Friday, April 12, 2013

Like What You Wanna Like! Defenses of Underappreciated Films (And More!) Part 2!

Last week I asked you all to write in with media and franchises you love that seem to have a sizable hatedom (aside from I-III, since I always talk about them). I swore that I would talk a little bit about each with the following rules:

1. If I liked it too, I would praise it for its greatness.

2. If I didn't like it, I would be honest with my criticism while still emphasizing both your right to like it and its right to exist, plus finding at least one genuinely nice thing to say about it (and not dismissing it as alltogether "bad" regardless of how I feel).

3. If I haven't seen it, I'll explain why while refusing to pass too much judgement and, again, emphasizing both your right to like it and its right to exist.

You all gave me a lot of great things to talk about that fall into all three categories. You gave me so much that, while I envisioned this as a single post, Blogspot wouldn't let me put all the necessary tags on it requiring me to split it into two. Yesterday I gave you all the superhero stuff, and now it's time for the thrilling conclusion!

Some Spoilers ahead.

Now, these are all my honest feelings. I invite you to disagree with any of my assessments because, let's face it, taste is subjective. Still, even if I dislike something, I recognize it gets far more flak than it deserves.

These are in no particular order.

It Belongs in a Museum!
I'm not nearly as big a fan of Indiana Jones as I am of Star Wars. Still, I do enjoy Lucasfilm's other baby. I've mentioned before how flabbergasted I am that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" not only wasn't as popular as the others, but in fact gets flamed with almost the regularity. That really shocks me, because I thought it was fantastic. I'll always like Raiders of the Lost Ark best, but Skull ties with Last Crusade as a close second. Temple of Doom is the only one that I really can't stand a frame of, but even then I recognize the work that went into it and how it fits the milieu of both the directors and the character (to a degree; Indy always seemed out of character to me in Doom, but the setting is just his style).

Crystal Skull had many memorable scenes - in a good way. Even the oft-maligned nuking of the fridge was pure Indy brilliance. Anyone who complains about that clearly forgot what movie they were seeing. As for the aliens, it makes sense. It was a logical progression. They belonged. I can't understand what people's beef with that one was. Plus, Crystal Skull did the best thing for the franchise: brought Marion Ravenwood back. And it was like she never left.

Finally, what's up with all the Shia LeBouf hate in general? Honestly? Kid's a decent actor. Not my favorite, but he does good work. I was actually really impressed with his turn in the sequel to Wall Street. In Skull, he fares okay, and the final scene where he's hat-blocked was pitch-perfect.

Speaking of LeBouf...

Roll Out!
Here's my story with the Micheal Bay Transformers movies.

As a kid, I was vaguely aware of Transformers. I didn't get into the toys until Beast Wars, and even then I didn't really watch most of the media. So when the movie was coming out, I expected it to be kind of crappy, but I still wanted to see it for the corn value, like Snakes on a Plane (which I did enjoy even if it's not a great movie).

Transformers exceeded my expectations tenfold. Aside from a few issues with shaky-cam and the fact that it focused unnecessarily on human characters, the movie was pretty awesome. I loved it so much I saw it a few times on the big screen. So I was excited to see the second one...and I didn't like it.

Oh, there was stuff I liked in it. Jetfire was freaking awesome, Devastator was kind of cool. And like I said before, I genuinely like LeBouf. But with the unnecessary Prime death and the twins that struck me as kind of everything Jar Jar's been wrongly accused of...I was disappointed.

Now, did I jump onto forums screaming about how Micheal Bay raped my childhood? No, because that's insane. I simply said "Eh, didn't like it," and decided to skip the third one. Still haven't seen "Dark of the Moon" so I can't speak to its quality.

What I can say is that there's a good chance it's not nearly as bad as everyone says it is. Hell, even though I didn't like "Revenge of the Fallen" I don't think it's as bad as people tend to say it is. I'll keep bringing this up as I talk about things you guys wanted that I don't necessarily like that it's okay to honestly dislike something, but recognize how you're expressing that dislike.

Plus, while Bay may have issues in choosing scripts, let's face it: the man know how to frame a shot. Not nearly given enough credit for that.

Why for 53 Years I've Put Up With It Now...
The following is adapted from a comment I made on the Nostalgia Critic's review of the live-action Grinch film:

You may be surprised to hear me say that
I liked both "The Grinch" and "The Cat in the Hat"
Though one pleasure's guilty, the other is pure
Though which is which? Well, don't be too sure.
Of course I say "guilty," but really no one
Should feel any shame once a movie is done
In finding a meaning and giving applause
Though one must accept that all films have their flaws
While it may not be perfect, there'll be fans adoring
And even well-made films can feel crude and boring
In this case "guilty" is used just to mean
That odd feeling when certain movies are seen
That even though more things went wrong than went right
On the whole, you enjoyed it! You'd watch it all night!
Which brings us back to the topic at hand:
The live-action Suess films, and this is my stand
The Grinch is the guilty, the Cat is quite not
Now all of you think I must be smoking pot
But here is the difference, for those who will hear it
It all has to do with which film keeps the spirit
While I do love Jim Carrey, and think he is funny
He performs generally good with great makeup, not runny
But his grasp of the Grinch is in a word awful
He's Chaotic Evil where Book!Grinch is Lawful
(Well, closer to Neutral, but that's a debate
To be had with DMs, now the hour grows late)
Conversely, while some of Myers' jokes may fall flat
He's Chaotic Neutral, which quite fits the Cat
He's totally in character all through the movie
And while not a "great" film I still find it quite groovy
Those are my opinions, such as they are
And if you like either film, I like you too, by far!

And I liked The Lorax too! Well, I found the expansion of the framing device unecessary, but the parts that dealt directly with the story from the book, even the added stuff, was spot-on and wonderful.
Toons are Supposed to Make People Laugh!
This is a section that deals with animation, and I got requests for things that fall into each of the three categories I stated above.

1. Hercules - Hercules is one of my favorite Disney Animated Canon films simply because it's so weird and funny. It's a little less mainstream, but it's got a lot of good stuff. I love Gereld Scarfé's designs, I love the cast (especially James Woods as Hades). The songs are okay, but "I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" is one of my favorite non-villain (well, depending on how you view Meg) songs in the entire Canon. As for any other Canon films with a hatedom, I'd say even the worst offerings of the Canon are still several magnitudes better than most things just in terms of animation. However, the same can't be said for...

2. Direct-to-Video Sequels - Especially of animated films. I stay away from them on principle just because there have been so few I've found worthwhile - from an animation standpoint. I'll freely admit, the plot ideas usually have some merit, but the step down in animation quality as well as song quality just turns me off - for the most part. "You're Only Second Rate" from Return of Jafar? Great villain song Jafar should have had all along. For that matter, "King of Thieves" wasn't too bad now that I think back, at least it had Robin Williams return. And, I have to say, I honestly thought Lion King II was pretty good. Not great, nowhere near the level of (the majority) of the theatrical Canon, but still pretty good. The story seemed a good continuation, the songs were enjoyable if not always memorable, the animation actually looked like effort was put into it. And again, I stress that this is all just my personal take and I actually encourage those who find merit in it to continue to do so.

3. Cars 2 - The one I haven't seen so I can't make a judgement. Why haven't I seen it? Well, I didn't really like the first one. Again, it was a well-made movie, but I couldn't get into the living cars. That's just me. So the sequel held no interest for me. That being said, I'm sure it wasn't a bad film. I mean, come on. It's Pixar. They're like physically unable to make a bad film. At worst it'll just be "okay."

Bonus: Hunchback of Notre Dame - I was going to let this one fold into what I said above regarding the rest of the Canon, but since it's my personal favorite I felt I had to say a little something. Looking at it objectively, yes it's not as tight as it could be. And it doesn't really seem to know what audience it's really going for. That being said, it is my personal favorite because it has some of Disney's best animation and music of all time, plus one of the all time greatest villains. It's hard to do this kind of adaptation of this kind of story and, while not perfect, is clearly the absolute best it can be and is in fact much better than what most would expect just hearing the title and company. Plus, I love the gargoyles (it helps to think of them as the creative team did - as figments of Quasi's imagination brought forth by the spirit of the cathedral).

Welcome to the Caribbean, Love
While we're on the subject of Disney and things they've done well (something they've had a hard time doing since they bought Lucasfilm...sorry, couldn't resist), the Pirates of the Caribbean films are amongst my favorite films of all time. All four of them. A lot of people tend to enjoy "Curse of the Black Pearl", but drop out at any number of the sequels. I say pfft. Actually, I slightly prefer "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End" because they have has Bill Nighy's awesome Davy Jones and his incredible leitmotif. And while it did get a tad more convoluted, it wasn't so much that I had trouble following. If anything, it made me want to find out what the real deal was. And it was truly and epic storyline.

As for "On Stranger Tides", I adored it. I thought it was a great one-off adventure. Depp's Jack Sparrow is such a great character that, as long as they take the time to work on good stories like they've been, I can see him going serial for a long time. "Tides" is just the first of hopefully many such adventures. I hear a lot of people were upset because they thought the Black Pearl's crew was killed offscreen, to which I say: How do you know they aren't still on the boat in the bottle? I mean, Jack the Monkey's in there, why not Pintel and Ragetti and Marty and the rest? Seriously.

Liked It Better When It Was Called "Star Wars"
I was excited to see "Eragon" because Dragons. I didn't care when fans of the books said it wasn't true. I didn't care when critics said it sucked. I wanted to see it. Because Dragons. So I caught it on HBO one day and I watched it was....okay, I guess? Okay, the movie plot did strike me as an amalgamation of New Hope and Lord of the Rings, and not necessarily in the good way. But it wasn't without merit at all. Particularly, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovitch, and Robert Carlyle who can all really do no wrong, and they particularly shined here. I especially loved Carlyle's Shade. As for the Dragons...the rapid aging and the telepathy left a bad taste, but the design was cool. Probably wouldn't watch it again, but once more I am glad that I saw it that first time.

Seek Out New Life And New Civilizations
There's a meme that says the odd-numbered Star Trek films are bad and the even ones are good. Well, it's been a while since I've seen most of them from beginning to end, but they all seemed pretty good to me. I can honestly say that I've never seen a Star Trek-related thing that I did not like, except for "Insurrection" and even that wasn't "bad" as much as it was slightly uninteresting. I dig "Generations", I dig "Search for Spock", and I really liked "Nemesis". Again, it's been a while, so my memory is fuzzy on the rest, but while some may have more pronounced flaws I doubt any of them are truly bad films.

She Vill Become One Herself!
Van Helsing...boy, that was a lot of fun. Didn't really care for the ending, and I was confused when who I assume is supposed to be Abraham Van Helsing is referred to a "Gabriel." But these nitpicks didn't stop me from enjoying a fun action-monster movie by the guy who did the Mummy films. I adored Richard Roxburgh's scenery-chewing Dracula. I loved the eloquent Frankenstien Monster. Again, except for the final five minutes, I love this movie. 'Nuff said. Oh, and David Wenham is awesome too.

In A World Of My Own
Just a couple of my own favorites that nobody asked for.

Hudson Hawk - This always ends up on lists of famous flops, and I thought it was hilarious. It was a cartoon, pure and simple, and an enjoyable one at that. Now, I heard that it was marketed like a normal action movie, so I can see why someone expecting that and getting...this...might be disappointed. But bad? Certainly not. One of the funniest.

Moulin Rouge! - I see more and more of its flaws the older it gets, but it's still a well-done jukebox musical with great visuals, great music, and a poignant (if done-to-death) message.

Most of Tim Burton's post-Ed Wood offerings - I haven't seen a Tim Burton movie I haven't liked. Mars Attacks? Loved it. Sleepy Hollow? Awesome. Planet of the Apes? Nowhere near the original, but still an interesting take (and Tim Roth rocked). Big Fish? Awesome. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The definitive adaptation (though I admittedly like Gene's Wonka better than Johnny's). Corpse Bride? Pretty good. Sweeney Todd? FANTASTIC!!! Alice in Wonderland? An interesting take on a "Return to Wonderland" scenario (though Christopher Lee's Jabberwocky was underused). Dark Shadows? A good movie, but too unfaithful to the source for my taste. Frankenweenie? HOW THE HELL DID I MISS IT?!

F*** YEAH "Sparkle Sparkle Sparkle"!!!!
Another one nobody asked for, but I wanted to talk about for the exact opposite reason as above.

I don't like Twilight.

Not in an aesthetic way, I have major moral issue with the story and the characters.

I couldn't make it through the first book, and I gave the movies a wide berth, I've read summaries of the remaining stories with excerpts and it just makes me glad I didn't spend any money on it.

I won't go into my objections in great detail, since this is the place to get away from that kind of thing. Suffice to say, I find the three main characters to be just horrible, unpleasant people on multiple levels.

Now, you'll notice that I don't write weekly articles talking about how Twilight is ruining the fabric of this country, and putting down Stephanie Meyer and the Twi-Hards. Why?

Because who the hell am I to tell ANYONE what they can or cannot like?

This is the thread I've been going on. What bashers can't seem to fathom. Even when it comes to something that offends me on a visceral level, I will NEVER tell anyone they're wrong for seeing a value that I can't see. I'll argue my position, I'll explain it. But respectfully. I will never say anyone is wrong for liking something I don't happen to like.

Take a note of the language I use. I don't say "This is bad," no matter how much I might think it is. Instead, I'll say "I didn't care for it," or "I had issues with it." That means that the emphasis is on my point of view rather than anything objective. Even if something is objective, I will say something like "If this is what they were going for I don't think they succeeded." But I'll try to invite opposing viewpoints.

It can be hard to have that balance. I might say something like "I personally found Stephanie Meyer's prose to be largely amateurish, but that's just me." Which is my honest opinion, said as nicely as I can. But yet if I'm not careful about at least hearing the other side out, even that can sound condescending. That's the trap even polite haters fall into.

Plus, even if I wholly dislike something, I'll also point out where I think there are successes. Do I think there are successes in Twilight? Well, I suppose the way I worded my earlier complaint is proof that Meyer can write complete people. I didn't say they were poorly written characters, I said they were horrible people. That means I'm thinking of them as complete people and, as a writer, getting your audience to do that is a huge success and one of the best compliments you can receive. I would just never want to associate with the real Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, or Jacob Black. Ever.

And you know what? Even though I dislike it, I still think a lot of the common criticisms miss the mark. The Sparkling Vampire thing? Yeah, it's a little weird, but there have been weirder adaptations of the vampire mythos. It's not automatically bad. Plus, I can't comment on the acting in the films except to say that I'm sure they did the best with the material. It's not the actors' fault that the characters are unpleasant, and they shouldn't be bashed for it.

Nobody should be bashed. Intelligent artistic debates can happen without pushing the other side down, and all art should be celebrated. Twilight fans, fans of anything, fans of everything: don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't like what you like. Enjoy what you enjoy! Find the good!


  1. Again you've done a brilliant job but I have question; is it possible you could do more like this? Maybe a part 3 (and beyond) sometime in the future?

  2. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The definitive adaptation (though I admittedly like Gene's Wonka better than Johnny's)."

    Agreed. I also like the whole plot twist involving Willy Wonka's Father. It was cool to see Tim Burton take a story we already thought we knew (from the book and the original film) and put a new spin that was very touching at the end.


    "You smell like...old people and soap. I like it"

    1. Yeah, no I love Johnny Depp in the role, I just like Gene Wilder's subtlety slightly better. Slightly.

      Also, "MUMBLER!!!"

    2. Everything in this room is eatable, even *I'm* eatable! But that is called "cannibalism," my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.

      Johnny of the most quotable actors of all time.

    3. Oh yeah, that's my favorite line in the movie. How could I forget?

  3. Gotta admit I really dislike Sweeney Todd. I respect what Burton was doing with the material but found it a rather weak interpretation (seeming to only cover about a tenth of the emotions of the original). Cutting out all the humor seemed to weaken it quite a bit as well.

    1. I wouldn't say the humor was cut out. I was laughing. But then again, what's more subjective than comedy?

    2. Perhaps. Maybe I expected more of the outright macabre when what we got was immensely low-key.

      I don't think it can be denied how emotionally stifled the film is as a whole, though. I'm inclined to believe that's intentional, but as I said I really feel it weakens the material (mostly with Depp).

    3. I felt the emotion 100%, but then again I feel on a very similar wavelength with Tim.

    4. Have you seen the stage show, by any chance? Compare some of the stage performances of Todd's "Johanna" and compare it with how Depp interprets the song...Depp plays it almost totally with anger, which is fitting to how he is in the film, but in the play there's so much more to it than that- anger, sadness, melancholy, a perverted sort of's such a complex piece in terms of how it works with its emotions and feelings, and while I respect what Burton did with the material, I just feel it could've embraced so much more.

    5. The only prior experience I had was Jersey Girl, which hardly makes me an expert on the story. I don't hear so much anger in Depp when he sings that song, though. Others sure, but that song struck me more as him accepting how dead he is inside. But then, I'm not ashamed to admit that his singing voice is Audio Erotica for me, especially his duet with Rickman. Their voices together...just wow. So, I may be slightly biased.

    6. See, and that "accepting how dead he is inside" is totally not what the song is about- or at least, not how the stronger interpretations have been. It's quite a complex piece (as most Sondheim pieces are).

      I recommend watching the stage show if you can- there's a video recording of the original touring production from 1982 starring Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. Very operatic and grande-guignol style, but hugely enjoyable.

    7. I did watch a bit of it before and it didn't grab me the same way. But that's just me.

  4. I also don't like Twilight. Not sure why so many women like it, though.

    1. The only thing I have been able to get from some girls in my school is that the ''guys are so hot'' thing, and the romance and all. Yet, from my understanding, they were disappointed by the last film, and these girls I'm talking about were fans.

      I prefer much more the romance from Episode II

    2. Me too. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say everyone wants to be fought over by people who want to give you their everything.

      Unfortunately, when I read what they say and do, Edward comes off as abusively controlling, Jacob comes off as the same except able to hide it a little better, and Bella comes off as manipulative and mean-spirited.

      Again, this is just what I get out of it, which is why I'm offended when the author intends them to be role models. However, like I said before, I have no beef with the fans who get enjoyment out of them.

  5. A couple otehr great things about VAN HELSING you forgot to mention:

    Hugh Jackman

    Kate Beckinsale

    The Automatic Crossbow (I want that)

    and the INCREDIBLE music by Alan Silvestri

    1. Didn't know Alan did the music there. He's generally underrated.

    2. Underrated? He did the music for Back to the Future, Forest Gump, Polar Express, and THE AVENGERS, how could he be underrated?

    3. Because anyone who can do all those amazing scores (plus Roger Rabbit) and not be a household name except to film buffs is underrated in my book.

    4. His scores never really stuck out to me, to be honest. Of all the ones mentioned I only really remember Back to the Future and Roger Rabbit (and the former only the theme).

      But then again I'm the guy who thinks Williams is awfully overrated, so what do I know. >.>

    5. I think Williams deserves all the praise he gets, but not at the expense of other greats in the field.

  6. I appreciate that you like THE GRINCH too. GRINCH is one of my childhood classics and it's never fun to see someone bash it(again it's a Christmas movie, LIGHTEN UP!) I thought Jim Carrey gave a good performance, and definitely brought something new to the character. I also liked him as Scrooge too. One thing also like about the film was the religious parallel towards the end when his heart grows, starts crying, see the morning sun. and says "I'm all toasty inside"

    Great Job Adam!

    1. I prefer the animated one, but the Carrey one had a lot of good things in it.

    2. I think most people do. I love both versions just the same. There is going to be ANOTHER Grinch movie done in the same style as The Lorax. It's coming out like 2015. I can't wait to see that!

  7. I don't get why so many people hate Hercules-the humor hits all the right marks and the music and animation is beautiful! It may not be historically accurate, but that doesn't get distracting. In some movies like, say, Pocahontas, it's more of a distraction. (Though with Pocahontas I'm more neutral about-love the music though).

    I also love Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. It's so macabre! I roll on the floor laughing whenever the burning doll scene comes up. And Christopher Lee's appearance is wonderful. Just so much I love about that film. The only things about it I didn't care for were Mike Teevee (granted, you're SUPPOSED to hate him) and Charlie-he's too much of a goody goody, no kid is that optimistic! These flaws don't bother me great. But my friend once kept saying "are we done feeling sorry for this kid?"

    1. It's impossible to do kid-friendly Greek mythology and be anywhere near accurate to the source material. The little in-jokes they do to reference the original stories shows the makers at least did their homework.