Monday 19 July 2010

Overrated: Underrated

This week, we once again take some sacred cows and turn them into sacred burgers, as well as inform you of that which we believe to be better.

Overrated: Michael Cera

I hate this douche. The first time I became aware of him is when I watched Arrested Development for the first time at my sister's request. She told me that I'd find it funny after a few episodes, and I gave it a good go to no avail (aside from increasing my admiration for the awesome Will Arnett, that show did little for me - not as little as Curb Your Enthusiasm mind, but then I probably need to give that more time). Anyway, Cera was a pretty minor character for the most part in the show, so I didn't really give him much time, and actually enjoyed some of the writing they gave him.

However, I then was forced to imbibe Michael Cera like he was the sugar in my high-fructose soft drinks over the next couple of years. From Superbad, where he played a gawky awkward teenager who needed to get laid, to Juno, where he played a gawky awkward teenager who got laid once, to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, where he played...*gasp* a gawky awkward teenager who got laid at least a couple of times. What a range this man has. And I get it: he plays guitar in his free time. It's in every goddamned thing he does, if I needed any more clues.

From there it's only become worse. He's gone on to star in Extreme Movie, which by all accounts is only "Extreme" in the amount that it sucks, which is purportedly a larger amount than is natural. Shame, too, as the cast had promise apart from this cockpouch. He also starred in Year One, that movie where Jack Black acts all out of control and over the top. Thought it couldn't get any worse? He got cast as himself twice in Youth in Revolt, once as a gawky awkward teenager (in another tour de force) and the other as the antithesis of a gawky awkward teenager...a teenager with a pencil moustache.

Credit where it's due though: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World looks awesome.

Underrated: Shia LaBeouf

I know what you're thinking. Here I am, saying that I think Michael Cera has a limited range because he's been typecast as the gosh-darned lovable douchebag in pretty much everything he's ever done (let's not forget when he threw convention aside and donned the pencil moustache). You may argue that Shia LaBouef isn't much better: he's cast as a similar sort of cocky wise-cracking arsehole in most of the stuff he does. I'd agree, but counter with the following: His character is much cooler, funnier and more versatile than Cera's any day of the week.

Let's also examine the CV here, and compare. LaBeouf's big break onto screens came in the form of Disney TV series Even Stevens. Write off Disney TV if you must, but Smart Guy was quality. He then went on to star in bit part form in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, alongside three hot women dressed in skimpy outfits doing ninja moves. Instant +1 to E14 Factor.

2004-2005 must have been a good time for Shia, as he went on to star in I, Robot, which despite its Asimov-raping was an enjoyable enough action movie starring another actor typecast for the better, Will Smith. He then, as if that wasn't awesome enough, went on to star alongside Keanu Reeves in the criminally under-rated Constantine. Interesting bit of trivia, by the way: did you know that Will Smith actually turned down one of the roles that gave Keanu a lot of success, that of Neo in The Matrix? Absolutely true. He turned it down on the grounds that he thought that the 'bullet-time' special effects were a little on the ropey side. What did he do instead? Wild Wild West. I shit you not.

He was also involved in a movie that I had the privilege of seeing at the cinema, a movie called Eagle Eye. Although the title really has absolutely nothing to do with the movie beyond a tenuous codename (although I might be a little off there, it has been a while since I saw that movie, plus I'm pretty much being propped up by energy drinks at the moment), the movie itself was really well done. His character, while a little of the wisecracker that we've known his previous characters to be, isn't annoying at all.

Also, let's get this one out of the way: he's come closer to a Transformer than any of us ever will (unless that restraining order that Chris Latta, the guy who voices Starscream, has on me is lifted). A lot of people seem to like Megan Fox, although I know Brad doesn't, but the fact of the matter is that most E14ies would wet themselves if they met Peter Cullen. This won't be a popular idea, either, but I think that if they ever were to continue the Indiana Jones franchise he would be the perfect person for it. A little brash, not averse to the action, what else do you need?

Oh yeah, a cool hat and a whip. Well, we can get him those. That's easily done.

Overrated: CG

On the subject of The Matrix, the next thing that is criminally overrated in cinema is the amount of computer-generated effects in our movies nowadays. Now, I'm absolutely not against the use of computer generation in movies as a concept. If you went away from this thinking that CG is something I abhor, then you'd be wrong. However, I think that in certain movies it makes a good movie great, but it can completely spoil a movie-going experience for you just as easily.

Alright, as an example, let's take The Matrix as a starting point. Evidently, the movie series wouldn't work without some form of computer generation in certain places. The 'bullet-time' stuff that we loved in the first movie wasn't possible without a few bits of CG here and there, but for the most part it was actually done with camera tricks more than anything else. However, look at the photo above: how crap does it look, bearing in mind it's taken from the third movie and is the kind of CG that the franchise is actually remembered for?

Let's be realistic: As an example of the sort of detail computer animation is capable of, it's simply superb. As a testament to the quality of the movie industry, it has that certain hollow cheapness to it. It's just that little bit too artificial. The problem I've got with it, too, is that often the CG stuff is done in the place of stuff that could just as easily be accomplished with real actors. When I was watching Daredevil, which wasn't an amazing experience anyway, I was shocked and appalled more than anything else to see a scene involving Daredevil and Bullseye running up a flight of stairs that was displayed entirely using CG. Now I realise that movie makers can get away with this because of the suit in the case of Daredevil (as superhero movies have shown us, anyone costumed can be CGed fairly easily, though they toned it down pretty well in the first Spiderman movie), but Bullseye had a bald head which shone like a fucking Christmas tree.

The ultimate problem I have with CG is that the more realistic you try and make it look, the more obvious it is that it's computer generated. It's the ultimate self-defeating prophecy, like having Christmas shopping in August.

Oh wait...

Underrated: Stuntmen

Let's face it: people of the world like two things. Seeing big blockbuster movies and marvelling at the special effects is one. The other, which is much more powerful, is watching big blockbuster movies and wondering if someone died during its filming. Not one of those 'oh, it's so poignant because he died during its production' type of deals that propelled Heath Ledger to Oscar-winning status, or ensured that Brandon Lee would all his life be remembered for one movie, or even that Bela Lugosi would forever be ridiculed because of the actor taking his place on Plan 9 From Outer Space being significantly taller. I'm talking about one of those movies where you see a stunt being performed and genuinely wonder if someone was seriously injured, without wishing any permanent harm upon the stuntman involved: I just want my movies livened up that little bit more.

Actors who do their own stunts in movies always have my respect that little bit more than actors who rely on stunt doubles as well. It's not that I don't respect the stunt doubles involved, nor do I wish for them to get less work, it's just that seeing an actor so willing to risk their well-being for the sake of entertaining others just fills me with that feeling that they want me to enjoy their movies that little bit more profoundly. The man depicted, Jackie Chan, for instance, has come close to death in his films, and has attained so many injuries that no insurance company will underwrite a film in which he stars.

Of note also is the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who insists that he did his own stunts early on in his career as they were unable to find anyone of his size to serve as his stunt double. Also of surprise to me was learning during research for this that Tom Cruise has done his own stunts for a number of films, most notably the two most recent Mission: Impossible movies. Call him a Scientologist nutjob if you really feel you must, but the more I hear and see of Tom Cruise and his off-screen persona, the more I feel like he and I would get along. The bastard's aged really well, though. He's fourty-eight this year, and still looks good for his age. Must have agreed a deal with the devil. Seems unusual given his history though.

1 comment:

  1. Is shia underrated? I mean he's been in some of the biggest summer blockbusters over the last few years. I mean in transformers he's the lead role, and not shying away from big parts, the only person bigger than him in indie 4 was the whip wielding legend himself.
    Oh and Michael cera sucks balls.