DID YOU READ

Armond White and the art of trolling.

Armond White and the art of trolling. (photo)

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There are really two kinds of people who care about constantly controversial New York Press critic Armond White. There are those who care about keeping up with film criticism regardless of what the movie is; White’s a veteran critic, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, etc. He is Important, and you read him. And then there’s the rabid geek who lurks on Rotten Tomatoes, waiting for someone to challenge his or her (or, c’mon, his) sense of priorities.

Like “The 700 Club” and Glenn Beck, White’s work is reliably, pleasurably insane on a week-to-week basis; the volume of the outcry it provokes depends on who’s paying attention. And because the fanboys have a higher web presence than anyone else, it’s no surprise White’s distinctive take on “District 9″ has them up in arms. For veteran readers, it’s business as usual: invocations of superior precedents (his beloved Steven Spielberg, natch), dismissive references to movies most people enjoyed as obviously stupid (“Children Of Men”), loving references to movies that annoyed most people (“Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull”), a Morrissey reference, and… scene. White’s main point — a not unreasonable one, for a change of pace — is that Neill Blomkamp’s apartheid allegory is poorly conceived and trivializes what it seeks to examine. It’s arguable, but at least it is, in fact, arguable.

Roger Ebert saw it that way initially when he wrote “In Defense Of Armond White” — a needed defense, considering Armond’s review stands at 497 comments and counting at Rotten Tomatoes, all of them negative and some of them straight-up racist. Tackling head-on “White’s reputation as a critic who ‘doesn’t like anything,’ ” he harrumphed that “it would be more accurate to say he dislikes a great many films approved of by fanboys.” Ebert likes “District 9,”, but agrees with the legitimate grounds for disliking it. But he backtracked when he saw a chart someone had prepared for the angry hordes, dividing up good and bad movies according to White, and noting that critical darlings “A Christmas Tale” and “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” fell under the “Bad movies” category, while first up under “Good movies” was “Transformers 2.”

Well, that was all Ebert needed. In his perpetual war against Michael Bay’s sequel, his mortal cinematic enemy, he was forced to retract and qualify: “It is baffling to me that a critic could praise ‘Transformers 2′ but not ‘Synecdoche, NY.’ […] I am forced to conclude that White is, as charged, a troll. A smart and knowing one, but a troll.” Personally, I’ve never doubted White’s sincerity. His most annoying tic is the one in which he reviews two movies in a week, using one as a stick with which to club the other. There’s no measured middle ground, just ecstasy and agony; this means that he’s occasionally forced to rhapsodize about, say, “Transporter 3.”

White has to enjoy his position as a bomb-thrower, but that doesn’t mean he’s kidding; one does not, generally, build an over two decade career on a desire to publish the print equivalent of “LULZ.” White is many things — most of them annoying — but he’s not a troll. And “Transformers 2″ shouldn’t change that anymore than, say, the fact that Ebert gave three and a half stars to Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs”. You know?

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

Come back, John DeLorean.

Come back, John DeLorean. (photo)

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“District 9″ — per the Ain’t It Cool crowd, the greatest film of all time, ever, at least this week — is out today. And Slate‘s Daniel Engber is bored by it. Why? Because “District 9″ has a corporate villain, and “Could there be a more egregious sci-fi cliché?” Sci-fi is full of them: “Moon,” “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Terminator.” He’s not so wrong to be bored — bashing major corporations has become an exercise in the obvious, if well-timed one, though clearly not all these movies belong on the same playing field. And there’s more on the way: for your angry slumping economic pleasure, Frank Langella is set to join “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.” The recession movie may well be the new Iraq movie: a few years late and a bit too obvious, but here anyway.

What we need is a new corporate hero, someone to reinspire our faith in the American entrepreneurial spirit. That, at any rate, is the only conclusion I can draw from the news that four separate John DeLorean movies (three features, one documentary) are in the works.

DeLorean’s best remembered for a career-ending entrapment cocaine bust and his outrageous namesake car (as featured in “Back To The Future”), both of which made him a staple ’80s punchline. But it’s not hard to see why he’s coming back around: DeLorean may have flopped, but he never did it at the expense of shareholders. He was a high-roller who dated Raquel Welch, but he never screwed anyone but governments, creditors and intimates to get his status, and in the new non-ethics of corporate malfeasance, that’s practically endearing. He once changed the name of a company he owned in Utah from Logan Manufacturing to “Ecclesiastes 9:10-11-12,” but the piousness of the rebranding was just a way of delaying his creditors from claiming the company. Halfway between the tales of scrappy kids making right and the mess we’re in now, DeLorean — at one point a legitimately brilliant engineer — rests.

Alex Holmes of “House Of Saddam,” who’ll direct a biopic based on DeLorean’s unpublished memoirs, sees him as “an almost mythic figure.” His producer, Tamir Ardon, is making a documentary on DeLorean. There’s another in the works from veteran producer David Permut (of “Face/Off”). And then there’s the one I’d most like to see: script by James Toback, Robert Evans producing and, er, Brett Ratner directing. It’s totally understandable why Robert “The Kid Stays In The Picture” Evans would be interested in the story of a man who peaked in the ’70s and then suffered a long, public fall from grace, and Toback knows a thing or two about male hubris. Ratner… I’ll live with.

So welcome to the post-recession era: DeLorean is here to usher us back to a kindler, gentler form of meltdown. Corporations will never become benevolent executors of the public good anyway, so we might as well have some charming hustlers. Incidentally, this is not the first sign of the man’s re-emerging cultural currency. Last year a one-off band called Neon Neon released an album called “Stainless Style” all about DeLorean. It’s excellent. Here, contemplate “Dream Cars”:

Who will celebrate “Avatar Day”?

Who will celebrate “Avatar Day”? (photo)

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There was polite applause at Comic-Con when James Cameron showed footage for “Avatar” — it was neither the rapturous reception that some would have you believe, nor was it the kind of disaster that one could easily imagine when a crowd’s introduced to blue, ten foot tall blue, speckled creatures called the Na’vi from a planet named Pandora.

Sitting there in Hall H, I wondered why there wasn’t more acclaim — what Cameron had shown in 3-D was indeed something of a breakthrough, at least regarding how naturalistic the Na’vi were in an environment that completely came out of Cameron’s head and how, despite the blue veneer, one could see Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana’s performances through their CG-created forms in a way that still eludes motion-capture pioneer Robert Zemeckis. But the “Avatar” footage didn’t adhere to the unofficial Comic-Con rules for success: it wasn’t violent (though Worthington’s fight with a prehistoric-looking creature was exciting), it wasn’t funny (which is why both “Kick-Ass” and “Zombieland” were unexpected hits), and, most importantly, it wasn’t familiar — either a remake or based on a comic book or a toy.

Which is why, like CHUD‘s Devin Faraci, I wonder the audiences who win tickets to “‘Avatar’ Day” on August 21st, when over 100 IMAX theaters will show 16 minutes of slightly different sneak footage, will think. In a time where “G.I. Joe” can become a hit almost solely on its name value, will audiences be curious enough to take a chance on “Avatar”? (Or at least enough of them to cover its massive budget?)

It’s a question hinted at in Anne Thompson’s recent column about why she’d like to see the low-budget “District 9″ do well this weekend against the comparatively unoriginal “G.I. Joe.” And it’s a part of the recent online hubbub between Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott and Glenn Kenny, among others, who contemplate the dumbing-down of mass-audience movies and wonder why Cameron’s ex Kathryn Bigelow’s highly acclaimed “The Hurt Locker” isn’t doing better at the box office. And if even “Avatar,” one of the most expensive movies of all time, can’t intrigue with the promise of spectacle, maybe it’s less dumbing-down that’s the problem than laziness, with folks only drawn to what has nostalgic appeal. In which case, we can look forward to many long summers ahead that’ll offer nothing new under the sun.

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