Tag Archives: movies

Why There Can Never Be a Good GI Joe Movie

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So the new GI Joe movie came out last week, making millions at the box office. To the surprise of absolutely no one, it’s not what you’d call a critical darling. Apparently the phrase “Joes before Hoes” was used. Yup, that bad.

The GI Joe movie had a lot going against it from the get-go, not the least of which was the source material. In the 80’s cartoon, the Joes had to battle such ridiculous schemes as hypnotic rock music and attempts to blow up the ocean. For me though, the biggest reason I won’t be seeing this film has nothing to do with the power suits or the fact that a Wayans brother was involved. If you ask me, the perfect GI Joe movie had already been released 11 years earlier. It was called Metal Gear Solid.

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Say what you will of that game’s three sequels. They wouldn’t have all of those expectations to foil were it not for that fateful 1998 release on the Playstation 1. The names were changed, but all the elements were there. A para-military terrorist organization called FOXHOUND had seized control of a top-secret nuclear research facility in Alaska. The US government’s only hope of retaking the site was to send in a single operative in a hollowed out submarine torpedo with no weapons or political support. The operative’s code name was Solid Snake. He had the wry wit of a Connery-era Bond and the genuine pathos of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” character. Waiting for him inside the base was a troupe of villains with the kind of comic book bravado you can only achieve by knocking off a US military facility. They had code names like Revolver Ocelot, Sniper Wolf, and Decoy Octopus.There was even a mysterious cyborg ninja with unclear motives who could give Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow a run for their money.

Beyond their superficial similarities, Metal Gear Solid had a kind of ethos GI Joe would never be able to achieve with its Reagan Era bravado. It used real world issues of nuclear arms limitation and tghe fate of the military in a post-cold war world as motivation for its characters. At the same time, the story didn’t interfere with the game’s awe-inspiring set pieces, like Solid Snake’s battles with the members of FOXHOUND, or the final confrontation with the walking nuclear tank called Metal Gear.

It may be harsh for me to write off GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra without actually seeing it. Then again, if I actually saw it theatres, I would be supporting the kind of thinking that allows Michael Bay to believe that he has the directing prowess to sell M&M’s without looking like a candy-coated purple…nut. Besides, if I really want to see Reagan-era bravado caught on celluloid, there’s Commando, Rambo, They Live, and other macho epics for me to enjoy. In fact, I think I’ll do just that.

You are making Perez Hilton a Martyr! Stop it!

It pains me that I should comment on something like this, but the insanity of this story is going unchecked. Perez Hilton was allegedly punched by Will.I.Am’s manager and within minutes the internet lost its mind. Men who don’t even read Perez Hilton’s site were jumping to the fore with “GOOD, HE DESERVED IT!” What the hell? Then you have this other gallery of hypocrites pulling their pants up to their chests and saying “Weellll, I don’t think Perez should’ve been punched, but he is trash and a provocateur, etc. etc.” Bull-tweet. They all subscribe to the same baffling brand of mob justice that makes people go ape-spazz over cartoons of Mohammed. And for what? How many people do you know, Mr. Digg Commentor, or Reddit/Mixx/wasteoftime.com commentor, that have been made fun of by Perez Hilton? Answer? Zero. None. Nai. Nada. Sorry to drag you back to the real world where people work hard and pay taxes, buddy. Will.I.Am just had his best sales week ever, and his biggest problem is this twit with a netbook? He should be so lucky. If you want to call Perez names for crying his eyes out on youtube, that man (for lack of a better word) is crying his way to the bank with the extra traffic and ad revenue from his site.

For all the rants on the ubiquity of celebrity news, I’ve been able to avoid all the specific causes of what happened and what Perez said about the Black-Eyed Peas. I still don’t care about it. The only celebrity news that I care about is the kind that’ll lead to the Marvel Avengers movies. If I have any questions, I go ask my wife. That’s it. What I am angry about is the hypocrisy surrounding the idea that he should be silenced when we as a society have decided that we want to read what’s on his site and give him a ton of ad money to update every day.

Perez doesn’t deserve to get punched in the face. He doesn’t deserve to have his website taken down either. All the verbal abuse that the internet can dish out won’t affect him, he’ll just throw on a crown of thorns and dance around for your amusment. Look, I know it’s horrible that celebrity news has taken up such mental space in our society, but it seems like the more we fight it, the more we feed the beast. In fact, I don’t know why we have this demarcation line between “Important Stuff” and Celebrities. Haven’t we already voted with our attention and our dollars that it’s just as important as Iranian Revolutions and Shuttle launches? We can’t innoculate ourselves from tragic heroes and comic villains, it’s practically in our DNA. Instead of just complaining about it, we need to understand what void people fill up when they log on to TMZ or Access Hollywood. The answer will be just as important as an electric car or fusion power.

Sony CEO:I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet…

Dave Rosenberg’s column will fill you in on the details, but Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton had this to say in front of an audience of journalists and students at a breakfast at Syracuse University:

“I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet…(The Internet) created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day. They feel entitled. They say, ‘Give it to me now,’ and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.”

No one argued with Lynton that media content, like Sony Pictures’ movies, were flowing through the internet without the original creators making a dime. The problem here, is that with the internet around, you CAN have the stores on Madison Avenue open 24 hours a day. The marginal cost of distributing a piece of music, text, or video is essentially zero, so you’ll have a hard time selling something that consumers know is pure profit. Instead of using the technology to its full potential, he wants to impose legal roadblocks that keep technology at the level that his business can use forever.

This isn’t the first time that Sony has caused controversy with their remarks towards the internet. Sony was also responsible for including a root-kit on CDs that interfered with the vital functions of computers that tried to play them. One of the attorneys for Sony BMG famously stated:

“When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,”

The current controversy is reminiscent of previous legal battles over new technology, such as VCRs, audio cassette tapes, even terrestrial radio. In each of these circumstances, media companies were able to make billions without resorting to the kind of restrictions they were howling for in the first place. Why do we keep having this debate every time media distribution gets easier and cheaper?

On the surface, you could say that people don’t want to spend any money that they don’t want to, so any change, good or bad, is going to be fought tooth and nail by any business. I think the problem runs deeper than that. Most of the cries of indignation do not come from the artists themselves, but from the companies that represent them. In other words, they are the people who press the plastic discs and make all the deals necessary to get them to the stores. They are the sales people. Artists aren’t happy playing the same songs or acting the same lines over and over again, but salespeople would gladly sell you five copies of the same movie or the same album.

The real reason salespeople don’t want their business to change is that they do not consider what they do to be real work. If they wanted to do work, they would get into carpentry, engineering, or flower arrangement. Workers in those industries have to compete with each other to produce better products, but not salespeople. They’re happy to sell the same loaf of bread in a different bag, and will fight tooth and nail against doing otherwise. We as a society allow this state of affairs because we expect no better of salespeople. We don’t consider sales to be real work either. If a product gathers more sales because it has a better name or packaging, we consider it cheating. Our media is flush with stereotypes of sleazy salespeople who will do anything for a buck except work for one. We consider the ability to “sell ice to eskimos” as the mark of a good salesperson.

The truth is that sales IS real work. The cold calling, the knocking on doors, the networking, all of it. We need to enforce the idea that responsibility of the deal lies not with the producer, the consumer, nor market that created it. It lies with the salesperson himself. If you can’t sell this product, find a better one. If you can’t find a better one, improve the one you’ve got. If you can’t improve the one you’ve got, include a free gift. Salespeople will do what they have to do to make a living, but the fundamental fact here is that the central relationship in a salesperson’s professional life is between him and his consumer. Invoking the powers of government to maintain your bargaining position is no substitute for this kind of rapport. I’m not saying that giving movies and music away for free is the answer, but trying to hobble technology for pure profit is not the answer either.

Trek Flavoured Trek

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I made it out to the new Star Trek movie last Friday. It was pretty good, not life-changing, but okay. The special effects were spectacular, the action was fast-paced, and it ties well into the original series.

Who am I kidding? It was a triumph. Easily the best Star Trek in 20 years. Granted, at this point in the franchise, I’m just happy that Spock isn’t flashing gang signs and saying “Live Longizzle to the Prosperizzle.”

For the first time in so long, Star Trek has finally returned to the concept that made the original so great. And what was that original concept, you ask? No, it wasn’t Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future. It wasn’t the grand speculative ideas either, and it certainly wasn’t the special effects. Ladies and Gentlemen, J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film has heralded the return of bickering to Star Trek.

The original Star Trek never made its mark through calculating villains or bloated technical jargon. The best drama always came from the conflict on the Enterprise’s bridge. Spock would say, “If we don’t do X, all these people will die,” and McCoy would say, “You green-blooded hobgoblin! You can’t do X! That would be horrible!” and Kirk would make the final call that would save everyone, or at least the most people. All the while they would be dealing with some alien phenomenon beyond understanding. Episodes like City on the Edge of Forever and the Doomsday machine soared on this dynamic. The Next Generation and subsequent series also got some great moments from inter-crew conflict, but they usually had to bring someone in from outside to knock things out of their politically correct bubble.

In the new movie, everyone seemed to get on everyone else’s nerves, and it was great. The events of the movie effectively erased the timeline since before the original series, so we can enjoy this franchise anew without worrying whether the star dates match up or the Klingons conjugate their verbs properly. You also don’t have Shatner stealing lines, so hopefully we’ll get more character development from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov. All the haters on the Spock/Uhura relationship need to take a flying leap because it makes sense from the context of the movie. Uhura’s into Spock because he’s attractive, intelligent, and high ranking. As for Spock’s feelings, we’ll just have to wait for the sequel.

In an age of two human-centered Transformer movies, an unmasked, non-wisecracking Deadpool and a GI joe movie surrounding accelerator suits, JJ’s Star Trek is a breath of fresh air. I am so sick of movies that use nostalgia to garner my attention and then shoe-horn all this gimmicky crap for people who are only mildly interested in the original. When you are trying to build on the past glory of a well-established entertainment franchise, it doesn’t have to be new or improved with a precocious sidekick, it just has to work.

Thank you, Michael Bay. You have saved me $12.

My name is James Strocel. I have been a card-carrying Transformers fan ever since Generation 1 in the 1980’s. I say the following of my own free will. I will not be spending any money to see “Transformers 2: Revenge of The Fallen” this Summer. If I do so, I would be positively reinforcing actions that are a detriment to the world economy and my enjoyment of giant fighting robots. I would like to present the following as evidence in support of this stance.

While I did pay money to see the first transformers movie, I came away with a number of caveats. First of all, the story seemed to revolve around the human sidekicks more than it did the Transformers who I actually paid to see. Don’t get me wrong, history is full of examples where robots play prominently in a human-centred story-arc. The anime serials Gundam and Macross come to mind. However, the human story in this case surrounded Shia Lebeouf getting to first and a half base with Megan Fox. It seemed as though the writers felt that people would have trouble relating to the titular robots of Transformers, so they added all this extraneous filler to entice people who had already paid their ticket to watch a movie about robots. I was hoping that for the sequel, the good folks at Paramount would get their act together and give the Transformers the screen time they deserve. This will not be the case. The trailer at screened at the Showest film festival spent over one and a half minutes of a two and a half trailer explaining how Shia wanted to leave his transforming corvette at home so he can go off to college and be “normal”. Words cannot begin to describe what’s wrong with that statement.

The first Transformers film grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide. Anyone poke holes in my rationale by saying that Michael Bay is just giving the fans what they want. He doesn’t have to listen to me, an actual fan, because he has the numbers to tell anyone who doesn’t like his human interest stories to go to hell. If that’s the case, then I have some numbers of my own to show.

The Dow Jones has lost 50% of its value over the past year. The cascading effects of bank insolvency and freezing on lending has led to over $14 trillion dollars worth of companies being shut down. How did we get to this point? By pleasing two sets of people, prospective homebuyers unable to pay their mortgages, and investors looking for high risk and high return investments. Banks made billions by giving sub-prime mortgages to the first group and selling to the latter. People got what they wanted, but did they get what they need? Not by a long shot.

Designing our entertainment or any other product around “giving people what they want” is killing industries left and right. Pontiac finds out that people “want” extra plastic and spoilers on their cars, so they make a car like the Aztec. Papers make more money from advertising than from actual paper sales, so the pages are stuffed to foie-gras goose proportions with ads. If you run a business and are just “giving people what they want” you are abdicating your responsibility as an entrepreneur. When you try to engage all this marketing mumbo-jumbo by testing random samples with no vested interest your business, you are only fooling yourself. Entrepreneurs have a duty to make their products the best they can be, no matter what the polls say. People’s needs have remained the same for thousands of years, but what an entrepreneur does is take a small piece of the universe, be it coffee, toothpicks or even the laws of physics that allows your iPod to work and fashions it into a new frontier to satisfy those age-old needs. It’s like being in a tribe of hunter-gatherers and knowing which ridge leads to the best wild game. It would put you on the fast track to becoming chief hunter-gatherer. The very best entrepreneurs educate people. They know how to get the most benefit out of their products and they pass that knowledge on for a nominal fee.

I realize the philosophy of “giving people what they want” is not going to die over night. My absence at the theatre will be bearly noticed, and I have little hope of getting others to join me. However, we keep saying over and over that we need leadership to get us out of this crisis. We think that the leadership is going to come from our elected officials. I think that we’ll find that leadership in a decent cup of coffee, a well-made camera, or movies that don’t insult our intelligence. If we support decent leadership where we find it by our simple consumer choices, we support the very ideas and strategies that will get us out of any economic crisis.