What Did You Expect?

This story is based on a comic book!

That’s what I had to remind myself as I watched Man of Steel this week. I really liked the movie. I did. My one complaint was that there were several moments that strained credibility, but then I remembered that the main character and his nemesis could fly. Oh yeah—Superman.

That’s really the point of every genre of story-telling. Know the audience.

Anyone who pays upwards of ten bucks for a ticket to see a movie based on a comic book should expect a few convenient coincidences. One paying to see a zombie movie will expect a few undead scares. A western should provide a great scene with horses, trains and pistols.

Nobody who pays for a Regency romance wants to see an alien invasion in the climax of the film. If you’re a fan of apocalyptic sci-fi, you probably don’t have any patience for talking kittens in the story. Not unless it’s revealed that cats are the true cause of the apocalypse, and they’ve always been able to talk. But then again, hasn’t that idea been done to death.

When I watch a horror movie, I spend half of the film waiting for the hand to reach up from out of the grave, or the walls to bleed, or something like that. I’m not there for the deep intellectual commentary on the differences between men and women in relationships.

All that said, I have to get back to Man of Steel. I liked that the writers added depth to the bond between Clark Kent and his parents. I like that they did away with Lois Lane’s silly, “I can’t see the OBVIOUS similarities between Clark Kent and Superman.” And I loved the little (almost minuscule) nod to Lex Luthor—when Zod and Kal are fighting, Zod throws a tanker truck emblazoned with a LEXCORP logo. Sequel? I thinks so.

I’ve seen lots of critics bashing the summer lineup of movies. It’s their job, I suppose. They have to see all genres, and some of them just don’t like superheroes or westerns or zombies or romances or whatever. I like the sites that not only give reviews by professional critics, but also by movie-lovers.

It means a lot more to me that someone devoted to Star Trek movies enjoyed the latest installment than someone who had to see the movie as part of his job. If I’m spending the money on a movie, I want it to fulfill my expectations—not necessarily those of a critic.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

What Makes a Story Science Fiction?

After spending a weekend at FenCon IX in Dallas, I discovered a whole new world of science fiction. I’ve always been a sci-fi fan. I grew up with Star Trek and Star Wars. I just always thought of science fiction as any story set in space. I had no idea.

I found myself surrounded by men in kilts paying homage to Highlander. There were super heroes and swashbucklers everywhere. It seems even Sherlock Holmes himself was a sci-fi guru. Muppets—yeah, there were pigs in space. Phineas and Ferb? If a satellite crashes to Earth, Candace is in charge—conditionally. And don’t get me started on Perry the Platypus and his gadgets. Where is he, anyway?

We discussed Ray Bradbury. We chatted about fairy tales. We spoke of Tolkien and Lewis. We talked about Wonder Woman, Superman, the Hulk and Iron Man.We shared the love of Malcolm Reynolds as well as The Doctor.

We watched movies about Mars, a trailer for The Hobbit, and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. Even Monty Python held a place of honor.

There were fairies, furries, foxes, and fans of every color, literally. One woman in a Starfleet uniform was painted Kelly green from head to toe. Another young lady wore a purple princess dress and My Little Pony ears, tail, and unicorn horn. Anime and Steampunk both made bold statements at the convention. It was fantastic, in every sense of the word.ked at science fiction with new eyes. I walked through the artists’ gallery in wonder. There were bronze sculptures, jewelry, large-scale paintings and small-scale pen and inks. My husband won a watercolor painting of Robby the Robot, which will soon reside in our game room next to our collection of movie posters. My son won a painting of a Cthulhu character inspired by Lovecraft. I’m not a huge fan of tentacles, but the painting is lovely.

Every element of the convention opened my mind to the definition and possibilities of science fiction. I’m looking at nearly every movie I’ve ever watched through a new filter. I’m thinking about all of the stories I’ve read with a new appreciation.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

With Whom?

Have you ever watched a movie, formed an opinion about it, watched it again—maybe several years later—and wondered, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe you hated it the second time. Maybe you loved it. Either way, you completely reversed your outlook on the picture. Why? Was it that you matured? Maybe your tastes have just changed.

Another possibility to consider: the person with whom you saw the movie. Did you see it with your sweetheart the first time? Did you watch with your best friend? Were you sitting with your parents (and totally embarrassed and weirded-out) that first time?

I believe that whom you share a movie experience with has a huge impact on your opinion of the film. Think about how you feel when you’re with someone you love. Think about spending a carefree night with a close friend. It seems that friends and loved ones make everything better. (Unless you’re stuck with your mom covering your eyes during a surprise love scene.) Having a friend with you sets the stage for your expectations.

Think about how it is to go through something exciting, thrilling, frightening, or beautiful with another person. It will either draw you closer or tear you apart. Though the story on the screen isn’t real, the feelings you experience can be. The way you feel about the person you share this event with can cast a shade over the whole thing.

AND, I will go on to suggest that how your relationship grows or changes over the years can affect the way you look back on the movie, as well.

The memories that I have from seeing Superman, Jaws 3D, Return of the Jedi, Midnight Madness, Mission Impossible, and The Right Stuff, are vastly different from the memories I have from seeing Christmas Story, Weird Science, or The Ghost and the Darkness. The latter bunch I saw with my husband, and the former I saw with family and friends. They each, in their own way, altered how I saw each film at the time, and how I feel about them now.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

 

My 1st Movie Review: The Avengers!

Here is my disclaimer: I am terrible at reviewing movies. I love them too much to write anything truly mean about them. There. I said it. So, here goes my first attempt at a review.

The other night I went to see Marvel’s The Avengers in 3D. I am not a huge comics devotee, and I’m not always impressed with wearing 3D glasses. To be honest, I usually become a bit woozy.

Until Iron Man came out in 2008, I had never heard of Tony Stark or his bad-boy/ good-guy escapades. I grew up watching the 1978 series of The Incredible Hulk, with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, on the small screen. I didn’t love the whole idea of the show, but the special effects were cool—I was ten. My superhero knowledge is limited to what I glean from movies and TV. I watched Batman and Wonder Woman on TV and Superman on the big screen. The only thing I knew of Thor and Loki was from Norse mythology. I had heard of Captain America, but never of Hawkeye or Black Widow. I have sons, so I watched both Iron Man movies, along with Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).

With that little background behind us, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Avengers. Joss Whedon impressed me yet again. When will he stop that?

The banter between the characters was clever and actually served to propel the story, and the actors really endeared me. I am now a Hulk fan. Really. He has one particular scene that absolutely cracked me up. Okay—maybe more than one. Mark Ruffalo is a terrific Bruce Banner. He’s so laid back that it’s not difficult to believe that he must be fuming inside.

I laughed aloud at one of Black Widow’s very first lines in the film. “I’m working…”

While Stark retains his selfish façade, Captain America leads with his do-good-always persona. The fact that it’s sincere makes it even better.

As the end credits began, I asked my boys which was their favorite Avenger. My husband and older son like Iron Man best, and my younger son refuses to answer. I think he’s like me, and can’t really decide.

The Avengers broke records with an opening weekend box office bringing in over $200 million. That makes sense to me. It was pure fun. I laughed, I (almost) cried, I jumped out of my seat a few times, too. It’s what a movie should be. Even the 3D was great—no wooziness. If you are one of the eleven people who didn’t see it this weekend, you should go. This is a family-friendly movie with lots of action.

I only have a few negatives to add. If you haven’t seen the other Marvel movies, you might be a little bit lost on minor points. I’d recommend watching them first. In addition, I would warn that the film is over two hours long—visit the theatre facilities before the movie starts.

There’s my first review. I’m sure some critics can find all sorts of ugly things to say about this film, but I was too busy watching it.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

This Versus That

My whole family loves movies, and one of my sons’ favorite games is “Versus.” They compare movie and TV characters all the time, weighing strengths and weaknesses of each role, as well as the actors’ physical attributes. Whenever they make comparisons, they always offer their reasoning behind their decisions. It’s a wonderful exercise in critical thinking.

The game has been around forever, I suppose. When I was a kid, the big debate was Superman versus Mighty Mouse. I guess these days, most people don’t even know who Mighty Mouse is. I tend to come down on the side of Superman, if for no other reason that he’s not just a cartoon, thus he could beat more villains. (There just aren’t as many cartoon villains as there used to be.)

The other question that I grew up with was Ginger versus Mary Ann, from Gilligan’s Island. That one is mostly for guys, but a wise woman can tell a great deal about a man from his answer to that quiz.

Sunday at lunch, we all got into the debates. It began with James Bond versus Jason Bourne. Of course, we had to stipulate which Bond actor would face Bourne, and my boys settled on Daniel Craig. Because they felt it was still too close to call, they had to settle on a neutral location, as well as what they would be wearing and have on their person.

They argued that because Bond is a gadget guy and Bourne can make a weapon out of just about anything, they would have to fight naked. (I suggested swim trunks, but they were pretty sure that Bourne could use them for a weapon anyway.) They also decided that since almost any location could have a tactical advantage for one over the other, the challengers should be skydiving at the time of their combat.

My youngest son then suggested that the debate was moot, because if they were skydiving naked, they would both die when they hit the ground. True, but I have a feeling that somehow or another, Bond might have a back-up plane (piloted by a Bond girl) that he could swoop into after the fight—assuming he survived. Bourne is the loner type, which does have that disadvantage. It was fun to watch their reasoning play out.

Their match-ups continued. They paired Jackie Chan and Liam Neeson. They pitted Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice) against Ziva David (NCIS). They matched The Avengers’ Black Widow with Alien’s Ellen Ripley. They put real thought into their game. They batted about names of characters like Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), John Casey (Chuck), Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly), MacGyver, Indiana Jones, and others.

These kinds of games show me that they are paying attention to the shows that they watch. They understand character development. It also shows how wonderfully these actors embody the roles that they play.

If you ever want to start a fun game with your family, “Versus” is terrific for understanding the way your kids think and perceive others. It will give you insight into their likes and preferences. It’s a good conversation starter.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!