Home > Chats, Movies > Fireside Chats: Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg Part 2

Fireside Chats: Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg Part 2

We pick up with Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg for a summer movie blowout. Part 1 is here.
Note: There are very minor spoilers for Iron Man 2 discussed, if you haven’t seen that yet feel free to skip down to the picture of Terrence Howard.

: Before we jump into this summer’s slate of blockbusters, I want to spend a minute on Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood for anyone who hasn’t seen those yet. I’ll start with Robin Hood actually. Why would anyone decide that making a prequel that excludes all the good stuff is at all interesting? I’m truly at a loss.

Eric: The tragedy of it is that it appears to be an attempt at creativity that just got out of hand. The Robin Hood story has been told a thousand times and I understand Ridley Scott not wanting to tell it again, but it doesn’t work if you make it as slow as molasses.

TFTB: I was so much more interested when this story was Nottingham and they were focusing on the Sheriff’s perspective. It’s the same type of ego-driven star rewrites that plagued Terminator: Salvation. Still, I suppose they do deserve some points for scope of vision if not execution.

Eric: Agreed, particularly with Russell Crowe in both roles. It would be interesting to map a timeline of where that movie went wrong. I just hope it doesn’t discourage studios or other writers to be creative. There is just way too much “same” in movies these days. I still hold the Disney movie in high regard though.

TFTB: Speaking of, what is your opinion on Iron Man 2, and particularly the criticisms that it sacrificed story in favor of setting up its larger Avengers storyline.

Eric: It’s weird to say, but I feel as though I have a bias in favor of the Avengers stuff. Most people went to go see Iron Man 2 to see just that: more Iron Man, but I went in to watch it as a bridge to the bigger picture and I think most comic fans/regular Marvel movie-goers are doing the same thing. I can totally understand the criticism.

TFTB: I think that’s the biggest problem. If you’re selling it as Tony Stark: Bigger, Badder and Uncut, then that’s what people want to see. From a personal level, I was able to appreciate a lot of the subtler touches they put in expanding the film’s larger universe, but as a stand-alone film the product that was on screen did suffer from those issues, particularly in the first half.

Eric: What they are doing is unprecedented in film, and it needs to be done. I also don’t think that the series has done itself any favors by sticking the fun stuff at the end of the credits. There were plenty of people I talked to in the theater that still had no idea that Samuel L. Jackson was in the first movie, so when he showed up, I would bet that thousands of people went “huh?”. This includes people who own the film on DVD mind you, but there really is no remedy for that unless they start putting it in the promotional materials.

TFTB: It’s just interesting that these films have done so much towards making comic books accessible to a larger public, but at the same time, the divisions in some ways are stronger than ever.

Eric: Exactly. Marvel knows its key audience, but doesn’t seem to know the people it needs to reach out to. Iron Man 2 is a lot more enjoyable if you are willing to put the time in. There’s only so many times that I can explain what a Skrull is.

TFTB: So that explains why War Machine looked different in this one!

Eric: Skrulls?

TFTB: Got to be.

Eric: Congrats, you just lost a huge chunk of your audience.

TFTB: Well that seemed to be more of a problem for Kick-Ass.

Eric: I still don’t understand what happened with Kick-Ass, and I don’t think I ever will.

TFTB: Just looking at this summer, there seem to be a lot of hit or miss projects this year.

Eric: This may put you off, but I think I have to put Inception in that category. I love Christopher Nolan’s films to death, but is everyone going to get that movie?

TFTB: I can’t disagree because I still couldn’t tell you what that movie is about, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to after it’s over, but I have faith in Nolan that it will be a great film even if it doesn’t live up to expectations financially.

Eric: And that comes even after the trailer that supposedly told us what it is about. They just need to put the words “dark” and “knight” in each tv trailer about 70 times  then maybe he can get people hooked.

TFTB: You mean like The Karate Kid? They’re just short of dragging Ralph Macchio out to China and letting him get kicked in the face by Jaden Smith.

Eric: I just hate the idea of Jackie Chan getting old; and I want a Billy Zabka cameo.

TFTB: That’s a must, that and cheesy 80s montage music.

Eric: That’s actually a nice segue into my true feelings about the film. You know an 80s movie when you see it, and The Karate Kid is most certainly an 80s movie, and that is a huge part of its charm. I don’t get any charm out of the new movie.

TFTB: And what about The A-Team?

Eric: The mere thought of Rampage Jackson acting gives me the shudders, but it really does look fun, and unlike Karate Kid, it seems to lean back on the source material a bit more.

TFTB: Couldn’t have said it better. The self-awareness about what the movie is makes the film worth seeing. I mean if you’re shooting planes in a free-falling tank you get points from me.

Eric: That self-awareness is something I have always found is missing from Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich movies, which is why I think this one can work. Hell, even Lucas began taking everything too seriously in the prequels; just have fun with it. And I can’t argue with Sharlto Copley getting work.

TFTB: I thought we as a society agreed to never speak of the prequels again unless it’s RedLetterMedia. At least you just reminded me how good District 9 was; and Moon for that matter. But I am absolutely in favor of doing a prequel to District 9 rather than a sequel. I need more Wikus in my life.

Eric: Between Moon, District 9 and Star Trek, 2009 was one of the best years for sci-fi in a long time.

TFTB: Anything else you’re looking forward to this summer? I know we mentioned Get Low, MacGruber is actually still tracking surprising well.

Eric: Scott Pilgrim is a date I will be saving.

TFTB: Edgar Wright can do no wrong; and yes I will hang my head in shame for that horrible pun. This is the first time in a while I’m looking forward to Michael Cera being Michael Cera. Until that Arrested Development movie that is never happening.

Eric: I feel like watching every episode of Arrested Development has given me an immunity to being bored by the Michael Cera character. I just always see George Michael, and that will probably be as close to an Arrested Development movie as we get.

TFTB: So it’s like iocaine powder?

Eric: Small doses taken regularly.

TFTB: I can’t believe I forgot Toy Story 3!

Eric: It’s Pixar. The only issue that it could have is that it will ultimately be compared to the first two, and that is rough considering how great the first two are. This is also why I think Pixar should focus more on original stories.

TFTB: That is why Pixar has so dominated both critically and commercially. Even its sequels are truly original stories; It’s just a familiar cast of characters. The fact that Andy is going to college just makes me feel ridiculously old though.

Eric: The idea that I am older than Andy is a depressing fact; largely because we were the same age when the first Toy Story came out. But I love the characters so much that I just want to see more of them.

TFTB: Most franchises by the time they hit the third movie become so formulaic, a certain level of safety and complacency is ingrained in them and they lose their soul. That hasn’t been the case so far with Pixar.

Eric: We haven’t gotten to see the third movie yet though, have we? That’s me being pessimistic so that I will be delightfully surprised.

TFTB: Well it will be better than one of the Michael Eisner-era Disney’s Lion King 5 1/2 abominations. But Pixar hasn’t given me anything to doubt them, so I’m going into this with strong expectations. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the monster that won’t die in the Twilight Saga. In years past, I would have done anything to make sure these movies never see the light of day, but now I’m taking the opposite approach. I want them to do well if only so I can see Breaking Dawn released in theaters.

Eric: You know that they won’t put the real Breaking Dawn on film. They can’t. You have a vampire eating a baby out of a girl’s stomach and a werewolf falling in love with it. It’s amazing enough as it is that people actually swallow that kind of garbage, but how do you show that kind of thing? What is (Director) Bill Condon supposed to do with that?

TFTB: The sheer mind blowing profundity of that would be well worth the desecration of literature and the vampire mythos. This is a movie with sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves and you’re asking what they can’t do?

Eric: It was a movie about sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves, now it is about cannibalism and pedophilia.

TFTB: Not to mention the male lead knocking out his wife to have sex with her and the female star being crippled from within the womb by her psychic, vampire baby.

Eric: So cannibalism, pedophilia, rape and matricide. That could be the name of the fifth book.

TFTB: Cannibalism, Pedophilia, Rape, Matricide and the Death of Literature… the Twilight Saga

Eric: Someone should write that book and have it ready for when the aliens come to investigate our species. It would probably clear a lot of things up.

TFTB: It still wouldn’t explain why Hollywood is coming out with Killers and Knight and Day a month apart.

Eric: This year seems to be filmed with carbon copies. You have The Losers vs. The A-Team, Mastermind vs. Despicable Me, and Killers vs. Knight and Day in one year. It really is remarkable. I’ve been watching the movie industry intensely for 10 years now and I’ve never seen anything like it. The only reason I am willing to give Knight and Day a pass is because Killers looks so incredibly awful. That and Tom Cruise can do comedy; see: Tropic Thunder.

TFTB: Better than him being a fudge-packer.

Eric: Better question; does Ashton Kutcher actually have the star power to carry a movie? The highest grossing movie with his name as the headliner is What Happens In Vegas with $80 million, only Valentine’s Day and Cheaper By The Dozen eclipsed $100 million and he wasn’t the star.

TFTB: Twitter would seem to think so. That’s the thing I still don’t understand. I like some of the work he’s done as an executive producer, he seems like a decent enough guy, I just don’t see him carrying a film. Coincidentally, even Vegas co-starred Cameron Diaz. And let’s not get into Valentine’s Day. Any movie with Justin Beiber in a sequel is too much for me to deal with right now.

Eric: Thoughts on The Expendables? My only problem is that they totally blew their wad in the marketing.  We’ve basically seen everything from Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis and that was one of the main things I was looking forward to.

TFTB: I bought my ticket as soon as I saw that cast list. Surprisingly, based on the trailers it looks like there’s an actual story behind all the star power. Still, Arnold, Stallone Bruce Willis, Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren; who is saying no to that? And Danny Freaking Trejo.

Eric: Movies these days don’t have nearly the amount of Dolph Lundgren they should have. It’s the same situation as The A-Team: if it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it will be a hit. Can someone please explain to me why JCVD (Jean Claude Van Damme) turned down the movie?

TFTB: One of the most disappointing stories of the year. And this is a year that included X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Eric: He said that his character had “no substance”. I’m at a loss for words on that one.

TFTB: Speaking of being at a loss…

It’s all we have to hold us over for an Ian McKellen fix until The Hobbit finally gets off the ground with MGM’s financial troubles.

Eric: I can live without The Hobbit for awhile, but I will seriously miss James Bond.

TFTB: I was really looking forward to seeing what Sam Mendes would have done with it in the director’s chair, but taking a little longer to wipe Quantum of Solace out of my memory will just have to do. I just don’t know what it will take for them to make Martin Campbell the permanent Bond director.

Eric: I do have my concerns about Mendes, only because he’s never actually done a movie in any way like Bond.

TFTB: Fair, but that’s the same thing people said about putting Nolan on Batman, and we all love how that turned out.

Eric: But Nolan always had the tone. Troubles in suburbia don’t really mesh with international super spy.

TFTB: A great director matches tone with the source material. If anything, the better question is what he can do with the action. Jarhead and Road to Perdition both had serious weaknesses, Jarhead specifically.

Eric: Mendes would have been the perfect director for Jarhead had they actually filmed the book instead of just half of it. The book by Anthony Swofford is as much about the effects the war has on life at home as it is about the war itself. That would have been right up Mendes’ alley, but instead they made a war film where nothing happens for two hours.

TFTB: Terrible screenwriting can hamstring any movie, no matter how well directed. Take Public Enemies last summer; we all were expecting it to be right up Michael Mann’s alley. If there is anyone who can nail a heist film it’s him, and Johnny Depp couldn’t have been more perfect as John Dillinger. Instead they wrote a movie that focused too much on the history behind Bryan Burrough’s book, with no motivation for the main character, no rising or falling action and left him with nothing to do. It makes me wonder why no one has tried to get David Simon from The Wire to write.

Eric: Do you think there is any movie from this summer that is going to particularly disappoint?

TFTB: Well, I don’t know if anyone has expectations for Takers but I’m on record as saying that movie will be a joke even by summer popcorn flick standards. When you’re starting off with a horribly photoshopped poster that’s worse than Sex and the City 2, you are in trouble.

Eric: Poor Idris Elba. I write articles all the time complaining about crappy photoshop and unoriginal style in movie posters, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a poster as awful looking as the one for Takers.

click for full effect

TFTB: I don’t have a lot of confidence in The Last Airbender either. Maybe it’s Shyamalan’s string of terrible movies, but this has summer bomb written all over it.

Eric: I think it will make money, if not only because it’s a kid’s movie based on a Nickelodeon show but I don’t hold out much hope for it critically.

TFTB: Visually, it actually looks interesting, but a lot of the tweens will be going to see Twilight anyway, whether I like it or not, that same weekend.

Eric: Thoughts on the biggest surprise of the summer?

TFTB: I don’t know if it can really be a surprise, but I think Predators is going to do better than a lot of people think.

Eric: 100% agreed. For starters: nowhere to go but up, but taking the story off of Earth is probably the smartest thing they could have done.

TFTB: Getting as far away from Danny Glover as possible is exactly what this series needed. I think Nimrod Antal has a promising future, especially with Robert Rodriguez’s name helping to sell the movie. Armored was much better than it had any right to be last year, and I think that eye for stylized violence and actual use of practical effects rather than pure CG will recapture the proper tone.

Eric: And let’s not forget that this is Danny Trejo fighting Predators. I would say that this is the summer of Trejo, but Machete isn’t out until September.

TFTB: Cannot go wrong with Trejo, and I’m definitely interested to see Adrien Brody bringing something very different to the role than Schwarzenegger.

Eric: As long as he doesn’t do the whole “middle-gazer” act I think he should be fine. It’s so far out of his element though.

TFTB: Again they were saying the same thing about Bruce Willis before Die Hard, and now we can’t help but associate him with that character.

Eric: Fair point.

TFTB: Anything else we need to talk about?

Eric: I can’t think of anything. We did manage to cover something like 20 movies in an hour, I think we can be satisfied.

TFTB: Well it’s been great having a chance to pick your brain. Readers can find more of your work over at Cinemablend and on Twitter. Thanks for your time.

Eric: Thanks for having me.

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