My Struggle to Like Batman V. Superman

Look up in the sky! Is it a bird? No, it is spoilers!

Mr. BatmanI’ve always considered myself a DC guy.

While I appreciate Marvel and enjoy the movie empire of it (especially the Captain America films), my heart belongs with the 52 worlds of DC Comics. One of my dreams has always been to write a Captain Marvel film, for example. Granted, I know that will not happen (they are planning to make a film soon and, sadly, no one called me).

I remember the thrill of seeing Christopher Reeve fly. I saw Michael Keaton’s Batman three times in the theater. And I remember loving the Super Friends each Saturday morning. I still watch the DVDs with my kids!   

Yet, as I sat there watching the latest DC film, it felt just off for me. Something was off the rails. It was as if the heart and joy of what I loved about DC was gone, replaced with a brute and hopeless vision of our world. This is a film that begins with imagery that feels like 9/11 and there is little humor in a world still living in terror. Maybe for the writer and director there is a deeper meaning in doing this with beloved characters, but for me it just left me feeling… removed. Maybe a better explanation is stranded, left behind by a comic book universe I felt very at home in. 

Here are my four biggest gripes with this new film. I don’t know if it will change anything by me saying this in the big scheme of things, but I am certain I will feel better after. Much like a therapy session, I guess. So here we go… You, dear reader, are my psychologist. Sit back as I lay down my problems with the winged bat and the big boy scout’s latest film. Continue reading

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In Defense of JUMANJI

JumanjiWhen you visit rottentomatoes.com, they only give Jumanji a score of 50%. Ouch. Roger Ebert called it “gloomy” and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it only a C+ implying that the story did not live up to the special effects. Double Ouch.

Yes, Jumanji is not a perfect film. There are moments that make me squirm, like when Robin Williams is attacking some wild vines with a sword and shouts “Harvest time!” That is not the only embarrassing shout in the film, later Judy (played by a young Kirsten Dunst) holds a checkout lane gun up at a person’s eyes and shouts “Price check!” To help emphasize the bad joke, the camera cuts to the cash register where it declares “no sale.”

Not to be a grinch, but many of the classics we love aren’t perfect. I’ll even give you a cherished example. In The Wizard of Oz, when the witch orders out her monkey army to get Dorothy she references a scene that was edited from the film. She explains to her monkeys that she had sent out bugs to tire them out first. Of course, we don’t see the fabled “jitterbug” scene happen (and probably for very good reason, it sounds incredibly cheesy). But, unless you know the history of the film, this really doesn’t make any sense at all. What bugs? What did the bugs do to them? How does a bug bother a scarecrow and a man made of tin?

Now in saying all that, I’m not comparing The Wizard of Oz to Jumanji, even though they both have many similar themes (returning to a home, forging a new family, friendship, etc.) and buy into the great myth that underlines most children stories (a normal child swept away into an adventure to find they are special). The Wizard of Oz is a classic and will never disappear. I can’t say the same for Jumanji in the future, and that makes me a little sad. There is a good chance that over time it might become nothing more than another chapter in all those future biographies of Robin Williams that are certainly being planned right now.

I love the film Jumanji. It is comfort food on the screen for me. And since the tragic death of Robin Williams (our hero Alan Parrish) I have watched it three times… and there is a good chance I might be watching it again soon.

Continue reading

One Writer’s Thoughts on the Importance of GRAVITY

GravityIt is a rare and beautiful gift when you get to experience a brand-new form of storytelling. For me, it is electrifying, like being hit by lightning, something that doesn’t happen everyday. It inspires me, realizing that there are still new possibilities out there to discover.

Some might think this is funny but the only other time I really can think of when I felt I was experiencing something entirely new in storytelling was in a videogame. Consider, before RPG video games attempted to tell narratives, we had merely games like Mario and Sonic. Fun sure, but there was no story there, merely saving a princess is not enough. Honestly, Pac Man is fine with an empty stomach or a full one.

Click here. Jump here. Run, don’t walk. 

There was nothing that would make you care about the characters or on the outcome. There were no consequences, no emotions or dreams to be dashed (besides breaking the high score in Tetris).

For me that eye-opening moment  where everything changed around video games was with Final Fantasy VIII. I felt almost blind-sided by the game, caring about the characters more than I ever imagined I would. I cried with them, I cheered them on. And when the game was over and done, I felt like I had just finished a great adventure with those characters.

Ever since that moment, video games changed for me. Never happy with the old school structures now, I wanted stories, the richer the better. Yes, something changed there for me…. Not just for me, but for most of us gamers, because we all experienced that moment with a game or two over the last few decades. A new storytelling artform (the first since the birth of TV) had come into life.

That electric moment, that bolt of lightning, has occurred for me again. Today, Gravity introduced me to the true potential, possibilities and differences there could be for future films made specifically in IMAX and 3D.  Continue reading

Reblog- Discussing Brave

This film comes out on Blu-Ray this week and this is my initial response to the film (which is great). My daughter is only 18-months old and is obsessed with Princess Merida. She has a toddler doll of her and walks around with it, calling it her baby. She runs her hands through her hair, gives it kisses, sleeps with it each night… Yes, it is all very cute. The day I show her the film and she realizes her “baby” can walk and talk too, her little mind will certainly be wowed.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

This discussion/review is filled with spoilers so if you have not seen Brave… Well, go see it, it is great.

I’m not sure whether to compliment the marketing division at Disney or scold them, but Brave is not the movie they were selling to us. Oh, it is a good film, and I really enjoyed the trip, but it’s not the film I felt like we were seeing in the ads.

Yes, there is magic, there is the princess with the bow, there is some adventure in the end, but it is not on a grand magical stage. If anything the film seems smaller than all that, and even seems to decrease in size over the picture, since we keep returning to locations we have seen before, again and again.

Yes, in many ways, Brave is a small  and personal film, with only a small cast dealing with an issue…

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Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I have a new film review up at Green Spot Blue.  This time it is for The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

Here is a snippet from the beginning of the review:

The Dark Knight Rises is not for the faint of heart.

It is cruel, it is relentless, and it is harsh. The harshness of the film seems to seep into every scene of the film.

The camera angles are tight, making you feel like you are always in a close and cramped space; the music is aggressive, driving and primal (I can’t imagine anyone listening to this music for pleasure); and there are very few light moments in the entire film. Even the interactions between Batman and Alfred are terse (and usually their relationship was the sunnier moments in the early films).

My first reaction upon leaving the theater is that I am surprised that this is only PG-13, seriously who was bribed to keep this at PG-13? Did the production company really think kids would want to buy toys after watching this film? That is a pipedream, in my opinion. In any other decade it would have probably been R. There is a lot of death, destruction and outright viciousness in this film. I can’t even imagine letting my son (who loves Batman) see this until he is at least 14, maybe 15 or 16. This is a Gotham City without hope and without Batman; a peaceful world created out of a lie, a timebomb.

You can read the rest of my the review here at Green Spot Blue.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

I have a new film review up on Green Spot Blue.  It is a review of The Amazing Spider-Man.  Here is a snippet from the beginning:

For years, Peter Parker has not been able to catch a break.

I’m not talking about with the villains like Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin, or with the girls, like Gwen and Mary Jane; no, I am talking about his issues with pop culture.

From questionable musicals to badly-written TV shows (Ultimate Spider-Man, which does not live up to its title at all) to lackluster movies, Peter Parker has had to endure it all. And he has, not losing an inch of his popularity along the way. That is a feat for any creation, even a superhero.

Growing up I was always more of a DC Comics fan, always feeling like there was “too much” going on around the Marvel universe I had to catch up on (I found the first time I picked up an X-Men to be exhausting, for example). However, I am now a dad of a superhero-obsessed, four-year old and his favorite is Spider-Man, which means I have to answer a lot of questions about this friendly neighborhood webslinger I never had to before. I am becoming more and more an encyclopedia of knowledge around him. Feel free to test me.

You can read the rest of the review (where I compare the film to the previous trilogy and dive more into my opinion on it) here. I hope you like it.

Discussing Brave

This discussion/review is filled with spoilers so if you have not seen Brave… Well, go see it, it is great.

I’m not sure whether to compliment the marketing division at Disney or scold them, but Brave is not the movie they were selling to us. Oh, it is a good film, and I really enjoyed the trip, but it’s not the film I felt like we were seeing in the ads.

Yes, there is magic, there is the princess with the bow, there is some adventure in the end, but it is not on a grand magical stage. If anything the film seems smaller than all that, and even seems to decrease in size over the picture, since we keep returning to locations we have seen before, again and again.

Yes, in many ways, Brave is a small  and personal film, with only a small cast dealing with an issue that doesn’t affect the entire world but only one country in a minor political way. Kingdoms are not going to fall because of this story. Princess Merida is not fighting to save the world with all of the odds against her; no she is only trying to save one person, her mom. Continue reading

Five Things I Loved About The Avengers

I have a new film review/editorial up at GreenSpotBlue.com today. This time it is on The Avengers.

Here is the beginning of the article:

While I would probably not let my son see The Avengers until he is eight, the film definitely awakened the kid in me. I can’t remember the last time I came home with such a buzz from a show. (Maybe seeing The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time?)

Everyone in the world is reviewing this film right now, all finding their own things to praise and critique; that is all right and I wish them the best (I would be surprised if any negative review would keep anyone away from this event). I am going to take a different approach and give you my five takeaways from the film. It is like me pressing the “like” button on Facebook but for a film. (I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling the newbies too much.)

1. The HULK

To be honest, as a kid I never got the Hulk. I was more a Batman/Superman kind of kid. I liked the idea of Superman’s power when I was young (and flight, of course; who doesn’t want to fly?); Batman came later when I realized Batman was just like me. Okay, me with a heck of a lot of money, less parents, and a lot of fighter training, but still, overall human.

You can read the rest of the article (and more on my five points) here. I hope you enjoy it.

Film Review: The Pirates!

I have a new film review up at Green Spot Blue for the children’s comedy, The Pirates! Band of Misfits (here).  Here is the beginning of the review:

I want to begin this review with my only little complaint; which could really be considered by some a tangent. Did you know in England and Europe that this film is called The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! and yet here in the USA it is called The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Is anyone else insulted by this change like I am?

It reminds me like how they changed the first Harry Potter book from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to a Sorcerer’s Stone (and let’s note the philosopher’s stone is an actual item from mythology, as compared to the made up and—lets say it—obvious and easily named “sorcerer’s stone”). Should we as a culture be annoyed by what this says about us? (Yes, is my initial response.) Are our kids really that anti-education/school/science that entertainment power players don’t even want to try and go down this road?

Have they actually tested to see if they would lose money with the original title here in our country? Is there focus group material out there with kids that I can see showing why they made the change? Or did some ordinary dude in a powerful position who didn’t like science in school, and thought he could speak for all Americans everywhere, simply do this?

Whatever the case, as you can tell, this change bothers me. Personally, I don’t they think the original title would drive kids away. And isn’t the idea of having an adventure with scientists kind of funny a concept by itself?

OK, I got that out of my system; let’s get to the review of the film. And let me state I am not going to talk like a pirate in this review or do any bad pirate puns.

You can read the rest of my review (and why I recommend taking your child to see it) here.

Why I am stuck seeing The Phantom Menace again…

They say that being a parent is all about making sacrifices. I had already understood that but I never thought it was something concrete, I thought it would mean I was like The Giving Tree, but in spirit … But because my son is four, and he is the right age for it, I’m about to make another sacrifice, one to hang on the wall of parenthood next to my broken DVD of the first The Pirates of the Caribbean and the torn cover of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.

I am going to take him to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on Imax, 3D in February.

Godfather 3 is far too over quoted by people, but seriously, I was out! Lucas and his mad skills at getting to my checkbook has pulled me back in.

Now I grew up with Star Wars (the first movie came out when I was three which was the perfect age for warping my little mind), but after all of his changes to the original trilogy he had lost me. I was free! I didn’t buy the last set of DVDs, I didn’t buy the Blu-Rays. Oh, I held them in the store, but more to study the ugly cover art on the front (and really it is bad). Continue reading