Meller’s Mid-Summer Movie Thoughts: Wanted, The Happening, Shotgun Stories & More

So we’re already at the end of June, halfway through the movie season and it’s time for a mid-game thought dump. There have been a few good movies (Iron Man, Indy) and more than a few shitty ones (Speed Racer, The Love Guru, Zohan), but there are some particular points that I want to hit on about what has passed and what is upcoming.

First – Last weekend was the opening of Wanted, and all I can do is say “Fuck yeah.” I read the original comic books when they came out a few years ago and absolutely ate up its dark humor and pure badassery as only Mark Millar could deliver. The movie, though it changed the story to make it more audience friendly, seems poised to be just as sweet. The main reason that I’m pumped for this movie has little to do with any of the actors, but instead the director. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Timur Bekmambetov rules. Learn to say that name, because he’s going to be the best action director for years to come and Wanted serves as his introduction to the American market. Welcome Timur, welcome.

On a more depressing note, I didn’t heed the warnings of critics and ventured to see Shymalan’s latest misstep – The Happening. Wow, that movie ate some serious dick. On its knees in the middle of the group of dudes, moving like a circus seal. If you haven’t seen it yet, DON’T. It boiled down to be an utterly offensive experience. Really Shymalan, you call that piece of trash a movie? Death Sentence was better. Hell, Norbit was probably better than that trash. I’d rather watch the Number 23 on repeat for the rest of my life than sit through the happening again. Bad M. Night, bad.

The beginning of July marks a day that I’ve been awaiting for months. Shotgun Stories comes out on DVD. What is Shotgun Stories? you ask. Besides the best movie I’ve seen all year, Shotgun Stories is an independent film directed and written by Jeff Nichols that is Shakespearean in scope. The plot revolves around a trio of brothers whose drunk of a father abandoned them and later got his shit together and started a new life with a new family. He was such a bad father that he named his first three children Son, Kid and Boy. At his funeral, the two families see each other, Son spits on the casket and a feud ignites. It sounds simple, but it’s not to be missed. Catch this on DVD July 1st. Do it.

I’m fairly optimistic for the rest of the big summer movies coming out. My personal pumped list for the remainder of the summer is as follows: Wanted, Wall-E, The Wackness, Hellboy 2, Dark Knight, Pineapple Express, Hell Ride and Tropic Thunder. I’m pretty sure that all of these movies will be the highlights of what’s to come and won’t disappoint. Anyone else got any movies they’re excited for that I missed?

– Meller


Iron Man: This Post Was Written By My Super Smart Robot

Iron man is all the rage this weekend, and while I liked it, all I heard leaving the theater were glowing reviews. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend doing so, but only so you can see how dead on the following observations / complaints about it are. I’m not usually a hater, but for all the praise I’ve heard, there is a serious need for a rebuttal. First, some overall background.

Tony Stark is an unparalleled genius, the heir to a weapons manufacturing company and a womanizer with no equal. Throughout the movie he becomes Iron Man, basically a souped up, more custom fitted version of those walking mech suits at the end of the 3rd matrix. But don’t worry, those old matrix suits do make an appearance as the “final boss”, if you will.

The movie has a TON of flash, and Robert Downey Jr. is really good in the title role. But, the more and more I think about it, this movie alternatively didn’t make much sense or was completely formulaic.

In the first scene of Iron Man, Stark is yukking it up with some soldiers, drinking a scotch, and talking about how many Maxim cover models he’s bedded, when the convoy of humvees he is riding in gets attacked. As he watches soldiers around him one by one leave the humvee, and one by one get mercilessly gunned down, he decides…to also leave the humvee! Interesting strategic choice. Considering they were in the middle of the desert, there was only one way to escape – keep driving the bulletproof humvee and hope you get away. He gets out and starts running! After he reaches his goal of hiding behind a rock 20 feet away, a missile lands and messes up his shit anyway. He wakes up in a cave full of evil terrorists. Here, he meets a nice doctor who keeps him alive while helping him build his first Iron Man suit (Think of a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy and C3P0 after being dismantled). The doctor also changes his personality by talking about his dead family. I would have to say the scene with the doctor “creating a decoy” is one of the top 10 jokes of a scene I have ever witnessed. It’s one thing to shoot your gun in the air to draw attention…but he starts shooting right at the entrance to the “iron man suit lab”. Why wouldn’t that send even more guys right there? Then, there is the part where he is running behind 3 enemies in a narrow tunnel. The doctor is still shooting his gun into the air, yelling. Why he doesn’t actually shoot the terrorists, who killed his family and imprisoned him, is beyond me. He eventually dies, and his death is supposed to lead to some sort of personal transformation of Stark, who humanely and maturely no longer thinks about banging really hot chicks. So, he retreats to his lab, where 2 ultra-smart, completely voice controlled robots that can pretty much do anything are his main lab buddies. The combination of Stark interacting with the robots over and over, and their ability to do anything possible with any voice command quickly got boring. It was like someone said “how quickly and easily can we get him to make this suit, so he can start flying around in it ASAP.” Throughout the movie, this ultra-smart, ubiquitous computer helps Stark every step of the way. This is true until the end sequence, when he has to fight Iron Monger, as listed in the credits, or The Dude, as everyone in the theater was thinking.

The ending sequence was really what scaled back any kind of excitement/respect I had for this movie. After this, I quickly slapped the “standard super hero movie” label on this guy, and never looked back. I guess we can start at the beginning of it, where Stane (villain’s real name) is standing around in his lab. Oh no, a knock at the door. I don’t know which was less realistic – Stane hopping into an enormous mech suit in 10 seconds that Iron Man needs his two genius robots to help him put on, or Gwen Paltrow’s brisk jog to safety while a fireball chases her down. This was the 2nd time that she “escaped” due to the weakest of scenarios. In the first, Pepper (Gwen’s character) is at Stark’s office computer when Stane walks in. She already knows hes the bad guy, so discreetly finishes her download of the incriminating files, then suavely puts the screen saver up just as Stane walks over. After she leaves, Stane removes the screen saver to see “download complete.” “NO!”, he exclaims in a kind of sigh / whine / tantrum combo. What will he do now? Oh wait…SHE IS 10 FEET OUTSIDE YOUR OFFICE, WALKING IN HIGH HEELS. Stane has a plan though. Instead of wasting time shutting up that pesky Pepper, who quickly alerts the entire military, he breaks into Stark’s house and waits for him. Here, we see for the 2nd time the “super ear weapon”, which after being used next to a person’s ear will make the veins in their face pop out, and will paralyze them for 15 minutes. Unless you are the terrorist he first uses it on, then it kills you. So, he paralyzes Stark, takes out his crucial power source for the suit, and leaves. Yes, he leaves the hero sitting on his couch, unmoving. This kind of negligence towards the powerful hero hasn’t been seen since the Bond days, unless you count the spoofing of it in Austin Powers. So…Stane can kill him while wearing huge mech suits, but can’t kill him while he’s sitting motionless on his couch?

As for the final fight itself, obviously much can be explained away with the easy cover of “technology”. Like when Stark gets thrown into a bus, then a missile is launched from 15 feet away into the same bus. I’ll believe that the suit prevented his body from reaching temperatures that would turn him into a puddle of goop, just like I’ll believe that in the first suit scene, not a single one of those bullets finds their way through one of the enormous eye holes in his mask. Oh wait, what am I thinking. Obviously the Arab terrorists aren’t smart enough to think of shooting at his potential weak points. Wild screams and panicked, inaccurate gunfire is all they can come up with. Speaking of those terrorists, the head guy reveals his master plan to Stane just before dying – to make 8 Iron Man suits and take over all of Asia!! Of course, how did I not see it before.