A year ago, I wrote a . It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, it was a sincere illustration of my own feelings toward the filmmaker, who many see as a garbage man with a movie camera but others see as a wizard of big-budgeted, explosion-heavy sorcery. I’ll be the first to recognize that Bay has little to no skill when working with actors, and he can’t really direct anything outside of a major action setpiece, but he’s definitely got a singular style and a visual preference that is unmistakable as wholly Michael Bay. I love leaving my brain at the door and picking it up hours later, berated by his aggressive testosterone-fueled filmmaking, allured by the sheer mindlessness of almost the entirety of Bay’s filmography. For the millionth time, I’ll say it, Bad Boys II is an action movie masterpiece worthy of consideration to enter the prestigious Criterion Collection. And I will say this again as well, none of this is a joke. I am a Michael Bay fan, and I am not afraid to say it. About this time last year, Bay delivered his most thoughtful and provocative film to date: Pain & Gain. While it wasn’t enough to sway many of Bay’s detractors, I found it to be a huge step in the right direction for Bay as a filmmaker and I was looking forward to whatever he may provide next.
The adaptation relationship between Hollywood and Broadway is a slanted one. More times than not, Hollywood is fighting an uphill battle to successfully get a musical adapted to the screen, with anticipation and skepticism weighing in with equal measure. On the other hand, Broadway has managed to take a number of Hollywood’s properties and terrifically reimagine them as music-filled stage productions. For those less in touch with the Broadway successes, look no further than the endless runs of Hairspray and The Lion King, the hilarity of The Producers, the majesty of Beauty and the Beast, all the way up to more recent affairs like Newsies, Once, Aladdin, Bullets Over Broadway, and even this year’s Best Musical Tony winner, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (based on Kind Hearts and Coronets which starred Alec Guinness as a whopping seven different characters). Broadway has transformed cinema into live magic several times over, with some of their most prized possessions (i.e. Wicked and Les Miserables) being inspired by much older gems of the Hollywood kingdom. Theater lovers unfortunately are not as forgiving when Hollywood comes calling, because we end up with things like Chris Colombus’ Rent, Rob Marshall’s Nine, Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera, Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages, and Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (though not without its merits, it’s still a terribly made film). With the Tony-winning Jersey Boys finding its way into theaters this weekend, director Clint Eastwood has done his best to solidify all that I’ve written above by delivering the anti-musical: a joyless, drab movie that takes itself too seriously as a biopic instead of making sure that we never take our eyes off the sparkling story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.
Directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller have done it again.
In the realm of sequels, everything is risky business. Crafting a follow-up to a hit, or even a modest hit yet fan favorite, is tricky across all genres. We’ve seen the full range, from inspired continuation to franchise destruction, throughout cinematic history and most often it’s hard to gauge which of that kind you’re going to get until the sequel presents itself in front of you. For instance, who knew that The Dark Knight was going to be a widely game-changing film, let alone a major step up to Batman Begins? Meanwhile, there have been lists upon lists chronicling the worst sequels of all time, and you have to look no further than the genre of comedy to really mine up some of Hollywood’s biggest flunks. Off the top of my head: Scary Movie 2, Men in Black II, Evan Almighty, Be Cool, Look Who’s Talking Now, The Nutty Professor II, Major League II, Airplane II, Blues Brothers 2000, Caddyshack II, even Ghostbusters 2 has left the once promising franchise in limbo. Looking for comedic lightning to strike twice is arguably the hardest assignment in Hollywood, but in the hands of the aforementioned directing duo, the newest comedy sequel to hit the block is maybe the finest yet. For all that I enjoyed about Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Lord & Miller’s 22 Jump Street is an infallible accomplishment worthy of far more recognition.
“Pain demands to be felt.”
From a distance, The Fault in Our Stars looks like more ballyhoo for the fans of Twilight and Nicholas Sparks romances – naïve young adult novels that spark the interest of every girl between the 7th grade and junior year of college. Luckily, those overly familiar with John Green’s New York Times best selling novel know quite well that Fault is miles above Stephanie Meyers’ wannabe Harry Potter melodramas and Sparks’ desperate saps; they know that it’s a genuinely investing novel that’s as heavy on the heart as it is brisk a read. With Josh Boone’s much anticipated film adaptation hitting theaters, starring the awe-inspiringly talented Shailene Woodley and her Divergent co-star, Ansel Elgort, I have to make sure that I’m separating the screen product from the source material. To make sure I’m never crossing one over the other, I’m going to offer up my thoughts on Boone’s novel as a preface, which became a hurried read on my end after my girlfriend let me borrow her copy.
“We’ve been through worse.”
That we have.
They say practice makes perfect, and the ominous ‘they’ are quite right in ‘their’ assessment. Repetition is a self-assuring form of experience that implies a synthesis of expectancy and monotony until a succession of events becomes mostly mastered. While sports and playing an instrument requires its own kind of continuous practice, my specific point is more in keeping with how playing a video game is like a virtual exercise in trial and error. Through an endless pool of lives and level restarts, a player can come to understand the game’s campaign map until it’s literally surprise-less, and with each new entry into the level the player’s memory is a key asset because the unlucky space monsters or nation-ambiguous terrorists will not change up their strategies based on what the player remembers from the previous walk-through. Repetition is practice, and (near) perfection lies at the end of a practice-filled road.