Monday Morning Critic 9.27.2010 – Top 10 Directors Who Should Helm the New Superman Film (But Won’t), Hornswaggle Helps On a Prank and 27 Dresses

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

“It was right in everyone’s face. Tyler and I just made it visible. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Tyler and I just gave it a name.” – Jack (Ed Norton), Fight Club (1999)

One of the downsides about being friends with people during your formative years is that they know about all of your youthful indiscretions. My friend Nick has never been able to let one thing down over the years in his particular choice of one night stand partners. She looked like she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every god damn branch on the way down face first before Nick’s, ahem, romantic interlude with her. I imagine she was nice, and apparently got married in the years following to someone who is probably just as ugly, but unfortunately being friends with someone sometimes means that incidents like these never go away. In particular, our mutual friend John has never let Nick let this fact go. He’s the guy that dubbed her the “Shaved Ewok,” lacking a description of her unattractiveness, and John’s the kind of guy that doesn’t let things like that go.

John just gave it a name.

I’ve always felt badly for Nick because of this, especially in light of the fact that I’ve used it on him a couple times to get a rise out of him. A short while back the moment came to turn this singular moment of Nick’s into something remarkably hilarious. And it all happened because of my general ignorance towards a lot of things, including one of the biggest features of Inside Pulse dot com. Nick is a big wrestling fan, too, and always knows who is who in the same way I can tell the same about the UFC and the rest of the MMA organizations.

In retrospect this whole thing sounds so well planned out that I feel like a secret agent. We named it “Operation Short Pants” because “Operation Short Bus” was crossing the line between funny and offensive.

The film Legendary was playing and I decided to check it out. I had read the synopsis and it was about amateur wrestling; that gets my money nearly every time. Soccer may have been my first love, still is, but amateur wrestling was my mistress every winter for the better part of a decade. There are so few films in the cult sport that when one comes out I have the urge to represent, yo.  Wrestling has an odd place in my heart; my memories of soccer have many more negatives than positives but my wrestling days always seemed a lot better than they probably were.

Unbeknown to me the film starred a professional wrestler (John Cena) and the screening had a special appearance by WWE wrestler Hornswaggle. He’s a midget who dresses like a leprechaun or something. I haven’t watched the WWE since Chris Benoit murdered his family, and used the resulting publicity to sell my copy of his DVD collection of matches for $80 (I pocketed the Criterion of Bob Le Flambeur, amongst others, with the proceeds) , so his appearance didn’t mean as much to me as it obviously did to others who were all excited to see him. The line was relatively long, all things considered, especially considering that the film was opening in an art house and had a main attraction of a midget signing autographs.

Knowing Nick probably would get a kick out of his autograph, which was available with presentation of my ticket to the guy who was acting as the little man’s security, I decided to be an awesome friend and get one for Nick. Waiting in line behind the wrestling fans that came out by the handful to see the midget, and see the film, it was a good vantage point to people watch. It’s interesting to see who all comes out when pro wrestling comes to town. I wasn’t going to get his autograph at first, because I couldn’t care less about some midget who dresses up like a leprechaun for a living, but it dawned on me that perhaps Nick would enjoy this.

Hornswaggle in line.

I had no idea who he was but did tell him that a good friend of mine as a huge fan and asked if he could sign it to “Nick” because I thought it’d be kind of cool. I tend to throw DVDs I get to review that I don’t intend to keep anymore to people I know, amongst others, but I figured this would be better. And Hornswaggle was very cool in doing this for me because otherwise I wouldn’t have kept the autograph. And then the evil side of me came out, as the little devil on my right shoulder came up with an idea so awesome the angel on the left agreed to let me do it.

“Can you write something on it for me?”

He was very cool and asked what I wanted to write. I had to preface it, though.

“It’s a prank and he deserves it.”

Without hesitating he agreed to it and I simply stated what he should write.

“She looked like a Shaved Ewok.”

Everyone in line laughed, as did Hornswaggle, and he wrote it on the autograph sheet with several exclamation points. After exclaiming that he thought it was pretty cool, he handed it over with a smile on his face. One thing about being a WWE superstar is that sometimes being on the road has to suck. I can imagine he just wanted to go home and be with his family, instead of signing autographs in a theatre for a film he wasn’t in, but the fact he was all for it impressed the heck out of me. He thus has become my favorite celebrity who isn’t an actor, porn star or athlete and I will support him no matter what. Any guy who is that cool to help me out with a prank, especially when he could’ve asked for clarification or said no, gets my vote. I did thank him and tell him how awesome it was for him to do it. And before I did anything with it, I had to scan it first.

I eventually bought a cheap photo frame for it before sending it on its way

I felt bad for potentially doing so because Nick is a friend after all. So I called Mike Noyes, my moral compass, and he said I had to do it. His wife laughed louder than she did, too, so it had to be good.  Same thing for one of my closer friends Gen, her husband and a couple of their friends who said I had to do it. My parents thought it was funny too and actually ended up mailing the package. Stephan, the front desk guy at the gym I work out at, thought it was hilarious. The hot Walgreens cashier clerk lady, where I bought the frame I put the signature in, thought it was really funny. Needless to say my guilt at a ribbing I knew would bug Nick on some level was overcome by the fact that it was pretty funny, I thought. John did as well, but he had an ulterior motive. He wanted me to use it as blackmail to get Nick to come down to Chicago from Wisconsin to hang out over Halloween. John wanted him to dress as Stewart from Beavis & Butt-Head so he and I could go as Beavis and Butt-Head respectively.

We followed the framing of the signature by posting it to Facebook. Since Nick had kind of rolled with it when we sent it to him, I thought it would be kind of funny to post it up and tag his name to it. Nick wasn’t very happy and then John decided that he ought to tag every single person we know that knew the story so they could see, just to further pour salt in the wound. Yeah … there’s a reason why I didn’t get into the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

The big news this week in film is that the reboot of Superman being shepherded by Chris Nolan is nearing the first phrase in getting pre-production ready: naming a director. Deadline Hollywood, always the best in breaking news, has stated that a handful of directors are rumored to be up for it:

– Tony Scott – Ridley Scott’s brother and auteur of Top Gun, Man on Fire and the forthcoming Unstoppable
– Matt Reeves – The man behind Cloverfield and the upcoming remake of Let The Right One In titled Let Me In
– Jonathan Liebesman – Tabbed for the Clash of the Titans sequel with Battle: Los Angeles on the horizon.
– Duncan Jones – Helmed the underappreciated Moon
– Zack Snyder – Crafted Watchmen and 300 as well as this past weekend’s Legend of the Guardians

While a couple choices are interesting, none of them really make me excited to see another Superman film. So in my infinite wisdom I’ve decided that instead of discussing these sound, rational decisions for the director of the reboot of D.C Comics’ signature hero (and making an endorsement) that I ought to weigh in on this with something amusing (if only to me). Why?

Because it’s funnier that way, pure and simple, as I’ve always that though if you can’t sit back and laugh at the world around us you ought to take a moment and try. It makes things way more amusing. Discussing the legitimate candidates is something I’ll leave for others because I think that’s kind of boring. It’s “Clichéd Web Column 101″ to debate directorial and/or casting choices for upcoming films and this week I’ll pretend to be above that. Instead I’d like to discuss something more interesting to me: The Top 10 Candidates That Should Direct the Next Superman (But Won’t)

I abhor Top 10 lists, I make no bones about it, but in trying to eliminate people from this week’s column was rough enough as is. So 10 seems like a fair, if arbitrary, number to use but that’s not to say there’s more than 10 people out there who could do a great job with this. So we need rules and criteria. Why? Because it’s uncivilized to just speculate on who would be better than the five above; they need to have things in common to help gives us a better understanding as to why they got picked.

Rule #1: Have to have had a film that either made lots of money, a certified prestige picture or been credited as “Director” less than three films on their resume

— Hollywood gets ruled by two things: Golden trophies collecting on shelves or golden bars collecting in banks. So we have to be honest in that Hollywood generally picks people who can give them more money or more respect. It’s a lot like the mob in a way; guys are either earners (making money through illicit means and passing it upwards) or do things that can’t be qualified with a dollar amount gain or less but are generally helpful (i.e. killing guys, intimidation, etc). Oscars garner studios respect and credibility, enhancing their value in the same way a film that clears $300 million in profit helps the bottom line. Plus there’s always a chance that giving someone who hasn’t hit the big time yet can pay off; Lord of the Rings made New Line $3 billion, easy, between DVDs and movie revenues (on top of toys and other companion pieces) and Nolan’s Warner Brothers films have been consistently great as well as having been profitable.

Rule #2: Have to have never made a comic book or graphic novel adaptation before, nor can they have made a film involving superheroes or superpowers that are original works

— Somebody like Jon Favreau or Snyder could come in and do a great job with the property, of course, but it’s always interesting to see what a fresh take on the genre could do for a Superman film. Plus it eliminates Tim Burton from the equation. Instead of a tirade, I’ll just quote South Park instead:

“Imagine it, Tim. No one could rip on you for all the rehashed movies you’ve made lately. There’d never be a TV show that pointed out you haven’t had an original thought since Beetlejuice. And you put Johnny Depp and the same crappy music in every film. And if you’re so in love with Johnny Depp you should just have sex with him already.”

Rule #3: A clear, definite take can be seen from their previous body of work

— Nearly every significant director in Hollywood has a vision of how they see the world. It drives their body of work. Frank Kapra believed in the ultimate power of redemption; Melville in our ability to be corrupted. We should be able to see what kind of vision from which Superman could spring forth from. This will be important later.

Rule #4: It can’t involve anyone with serious working relationships from any of the prior Superman films

— There needs to be a break from the past franchise entirely and a completely brand new slate from which to sculpt this tale of an American icon.

The Top 10 Candidates Who Should Direct The Next Superman (But Won’t)

#10. Casey Affleck

Notable Films I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix

Take on Superman – Bored from years of living a double as a superhero and Omaha, Nebraska Gay Nightlife beat reporter, Clark Kent (Joaquin Phoenix) decides to give up being Superman and instead try to live out a dream: being a professional Hacky Sack player. Problems arise when he discovers he’s horrible at the game and that he occasionally rips his own teammates in half like a phonebook after losses. Jimmy Olson (Scott Caan) is his steadfast friend and confidant who will still follow him on his quest for a life as a niche sport professional after a successful double career as Man of Steel / crappy journalist.

#9. Spike Lee

Notable Films Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X

Take on Superman – Clark Kent (Denzel Washington) can save the world any time he wants, but in 1965 Alabama he still can’t sit in the front of the bus. Lee follows Kent through a spiritual journey as he fights for equal rights under the law for all people color. Plus he rips Jimmy Olsen (Russell Crowe) in half like a phone book.

#8. Michael Mann

Notable Films – Public Enemies, HEAT, Collateral, The Insider

Take on Superman – Caught in the middle of a crime war between the mob and the yakuza, Superman (Daniel Day-Lewis) is torn between his duty as protector of Metropolis and vow of not murdering people as crime lord Lex Luthor (Tom Cruise) tightens his grasp on the city. Somehow Jimmy Olson (Jamie Foxx) gets torn in half like a phone book.

#7. Martin Scorsese

Notable Films – Shutter Island, Goodfellas, The Departed, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull

Take on Superman – Clark Kent (Leonardo DiCaprio) grew up always wanting to be a superhero. At 12 he was busting petty crooks in the Queens neighborhood he grew up in. At 20 he was busting crooks that the police he’d grew up with couldn’t (or wouldn’t) bring down. Now as a seasoned, professional crime fighter he and the Wonder Twins (Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci) team up under the guidance of Apache Chief (Paul Sorvino) to bring down the biggest crook of them all: Lex Luthor (Harvey Keitel), who Superman vows to defeat. Jimmy Olsen (Ray Liotta) gets torn in half like a phone book.

#6. Kenny Ortega

Notable Films – The High School Musical trilogy, Michael Jackson’s This Is It

Take on Superman – Clark Kent (Zac Efron) can save the world but he can’t save his relationship with Lois Lane (Vanessa Hudgens) from disrepair as he always has to leave to stop something and can’t tell her the truth. When he’s given an ultimatum to either show up at a dance contest with Lois or else, and Lexi Luthor (Ashley Tisdale) is trying to conquer the world with a Death Ray (again), it becomes a race against the clock to save his relationship and the world. Inexplicably Jimmy Olsen (Corbin Bleu) gets ripped in half like a phone book as part of a dare.

#5. Richard Linklater

Notable Films – Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, Dazed & Confused, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise

Take on Superman – A day in the life of Clark Kent (Ethan Hawke), tabloid reporter by day and Superman by night, as he spends an afternoon with Lois Lane (Julie Delpy). After a chance encounter years ago, they have an afternoon together to figure out if the magic of that past night is still there. Plus Lex Luthor (Terry Mross) is threatening to launch nukes on Russia and he has to stop that. And Jimmy Olsen (Keanu Reeves) has an appointment to get ripped in half like a phone book.

#4. Tyler Perry

Notable Films – The Family that Preys, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Why Did I Get Married?

Take on Superman – Superman (Rick Fox) has everything a man could want. He’s a superhero above all others, has a good job and good friends. He just doesn’t have a good woman to complete it. Enter heiress and former ESPN anchor Lois Lane (Vivica Fox), who has been set up on this date by her friend (and Superman’s Aunt) Medea. But can their love survive a world where Lex Luthor (Cole Hauser) tries to win her hand and with it control of a multimedia empire?

#3. Kevin Smith

Notable Films – Clerks, Clerks II, Cop Out

Take on Superman – Clark Kent (Brian O’Halloran) and Jimmy Olsen (Jeff Anderson) are stuck working at the Quick Stop when their boss Lex Luthor (Jason Mewes) and his silent bodyguard (Smith) stop by to harass the duo in between discussions of comic books and cunnilingus. A giant spider appears randomly throughout the film.

#2. John Woo

Notable Films – Hard Boiled, The Killer, Once a Thief, Red Cliff

Take on Superman – After a kryptonite bullet strips him of his powers and inexplicably turns him Chinese, Clark Kent (Initially John Travolta for the first five minutes, then Chow Yun Fat) leaves his job as a reporter to exact vengeance on Lex Luthor (Andy Lau) with an arsenal of weapons left to him by a ripped in half Jimmy Olsen (Woo). He may not be indestructible anymore, but now he just got lethal and his enemies will pay in a tornado filled with lead rain.

#1. Clint Eastwood

Notable Films – Unforgiven, Gran Torino, Flags of our Fathers

Take on Superman – A veteran of the Korean war, Clark Kent (Eastwood) has long since retired from his days as the super-powered protector from Krypton. When some colorful minorities move in to his neighborhood and harass people at the behest of his old rival Lex Luthor (Morgan Freeman), Kent must put the spandex back and fight back. He also rips local paperboy Jimmy Olsen (Bee Vang) in half for not getting off his lawn.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – 27 Dresses

When all is said and done, Katherine Heigl will be looked at as an actress who should’ve been a massive, massive star and ultimately never became one for a variety of reasons. Going into the release of Knocked Up Heigl was THE cast member from Grey’s Anatomy that was poised to pull off the female version of Bruce Willis on Moonlighting. Knocked Up was an insanely huge hit for an R-rated sex comedy and she got rave reviews across the board for her role in it. But it never really happened.

There a lot of reasons why it didn’t but two stick out: Appearing in several films that were positive money earners but didn’t set the world on fire and a perception that she thought she was a bigger star than she really was kept her profile about where it was before Knocked Up. With each film after that one she seemed to be less of a star despite the fact that worldwide grosses for The Ugly Truth and Killers ended up leaving both of those films looking rather respectable in terms of box office grosses. Yet somehow her profile keeps lowering back to being just a “television star who dabbles in films” as opposed to being someone like Steve Carell who has a hit television but is a legitimate movie star. And it can all be traced back to 27 Dresses, the film that followed what would be the biggest hit of her career.

Another romantic comedy, this time she personifies the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” label as a woman who has stood up in 27 weddings but is still single. Pining for her boss (Ed Burns), she is profiled by a relentless reporter (James Marsden) for this feat as her sister (Malin Ackerman) ends up in a romance with the love of her life. As she helps her sister plan the wedding to the man of her dreams, she’s stuck in a quandary: does she let the man of her dreams walk away with someone unworthy of her or does she speak the truth and lose her sister?

It’s actually quite good as it takes the conventions of the romantic comedy and gives them a bit of a whirl. This is a pretty standard rom-com but it has enough tongue in cheek humor about itself to keep it entertaining. Heigl isn’t given as much of a meatier role as she did with the Apatow hit but she has this warmth and presence about her that keeps you captivated throughout the film. Jane is a rather bland character but she has enough quirkiness to really stand out. In a time when the rom-com is pretty cut and dry, steeped in convention and cliché, 27 Dresses stands out because it has some real characters that have strong arcs.

It doesn’t hurt that it has a great cast, and enough left in the air that the ending is a bit of a surprise, but it’s always shocked me that a rom-com that was a step above the usual trash never really found the sort of massive audience in theatres it should’ve. This is a shame, really, because it’s quite enjoyable and should’ve been the film that made Heigl a legitimate movie star. Unfortunately now she’s just another TV actress who’s had a couple hit movies but never escaped the status of being a television star.

Strong recommendation.

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

Case 39 – Renee Zelwegger stars in a horror thriller that’s been in the can since 2006 and is getting a mercy dump into theatres before heading to DVD sometime in the next month or so.

Skip It – It’ll be on DVD soon enough and a film that’s been sitting on the shelf this long is there for an obvious reason: it’s awful.

Let Me In – A vampire (Chloe Moretz) and a little boy have a weird friendship.

See It – The original is insanely brilliant in an era where various levels of camp comprise vampire tales. I’m curious as to how Moretz tackles a really dark role and how Reeves handles the material.

The Social Network – FaceBook’s origin is adapted into a big screen film as Jesse Zuckerberg steps into the role destined to either typecast him forever or make him a star.

See It – An absolutely insane buzz is surrounding this film, which sounds like it’s trying to be the film that defines this younger generation and its social networking capabilities. I’m excited for this film because it has the pedigree of brilliance: Fincher behind the camera, Sorkin’s script and a cast picked for talent and not star power. Plus it has Justin Timberlake in a role he’s suited for as a charismatic guru looking for the next big thing, something that I’m going on the record right now that might land him an Oscar nomination.

Secretariat – A Sneak Peek this weekend, Disney tackles the tale of the greatest race horse that ever lived.

See It – Disney has this stuff down to a science. It may not be brilliant but it’ll be watchable and entertaining. Plus this might highlight a new trend: sports films aimed at awards that are more character study than underdog tale.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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

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