Archive for April, 2007
Summer movie season officially kicks off with next week’s release of Spider-Man 3, so now seems like a good time to spell out which films have me most excited this year. Please keep in mind when you read this: my tastes tend to run to the pedestrian during the summer. I’m a sucker for big, special-effects-laden popcorn flicks. While I appreciate small, talky character pieces as much as the next amatuer cinemaphile, summer’s the time for the big and shiny and explody. That’s become even more true since I’ve become a parent — I’m only going to get to see a couple of these movies in the theater, so I tend to choose movies that will most benefit from being seen on the big screen.
1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13)
Order of the Phoenix was my least favorite of the Harry Potter books to date, but damned if the newest trailer doesn’t vault it to the top of my must-see list. I’m happy to note that it sure appears the filmmakers did exactly what I was hoping for: they jettisoned a good chunk of the first 300 pages of the book. (I was about ready to punch Harry in the solar plexus for turning into such a whiny little bastard for much of that book.) The last half of Phoenix, though, reads like it’d be a hellacious movie, and the trailers certainly look like that’s where the focus of the action will be.
2. Ratatouille (June 29)
C’mon. It’s Pixar and it’s directed by Brad (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) Bird. Plus Patton Oswalt voicing the main character? Oh, yeah, I’m there. I don’t honestly even care what it’s about — it’s Pixar, it’s Brad Bird. That’s all I need to know.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 19)
I’ll admit that I showed up late to the Pirates party. The first time I saw Curse of the Black Pearl I didn’t think all that much of it (except for Johnny Depp’s fantastic Captain Jack Sparrow). I thought it was, at best, okay. I must have just been in the wrong mood for it during that first viewing, because the second time I saw it I enjoyed the hell out of it. And then I enjoyed the hell out of Dead Man’s Chest. And the trailers for At World’s End make me think I’ll enjoy the hell out of it, too. Plus: Chow Yun-Fat!
4. Spider-Man 3 (May 4)
I have to be honest here: I’m not as excited about this movie as I feel like I should be. I’m a huge superhero geek, I loved the first two Spider-Man flicks, the trailers for this one look good… so why aren’t I looking forward to it that much? I mean, c’mon, I don’t find Kirsten Dunst that loathsome, not enough so that it should overshadow the natural enthusiasm I should exhibit toward any Spider-Man movie, and especially when her complete yuckiness is balanced out by the addition of Bryce Dallas Howard to the cast. And SM3 has the black suit, and Venom, and the Sandman… so why aren’t I hyped for it? Am I the only one that’s feeling this way?
5. Knocked Up (June 1)
Judd Apatow’s got my support for most anything he does after the brilliance of Freaks and Geeks. The 40-Year-Old Virgin managed to pull off the unlikely feat of being both crudely hilarious and touching at the same time — Apatow made Steve Carell’s Andy a real person, presenting him as being in a funny situation without making fun of him. I’m betting he’ll be able to do the same thing with this story about a schlub who knocks up a woman way out of his league thanks to a drunken one night stand (doesn’t sound much like the premise for a comedy, does it?). I like the leads, too: I’ve liked Seth Rogen (a Freaks alum; Knocked Up looks to be full of ‘em) in everything I’ve seen him in, and Katherine Heigl’s Izzy is one of the few characters on Grey’s Anatomy I don’t want to stab in the throat. (Well, OK, sometimes I want to stab her, too.)
When the first TV ads aired for the new science fiction/western hybrid Firefly in the late summer of ’02, the “from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” hype FOX was laying on so thickly had zero effect on me. At that point, the name “Joss Whedon” meant nothing to me — I’d never seen any Buffy (except the wretched movie). I wouldn’t become a disciple of The Way of Whedon for over another year.
No, what struck me was this: “Hey, cool, Nathan Fillion’s on a new show! Maybe I’ll have to check that out.” (Though I didn’t, of course, until after Firefly had been canceled and released on DVD.) See, I’m now in my fourteenth year of Fillion Fandom™. All you people who first discovered him as the roguish-yet-lovable Captain Mal Reynolds? Pshaw. Newbies, latecoming bandwagon jumpers, the lot of you.
Way back in the summer of 1994, I wasn’t taking any college classes and my 25-hour-a-week job at a record store mainly took up my nighttime hours, so during most days I was pretty free. And with my afternoons unencumbered by anything resembling productive activity, what I did was watch soap operas — specifically, All My Children, One Life to Live and Days of Our Lives. 
One of One Life To Live‘s main good guys during that summer was Joey Buchanon, played by, you guessed it, Nathan Fillion. Joey was more in the romantic hero soap character mold than action hero or anti-hero, but heroic he was nonetheless. Most of the appeal of the character — to me, anyway — was from Fillion himself, who had an undeniable air of goodness about him. His Joey was very earnest and likable, even if I never could understand why he was so hung up on skanky Kelly, who was so full of bad news she might as well have been wearing a “Chico’s Bail Bonds” jersey.
Fillion might not have been the highlight of my soap-watching stint that summer — my mild man-crush on him was far eclipsed by the gripping lust I felt for Maria and Julia, the Santos sisters, who spent the summer bludgeoning me with their exquisite hotness on All My Children. But he left enough of a positive vibe on me that I noted every time he appeared in my pop culture field of vision over the next few years. I took it as a sign that his career was going somewhere when he played Not The Ryan You’re Looking For in Saving Private Ryan; I thought his career must be taking a step back when he signed on to the occassionally-amusing-but-not-particularly-noteworthy sitcom Two Guys And A Girl And At One Time There Was A Pizza Place But We Dropped It After The Second Season.
Have you ever noticed how some actors seem to exhibit certain characteristics so naturally and so frequently that you just assume that person’s like that in real life? (Well, OK… I do, anyway.) That’s how Nathan Fillion’s always seemed to me in regards to that aforementioned fundamental goodness most of his characters exude. Much of what made Mal Reynolds such a compelling figure was the contrast Fillion’s natural (or natural-seeming) good-guy-ness brought to him: for all of Mal’s law-breaking and Fed-shooting and doctor-yelling, there’s never any doubt that he’s a good man who’s fallen on hard times, a hero in a less-than-heroic situation.
Yes, I’m aware that Fillion’s an actor and if he’s any good at his job at all — and I believe he is — then there doesn’t have to be any connection whatsoever between the parts he plays and the man himself. But there’s undeniably something of a strength, morality and dignity underneath most of the characters he plays , and whether that quality has any basis in the man behind the characters or not, it makes him an appealing presence on screen.
I’m still hoping that quality someday makes him a huge star.
(Funnily/sadly enough, between the time I started writing this post Monday night and the time I finished it Wednesday night, Fillion’s newest show, Drive, was canceled by FOX… after three episodes. Nathan, if you are going to be a Big Huge Star at some point soon, I don’t think it’s going to be any thanks to the bastards at FOX.)
 I’ll talk more about my history with soaps some other time, but I firmly believe that watching Days with my mom when I was little probably helped foster in me the love for serialized storytelling I’ve still got today.
 The most notable exception to this tendency was his arc as the evil preacher Caleb in Season 6 of Buffy; there was no underlying streak of good to be found in that character, and because of it I think having Fillion, who’d just been de-Firefly-ed, play the part struck something of a wrong chord.
For most of this week, I’ve been afraid my iPod had died. Â Afraid and terribly depressed — the thought of an iPod-free life was quite funk-making.
Everything was working fine up until a Tuesday or so, when I noticed that the battery was dead dead dead, which struck me as very strange as I’d just charged it the night before. Â But dead dead dead it was, and I spent the next two days trying to charge it with no success. Â After several attempts at charging it across two different computers, I bought a new charger/sync cable last night which charged the thing right up. Â (The old cable apparently still works just fine for syncing, but won’t pull in enough power to charge the battery anymore. Â Strange.)
Anyway, my iPod was so happy to have a fully-charged battery again, it blessed me with a blood-pumping collection of favorites on the drive into work this morning. Â It would seem charging it up has also made its built-in moodometer function properly once again, as said blood-pumping songs meshed beautifully with the gorgeous, gorgeous spring morning we’re having here in N.C. Â Here, have a look:
“Rabbit Run” – Eminem.Â Â I have an entire post brewing on this very song. Â I kid you not.
“All These Things I’ve Done” – The Killers.Â I have not much to say about this song other than I loves it. Â It’s one of those songs that goes straight from my headphones to my spinal cord.
“Behind the Wall of Sleep” – The Smithereens.Â She was tall and cool and pretty and she dressed as black as coal.Â Â No wonder I love this song, as I think that lyric described most every woman I crushed on in my early-to-mid 20s.
“The Waitress Song” – Blue Sky Salesmen.Â Very, very few of you reading this will have ever heard this song, and those that have will understand and know why it brightened my mood this morning.
“Holiday” – Green Day.Â Â This song brought on a most impressive fit of air guitar-n-drums from me this morning. Â My hands still hurt from enthusiastically pounding the steering wheel in time with Tre Cool.
Yesterday morning, I read a news bite saying that an actor I liked was going to be in a movie that I’d likely be excited about. I wrote up a quick post about it and scheduled it to publish in the afternoon since I wanted to give my legions of readers ample opportunity to laugh at the picture of 13-year-old me I’d posted yesterday morning.
In between the time I wrote that post and the time it was supposed to be published, more than 30 people were massacred at Virginia Tech.
I wrestled with whether or not posting such a piece of inconsequential fluff was appropriate given what was going on in Blacksburg; ultimately, as you can see, I decided to go ahead with it — if I tried to stop posting out of respect for every terrible thing that happened, I’d never write anything again. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter one way or the other whether I posted that article or not, I reasoned, so up it went.
But it did matter. It mattered to me.
Much like I’d imagine most every other rational, feeling person reading the news yesterday, I felt positively nauseated by what happened. It just made no sense to me. I can wrap my head around reading news stories about dozens of civilians getting killed in Baghdad — horrendous though it is, Baghdad’s a war zone and I can understand the types of things that happen there. It’s tragic, but it’s also expected (and possibly all the more tragic for it).
But what happened yesterday, the utter randomness of it… that I can’t wrap my head around. I can’t understand why someone thinks they need to kill that many innocent people before taking their own life. I simply do not get it.
And this particular incident has shaken me far more than any previous school shooting ever did. I think that it’s because unlike when, say, Columbine happened, I’m now a parent. It’s made me think more: thinking of those kids who got shot for no other reason than being in the wrong classroom when some psychopath decided it was time to make his mark on the world… thinking of the parents of those kids, watching the news, terrified, then getting the call that their child had been senselessly murdered…
It made what I wrote yesterday insignificant. It made the majority of what I ever write feel insignificant.
I know it’s not entirely so, of course; people need entertainment to help distract them from thinking too much of the likes of what happened yesterday, and I like to discuss that entertainment and to try occasionally to provide some of it myself. But those pointless murders really helped put what I do in some sense of perspective, to remind me of what’s truly important and what isn’t. Just because writing about pop culture isn’t “important” doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing it, but I’m reminded how lucky I am that I’m able to do think about the trivial so much, that my worries aren’t greater, than my family is safe and happy and healthy.
My most heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims at Virginia Tech.
Back to the frivolities of pop culture tomorrow. Tonight, I’m going to go home and give my family a few dozen extra hugs.
Edward Norton has been cast as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, the quasi-sequel to 2003′s near-disastrous Hulk. (I say quasi-sequel in that I believe they’ll be skipping over all of the origin hoo-hah and such, acknowledging that we’ve already seen those bits without referencing the first movie at all.) Norton’s actually an excellent choice to play Banner — Banner’s supposed to be a world-class scientific intellect, and Norton, one of my favorite actors, is one of the best of his generation at playing smart.  Plus, scared and/or angry and/or conflicted Banner? Norton will be all over that.
The Incredible Hulk will be directed by Louis Leterrier, director of the Transporter movies, so we know we’ll be getting far more of Angry Action Hulk than Angsty Emo Hulk, which suits me just fine. As much as I respect Ang Lee and what he wanted to do with Hulk, it just didn’t work well. Knowing that the next movie will have Edward Norton and much more in the way of “Hulk smash?” Oh yeah, I’m there.
Unfortunately, this new configuration means I’m doubting we’ll get any Jennifer Connelly in the next movie, and that saddens me, but it’s a tradeoff I can live with.
 Jessica Alba as a genetic engineer in Fantastic Four? Not so much. Now if they’d cast Leelee Sobieski… her I could’ve bought as a big-brain scientist.