DID YOU READ

The more people bash “John Carter” the more I want to see it

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Disney’s massive franchise starter “John Carter” doesn’t open for another two weeks, but it feels like it’s already been written off as a huge flop. For months, the narrative in the media about the film has gone something like this: “The trailer is horrible and the tracking is soft and the film went way over an already-high budget, so therefore it’s going to be huge disaster.” The latest — and, let’s hope, final — piece in this narrative, comes from The Daily Beast, where a lengthy article about the release of “John Carter” calls it “Disney’s Quarter Billion Dollar Fiasco.”

The marketing for “John Carter” is terrible. I’m sure the tracking numbers are soft. I have a hunch the film did go over budget. Maybe it is “a quarter billion dollar fiasco.” My question to you is this: why does any of that matter? All of those things can be true, and “John Carter” might still be a fantastic movie. In fact, most of the things people are propping up as evidence that “John Carter” is doomed to failure sound to me like reasons to look forward to the film. The more people bash this thing, the more I want to see it.

Take The Daily Beast’s article, which is largely a production and marketing history, interspersed with anonymous negative quotes from rival studio executives (these people, I’m sure, have no reason to want to see “John Carter” fail, and are speaking, no doubt, from a totally unbiased position). Here is the part of author Chris Lee’s account that really caught my eye:

“Stanton’s distinctive shooting style helped inflate the price tag. Known for his dogged perfectionism and penchant for reshooting scenes until he finds the proper balance of tone, emotion, and action—simple enough to do when your actors are animated—the writer-director dragged out physical production on ‘John Carter’ with a seemingly endless roundelay of reshoots, and reshoots of reshoots, done piecemeal around the world.”

In the context of Lee’s piece, this statement plays mostly as condemnation; Disney bet on this untested animator to make their latest live-action tentpole, and they paid the price with a “billion dollar fiasco.” But what is Lee really saying here? Here’s how I read it: Stanton is a perfectionist — which, apparently, is not only a rarity in Hollywood, but a despised rarity at that — and in moving to live-action, he trusted the same battle-tested formula that had worked for him on two of the finest animated features ever made (“Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E”). Why is any of that a bad thing?

Okay, so he might have gone over budget (Stanton has repeatedly insisted he did not, although if his budget was $250 million to begin with, as The Daily Beast reports, that’s not exactly cause for celebration). Who cares? Unless you’re a Disney stockholder or employee, that is literally none of your concern. For everybody else, going over budget is a good thing, because it means instead of throwing up their hands and walking away from the project, Disney invested more money to make sure that Stanton got to make exactly the film he wanted to make. Again, why is that a bad thing?

Here’s another eye-opening quote from The Beast piece:


“‘We’ve got a director here who made us billions of dollars over the years, fine, let him have a vanity project,’ surmised an executive at another studio, who, like just about everyone interviewed for this story, requested anonymity for fear of burning bridges. ‘But you minimize your risk as much as possible. To make something on this big a budget with no stars? Unless you’re Peter Jackson or Jim Cameron, it’s unheard of.'”

So Disney is taking a risk. Don’t we like when studios take risk? Don’t we complain when they stick to the old way of doing things? Don’t we bitch when they make the same movie over and over? Why is Disney getting raked over the coals for taking a chance on something — especially before the movie’s actually opened?

Part of the risk this nameless executive is referring to is the fact that the title character of “John Carter” is played by Taylor Kitsch, a young actor who spent years on the cult high school football series “Friday Night Lights” but has never headlined a major studio release. The spotlight on Kitsch is particularly intense in this case because while “John Carter” features other famous actors, including Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church, many are playing motion captured six-armed aliens, making the relatively unknown TV star practically the only human face of the franchise.

But just because Kitsch hasn’t opened a big movie before doesn’t mean he can’t. My wife and I are currently in the midst of discovering “FNL” via a lengthy Netflix marathon; through the first three seasons, we’ve watched Kitsch mature as an actor before our eyes. We were just remarking a few nights ago how his character, Tim Riggins, has gone from one of our least favorites to the guy we’re watching the show specifically to see. My wife thinks he’s cute and I think he’s a good actor despite the fact that my wife thinks he’s cute. That is a rare combination for a handsome leading man.

Can Kitsch open a billion dollar movie? Maybe, maybe not. But why not give him a chance? The same thinking that says Taylor Kitsch can’t open a movie before he tries is the same thinking that got Jeremy Lin bounced from one basketball team to another by skeptical talent evaluators who saw an unorthodox player and decided, without due consideration, that he “couldn’t play.” We’ve all seen how that’s turned out these last couple weeks.

Okay, so “John Carter”‘s marketing is crummy. That’s what happens when your head of worldwide marketing resigns right in the middle of the campaign. It should be no surprise that the subsequent trailers, posters, and Super Bowl commercials have all been lackluster. Despite what Disney’s surveys or polls said, I would have never in a million years changed the title of “John Carter of Mars” to just “John Carter,” allegedly out of fear women wouldn’t see a movie with “of Mars” in the title. I checked on this with my own wife: she says she probably wouldn’t, but notes that the simple “John Carter” isn’t much better unless it’s a big-screen adaptation of “ER.” And she is interested to see Tim Riggins on Mars.

Regardless, bad marketing — even a bad title — doesn’t equal a bad movie. And vice versa; the marketing for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was outstanding while the movie itself was, uh, let’s say instanding. The same stories written about “John Carter” are the same stories that were written about “Titanic,” another insanely expensive movie with a perfectionist director and unknown stars. Things don’t work, can’t work, won’t work — until they do.

Perhaps the advertising is a portend of a doomed production. Maybe when the movie comes out, I’ll hate it more than everyone who’s trashed it sight unseen. But at least I’m going in with an open mind. A bold director, a talented lead, and a few hundred million dollars? What could go wrong?

Are you looking forward to “John Carter?” Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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