DOPE Digest is a weekly roundup of pop culture miscellany, with succinct analysis from our contributors.
Batman v. Superman photo
Henry Cavill is back in the first photo from Zac Snyder’s Batman v. Superman. After the box office success of Man of Steel, it is not too surprising that this photo from the sequel keeps the same look and feel. The photo of Ben Affleck confirms as much. Aesthetically I am a big fan of what Zac Snyder has done with the costumes, but he doesn’t usually get much right beyond the aesthetics, and that’s part of the problem.
I don’t have high hopes for this movie. Man of Steel was a letdown and I don’t trust Snyder with much beyond another 300. Again, the dude makes great visuals though. Maybe he’ll surprise me. In any case I’ll be at the front of the line when this movie opens.
syvo: To be honest, the more I hear about this movie the more excited I get. Specifically, the casting decisions are beginning to display a real sense of confidence and vision. Think about who we have beyond the two top-billed capes: Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, and most recently Jason Momoa (Kahl Drogo of Game of Thrones) as Aquaman.
Each one of these casting decisions, including Ben Affleck, have a just-crazy-enough-to-work randomness to them that feel like they’re being assembled as part of something special. I don’t know if Dawn of Justice will be any good, but at the very least, it looks like Zach Snyder and David Goyer are planning something unique.
Marvel has done a great job choosing its actors, but in a different way. Their approach is more about identifying real-life avatars of their existing character types (in some cases reverse-engineered from Mark Millar’s work on The Ultimates) than using the cinematic form to reimagine how audiences think about these characters. Nolan’s genius was decidedly of the latter category, and that’s a big reason why the Avengers movies seem disposable in retrospect, and the Dark Knight Trilogy feels timeless.
St. Vincent trailer
BK: Bill Murray stars in this debut feature-length film by Theodore Melfi, and I am pretty much sold on the idea of this flick. Bill Murray, for all his lovable pranks and general wonderfulness, has been aching for a Gran Torino-lite role for years. Murray shares the screen with Melissa McCarthy, fresh-off her slightly disappointing would-be blockbuster Tammy.
Though the plot of the movie looks a little run-of-the-mill, I am confident that the charisma and charm of the leads will carry the day. Murray is always a joy in his bit roles in Wes Anderson movies, and I’m anxious to see if he can still carry a heavier workload (seems like he’s pretty much up for anything). McCarthy has been getting some flack for her apparent catering to the lowest common denominator, but to that I say, ‘whatever, bros’. She’s funny as hell and deserves to sell out as much as anyone. This looks like a solid indie-ish follow up to Tammy, and McCarthy is always great even when her material is not.
Keep the people on their toes, you two.
syvo: This actually looks great. Curmudgeon Bill Murray is possibly my favorite Bill Murray, most notably in Jim Jarmusch’s brilliant comedy Broken Flowers (2005). And quite honestly, I somewhat join the voices ready to see Melissa McCarthy do something other than embarrass herself onscreen for cheap laughs, where “McCarthy’s size is always implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, the brunt of the joke.” Hopefully this flick gives her that opportunity.
Suburban Gothic Trailer (redband)
BK: I love me a good comedic-horror movie and this looks like it has all the makings of a cult classic. Matthew Gray Gubler brings his Jesse Eisenberg-style quirkiness to the trailer, and I still think Kat Dennings can do better than the walking punchlines she plays in 2 Broke Girls and the Thor franchise (Prove me right, Kat Dennings. Prove me right.)
The John Waters cameo just about seals the deal. I’m in.
syvo: I tend to look very skeptically on horror-comedy; I’m an Evil Dead guy, not a Army of Darkness guy. Richard Bates Jr.’s last film, Excision (2012) has a controversial enough reputation to pique my interest, and I somehow feel Kat Dennings can do no wrong. But seriously. If John Waters is involved, I’m involved.
Weird Al – “Tacky” Video
BK: I have a soft spot for Weird Al and I always will. The first tape of his I ever had was ‘Alapalooza,’ which came out in 1992 when I was about six years old. He’s been crafting ridiculous parodies for longer than I have been alive, and he still does it as well as anyone in the song-parody game.
The fact that I don’t find the tracks quite as fun, funny, or relevant anymore seems more like a reflection of my changing taste than Weird Al’s diminished skills. This song in particular has some excellent lines that gave me a nice nostalgic feeling, and also has Jack Black in the video (who is the man). Even though this may be his last album, I hope he keeps making the fake-hits for a long(er) time.
syvo: Wow. What a week Weird Al is having. Like you, and like many other chronically immature adult males I associate with, Weird Al means a lot to me. In 3-D (1984) was one of my favorite records growing up, as was his undisputed magnum opus, Bad Hair Day (1996). Through a career spanning over thirty years and now on his thirteenth solo album, Yankovic’s astute marriage of G-rated humor with the baffling menagerie of mainstream pop culture has provided young listeners with a window into the absolutely bizarre fantasy realm of “grown ups” for decades.
He talked to NPR recently about how much the game has changed, and it warms my heart to know he’s still got it.
Terry Gilliam’s Zero Theorem Trailer
BK: That is probably the most ‘Terry Gilliam’ trailer I have ever seen. Normally the over-the-top visuals and exaggerated camera work turn me off, but I am completely fascinated by this movie already. The cast is excellent, and if the movie is able to fulfill half of the bizarre/amazing promise of the trailer, this could be a classic film.
syvo: For me, Terry Gilliam is a real mixed bag. Like Wes Anderson, his movies are too often constricted by a crabbed auteurism that either makes the whole movie sing or wears out its welcome immediately. I find Brazil (1985) practically unwatchable, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) is probably the one movie adaption that’s actually better than the book. This movie is going to hinge on its script, as gauche as that may sound to cinephiles, because while some viewers quickly grow jaded by Gilliam’s repetitive visual style, they will never tire of a great story.
Lykke Li – “Gunshot” Video
BK: I like this song a lot, and the video is pretty wild (in a generally appealing way), but all I can think about is that damn shoulder dancing! Lykke Li is going IN on the old shoulder dance! I haven’t seen shoulder dancing like this since Jay-Z was brushing his off! (Wait, I can do better…)
I haven’t seen shoulder dancing like this since Antoine Walker weighed less than 300 lbs! (Ok, good enough.)
I don’t love Lykke Li quite as much as you do, syvo, but I l definitely enjoy this song and applaud the creative weirdness of the video.
syvo: I applauded the cold minimalism of Lykke Li’s “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone” video in an earlier installment of DOPE Digest, and I’m going to do the same here. There’s a pained grace to this video, at once ugly and enchanting, that shrewdly locates the unbearable sense of ambivalence at the heart of her latest album, I Never Learn. And any time you can combine goth makeup, motorcycles, and twerking into a unified artistic statement, you’re in pretty good shape. Quite simply, “Gunshot” is the catchiest song with the best video on the best album of 2014.
DOPE Throwback: Korn – “Freak on a Leash”
syvo: A favorite music critic of mine recently wrote about the death of pop-metal as a significant cultural phenomena. It’s a demise no one mourns too loudly, with even its most forgiving of acquaintances mumbling something like, “Hate to say it now that he’s gone, but he really was kind of an asshole.” But that doesn’t mean Nu-Metal should be forgotten.
Nu-Metal essentially started with Korn’s self-titled debut in 1994. Two albums later, the movement had already reached its pinnacle with the success of Follow the Leader (1998) and its breakout single “Freak on a Leash.” This was the first rock song to ever reach #1 on MTV’s Total Request Live, and that was actually a really big deal back then. It meant something.
At the time, I felt like I had witnessed historic moment. What I didn’t realize was that it actually signaled the beginning of Nu-Metal’s end. Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other (1999) and Slipknot’s self-titled debut were both released the following year, and well, the rest is history. A very sad history.
BK: It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since this video came out. I remember being shocked by the creativity of the video, especially considering the pretty basic effort they put forth in ‘Got the Life‘.
I was too young (or stupid) to know at the time that these bands would not make it even mid-way through the 00’s, but there is something about the flash-in-the-pan nature of Nu-Metal that makes it kind of refreshing. It went away quickly (despite Limp Bizkit’s recent deal with Lil’ Wayne) and we can now just think about those few years fondly. Just a a few of silly kids, moshing and being angry about the nookie…