Thursday, January 14, 2016

By Grapthar's Hammer, You Will Be Missed


“I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously” 

         Did you know that Galaxy Quest was voted the 7th Best Star Trek movie of all time, which is impressive since it has the handicap of not being a Star Trek movie, and being a parody of the series, fans, and actors? I say parody, but what I mean is a loving tribute to the Star Trek series, by someone who has obviously been a fan for years. It’s about a group of actors who were on a popular science fiction show that was cancelled and developed a cult following. They soon discover that a group of Aliens have been using the show as a guide to build their civilization, and soon get those actors to help save their galaxy.

            One of those actors is their version of Leonard Nimoy, in this movie called Alexander Dane. Alexander is a Shakespearean actor who can’t believe he took ths part as the alien Doctor Lazarus who’s catchphrase is “By Grapthar’s Hammer, you shall be avenged.” He hates this line. He vows to never say it, despite the number of nerds who gleefully say it to him. One of those nerds being one of the aliens who lived his life as Doctor Lazarus, and annoys him by spouting this phrase.

            It’s a funny recurring gag. Alan Rickman sells it with his exasperation each time it’s uttered to him.

            Late in the movie that alien is killed, and lays dying in Alexander Dane’s arms. Alexander looks at the alien and tells him that line. This time it’s with a gravity and emotion that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the movie so far. It’s a devastating scene that could have easily been cheesy or overplayed. It could have been a big laugh line, but instead it’s one of the serious moments in an otherwise light movie.

            That’s how I’m going to remember Alan Rickman.

            I was saddened to hear of his passing on January 14th. As with any actor I admire, I have to process what it means that he’s gone. This was the man who brought so many great characters to life. This was the man that JK Rowling had in mind when writing the iconic character of Severus Snape, going so far as to tell him how the book series ended to get him to play the part.

            I, like many people, will remember him as one of the only people to actually get close to stopping Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Or as the voice of the depressed robot Marvin in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Or as the hand-picked voice of God himself in Dogma.

            The thing about Alan Rickman is that he could do high class British Drama, then turn around and hang out with Kevin Smith and his stoner buddies and never once feel like he’s “slumming it”. He was an actor that always did his best, whether he was facing off against Bruce Willis, or if he was trying to get Rowan Atkinson to tie a package faster so his wife can’t see what he’s doing.  He was Alan Rickman. He was a reminder to put your best into everything, even if the actor you’re going up against is playing the world’s most famous English outlaw, and can’t be bothered to speak in an English accent.

            So, today we say goodbye to another great. As the man influenced me and how I watch movies, I felt it appropriate to eulogize him on Bad Shakespeare.  His roles always delighted me, and even if I saw a bad movie starring Alan Rickman, I never saw a bad Alan Rickman performance.  His was a lesson to put your all into every role, and to make your mark.

            Goodbye, Alan Rickman. Your presence will be missed.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bless Us, Oh Cage for a Wonderful Good Bad Movie Season

           Well, it’s that time of year. The Christmas Decorations are either down or staying up until they become a glorious reminder of Easter. Holiday Sales are slowly morphing into a reminder that Valentine’s Day is the next Holiday you have to look forward to, and that doesn’t come with days off.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens has blessed our screens and will continue to do so up until Episode VIII at this point. And sadly, movies switch from their high profile Oscar bait to… well, let’s just say, “the rest.”

            Yes, it’s time for Good Bad Movie Season, and our Protector over this particular season, St. Nicolas Cage. For who knows better than how to make a bad movie better than the King of all bad movies, Nicolas Cage. And I say that affectionately. He is the King, in so many ways.

            Prestige Season is always a little bittersweet for me. On the one hand, a lot of good movies come out. On the other, I tend to avoid them so I can give you a fresh perspective during the Oscar Movie Marathon coming up in February, and yes, Bad Shakespeare and Crew will be there in all of our glory. So I don’t have a lot of superlatives. Hunger Games was a little disappointing. Star Wars was amazing. So was Creed. Spectre was pretty cool, if you like throwbacks and thought experiments where the movie that was being parodied stole from the parody. Crimson Peak was chock full of Tom Hiddleston and ghostly goodness. And Jessica Chastain totally nailed the fourteen or so movies she was in.

            Anyway, it is time once again for us to bow our heads and say a little prayer to St. Nicolas Cage so he blesses us with a good Good Bad Movie season, and I have to tell you, it looks awesome, between Deadpool, Batman v. Superman, and Kung Fu Panda. But, time will tell, as it holds us over between our last awesome movie, and Captain America: Civil War.

            Let’s begin.

Bless us oh, Cage,
For these they gifts we are about to receive
Including straight from the page
Of Pride and Prejudice… and Zombies

Let us not forget about Pandas so Jolly
That will be hilarious and you
Will help us laugh at his folly
As we enjoy the antics of a Panda doing Kung Fu

After his last movie
In which he was replaced with a fool
Ryan Reynolds will gift us
With the character of Deadpool

One is faster than a speeding bullet
The other is dressed like a bat
But together they’ll fight
Batman v. Superman is where it’s at

We’re also gifted with a few Oscar Holdovers
Leo fights bears in the Revenant
The Finest Hours has us looking for cover
With those Ride Along 2 can join us--- Cage sent

Let us not forget the other movies that have been dumped
Zac Effron and Robert DeNiro
The theater we will jump
And Jane Got a Gun… moved from twenty one zero

There will be movies for Adults Young
With the Allegiant and Fifth Wave
And London will Fall in a sequel to be hung
And with a new city for Gerard Butler to save

There’s also Zootopia
But don’t ask Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
It’s an animated hoopla
The other is with Tina Fey – she’s hot.

Tom Hiddleston will sing with a country twang
The Huntsman will war, without Snow White
The Rings will scare us with tooth and fang
And Melissa McCarthy is the Boss – A comedy out of sight

There are so many others, I can’t fit in here
But Cage bless those with the power you send
As I go off to get more beer
And may this Good Bad Movie Season can wrap up… Amen.

            There you go! Your thrice annual reminder that I’m not really a poet, but I enjoy myself. How many of those movies will I end up getting to? Hopefully a good chunk, so I can report back before… SUMMER MOVIE SEASON gets into full swing! We’re only four months away!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bad Shakespeare's Favorite Movie of 2015


            There have been a lot of good movies this year.

            I know I haven’t seen even half of the movies that have been released, but wow, it seems like there’s a lot. And while that might disqualify me from picking a favorite movie of the year pretty much any other time, this is the internet age, when all you really need to be a movie reviewer is to have a keyboard and have seen a movie. You don’t need much else. And apparently you don’t even need to get the facts right, just pick the part of the movie that outraged you, then go ahead and spew that outrage.

            Whew. Moving on. I should note one of my resolutions is to stop looking at so many manufactured controversies about movies on the internet.

            I do love movies, that that above little outburst is from the trend recently that just about every movie needs to have a hidden message, and the need to dissect a movie ten seconds after viewing. Look, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on them, I’m a guy who loves movies… so I go see as many as possible. And I like to pick my favorite movie of the year as part of… well, my blog. And I try to put in a little bit more analysis so I’m not just reviewing the movie, but trying to point out why I like it a little bit. It’s all for you, the reader, is what I tell myself as I’m sitting through my ninth movie of the day.

            This year was difficult, because there have been so many great movies, stuff I genuinely liked. A few of them are on top ten lists, one of them in particular isn’t on any end of year lists, and it has been rattling around in my brain for a few months now, so, I’m giving this particular movie the edge.  As for my criteria, it has to be a movie I enjoy, something that I thought was kind of unique, and something that I viewed multiple times. Ultimately, I ended up with four movies that really hit me. So, this post is going to be my top FOUR movies of the year.

4. The End of the Tour.

I went back and fourth as to whether or not I enjoyed this movie, or if I found it to be an exploitative cash grab based around a less-successful writer who got to write about a really successful writer. The movie is about the interview of David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) by David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). It’s based on Lipsky’s best selling memoir, which is a series of interviews Lipsky conducted following the publication of Infinite Jest, a novel so wonderful that early scenes indicate that Lipsky would like to eat it out of sheer jealousy.

            The movie, however, is deeper than I gave it credit for early on. It’s a fascinating look at fame and who we are. Wallace never really wanted that fame, he wanted his words out there, and the scenes where he’s being interviewed or where he has to be “on” are almost uncomfortable to watch. It’s about friendship, and who we consider a friend, and what that means. Wallace is comforted by his dogs. Lipsky, can’t wait to tear open a package from Wallace late in the film. This is a movie made up of so many tiny scenes, it’s like one of those giant LEGO tapestries.

 My best compliment I can give, however, is that about 10 minutes into the movie I no longer felt I was watching actors, but the characters themselves. Eisenberg and Segel fade into their characters so perfectly that the entire movie watches more like a really well done documentary without having to cut away. I enjoyed this movie the more and more I think about it. I just want to keep studying it, see if I can’t find more of a way to approach it. I will be watching this movie for years to come.

It was enough to make me add a fourth slot to my “Film of the Year” post, after all.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

            Oh, what a lovely day. Of course this had to make the list. Yes, I’ve heard all of the complaints and this is one of the films that makes it difficult to love movies in the internet age, as it’s dissected before it’s on the screen, but it’s movies like this that make me LOVE movies.

            I could go over the plot again, but hell, it’s been discussed a lot. Go read one of those. I love the fact that despite Tom Hardy taking over the role, we still have the basics about Max that make things important: Max wants to survive, and he gets drawn into a larger plot that he really doesn’t care about. But with over the top practical stunts, costumes, and characters in a word that is fully imagined, it’s difficult to not include this movie on my best of list. If the previous movie is an example of what makes characters in movies great, this is an example of what makes a movie great: attention to detail that other movies need. Each scene is crafted lovingly by an artist who knows what he wants to convey.

            There’s also the actors, who don’t treat this like they’re in a “dumb science fiction movie” but treat it with all of the respect that a movie like this deserves. It’s incredible the way the actors treat each scene in a jaded, yet still hopeful manner. In some ways they’ve given up, in others, they’re still fighting as agents for change.

            It’s a fantastic look at what makes movies… well, movies.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

            Duh. This was going to make the list. It was a late-breaking addition, one that almost… ALMOST supplanted my number one, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ll be completely honest with you. But I have very unique reasons for adding this to the list.

            This is another movie that’s frustrating in the age of Internet critics. I’ve heard it compared to A New Hope, basically saying they’re the same movie. Of course, saying that The Force Awakens is the same as A New Hope is like saying that Harry Potter and Hamlet are the same because they both take place in a castle.

            What makes The Force Awakens work is that is manages to take what we loved about the original movies, and address them in some way. There’s no parting shot of  Dameron Poe and Rey Last Name Probably Skywalker getting their medals as they’ve defeated the First Order’s Death Star Starkiller Base. Instead we get a real serial (You remember when you were happy that these were Space Serials, George Lucas) cliffhanger ending where Rey goes off to find Luke Skywalker. Yes, a young woman with cool Jedi Powers (visible from her first scene, FYI) is found on a desert world, mirroring the introduction of two other Jedi, but her story is very different, as she doesn’t want to leave that world.

            This is very much a story of a young woman not wanting to change her destiny, despite the fact that everything is forcing her in that direction. People love to point out… BB-8 got the plans to find Luke, just like R2 got the plans for the Death Star! But like to forget that not only were the circumstances different, but the outcome was different as well.  BB-8 was given his own journey, not to find a mystical space Wizard. And it shows in his personality, he’s not a lone droid stranded on a planet, he’s part of a larger mission. The best thing this story does: whereas A New Hope is presented as a story that sorta knew a little bit about what maybe happened in the past, The Force Awakens gleefully accepts that every person on their knows the legend of Luke, Han, and Leia, albeit in a twisted manner.

            This is where The Force Awakens succeeds. In taking elements that are familiar to us, but giving a new spin to it. Even Kylo Ren is fighting his natural urge away from the Dark Side of the Force.  The even darker implication is that his part of the story is twisted, as he looks towards Darth Vader for strength, forgetting that he turned his back on the Dark Side for his family. All the similarities are presented as a way to put together a story that is obsessed with legends in a new and unique manner.

            Also, space wizards and light swords.

            So, we’ve come to my final pick for movie of the year. And it very much is movie of the year for me. It’s my favorite movie I’ve seen, and one I quite frankly felt didn’t get the respect it deserved this past year, dumped early in February after changing positions from a more prominent release date last year. But to me, it’s a very well put together movie that is, above all else: Enjoyable. It’s also probably only going to make one person’s list, and that’s mine, so revel in it.

            Bad Shakespeare’s movie of 2015 is…


                         Kingsman: The Secret Service.

For a while, each one of the aforementioned movies were in my top spot for movie of the year. It was also briefly Creed (which barely didn’t make the list but didn’t quite exceed The End of the Tour)  and Avengers: Age of Ultron (Because of the many manufactured controversies around it, I wanted to give it some love) but at the end of the day, I keep going back to this well put together class drama wrapped up in a brilliant spy parody.

For those who don’t remember, this was the one with Samuel L. Jackson as a lisping supervillain who can’t stand the sight of blood, the lady with the bionic legs of death, and Colin Firth in his least Colin Firth role in years as spy Harry Hart, who takes the young “Eggsy” under his wing.

For me, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. With a conspiracy that’s timely (Climate Change) and a villain who’s not just over the top, but reminiscent of the celebrities we worship today. Throw in some cool action sequences, and you have yourself a fantastic movie.

What put this movie over the top for me was the extreme attention to detail the filmmakers put into everything. The fight scene gets a lot of love for it’s five minutes in a single take action, but for me the scene that will be one of the best of 2015 is the Harry Hart/Valentine sit down where they talk about old spy movies. It’s a little on the nose, and I doubt any other actors other than Samuel L. Jackson or Colin Firth could pull it off as well.  But it’s a scene that’s tense and comedic, all at once.

There’s also the aforementioned commentary on class, which has it’s obvious parts, but also it’s extremely subtle moments as well. Eggsy may be from a lower class than these spies that consider themselves high class (who ironically all came from a serving class) but when Michael Caine threatens Eggsy while dying, you get the little reminders that he may not be as high class as he thinks himself. Accents and language are used heavily in this movie to give us a subtle look at class structure. It was really well put together.

Simply put, this is just a well-constructed, well-acted, and sadly overlooked movie, that is worthy of your time. I doubt I’ll get it right like I did last year with Birdman, but hey… I’d rather be happy than right.

Whelp, that’s it for this year’s Movie of the Year. 2016 looks to be an epic year with Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, and of course, Batman v Superman. All declared to be flops by the internet, months before they come out. But hey… I’m going to go enjoy them. Because like I said, my vow this year, and it should be yours, is to avoid manufactured controversies, ignore movies that “are so gonna suck” and just go see them. Enjoy movies, because they’re movies. Because they’re fun. And I’m looking forward to analyzing them with you this year, too.

            Oh, I’m also looking forward to Star Wars: Rogue One and Deadpool. There’s also another Kung Fu Panda. Really I should just get a job where I can watch movies all the time.

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Year in Review

I always find the passing of any sort of time milestone interesting. On the one hand, time is a human invention. Cats don’t really care if it’s 11:03, what they care about is if it’s feeding time, and if it’s not feeding time when why isn’t it yet feeding time. But humans have set up an entire system based on the idea that it’s 11:03, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to each lunch at 11:00, but not 10:59, so yes, cats, 11:03 is technically time to eat.

New Year’s Day is no different, really. At some point, 2016 years ago, someone set up a calendar and said that the year they were in was 0. Now that it was 0, the next year would be 1, and so forth. I’m sure it made the year end recaps sort of interesting, but at the end of the day it was what someone decided. Thus, the concept of time as more than a method to show when it was safer to plant crops or that you’re less likely to encounter a bear was born.

I don’t know too much about this. I’m making things up for dramatic effect. But the bottom line is, eventually the passing of one year to the next became a giant celebration involving hats and standing outside in a cold city WAY longer than our ancestors would have. In fact, they would have taken the cold as a sign that they should probably be inside.

It’s always surreal for me when time changes like this. I do reflect back to when things change like this. Big moments usually denote some kind of chance to think back and wonder… where they hell the time went. Did I waste it? Or did I spend it doing something important, or at least what I consider important? (Doctor Who Marathons aren’t going to watch themselves, people.) And yeah… this year was important.

When I did quit my internship for the many reasons I’ll eventually be brave enough to tell you, my mentor teacher did request that I tell the class why it was that I was quitting when I did. I told them the truth, because at that point what truth wasn’t I going to tell them? I wanted to study abroad, I wanted to do something different, I wanted to write. I wanted to present papers at conferences, and get published.

Other than get published, 2015 is the year that I did all of that. 

I went to England to study theatre. Not just watch a few plays, but immerse myself in it in a way I never thought possible, even going so far as to travel to Stratford Upon Avon… WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S HOMETOWN… to watch a play written by the man himself. I was able to walk around the streets of London, Cardiff, Edinburgh… for no other reason than I was a scholar, studying what I wanted to study. I went to Ireland to study great literature, to learn how to hon my craft, and to learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guiness. That last part wasn’t school sponsored, although I went there with my instructor. But I left the country to study twice this year. Seriously, for two whole months out of the 12, I was in Europe, and had access to much getter chocolate. I’m just saying.

I taught. I started my own tutoring business, which got a lot stronger this year. I’m up to four families I’m tutoring, and all of them are making great improvements. But 2015 is also the year that I managed to teach at the college level! I taught my first college level class, and it was strange but pretty amazing. It was also chock full of Firefly and Simpsons references, as one might expect from a class taught by me. 

And, of course, I continued my studies, taking amazing classes in Literature, studying with world known instructors. One of my instructors even managed to help me present a paper at a conference, and the Cultural Conference will forever know more about Green Arrow thanks to me. Whether that’s good or bad, you’ll have to ask them.

My whole point is, at this time of year its easy important to focus on the good. I travelled far this year, metaphorically and literally, logging more hours on an airplane and going forward to reach my goals. And the thing is, I didn’t really realize it while it was happening. I just sort of… went with it, and it made the year that much better. I still have a ways to go, and I have big plans of what I’d like to accomplish as this year starts up… but this past year has proven that I can do it.

This is also the part of the year when people make resolutions. Little things they hope to change in order to make their lives better. Lofty ones, like lose weight or read more, and then without a definition of what they are, they continue to slide until it’s November and they wonder why they haven’t reached that goal. I’m not saying don’t make those resolutions. I’m just saying slow down a little bit, and make smaller ones, one’s that you’ll keep. 

As for me? I know why I want to do, mostly to lose weight and start reading more. Of course I have to narrow it down. But for my resolutions… well, I’m going to be making some changes. That I’ll probably be posting here, on Bad Shakespeare, as they happen.

Looking forward to a wonderful New Year, everyone. Here’s hoping 2016 is just as exciting.