usually the same guy who claimed to have touched a boobie, so you can see why I was dubious.

One of the things I found out a long time ago was that there was a character in The Star Wars called “Luke Starkiller.” Skywalker is a cool name, but Starkiller sounded badass. Other than that, I really didn’t know anything at all about the story; I assumed that it would be fairly close to the film. When it was announced that Dark Horse Comics was releasing The Star Wars I knew that I had to read it for myself.

So… What did I think? Well… It is different from Star Wars. A lot different. Other than a few characters and scenes, there is nothing in The Star Wars that made it into the final draft. Is that a good thing? Yes! Yes, it is. I’m not saying that The Star Wars is bad, but Star Wars is way better. I cannot think of anything that I made me say, “I wish that was in the film.”

Is it worth your time and/or money? If you are a massive fan/completist, then yeah, give it a shot. If you are a casual fan you may find it interesting.

Tim Richmond

A few months ago I realized that the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Tim Richmond was approaching and I thought I should say something, but what? I came up with three drafts… in my head, but they all seemed incomplete. For a while there I felt this undertaking should left to the experts like Ed Hinton or Marty Smith; you know–people that actually know what they are doing. Yet, I felt I had to say something.

Tim Richmond was an enigma, yet he was also a “what you see is what you get” kind of fellow. He came from an open wheel background, but found fame and fortune in NASCAR when the sport was still firmly rooted in the Southeast.

Richmond wore Armani suits, rode a Harley, and owned a Cigarette speedboat, yet he was friends with Dale Earnhardt, whose image was that of the good ol’ boy in Wrangler jeans. He was a guy who would drive all day, and party all night. Richmond predated the era of “Image is everything,” and “I am not a role model,” but both of those marketing campaigns apply to his outlook on life.

Some say, “If there wasn’t a Tim Richmond, someone would have to invent him.” It’s an accurate statement, but it sure as hell wouldn’t have been NASCAR doing the inventing; but that’s another story. Richmond seems more like a Hollywood invention; and by Hollywood, I mean Andy Sidaris, who was the autuer behind late night cinematic masterpieces like Malibu Express.

And no, I am not being sarcastic when I refer to Malibu Express as a masterpiece. Two words: June Khnockers. And yes, it’s Khnockers, with an “H.”

Eventually, Hollywood did make a film about Tim Richmond; it was called Days of Thunder. The thing is, Days of Thunder was a movie about Tim Richmond, that wasn’t about Tim Richmond. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) In the film, Tom Cruise plays Cole Trickle, who shares a similar backstory to Richmond, but that’s about it for the comparisons. Yes, a lot of the stuff in the film actually happened to Richmond, but some of it was in a different context. Then there are the things that happened to to other drivers, but were put into the film just because they were so outragous. The sad fact is that, unlike Formula 1 driver James Hunt, who in some ways is Tim Richmond’s kindred spirit, the true, unvarnished story will never be told. Why? Simply put: When it comes to Tim Richmond, no one is subjective.

Many consider it bad form to speak ill of the dead. Some want to gloss over the facts. There are those who refuse to believe the truth. And then there are the ones who are very angry, and have every right to be. At the end of the day most of us are neither as good as our loved ones think, nor as bad as our enemies believe. A lot of people wear grey hats; and some of those hats are very, very dark grey.

When you become a fan of auto racing, at some point you must accept that death is part of the sport, and sometimes it happens in unexpected ways. This past Saturday night, with the death of Kevin Ward Jr, we lost yet another driver who wasn’t behind the wheel when he died. Ward got out of his car to confront Tony Stewart, with whom he was involved in a crash, and then the right rear tire of Stewart’s car struck Ward. I am not going to play the blame game because I have no idea what exactly happened.

There have been drivers who have died in road accidents. Some have died in aircraft crashes. I can even think of at least one that was murdered. There are many ways that a race car driver can die, but the last one you would expect to see listed on a death certificate is AIDS.

But then again…

Halt and Catch Fire “1984”

In last week’s episode of Halt and Catch Fire, Joe saw the future of PCs–the Macintosh. And since this week’s episode is titled “1984,” it wasn’t to much of a leap to assume that the infamous Super Bowl ad directed by Ridley Scott would play a part. So now it seems that the whole wide world knows what the future of computing looks like.

Or, at least we thought that is what it would look like. A lot of people championed the underdog Macintosh, and I was one of them. But then again, at the time I didn’t know all that much about computers, and I know even less now. The only experience I had with PCs was messing around on a TRS 80 in middle school. I wasn’t able to take any computer classes in high school since I hadn’t taken typing–I never could fit it into my schedule. About twenty years ago I attempted to learn how to type by using Mavis Beacon software, but I didn’t really have the patience–I never was a very good student. Once I sort of figured out the “home row,” I just took it from there. However, none of that really matters since I do most of my typing with my thumbs; I am lost when I have to type on an actual keyboard.

The thing is, computer class would not have done me a hell of a lot of good anyway, since the classroom was filled with Apple IIc’s . Yeah, there were some that complained because the “Real World” used PCs but, what can you do about it?

I remember the “1984” commercial vividly. It ushered in the era of the big Super Bowl ad that continues to this day, and so many companies have spent so many millions trying and failing to top it. So, in a sense, Apple succeeded… But not in the way they intended.

It took a couple of decades, but Apple more or less became “Big Brother,” at least in terms of the way we buy music, and in the way we listen to it. They have the mp3 player market all to themselves–remember the Zune? Apple also has a large share of the smartphone and tablet markets. If not for Samsung, Apple would have that on lockdown as well.

As for Cardiff and their Giant; it finally shipped. Sort of. For a while there, it seemed to have a bug, but it turned out to be one faulty unit.

(Insert “That’s what she said!” here.)

Joe wanted to delay shipment in order to add a “killer app.” His words, not mine. In fact he kept pushing the app so hard, I was starting to think he was a waiter working the lunch shift at Bennigan’s.

I’m here all week, try the potato skins. They’re killer!

Cameron had a gig at the phone company, and while there she figured out that phone line can handle a lot more data, and at higher speeds, than they let on. She then starts her own company, “Mutiny,” that will offer an online gaming subscription service. It’s an idea that is so far ahead of its time that it’s probably doomed. Oh, and Donna is the newest hire. Someone has to keep the Code Monkeys in line. Hopefully there will be a second season, because I really want to see where the Donna/Cameron relationship goes.

Not there, you perv! I was thinking more in terms of Donna becoming a mentor to Cameron. Cameron has a lot of great ideas, and Donna has a lot of technical knowledge and business sense, so I want to see them make a go of it.

Before Donna left TI she had to endure an evaluation. I hate those things, but at least her’s was multiple choice. Sometimes the only honest answer is: “None of the above.”

Thankfully she didn’t get the, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question. The answer is almost always; “Behind your desk,” “Being your boss,” or “I hope to God I’m not still working here in five years time! If so, please kill me.” And you wonder why I am not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

And then Joe set the truck carrying the computers on fire. Why? Why does Joe do anything? I guess he was pissed about the whole killer app debacle. Or maybe he is just a petulent man-child. Then again maybe he got the result he was looking for but he didn’t acheive it in exactly the way he wanted. Who knows? Hopefully he will find whatever it is he’s looking for up on the mountain.

And hopefully we will get a second season.

Sometimes You Have to Write for Yourself

This was not what I had in mind for today. I had planned on posting something completely different–something a bit more fun. Well, “fun” might not be the word I was looking for, but it will have to do.

There is a subject that I have been wanting to write about for many years, but I could never find the right words–yet that has never stopped me before. But seriously, every time I wanted to write about this subject, I found that words failed me. The best I could muster was a couple of lines of ramdom notes. Often, I will make notes or a series of bullet points and attempt to build from there. But this time something was missing.

I see myself as an emotional writer; that is to say that I often need to have some sort of emotional connection to the subject matter. If I try to write from a purely intelectual place the piece comes off as dry and uninteresting. Basically, it reads like a third grader’s report on a book that they really didn’t want to read. In other words: it’s nothing more than a series of declaratory sentences, which is what I really should call my blog.

A couple of months ago I had an “A-ha!” moment, in which I figured out exactly how best to write about this thing that has been stuck in my noggin for oh so long. I was able to take what for years had been two lines of notes and turn it into a multi page collection of thoughts and recollections. In fact it almost became the “monster in a notebook” that my piece on The Eagles became, but unlike that one, this was far more coherent and designed to be in multiple parts from the beginning.

When I had finished, I was actually pleased with the final product, which should have been a giant red flag waving in the wind. I felt good about myself as well, which rarely happens, since I am my own worst critic. I’m not saying that I was about to change the world or set it on fire, I was just happy to get my thoughts on paper.

As I’ve said before, a lot of times my first drafts are written longhand because I am a slow typer. Also, I find it easier to edit and move stuff around, especially with the longer pieces. Plus, I find that when I write longhand my work contains far more of my “voice,” whatever that is.

Since this was not a time sensitive subject, I set it aside to marinate for a bit. I wanted to wait until I had a few days in a row with nothing going on so that I could post it on consecutive days without interruption.

When I woke up this morning I thought, “Today is the day!” so, I decided to spend the morning in the editing room putting a final coat of wax on the post before foisting it upon an unsuspecting world.

And then I started having second thoughts.

It’s not that I think it sucks, but it isn’t quite as good as I remembered. But, then again, none of my stuff is. I always do this; I always hesitate before pulling the trigger when I give myself too much time to think. There have been too many times where I have written something on the fly, or fired off a tweet, when I should have heeded the advice of Herm Edwards: “Don’t press ‘Send!'”

If I ever do press “Send,” the post will be in a completely state from the one it is in now. It’s not a story that you needed to read, but it is one I needed to write… For myself.