08 Aug

Suicide Squad’s big opening night might be because of women viewers

I noticed this interesting quote in a news story about Suicide Squad:

The biggest surprise in terms of audience makeup was the strong turnout among females, who made up 46 percent of Friday’s audience, according to exit poling service CinemaScore. That’s unusual for a superhero film.

(Via Box Office: ‘Suicide Squad’ Opens to Big $135M But Drops Sharply Saturday | Hollywood Reporter.)

I haven’t see it yet, I’m watching DC movies on iTunes rental because they’ve been somewhat lacking for me. I’ve seen a lot of horrible reviews of Suicide Squad, but I saw a ton of excitement about it from a very wide demographic based on the trailer.

Hey, a movie with a strong female POV implied by previews got women to the theater, and that may have given the movie a 25% boost in earnings, possibly saving it due to an amazing opening night (though it’s had a horrible drop off in earnings because it turns out the trailer and the movie don’t match up?).

And the success of gender flipped Ghostbusters?

The success of Fast and Furious with multicultural varied leads? And women as well?

Maybe there’s something there… despite Squad’s critical fail, maybe women are hungry for movies that seem to not exclude them but include them?

Just a thought.

25 Jul

Media consumption: Ghostbusters (2016 edition)

This is a little late, but TL;DR I loved it.

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I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the latest reboot. For one thing, I’m somewhat burned out by the endless churn of reboots. For another, I was really nervous about the Leslie Jones character being the sassy black best friend.

Also, I had super fond memories of the original.

Well, until a few months ago.

I mean, I always found people dressing up as Ghostbusters at cons and repeating the lines all along fairly harmless. Thumbs up, ya’ll: I love Ghostbusters, too. But it turns some of the tribe of Ghostbusters saw that there’d be an all-women reboot and they went and lost their damn minds.

With all the man-hatred aimed at Ghostbusters, I started to get nervous. With Paul Feig directing I figured it wouldn’t be total shit, but I find myself kinda hoping it would rock out and make some decent money just to fucking take a dump on the Mens Rights Activist types flooding the internet with general misogyny over the movie.

Feeling left out because the movie had a lack of representation? Damn, that’s gotta sting. Never mind taking a moment for some introspection and realizing that how you feel about that, is how some people feel for almost every movie for a very long time, along many different axes. Instead, let’s toss our toys out the crib.

So, I was scared to go see it because reboots often suck, but I wanted it to do well.

Wait up, let me back up. I almost forgot something.

I watched the original Ghostbusters eight weeks before I watched the new one.

Well, nothing ruins something you enjoyed as a kid more than going and watching it as a grown ass adult. Having Netflix has meant I’ve come to realize that Airwolf was a lot of stock footage about a twenty-year old helicopter that was not a super-cool advanced weapon from the future.

I still loved elements of the original, but, man, the Bill Murray character was creepy and we were all like ‘ewww’ about his ‘romance’ moves. They were stalkery and lacked boundaries (when he pushes into her apartment, etc). Also, there was way less invention and palling around than I thought or remembered. And we all know about the sad story of Ernie Hudson, the black Ghostbuster, getting many of his lines cut and his role reduced.

So, it’s not the worse, but it lost its golden haze on rewatch.

And the new one.

Well, it sucked me right in and had me laughing. I adored Kate McKinnon’s character, and I’ve never connected with her humor before. Her inventions, the body language, and that amazing speech about friends that was heartfelt. I could have just watched the further adventures of Kate McKinnon. I laughed at Leslie Jones’s acting, she dominated the screen with her presence, but I was lost in a loop of wondering if she didn’t need more. And the friendship between Wiig’s character and McCarthy’s character was fantastic.

There was a lot of joy here, and I really appreciate that. The whole theater laughed, applauded, and whooped when I caught a showing while I was in Columbus a week ago. It was a good experience.

When I watch it again, I might notice some pacing issues, I suspect. It’s not a perfect movie.

But for me it’s a damn good one.

PS: no, Ghostbusters is not tanking (actual numbers/data from Abigail Nussbaum).

10 Jul

Media consumed: Midnight Special

I watched this last night. Directed by Jeff Nichols, this is a strong echo of two of my favorite childhood movies: Firestarter and Race to Witch Mountain.

But like, moodier.Images

The basic tension is the same, with a modern twist. A young boy with what seems like supernatural abilities is on a car race across the US. The news is reporting he’s kidnapped, but it is by his dad. They’re fleeing a cult that seems to believe the kid has some inside scoop on the end of the world. They’re well armed.

The NSA, the FBI, and a couple of well-armed dudes from the cult are all after them (plus tipsters who spot them as they run on).

There’s a lot of sense of wonder. Some core mystery (what is the kid? Where are they going. Why do they have to get there? What’s the ticking clock). The movie is built and crafted quite masterfully to match the structures of Firestarter and Race to Witch Mountain (the original, the remake was a little less exciting, but with 100% more The Rock).

There was some pay off at the end, much like Close Encounters or Race. But the movie held back as much as it could, as long as it could. I read an interview with the director where one of his earlier movies did well because he refused to over explain to the audience.

That’s fine for Indy films, where critics pretty much masturbate over inconclusivity because it lets them ponder. It’s regularly annoying for mainstream audiences who often prefer the story teller have the conviction of the story they’re telling. While Nichols does have the conviction, by holding off so long the cross country chase drags on a bit and it affects the pacing of the film. That’s because it then puts a tremendous load on the two characters who hold this up on their shoulders. And the two adults (until a third joins, a woman, Kirsten Dunst, who has next to no lines or history or personality to add) have all the interaction and spark of a dead fish.

Because they’re all very moody and serious.

Over at Chuck Wendig’s site S.L. Huang pins something that might explain why I think Midnight Special doesn’t work too well: manpain.

When this trope is in effect, The Man’s pain is the one we are focused on, as readers/viewers, and meant to sympathize with. If his family is murdered, if his girlfriend is turned into a vampire — it is still his pain we are shown, his drama that is the important fallout.

There’s an even more disturbing subset of manpain that starts to set itself apart after you see it enough times. It’s the “Man Is ‘Forced’ To Make A Horrible Choice That Hurts Someone He Loves Just To Wring Angst For His Own Emotional Journey” trope.

The whole movie is about the dad, who is all serious and in serious pain about the risks he’s taking by kidnapping his kid to go on this journey to get the kid to a certain location.

Even when it looks like the kid is dying, he presses on. Because, it’s a hard choice damnit.

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…like, the movie is a couple hours of these two guys making these faces. All the time.

What makes Firestarter and Race to Witch Mountain so engaging, particularly to the audience with the disposable income and ability to nag their parents into going to see it, is that the child characters are (and this is important) fully developed characters within their own rights. They react constantly to the crazy shit going down on the road trip. Not so here (even thought the kid is on the poster for crying out loud).

Here it’s 100% focused on the parent character (played by Michael Shannon) and all their feels. Which are fine, but we don’t know if the kid is scared, or even if he loves the dad, and the kid is pretty damn robotic all throughout. Even DARYL in the 1980s, movie about a family that adopts an *actual godamn robot* that looks like a kid that’s on the run from the government, even DARYL has more emotions than the kid in Midnight Special.

As a result, because of both manpain and the exclusion of the kid as a character to us (I’m sure Nichols has answers, as the movie is well crafted), at some level of depth, even despite the well crafted nature of the movies, it therefore lacks a heart it needs to level up as a movie.

It lacks joy. It lacks the full depth of emotions and full depth of characterization of all its characters.

The dark sets, the grim seriousness, the empty characterization of the characters other than the father, it becomes oppressive. Even Firestarter, a straight up horror movie, had more of a sense of joy and depth of character in it.

The movie in some ways is a masterclass in how you can still create something that is an amazing bit of craft but yet still fail to create something with heart.

I wanted to feel something at the end, when the young boy leaves all the people who risked their lives to take him on this trip. But I didn’t.

I’m not surprised that people who watch it rate it highly, but that it hasn’t taken off. Not surprising it only made half of what it cost to make.

I read an article about the directors dreams and hopes for the movie and what he was trying to learn with it. It is why I watched the movie. I was hoping to love it. But it does serve to remind us to put some heart into our projects and remember that audiences need to see more character.

05 Feb

All Her Children Fought: A 15 minute short film, based on my short story, can now be viewed on youtube

About two years ago I may have posted some stills about a short, fifteen minute film made out of one of my short stories. I’m delighted that the producer of the film sent me news that I could upload it to YouTube and share it however I wished. So I’ve done just that, and am posting it on my website here as well to share with all.

Details about the film:

Based on the short story by Tobias Buckell (http://www.TobiasBuckell.com). Script by Tobias S. Buckell, Cathal Feeney, and Patrick Ryan.

Produced by Liam Grant (Snugboro Films: http://snugborofilms.com) and directed by Patrick Ryan, who has a number of award winning short films to his credit. The film was shortlisted for showing at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2013 and the Tokyo Short Shorts Festival May/June 2013.

When every pound to orbit counts, who will fight for our future in deep space?

I’ll be following up in a little bit with a post about how this all came about.

09 Jul

As a barbarian, I will also skip this movie

If you don’t know who Orson Scott Card is, he’s a science fiction writer who sits on the board of NOM and writes things like this:

Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down…

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

and like this:

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those whoflagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

He calls his opposition ‘barbarians’ in pieces like this:

The barbarians think that if they grab hold of the trunk of the tree, they’ve caught the birds in the branches. But the birds can fly to another tree.

Today he’s upset that people have labeled him intolerant, and calls people who don’t allow him his difference of opinion to be intolerant of him. He asks for everyone to calm down, you see, because a major motion picture has been made out of his book and he doesn’t want you to think he is a bigot, intolerant, or downright nasty. He’s worried people might boycott his movie.

Make up your own mind, but my feeling is much the same as Chuck Wendig’s:

That’s him doubling down and saying, “You need to tolerate my intolerance.” Which is a classic derailing tactic that smells so strongly of horseshit that when he says it I wonder if I’m actually living inside a horse’s ass. Just because we elected Obama president doesn’t mean I have to tolerate racism. Bigoted ignorant fuck-all is still bigoted ignorant fuck-all.

The movie may still be a rampant blockbuster. The lack of my movie dollars may not make one whit of difference (and given what we saw with Chik-Fil-A, it’s actually safe to assume the opposite of a boycott will occur — right-wing homophobes flocking to the theater to cheer on Ender Scott Wiggins Card as in their minds he eradicates whole planets of little gay bugs).

Still, I won’t pitch my chits and ducats into this bucket.

17 Jan

Back, if a bit wobbly…

I’ve been down for the count almost all week long with a strain of whatever flu has been running wild. Yes, I did get my flu shots (every year, cardiologist thinks its a good idea as my heart does not like being dehydrated), but still succumbed.

Fortunately today I seem to up and out and looking at my email inbox in horror.

I watched a lot of silly TV while in a state of shivering stupor at the wee hours of the morning. I can’t remember half of it. But I do remember two of them, both on Netflix streaming.

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One For The Money was the adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s novel starring Katherine Heigl. Panned by critics and slow at the box office I decided to watch it because I figured I had nothing to lose.

Maybe it was my feverish state, but I was quite charmed. It suffers from following a more novelistic pattern than a summer blockbuster one (two finales and two, or maybe even three, mini-ends) all throughout, which I could see might lead to some finding it meandering. The Jersey characters veered toward stereotypical that might not have been in the book [and Racalicious could probably write a doctoral thesis on the portrayal of the two black prostitutes]. And, the male lead, Jason Mara, while he has a pseudo-mid-career Mel Gibson sort of vibe going, just doesn’t quite match the badass of Daniel Sunjata (perfectly cast) leading to a mis-casting feel. Further, I’m wondering if female audiences who went to see it were hoping for a little more steam than the ads might have promised, it’s all very PG-13.

Nonetheless, Katherine Heigl made for a plucky Stephanie Plum. And unlike most movies with a strong female lead, she has agency and resolves the final threat to her own life, so I enjoyed that. She spent so much time being tutored by Daniel Sunjata I was worried the books would flip to, something that bugs me in too many (but not all) urban fantasy/female gumshoe novels I read where the heroine gets protected by the love interest. This movie avoided that silliness. After spending the whole movie learning the tricks, she uses them. Hurray for that.

This movie cost $40 million to make and didn’t earn out.

Seeing as that District 9 cost $30 million to make, I really don’t understand how it was possible for One for the Money to cost that much, unless it was mostly for the price of Heigl’s acting fee. In which case, she wasn’t acting Jersey all *that* well.

It seems to me they could have done 4 of these at $10 million dollars a pop with a slightly less famous actress and recouped their money on syndication or iTunes rentals. But what do I know? I just struggle to earn a living writing novels.

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The other movie was Gunless. A Canadian take on the Old West mythology. Again, panned by critics. I think because it is less a ‘comedy’ than a movie that pokes back at the myth of the Old West from a Canadian perspective, which means it actively clashes with received wisdom from Gun Culture, which tends to rule in Pop Culture. For as much as the NRA is demanding that we not look at the man behind the curtain and instead look at video games and movies, I imagine Gunless is not the response they want, but it’s actually the direction you go if you’re playing with the assumption.

Now, what I found interesting about the movie was that even though I found the theme one I basically agree with (shotguns, rifles are tools, and the Canadians in the film own these kinds for basic self defense and hunting, but other kinds of guns are only for killing and mayhem, and they find them and the gun culture around them, as embodied by the gunslinger who shows up, both repellent in the damage it does [embodied by having their stuff casually shot up and their blacksmith challenged to die for no big reason that they can see] and fascinating at the same time [myth, manliness]) and cutely argued, I found the film ‘preachy’ initially, but as I self-interrogated I realized I found it ‘preachy’ based mainly (not entirely, there are 3 mini-preachy pieces of dialogue in there, to be fair, that I would have cut, audiences are not as stupid as we sometimes believe) on my own immersion in gun culture, which presumes Clint Eastwood’s pro-gun Dirty Harry/Westerns to be the base standard.

But Clint’s world is actually one pole. Just because it’s the pole I am constantly exposed to doesn’t mean anything. Gunless felt preachy mainly because it sat somewhere in the middle of a conversation about guns as tools (as I said, a middle position of one where it had rifles and shotguns as tools for farmers for self defense as hunting, but not for killing over insults, it was not anti-gun, though Clint-steeped gun fetishists would call it anti-gun it clearly isn’t) where a movie about Ghandi or no guns at all is the farther side of the continuum. My ‘meh’ feeling had more to do initially with my own pop culture experience.

That’s not to say Gunless was high art or an amazing movie. I’d pick 3:10 to Yuma or Unforgiven over it anyway, they’re just better pieces of art. Done. But Gunless was a cute, fun film that I’m glad I finally got around to watching after having had it in my queue for a year now. It had a lot of negative reviews, but I wonder if some of them were because it moved against a grain that people couldn’t quite express.

I probably wouldn’t have been able to self-interrogate if I wasn’t on an intellectual journey regarding my own assumptions about gun-fetishm that came from visiting England in November. That began a research quest that challenged many assumptions and wrapped up with Sandy Hook.

So that’s some of what I did while I was sick. Not my favorite way to spend a week. Hope your’s was better.

23 Nov

SF Signal reviews Monster

MonstersPoster.jpgSF Signal has a great review of a movie I recently watched called Monster, available via a pre-release option on Amazon Video on Demand. It was a very quiet, understated, SF film with a strong streak of sense of wonder, set in Mexico/US border area after an alien invasion.

While I felt unfulfilled by the ending (a very stereotypical sort of literary ‘unresolved’ ending that indy film makers like because they think it makes them look smart), it worked partially in the context of the semi-authentic real-life feel this movie kept reaching for. As the reviewer, Derek, at SF Signal noted, this was the kind of movie District 9 could have reached for more, had the writing been better and more thought out and less ‘on the nose.’

All in all, I was impressed with the movie, and there were many beautiful moments in it. If you have a chance to see it, be sure to check it out.

update: SF Signal and Jeremy Tolbert on twitter pointed out that you can rent Monsters on Amazon.com for $7 right now. Worth it!