Movies & TV / Columns

411 Fact or Fiction Movies/TV 12.23.12: Week 358

November 23, 2012 | Posted by Ben Piper

Gobble, gobble! I hope that everyone had a happy Turkey Day, if you celebrate such an occasion. Now that we’ve all stuffed ourselves full and have hopefully emerged safely from a tryptophan induced coma, let’s turn our attention to another tradition, Fact or Fiction! This week Will Helm and Mathew Sforcina are here to discuss the events of the day. Let’s see what’s on their minds.

1. Red Dawn will not be as good as the original.

Mathew Sforcina: Fact, which considering the first wasn’t all that good to begin with, is something of a feat. I suppose not being an American during the height of the Cold War diminishes the impact of the original, but all I see is the plot holes and silly twists in the first one. Feel free to insult me below.

But despite my boy Chris in the lead, everything I’ve seen of this one shows it’s yet another in a long, LONG list of remakes that make no real impact, no impetus for the remake. Even the whole ‘North Korea instead of China’ thing was last second changing. I am not a fan of the original, and nothing I’ve seen so far shows me this is any better.

Will Helm: Fact. Without question, without a doubt, this “new” Red Dawn will be a pale imitation of its predecessor. Why? Global politics. In the early ’80s, the spectre of a Soviet invasion of the U.S. was enough of a threat for John Milius to co-write and direct the original film, one of the most legendarily bloody, grim, and jingoistic movies of its era. Regardless of the great young cast, the positioning of the Russians as the heels touched a chord with audiences.

Fast forward 28 years, and the Russians are now the tenuous allies of the U.S. and the great “enemy” is far more vague. Terrorists? It’s been done. China? Nope. Enemies from within? Riveting, but risky. Canada? Well, they don’t have anything to do since the NHL is locked out . . . but they have no reason to invade the U.S. So, in 2012, we settle on the North Koreans. Ooh . . . scary. Unfortunately, the one-two punch of Team America and 30 Rock has effectively neutered the North Korean threat in popular culture, so Red Dawn is starting with a huge deficit from which I don’t believe it can escape, despite having Thor, Wonder Woman, and 1/2 of Drake & Josh involved.

Score: 1 for 1

2. You fail to see the need for a Paranormal Activity spinoff movie.

Mathew Sforcina: Fiction. There’s many, many reasons for such a film. And each and every one of them is the currency denomination of your choice. A fair while ago I realised that despite being in the traditional main demographic of a male 18-45, not everything is aimed at me. And, almost at the same time, I worked out that most of pop culture sucks. Or at least, is stuff I do not like, because I find it stupid, meaningless or just plain tacky. But, I fully understand that many people disagree with me, and that despite every critical panning these movies get, they keep getting made, and they keep making many, many denominations-of-choice. And I fully see the need to work out how to make more of them, since more of them means more D-O-Cs. And that is what the movie business is all about. I Don’t like it, but it’s the truth, and I see the argument.

Will Helm: Fact. I’m presuming “The Oxnard Tapes” is referenced here . . . and, in a plot twist of epic proportions, it’s not just a spinoff film, but a Latino-targeted spinoff film! Apparently, the Paranormal Activity franchise is a big deal in Latin America, so the producers decided to make a spinoff film — and, perhaps, franchise — for the Latin American audience. I can say, with little reservation, that this is impressive pandering and condescension, to say the least. While business-types would probably talk about maximizing profitability and targeted demographics, I see it more as saying to the Latin audience: “That Paranormal Activity? That really wasn’t for you. This one’s more for you.” Why can’t Paranormal Activity be good enough for everyone and just leave this spinoff in the “bad idea bin”?

Score: 1 for 2

3. Matt Damon is a superb choice to play Lance Armstrong in a planned biopic of the disgraced cyclist.

3. Mathew Sforcina: Fact. I must admit that I’m slightly biased, as Damon seems like a bloke I’d like to play poker with and share a drink, but also mainly because I LOVED The Informant! and his work as Mark Whitacre, and this does seem like a similar sort of deal, albeit with none of that absurdity. I’m sure this will be dark and serious and what have you, but I do think Damon will be a good talent and fit the role well. Of course, he might well suck at it, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I reserve the right to change my mind depending on the writer and director.

Will Helm: Fact. Hard as it is to believe, but the heel from School Ties has really made himself into one of the better and more trustworthy actors out there. The Lance Armstrong saga, which has more twists and turns than the Tour de France, is akin to Greek tragedy, but requires a charismatic and believable leading man to pull off the lead role. Damon is that man. There are few actors who can provide the physique necessary for the role while still having the acting chops to portray Armstrong in all his varied guises: athlete, victim, hero, cheater. I have the utmost faith that Matt Damon can pull these off credibly, enough so that I can already hear the Oscar buzz. Now, the real question: who will play Sheryl Crow?

Score: 2 for 3

Switch!!!

4. The Life Of Pi will be a very good movie that will get lost in the box office shuffle.

Will Helm: Fact. Of course, I will say that this “fact” comes with reservations: I’m not sure if The Life of Pi will be a very good movie, but I’m sure that it will certainly get lost in the box-office shuffle. Based on the “critically acclaimed” book by Yann Martel, The Life of Pi suffers from one of those great problems facing a film based on a book that some may not have read: the “what the hell is this about?” issue. While the actual tale is about an Indian man learning about spirituality with a Bengal tiger by his side — no, really — those not in the know could very well presume that the film is about math (but I bet none of them would think that it’s related to the Darren Aronofsky debut). To judge the film by its posters, one would believe that Pi is actually the tiger, since it’s featured prominently. The trailer makes the film appear to be trippy Cast Away with a tiger. None of this adds up to anything I believe the average viewer will want to see. The Life of Pi has a niche audience, at best, and will suffer for it at the box office.

Mathew Sforcina: Fact, although it could be released unopposed and it would probably get lost in the shuffle. I mean, I’m not trying to insinuate that your average box office goer is dumb or anything, but I just don’t see this movie getting a huge following, regardless of when it would be released. Not every movie, not every good movie, can be a ‘hit’. Some films just aren’t going to make huge, blockbuster level profits. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good movies, just not popular ones. And this one screams, as Will says, niche market. It’ll be a very good movie that no-one will see in the cinema and then gain critical acclaim later on.

… Geez, is this how hipsters feel?

Score: 3 for 4

5. Guillermo del Toro directing a DC Comics supernatural team-up movie is a fantastic idea.

Will Helm: Fact. I could easily say that Guillermo del Toro gets a free pass here, no matter what, because Hellboy and, especially, Hellboy II are spectacular comic-book adaptations. But winning my support isn’t that easy. It’s easy, mind you, just not THAT easy. Apparently, del Toro is in talks to helm a team-up film featuring every supernatural character the DC Universe has to offer, from Deadman, to Swamp Thing, to Etrigan the Demon, to Zatanna (yes, please). While the premise to the film is remarkably similar to the New 52 title Justice League Dark — of which I am a huge fan — and getting the film rights to some of the characters already featured on the silver screen — John Constantine and Swamp Thing, specifically — could be a challenge if they’re not under the Time Warner banner, there is a lot of promise for this project under del Toro’s watchful, masterful, and eminently creative eye.

Mathew Sforcina: Fiction, although not so much the question as asked as the idea overall. And my only problem with the idea stems from the two letter abbreviation there. I personally can’t get past the fact that DC’s track record with movies is frankly abysmal right now. I really hope I’m wrong, and that del Toro can indeed pull this off, that it surpasses my cynical stance, but I can’t see a DC film that even has a hint of being a thrown together reply to Avengers getting over the hump. I just don’t trust DC without a VERY strong voice to make the film their own, and I hope del Toro can be that voice… But I kinda have my doubts.

Man, I’m being all Mr Cynical here, aren’t I? This good movie isn’t mainstream enough, this mainstream movie will suck, can’t you give me something I can be positive about here Boss?

Score: 3 for 5

6. Rise Of The Guardians will be a better than average family holiday movie.

Will Helm: Fact. The only reason I say fact is because the writing seems clever and the tremendous voice cast can make that seem even moreso. To be honest, though, when I first saw the trailer, it seemed kind of silly until the plot kicked in and I thought to myself “This has some possibility.” I just rewatched the trailer for this column and, this time, I said to myself “This seems awfully familiar.” Now, I’m sure that there will be a lot of people out there who think that this is a remarkably original concept, with legendary faeries and such protecting children from a threat named Pitch. It’s not. At all. Rise of the Guardians is a big-budget CGI remake of MEXICAN SANTA CLAUS! Made famous by a spectacular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this 1959 film features Santa Claus — with a little inexplicable help from Merlin — doing battle with a demon named Pitch for the souls of the children of Earth, or something like that. I should go see Rise of the Guardians on that fact alone . . . or just wait for the Rifftrax version.

Mathew Sforcina:

Oh come on.

Fiction, for 3 reasons, only 2 of which are related to the movie. The first, non-specific one, is that Will, you can’t use Rifftrax or MST3K as basis to judge a movie’s worth. The Wicker Man Rifftrax is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the worst movies ever, full stop. Good jokes can be made at good movies, bad at bad, and vice versa, twice.

Secondly, I question making a Guardian Australian when there’s a small but concerted effort down here to replace it with a local animal, replacing the Bunny with the Bilby. It’s an Aussie thing, OK? Makes it doubly weird when the advertising down here is focused on Bunny since he’s Hugh Jackman and all.

But mostly, “better than average” is the sticking point. Everything I’ve seen of this has been ‘Meh’ worthy. The story’s basic enough, the characters seems fairly 2D, and the voice work is acceptable, but hardly able to drag this beyond being an acceptable family flick. Not actively bad, but I don’t think this is going to be above average.

Now excuse me, I have to go find something to gush optimistically over on Kickstarter or something…

Final Score: 3 for 6

And that’s that. Many thanks to both Will and Mathew for stopping by, and see you all again next week!
-BP

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