Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Lincoln & Spielberg: Close Encounters on a House Divided


My father was a huge Civil War history enthusiast.  And by using the term “Civil War”, of course I mean the American Civil War.  Who cares about the inner conflicts that occurred in other nations anyway?  I mean when Ken Burns gets around to making documentaries on all those other conflicts, maybe I’ll check them out, but the odds on that are extraordinary.

 
            One year we got my dad the three volume set of Shelby Foote’s narrative of the War.  Foote was a talking head in the Ken Burns documentary so his set was a natural.  After Dad passed away, I was fortunate enough to get that set.  The other day I decided to read it because I never had.  When I cracked open the first volume, I discovered something shocking: I don’t think my dad ever read it.  The binding didn’t even appear broken.  No dents or scuff marks, dog-eared pages or highlighted sections.  Nothing.  It was pristine.

 
            How could this be?  I thought Dad was a history buff.  Now I wonder...  Did he read any of the other books we got him?  The ones on Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain or James Longstreet or William T. Sherman or Jefferson Davis?  There were the copious books of photographs and battles and ironclad ships and a hundred thousand other topics.  But did he ever actually read them?  Personally I know that if I didn’t read about items that interested me, it would be terribly unfulfilling.  In an odd coincidence, this brings to mind a relevant movie that I’m segwaying into in a most blunt and ham-fisted manner.   
 

             As I read the Foote narrative, I remembered that Steven Spielberg had made Lincoln back in 2012.  I never saw it at the time, but I thought that as it pertains to the Civil War, I’d give it a try.  Daniel Day-Lewis had been praised upwards and downwards and every direction in-between for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.  And Spielberg is no slouch in that whole movie direction department, so it should be great, right?

Granted, the movie did take some liberties with the history.
 
 
            Hm.  Well…  Hm.  Seven years after the film’s release, why don’t I go in more semi-manageable observational chunks about the film.  Oh and do I even have to mention that there will be spoilers going forward?  I mean the events of the film took place 154 years ago.  If you don’t know them by now, go read more.  Please.
 

 
·         Daniel Day-Lewis is a revelation.  He so embodies the Lincoln character that it becomes impossible to distinguish the two apart.  Now never having heard Lincoln or seen Twitter videos of him, I cannot say that Day-Lewis IS Abraham Lincoln.  But as far as a role goes, DD-L is always fantastic to watch.  He captivates the attention so much that when he’s not on-screen, the film loses the electricity of his presence to be sure.  Thankfully there aren’t huge slabs of the movie without him.  I normally have no regard for the Academy Award, but in this instance, Daniel Day-Lewis richly deserved the Best Actor acknowledgement.  A performance for the ages.

 
·         The rest of the cast is…okay.  Tommy Lee Jones is good as Thaddeus Stevens, I just wish he was given more to do.  There are too many scenes of him just contemplatively looking at things.  Now this is fine in something like No Country for Old Men.  In Lincoln, where he plays abolitionist firebrand Stevens, it just makes you wonder how much more he could have been used.  He does have a nice coda that gives him a vested interest for the amendment’s passage, but I wish it were alluded to earlier so that the stakes were even dramatically higher for him.

"You will pass that Amendment!  Put your hands up!"
 

·         The same is true of Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.  She’s a good choice, taking on the role with just enough emotional distress that playing Mrs. Lincoln requires.  She’s a picture of unbalance and poise, a tough line to walk but Field does admirably.  Again however, she’s not in the picture enough.  Her scenes with Day-Lewis are excellent but like Jones, she’s under-utilized.

At least she has experience working with bearded men.
  
·         James Spader portrays an unscrupulous behind-the-scenes vote briber whose character name I’m too lazy to look up.  Frankly, he’s the best James Spader in the business and he simply James Spaders the hell out of the role!  Now if they had Spader bouncing around with his Boston Legal co-star William Shatner as a bribing compatriot, then that would have been great!  But I love Shatner so I’m biased in even listing this as a missed opportunity.



Seeing this, still think Shatner would too wild of a choice?


 
How about now?  Yeah, I didn't think he'd be way off either.
   
·         The production design is top-notch and another richly deserved Academy Award was given to Lincoln in this field.  The time period jumps off the screen and you are immersed into the world of 1865 America.  Same goes for costuming, props, set design, everything.  The film’s universe is set throughout.  I can even smell the lamps burning, the mud of the street, the horses, the cigars.  Quite an achievement.

Look at that production value!  It looks so authentic, doesn't it?
 
 
·         Now here comes a big hiccup in the film: it was mistitled.  Since I did no preparation for this movie other than knowing who directed it, who starred in it, and that Lincoln would hopefully be in it, I was more than surprised that the movie only covers the last four months of Lincoln’s presidency.  And even then it truly only focuses on the January 1865 passage of the 13th Amendment for most of the runtime.  This would be fine…if the movie was called The War for the 13th Amendment or The 13th or Lincoln’s Other Civil War.  But by calling it just Lincoln, a different expectation is set.
 

·         For instance, the movie is based on a book that examines how Lincoln’s cabinet was made up of political rivals.  It talked about how Lincoln had to navigate through those murky waters during a time of great domestic war and upheaval.  That sounds like a fantastic movie!  Inner conflicts, a great outer conflict, great drama.  Instead we don’t really see this in Lincoln.  Sure, Lincoln butts heads with Secretary of State Seward (David Strathairn) a little bit, but not enough.  Secretary of War Stanton** doesn’t really fight with Lincoln either so that’s another potential conflict that was blunted.  Of course, I imagine that by January 1865, these former rivals are settled into roles, presumably understanding each other’s working dynamic to a better extent.  While I’m elated they eventually got along, it does practically nothing for the film’s drama.

 
·         That’s what makes Lincoln’s choice of this timeframe so frustrating.  According the limited special features on the Blu-ray (which also irritates me but is par for course with Spielberg’s releases), it was stated that the original script was over 500 pages long.  Spielberg jokingly suggested that the script would have been a mini-series on HBO with that length…and that’s exactly what should have been done.  You already have Daniel Day-Lewis signed up.  Why not see his interpretation from the moment Lincoln was first elected president through to his demise in April 1865?  How about a 4 part mini-series, with each part covering a year of the Civil War from the perspective of the Lincoln White House?  It would have been extraordinary indeed!  Instead we get two and a half hours of mostly January 1865.  This whole movie is a missed opportunity.

Here is an early prototype of the Lincoln character.  And look at that hat!

 
·         What do we get in Lincoln?  At the simplest base, it becomes a movie about the machinations of how one gets a bill passed in Congress.  Just like Schoolhouse Rock! without the catchy tunes.  Of course the ante is automatically upped because this vote deals with the 13th Amendment, which would repeal slavery in the United States.  Obviously the historical import cannot be understated.  However, there’s been no dramatic build-up to this moment.  The viewer is just thrust into the current situation and is forced into caring because of the gravitas of what is at stake here.  If there had been time for circumstances to foment and build over the course of a mini-series, then this indeed would be an incredibly dramatic and important lynchpin for the overall story arch.

 
·         There are many assumptions that the audience knows a lot of Civil War history to fill in some gaps along the way.  Fortunately, I had a good grounding due to lazy teachers in grade school who simply showed the Ken Burns Civil War documentary when it came time to learn about that period in the history book.  So I know who Seward and Stanton and Grant and such are.  I’ll give the film credit in this regard, it doesn’t spoon-feed you with laborious text and/or narration about what came prior to this moment.  It wants to start in January 1865, which it does and you better bone up on your history or you’re going to be left in the dust a bit.

 
·         Also per the limited Blu-ray special features, a goal of the movie was to show the dynamic of Lincoln’s family as well.  So along with Mary Todd, there as are his sons Robert and Tad as well.  But his sons aren’t that fully-fleshed out.  Tad is there when they need to have a scene showing Lincoln tender and fatherly.  Robert is there when they need someone whiny and all Joseph Gordon-Levitt-y.  Again, and I mean to beat this into the ground: this could have been covered so much better in a mini-series.  You would actually understand Robert’s anger with his father, the impact of the deaths of Lincoln’s other two sons, the focus on Tad.  Instead the boys feel forced into the story to pad the runtime.

Here Gordon-Levitt realizes that he's completely outpaced in this movie.
 
·         Speaking of the runtime, once the main plot concludes, the movie keeps on going for some reason.  The point of this film centers on the passage of the 13th Amendment.  Once that happens, logically the film should end.  But…it…doesn’t.  The movie goes from the successful vote to Lincoln going to talk with Grant.  Some more with Mary Todd.  Lee surrenders at Appomattox.  The fateful night at Ford’s Theater.  We don’t see the assassination but we do see Tad reacting to the news that his father has been shot.  Then a brief moment of Lincoln expiring, Stanton says, “Now he belongs to the ages,” and we recap with a Lincoln speech as the credits then roll.  Perhaps the movie should have been called Lincoln: Return of the King.  Frustrating.
 

·         Here’s a thought on how to finish better: even if you wanted to end the movie with Lincoln surveying the carnage as he talks to Grant, go ahead.  Have Grant look empathetically after Lincoln as he leaves, show some texts about what happened to the characters, and end with Lincoln’s speech.  That would be just fine with the movie you decided to make.  And if you didn’t want the blurbs, I’m fine with that idea as there weren’t any at the beginning.  But my overall message is: don’t jam as many events as possible that have nothing to do with your film’s story at large just because you can.  With Lincoln, it just became a case of too much, too late.
 

·         I will say that I appreciated the virulent nature of how the House members interacted with each other at that time.  That there weren’t more duels or at the very least slap fights is quite shocking.  One thing is certain: a current “battle” of tweets just goes to show how weak-kneed today’s politicians have become.  Back in 1865, a heated exchange on the floor of the House could result in someone getting a limp after spitting some teeth out.  Now THAT’s politics!

 
 

Okay fine, I’ll be the one that says it: Steven Spielberg just hasn’t been the same after the one-two punch of Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park in 1993.  That 4 year gap between those movies and The Lost World: Jurassic Park marks a clear line of demarcation in Spielberg’s career.  There would be no more Jaws or Close Encounters or even Hook.  There would be A.I. and War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones 4.  Take a look at Spielberg’s filmography.  Now see if you’re more likely to watch his films from before 1994 or the ones that came afterwards. 

     
That might seem unfair.  But Spielberg himself set that bar so very high.  Look at the films he made from 1975 to 1985.  Now look at the films he made from 2005 to 2015.  How do the groups compare?  Which films do you think will stand the test of time?  Lincoln fits squarely in that latter grouping and while having many individual items to commend it, I don’t think it is a standout effort.

This picture shows Spielberg having fun...so it happened prior to 1994.

 
This is a shame because if anything one should see this film for Daniel Day-Lewis and his remarkable performance.  The production value is quite high.  Also, on a technical level Lincoln is very competently made; it is Spielberg after all.  But in that same respect, I expect more from him.  For me, this film shows what could have been instead of what actually was.
 

At the end of the day, my father had a lot in common with Spielberg.  If my dad were still with us, he’d be roughly the same age as Spielberg.  Both show a true passion for what they love.  They both enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And apparently they both didn’t read Shelby Foote’s Civil War books either!  As I now read those volumes and others, I can sadly see what they both were missing.

  

 

**Stanton was played by Bruce McGill who also was D-Day in Animal House.  So yes, D-Day could have fought with D.Day-Lewis.  But of course, another satisfying opportunity was lost!

Then again, it would have been tough to find him for the movie...
 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Almost Equal Sequels Part 2: Fletch Lives


Given the rollicking (and by rollicking I flipping mean rollicking!) success of the first entry in this half-hearted series, I have decided to go with another entry!  Yes, a sequel!  About sequels!  You see I too have fallen prey to the demands of the public and am going for the cash grab whilst the gettin’s good! 
 
Actually, this whole thing has been a clever ruse on my part.  The reason I started this series is because of the sequel that I’m going to talk about today.  Now, was I terribly passionate about Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment?  Well, kinda.  Not really.  Sure, okay.  In any case, that was just a balloon I sent up to see which way the wind would blow.  And despite knowing what I know, I’m going to press on anyway.  But first a final rules recap for these sequel articles:

 
First off, some key ground rules that I set for myself:


1.    I will only be looking at the immediate sequels to the originals.  So at this point going forward there will be no jumping on Friday the 13th Part 3, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, Halloween 5, Leonard Part 6, The Magnificent Seven, etc.  Maybe one day, but not right now.  Only Part 2s and Part 2s only.

2.    Prequels are also out, unless there’s an immediate Part 2 to the prequel, then game on.  And yes, I consider Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to be a prequel to Raiders.  Because it is.  Yes, it is.  No, you’re wrong because it is.  So I’m not looking at that one.  Besides, Crystal Skull did more to bring awareness to the greatness of Temple of Doom than I ever could.

3.    I am not going to look at Part 2s that have a more-or-less universal acclaim.  We all know that The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back don’t suck, right?  It’s a given that Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are great.  I waste your time in so many other ways, so I think I can relieve you of this one at present.

4.    I am not in any way saying these Part 2s are better than the originals, unless I do say such a thing.  I don’t admit they are flawless films however.  They have deficiencies like any movie.  But these will come on their own demerits, not just because of a general “they aren’t the first movie”-type attitude.

5.    Other rules will be made up haphazardly along the way.  Be prepared. 

 
I think that’s just enough adieu for one day.  Here we go!

  
The Sequel:  Fletch Lives (1989)
 
Original Movie: Fletch (1985)

 
Key Cast/Production Staff Returning from 1st Installment:

 
Chevy Chase              as Irwin M. Fletcher
Richard Libertini          as Frank Walker
George Wyner            as Marvin Gillet

 
Michael Ritchie            Director
Peter Douglas             Producer
Alan Greisman            Producer
Harold Faltermeyer     Composer

 
You see since Fletch died in the last movie...oh, wait.  He didn't.  Hm. 
I don't get the title.

To Start With:

 All I needed now was a computer. And a ten year old kid to teach me how to use it.”
 

            1989 truly was magical, wasn’t it?  I think every movie released that year was either a blockbuster or really wanted to be one.  And the sequels ruled!  Look at this list: Lethal Weapon II, Back to the Future Part II, Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, License to Kill...Off the Series Until 1995, Star Trek V: The Final Time We Let Shatner Direct, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes A Daytrip to New York While Vacationing on A Canadian Cruise Ship, etc. 
 

            And Chevy Chase cemented 1989 by being in one of the best sequels ever: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  This third turn as Clark Griswold was a nice hit and became a perennial holiday classic for the past 30 years!  And yet…this was Chevy’s second sequel in 1989 where he portrayed one of his great characters.  Because back in March of that same year, he graced the screen with the wonderful and woefully underrated Fletch Lives.


            Yeah, it is underrated, dammit!  I know, I know: Comedy is very subjective. The first movie is a classic with very quotable lines.  Chevy Chase was firing on every single cylinder he had to make his last iconic character of the 1980s: Irwin M. Fletcher.  Universal even submitted a For Your Consideration ad for the Academy Award for Chase that year.  No, really! 

See?!  It is real!  My photoshop skills aren't good enough to fake this!
 

            With all of that said, I love Fletch Lives just as much as the first entry.  I do.  It isn’t even a guilty pleasure as I am not ashamed of spreading this gospel to all ears that can hear and even some that cannot!  And yes, I wrote that without even remembering the televangelism angle in the movie.  See?  Even though I can’t prove it, that statement only underlines my passion!   

 

Anything Done Better than the Original?
 

I parked in a handicap spot on my way up here. Actually, on a handicapped person. I told him I'd be back in five minutes, so that's not such a big deal.”


             Chevy Chase owns the role of investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher.  Yes, the great Gregory McDonald created Fletch, using him in a terrific series of novels, but I can’t read any of those novels without thinking of Chevy.  The character simply makes the best use of Chase’s improv and character skills overall.  When we see other films that just don’t work with Chase, and there are plenty that could be brought up, it is invariable that we look back on Fletch as a part that simply meshed with him.
 

            As good as he was in Fletch, Chase is in even better form in Fletch Lives.  His reactions, replies, retorts, and characterizations are solid and hilarious.  Since Fletch’s nature is to go undercover to investigate, Chase is given a lot of leeway and doesn’t disappoint.  From Elmer Fudd Gantry to Ed Harley to Billy Gene King, Chase isn’t half-assing the personas or disguises.  And he could’ve so easily fallen back into a not-giving-a-fully-formed-shit territory, but I think his enjoyment of the character and Michael Ritchie’s direction ensured that didn’t happen.
 

            Also I must also give some love to the late great R. Lee Ermey as TV preacher Jimmy Lee Farnsworth.  As typecast as he became after Full Metal Jacket, here Ermey clearly shows some glee in playing a different role as this insincere charlatan.  Yes, he’s not an evil villain per se, but compared to Joe Don Baker or Tim Matheson in the first movie, Ermey is certainly more colorful.

Still the most sincere TV ministry I've ever seen.  I'm writing a check right now.
 

            Oh the by way, Harold Faltermeyer’s score is fantastic yet again.  I know he gets the love for Beverly Hills Cop, but Fletch and especially Fletch Lives are his best scores.  Yes, there’s some great assists from Buckwheat Zydeco, but the score here supersedes music from the first movie.  (Why doesn’t some enterprising specialty place release the full score on CD?  Hmmm…La-La Land?  Intrada?  Pleeeeeeease?)           

 

Anything as Good as the Original?
 

“Over the years, I found Mr. Underhill's credit card to be a useful tool, much like Underhill himself.”
 

            The sequel’s storyline usually gets bashed because it wasn’t based on a Fletch novel.  Now of course, I would have loved it if the sequel had mined one of McDonald’s other books in the series for the plot.  “Confess, Fletch” or “Fletch’s Fortune” would have been terrific to adapt, but the film took a different path, going with with an original mystery story instead.  Some view this as a detriment.  “After all, isn’t Fletch Lives a bit cornpone at times in dealing with its Louisiana setting?”  Yes.  “Aren’t many of the auxiliary characters a bit too drawn out and goofy?”  Yep. 
 

But with that being said by my army of straw men, I think that any fan of the book series knows that McDonald could get pretty broad at times too.  I don’t think that the plot of Fletch Lives is that farfetched when compared to certain Fletch books.  Read “Fletch and the Widow Bradley” and tell me if that was a bit too off-center compared to the first novel.  And that’s the point with Fletch Lives.  New story, similar tone.  So I think the storyline is just as good as the original with one major caveat I’ll mention later.
 

George Wyner returning as Fletch’s ex-wife’s attorney Marvin Gillet is still great and it was good to see him back.  Richard Libertini is good as Fletch’s editor Frank Walker.  Always a pleasure to see Cleavon Little in anything as he was a remarkable actor with a knack for comedy.  And Randall “Tex” Cobb!  And Chef Brockett is a sheriff?! 

George Wyner literally wanted to be in the script.
 
   

Anything Not-So-Good as the Original?


“The Reverend Farnsworth was Becky's father, but I wasn't going to hold that against her. If I was going to hold anything against her, it wouldn't be her father.”

 
            Julianne Phillips is certainly no Dana Wheeler-Nicholson in the female lead department.  This is a shame as the movie starts off with Fletch meeting up with Amanda Ray Ross played by Patricia Kalember, who is quite charming and rather lovely.  Of course Amanda is the one that gets killed, setting the wheels in motion for Fletch’s investigation.  Phillips as Becky Culpepper is certainly cute, but she’s not as compelling as Kalember was.  She isn’t really effective in the investigation and is ultimately only tangentially connected in the end by being R. Lee Ermey’s daughter.
 

            Some of the southern connections imply that most gents down in the Pelican State are rednecks to the nth degree.  Either with doorknob cops that make Roscoe P. Coltrane look brilliant in comparison to the botched KKK cross burning to Cleavon Little’s “Yassah, massa!” interpretation, there are some cringey moments.  On the whole the film holds it above board with the only real exception being Fletch’s “jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton” comment.  Thankfully, the film doesn’t dwell there for too long and the characters are obviously there for Fletch to react to above all else.
 

            But again, these are tempered rednecks, with a level of charm I suppose.  Fletch isn’t dealing with the denizens of Deliverance or Two Thousand Maniacs here to be sure, because that would certainly be a tonal shift indeed.  Also it turns out that Cleavon is playing a role in the end, making him not the actual stereotype he was conveying for most of the movie.  That erases some of the wincing.  Not all, but some.     

Now there's the Fletch 3 team if I ever saw one...
         
           
Anything Far Worse than the Original?
 

“Figuring out that the guy who dropped my watch in the swamp was the same guy who stole it at the morgue didn't take Sherlock Holmes... Larry Holmes could've figured that one out.”
          

If I have to pick a major negative it is telegraphing that Hal Holbrook as Hamilton Johnson is the bad guy.  In Fletch, part of the fun and the mystery is wondering why exactly Alan Stanwyk would hire Fletch to kill him.  Is he a villain?  Is he going to substitute someone else to frame Fletch?  Is Stanwyk sincere and wants to die?  We’re left wondering until pieces start coming together.
 

Fletch Lives is not as subtle in comparison.  Here Holbrook had a few instances where he appears to be more than what he says he is.  He says variations on “anything I can do to help you” more than a few times and once Jimmy Lee Farnsworth is eliminated from the running, the pickings get mighty slim.  Of course it is funny to see Fletch giving Hamilton his comeuppance, but again there weren’t enough sidetracks given to enhance the mystery.

Oops, spoiler!  Eh, nevermind.   
 

Also no Geena Davis back as Larry.  Just that.  Instead we are expected to believe that Frank will just leap to help Fletch after Fletch quits the newspaper to go to Louisiana?  I guess, but Geena Davis would have been a more likely helper while Fletch was persona non grata at the paper.           

 

Follow-up installments?

 
“Well, I've sinned. I didn't take any Polaroids or anything. But, yeah, I've sinned.”

 
            Despite being #1 at the box office on its opening weekend, Fletch Lives was the last of Fletch on any screen really as of April 2019.  Granted there were rumors back around 1998 that Fletch fan/director Kevin Smith was going to be bringing Fletch back with an older Chevy Chase reprising the role.  The idea was that Chase was either going to be reflecting back on a past case or possibly having someone play his son and take the series from there.  Jason Lee or Zach Braff were in the running at certain points to portray Fletch or his spawn, but it never happened.  Yet it was close enough to production to make official filmography lists on early Universal DVDs, meaning that used disc owners have been fooled to this day.
 

            There has been talk about a new series based on the books and if they are done in a Shane Black-Nice Guys-Kiss Kiss Bang Bang-kind of way then I think they’d be successful.  I think doing them as period pieces would work for at least the first 5 or 6 books if you’re doing them chronologically.  Jason Sudeikis is lined up to possibly play Fletch and that doesn’t really light a fire of excitement with me. 
 

            Also since Gregory McDonald passed away in 2008, that sadly meant the end of the possibility of any further Fletch novels from the original author as well.   

Here the Underhills appear in Song of the South 2: Fletch Lives
 

And Finally:

 
It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. I am NOT a big man.”
 

            The whole of Fletch Lives definitely makes up for the parts.  I think Chase was never better than he was in 1989.  Yes, Ty Webb is funny in Caddyshack and is the only redeemable part of the bomb crater that is Caddyshack II.  Clark Griswold is great in the first and third Vacation movies but certainly disappointing in the other Vacation movies.  But as Fletch, Chase was untouchable.  His ability to react to moments as well as cause situations by portraying a myriad of different characters is great in both Fletch features.
 

            Hell, given the unmemorable crap that the Academy has awarded in the past, give Chevy a retroactive statue for Fletch and Fletch Lives already!  I think that Claude Henry Smoot is a better realized character than most not-actually-an-investigative-report-in-disguise-as-a-faith-healer roles!  I would pay to see an entire movie based on Smoot.  I’ll even spring for a gazebo to make it happen!

 
C.H. Smoot for sainthood?  Oh, I can see it now!

"I was on my gazebo, on the roof, making some repairs, and I was struck by lightning...and I've had migraine headaches and blurred vision ever since then but praise the Lord that was my lucky day because ever since then, I've had the healing power. Amen, God bless you. Thank you very much. Good night.”

 

           

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

There's Something Rotten at Rotten Tomatoes with Captain Marvel


            So beginning the day with the immediate inspiration to exercise and the even faster dismissal of such a ludicrous idea, I instead plunked myself down at the computer.  I had just rewatched the trailer for the new Shaft movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree and was entertained mightily.  Based on the entertainment value of that trailer alone, I already think that it will be the best picture of the year.  Let’s face it, it’ll probably already have the best soundtrack too.  I wanted to share this opinion with others that inhabit the interwebnets and so I went to Rotten Tomatoes to acknowledge that I, a mere possible audience member, wanted to see Shaft.

 
            But alas and alack!  The ability to say that I wanted to see a movie on the website was…gone?!  No way!  But why?  All the aggregate website does is compile reviews and the vibe of the prospective audience.  Why silence the voice of what the potential box office interest is for a film?  Seems counterproductive for this site.

The badassery in this picture cannot be measured by any scientific discipline.
 
            Doing some digging, well actually no digging whatsoever because the talking heads everywhere were rehashing the tired storyline of the party line, I saw that because people had voiced their opinion about whether or not they wanted to see the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, Rotten Tomaters shut that feature off.

 
            This is relatively odd.  I had seen the trailer for Captain Marvel and while not earth shattering, it seemed like it was going to be a fun ride.  After all, the story of a superhero origin where a barely teenaged boy shouts out “Shazam!” to transform into a fully grown adult with near immeasurable powers was long overdue.  Captain Marvel has been around since the early 1940s and…oh wait.  That movie is going to be called Shazam!, isn’t it?  Which Captain Marvel was this again?

So Miss Marvel AND Santa?  This Captain Marvel is awesome!
 
            It must be the story of Mar-Vell, the Kree soldier that later became a hero for Earth and then ultimately died courageously, not in battle, but of cancer instead.  He was a great character in the Marvel Universe and a fitting addition to the roster of superh…what?  Not him?  Hm.  I thought Marvel wanted more space-based adventures.  I mean the Guardians of the Galaxys were hits.  Interesting.

Yes folks, even Starfox listened to this Captain Marvel!  Oh, and Thor did too.
 
They must therefore mean Monica Rambeau, the African-American woman that possesses fantastic energy powers.  She later became a member of the Avengers and even led the team.  Truly an inspirational character!  I must say that Marvel Studios, going off the success of Black Panther, is leading the progressive way, having a strong woman of color be the focus of their forthcoming Captain Marvel film.  It is only natural that she takes over the leadership of the team since so many of the characters are leaving after Avengers: Endgame.  Bravo, Marvel Studi…what?  It isn’t her either?  But that would be a natural.  I thought we were trying to be enlightened.  Rambeau is a great…no?  Hm.  Who are they going with?   
 
Yeah, why go with the cool Captain Marvel?  Obviously no potential.  Ahem. 

Nevermind.  I saw the trailer finally.  They’re going with that Captain Marvel?  So Carol Danvers is going to be the new powerhouse of the Marvel Universe.  Huh.  Sure, okay.  I guess.  I’m glad that despite so many failed comic series, the character gets a shot at the big screen.  But the trailer seems rather…well, meh compared to other Marvel trailers.  I mean Samuel L. comes off just fine, he always does, but beyond that?  Even by pigeonholing it within the genre of female superhero trailers, Wonder Woman blows it away.  Nah, I’m not interested.  Oh, well.

 
But nowadays I can’t just be “Oh, well.” about not wanting to see certain movies.  Apparently this means that I’m a hateful toxic troll of an individual because I’m not interested in seeing something I am supposed to be.  At least this is the tack that Rotten Tomatoes is taking in regards to the lack of interest being shown towards Captain Marvel.  So they go ahead and eliminate the feature where you can leave an observation if you’re interested in seeing a movie or not.  Being an aggregate website for opinions, this makes it extremely curious if not flat out hypocritical that they are going with this approach.

I know Samuel L. is there too, but go see Shaft instead.   
 
However I understand RotTom’s point of view.  After all, they don’t want to spoil their industry connections with powerhouses such as Marvel Studios which of course means Disney.  I’m sure RottyTom-Toms meant well when it started, but now they have influence and they hold sway so the game changes.  Hollywood butters you up and the objectivity melts away.  I mean even Barnes & Noble has a Rotten Tomatoes Fresh section in their media area.  Think that Rotten Tomatoes gives that away for nothing?
 

I can recognize why Marvel/Disney wants this shut up as well.  Captain Marvel is the character that they are shoehorning into the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.  Disney doesn’t want dislike or disinterest of the solo movie to throw off any Avengers box office receipts.  (As a matter of fact, they don’t even want to use “solo” for this movie because of the recent bad box office connotations associated with that word.)  And if they want this character to be the new Iron Man-like lynchpin of the next Marvel phase of films, silencing opposition, no matter how trivial, is in their business interests. 

 
Now do I depend on Rotten Tomatoes or any other site for reviews of films?  Nope.  I can see a trailer, I can make my own decisions, and I watch what I want to see.  If that movie is horrible, so be it.  If that movie is a winner, so be it.  If that movie stars Pam Grier, I think we all win.  As anyone who has seen my brobdingnagian movie collection will attest, I watch a lot of genres with a lot of favorites.  My opinions on filmed entertainment are many and varied and here’s the most important part: they are just as valid as anyone else’s. 


Sure I can disagree with someone, but that’s where it ends.  For instance, some may love Big Bang Theory, but it doesn’t do anything for me, beyond my being happy it gives Bob Newhart some love and a paycheck.  I think that The Rockford Files is the best detective show ever made, and others can disagree despite being wrong.  (Although I can allow some Magnum P.I. love in my fold on that one.)  I think Jim Brown and Chuck Norris are both great action heroes.  That they weren’t in a movie together is a damn shame because that would have broken all the Cool-o-Meters in the world.

Yep Jimbo, the other TV detectives are all behind you.
 
By having these opinions, am I a troll?  Am I part of a hateful culture?  Do I live under a bridge, asking riddles?  Well, I might do that last part, but that only makes me a kooky goofball that demands sympathy and not a troll.  But in this day and age, I suppose just having an individual viewpoint on anything makes one a troll.  Whether that opinion is right, wrong, or indifferent, face it: you are a troll.

 
And that’s it!  I’ve figured out how everyone on the planet will eventually be brought together!  It won’t come from singing “We Are the World” or by watching the last ten minutes of 1997’s Volcano or by chasing after the failure of socialism.  No!  We will finally become a unified human race through our definition that we are all trolls!  The Trollification of Humanity is nigh!  We shall all be ONE!

Even Troll would make for a better trailer than Captain Marvel.
   
Whew, I feel good about where we all now need to go.  Finally, we are one about the fact that we have opinions.  I’m inspired, I’ll tell you!  Think I’ll go to Rotten Tomatoes right now and let everyone know how much I want to see the new Shaft!  Oh, wait.  That’s right.  Stupid Captain Marvel ruined it all for everyone!  At least Shazam! looks fun though. 

 
Anyway enough time nattering about this unimportant falderal of a movie.  Go watch the new Shaft trailer.  Seriously.  Go and do it now.  I’ll wait to finish this post until you get back from watching it.  Go ahead.  I’ll be here.  No worries, just go and see it.  Go!

 
Okay, are you back?  See it?  Awesome, right?  Looks like a lot of fun, unlike Captain Marvel, which only wishes they had a trailer like Shaft.  Hah hah!  So there!  Take that!  Yeah, those cats named Shaft are some baaaaad motherf…well, you know the rest.  You’re welcome! 

Can you dig it?  I said, CAN YOU DIG IT?!