Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 - The Deleted Scenes

"...and why didn't we include these deleted scenes?  BECAUSE THEY SUCKED!"

--Weird Al Yankovic, UHF Deleted Scenes Introduction.

Well, as promised, this is a bit of a new idea here at the Third Row.
Given 2012 has been officially declared dead, here's where we finally lay the last thoughts from the year to rest (...well, this and the inevitable Oscar grumbling later, but that's this-year relevant.)  These are 2012's deleted scenes - those loose ideas and partial notes that, for some reason or other, never got turned into full entries here.

In light of the nature of this entry, I'm going to warn you now- This is going to be a bit more freeform and, dare I say, rambling than some of my previous entries have been.  I'll try to keep the assorted thoughts organized and down to one paragraph tops, but some of these came with more thoughts than others. Also, these aren't exactly running in chronological order, so bear with me.

aaaaand roll 'em.

"I don't care what he said in the article, I'm sure this is your fault!"

-Regarding the 'Top 5 Favorite Bad Movies' entry.  As I have explained to a couple of people, Ralph Bakshi's LotR was something of a last minute addition onto that list.  I had initially pegged another film for the slot, but had then given it a bit more thought as to whether I could honestly call the film truly bad, or just badly dubbed (because really, most of my fond cheeze memories of it are the laughably horrible  English dub.)  This isn't to say it's necessarily a great movie, but on giving it a look in its original language, the film was a bit better than I was giving it credit for.  I may still re-evaluate and give #5 to a more deservedly out and out bad title, though I do still maintain when Bakshi fails, it is quite funny to watch for all the wrong reasons.
...and, because I am trying to be a good sport, his movie will have its day in court later this year.  But that's a matter for another time.

-For the record, the original pick for #5 was Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky.  After getting a chance to watch the film in the original Cantonese, it's gone from 'favorite bad film' to 'It's cheezy as Hell, and I love it as grindhouse martial arts.'  I mean, someone gets punched so hard their entire arm up to their elbow explodes.  How can I hate that?

"So we're in the hands of the guy who wrote Lost, that's OK.  What's the worst that can happen?"

-Speaking of films not being as bad as they're made out to be, I'm still rather surprised at some of the backlash a couple of titles got this year.  In particular, back during their peak, some of the backlash directed towards Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises was almost comical in their anger.  Now, I'll grant you, looking back, I DO see a lot in Prometheus that could have been better, almost all of which I lay at the feet of the writers (I would be interested in seeing the earlier, more Alien-related drafts of the screenplay that had been penned up before Lindelof got called in for cleanup.)  The other elements of the film were strong enough that I'd still mark the film as more 'flawed' rather than outright bad (Editor's note: you're too kind. This was "Wasted Potential: The Motion Picture").  To some people, you'd think Ridley Scott set their houses on fire for some of the comments this film got.  TDKR was in a similar boat, albeit I personally feel more inclined to be a bit kinder to that one.  I mean, I wouldn't say the film was flawless, but for what it was built up to, and the elements in play, it was still as good a finale as I could have asked for from the series.  Which is why I still find it weird some people were making it out to be the worst comic book movie this side of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.  I dunno, maybe it's hype backfire, I was just rather surprised to see the backlash on these was all.  I wouldn't call them the greatest of the year, but I just didn't see the hate for them.

"...and there's the reviews for Battleship coming in, and...
...This is just not your year, kid."

-While I'm already here playing the Devil's Advocate, I have to say that, for a film that has gone on many 'worst' lists and became a punchline for many over the summer, I didn't actually hate John Carter.  Again, I wouldn't call it a great movie or a lost classic by any means.  All in all, it was more a fairly watchable popcorn movie.  Not the best hit of the summer, but not really one of the worst things to come out of this year.  This film's biggest enemies came down to two things to me:
1) For as much as the industry keeps giving him second chances, Taylor Kitsch just...isn't that good as a lead.  Now, in the JC case, the rest of the cast actually had some pretty decent talent going into it, which I think is part of why I managed to still find it watchable, if not spectacular.  But at the center of it, Kitsch's Carter is just an incredibly forgettable person...and given he's the character the whole story is supposed to revolve around, that's a BIG problem.  Even a CGI-ed up Willem Dafoe managed to make for a more interesting and, yes, I'll say it, likable character by comparison.
2) The marketing on this movie.  When you have a movie with a budget like this one, a poor marketing campaign is one of the deadliest forms of poison you could ask for...and oh BOY, was the marketing on this movie terrible.  Between trailers that let people know almost nothing of what the movie was actually about, an ultimately vague title (any reference to Mars being dropped from the titles due to Disney's horrible luck with Mars-related films to this point...not that this did them any favors,) and a campaign that made the dire mistake of assuming everyone would be familiar enough with the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories it was based on that the concept alone could sell the film without effort, this movie wasn't just bringing a knife to a gunfight - it was packing a popsicle stick whittled into a shiv and yelling insults at its opponent's mothers.
To wrap this one up cause it was a longer blurb than I expected, this is one of those movies I won't be surprised to see level off in a few years once the hype dies down.  On its own, weak lead aside, it's still a decent enough adventure, if nothing really stellar, and it seems it did manage to reach some of the crowds that got to seeing it.  Once it distances from the stigma that came from how badly the film was sold, it may at least reach a happy medium beyond its current bomb status.

-While I'm busting marketing's chops, I do want to follow up on something that did make an entry this year - but man, this year had a LOT of movies misrepresented by marketing.  I won't recap this too much, as the article is still up that recapped some of this year's particularly wronged entries, mainly Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. I do still have to give Cabin in the Woods props for managing to undo the damage of its own problematic marketing campaign through strong word of mouth.  Sadly, a lot of others weren't so lucky.  I'd like to believe the right lesson will be learned from this and more of an effort will be made to get across what some of these films actually are about (without spoilage.  It IS doable.)  Of course, I could just be setting myself up for another let-down and they may instead take this as a lesson to not make those types of films.

-For the record, as far as this year's worst, I have to admit, I lucked out this year.  I dodged a LOT of bullets as far as bad movies...but not all of them. And honestly, for the sheer bewilderment it left in me, at least as of this point, I'm giving A Christmas Story 2 my pick for worst movie of 2012.  In time, I will likely find something that blows this out of the water.

-OK, this one isn't an article so much as a stray observation from moviegoing this year - what parent in their right mind brings a kid to see The Dictator?  I'm not kidding.  I actually saw this happen.  Further, they stayed for the whole movie.  I mean, personally, I had fun with the film, but there's no way in Hell I'd bring a kid to that one. Editor's/Moviegoing buddy's note: Didn't someone also bring a pocket dog to that screening?

-I'm not sure which amuses me more - the fact this year saw a rise in, for lack of a better term, political mouthpiece movies making it to the box office, or the fact they all largely critically and commercially flopped and slunk right back out.
Well...almost all, anyway.  Dinesh D'Souza had a brief moment in the box office top ten with his documentary 2016.  Though that was very short lived.  Not entirely unexpectedly either.  I mean, it's kind of hard to take his saying he understands Obama's secret Bond-villain grade plan when he's never actually met the guy.  I mean, sure, you can have an idea of a person's political opinions and views without meeting them...but to claim to know what's in his heart without having met the guy...yeah, didn't really sell.

" we do better this time?"

-Also, while I'm not counting it in that category - Atlas Shrugged Part II.  The fact this movie exists amuses the Hell out of me.  I mean, I almost commend the determination of the filmmakers-but guys, the free market has spoken.  Doesn't continuing to spend your time, money, and effort on films that aren't really profitable or artistically viable fly in the face of most of the ethos espoused by Rand and her followers?  Further, given the second part also crashed and burned, do they intend to ride this train all the way into the ditch, or will they finally just cut their losses and move on?
Cruel as this is going to sound, I almost hope it's the former.

"You see, Luke, this lensflare is just a test run.  In the finished version, we'll swing our lightsabers in slow motion, and your droid will be adorned in sponsorship stickers and speak with the voice of a sassy black woman.
...It's actually not as bad as it sounds, once you get used to it."

-Now we come to the Star Wars square.  Or, as we're going to title this chunk:
Darth StrangeLucas: Or, How I Learned to Stop Raging and Pity the Man in Flannel (...I may use this name for another longer SW piece in the future, just as a heads up.)
Oh, Star Wars. You set a couple of interest possible articles in motion this year that sadly didn't see the final cut.
These starting back with the first of the many years hyped up 3-D rerelease of the films.  Now, I will admit, I didn't actually get to seeing the 3-D release of The Phantom Menace in theaters.  At the time, however, I did give it a rewatch to see if maybe, now that time has passed, it wouldn't be that bad.  This is the point where I mention that I spent the better part of 7 years giving the prequels a shield of plausible deniability, convincing myself that maybe the next installment would make up for the disappointments leading up to that point.
And then, the series ended and so did the shield.  Now, I could do an entire writeup on things that let me down there, but really, what could I say here that the web hasn't already said several thousands of times over?
Even with that in mind, I still considered giving Episode I a rewatch/review anyway.  While I won't give the full rundown here, I just have to say...even with the anger stripped away, it's still a pretty bad movie.  This did, however, mark the first time I took note of just how many redundant lines there were in that script.  I mean, this feels like Lucas just ran with the first draft (which, to anyone who's read the older SW scripts, can see the problem with.)
One thing I will give the film I had never actually conceded before - for as much as its chops have been busted for the wooden acting, there is one cast member who actually made a good effort on the film.
...and it's with that in mind that I can't actually hate Ahmed Best as an actor.  Yes, Jar Jar is still a painful annoyance to watch, but that's a fault of the director and script more than the actor.  He was written to be a somewhat racist putz by design.  Best I at least will give points for still making the most of what he was given, which is more than I can say for a LOT of people involved in the film.

"So...if I want to get a blade on my lightsaber, I need to sign away a portion of my residuals?  More if I want it to glow?  Prowse told me this would happen..."

We now come to the other major turn for the franchise this year - amid much controversy, the franchise was bought up by Disney a few months back.  A day I will mark in history as 'The Day the Web Caught Fire'.Then again, that happens on an almost weekly basis, so it's not that impressive a title.
As for my own thoughts on it - as of this point, I'm not really going to stress it too much.  I still have the core trilogy and the memories associated with it if nothing else from here on out.  And hey, maybe with enough of their money and legal clout, Disney may try to force the theatrical cuts through after all - they like profit enough to know it would be a MAJOR payout for them.  Really, for how much the brand name has been loaned out at this point, this doesn't phase me as much as it should.  Especially since, actually, some of the other people who've had their turns with the brand have done alright by it.  Not everyone, naturally, but Lego Star Wars has been pretty damned entertaining, some of the EU material (again, not all) is interesting stuff, and for as problematic as the prequels themselves were, the Clone Wars series is actually fairly watchable.  I'm not gonna get my hopes up, but at this point, new blood can't really hurt it too much.
Also, I honestly feel like this will be a good decision for Lucas.  Because around the time I let go of most of my anger, hatred, etc for the bearded one, I found it replaced instead with the strangest sense of pity.  I look at the old images of Lucas as an idealistic, fresh-faced young filmmaker, the man we knew who was receptive to pooling ideas with other people and who went to bat for the preserving of classic films, and I look at the man we have now...and I feel like it's become a sort of warped self-fulfilling prophecy.  Now I just feel bad for this man who has become so caught up in his technology that his films have become souless, and who has gone back and revised his previous hits with a retroactive sense of revision that makes the cast of Rashomon all look like incredibly reliable narrators.  For all of his talk about moving on to other projects, he instead appears as a man who can't or won't let his glory period go and try something new.  There's something actually rather sad about it to me.
So even if Disney completely cashes in on this, I at least hope this finally allows Lucas to let go and try something new with his life, even if it's just retirement.

...and that's just the short version.  I dunno, I may revisit some of my thoughts on SW if there's enough people interested...but I warn you guys, that one could go on a long while.

OK, so not as many as one would figure for a full year.  What can I say?  Been getting better at getting more articles out there on a fairly regular basis.

Got several plans lined up for this year, so here's to this hopefully being the year things really take off.

Till next time!

Oh, by the way, I did receive the official word back from legal regarding the nudity claim when this article was first mentioned.

This image sums up their response

So, there you have it.
Sorry folks.  Maybe next time.

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