Matthew Wrather hosts with Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Josh McNeil, and Jordan Stokes to overthink comic adaptations we’d like to see, the aesthetic problems of representing role playing games, the current state of Magic the Gathering, and why the critical consensus on Hot Tub Time Machine is wrong.
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I saw HTTM with my family this weekend – part of the reason I couldn’t podcast, though it sounds like you had enough people – and I had a lot more fun with it. I wouldn’t say it’s great by any stretch, though.
HTTM is the latest in a trend that’s starting to bother me more: getting a bunch of funny people together, turning the camera on and telling them to just “go at it.” You can tell it was largely – if not mostly – improvised. If more 50% of what we saw on screen in the theatrical release of HTTM was in the original screenplay, I will eat the DVD.
This bothers me because I like cinematic narratives a lot. And while there are a lot of talented comic improvisers in Hollywood, there aren’t very many talented narrative improvisers – what we would call “longform improv,” or people capable of improvising a coherent story. It’s real easy to goof off; it’s hard to tell a story with an arc and conflict and growth and such. So when you turn more and more of the movie over to comic improv, you get a less structured narrative.
In HTTM it’s really obvious. There are a lot of scenes that start without any transition whatsoever. At one point the characters are panicking that they’re in the 80s; at the next, they’re ransacking their rooms, looking for clues as to what happened; in the next, they’re sitting around the suite’s living room, debating what they should do. The scene changes are very abrupt and start very artlessly, usually with one character announcing what’s at stake: “Okay, so what are we supposed to do?” This is the sort of thing that happens when you turn the camera on and let people go wild without having a clear vision.
It’s funny, but the snobby critic in me doesn’t think much of it.
Comic property that I think should be turned into a film:
A beatiful story about heroism, mortality, and pop culture metathinking. It would be a great way to either cleanse the moviegoing public’s palate for the inevitable reboot of the character, or put a nice period on the end of the Superman sentence.
Love the Podcast everyone:
Opening Question – I think Maus would make an excellent dramatic movie. I could joke and call it ‘Shindler’s List for Mice’, but it did win a Pulitzer and was very wel written. On the joking front, I think a movie staring Jennifer Annison and Brad Pitt about ‘Love is’ is long overdue!
Y-The Last Man – Until Transformers 2 did so well, Shia LaBeouf was going to star in the dualogy. Personally, I think this could be good.
Movie’s within Movies – I can’t believe no one brought up ‘Last Action Hero’ where there was no Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t exist, but his movies do – all staring Sylvester Stallone.
@Perich – I agree that if done incorrectly, improve comics can be a bad thing. But I think some of the highlights of the 2000’s were improve. The ‘Do you know how I know you’re gay’ in 40 Year Old Virgin was a genius look at two friends just sitting around and ribbing each other. Anchorman had so much extra footage, they made a ‘Sequel’ out of the extra footage.
HTTM, Meta and Back to the Future – One reason why ‘Back to the Future’ is such a great movie, in my opinion, was because it was made in the 80’s but it was done in a way that made it look like it was made in the teens, fondly looking back at the 80’s, fondly looking back at the 50’s. In my opinion, Robert Zemeckis looked at the ridiculousness of the 80’s and decided to highlight it. The pure genius is that 1) it came at a time before irony and 2) it was a love letter about the fond memories of the 50’s while making it as 80’s as possible, so children of the 80’s can say “Here is what it was like when I was a kid AND when Grandma/grandpa were kids” Just my opinion.
I just remembered: I have a much better example of a comic property that should be turned into a movie than “Calvin & Hobbes” (though they really should make that a movie as well):
“The Escapist,” or rather, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” the Michael Chabon novel that contains the fictional comic series “The Escapist.” Oh, and you’d get “The Golem” in that movie as well. That would be rad.
With the success of Sin City and 300 the next movie comic fans are looking to is Dark Knight Returns (although the title would be confusing thanks to the last Batman movie).
I would very much like to have a real Judge Dredd movie, with the last one being so horribly bad and not touching on any of the elements that makes the comic so much fun.
I agree a Thanos movie involving the Infinity Gauntlet storyline would be pretty trippy. A lot of the Marvel cosmic storylines would make for good drug movies.
Sandman would probably be my choice, and I have heard rumors of a Death: The High Cost of Living movie.
In the first Stakeout movie, Emilio Estevez and Richard Dreyfuss are playing a movie quote game. Emilio uses the quote “This was not a boating accident!” which Lecce, played by Dreyfuss (who says the line in Jaws) doesn’t recognize.
I’d like to see a series of a few movies adapting _The Sandman_, for serious, but Lee took my fun, don’t-take-it-seriously one. (Of course, that one could actually get really deep and sad, sort of like what happened with _Where the Wild Things Are_, if done from the perspective of a child growing up and leaving behind their innocence, etc.) I was thinking of _Bone_, too, and declined because of the cartoony thing, actually, Stokes. I’m afraid the non-human characters would look like the ghosts in the Casper movies.
Re: RPing- As a RP-er but non-actor in the traditional sense, I’m not sure how valuable this is, BUT, I would agree with Stokes that comparing it to traditional acting is a little off, but for different reasons. I think part of what allows for the lifestyle modifications, the marrying within the campaigns and such, occurs because in RPing is, well, a campaign. When a person acts in a movie, it’s a one-time thing, or the character has a certain arc to fill and that gets complete- and it’s scripted, pre-determined, etc. In a role-playing game, if its campaign-based, it’s in a story that doesn’t necessarily have a difinitive ending- it just ends when it ends, so any development the character does is in response to the campaign itself. Even if the DM has a plot in mind, they can’t control how the character is changed by that plot, even when they railroad the players.
Re: Magic: The Gathering- I haven’t played much since ’08, and I haven’t bought any new cards since ’07. I *did* really enjoy Coldsnap, an edition that kind of brought back a bunch of old ones. But I’d usually play just to have fun and didn’t care much about mechanics (which sometimes got on the nerves of my companions… ahem…). I did notice different people I played with had different ways of asserting their actions: “I’m going to attack you with ___,” versus, “___ is going to attack you,” versus, “I’m attacking you ::points at monster::” when using a monster. The separation between taking on a role (of, I guess you could say general) and going through the motions is pretty non-existent since the ultimate target is always the person in charge of the deck- the typical win condition is getting your PLAYER OPPONENT down to zero hit-points, not their creatures or walls. But sometimes, players take upon the roles of their soldiers, too, and whether it’s the semantics of language or actual adoption of a role is probably something to be determined on a case-by-case basis. I dunno, I could babble more, but I’ve kind of lost my train of thought, here…
If Jim Carey is the new Phil Hartman, I’d shoot myself. He *can* be good, but he’s pretty bad a lot, too, or so I feel. (_The Number 23_ was a badly-written attempt at a mindf*ck.) But I guess Carey has picked enough roles that just bug the crap out of me that comparing him to Phil Hartman kind of kicks me in the gut.
Ooh gamer podcast. Being a pretty hardcore gamer myself, I’m super interested. I’ll just leave the text box open here and comment as I listen:
Opening question, before everyone answers and maybe steals it, absolutely Calvin and Hobbes needs to be made into a movie. CGI “real” Hobbes, frequent digressions into the worlds of Spaceman Spiff, Captain Stupendous etc, and just follow him through some storyline perhaps involving a new cardboard-box device. Only problem of course being that Bill Watterson has really never lisenced…DAMN YOU PERICH YOU STOLE MY ANSWER…Anyway, the problem with C&H is that beyond the books, and a calendar or two, Watterson has never lisenced the franchise at all.
Funny Sin City story…I saw it in threatres the first week it came out, and there was someone who very obviously had NO IDEA what Film Noir was, or what Sin City was because during the scene where Bruce Willis’ character does that thing that he does towards the end of his presence in the film (Trying not to spoil) someone at the front of the theatre yells out “What?! What the f**k?! This is Bulls***!” and stormed right out of the theatre. It was HILARIOUS.
As we get into the D&D/Gaming area, I want to get in and log that there are -many- gamers in their late 20s through mid 30s and who still thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was HORRIBLE, far far too much of the text was the original text of the Austen, and the zombie content was shoehorned in, in a way that really annoyed me. It’s one of the few books I simply couldn’t finish. It read pretty much entirely like someone who thought he was very clever taking advantage of open domain writing to make an easy buck.
Re: M:tG They absolutely needed to pare down the background and simplify the creature type base, and so those changes are helpful. Though a few of their choices still annoy me (Like deciding that the blue iconic were Sphinxes)
MaRo’s psychographics always entertained me, and Timmy, Johnny and Spike also had sub-names to indicate what they enjoyed. Timmy, Power Gamer; Johnny Combo Player, and Spike, Tournament player. I don’t think I’d come across the “experience/express/prove” method of description, and I REALLY like that.
One thing that you missed though in that description was a brilliant article written by the guy who used to to the “Taste the Magic” article for WotC where he characterizes a 4th type of Magic player, that he names Vorthos, whose primary motivating factor is the flavour and theme of the game.
He describes a Vorthos as the kind of player who thinks it’s just -wrong- to have more than one copy of a legendary card in your deck, or that you can’t use bows in your knight deck because knights just didn’t use bows.
These are players who buy and read all the set books, and who make decks less for their effectiveness and more for their theme.
Can I vote for Man Eating Cow?
@Dan: Oh, I was all about the “themes” in my own decks. I’d play with pre-constructed decks sometimes (I was actually introduced to the game that way, and I think that made learning a lot easier, since those cards helped each other…), but often with ones I constructed myself- and, really, I wouldn’t know how to construct a deck that *wasn’t* themed, I don’t think. Anyhoo, if I was “into” the theme enough, I’d sometimes refuse to take it apart, even if it didn’t “work” (as in I could never win a bloody game). I’m still really fond of a griffin deck I made once, for example, even though I could never get the right balance of mana v. non-mana in there (since griffins are expensive and predominantly white, and white doesn’t really produce mana or reduce casting costs). (If I wasn’t on vacation at the moment, I’d so get it out to look at… Oi…) Some “themes” function better on their own without much thought to them, though. Like slivers. God, those are annoying to play against but OHsofun to play with.
I did know a number of players in college that were *really* hardcore with the themes, though, to the point where they’d do things like you described in terms of what they’d include in their decks- and they’d call out others that were a bit looser with it. They’d even argue with the pre-con decks sometimes about what “should” be there. Amusing, both at the time and now. But I get it. Every hobby has “purists.” Like the renaissance faire crowd: it ranges from people that just like to do stuff related to Shakespeare and wear garb sometimes to “period Nazis” that freak out if your shoes have a buckle. Constant exchange I’ve heard/participated in: “That’s not period.” “So?”
I’ll stop babbling now.
@Dan from Canada: if you hated P&P&Z, then you’ll love (i.e., hate):
For the question of the week, I’d love to see either Kingdom Come or Marvels adapted. Both lend ithemselves to a film adaptation because of Alex Ross’ phenominal photorealistic art style. I’d rather have the former than the later because when I always enjoy it when Captain Marvel kicks the crap out of Superman.
To the subject of Magic: The Gathering, I picked the worst possible time in recent memory to start playing: Mirrodin block. I snapped up a few 8th Edition precons, a box of Onslaught and three boxes of Mirrodin to build my first deck. Thankfully, I had a friend and his dad who had played since ’95 to help me along and explain some of the finer points of the game (mainly the mana cost to effect/creature size ratio). I grasped it pretty quickly but I imagine my 4 years or so of playing and judging major tournaments of Yu-Gi-Oh helped with that.
As for what I played using MaRo’s psychoanalysis, I was a combination of Timmy and Johnny. I like big creatures and big flashy effects but I also like it when my deck does something cool. My first deck I built was Tooth and Nail (back when no one played it) which had a big flashy spell which let me put 2 big creatures into play. It was fantastic and fun if a bit slow. However, Darksteel happened and (as the say) ruined Magic FOREVER. I played up through Betrayers of Kamigawa but I keep reading the storyline novels they put out.
Really, I don’t think Calvin and Hobbes should be made into a movie for the same reasons Watterson never really licensed the property: Definition of the character. Daniel Radcliffe is now Harry Potter and Harry Potter is now Daniel Radcliffe. I for one never want anyone but Calvin to be Calvin.
There is a lot to be said for what each person believes about a character. My parents introduced me to C&H when I was about six, so I felt that Calvin spoke with the same voice that I hear in my head or the voice of whichever parent was reading to me at the time. The only character to come close to the perception of the character I held was Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Also, where would you find a forest sufficient for a long philosophical walk with an anthropomorphic tiger?
I have my issues with the Watchmen movie (not the least of which is the sex scene) but it was generally competent in portraying the comic.
And Preacher FTW.