Like all critics, I worry sometimes about being too negative and only talking about stories that I dislike. Here that’s not a problem though, because I saw two movies and one I disliked, one I liked.
Sleeping With Other People
Okay, which did you think would go first?
Now, if you’re following me, then there’s probably one reason you’ve heard of this movie, and that’s this scene.
You know, this one.
And admittedly, that’s a very good scene. Lots of… backstory.
But then there’s the rest of the movie. The premise is that two people, who are basically sex addicts or serial cheaters or whatever you want to call it (more on that later), strike up a friendship and have all this great chemistry, but they ruin every sexual relationship they have with cheating, so they decide to never become romantic so that they can preserve the friendship.
Now it was probably always going to be dicey to make a movie where the heroes are cheaters, but, if that’s your premise, you should get it right. And I don’t think they did at all.
First we have Jason Sudeikis, who plays Jake. He keeps getting into relationships, but can’t bring himself to end them when they aren’t working for him, so instead he sleeps with his girlfriend’s best friend or sister or something so that they’re forced to break up with him. Which, first off, is just so fucking vile.
I mean, getting past the “cheating to end a relationship thing” in the first place… why does he have to damage, if not destroy, a friendship or familial relationship just to spare himself writing a gender-swapped Dear John letter? Because even breaking up with someone via text would be classier than cheating on them. Or if he has to cheat on them, like, wouldn’t most women be willing to break up with him if he just had sex with a hooker or something? Why does he need to bring literally people’s families into this? Yeah, sure, it works out well for him, he ends up with Alison Brie, but what about all the women he hurt who end up with losing friendships to this sex monster?
And by the way, I don’t mean to imply that the women who… cuckold with him aren’t at fault, it’s just the movie seems to think Jason Sudeikis is some kind of irresistible sex god. I know he dated Olivia Wilde, but c’mon… Jason Sudeikis. It’s not like he’s Chris Pine or anything, and I couldn’t see most women having sex with Chris Pine if he were in a serious relationship with a good friend or blood relative. But the Horrible Bosses movie went with Sudeikis being a sex god too, so I guess that’s just a thing?
Then there’s Lainey, played by Alison Brie. She’s obsessed with what can best be described as an abusive fuckbuddy played by Adam Scott. She keeps having sex with him, even when dating other guys, and even when he’s getting married to another woman who is pregnant. But they make the guy she cheats on a jerk who calls her a whore–you don’t want to side with the guy who calls Annie Edison a whore, d’ya?–and they make her have PTSD from fucking this guy or whatever, like she’ll have a panic attack because she sees Adam Scott in public and can’t get his approval or jump his bones or shit. They even give Adam Scott this child molester mustache for maximum tastefulness.
Get it!? It’s like he’s molesting her or something!
So we have Brie’s character who is just this poor, victimized angel, and then we have Sudeikis, who is a fucking psychopath… it just seems uneven.
I guess we’re supposed to think he has a jerk girlfriend he cheats on just like Brie had a jerk boyfriend she cheats on, cuz the girlfriend pushes him in front of a moving vehicle eventually? I wouldn’t know, because I can’t remember the last time pop culture depicted a ‘woman scorned’ character as out of line.
Her husband cheated on her.
At the end of the movie, Sudeikis even beats up the Adam Scott character for his poor treatment of Brie–you know, the same thing he’s been doing to scores of other women? Movie, you really can’t make Jake the hero of this story when he’s the villain of so many others.
And if he cheats on women to get them to break up on him, how come in one of his first scenes we see him arguing with his cuckolded girlfriend, trying to get her to take him back because they have an open relationship she didn’t know about?
Add to that, I just don’t buy these as motivations for cheating. If you lined up a hundred habitual cheaters, men and women, and asked them why they cheated, I would bet not ten of them would have an answer like “to force my girlfriend to break up with me” or “because I’m mentally ill and obsessing on Adam Scott with a child molester mustache.” So it not only makes for a poor story, but it rings false as well.
And heck, given that Jake’s character flaw is being unwilling to openly and honestly break up with a women, and he dates another woman pretty seriously before finally getting together with Lainey–shouldn’t his character arc end with him mustering up the courage to say “I’m sorry, I don’t feel the same way about you as you do for me, this relationship isn’t working, there’s someone else”? Instead, the Amanda Peet character figures out that he’s in love with Lainey and breaks up with him herself. So his character arc is just going from not wanting to fuck Alison Brie to wanting to fuck Alison Brie. Heck, I had that, it was called ‘finding out who Alison Brie was.’ It didn’t take two hours!
Even with the lame title (it was called The F Word in other countries), this is a rom-com I enjoyed much more. Harry Potter plays a medical school dropout who was cheated on, which combined with his parents’ infidelity has made him stop believing in love. He meets Zoe Kazan as Chantry and falls for her, but she’s in a relationship with Rafe Spall, playing Ben. Still enjoying her company, he decides to become her friend, but when Ben leaves on a prolonged work engagement in a foreign company, the two begin to wonder if there isn’t more to their friendship. Meanwhile, Harry Potter’s friends, played by Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, start up a more traditional relationship that progresses from flirting to marriage as the movie goes on. And if any of you A/V nerds watch this movie, please edit some of the Driver character’s dialogue into Kylo Ren’s scenes in The Force Awakens. I want to see him telling Rey “I can see your bacne through that blouse.”
So this one I thought succeeded much better at depicting a somewhat taboo or ‘edgy’ concept with a great deal of sensitivity and insight and enough of a deft hand to avoid any problem areas. Because you read that synopsis and you think oh, there’s gonna be some kind of friend zone thing, it’s gonna be bad, and I really don’t think it is. Daniel Radcliffe’s Wallace isn’t entirely innocent, but he isn’t a scumbag either, and he struggles with this situation of having feelings for his friend but not wanting to be the type of guy who breaks up a relationship, or tries to twist a friendship into sex, while Chantry tries to be faithful to her boyfriend while also wondering where their relationship is going and what exactly her feelings for Wallace are.
And I also liked that the movie was self-aware enough to know a lot of the rom-com cliches, and subvert them, but then also not make a big deal of “oh, look, we’re so subversive, we’re not doing the cliches that everyone has already mocked in those Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies!” No, this is a case where avoiding the cliches makes for a better story. Like at one point, Chantry flies out to surprise her boyfriend and finds him talking with another woman, and you expect that he’s cheating on her and so she can break up with him with a clear conscience and get together with Wallace with a clear conscience–no, she’s just a friend, and the boyfriend is actually a very nice guy, and resolving the relationship drama won’t be nearly that convenient.
1. Sucker Punch
Well, this movie was shippy/slashy as hell, so I'd pretty much be satisfied with any ship. Just have fun and be yourself.
2. Resident Evil
I'm pretty sure Alice and Claire are endgame, but Alice and Jill have at least thought about it, and as everyone knows, there's no time for monogamy in the Zombie Apocalypse. Maybe they have a lasting menage, maybe it's just something they do because they're all going to die/they're very happy they didn't all die. Just don't try to tell me Alice is interested in [Bland Love Interest Who Died 1-7].
3. Justice League Unlimited
See? I'm nice. There's a het option too. I know Scott and Barda aren't the biggest cast members, but they're like Hobbits. You can learn all there is to know about them in a day, and after a lifetime they can still surprise you. If you don't know them, there's just one twenty-minute episode you ahve to watch, and it features the Flash, so I'm not gonna feel too bad for giving you this assignment. And I'll be happy with pretty much anything Scott/Barda, so long as they don't get divorced or die (DC).
And that’s all well and good, you think, but wouldn’t it be more impressive if that car had actually ran the obstacle course?
And that’s how I feel about Jupiter Ascending. It’s basically the same movie as The Matrix, only not as good, and we already have The Matrix sequels for that.
-For some reason, they put the obligatory love story front and center, even though I could only think was that Caine, our hero, admitted to attacking ‘an Entitled’ for no reason, which apparently turns Jupiter on. You’re expecting him to say something like “that Entitled ordered me to fire on civilians!” or “that Entitled sent my friends to die!”, but no, apparently Caine assaulted someone just because he has no self-control and Jupiter is totally into men who are randomly violent. Uhhhhhh…
-Like I said, same movie as The Matrix, only where that revealed the ‘humanity as cattle’ theme at the end of the first act, this waits until the movie is mostly over to go into that (even though it’s super obvious, making you wonder if Jupiter has ever seen a sci-fi movie before). It doesn’t work nearly as well. I guess here they want Jupiter to kinda be seduced by the allure of being ultra-wealthy before rejecting the system, but she never really seems to feel one way or the other about this wish-fulfillment. Or anything. In fact, her suddenly owning the entire world seems like it comes as a major hassle to her, not anything interesting or any sort of opportunity.
-Really, pretty much the entire movie is a series of ‘people explaining things to Jupiter,’ ‘bad guys chase Jupiter,’ ‘if bad guys have succeeded in catching Jupiter, good guys have to save Jupiter.’ Which, again, similar to the plot of The Matrix, but there, Morpheus/Caine got captured, so our supposed hero Neo/Jupiter had to step up and save him. And he only did it once. Morpheus didn’t immediately get captured again so we could get an instant replay on the clear and obvious climax we had just seen.
-Yes, the third act of the movie has the bad guys kidnapping Jupiter and trying to force her into signing over the Earth to them, then her getting rescued by Caine—then another group of bad guys kidnap Jupiter and try to force her into blah blah blah. It’s really odd, because you’re thinking “okay, I guess that winds up the movieeeeeeee, oh we’re dealing with this entirely new set of problems, ‘kay.”
-Instead of like in The Matrix, where there was one antagonist who represented all of the nogoodniks, here it’s like in the Matrix sequels, with three different baddies all feuding with each other. And I could think was, really? Do we need three? Two could’ve done it, instead of Jupiter the kidnapping victim being passed around by all three of the Abraxases like a joint. The film’s big bad guy is, I guess, Eddie Redmayne, and people really seemed to like his performance, but he disappears for a huge long stretch while Jupiter has to deal with the two other siblings. It’s just bad writing.
-Jupiter is really shockingly passive for a modern-day female protagonist. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a little refreshing that she never learns to fight and has to strap on a skintight leather catsuit and shoot laser pistols because she’s a Strong Female Character—but she never does anything else either. You know, she doesn’t inspire people, she doesn’t come up with clever plans, she isn’t a doctor who cures some disease… In The 100, for instance, Clarke very rarely has to shoot it out with bad guys or have a swordfight, but she still makes hard choices and plays politics and comes up with plans on a weekly basis. Jupiter does none of that. I see no way in which this character passed the Sexy Lamp Test. Again, it’s like if in The Matrix, Neo never learned kung-fu and instead he just kept having to get rescued by Morpheus.
-Okay, let’s just go and compare this to The Matrix again. Matrix ends with Neo, fully a hero, reveling in his newfound power and saying now he’s going to take his fight to the Machines. Ascending ends with the equivalent of Neo going back to work as an office drone, happy with his place in the system, not doing anything to fight against the Machines even though they’re still oppressing his people and he has all this power, but hey—who cares, he’s got a cute girlfriend now. And maybe that’s supposed to be a really subversive ending about what an asshole Jupiter is. I don’t know, it doesn’t play that way to me, especially since the Abraxases are infinitely worse than the Machines, destroying whole civilizations on a regular basis just so they don’t get liver spots. I thought this would be a movie about Jupiter expanding her mind and becoming aware of injustice and suffering around her. Instead, it takes on the worst part of The Wizard of Oz, the end where she says “screw all those hopes and dreams, I just wanna stay home and happily accept my lot in life!” Did we really need an update of that?
-Can we please stop casting Channing Tatum as a stoic action hero? It never works. When he’s basically playing Bruce Campbell—yeah, I said it!—and doing comedy, that works fine. He was even alright making quips in White House Down. But can anyone take him seriously?
-I get it, guys, I want to enjoy a movie that ends with Channing Tatum fighting a space dinosaur too. But! I would enjoy it much more if we’d established that that space dinosaur was Bolin’s big number two man, his fixer, his right hand, not just one more in a long line of henchmen—not even the only dragon. So instead of thinking “yes, Caine beat Bolin’s best man!” I’m just “okay, how is that different from the fifty other people working for Bolin that he beat up? It’s not a climax just because he had a little more trouble with this one. What is this, Taken 2?”
Now, I know Tumblr needs something to insist people see instead of Fifty Shades of Grey, but instead of it being Jupiter Ascending, which is a lost cause and has about as much chance of crossing over with John Carter as it does getting a sequel, how about we throw our support behind Kingsman: The Secret Service? I thought it was really well-done, great action, great writing, and I say this as someone who makes an ‘eww, gross!’ face at Mark Millar as much as the next person.
(In fact, if you go to Latino Review, there’s an interview with the film’s director where he’s shockingly upfront about how much of a hack Millar is and how Jane Goldman, is responsible for turning Millar’s high-concept shit into actual stories human beings enjoy.)
Matthew Vaughn: I believe in a thing called three-dimensional characters. [Laughs] He believes in the quick one-liner. I always say, if he was around in the 80s, he’d be in Hollywood making a fortune saying, ‘This is Jaws, set in space.’ That’s where [co-screenwriter] Jane Goldman comes in as well, to say, ‘This is great idea. It’s got so many facets to it but we’ve got to get that heart and that drama to underpin these crazy ideas.’
So, if you wanna talk about how a woman co-directed Jupiter Ascending (~so diverse~), I’ll counter that a woman co-wrote Kingsman and did a much better job.
-I’m going to shock you now: Kingsman is actually a lot more feminist than Jupiter. The female lead, Roxy, has basically the same creds as Mako Mori. She’s in training to be a spy, just like our hero Eggsy, they befriend and support each other, but never develop a romance. They’re just bros who kick ass together. She’s also super cute and has no apparent qualms about seducing another woman, fyi.
-The villain’s henchgirl, Gazelle, is afforded the honor of getting the final mano-e-mano fight with Eggsy. You might expect for it to come down to a ‘good girl vs. bad girl’ fight between her and Roxy, while Eggsy goes after real bad guy Samuel L. Jackson. Nope, SLJ is a total wimp and Gazelle does all the heavy lifting. You could also count her as being a badass disabled character, but I guess ‘the evil villain with the hook hand’ isn’t anything too new. Still, it’s probably better representation than Jupiter Ascending, where it’s like ‘uhh, the police captain and one of the three villains’ twenty henchmen are black women. Diversity!’
-Now, due to our present dumb culture wars, I’ve heard people complain that the movie is denying climate change. Which is just mindboggling stupid to me. Good guy Colin Firth—who is excellent, by the way, as basically Roger Moore’s James Bond in a Daniel Craig world—outright says that climate change is happening. It’s just that SLJ’s character’s attempts to stop it are extremist and evil. Guys, it’s the same plot that Hugo Drax had in Moonraker or Karl Stromberg had in The Spy Who Loved Me: save the planet by wiping out most of humanity, then ruling over the survivors. I don’t think we need to politicize saying that mass murder is wrong.
-I’ve also seen people demanding Social Justice! over the very end, where Eggsy saves the world and then has sex with a cute, grateful girl. Okay, fine—to me, it’s the movie being upfront about being a guy movie and giving the hero a sexy reward, which is a lot less offensive than suddenly turning Roxy into a love interest or the thing the Bond movies seem to be on now, which is to go ‘oh, oh, we care about women’s issues, look, this girl was forced into prostitution, how terrible,’ and then she has sex with Bond anyway and gets killed to show how evil the bad guy is. Kingsman just takes the old stalwart of Roger Moore getting the girl and parodies the cliché by turning it up to 11, with ‘Bond’ knowing the girl for five minutes instead of ten and being more explicit about what’s happening. But at the end of the day, it’s still two pretty people deciding to have meaningless nookie because they didn’t die. I’m pretty sure a fandom with ‘sex pollen’ in their vocabulary doesn’t have room to complain.
-Now, I don’t mean to say the movie is perfect. There are a few too many winky nods to James Bond, where you lose points for subverting a cliché by pointing out ‘look, I’m totally subverting this cliché!’ And it’s funnier if you just let the audience pick up on it. Like how instead of crying blood or having a cyanide capsule collapse his face, SLJ’s villain deformity is just… having a lisp. That’s clever! And there’s also a bit where the villain tests out his doomsday plot on the Westboro Baptist Church. And it’s short enough that I don’t really mind, but the satire there falls flat for me—it’s just the preacher being an io9 commenter saying ‘I’m a religious fundamentalist! I hate science!’ and the punchline is Colin Firth saying ‘wonk wonk, I’m a gay atheist jew with a black boyfriend on socialized welfare’ or something like that. Which is fine, because it’s over with so quickly, but if you’re going to take a shot at as easy a target as the WBC, I feel like you need to be even more clever about it, otherwise you’re just going “and what’s the deal with airline peanuts!?” (c.f. the recent Parks & Rec episode about meninism.)
As I said, as I revise and edit this vampire story of mine, I’ll be going over that process both here and Patreon, although I’m saving most of the ‘Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray’ kinda stuff for the Patreon. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat. So consider this a free preview.
Now, from conversations with my editor, we’re in agreement that most of the fat to be trimmed is gonna come from the first act. Blame it on the Aspergers, but I’ve got sort of a ‘When Are They Going To Get To The Fireworks Factory?’ kinda rule. So, why should we spend so much time on these two characters’ relationship when one of them’s going to become a vampire and that’s gonna hit the reset button on their relatsch anyway?
Because they’re both attractive women No reason!
So this is the first scene that both me and le editor (ze editor?) singled out for the cutting room floor. Basically, the pre-vampire stuff was running so long that I wanted to throw in a scary bit as a bit of foreshadowing; “Fireworks Factory In Twenty Miles’. And it’s not just a Lost thing where it’s creepy for the sake of creepy, it’s tied into the plot.
The problem being, by the time it actually comes into play and is explained, I think most people will have forgotten it. It’s like “oh, you’re telling us NOW what that was all about? They were both STRAIGHT when that happened!” So, since we’re hurrying to the scary stuff anyway, we don’t need any proto-scary stuff, and the bit is gone. It’s still a fun little scene though, got that right NOOOOOOOOOOOPE reaction from the people I showed it too, it’s just not quite right for this story.
(Hey, anyone remember when movies would do teasers that were just shot for the ad campaign and didn’t actually happen in the movie? Weren’t those fun, since they didn’t give anyway away, but they still told you what you were in for? Think of this as that.)( Read more...Collapse )
So I wasn’t really planning to comment on the rumor that there would be a trilogy of Wonder Woman films, with the first one set in the 1920s, simply because it sounded so spurious. Okay, I suppose I can believe that, even having committed to doing a WW2 Wonder Woman film because that’s how it was in the 1970s (!!!), DC would then make that the sequel to one set before the character was even originated.
(That’s really the only reason to do a WW2 movie. I’ve read quite a bit of Wonder Woman and she doesn’t ever really seem to deal with fall-out from the Nazis the same way Steve does. She doesn’t have any lingering foes or lost loves. It doesn’t work to make Cap the result of a supersoldier experiment during the Gulf War, but it works fine to have Steve Trevor crash on Paradise Island during the 2010s. So the only reason to tie Diana to WW2 is Silver Age nostalgia, so fuck that. I mean, we’re not going to even have a non-“used car salesman” Lex Luthor until next year. Of course, then he’s going to be so new-fangled that he’s some Mark Zuckerberg evil geek, so I fully admit I’m a hypocrite there. But c’mon, Smallville got this right. Smallville and a bunch of children’s cartoons. Bald guy, suit and tie, hates Superman, loves money. Doesn’t seem that hard)
But the thing about the movie starting off with “warring factions of Amazons” misses the point about as much as a Star Trek movie starting with a Federation civil war, or a Star Wars movie about trade disagreements. And honestly, I don’t think any studio plans out whole trilogies in advance—at least, not like this.
The whole idea of the franchise is that you do a movie, then you do it over again. You’ve got James Bond, Q, M, Moneypenny—sequel time, you get more Bond, Q, M, Moneypenny. With this plan, you’d pretty much be changing settings and supporting cast every movie. Now, Marvel’s done that sort of planning, but they’re clearly next-level: With TWS, they’ve lost all of the first movie’s stuff, so they bring in Peggy for a cameo, make Bucky the villain, and make Black Widow the female lead to tie it into The Avengers—making that movie a sort of Captain America 1.5.
DC—they make Man of Steel because their Superman copyright is about to run out (no, really), then when that underperforms, they add Batman to the sequel. Then they decide to make that sequel a launching board for every other character in their stable as well. I imagine that’ll go about as well for them as Amazing Spider-Man 2 worked at launching The Sinister Six.
Speaking offfffff, now that it’s turned out that Marvel was being totally truthful about working on a Peggy Carter TV show, a Black Panther movie, a Captain Marvel movie, et al—Is it really so hard to believe that they are working on a Black Widow movie, it’s just taking a while? Unless you want to believe that Marvel decided to do Black Panther and Captain Marvel the minute DC announced Wonder Woman and a Cyborg movie (yeah, that’s never gonna happen). What can I say, these things take time. Feige’s been wanting to do a Dr. Strange movie and it’s still only now happening.
So, drawback, with a BW movie happening in 2020 or later, I don’t think there’s any way they can make Scarlett Johansson look younger than she did in Iron Man 2 for it to be a prequel/origin story. Not a huge loss, since we saw how well “let’s explain the hero’s mysterious backstory in mindnumbing detail” worked for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. My prediction is that Widow will leave the Avengers after Infinity War, and with Johansson no longer being ‘double-booked,’ they’ll give her and Hawkeye a team-up movie in Phase 4 that’ll touch on the Red Room and all that but in some clever way—using the Yelena Belova storyline to give insight into what Natasha went through without us ever seeing Teen!Nat.
Also, a Wonder Woman period piece really seems derivative of Agent Carter at this point, who is a possibly a bigger fixture in pop culture right now. She was in the Captain America movie, the sequel, the one-shot, Agents of SHIELD, now a TV show… meanwhile, if you don’t read comics, about the only place you’ve seen Wonder Woman is The LEGO Movie.
Author name: Seriousfic
Beta name: Shendude
Characters/Pairing: Tony/Pepper, Pepper/Darcy, Pepper/Rhodey, Pepper/Maria, Pepper/Bruce, Pepper/Natasha, Pepper/Clint,
Summary: A side effect of her Extremis treatment gives Pepper a heightened sex drive, while recovering from open-heart surgery gives Tony no sex drive at all. Pepper gets off with a little help from her friends.
Fanworker name: shadesofblurple.
Rating of fanwork: PG-13
Link to accompanying fanwork master post: Tony's Surefire Hit Make-Out Mix