Movies & TV / Columns

411 Fact or Fiction Movies/TV 1.18.13: Week 365

January 18, 2013 | Posted by Ben Piper

Yo. Welcome back yet again to another fanciful edition of your favorite column and mine, Fact or Fiction! This week we’ve got two 411 stalwarts bringing the goods, Jeremy Thomas and Arnold Furious. Let’s see what they have to say.

1. The Last Stand will be an exciting return to action star form for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jeremy Thomas: Fact. I don’t think this will be a great movie or even a great action flick, but it’ll be fun and that’s all I want from Arnold these days. The guy’s sixty-five years old at this point; he’s not a spot where we should see him chopping guys arms off with a machete Commando-style anymore. I think that Kim Ji-woon will wring all the excitement out of this that we can possibly get and the cast is fairly solid for a mid-level action film. I don’t see any reason why this won’t be a good, solid fun action movie.

Arnold Furious: Fiction. I’m one of the biggest Arnold Schwarzenegger fans out there. I love his action movies in the 80s and early 90s. Some of them, Predator, Terminator and Total Recall especially are near perfect examples of action genre flicks. But the last time he made a good action film was 1994; spy parody cum thriller True Lies for Jim Cameron. A movie that had a tonne of bang for your buck. But it was a decade after that before he retired and went into politics. Arnie was out there making bad movies one after another. I still love Arnie and I will still watch The Last Stand but based on the trailer I’ll be going in with low expectations. Its likely to take the same path as the relatively poor Expendables films where explosions and nostalgia rule the day. Or even worse Stallone’s attempt to reboot Rambo where gore ruled all. You shouldn’t need gore to make a good action film. The other strike against The Last Stand is that Schwarzenegger looks like a leathery old lesbian in it. As Jeremy said, there’s a time when a guy can’t realistically be an action star anymore.

Score: 0 for 1

2. You were mostly pleased with the Oscar nominations.

Jeremy Thomas: Fiction. I’m not going to go on too much of a rant about the Oscar nominations, nor am I going to spout off the Internet Movie Community’s party line about how the Oscars aren’t relevant anymore. Yes, we understand, guys…you’ve all read and want to get in on the anti-awards show snark. For the amount of people who claim that they don’t care about the Oscars, it sure generates a hell of a lot of interest each year, not to mention ratings, and Oscar wins and nominations invariably add up to increased revenue in theaters and on home video. So can we please cut the crap about how no one cares about the Oscars anymore? It’s really god damned irritating.

Okay, so now that I’ve said that…I am not livid about the nominations. It is true that some of my favorite films didn’t get nominated but my personal tastes do not speak toward the whole of the film-loving world. That being said, the nominations were really weird this year and I can’t explain it. Rarely do you see a year where the overall nominations fly in the face of some of the Guild Awards like this year, and there are some very noticeable snubs…mostly in director. I liked Beasts of the Southern Wild a lot, but Benh Zeitlin getting nominated over Quentin Tarantino or Ben Affleck is bizarre. And Kathryn Bigelow not being nominated is outright criminal. There are a lot of other weird nominations in there; I am somewhat in the minority as I didn’t like Flight, but did anyone really see it being nominated for Best Original Screenplay? I won’t say that I was pleased, but I wasn’t really displeased either. I’m just confused.

Arnold Furious: Fiction. Frankly, I’m never happy about the Oscar nominations. I hate they have nine films nominated for best picture. What used to be an illustrious honour is now a field open to any above average Oscar bait. That said I was shocked to see Argo nominated for best film, good though it is, and it goes ahead and wins the Golden Globe. Maybe the Academy is just hedging its bets on that one, seeing as Affleck also won best director and the Oscars don’t have him nominated. If there were only five films up for best picture Argo wouldn’t have made the cut.

The acting awards continue to confuse me. How can Christoph Waltz be up for best supporting actor when the majority of Django Unchained surrounds him. He has more lines than Jamie Foxx. Surely Leonardo DiCaprio would be up for supporting, which he isn’t nominated for, and Waltz would be up for best actor? I guess that’s more political play in order to secure Waltz another Oscar for the Weinstein’s. Harvey loves his little gold statuettes.

I’ll try and keep my bile under control until the ceremony itself when inevitably the films I like don’t win anything and the films I hate take all the gold. Although nothing can ever make me as angry as Dances With Wolves beating Goodfellas so I think my TV is safe from a shoeing. What the Oscar nominations does give me is a January watchlist to enjoy. Normally the films the Academy select are, at the very least, good. Our definitions of entertaining don’t always match but at least they like good films. I’ll take a list of Oscar nominated films to check out over the biggest Box Office films of the year any year. That said I wanted the Avengers to win best picture.

Score: 1 for 2

3. Ang Lee directing Angelina Jolie as a big screen Cleopatra is an idea you can get behind.

Jeremy Thomas: Fact. I’m almost at the point where I’ll take anyone at this point, but Ang Lee would be a very good choice. Angelina Jolie has been attached to this film for forever and they’ve gone through a host of potential directors from David Fincher and Paul Greengrass to James Cameron. The film is based on the book Cleopatra: A Life and this will be Jolie’s latest attempt at an Oscar. Hopefully it goes better for her than it did for Liz Taylor. In all seriousness, I think Lee could do well with this material; he has the talent as a director to make this intriguing and exciting without letting it get too bogged down or too lightweight. Sure, sounds good to me.

Arnold Furious: Fact. I’m agreeing with Jeremy here. Ang Lee’s stuff is usually both thoughtful and beautiful. Cleopatra is a role that Jolie was surely born to play. I’m a little sad its taken this long to get her into the big gold Egyptian throne. There was a point around 2005 where she was so smoking hot that casting her as the most beautiful woman who’s ever lived would not have been such a stretch. Imagine waiting 10 years after the original Cleopatra (1963) to cast Liz Taylor in the role? She still had the looks but it wouldn’t have been the same. Liz was 31 when she played Cleo. Jolie will be closer to 40, if it even happens. Should have sorted this out a decade ago so Jolie could have skipped on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and done everyone a favour.

Score: 2 for 3


4. Mama will be a better than average ghost movie.

Arnold Furious: Fiction. Despite a few excellent casting choices; Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who was great in Headhunters), I’ve seen the setup before. You get two good actors to play the leads and then have them react to stuff. Not everyone is suited to being a scream queen. Jamie Lee Curtis was exceptional at it but Heather Langenkamp was great too and she’s not even a decent actress. I know horror has changed and mainstream stars appear in them nowadays but, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone from the mainstream who’s particularly excelled. Mama‘s casting may be inspired but I thought Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had great casting too. That didn’t deliver. I know Guillermo del Toro is involved but when he doesn’t direct as well, that doesn’t always work. Once again, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was produced by del Toro. The last time I remember a ghost movie really working effectively was What Lies Beneath some 12 years ago and that was because of the deft hand of Bob Zemeckis behind the camera. Most of the tropes involved in the genre have worn thin. I find it hard to get excited about anything ghost-related nowadays.

Jeremy Thomas: Fact. I think that “better than average” will be a fair way to describe this one. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will be great or even necessarily very good, but the talent behind this makes me think it will be decent. As Arnold pointed out, the casting is good. Now, as he notes good casting doesn’t necessarily make for a great horror film; horror doesn’t necessarily rely on acting talent and the conventions of the genre often take precedence over performances, but you can’t deny that a well-acted horror film is going
to help raise its quality to some degree. The set-up is interesting and Del Toro has an eye for these kinds of films; I didn’t love Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark but I do think it was a bit underrated and Chastain is a better lead than Katie Holmes. There have been some ghost movies that have worked recently (The Woman in Black comes to mind) and I expect at least as much out of this as I did from that.

Score: 2 for 4

5. You’d be interested in a new Twilight Zone TV series.

Arnold Furious: Fact. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. The original show ran in the early 60s and it still has fans and still gets aired on TV. If you’ve got good stories the show is a great idea. I also liked how you could dip in and out of the Twilight Zone. They were stand-alone stories so you didn’t need to see every episode to follow it. I’m notoriously awful at TV shows. I can’t wait a week for the next episode or I lose interest between the first episode and the second. Twilight Zone was all stand alone stuff so you could drop in and drop out. Given how long its been since the show aired originally I think its ripe for manipulation. It’d need talent involved but there must be a tonne of idea guys out there who can’t sell their movies to Hollywood because they’re too risky. Chopped down to an hour format they’d be ideal for such a TV show.

Jeremy Thomas: Fact. Why not? Horror anthology TV shows are usually of varying quality depending on the scripts for the episodes but they’re a favorite of mine and horror’s rise on TV makes this a prime decision to come together. With the prevalence of shows like American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Grimm and Supernatural–not to mention the upcoming Bates Motel, Hannibal, Cult and The Following–it is time for another horror anthology series. The last few tries at it haven’t been the most successful (anyone remember Fear Itself?) but the name value of The Twilight Zone will give this the chance to succeed where that show couldn’t. If they get the right talent behind this I could see it taking off nicely.

Score: 3 for 5

6. Broken City will be a decent enough crime thriller, but will prove to be ultimately forgettable.

Arnold Furious: Fiction. I’m probably the wrong person to ask because I have a terrible memory. During the Mama question I was trying to remember a ghost film I’d seen recently but all I could remember is it was set in a school and the lead actress looked like Eva Green but wasn’t. She was a paranormal investigator. Couldn’t remember the name of the movie and I only saw it maybe 3 months ago. I just watch too many films and a lot of them blur together. (I found it: The Awakening; I was thinking of Rebecca Hall – thank you, Letterboxd). The reason I’ve gone “fiction” is because of director Allen Hughes. When I was younger the Hughes Brothers made a few uber-violent and gritty street movies. Menace II Society ring any bells? Dead Presidents? They dropped off the radar a bit after From Hell failed, understandably, and The Book of Eli was a little out of his comfort zone. Broken City seems far closer to it. I have high hopes, which will probably be dashed, as per usual, as Catherine Zeta-Jones is in it and I can’t stand her. I’m also slightly dubious as Hughes didn’t write it like he did Menace II Society and Dead Presidents. It may lack his vision because of that. Either way I think this is fiction. It’ll either suck or be memorable. Hopefully the latter.

Jeremy Thomas: Fact. I’m actually looking forward to this because the talent is solid and the trailers have been impressive. I’m always down for a Hughes Brothers film and early word says that Russell Crowe does a good job of redeeming himself after what many view as a bad job in Les Miserables. Mark Wahlberg is always solid, Catherine Zeta-Jones can excel in this kind of a film and I expect it to be quite decent. However, I think that it will be a minor hit that ultimately gets lost and out of people’s minds by the time that the summer comes around, much less further down the road than that. I want this to be a success but I just don’t see it being more than a minor blip in the resumes of anyone involved.

Final Score: 3 or 6

And there you go, as Arnold and Jeremy split the difference. Thanks to them both for playing, and see you all again next week.



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