STEVEBLOG Home on the Range

23May/110

Really? The Cliffhanger Ending

We all love sequels. You can lie to yourself, but you cannot lie to me. We are all suckers for continued adventures of our favourite characters, otherwise there would be no series for Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, Godfather, Indiana Jones, etc. Heck, we would not even been graced with Sex and the City 2 and Iron Man 2, nor would people be excited for The Hangover 2 and speculating about a Thor 2. Contrary to popular belief, movie companies are actually big faceless companies that are more concerned with making money than pandering to our tastes. I could go on but I think even you are understanding that Hollywood would not be making all of these sequels unless we wanted to see them and regardless of your taste in movies, there are sequels you know and love.

I like sequels more than the average person, as you might have noticed from my extremely popular Movie Sequel Mondays series. So here I am, a sequel aficionado (thanks spellcheck!) that is completely at peace with follow ups intended solely as cash-ins, yet I am opposed to the most obvious sequel foreshadowing: the cliffhanger. Cliffhangers can be very effective ending techniques, but more often than not, they are copout endings tossed in under the illusion that if the movie makes enough money they are prepped to carry on the story.

First, let’s look at a good example of a set up sequel: Urban Legend. This delightful horror movie ended with the big reveal that the killer was not dead and appeared to be starting up again with a new group of friends/victims. Urban Legend: Final Cut picked up right when the original cliffhanger left off by… completely ignoring it. This type of sequel is generally reserved for action and horror movies, where we get an entirely new cast and story that have no need for a cliffhanger to be made.

For the sequels that do manage to bring back some of the same characters, they rarely pick up near the end of the last movie. You can more or less expect the characters to be emotionally/physically exhausted by the trials of the previous movie, so naturally the sequel will take place long enough after the events to give allow for some offscreen character development. In this case, the cliffhanger is essentially useless in that it not only cannot be an urgent incident, but it also removes any mystery around a new antagonist, being that we already know the old one is still around.

Then we have all of the sequels that do not get made. Some of them may originally look like they should be the launchpad of a blockbuster series, oh hi Waterworld, while others really do not have any right expecting anyone would bother with a sequel, sorry Fire Serpent. These movies are particularly frustrating because they leave the viewer with that awful aftertaste that they spent two hours getting invested in a story only to have it completely invalidated in the last 5 minutes.

We are now stuck with the seemingly insurmountable problem of Hollywood wanting more money, us wanting continuing series, but generally lame cliffhangers. Thankfully, source of anything worth knowing comes through for us again. Yes, I am talking about television. Television has been pumping out effectively cliffhangers for decades. Be they season ending bombshells, to single episode arcs affecting a season long story, to every commercial break cliffhanger ala Prison Break, television has pretty much perfected them.

What is the secret to television cliffhangers? Contained story arcs. TV shows can contain several levels of story arcs, from season long to commercial break long. The rule of thumb being the intensity of the cliffhanger should inversely proportional to the length of the story arc. If you build up an emotional response, you better pay it off before those feelings fade away. Longer story arcs need more carefully planned cliffhangers that focus on multiple potential outcomes rather than immediate danger. Just as Prison Break did great with the commercial break danger, Lost did great for the potential outcome discussions. The next key point for cliffhangers is that it should connect to the story but it should not be part of the main plot.

Cliffhangers should open or contribute to a new arc, leaving us with at least one satisfyingly complete viewing experiences. Or hey, just give us more empty, self-invalidating stories because we keep on paying to watch them.

Your pal,

Steve

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2Mar/111

I watched it so you don’t have to: The Gingerdead Man

Every now and then I like to give back to my faithful reader. (Editor’s note: That is not a typo). I give back the only way I know how, by watching movies that no sane person should ever spend a couple of hours watching. And no, this has nothing to do with any court ordered community service.

I poached this “Steveview” from Past Steve, 2006 to be precise, so it is pretty old. However, it does set the stage nicely for a Steveview of The Gingerdead Man 2, coming soon to a Steveblog near you!

The Gingerdead Man (2005)

TheGingerdeadMan

Something’s In The Oven...

Monster movies are a staple of the horror industry but there are only so many vampire/frankenstein/king kong movies that can be made. We've seen many classic villains come from seemingly harmless creatures, like killer clowns, killer amoebas, and killer tomatoes. Now we add killer pastry to the mix. That lame pun is just one of many reasons why I have not seen a killer pastry movie before this.

The prologue has Gary Busey killing most of a family at a diner before he is arrested and executed. This accomplishes two things, creating a history between the killer and hero, and setting up a bakery that is staffed by teens and one alcoholic old lady. There's our stressed out cute hero, the baker with dreams of being a wrestler, his gimmick is The Butcher Baker (future WWE’ers take notes), the hot chick who... I'm not sure what she did, and the alcoholic lady. We also are introduced to greedy guy who wants to tear down the bakery, his bitchy daughter, and her hickish boyfriend. The gingerdead man is the reincarnation of Gary Busey, all they had to do was make the dough, add some blood, decorate him, and bake him.

busey

I rolled out of bed, now where's my goddamned pay check!

Now before we go any further, I want you to picture the smartest character you've seen in a movie. Got one in your head? Well you might as well lose that picture because the hickish boyfriend is officially the smartest man ever in a movie, not just a horror one. He's smart enough to use the woman who's using him, while still winning hearts of other women. When bitchy chick's cell phone battery died, he grabbed it and went to use the car charger. When confronted with an evil gingerbread man, he figured it was either a joke and he'd kick someone's ass over it or it was real and he'd shoot the flour out of the little guy. These are just a sampling of his flashes of brilliance.

doughboy

Feeling ashamed that the Pilsbury Dough Boy jumped into your head? Don't feel bad, they used it too.

The movie is basically a bunch of dough jokes with the gingerdead man running around laughing a lot. I don't know if I'll ever understand why evil people laugh sinisterly for long periods of time or why regular people are drawn to the laugh. Maybe it's some pied piper deal. Eventually the bitchy girl and her dad are killed just before The Butcher Baker shows up to save everyone else. He impresses the hot chick by biting off the gingerbread man's head and eating it. I'm sure the eating part was unnecessary but what do I know about impressing women?

baker

I can break your fucking back - break your back and make you humble and then fuck your ass. – Iron Sheik

Since movies cannot just end with killing the bad guy once anymore, the Baker gets some nasty indigestion and becomes evil. The remaining good guys kill him and live happily ever after. As his catch phrase went, his ass was toast. (take notes future WWE’ers)

If they had upped the body count and tossed in some gratuitous breast shots, this would have had been the definition of a cult classic. Unfortunately I don't think we'll be graced with a Gingerdead Man 2: Back and Batter Than Ever. (Current Steve’s note: Oh boy, were you ever wrong, Past Steve)

Your pal,

Steve

1Feb/111

Movie Sequel Monday: Executive Decision

Executive Decision is universally known as the movie where Steven Seagal dies at the start. To be fair, he makes it a bit further than the start and even manages to knife a few guys like the badass he is.  This of course shocked North American audiences because Steven Seagal can’t die, especially when he has top billing. It probably did not shock international viewers, especially those watching Critical Decision, starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, and Oliver Platt (Seagal who?).

Despite killing off a huge action star, Executive Decision managed to produce such a tense, roller coaster, thrill ride that it was given an unofficial remake called Air Force One. Yeah, I’m basically just lumping them together because they are all about terrorists trying to free a leader by hijacking a plane where the good guys end up winning by pulling off a daring plane to plane person transfer. So how do you follow up the plane hijacking of Executive Decision? Trainjacking ala Under Seige 2? Boatjacking ala Speed 2? Read on to find out!

2Dec/100

Remakes, reboots, and prequels, oh my!

People are always ragging on Hollywood for its lack of originality. It seems like the box office is always banking on Movie 2 Point Oh: The Sequel or Movie: The Origin (relive the beginning… again!) for the hits of the season. I know you do not trust my opinion, being that I am blatant Hollywood shill,but I whole heartedly support each and every attempt to ruin your childhood by remaking/ rebooting/retconning any and every movie you love. It does not matter if it is 5 years old or 50 years old, it deserves to be retold, again!

Before I get too far into this rant, I feel I should disclose that the Star Wars prequels (combined with the Holiday Special) actually did destroy my enjoyment of all things Star Warsian.This is my attempt to garner some sympathy with you, my relatively important reader, while still maintaining an air of superiority.You can disagree with me all you want, I just felt you might like siding with the correct side this once.

In the olden days, also known as ye olde days…e, there were two ways to distribute your creative acts; live or scribed. Both methods are horribly antiquated these days. Seriously, when was the last time you went to a live production or read a printed serial? Sorry, trick question. Since neither of those reach the basement you live in, you will have no experience with either. For the rest of us, we consume content ridiculously faster than ever before. It is only natural that we feel the urge to retell it, with our own spin, earlier.

Raise your hand if you have complained about the unoriginality of a recent Shakespeare production. Is your hand up? Well I don’t care. There is merit in retelling stories and adapting them to current times. If you think that there are no real differences between  Sure it seems strange to reboot a movie franchise after 5 years but things change fast these days. Five years ago the main thing I used my cell phone for was to play Snake in boring lectures. These days I use my phone to send text messages and use Facebook. In a few years I may even start calling people.

As pathetic as it may sounds, Children of the Corn, Spiderman, Wall Street, etc. are the Shakespearian stories of our age and they deserve extensions or retellings. Sure some of them (editor’s note: all of them) are shameless attempts to make money, but if you think for one second that William S. Shakespeare (the “S” is for savings) was not doing it for money, well then let me tell you about an amazing investment opportunity. By investment opportunity I mean stupid get me rich scheme at the expense of others. Seriously, take that $5 and give it to charity, dumbass.

Your pal,

Steve

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1Nov/100

Essential elements of… A mental institution movie

Everyone loves a good mental institution movie. On paper it seems like an incredibly bad idea; “Let’s set the film within the relatively small confines of a sterile medical institute so that we can focus on the actions of a bunch of unstable people who may be drugged into a trance like state”. Yeah, like that is an easy pitch to producers. It may fly for your artsy plays but this is Hollywood, movies need big guns, big explosions, and a sassy sidekick. Well, it turns out that stripping away all of those distractions (except the sassy sidekick) and focusing on simple human experiences and feelings does make a good movie.

I think it is safe to assume you are in to get rich quick schemes. That stack of lottery tickets beside you gives you away. Besides, there is only so far $8.25 an hour for flipping burgers will get you. (Editor’s note: Steve is referring to the lottery tickets beside him and he highly respects those who dedicate their lives to burgertude) That is why I am going to teach you how to write a hard hitting drama in a mental institute. Well, I was going to but then I realized that is way more effort than I am willing to put in so we’ll just take a look at the elements every mental institute movie needs.

1) The protagonist should not be there

Very few people believe they are crazy. In fact, you would have to be crazy to think that, making you not crazy, which makes you crazy. Don’t look at me, I did not make the rule. The point is that we are shown enough of the hero that we know they are just a regular person having a bad day. They are so normal that there are generally only a couple of patients they feel comfortable around; a love interest and the crazy sane character.

one_flew_over_the_cuckoos_nest-1I’m just here for the air miles.

2) The Crazy Sane Character

All movies about crazy people need an apparently grounded character that generally guides the protagonist through their adventure of self adventure and preachy overtones. This character immediately gives us someone to identify with, being that we are presumably not insane, and gets the crowd pleasing lines where they describe everyone else’s craziness. They can get away with all of this because they are highly functioning and not petting an imaginary cat.

12monkeysEveryone in here is nuts but don’t worry, the fairies will get us out.

The crazy sane character at some point reveals that they are indeed crazy, but by that point the viewer is so attached they can comfortably come to the realization that crazy people are people too and ignore whatever mumbo jumbo they spill.

3) A Game Room

I know, I know, patients need entertainment too so why is the game room so note worthy? The game room is the mental institution’s version of the prison exercise yard. It is the standard setting to highlight all of the various characters in a minimally supervised environment. Most of the time patients are shown to be entirely unable to use any of the games so really the institute could have a library, a weight room, or even a ball room.

ikoafs_blogLargeFirst touchdown wins.

At some point, a patient will flip out and tear apart the games room, which supports the Hollywood rule of “if X is impressive, X times a billion is a billion times better!” (X is throwing board game pieces in this case).

4) The inmates running the asylum

Nearing the end of the movie the inmates have to take control of the asylum. We have been rooting for them the whole film, wanting them to break free from their drug-induced shackles and experience the joys of life. Through some sort of bargaining or more nefarious shenanigans they bring the outside world in for some unrestricted fun. Unfortunately this fun must end with the protagonist screwing up their life.

murdock1The fog was as thick as a linebacker's neck and the moon wasn't saying much, just watchin'. Anything could happen on a night like this...or maybe nothin'

With these three components as your starting point, all you need to do is decided on the style of movie. Artsy drama? The hero is unnecessarily committed, the head doctor/nurse is overly cruel and controlling, and the facility is crumbling and old. Connect the dots between 1-4 and toss on the lobotomized hero ending and you have an Oscar winner. Heartwarming comedy? Take the unnecessarily committed hero, add in a love interest, and make sure the crazy sane character is goofy. Close off 1-4 with the hero redeeming themself for some misguided selfishness and riding off into the sunset (read: outside world) with the love interest.

Stick to these main elements and you are set. You could always deviate from the norm but that would be crazy.

Your pal,

Steve

12Sep/100

The Ridiculous Case of Alan, Steve, and furry animals

I wear many hats. Sometimes I am a poet, other times a philosopher, and sometimes I even wear an autographed George Wendt hat. One I rarely wear is my investigative hat. Usually I am far too busy hogging the glory to worry myself with researching all those little details that support my theatrical expositions (I’m looking at you Matlock… and Perry Mason). Every now and then I feel the urge to don a trench coat and squint out some Columbo. Today was one of those days where the world was just begging me to drop some facts on it. Sure, all of this information is either publicly known or entirely speculation but that’s what makes it so real and so pure. And without pure fact we are just a bunch of non-opposable thumbed anthropoids. (Editor’s Note: Steve has no idea what an anthropoid is.)

So what could possibly distract me from such important work as solving world hunger and saving children from bears? Two words: Steve Coogan.

steve-coogan The man in question.

I recently saw him in the hilariously funny movie, The Other Guys. Yes, it really is funny enough to have two adjectives. I then saw him in the bizarrely funny Hamlet 2. Naturally, I was curious to find out what other movies he has done because obviously they have to be funny as well. I found something browsing through his filmography that turned on that little compact fluorescent bulb in my head. Steve Coogan has a famous character named Alan Partridge. Well, famous if you know British comedy. Since my British comedy knowledge is limited to Monty Python, the Shaun of the Dead crew, and BBC talking animals, this was news to me. What’s that you say about BBC talking animals? I’m talking about the show where British comedians do voiceovers for random nature footage.

The animals are talking and none of us are Doctor Dolittle!!

Did you catch that? I’m guessing no. Basically, the first segment is some animal trying to get Alan’s attention before realizing that the guy he is trying to talk to is Steve. Alan. Steve. British comedy. Put one and one and one together and you get three/seven/one (depending on how nerdy you are). This animal is clearly using the names Alan and Steve precisely because the two together make sense in the context of British humour. It could have easily been Robert and Pete or Thomas and Jake but they choose Alan and Steve. That is why British humour is so much smarter than American humour; they put in the effort to add depth. The poor American viewing audience gets stuck with Bob Saget spouting gibberish to cat videos.

Hey, if I have to watch it, you have to watch it too.

Consider yourself learned.

Your pal,

Steve

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17Aug/100

Into the Wild

I finally got around to watching Into the Wild, the (obviously) film adaptation of the novel about Chris McCandless. The irony will probably be lost on you, but my journey in getting around to watching it was almost as long as his trek. I have often fantasized of escaping the complexity of life for the seeming simplicity of nature; replacing gramophones, slide rules, and a shirt and tie for birds, sticks, and  tanned rawhide. Naturally a movie about just this would interest me. I avoided it at release because of the Sean Penn factor. Yes, I have an arbitrary dislike for all things Penn. No, I can’t explain it, that’s what makes it arbitrary.

cityandnature Who needs technology when you have a song bird?

A little over a year ago I got hooked on the Into the Wild soundtrack. The album manages to tell the story from idealistic beginnings, setbacks, triumphs, loneliness, and finally loss. The vivid imagery it invokes convinced me that I had to see the movie. Unfortunately, the combination of my schedule, extreme laziness dedication to important charity work kept me from getting my hands on a copy. Eventually the urge to watch the movie passed and life went on. That is until a week ago when I tossed in the CD for a drive out of the city and the desire was re-ignited. This time I made sure to get a hold of the DVD and cleared my schedule.

scheduleSorry underprivileged kids, I can’t do everything.

I was prepared for a fairly sequential story of the rejection of society leading to a wilderness voyage filled with dangerous encounters and survival challenges. Immediately my expectations were shattered by the simple difference in sequence of the soundtrack and the movie. From then on I was taken on my own bittersweet journey. The nature aspect of the story felt secondary, more of a beautiful co-star rather than the purpose. Into the Wild turned out to be a very human story of relationships and finding meaning in your life. I have not been hit so hard by a movie since The Brothers Bloom. Establishing connections and touching the lives of strangers resonates with me. It may have something to do with my reputation of wandering and trying to make friends with random people or it may have deeper meaning; it gave me some perspective on the why of that reputation.

Into the Wild easily falls into one of my favourite movie experiences. I highly recommend it to anyone who has felt the draw of nature or enjoys the thrill of meeting new people. The experience is improved if you are feeling like some personal reflection, so it’s a bonus if that’s for you. I will leave you with a line from the movie to think about. Yes, I know that hurts but deal, doofus. The line comes near the end when a weak, lonely, and afraid Chris writes in a book.

Happiness only real when shared.

Hug it out.

Your pal,

Steve

17May/101

Movie Sequel Monday – In The Army Now

15 years ago, the world was different than it was now. I would describe it to you, but you are either old enough to know for yourself or too young to care. Either way, I have better things to do then to be your remedial history teacher. The important thing is that Pauly Shore was the “it” guy of comedy. Then like many comedians, the same viewers that begged for more of the same decided to discard his tired, repetitive act.

Ok, so maybe I’m being a tad generous with his movie career. The point is that Pauly Shore had a better schtick than barely being able to keep a straight face telling lame jokes (Jimmy Fallon, I’m looking at you) or being overly straight faced and speaking in a low, grumbly voice before exploding into comedic anger (naughty, naughty Christian Bale). Since Pauly Shore is at least as good as those two so-called funny guys, he deserves another shot. And what better vehicle than the sequel to his most popular movie set in a desert country than In the Army Now!

In The Army Again

inthearmyagain

You may remember that at the end of the original film that Pauly Shore, who plays Bones Conway (that’s such an awesome name), opens an electronics shop with his buddy (played by Andy Dick!). Their zany plan from the original movie had them joining the reserves to earn the capital to start the store never thinking they would be called to action. Times have changed; superheroes wear black leather suits instead of brightly coloured tights, pop music is dominated by synthesized voices instead of synthesized music, and Brad Pitt is a dirty bum instead of a charming heartthrob (editor’s note: He’s still a heartthrob). One thing that has not changed is Bones fun loving approach to life.

In fact, that positive approach has rewarded Bones with a highly successful nationwide electronics chain and Dick with a wicked coke addiction. Despite being such important businessmen, they still find time to have remote controlled helicopter destruction derbies in the comfort of their own stores. Unfortunately, the good times come to an end when Uncle Sam calls all former reservists back in action to the war conflict rebuilding of Iraq. They are immediately shipped overseas and put under the watchful eye of an extremely gruff, and also recently re-recruited, sergeant played by everyone’s favourite, Michael Ironside.

If this were an Oscar drama, the free spirited hippies would be crushed by the brutality of reality, ending in a depressing revelation that their idealistic ideals are not enough to carry them through life. That is to say one would die and the other would lose a couple of limbs and return to America only to be chastised by the dual stigmas of being a soldier and a cripple. Thankfully, this is a comedy and we can count on their hilarious hijinks converting the straight laced sergeant into a hip-hoppin’, bip-boppin’, disco superstar.

There probably needs to be some semblance of a plot, so let’s go with the “oppressed locals are wary of foreign help while the military is happily ignoring their basic needs in pursuit of the big bad so the plucky heroes disobey orders and single handedly win the war and the hearts of the locals”. Toss in a few pot references, the odd poop joke and some good old fashioned “A-whoooo, buuuuuudeee!”s and you have a movie.

What’s that Hollywood? Not good enough for you? Alright, fine. I’ll toss in some random sex appeal. Let’s see who was hot last year….

popsearches

According to Google users, either Lady Gaga or Beyonce will be cast as the “daughter of a former general who also happens to be hot and falls in love with the not so gruff hero”. Yes, I know I have used quotes far too much for a single story but seriously, this sequel is begging to rip off every stereotype possible.

The old combination of slapstick humour, current sex appeal, and a sprinkle of social undercurrents pretty much guarantees another box office hit. You’re welcome Hollywood.

Your pal,

Steve

Also, I know you are having problems deciding between Lady Gaga and Beyonce but let Google image search’s first result clear that up for you.

sexappeal The choice is obvious: Lady Gaga. Seriously, Beyonce has way too sparkley of a bikini to be cast in a Pauly Shore movie, come on! I swear, they really need to start teaching this stuff in remedial casting 101.

16Nov/092

Movie Sequel Monday: The Rocker

Sometimes movies leave us with far too many questions than answers and the perfect way to fix that is with a sequel. Today’s sequel actually falls into an obscure category that not even Hollywood has realized can make them truckloads of money. It’s a movie that takes place after the beginning of the original but before the end. Neither a true sequel or prequel, these movies are known as mequels.

5Oct/092

Thank you Internet

I’d like to thank you, internet. You bring us so many wonderful things, like sports news, free books, pictures of overly cute things, and creepy Boy Meets World fan fiction. That’s not it though, the internet is not one to rest on its laurels. Thanks to everyone’s favourite (or second favourite if you are hip) movie website, you can now view an actor’s filmography by strangely specific categories.

I decided today was a good day to watch The Transporter, Transporter 2, and Transporter 3. After watching those movies, I found myself wondering what other movies I could see Jason Statham in all his awe-inspiring shirtless glory. Lo and behold, IMDB has solved that problem for me! Crank: High Voltage and Revolver both feature “bare-chested-male”! Thank you internet!

tn2_jason_statham_1

Also helpful was Google image search. 

Seriously though. This categorization could be turned into a hilarious party game. Everyone loves pointless trivia games, especially the ones about celebrities but more especially the ones with goofy words. It would play out like Family Feud, where a celebrity’s name comes up and you need to try and guess the best or funniest categories in their filmography. Just for fun, let’s do Crispin Glover.

His top one is the ever classic “character-name-in-title”. Bet you didn’t know there was a character named Billy Future in Back to the Future, did you? Don’t say you did because there isn’t, dumbass. He has 6 movies with the always amusing “fall-from-height”. His best is probably “child-player-in-adult-sport-team”.

What about that precocious young actress, Ellen Page? Hey! Her top is “character-name-in-title” too! She and Crispin Glover should be in a movie together. It could be about a quirky, rebellious teen that meets a creepy, socially inept older man. They share a somewhat inappropriate relationship that ends poorly, prompting her to take a bus out of town. I call it Spectreville. Oh, there’s “precocious-teen” on her list too! My pick for her best is "deoxyribonucleic-acid”, or DNA to the rest of us. Thank you internet for leaving the kid gloves off on that one.

Unfortunately, for all the potential this gives us it managed to fail me. I searched for “dude” movies and got a few cowboy movies and BASEketball. The dude does not abide, man.

1-Lebowski

Also, my rug was stolen.

Your pal,

Steve

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