Monday Morning Critic – Guillermo del Toro, Pacific Rim, Transformers and The Michael Bay Fallacy – The Voice vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
by Scott "Kubryk" Sawitz on July 15, 2013

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Going into Pacific Rim I called the film a $200 million version of Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, of course, but I was still a bit interested in watching it. Unlike Grown-Us 2, which proved once again that American tastes in comedy and film have a lot to be desired en masse, Pacific Rim was a film that had a ton of hype and good early buzz to it. I have to admit that the more I saw people talking about it on Twitter, et al, with so many superlatives that the more I saw the more I wanted to see it. Sometimes buying into hype isn’t a bad thing; I saw it in IMAX 3D and was going to write something up but all my thoughts were either reflected (somewhat) by Travis’s review or would fit in the column easier than a proper review.

The one thing that stood out most about this film wasn’t the usual suspects you’d guess. It was a brilliantly designed film on a pure a/v basis, flawed profoundly when it wasn’t about gigantic robots destroying coastal cities while fighting against monsters from another dimension. Unfortunately it wasn’t all that good beyond the robots fighting monsters in the sea; really it had all the downsides of a Michael Bay Transformers film coupled with the pedigree of Guillermo del Toro and the “fanboy fever” surrounding his decision to make a big blockbuster.

Jaws-inspired Pacific Rim poster

Found on Reddit somewhere, proper credit to whomever was badass to make it.

But here’s the thing that bugs me: if it had been anyone but GDT with the “Directed by” credit and this film gets the same treatment as a Transformers film does in terms of word of mouth and critical buzz. It’s something that I found amusing whenever I read reviews of the usual fan boys masquerading as serious film critics because so much is willing to be forgiven because of who’s directing more often than not.

I call it The Michael Bay Fallacy; we’re willing to overlook something’s inherent lack of quality because of who’s directing it instead of being level-headed about it.

Guillermo del Toro essentially just made his own version of Transformers with all the touchstones of Bay’s films: awful dialogue, beautiful CGI, mediocre at best acting, bad-ass “action movie” speech and self-sacrifice by someone for the greater good. Throw in some hit or miss comedy moments with a mismatched comedy duo and del Toro has made his own Michael Bay movie. It was nearly the same as The Avengers, which followed the Bay formula but was embraced as some sort of epic masterpiece because Joss Whedon was behind it.

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I always use what I call the “Scorsese Test” when it comes to watching a film or a trailer. Would I accept this as a great film (or potentially being one) if it had the “Directed by Martin Scorsese” as opposed to “Directed by Michael Bay” in the credit scrawling at some point? If I can with one, but not the other, then I can’t accept it as a great film. If you’re going to call something great there shouldn’t be a double standard based on who you are as a director; it’s a weighted scale a lot of people use so they don’t have to admit a director whose library they don’t like made a great film. Look at the reviews of Pain & Gain, for example.

It was a great film but you could feel the loathing from a lot of people because Michael Bay, the frat boy of film directors, wasn’t supposed to make that kind of film. Bay’s the example I like to use because he’s loathed by a lot of people for the crime of having made a number of films that were commercially successful but pandered to the lowest common denominator in a lot of ways.

To me it’s the standard by which we have to hold a film of dubious means accountable by. We can’t forgive one director for a sin we’d crucify another for, which is why you can’t let a pants-busting crush on GdT overlook the insane flaws of Pacific Rim. Pacific Rim was in that 2.5 star category of perfectly acceptable entertainment, nothing more. Pacific Rim is the Transformers sequel Michael Bay wanted to make … but didn’t.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD Television Program – The Voice vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

I wrote about Michael Schiavello’s interviewing style before when he sat down with Dana White, of course, but this week he sat down with someone who I was absolutely fascinated to hear speak: former WWE uberstar “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. For an hour, roughly, the voice of AXS TV’s MMA programming sat down with the former pro wrestling star to talk about all things life.

Normally I’m not a pro wrestling guy but I love listening to people who’ve achieved greatness in an entertainment field. It takes something special to be like Austin, who was a genuine cultural phenomenon for a substantial period, and his perspective on fame, fortune and the road to the top was something I was generally curious about. Greatness rarely happens in anything; thus Austin’s sit down was definitely scheduled in advance on my DVR.

Schiavello isn’t a brilliant interviewer in the traditional sense; he’s not going to go full in, 60 Minutes style, and ask tough questions that upset a subject. But he’s not a generic fan boy in an elevated position, either, so you get an interesting mix of both sides of interviews of famous folks. Think of him as a better prepped Barbara Walters, for lack of a better term, as he gets interesting tidbits but doesn’t have the pit bull style attacking instinct some have.

It’s an interesting interview with Austin as Schiavello delves through a lot of waters most pro wrestling heads know pretty well. The only difference now is one of perspective; Austin is done wrestling, and is now a burgeoning DTV action star, and now he has the ability to reflect upon his life (and his career) through eyes that know it’s over. It’s different, I imagine, for someone who’s been famous to have a proper perspective on things as they happen.

Sometimes it takes the perspective of being removed from it to really put it all in a context that isn’t of the moment. And that’s what Schiavello pulls out of him: perspective. It’s not a brilliant interview … but it’s pretty good.

Recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Conjuring – A family moves into a haunted house in the 70s. Shenanigans ensue.

Skip it – Anytime something’s “based on a true story” for a horror film you know that the only things true are “jack” and “squat” and jack just left town. See: The Amityville Horror.

R.I.P.D – Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are cops for the afterlife.

Skip it – This was better when it was called Men in Black.

Red 2 – First film made money: SEQUEL!

See it – This is like a low-rent Expendables; does almost as much but not nearly as well.

Turbo – A snail gets super-speed; shenanigans ensue

Skip it – If it ain’t Pixar it’s probably going to suck.

Only God Forgives – Ryan Gosling goes all revenge. In limited release.

See it – I’m digging Gosling as he finds that Steve McQueen level smolder at this point in his career.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .



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