Now more than ever, pop culture is about the small stuff — an obscure TV show, a few notes in a pop song, a tweet. To celebrate a year of micro moments, every day a new Grantland writer will highlight one specific thing — a Big Little Thing — that we won't soon forget.
In June, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the twin kaiju who brought us the blockbuster movie, sat side by side and announced its imminent death. “There’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown,” Spielberg said at an event at USC. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”
Lucas’s response wasn’t recorded. But I’m pretty sure he nodded sagely.
It's the relatively near future. The Earth is in turmoil. What's ruining everyone's good time — the catastrophic effects of climate change? Economic collapse? Oh my, no: It's all the giant lizards that keep swimming out of an interdimensional fault in the floor of the Pacific Ocean. But the humans aren't beaten yet: As we all know, the only way to fight giant lizards is with giant robots!
I don't want to oversell it, so I'll just say Pacific Rim is all the things anyone could want from a summer action movie. The giant lizards — called kaiju — are truly enormous, and both the look of their scales and the devastation they wreak is rendered with the appropriate care. The human characters may not be drawn as carefully, but it's hard to care; they each have a reason to be committed to the kaiju cause (loved ones killed by kaiju, generally) and one other characteristic. Frankly, that's as much as you care to see before the action moves back to robots fighting lizards — something, fortunately, you never have to wait too long for.
On this week's pod, Andy and I finally get around to the serious business of breaking down 2013's summer jams. It's been a long time coming … so long that summer is almost over. But when you hear our debate you'll understand why we've been dragging our feet. Other than the two pop disco kaiju that roam our land — "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" — it's anyone's ballgame. So we looked to some slightly obscure corners for summer heat, tapping Chance The Rapper, Migos, Vampire Weekend, Superchunk, and Travi$ Scott as candidates for the president of let's get this party started. Most of the songs are on this playlist:
In Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, mankind must fend off giant monsters that emerge from deep down on the ocean floor. In real life, del Toro had even harsher competition: a dastardly double-team of those squeaky cutesy things from Despicable Me 2 and Adam Sandler fart-jokes. In the end, that kind of bum-rush just proved to be too much, too fast. While the competition was close, Pacific Rim ended up in third place this weekend, with $38.3 million.
Pacific Rim is almost here. It's about giant robots fighting giant monsters. Maybe you've seen the 1,500 commercials and trailers? We bet you have. Probably on this very site, multiple times. These are our lovingly handpicked robots-and-monsters clips. Enjoy.
This past weekend I had a conversation with some friends about what Benjamin Franklin would think if he time-traveled to 2009 and watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We kind of concluded that he would basically understand the underlying mech-obsessed philosophy that all those whirring gears and moving CGI parts were trying to convey, but the narrative would probably be lost on him (and Megan Fox would give him a heart attack). Now I can't help but wonder what Ben would think of the trailers for Guillermo del Toro's maximalist fantasy Pacific Rim, with its "humans melding memories with the body of a machine," and its "2,500 tons of awesome." (Time for another round of "Summer Blockbuster Dialogue or Mountain Dew Slogan?") At this point, even a 21st-century denizen like me is afraid that the film might be entirely incomprehensible — like that part when Idris Elba "cancels the apocalypse" although everything appears to get smashed into bits anyway — but the folks who were in attendance at several recent L.A. screenings seemed to disagree. Check out the final trailer above and gauge your enthusiasm one last time.
Silver:The Chronicles of Riddick’s box office catastrophe lost Vin Diesel all the equity he’d acquired after The Fast and the Furious (having already spent a significant amount of it on the lackluster xXx, which landed in between FF 1 and Chronicles). He practically became a Hollywood pariah, forced to take on roles like Shane Wolfe in The Pacifier — the special ops stud who's a fish out of water working his new assignment as a bodyguard to a suburban family. You know, roles normally reserved for professional wrestlers trying to break into mainstream film or for action stars on the decline. It wasn’t until he slipped the shiny-white, two-sizes-too-small, Hanes V-neck back over his head and returned to the Fast and Furious franchise as Dominic Toretto did audiences start caring about him again.
So my question is this: Why go back to the role that practically sunk his career? Is it hubris? Or is it that he and writer-director David Twohy believe that they can actually recapture the simplistic terror of Riddick’s first onscreen appearance in Pitch Black, and not recycle the monotonously bloated Chronicles?
I’d like to believe it’s the former. And this trailer provides evidence that this might actually be the case.
Silver: There’s a great Monty Python sketch in which a writer creates a joke so funny it’s lethal — so deadly that during WWII both the Nazis and the Allied forces attempt to weaponize it, but as a precaution, can only translate the joke one word at a time.
This is my fear when discussing, much less seeing, any footage from Pacific Rim. There are far too many goodies involved with this film that target the deepest parts of my gooey geeky center. So as not to place myself in harm's way, the following is an appropriated version of the Python “Funniest Joke” strategy (because as we all know, the best advice and life lessons come from Monty Python).
Guillermo Del Torro; giant robots; Charlie Hunnam; “pilot-to-pilot connection engaged”; giant monsters; “two pilots mind-melding through memories with the body of a machine”; Charlie Day; robot heads; “Your orders are to protect a city of 2 million people”; night battles in the rain; giant monsters leaping out of a river onto a giant robot; “They came from deep beneath the Pacific”; winged monsters; “Their sole purpose is to aim for the populated areas and take out the vermin ... us”; Ron Perlman; dojos; Idris Elba; “Today we face the monsters that are at our door. We are canceling the apocalypse!”; giant robot double-fist punch to a giant monster’s face; and A FRAKKING SEA TANKER BEING WIELDED AS A BASEBALL BAT!
Oy. I said too much. I think ... I’m goingngn ... tooooo ... fai ...
Summer is always an endurance contest: week after week of Movies You Have to See. Once upon a time the season was four months, like actual summer. But climate change has managed to monkey with the Hollywood release schedule. Now summer starts whenever a studio says it does; last week Universal called summer first. So the season pretty much began in the middle of April, with Oblivion, which delivers Tom Cruise as the last man on Earth. The movie industry is hoping you like the end of the world. It's the source of the season's other endurance contest: seemingly endless months of planetary devastation, alien invasion, and surviving. Armageddon is the new Avengers.
Maybe it's foolish to wonder whether the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the subsequent citywide hunt for the perpetrators wasn't summer movie enough. Maybe this should have been the summer Mark Wahlberg partied with the vulgar teddy bear. We are strong, however. Absentminded, too. So if Brad Pitt wants to race around the globe in the name of stopping a zombie pandemic, we might be helpless not to watch. But there's something going on when even the comedies are horning in on that action. I saw the poster for This Is the End, with the faces of all those funny people — Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jay Baruchel — and assumed it was about a bunch of man-children graduating from night school or getting drunk at a wedding or something. It might still be about that. But it's also about how a disaster has hit Los Angeles and left them stuck with each other. I'm going to go ahead and predict that Robinson dies first.
Silver: I’m an ardent Danny Boyle fan (I even like The Beach), and him directing with Trainspotting and Shallow Grave writer John Hodge on an intimate crime caper is just what I’d want from him for his first film released post-Olympics (fun fact: The film was actually shot prior to Boyle’s work on the Opening Ceremony). And almost all of his signature stylistic touches pop up in this trailer: switching back and forth between film and video, unconventional camera angles during action scenes, the utilization of reflective surfaces. So what if the hypnotism element is a little cheesy? This looks like classic Boyle. And I, for one, can’t wait.
Browne: The hypnotism element is more than a little cheesy, Dan. I just get the sense this is one of those films that you're not supposed to find funny, but is filled with moments that cause muted laughter anyway. I'm sure it'll be good and hold my attention, because Boyle knows what he's doing, and the cast looks strong, but when they bring out the tarot cards two-thirds of the way in, I'm not going to be able to keep a straight face.
Note: This will be our last Trailers of the Week of 2012. We thank you for tuning in for more than 50 trailer roundups with us this year, and can't wait to get back to overanalyzing (Dan) and always being afraid of everything (Rembert) in 2013. — Dan and Rem
Pacific Rim (July 12)
Silver: If I ever had to be placed into a medically induced coma because my cine-geek meter went into overdrive, I truly believe that Pacific Rim would be what I’d dream about. And this got me thinking, Rem: We’ve been buddies for a while now, but how well do you really know me? Let’s find out.
I’m most excited about this movie because
A. It contains giant fracking monsters fighting giant fracking robots
B. It’s the first Guillermo del Toro move since 2008
C. By casting Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Charlie Day, it's clear that Guillermo and I like and watch the same TV shows
D. All of the above
My favorite part of this trailer
A. Glimpses at all of the original del Toro creature/robot designs
B. Giant frackin' robot-rocket-propelled punch
C. Idris Elba’s reboot of Bill Pullman’s “Today is our Independence Day” speech
D. All of the above
Upon release of this trailer my wife
A. Was annoyed with me because I couldn’t stop exuding random guttural pleasure sounds or screaming “Yes!” and “Oh, hell yeah!”
B. Was annoyed with me because I watched the trailer eight times in 30 minuntes — on my iPhone, my iPad, my MacBook, and in ginormous and glorious HD via my Apple TV
C. Told me I was nuts for looking to see if tickets were already available for pre-sale
D. None of the above. She was doing all of the above right alongside me because she’s as big of a geek as I am.
In the two weeks since our last post, a glut of trailers flooded the Internet, some good, some bad, some in between. So in an effort to be as thorough as possible and dedicate at least a few words to these cinematic appetizers, we reached way back into our arsenal of gimmicks to bring back the “One-Sentence Trailer Reviews.” Like last time, one of us had an easier time sticking to the plan than the other. (Guess who?)
Rembert and Dan
Now You See Me (June 7)
Silver: I had no idea Now You See Me existed, but after watching the trailer for this Prestige/Ocean’s Eleven/Robin Hood/Social Network/Batman Begins mash-up, it has quickly jumped to the top of my 2013 “must” list.
Browne: The only item on my "things that really don't exist" list that tops zombies and owls is magic. NEXT.
Like the marvelous Cloverfield before it, Guillermo Del Toro's monster movie Pacific Rim (out next summer) is now rolling out a viral ad campaign that slowly and carefully reveals its beast. The flick, which Del Toro switched gears to after leaving The Hobbit, boasts a particularly tantalizing roster: Saving the world this time will be Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam, Stringer Bell, Babel's Rinko Kikuchi, and — whaaaaat? — It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day. And, as far as streamlined, frills-free plotting is concerned, Pacific Rim's head seems to be screwed on straight.