First off, I apologize for the lateness of this piece. I realize that a “Top Ten Best Movies of 2011” list isn’t exactly timely at this point, but I blame the movie studios for releasing approximately 437 films during the last two weeks of December, several of which I’m certain would’ve made this list had I had time to actually go see them. So sadly, movies like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Descendants, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, won’t appear here, nor will critical darlings like The Tree of Life or Drive. I did manage to see a lot of really good movies this year, and since we’ve already waded through all the crap, let’s take a look at the cream of the crop:
Was 2011 a great year for film? Well, yes and no. It certainly was much better than last year’s crop of freshly-laid turds, many of which made me question my continued desire to live on a planet that allows January Jones to have a lucrative TV and movie career. Still, 2011 was marred by record low attendance and a staggering number of sequels/remakes with 28 — the most in movie history. Now, I’m sure many of you are expecting this list is to be filled with cinematic diarrhea like Jack & Jill, The Smurfs, Zookeeper, Chipwrecked, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I, New Year’s Eve, etc., because it’s obvious these are the types of “films” that are the retarded harbingers of the horrifying future America Mike Judge warned us all about in Idiocracy. But, I can’t in good conscience write about those stinkers because I didn’t pay to sit through any of them. I had to limit this list to the movies that I plopped down my hard-earned cash for either in the theater or through the
magical glowy wonder box Netflix Instant Streaming. That being said, even though you won’t get to see me eviscerate Hank Azaria’s performance as Gargamel, there is still enough horrific celluloid shlock here to make you wish that movie cameras were never invented. So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Worst Movies of 2011!
As a moviegoer these days, you’ve got to be wary of Hollywood’s manipulative attempts to pull dollars out of unsuspecting pockets through nostalgia. Those who grew up devouring the cartoons and assorted creative properties of the late 1970’s and early 80’s have become prime targets for the major studios’ seemingly endless parade of re-makes, re-boots, and re-imaginings of these cherished pop culture touchstones. But sweet sentimentality can go only so far without well-developed characters and a solidly-constructed narrative. Thankfully, The Muppets is one of those rare instances where heartfelt reminiscence is blended in perfectly with an excellent production.
The premise of The Muppets is kept intentionally simple to allow the audience to re-discover their love for Kermit and the gang: A brief and amusing prologue introduces us to an “everyMuppet” named Walter who – along with his very tall and very human brother Gary (the goofy, gleeful Jason Segel) – grew up watching Muppet Show re-runs and idolizing Kermit the Frog. During a tour of the long-abandoned Muppet Studios in Los Angeles with Gary and his girlfriend Mary (the sweet-as-pie Amy Adams), Walter eavesdrops on a nefarious plot by evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (the scenery-chewing Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Studios and drill for some black gold underneath the property. Horrified that his longtime idols are about to lose their former home, Walter enlists Gary and Mary to help him find Kermit and the rest of the Muppets so that they can re-unite for a telethon at the theater to raise the $10 million necessary to retain the deed to the property.
The film keeps the necessary Muppet film caveats intact: Muppets living alongside humans, constant fourth-wall breakage, numerous silly-yet-sweet musical numbers, and of course, the trademark charming, cornball vaudevillian humor that modern audiences likely haven’t experienced since Kermit and Miss Piggy tied the knot in 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan. All of these elements work effectively and mix seamlessly with some modern-humor flourishes such as The Moopets – a hard-edged, cynical group of Muppet dopplegangers dressed in gangsta attire, tats, and goatees. Or the painfully honest sequence where network-head Rashida Jones informs the Muppets that they are way off of the current pop culture radar; their cheesey humor and song-and-dance numbers long forgotten and replaced with reality fare like Punch Teacher (In which the reliably maniacal Ken Jeong urges kids to, well…punch their teachers).
Minor pacing issues aside, the only real flaw of The Muppets is the same issue that has plagued Muppet projects since Jim Henson passed away – the voice work. No living soul can ever hope to duplicate the subtlety and true emotion that Henson brought to Kermit, Rowlf, Dr, Teeth and others (the same goes for Frank Oz’s Miss Piggy and Fozzy the Bear), but the voice work on display in this movie is by far the best it’s been since the mid-1980’s (The old hecklers, Statler and Waldorf, still aren’t even close, however). At times, Walter’s story and the relationship drama between Gary and Mary (he wants to be there for his brother, she wants him to devote more time to her and propose) threaten to eat away at the film’s running time; throwing a monkey wrench into the main ambition of the production – namely, the resurrection of Jim Henson’s felt creations back into the cultural vernacular. Thankfully, Segel’s script knows when to veer away from the obligatory human element and focus on Kermit, Fozzy, Gonzo, Miss Piggy as they try to recapture the chemistry and camaraderie they once shared.
It’s obvious to anyone who has ever seen Segel’s brilliant puppet musical number at the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that he has a deep-seeded love for Henson’s menagerie. With the help of his longtime writing partner Nicholas Stoller, that affection is on full display in The Muppets. The duo do their best to let all the characters shine – everything a Muppet fan could want in a movie is here, from Gonzo’s zany stuntman antics to Fozzy’s corny jokes to the Swedish Chef’s classic BORK BORK BORKS!. Under the stylish direction of James Bobin, whose previous work includes Da Ali G Show and the delightfully insane Flight of the Conchords, The movie plays like a big-budget event picture; not the previous cheap, half-hearted Muppet productions like Muppet Treasure Island or Muppets in Space. Bret McKenzie, one-half of the aforementioned comedy musical act Flight of the Conchords, provides much of the rousing and sunny musical numbers here, and while they may not live up to the brilliance of Paul Williams jaunty tunes, they are beautifully written and performed (not to mention catchy as hell!).
Though Henson is long gone, his gentle – and genuine – spirit inhabits every frame of The Muppets, somehow watching over his creations and imbuing the film with magic that made Kermit and the gang feel like their old selves for the first time since his untimely death in 1990. The Muppets hits all the right emotional beats (just try not to get choked up when Kermit and the gang launch into “Rainbow Connection”). This film is not nostalgic for nostalgia’s sake; rather it’s a warm, funny, and heartfelt return to glory for a wonderful assortment of oddball characters that at one time nearly matched Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s places in the cultural zeitgeist.
Greetings nerds and nerdettes! As you may or may not know, a crippling October snowstorm hit New England on Saturday, and LaserCola headquarters was smack dab in the middle of it. As a result, I had to suspend updates for this week. I promise you all I’ll return to posting stories and lists on Monday, November 7. I apologize for the interruption of geekery. To make up for the lack of news around here, enjoy this LOLCat:
Welcome to LaserCola’s Cosplay Hottie of the Month! Each month, we sit down and interview a gorgeous geek girl who enjoys hand-crafting sexy and awesome costumes from the world of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, video games, anime, and more! Our November Cosplay hottie is Joey, a gorgeous, blue-eyed, flame-haired doll from the Garden State who loves to cosplay as her favorite female superheroes. We caught up with the bubbly red-head after her appearance as Domino, and as a booth babe for geek apparel shop Logan’s Closet (we’ll let you guess what character they specialize in), at the New York Comic-Con.
Name/Alias: Joey; “Jersey Ruskicho”
Location: New Jersey
LC: Thanks for talking to us, Joey! What attracted you to Cosplaying, and what was the first costume you created?
J: I always loved Halloween because it gave me the chance to be someone else for a night. As a kid I drooled over the Catwoman costume from Batman Returns but was not allowed to glue latex together at the wee age of six. Parents, right? They never understand creative passion! I worked at a haunted event through my teenage years and put a lot of work into putting together cool costumes in which I froze half to death outdoors. It was seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion that really made me want to attend a con, though. I became just a bit obsessed with Asuka and her plugsuit and thought, “what the heck, how hard could it be?” Well, the answer turned out to be: extremely hard. Too hard for a beginner, and it showed in the costume. I think it all worked out in the end, though, because it got me hooked on cosplay!
LC: So, that New York Comic-Con was insanely crowded, wasn’t it? It was extremely difficult to get around. You were rocking a pretty sweet Domino cosplay there, how was your experience at NYCC and how many times did you get stopped for photo requests?
New York Comic Con was insane. It was packed, which was simultaneously fun and frustrating. This was definitely the biggest convention I’d ever been to, and so the experience was a little different from what I’m used to. There were so many cosplayers that I couldn’t talk to or take pictures of everyone I wanted to meet. And when people asked me for a picture, stopping immediately resulted in a traffic jam. It was great when I met Domino fans because they had such a big reaction to the costume! I guess Domino is not cosplayed as much as other characters , so they were excited to see one. However, I also had a lot of people calling me, “Catwoman,” or “Black Widow,” or simply asking who I was supposed to be. It’s hard to estimate how many times I was stopped for pictures– I would say every few minutes, and then generally had to stay put for a bit for photos. This convention marked the first time I got to work at a booth (Logan’s Closet), and so my dream of being a “booth babe,” came true at last!
LC: It seems like when it comes to female superhero cosplay, you tend to see the same things over and over again – Poison Ivy, Rogue, Harley Quinn, Zatanna, etc. Is it hard to find unique female characters to portray, and do you try to stay away from those common costumes?
J: In the end it’s all about cosplaying who you really want to be for a day. I agree, you do tend to see some of the same characters again and again. Usually those characters are popular for a reason– they have awesome costume designs or well-developed personalities, so I understand the desire to play them. Still, I try to avoid being one of many in a crowd. I love Jean Grey so I chose to do a lesser known version of the costume with the “First Class” suit. Domino has been cosplayed comparatively less than other characters, and at the time I did Silk Spectre there weren’t many people who had done her movie costume yet. It’s nice to be the only one wearing a certain cosplay at a convention. However, if you really love a character, and dream of being them before you die, then DO IT! Rock that costume your own way, make it special and unique to your tastes. After all, this is a hobby, and hobbies should make us happy. I knew I wouldn’t be content if I didn’t walk around as Asuka before I died, so it didn’t matter that the cosplay is so popular. Still, it’s difficult to find characters that appeal to me on multiple levels and aren’t cosplayed often, so I try to embrace those characters if I find them. And if I see another version of my character at the con, I tend to run over and demand pictures and hugs.
J: This is a tough one! I like elements of different characters, but I can’t pick a favorite superhero overall. I tend to gravitate towards characters that have something “wrong,” with them. I love when Jean struggles with the overwhelming Phoenix Force, I never tire of watching Asuka battle her inner demons and mass-produced Evas, Rogue is at her best when sorting through the powers and thoughts of those she absorbed. I guess it’s the psych major in me!
LC: Do you consider yourself a true “Geek”? What are some of your favorite Geek movies, comics, TV shows, etc.?
J: I very much do think of myself as a huge, giggling dork. I grew up loving Batman and Anime, and spent many of my formative years role-playing in AOL chatrooms. Oh yeah, I was a cool kid! My favorite television shows include The X-Files, Doctor Who, X Men: Evolution, Xena, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rurouni Kenshin and FLCL. I love sci-fi and horror movies like Code 46, Shaun of the Dead, Repo!, and almost any Asian horror movie. My favorite comics include the Astonishing X-Men, Thunderbolts and Watchmen. My book genre of choice is science fiction; I love Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? A lot of my dorkiness is also in how I act, I have a silly sense of humor and make weird-looking faces all the time. I just hope that cameras aren’t around to catch those faces! I always felt just a bit different around a large group of “non-nerds,” but I’ve found that everyone has a little bit of dorkiness in them somewhere. I try to fish around until I find what it is that sends them into a nerdgasm.
LC: How long does it usually take to create one of your costumes, from the planning stages to completion? Do you do all your own sewing and crafting?
J: From planning to final version, my costumes take me months. Much of this time is spent procrastinating! I make most of my own costumes except for certain pieces like shoes and other items I can find easily and don’t have to sew myself (ex: Domino’s holsters, Jill Valentine’s shirt, pants, and hat). I call it “semi-homemade cosplay,” in these cases. I’m not the best sewer around so tend to make a lot of mistakes and just have to start over or keep trying. I’ve been working on my second plugsuit on and off for a year now, and it’s nowhere near done. I tend to get overwhelmed the week before the con and sit up late every night, near tears,
J: For the most part, the cosplay community is wonderful. I’ve met some extraordinarily nice and cool people at conventions. I’ve found so many helpful, kind, complimentary, talented friends through this hobby. There are cosplayers who would bend over backwards to help me with a costume and applaud my photos when in fact THEY are awesome, themselves. However, there is a darker side to the hobby, and that’s the negativity I’ve seen online. Remember that putting someone down is easy but making a costume is hard. Nobody is perfect, few people have limitless money, skill, or experience, and we’re not professional models. We’re all geeks who have come together to celebrate our formerly underground interests. We don’t always fit in at work, at school, or at parties, so let’s try to be accepting of each other. I understand that it’s part of human nature to talk about one another– be it friends, celebrities or cosplayers, and that no amount of standing on a soap box will change that. However, I would ask people to stop and think before they say something about someone online. Would you like the same judgments being passed about you? It’s more important to be a good person than a good cosplayer!
J: You know, I would probably think the opposite. I’m really hard on myself and my own worst critic. If I see a good Domino or Asuka I’ll think about how awesome they are and how I should have given up in the first place! But then they’re usually very sweet and I realize that there’s room for all of us to look great together. I find big egos to be repellent and don’t think I could ever have one. I won’t lie; I might look at a cosplayer and think, “you know, I prefer the way I made my belt to hers,” but on the other hand I’ll love some element of their costume better than mine. Generally I care more about how nice they are and how well they treat other cosplayers and con-goers than the specific details of their costume construction.
LC: Do you think some female cosplayers go out of their way to find the skimpiest, sexiest female characters for their cosplays in an effort to get more attention? Do you personally take into account how revealing a costume is before you decide to take on that cosplay?
J: There are a lot of reasons why someone chooses a costume. Maybe they’ve been asked to, maybe they’ve always loved the design, maybe they have the same personality as the character, or maybe they think it will bring them attention. I know I don’t go to conventions hoping that nobody notices me, so I can’t judge someone who wears a revealing costume for wanting that same attention. If you’ve got it, if you’ve worked hard for it, then by all means make the world a little more sexy by flaunting it! You’ll have a fan in me. The “skimpiness” of a costume is something I consider while making cosplay decisions because I want to feel comfortable at the convention. I don’t mind showing some skin and I love catsuits, but I wouldn’t be comfortable in a bikini or showing underboob, etc. Maybe in the future I’ll do a lot of sit-ups and play my dream character with a revealing costume: Callisto from Xena! But until then, I admire girls (and guys!) who are proud of their bodies and fully support their right to show them off! I want people to enjoy their hobby their way.
J: Pretty much my entire first convention was a disastrous wardrobe malfunction! I was working to the last minute trying to complete the catsuit, and made the very newbie mistake of not trying the costume on for fit at every step of the way — or at least, measuring. So I got to the convention and put the torso part of the catsuit over the legs, only to find that the legs weren’t long enough to reach the torso! D’oh! I was devastated and didn’t want to go at all, but I ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth all the work and money to hide in a hotel room, upset. I showed off my costume in its terrible state and got a surprisingly kind and positive response! It’s reassuring to know that people are willing to overlook flaws when they see that you’ve tried your best. One of my favorite experiences at a con was when I was walking around with my friend Dan, who was dressed as Wolverine. We spotted an adorable baby Wolverine on the escalator and asked for a picture with him. Our picture resulted in a line of families and children who wanted their picture taken with Wolverine and Jean Grey. We spent half an hour at our impromptu “photo booth,” and I hugged more kids than a Disney Princess. It was touching, sweet, and so fun!
LC: Lastly, What do you have in mind for future con visits and cosplays?
J: My next costume will be Rogue, the classic yellow and green version. I’m wearing it to promote and model Logan’s Closet’s new Rogue jacket, so I’m very excited about that! My other plans include possibly a Batgirl costume (Steph Brown?) for a big Batman group and– of course– working on that tricky plugsuit. I have an ambitious convention schedule this year, including Megacon, WW Philly and Baltimore Comic Con. But that may be a bit too ambitious, so we’ll see how it shakes out.