I know it’s been awhile, and this isn’t a movie that anyone needs to know my opinion of, because it’s been out for awhile and it’s the highest grossing movie of all time and everyone else has an opinion already, but I’m getting daily clickbait saying the directors have revealed a minor detail that I thought we all already knew, plus this is my website, and Brie Larson is in Avengers: Endgame, albeit briefly, so away we go.

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I don’t know if I need to get into the whole story here, but obviously Endgame is the sequel to Infinity War, and basically the sequel to every Marvel movie since 2008, with a few ancillary TV shows thrown in. It’s a lot to take in for the uninitiated, and now the term “shared universe” has entered the entertainment lexicon. Thanks, Kevin Feige.

So that’s basically where I want to start. As a life-long comic book guy, I have been familiar with groups of heroes teaming up and fighting bad guys together (and often fighting each other, with very little prompting.) But in movies, other than Freddy Vs. Jason and Alien Vs. Predator, which have been mostly, and best, forgotten, there’s never been anything like this ever. and even those were only a couple characters. This is way bigger. Every character from 20 or so hugely popular movies combining into one long story which is essentially about one guy’s quest to balance the universe by obliterating half of it. And the kicker is that it worked.

The only thing even close to being comparable is maybe the Universal Monsters from the 30’s and 40’s, but even that wasn’t really the same thing because the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the vision from the beginning. I mean, sure, if Iron Man works but the rest flop, well, at least they got a couple good Iron Man flicks out of it. But the vision back then was always to build to the first Avengers movie, which was pretty cool in and of itself. But that’s kind of like Walt Disney saying, “Eh, Mickey’s enough.” Nope, Kevin Feige’s idea from the beginning was always to bring the long form story-telling of the comics to the big screen. And with so many things working against this idea, here we are.

I know it’s hard to believe now, but before Marvel was owned by Disney, they, along with Paramount, gambled on Robert Downey, Jr. launching this thing. Of course, it’s a fair bet that the execs at Paramount had no idea what the future held, or who Tony Stark was, but they must have seen some dollar signs, so they made the thing.  It was successful enough that they decided to get working on a second one. Plus some Hulk, Thor and Captain America movies, all the while sprinkling in characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye, just for future reference. A few years later, The Avengers were born. Man, when you look back on it, and then look at how ham-fisted Warner Brothers’ attempt was to get DC’s Justice League off the ground, don’t you almost feel bad for the DC folks? Nah, me neither.

I have neglected to mention a couple things here. A big one is that comics weren’t considered that cool back in 2008 when Iron Man came out. Sure, Christopher Nolan was making some cool Batman movies, and Hellboy was pretty popular, but overall, not a lot of people cared (I even hid my fandom in certain social circles. I know. Hard to believe.) Also, the biggest stumbling block was that Marvel didn’t even have access to their A-list characters. They had sold away the movie rights to their top-tier guys back when they were facing bankruptcy and Kevin Feige was not on anyone’s radar. Unfortunately, Fox had made a couple really bad X-Men films and Sony had made a mess of Spider-Man, leaving Marvel with a bunch of great, but un-mined characters. Basically, characters who never had a Saturday morning cartoon. So, yeah, Iron Man was a gamble.

This is why Endgame is Tony Stark’s story. I know some people were upset that Black Widow didn’t get her due when she sacrificed herself to obtain the soul stone, and I totally get it, but Tony was the catalyst for this whole thing. Without Tony Stark, we have no MCU, both within the world of Marvel and in the real world. I’m sorry Black Widow fans, but it’s true.

So, you don’t have to love the Marvel movies. You can look at them as a bit repetitive, a tad white-washed, just boring action movies, but I feel like you have to respect what has been accomplished here. As a comic book and move buff, this is history. Over twenty movies that are weaved together to create a giant, cohesive story, done so well that, sure, you can skip one if you want, but in the spirit of old-school Marvel Comics, where the goal was that if you picked up any random book, you would be able to tell what was going on, you can see some or all of the Marvel movies and probably not be lost at any point. However, if you choose to see them all, as I have, and remember all of the little details, Endgame makes for a really cool movie.

But ok, Tony Stark isn’t the only person in Endgame. There’s a certain Oscar-winner who starred in her own Marvel movie back in March. Although she only appears in 15 minutes of the movie, it’s an important and impressive 15 minutes. At the beginning of the movie, she saves Tony Stark from certain death while he and Nebula are marooned on the Milano in space. The movie then kind of explains her away when she says that there are other planets in the universe that need her help in the wake of The Snap, so she is not seen again until the final minutes of the climactic battle between Thanos’ forces and the reborn, but rather decimated, heroes, when she does some decimating of her own. There’s also this moment, which has become an internet sensation:

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Captain Marvel obtains the Avengers’ new gauntlet from a rather spent Spider-Man, and,

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I must admit, I thought this was the denouement. There’s no way that Thanos will get that thing back now. Captain Marvel is ridiculously powerful, right? 

Not so fast, in a brilliant bit of story-telling, while wrestling with Marv over the gauntlet,Thanos grabs the power stone, the real difference-maker of the bunch, and KO’s her, allowing him to reclaim the infinity stones (or technically, claim them for the first time, but don’t get me started on time travel), which leads to Iron Man’s big moment. It’s a cool, small moment. Marvel is still pretty awesome, and one-on-one, she probably beats Thanos, but the power stone changes everything. Captain Marvel remains strong for her big sequel, and for whatever else is in store for her in the next phase of Marvel movies. What? You’re not tired of them already, are you?

Of course, Brie Larson is only one piece of this large, shared universe, but since Tony Stark is gone, Captain America is old, Spider-Man is now out of the MCU, and Thor is kind of fat, someone’s gotta pick up the slack. You wouldn’t hear any complaints from me if it’s her.

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I had planned posting this just after seeing the movie, but then life happened and so, here I am. Just pretend like this is all new and exciting.

And so it has come to pass… After all these posts about Brie Larson movies, good and bad (the movies, not the posts. They were all bad.), we have come to the ultimate Brie Larson movie, her big-budget, franchise-launching, starring role of Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. And after all the stupid, silly, inane controversies (Smile-gate, Rotten Tomatoes’ review trolls, the cat’s real name, etc.), the movie has arrived, and kicked all those asshole, do-nothing crybabies right in the nuts, to the tune of a $911 million worldwide gross (so far).

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And what did I think, after all these long-winded posts? In this day-and-age of everyone with a website or Youtube channel spouting their opinions, do you really want to know? Well, if you’re still reading, I guess you do, so here we go: this white guy enjoyed it.

Now, I will be the first to say that there has never been a perfect movie, and this isn’t the first one. The middle gets a little slow, as a lot of movies do. Some of the jokes fall flat. A few of the nineties songs from the soundtrack are too on the nose (I’m looking at you, No Doubt!). But overall, the action was great, the pacing of the movie was exceptionally good, and it fits very well into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that has a powerful new hero… and it’s a girl! The great thing to me was that she just happened to be a girl. The over-arching theme, the fact that she had been under the thumb of her Kree brethren (who weren’t her brethren at all, really), and that her mentor (Jude Law) was keeping her from reaching her true potential, could have easily happened to any protagonist, regardless of gender. I’ve seen and heard reviews where people are delighted that Captain Marvel had a female bestie, or how cool it was that she had no male love interest to drive her to greatness (a’la Wonder Woman). But that’s not really the point of the movie for me. Let’s face it, in just about every movie with a female protagonist, the main character has a female best friend, and every movie with a male protagonist, he has a female love interest, so whatever. It’s all Hollywood window dressing. Why try to make it into some kind of beacon of hope for feminism?

The point of this, and hopefully, most action movies, is to tell a decent story with relatable characters and make it fun. I spend a great part of my life over-thinking movies, mostly because I know how much work goes into making them, so when I’m disappointed, I’m really disappointed. But even this film snob can just kick back and be entertained for two hours. That’s why I like so many Marvel movies. (As a sidenote; two hours and eight minutes was the perfect length for this movie. For the story they were telling, any longer would have been too much. Much shorter and it would have seemed like something was left out. By comparison, Wonder Woman, at 2 hours and 21 minutes, seemed way too long. The entire climactic battle seemed like it lasted almost three hours.)

Just a couple other quick notes before Dursin’s Final Thoughts; I didn’t love the fact that Nick Fury lost his eye to a cat scratch. It was predictable and silly (but I suppose if we didn’t see how he lost his eye, people would have complained about that, too.) I did like that they brought back the Tesseract as the maguffin here, as that has been a thread running through three Marvel movies now, until Thanos just crushes it to reveal that it houses an Infinity Stone, which makes him seem that much for of a bad-ass to me. I did not love the whole Supreme Intelligence thing. I guess I get the fact that they didn’t want to animate a gross, green blob and say that it was the representation of the brains of all the Kree, or whatever. And having it be a manifestation of someone you know fit with their story, but they probably could have come up with a better way to reveal Carol’s true origin. “Supreme Intelligence” seems like some they came up with in the comics in the 70’s that just doesn’t translate to movies in 2019 (Hell, they changed “Cosmic Cube” to “Tesseract” because it sounded cooler. They couldn’t come up with something cooler than “Supreme Intelligence?”

Finally, I loved the fact that there was no knock-down, drag-out fight at the end between Marvel and Jude Law. as cinema-goers, we’re sort of conditioned to think that it should happen, so to have her just blast the heck out of him not only was a nice surprise, but it fit with the story that they were telling (that he was keeping her down all this time, and she really is that damn powerful.) Not only did it make sense, plot-wise, but it made sense cinematically, because a long, drawn-out fight that you know she is going to win anyway would have just slowed everything down and made the movie longer and less fun (Sorry to pick on you, Wonder Woman, but that is where you fell apart for me.) Prove that she is mighty, and move your movie along to the end. Everybody wins!

In the world we have constructed for ourselves, people like to talk about stuff, and I’m the first one to fall for click-bait like, “Brie Larson says she hates white dudes.” And I honestly don’t know anyone who saw this movie and felt like it changed society’s mind on female representation in movies. Maybe they’re out there somewhere, and I’m sure they will be a sequel before too long, so that’s probably a good indication. But what I have heard is a lot of people saying that this was just a basic, decent, fun story. Of course, there are critics, as there always are. But with all the controversy coming in, “Do No Harm,” was a pretty good bar to set, and I think it beat those expectations by quite a bit. I feel like if you like most of the Marvel movies, you will enjoy this one. If you don’t, or if you’re an angry white guy who too much free time, then you should skip it. Obviously, the movie didn’t need your money, anyway.

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Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. I found Captain Marvel entertaining, and am anxious to see her in Avengers: Endgame next month. So, good on ya, Marvel! You got me!

 

I don’t think it will change anyone’s mind on feminism, or even lead to more diversity in the film industry, but we really shouldn’t rely on our action movies to make societal changes, anyway. Let’s just enjoy them for what they are.

This is the end of my Brie Larson blogging for awhile (unless her directoral debut blows me away). It’s been fun analyzing movies and movie culture through her work, but it’s time to move on. Check back for some new stuff, if I can come up with anything. Thanks for reading, which you probably didn’t. But if you did, I hope it gave you a little food for thought.

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Hmmmm…

 

 

 

I’m hoping I can get this done before Thursday, because the plan all along was to get to this movie before Captain Marvel, and that is fast approaching. I already have my tickets, despite the fact that I’m a white male and apparently, I’m supposed to not want to see it, like all these idiots. Reading all this negative press actually really makes me glad I jumped on this wagon a long, long time ago. Some people think this is going to impact the gross, but we’ll know by Sunday, so fingers crossed the bad guys don’t win this one.

Speaking of bad guys not winning, I give you the grand poo-bah or the entire Brie Larson canon, Room, the one that won her a well-deserved Oscar and critical acclaim, and made myself and a lot of other people realize that this girl has chops. If you haven’t seen it, well, I’m sorry but the statute of limitations on spoilers has run out. Get on it, but bring the box of tissues.

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In Room, Larson plays 24 year-old Joy, who was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held captive in a shed for the last seven years. She lives there with her five year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who is the off-spring of Joy and her captor. Jack has obviously never seen the outside, and has come to think of his shed as basically the whole world, even calling it “Room” with affection.

For someone who was abducted and forced to live over a third of her life in captivity, Joy8e1e4749-e606-4703-83d3-edbd17d04320 is an amazing mother, and has become quite adept at giving her son the best life possible, while actually shielding him from their horrible existence, even building sort of fort in the closet for Jack to hide in when their captor, “Old Nick,” comes to force himself upon her. She basically tells Jack that Room is the world and everything else is just TV Land.

If this isn’t enough to make you realize that the world is a terrible place, it gets remarkably worse. Old Nick cuts off their heat and power, which heightens Joy’s depression but also gives her an opportunity. She has Jack fake a fever to try to convince Old Nick to take him to a doctor. When he refuses, she then asks Jack to play dead, and wraps him in a carpet and forces Nick to take the body away in the back of his pick-up truck. Once they are in the safety of a residential neighborhood, Jack, despite his inexperience with the outside world, jumps out of the back of the pick-up and runs for help. He tells a passerby about the situation, they then call the cops, and Joy is rescued and Old Nick is arrested. I should note that this is a fairly simplified explanation of how they escaped. It’s actually way cooler than I make it sound. Larson’s desperation in this scene is truly Oscar-worthy, as she explains to Jack how he can engineer their escape without really telling him that’s what they are doing (because why would they escape this place that she never told him was necessarily bad?)

Now, if this were some shitty, Lifetime movie (or shitty movie in general), that would be the end, right? Damsel-in-distress rescued! Child no longer in peril! Evil-doer punished! Whoo-hoo! But that’s not how real life works is it? The real Joy would need to actually live the rest of her life, and even at five, the real Jack would need to learn a lot about the world. And it is not easy. In fact, Joy discovers that during her captivity, her parents split up. The family that she was looking forward to rejoining for seven years is no more (Her father can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that he has a grandchild, and leaves). And to put a real damper on things, Jack actually misses Room, and cries when informed that he will never be going back, because the home you live in as a child will always be your home, no matter how long you lived there and how often you move. All of this horror does even more of a number on Joy, who begins to struggle with depression and gets downright angry about how difficult this all is, almost in a “The devil you know…” kind of way. She then reluctantly agrees to a television interview, and it really hits the fan when the interviewer asks her why she decided to keep infant Jack rather than asking Old Nick to take him to a hospital, where he would have had a shot at a (more) normal life. The overwhelming guilt causes her to attempt suicide, and she is admitted to a hospital.

Jack is now separated from his mother for the first time in his life. he begins to assimilate, even meeting a boy his age from the neighborhood. He believes that his hair will give Joy strength to recover, and asks his grandfather to cut it off and send it to her. Joy does actually recover, and is sent home (not sure if it was the hair specifically, but still…). She thanks Jack for saving her life again, unequivocally stating that he was the only thing that kept her going all those years in captivity, and that was the only reason she didn’t have Nick take him away. The final scene shows Joy and Jack visiting Room one last time to say good-bye, along with a police escort. Jack sees it in a different light now, from the outside in, seeing how much smaller it looks that way. It’s the childhood equivalent of going back to your grammar school and realizing how small and insignificant it really is. But the closure is important, and the inference is that now they will be okay.

Now, I need to say right now that I didn’t love this ending, and in fact, I didn’t really like this whole second part of the movie after they escape. As someone who watches and analyzes and over-analyzes movies, I thought this was actually an example of bad writing. I thought that they weren’t giving the audience what they wanted, somehow. It took me thinking about it for months after, and even thinking it over as I was writing this, that made me realize that I wasn’t supposed to like it, that I was supposed to be disturbed by it, that I was supposed to think about it for months after seeing it. It’s definitely disturbing, but also inspiring the way Joy tries to give Jack as happy a life as possible. The scene where they both scream at the wall is almost cute, until you stop and realize that Joy is just letting out her aggression. There are so many emotions at play in this story, and that is what really bothered me, because emotions can be hard, and when movies make me feel things this deeply, it’s really just easy to write it off as bad writing that is just trying to manipulate me. It’s a lot harder to process your feelings about what was really going on.

To close this out, what was really going on was that Brie Larson was giving an Oscar-winning performance. Now, I’ve always criticized the trend in Oscar winners where they have to be from weepy dramas and have conquered some great adversity, but this one transcends that trend. This was the performance that really opened everyone’s eyes to this talented actress, and opened doors, as well. Coming April 5th, Unicorn Store, her directorial debut on Netflix, and in mere hours, Captain Freakin’ Marvel! I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about that one, but if not, you’ll probably hear me yelling about it from a mountaintop. Stay tuned.MV5BNzUxOTQxMDQyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg0MDQwNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_.jpg

Since we are just under three months to Captain Marvel‘s release date, I thought I would try to ramp up the writing a bit, so here I am, dipping my toe into Brie Larson’s TV career, basically tackling the Showtime series, The United States of Tara. Before I get to that, however, another Inside Look (basically a shorter trailer) for Captain Marvel that I scoffed from IMDB.: Go here to be entertained. (I should really shell out for the upgraded version where I get to embed things.)

Also, please consider joining the Captain Marvel Challenge. Last year, Frederick Joseph started a Gofundme campaign to help kids from Harlem see Black Panther, and this year he’s starting a similar one for young girls for Captain Marvel. This particular campaign has raised over $45,000 so far, but there are tons of smaller ones that need your support.

Now, on with the ranting…

Back in 2009 (ten freaking years ago!), Larson got what I think could be considered a big break (also read as a regular paycheck) when she played Toni Collette’s daughter in the series The United States of Tara, a show I knew nothing about until a couple hours ago. If you’re like me, let me give you a quick rundown; Collette plays Tara, a suburban housewife who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. I had to look it up, too, but it used to be called multiple personality disorder. Tara has a lot of people in her mind, and apparently doesn’t even know what they are doing when they are in control. I have only watched a couple episodes, but it seems like some kind of trauma caused it, and it also seems like she doesn’t know what that trauma was. Interestingly enough, as the series begins, Tara’s family is kind of okay with it, because it’s just part of their lives. One of her “alters,” as they are called, T, is actually pretty close with Larson’s character, Kate. The only real alter who seems to be creating trouble is the male one, who is a total redneck and causes all sorts of problems (as men tend to do.).

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Toni Collette as “Buck”

Because this show is executive-produced by Jill Soloway, who was the writer of many of my favorite episodes of Six Feet Under (and went on to create Transparent, among other things), there are cool moments when Tara talks to her alters as if they are real people, much like characters on Six Feet Under would talk to dead people, and not in a Sixth Sense-way, but in a all-in-their-heads-way. The similarities don’t stop there, in fact. the way the characters developed reminded me a lot of SFU, as well as other Premium cable shows that were popular in the early-2000’s.

Watching this show kind of brought me back to that glorious time, in fact. All the Premuim Cable networks like HBO and Showtime were hitting their creative stride after shows like The Sopranos, Queer as Folk and The Wire won critical acclaim, and this was before every other network decided, “We can do that, too.” And this was also before streaming services came along and diluted the market even more. Now, everyone has a show, and of course, some of them are excellent, but to me, it’s sort of similar to expansion in major league sports. Like, are there really enough great pitchers in the world for 30 teams to each have a staff of twelve?

Because this was pre-saturation, it’s interesting to watch it now and see the difference. It’s hard to describe, really, but the pacing seemed different. The characters and storylines could breathe a little more because the creators did’t feel like they had to grab you within the first five seconds or you could just turn it off and watch one of the other five thousand binge-able shows that are on. It was also sort of like visiting old friends, because a lot of the same actors were traded about among the few really good shows. United States of Tara starred John Corbett, who played Aiden Shaw on Sex in the City, but also appearances by Frances Conroy (Ruth Fisher on SFU), Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development, and soon-to-be Veep), and Patton Oswalt, who always plays Patton Oswalt.

However, as far as Brie Larson goes, she was still on her way up, so she plays the teenage daughter in this dysfunctional family. Much like Claire (Lauren Ambrose) on SFU, she is at that age where she is transitioning into adulthood, and dealing with the many trials downloadthat brings. The cool thing about her character is that she plays against type a little, because she’s actually really smart and ambitious, even graduating from high school early in the second season’s debut episode. She is not portrayed as one of the girlfriends from the Big Bang Theory, however, but someone who is actually kind of cool, funny, attractive, and yet just also happens to be intelligent. It was pretty refreshing to see for a teenage girl on a television show to be portrayed like an actual person rather than a stereotype. (Although, from the pictures I’ve seen, she appearsdownloadto go on to portray The Princess of Valhalla, so maybe I should watch more before I make these assumptions. And so, we get what amounted her her first go-round as a super-hero.)

 

From what I have seen, great writing created this character, but great acting still had to mold it. Of course, we all know that Larson would go on to win an Oscar, but she had to learn those skills somewhere, and I’m betting that being a regular on a quality TV show where she had to really get inside this girl’s head for month’s at a time is where she picked up a thing or two about acting. Not that she wasn’t good before, but it just seems like a logical next step. We’ve seen it with Viola Davis, Alison Janney, Jared Leto, Hell, even Tom Hanks started out on Bosom Buddies.

I’m not really sure if we’re still in the Golden Age of Television or not, although I know some people still believe it. I think there’s just too much noise out there. But i do believe we’re in the golden age of actors, where people can ply their trade by becoming a character for years on a quality show before going out and proving themselves on the grand stage of the big screen (let’s face it, the Emmy’s will never be as big as the Oscars.) There was a time, not that long ago, when the actor’s creed was to never do a TV series, because it would mean the end of your career. Now, it has become the doorway. Not just to get noticed, but to get good. It’s a place where a young intelligent actor can play a young, intelligent character, even play a faux-super-hero, before going on to play a real one.

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There’s been a lot of Captain Marvel-related stuff going on lately, with the second trailer debuting, revealing tiny bits about the plot, and getting everyone, including myself, very excited. So, with all that, I thought I’d better chime in with something, so here it is.

Captain Marvel is going to be awesome.

Oh, you wanted more. Oh, fine. Well, if you’re like me and you live for these Marvel movies, you’d be pretty excited about this one, too. I picked up this nugget on eBay recently: Ms. Marvel #2, the second issue of Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel, the precursor to her re-branding as Captain Marvel. It was only $20 at the time, but that price is sure to go up before the release of the movie. Keep your eyes peeled.

But as I’ve said before, this is not just a Captain Marvel fan site. The plan is to write about the career of Brie Larson, and through that, write down some hopefully-funny observations about movies, in general. To that end, I give you the Mark Wahlberg film, The Gambler.

I will try to remain unbiased here, actually, because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really like Mark Wahlberg. I obviously never met the guy, even though he keeps coming back to my state to shoot his movies, possibly because we’re the only state that will have him. He never struck me as a very good person, and I admit that this opinion largely stems from his racial assaults in the 80’s, one of them being splitting a Vietnamese kid’s head open with a stick. When he was arrested for this, when the police brought in the victim to identify him, he told them, “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother-fucker whose head I split open.” Good dude. By the way, he was charged with attempted murder, and sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served … 45 days. How’s that for our legal system? I guess being a former New Kid opens doors.

Aside from his time as a thug, Wahlberg’s range as an actor has never really impressed me. I will say that I love Boogie Nights. Not so much for him since there were about a billion people in it, but he definitely held his own. It’s been his more recent run of movies, where he pretty much only plays dirtbags from Boston, that has given me enough reason to dislike him. Patriots Day was the last straw for me. If you’re not from the Boston area, it probably doesn’t matter, but here’s the skinny; Wahlberg’s character, Officer Tommy Saunders (or, more appropriately, “Awfficah Tawmmy Sawndahs”), who is a made-up person. Just about everyone else in the movie played a real person, but Wahlberg wanted to play a cop who impossibly managed to be everywhere during the 4- day manhunt for the bombers, so they made up a character for him. Like the saga wasn’t dramatic enough, and there weren’t enough heroes combing the streets of Boston over during that time, that they had to make up a character for him to play? And the bombing was only in 2015, man. Just too soon,

Point is, I suffered through this one in my quest to see all of Brie Larson’s movies (which, ok, I still haven’t done.) I will say that it is not a bad movie, even though there’s not much to it. The gist of it is that Wahlberg plays a literature professor who is also a compulsive gambler, and he gets in trouble because he borrows money from both his mother and a loan shark (I’m not sure which is worse.) As far as I know, this movie wasn’t based on anything, and it is not a remake, and yet I feel like I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s your basic “Male protagonist screws up his whole life and you watch to see how he gets out of it” story. We’ve all seen it a hundred times, and there’s no real twist that makes this one stand out, and yet I can’t say I hated it.

Larson plays one of his students, Amy Phillips, who ends up having a fling with him, which is really just a side plot thrown in to give this guy one more thing that he can’t do right. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, because in my screenwriting classes I was always taught to pile the horrible things on your characters to add to the drama. Still, as bad things you can heap on a character go, sleeping with your student is pretty tame. Maybe if she had reported him and sued him and he lost his job or something like that, it would have made for some more drama. But in the end, Amy is nothing more than a pawn in the loan shark storyline, as they threaten to kill her if Marky-Mark doesn’t pay up. Other than that, Amy has no real purpose. It would have been cool if she somehow helped him out of the whole mess, or helped redeem him in some way, but nope. See, it’s fine to pile bad things on your characters, but they really should somehow relate to the actual story somehow. Otherwise, it’s just an excuse to have a cute girl in your movie.

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The thing that really bothered me, though, was Wahlberg’s character, Jim Bennett (Even the name sounds cliche’). Bennett is one of those movie tropes that doesn’t exist anywhere but the screen: the rock star professor. I’ve worked in a University for many years, and I’ve known some fun professors, some nice professors, some professors who can toss a few drinks back, and even some who can sing. But I’ve never met a rock star professor. Probably because he doesn’t exist!

Now, of course there have been professors that have affairs with their students, and there are probably professors who are compulsive gamblers with mommy issues, but there are very likely no Literature professors who walk around thinking that they are this cool. In fact, most of them are probably really nerdy, because they have spent hours and hours with their faces in books, earning the necessary degrees to become a college professor. You don’t see a lot of people who just sort of fall into the profession. You do see a lot of people who get into it because they like to have their summers off.

I hate to play this card again, but Jim Bennet is probably an amalgamation of different people that the screenwriters knew, and he they threw in the Lit professor bit to make him seem like a smart guy who is throwing his life away, and to give him students to talk down to. Honestly, the movie wouldn’t have been any different if he was a fry cook. Actually, it maybe would have increased the desperation, because we all know that college professor is ranked as one of the least stressful job in America (apparently it’s right behind Audiologist, which is a career I’m not familiar with, but the median salary is $75,000 a year and it’s not very stressful, so sign me up.) Anyway, for the Jim Bennett character, in addition to all the other cliches’, this movie gets The Deadpool Meme:

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Maybe it’s just lazy on my part to dismiss this movie and not really delve deeper into the themes, but really, beyond Brie Larson, with all the entertainment vying for our attention, there’s really no need to watch this. But good things are coming for Ms. Larson.

It’s been awhile, but things have been hectic ’round these parts. Partially due to the Kickstarter I launched for my comic, Robin Hood: Outlaw of the 21st Century. Check it out for some cool rewards and to help a starving artist out.

Of course, in my busy-ness, I sort of missed the opportunity to chat about the Captain Marvel trailer. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out from under your rock and click the link. It’s quite good. It’s not one of those trailers that gives away all the best parts of the movie. They give you just enough to make you want to see the movie. All you see is that she’s a hero, she’s from Earth but has some ties to an alien race, and she can shoot lasers from her hands. I mean, I already know her story and I’m intrigued.

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I’ll talk a lot more about Captain Marvel as we move along, but this is about movies that Brie Larson has already made. Now, I’ve ragged on a few of her movies in my previous posts, but because I’m feeling such good vibes from the trailer, I decided to cover what is, to date, my favorite Brie Larson movie, Free Fire.MV5BOWZjMDVhMDgtMTljZC00NmM0LWE1ODYtNGZmMGRhZTc3MTg2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAzMTY4MDA@._V1_

A lot of people probably have never even heard of this movie, and if I weren’t scouring the globe for Brie Larson movies, I maybe wouldn’t have, either. And that would be unfortunate, because it’s a totally fun, awesome movie, one that I would have loved in college during my “Tarantino is God” phase, and totally worth your time (Seriously, it’s available free with Prime now, and I when is say “worth your time,” I mean it because it’s exactly 91 minutes, and 60 of them are one, long gunfight.)

Larson herself had just come from filming Room, for which she would win critical acclaim and an Oscar, but at the time, she was just making a fun action movie alongside Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy. In fact, it was likely for the best that it happened that way, because the fame that came from her performance in Room could have possibly changed the vibe that this movie had going on, and that would have sucked, because the vibe that Free Fire had going on was that of a shoot-’em-up, gonzo, late-70’s blood bath. No CGI monsters smashing buildings or giants sky-lasers. Just people shooting each other and crawling around on the ground, wounded. And the great part is, when these people get shot, they feel it, and they scream in pain, and the people that shoot them even sometimes feel a little bad.

As a brief aside, can I just say that I am finding Armie Hammer to actually be quite an accomplished actor? I had honestly never heard of him before that horrible Lone Ranger debacle, but this dude has some chops. I love that he plays his handsomeness for comedy more often than not, where a lot of handsome Hollywood actors play their handsomeness for handsomeness.

The quick rundown of the story, such as it is, goes like this; in 1978 Boston, Larson’s Justine is helping to broker a deal between criminals for some rifles. So, of course, when you get a bunch of stupid criminals and some guns and put them together in an enclosed space, hilarity will ensue. As Larson puts it, Free Fire is simply “an action movie making fun of action movies.” That’s pretty good, but I don’t see it as “making fun,” as much as paying tribute to them, and making one that’s actually quite simple, and very good. There is of course some subtlety in the performances, of course, especially Hammer’s sweet-talking, sharp-dressed kingpin, and Sharlto Copley’s stupidly fake-smooth Vernon, and there’s some nods to the political unrest in Northern Ireland (hence the guns), but even if I didn’t see the opening minutes and had no idea who anyone was, I would have enjoyed this movie immensely.download

Also, I know this may seem biased, but Larson happens to be playing the most intelligent character in the movie. She is the only female, and definitely stands out among the leisure suits and bad facial hair, but she there is also an edge to her that just isn’t seen in a lot of action movies from previous generations (She even has a great moment, while pointing her gun at one of her rivals: “We can’t all be nice girls.”) There were saucy female characters, to be sure, and there were hordes of Marion Ravenwood-esque women who could hold their own with the male bad guys, but also in the end had to be rescued by their leading men. Justine needs no rescuing, and in fact, has one up on all of them, and plainly states as much when she responds to one of the dimwit crooks when he asks if she’s F.B.I.: “I’m I.I.F.M.,” which stands for In It For Myself. I mean, Marion Ravenwood was definitely in it for the money (at least at first), but even she wasn’t savvy enough to put one over on both Indiana Jones and Rene Belloq.

I would like to say that I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, but that’s really not an issue here. I guess I won’t tell you who, if anyone, gets away, but let me just say a bunch of people get shot, all of them more than once, there’s a lot of jokes and quips, Armie Hammer smokes a lot of weed, the filmmakers make great use of John Denver on the soundtrack, and assuming they have a pulse, the audience goes home happy. But don’t let the lack of plot twists and turns get you down, because, as I said earlier, there are great characters and performances in here. They are done so well, in fact, that even though they are all criminals, you kind of want them to make it. But you know that never really happens in these movies. Just enjoy them while they’re there, because it’s pretty unlikely you’ll see a Free Fire II: Guns Blazin’ anytime soon.

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t post my favorite gif, one that I’ve used before in this blog, but now I can give it some context because it’s from this movie, and it pretty much tells you what the movie is all about. When Vernon sees Justine for the first time in awhile, he remarks that she is lovely, but also that she’s put on a bit of weight, and hopes that no one has “put a bun in her oven.” Justine’s reply, and the only appropriate one in this or any other era:

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So, yeah, see Free Fire.

Man of Mystery

Posted: August 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

Back in February 2016, I wrote this but I don’t think I ever posted it because I was afraid that the subject would one day Google himself and find it and be hurt (I mean, how hard would it be when your name is “Jenci?”) Well, I learned last night that Jenci had passed away back in May of Leukemia, so I decided I would post it now, since tomorrow would have been his 62nd birthday. I only edited a few spelling errors, so it would be a clear representation of how I felt then, even though now some of it takes on a slightly different meaning. The section where he talked about euthanizing himself is especially grim, because if he was serious about that, which I think he was, that choice was taken away from him. According to the obituary, however, he died peacefully in his sleep, so that was probably better.  

While re-reading it, I did feel bad about what I wrote about “becoming him,” as if that would have been the worst thing in the world. I’m sure he didn’t look back on his life as wasted. He probably recalled fondly his summers as a raft guide, took solace in the knowledge and wisdom that he passed on to the countless students and young employees that he worked with over the years, and I have no doubt that he was pleased with his record collection. Still, when I read his obituary, the last line gave me pause: that he was survived by his older brother and “beloved dog Andi.” Obviously, his life and legacy amounted to more than that, but it does make one wonder…

Here’s the post:

I recently returned to my pseudo-former part-time job at Harvard Media & Technology Services, because it’s extra cash and because I feel like I owe them for giving me a job right out of college when my only experience with audio-visual technology was pressing the play button on my VCR.  I say “returned” even though I technically have never actually left the job, although I like to take semester-long breaks on occasion.  And yes, I actually started working there in 1998, and in my current incarnation, I have been working there off-and-on since 2006.  Any way you slice it, I’m a veteran.

The reason for my most-recent hiatus was that the evening supervisor in the office I was working out of had started to grate on me a little.  Jenci (pronounced “yen-see”), despite being very smart in general and incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to audio-visual equipment, is undoubtedly one of the strangest people I ever met.  However, a funny thing happened the other night upon my return: I found out Jenci was gone, having moved back to his hometown in Ohio, and the thought struck me that I would probably never see him again.

The quick backstory on Jenci is that he was recruited by Harvard University’s football program as an undergrad in the 80’s because he was both a good high school athlete and also had the grades to excel at their prestigious institution.  Jenci got a work-study job at then-Harvard Audio-Visual Services.  Upon graduating with a degree in one of the sciences (although he was always very mysterious about what it was), he was offered a full-time job at Harvard A/V, and there he stayed until just a couple months ago.  On my first day in 1998, he trained me and several other newbies on the ins-and-outs of A/V equipment.  I still vividly remember him teaching us about a fictitious numbering system he came up with for measuring audio output, which he affectionately called “Jenci Units.”

In the years I knew Jenci, I found him to be a pretty laid back and even kind fellow.  I heard him on more than one occasion offer student employees money if they needed to buy lunch, or even offer some of his own food (A large man, Jenci and food were never far apart.). He was always helpful when you had any kind of question, whether it be about life or a basic wireless microphone set-up. And Jenci was a man who loved his dog. So much that he often referred to him as “Cousin Andi.”

Still, elements of the bizarre were always at the forefront of his personality.  I remember the evening not very long ago when Jenci patted me on my bald spot, as if pointing out something that I was not aware of (I always find it amazing that the more obese a man is, the more hair he seems to have on his head.). I remember how he stowed away food all over the office like he was preparing for the coming apocalypse. I recall how he would cut his Post-Its into tiny shards and stick them to his monitor, and inscribe notes on them in very small handwriting, until his monitor became a sort of memory-jogging kaleidoscope. And I remember him telling me, in grave detail, how he would euthanize himself once he got to a point where he could no longer work and, thus, was no longer “useful.”

“I don’t really want to burden anyone, so if I can’t work a job anymore, I’ll just take myself out,” he proclaimed.

“Seriously?” Even though we had been joking around earlier, his tone had changed. He wasn’t sullen, but very matter-of-fact, like he had given this serious thought and this was his solution.

“Yeah, I have no children to worry about me, so when the time comes, I’ll just take care of my affairs and do what’s necessary.”

“So, what? Call Dr. Kevorkian or something?” I asked.

“No. There are certain chemicals that can be used to dull the senses so that I wouldn’t feel anything. All I would need is some of those and a plastic bag, and it would be easy.”

“You really have this all figured out.”

He nodded. “Like I said, I don’t want to be a burden to anyone,”

“There are no bridges nearby?” I muttered.

It was this conversation that lead me to believe that he would be found in a Harvard lecture hall one morning, a plastic bag over his head.

Conversations like this were also why Jenci disturbed me so.  Not for the obviously maudlin How-I-Plan-To-Kill-Myself reason, but because they became all-to frequent occurrences. Well into his fifties by this point, he would talk to the young female students as if they were his companions rather than subordinates, and I think they were definitely a little freaked out by him. Even I found it incredibly awkward when he would invite me to his home to drink his craft beer, knowing of my affinity for it, because it was never in that “Hey, want to come over and have a beer and watch the game” kind of way. It felt more like a Ralph Wiggum “Please be my friend” kind of way.

But the thing that most frightened me about Jenci was the fear that I would one day become him. He was a nice guy, like I said, and always good for a story, but the closer I get to my fortieth birthday, a part of me worries that I may one day become a 50-something man who has been working at a university for far too long and who makes creepy conversation with young female students far too often.  This, combined with his fastidious office behavior and his bizarre eating habits, lead me to take my latest break from Harvard.  I even feared going back this time, because I would have to make small talk with Jenci.

Still, when I learned of his departure, I was a little sad. Something about the finality of it all unnerved me. He seemed like such an institution at that place that I could never envision him leaving. I heard different theories as to what happened, but I wasn’t able to learn the truth. I had hoped that he had simply retired in peace (and changed his mind about the whole suicide thing), but I also heard that he was still working somewhere in Ohio. One theory I heard was that he perhaps unnerved one student too many and was shown the door. Another was that his mother had become ill and he returned to care for her. Not that I would wish that something bad would happen to his mother, but I kind of hope that was the reason. I would hate to think that after the years he had worked at Harvard that they would cast him aside if he wasn’t willing to go.

That’s the interesting thing here; Jenci was not someone I would have ever chosen to hang out with, or would have invited over my house for dinner, and yet, when I think about it, he was actually a mentor to me. Not just because he taught me about Jenci Units, but he also taught me how to deal with ornery professors (always tell them you know what the problem is, even if you have no idea.), which in turn helps me deal with people in general. Also, considering that I actually worked with him off-and-on for 18 years, and he didn’t seem to have many social outlets outside of work and his dog, he probably thought of me as a friend. Of course, it doesn’t take a Harvard degree to see that is probably why I disliked him so, because really, despite the occasional weirdness, there was inherently nothing wrong with him. I simply didn’t want to see him as a friend.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from Jenci had nothing to do with technology or friendship. It was that we don’t always get to pick our mentors in this life. While I don’t necessarily look back on him with fondness, or feel inspired by his teachings, I did learn a lot about how to deal with people, and maybe how not to talk to female students. Most importantly, I learned that people come into your life, and it’s all very random.  You don’t necessarily have to drink beer with them, or even like them, but they are there and you can learn valuable lessons from them, like it or not.

I will definitely miss him a little, and despite all my grumbling, if I ever do see him again, I will be sure to thank him for the memories and the mentoring. Maybe I’ll even pat him on the head.

If some people think I’ve been too kind to some of the Brie Larson movies during this project (even though I bagged on Trainwreck and Digging for Fire pretty good, and really crapped on Spectacular Now. Man, have I actually liked any of her movies?) I figured I would throw this one out there and get it over with. Why not? It sure seemed like the people who made it did.

MV5BMTUwMzI5ODEwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjAzNjI2MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Kong: Skull Island is the 2nd movie in what is the latest attempt to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by having a stable of monsters who all inhabit the same space (or MonsterVerse, as I believe it is known by the seven people who care). 2014’s Godzilla was the first, and I found that movie quite enjoyable, as a fan of giant lizards stomping on things.I do wonder, though, as this shared universe goes along, when people will start wondering how Peter Jackson’s King Kong fits in, and why didn’t they bring back Matthew Broderick for these new ones. But that is for another column.

I have actually not seen all of Brie Larson’s movies yet (and here I am talking about them as if I know everything, amiright?), but of the ones that I have seen, this may be the worst one. I mean, I’m sure 21 Jumpstreet was rough, and yeah, Spectacular Now was really annoying, but they seriously didn’t even try here. Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson are all great actors, and even they could not save this turnip of a movie. I mean, they probably didn’t know how badly it would turn out, of course. I’m sure Sam Jackson just figured he’d yell a lot like he does in every other movie he’s in and everything would be fine. Well, it wasn’t.

Here’s the skinny, if you can’t figure out the intricate plot. Hiddleston plays a “monster-hunter” of sorts, and is hired to find out what’s the deal with this uncharted island. He is joined by some scientists, and Larson, who is there to take pictures. Jackson and his team of military guys show up to blow everything away, and they encounter John C. Reilly, who crash-landed there years ago and has since gone insane. They run afoul of some crazy lizard creatures, King Kong shows up to battle said creatures, and a bunch of people die, and eventually Kong wins and the survivors leave. It’s basically the beginning of every other King Kong movie that has come before, minus any intrigue.

That is the bare bones plot, but there are obviously other things going on. For example, Larson’s character is actually, according to wikipedia, “pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver, who believes that the expedition is a secret military operation, and intends to expose it.” I honestly didn’t remember that at all. I just remembered her with a camera. It’s clearly just a device that they came up with to have a female lead and give her character a little weight, but is never followed up on and means nothing once the monsters show up. Let’s face it, that’s all anyone wanted to see, anyway.

At the risk of sounding like my old gym teacher, there’s nothing worse than not showing effort. I guess, when you’re a high school gym teacher, that’s all you have. But he obviously never had the filmmakers behind Kong: Skull Island in his classes. It kind of hurts to say that, really, because I’ve been on a few movie sets in my time, and I can say without reservations that it takes a lot of people working long hours to make even one scene come off well. There’s lighting, multiple cameras, sound engineers, actors, extras, green screens, and everything has to be in the exact proper place for it all to match up. So the fact that a movie gets made at all is a kind of a minor miracle, let alone a movie that is any good. Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that this movie comes off like it was made with no effort, because I’m sure a lot of people worked long and hard on it, and I do feel bad for those people. But they got a paycheck, so…

There is certainly that old Hollywood chestnut that you always hear: “Some you do for money and some you do for love.” And I’ll never forget seeing a Q & A with Bruce Campbell, and when he was asked why he did the movie Congo (in which he was killed in minutes), he responded by saying that he got paid to go to Africa for two weeks, but he worked for two days and surfed the rest of it. So, I get it. And I get that this is one cog in Legendary’s greater Monsterverse wheel, but it doesn’t mean that you have to phone it in. Where would we be today if Kevin Feige said, “Well, let’s just throw in the towel on this Iron Man movie, because really we just have to get to Avengers.”? Well, technically, they might have done that with Incredible Hulk, but still, you see my point.

The real crux of all this isn’t really “why do good actors make bad movies?” And it’s not even “How did this get made?” There’s already a podcast for that. It’s more about how the system works in general. Here’s how I envision it (but if someone from Legendary Pictures knows the real story, I’m all ears.): High-ranking studio execs decide that there’s money to be made with their stable of characters. They decide that they should make a Godzilla movie, then a King Kong movie, then maybe a couple more, then they want to do King Kong vs. Godzilla, because, like me, they saw it when they were kids and loved it.  And how could they not?giphy (2)

So, they get a screenwriter (actually three, plus one person who gets “story by” credit.) After those four people have written something that the studio execs approve of, it is given to a director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who then sets about to making it with a modest (by today’s standards) $186 million budget. Jordan, of course, does not work alone. There are ten producers with probably varying levels of involvement. There’s a cinematographer, an editor, a huge art department, literally hundreds of visual effects artists. and on and on (Seriously, have you watched the credits of a movie lately?) I pasted just the crew list from IMDB into a spreadsheet and it was over 1500, and that’s not including the actors. So, the real question is, did even one of these people show up to work one day and say, “Hey, Jordan, so, this isn’t good.”

Now, I do realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder here, and in fact, if you want to believe Rotten Tomatoes isn’t total BS, it has a 75% critics score and 60% audience score, so it’s technically Certified Fresh. So why do I dislike it so much that I would waste a whole column talking about it when the only real reason I have for it being bad is that it just is? Because potential, dammit!

When the original King Kong was released in 1933, it was an allegory for the slave trade, which is really driven home when he is brought to New York via ship in chains. He is then put on display for rich people to enjoy, and there’s a line, “He was a god in his own lands, and we have brought him here today for your own amusement.” Obviously, since this is a prequel of sorts, this never gets brought up in this movie, because Kong doesn’t leave the island. Still, it is a pretty essential part of the Kong mythology that they just leave out. I get that it was 1933, and that maybe doesn’t work for 2018, but would it have killed them to add some depth?

There’s also the whole “T’was beauty that slayed the beast” part of King Kong, where he was killed trying to protect a white woman, who had actually grown to like him despite his appearance, that was pretty much expunged. Kong does pull Larson out of the water after she fell in trying to help him, but other than that, I don’t remember the two of them having any interaction. It’s just a shame because other than that 30 seconds, it could have been a nice callback to the original.

This is the issue I have with this movie. and I have a final story to hopefully illustrate it. When I saw this movie last March, I saw it in digital “Lie-Max” which is movie-nerd slang for what theaters call IMAX even though the movie is only showing on a slightly larger-than-normal screen. Here’s my account:

I did experience a first here as the movie froze at one point, and we could hear it but the image was not moving. Naturally, I was the first person in the theater to get up and go tell the usher, because while I don’t know a lot about the science of movie projection, I do know that someone isn’t just sitting in that little booth watching the movie to see if something goes wrong. When I came back, it went right to where the sound was instead of going back to where it froze. Obviously, I missed some big story point while I was in the lobby, because one minute they were escaping the island, and the next Tom Hiddleston was saying, “We’re going to rescue Kong!” 

I was only in the lobby for a couple minutes and the entire movie had changed, with almost no prompting. And you know what I have to say about that, don’t you Deadpool?

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So, hopefully, the next Godzilla will be better, and then King Kong vs. Godzilla will be even better. But since this movie took place in the early 70’s, and Godzilla was in present day, will we see Brie Larson in any future installments? It’s not listed on her IMDB page, but to be honest, her career might be better off if she skips it, anyway.

Clay and Dursin are talking all the new #1’s this week; Amazing Spider-Man, X-23, Superman. Plus, one new, weird store in Boston. Click here to listen and enjoy (maybe?)Superman-1-DC-Comics-variant-cover-detail-by-David-Mack

No play-on-words title this time, which is by design (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). I honestly think that the movie’s title reflects the way I feel about it.

Brie would have one more supporting role before turning heads with Room, this time as Amy Schumer’s more-responsible sister in Trainwreck, the comedy that I originally totally thought was a Schumer biopic. In fact, here’s how little I knew: I had read an interview with Schumer where she said she and her sister wrote it together, and I thought that Larson actually was her sister. I guess that means she did a good job?

The reason I thought that this may have been a biopic is because Schumer’s stand-up was always to play the kind-of intelligent yet morally bankrupt party girl. Which she did really well and with great success. So well that one naturally wonders if it was sort of akin to saying, “That guy from Jack-ass sure does know how to play a jack-ass.”

I’m not here to debate whether or not Amy Schumer the Person slept with a lot of guys, but I can say for a fact that she made a movie about a woman named Amy who has slept with a lot of guys. In fact, she got around so much that when her boyfriend Bill Hader tells her that he slept with three women, she notes that she also slept with three women. Movie Amy is supposed to, I suppose, find redemption at the end when she realizes that  Hader, her doctor boyfriend, is actually a nice guy and she wants to be with him, and I assume only him but that’s never really made clear.

Before I start tearing the whole movie apart, let me say that I realize that this is a comedy written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, so it’s not meant to be a moral compass. And it’s actually a very funny movie. But I can’t help but ask the universe whether it was unfortunate timing that it happened to come out a few years before the current Time’s Up/Me Too movement that is permeating Hollywood, or if the unabashed “this is how women really are” attitude on display here helped spur the whole trend on.

For anyone interested in a white male’s opinion on this subject, I have to say that, despite the fact that this movie is only three years old at this point, it is already starting to feel kind of dated and crass, like when you watch people smoking in the office on Mad Men and wonder how could we have been so ignorant. It’s just a feeling I get, but there is something here that just tells me that when it comes to the current female empowerment in movies, this egg came before the chicken, and possibly even set the movement back a few months. Thankfully, Schumer’s next real movie, Snatched, was such a turd that no one really even remembers this one.

Trainwreck tried to take some cues from Bridesmaids, with its whole “Girls can have fun, too” thing. The problem I see with that is that Bridesmaids focused on a group of funny and different characters who just happened to be women, while Trainwreck is mostly about one wayward, free-wheeling, dope-smoking, hard-drinking floozie, and hergiphy struggles through the world. There are story threads about her family and her job, but mostly it’s about how she has trouble in a real relationship because she’s never been in one before. We kind of learn everything we need to know about her early on when her gym rat boyfriend (played amazingly by John Cena) dumps her, and she seems surprised even though she was sleeping around and couldn’t even sit through a date movie with him without going outside to smoke weed.

But I get that all that is comedy fodder, and not meant to tell the audience that the main character of this movie is kind of horrible. It doesn’t really matter, anyway, because she is then sent to interview a sports surgeon played by Hader for the trashy magazine she writes for, and we immediately sense chemistry because… well, we don’t. In fact, she instantly judges him because he’s a successful surgeon to professional athletes, and she thinks sports are kind of dumb (which the movie perpetuates a little by making LeBron James kind of a weirdo, but he plays it so well.)

Still, he must think she’s all right because he asks her out to dinner, and she of course has a few drinks and goes home with him. After sleeping with him, she becomes the worst house guest ever by telling him that he’s breathing wrong and keeping her awake and he’s also not allowed to touch her in his own bed. But, hey, comedy, right?

Maybe because this guy is a little inexperienced and nerdy, he keeps seeing her, and even helps her ailing father, played by Colin Quinn. He is repaid for all of this by Amy when she makes fun of all of his patients, leaves his awards ceremony to take a phone call and smoke more weed, and gets mad at him when he tells her he loves her. In retrospect, she was pretty terrible and he should have run away and never looked back, but since he’s only had sex with three people, I guess we’re supposed to believe that he’s just a sap. (Or he saw the inner beauty. Your level of cynicism can decide.)

Well, ok, I think what we’re supposed to believe is that it was just her family ethos to be cynical and judgmental and generally unhappy. Her interactions with her father and sister definitely lend credence to that theory. However, Brie Larson lends a lot of weight to what could be seen as simply the buzzkill role. We gather that they may have grown up the same, but Brie has matured faster than Amy, and even married a nice single father (although I agree with Amy when she makes fun of the kid for being a total dork.) Not only is Brie more mature in her relationships, but she has come to the realization that their father isn’t really a nice guy, so doesn’t feel so bad when he is put into assisted living after a lifetime of drug use and they have to clean out his junk. Amy insists on keeping some of it for sentimental reasons, and Brie doesn’t understand what she’s clinging to and wants to heave it all.

The relationship between the sisters is really the only one in the movie that has any meaning or depth. And I know this is a Brie Larson column, but I’ll give Schumer her props on this one, too. Most likely because Larson was a stand-in for Schumer’s real sister, and because the two real-life sisters wrote most of the movie themselves, there is great chemistry between them, and the dialogue seems real and not like it was written for a movie. One of my favorite scenes, in fact, is when it is revealed that Larson is pregnant with a girl, and the two sisters share a feeling of horror, knowing how hard their childhood was as young girls. I also like the scene in which Quinn is not even teasing but out-and-out insulting Larson’s stepson, and hoping that her biological child will be better, so that he can have a “real” grandchild, and she responds, “They’re both your grandchildren, goddammit!” and storms off. Quinn dies not long after, so as far as we know, those may have been her last words to him. Heavy stuff.

Trainwreck

Now, I have been ripping this movie apart, and yes, called a three year-old movie “dated,” but there is an element at play here that would lead me to call Schumer and Apatow geniuses if I thought that they were actually aiming for this (and who knows? Maybe they did, in your opinion.) Here is my theory:

If you choose to delve into it, you could see this movie as the swan song of the male-aggrandizing romantic comedy, and even the demise of Colin Quinn’s bigoted, alcoholic, aging playboy as the actual death of that genre. Video store shelves used to be filled with movies where no matter how badly the male protagonist screws up, the female lead forgives him and takes him back because he made some stupid romantic gesture that would only work in a movie (Screw you, Lloyd Dobbler!). Schumer and company have flipped the script here and made the female protagonist the one with all the flaws, and the one that makes the grand, only-in-the-movies gesture, and the male lead is the one who takes her back while the pop song plays us out.

But if they did want to make this the end of the male-aggrandizing romantic comedy, they certainly went out guns blazing. To me, Amy is too flawed to be forgiven that quick, and to be perfectly honest, Hader doesn’t really even forgive her because he didn’t seem all that mad at her in the first place. They had a fight, and it was suggested they take some time apart, during which she is fired and almost sleeps with her intern, and I’m pretty sure she totally would have slept with that intern if he weren’t so weird and said things like “cradle my bonch.” So, yeah, maybe if Hader had seen that display, he would have just stayed away, but he didn’t, so he took her back, with almost no prompting. Other than to throw out her weed and vodka, Amy didn’t really repent at all. All she did was dance to Billy Joel and jump off a trampoline to convince him. Personally, I think this was better when Bridget Jones ran out into the cold in her underwear, fourteen years earlier.

The good news is that this was a big move for Brie Larson’s career. She herself even says this was a big boost for her, and states that there were some raw moments on set between her and Schumer. I doubt that she (or any woman) would agree with my assessment of Trainwreck, but if the movie existed just for one reason, it was so that we could see that this Larson kid could actually act. And, really, so can Lebron.

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