The Reel Deal


Quick Takes on Three Films

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

August 2011


Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5

A superhero period piece sounds like risky business–generally speaking, a good portion of the superhero movie audience wouldn’t be caught dead in a period piece, and vice versa. One of the only movies I can think of to ever successfully fuse the two is Rocketeer (which, while not a bad flick, wasn’t exactly a home run with either critics or audiences). The director of Rocketeer, Joe Johnson, is back for Round 2, with a new superhero period piece. Now he’s taken Captain America to his early roots in the days of WWII for this phenomenal origin story: Captain America: The First Avenger. Captain America is an interesting hero because though his abilities are heightened by “super soldier serum,” he is pretty much just a man with peak skills–not unlike Batman. But whereas Batman does best with a darker and more realistic cinematic approach, Captain America needs a somewhat lighter touch. There has to be a little bit of camp, but obviously it needs to still be grounded in some sort of reality. In that way, it’s harder to make Cap work than Bats on screen. What makes this Captain America film work is that it manages to meld all three styles of Batman live-action movies: the silly campiness of the Adam West Batman, the period pulpiness of the Michael Keaton Batman, and the gritty realness of the Christian Bale Batman. Captain America as an amalgamation of those styles succeeds where it wouldn’t have otherwise (if any of those three styles had been used without the other two). And though the movie may annoy some people by being a little too “Rah Rah America,” because it is a period piece, the uber-patriotism doesn’t feel misplaced to me. Everyone can get a little thrill out of seeing Cap punch some nazis, no? It’d, of course, be hard to see Captain America wearing an American flag today while still claiming to “fight bullies” since America has so obviously become a bully in the days since WWII (yes, I guess I’m a ‘blame America first’ kinda guy, Fox News). And what would Cap think of the “patriots” in the Tea Party basically holding our country captive during the debt ceiling debates over the last few weeks? I guess we’ll see how he navigates the present day when Cap gets updated in next year’s Avengers movie, but for now we have this patriotic period piece which is much better than I’d imagined it could or would be. The film isn’t perfect, but it is probably the best film adaptation Cap could ever hope to get. And the best superhero film this Summer, surely.


Reel Rating: 1 out of 5

When I first heard they were making Cowboys & Aliens, I thought it must have been created by whoever made Snakes on a Plane. It seemed to follow the basic concept: come up with a straight-forward, unironic title that takes two things that are rarely joined and put them together, and just build the movie around that simple mash-up. Surprisingly though, this was a comic  book first–and therefore, it can be assumed, the studio PAID for this shitty concept. Hopefully the characters and storyline are more substantial and three-dimensional in the comic than they are in the film, otherwise why the hell did someone spend a dime attaining the rights to this shit? Great actors are stranded in the skins of lifeless characters. And the supporting cast of characters is so lacking in three-dimensions that they don’t even deserve the distinction of being dismissed as two-dimensional–that’d even be giving them more dimension than they possess. The Native American characters, as in many of the unintentionally racist Westerns from yesteryear, are about as easy to differentiate from one another as the aliens are. It uses that old cliché, but it doesn’t seem to be for the benefit of a joke, nor as a comment on that age-old bias, but probably is simply there because it was easier if the writers didn’t have to waste time giving them individualized character traits. The use of indistinct Native American characters is only one of many clichés this film depends on. The film uses almost every Western and Sci-Fi cliché I can think of, and sometimes they play them straight and sometimes they play them for a laugh, but no matter which way they play them on a case by case basis, the movie as a whole can’t, in my estimation, be realistically classified as a satire. What is it satirizing? What is the idea behind it? There is none. The only idea that went into this film is the originary one: “What if we had cowboys fight aliens?” It’s an idea a five year old could have come up with, and probably executed better. Because besides that initial concept, there is nothing here. For every decent scene, there’s five others that are at best enjoyably bad and at worst terrible to the point of cringe-inducing. And I’m convinced there’s not one piece of intelligent or witty dialogue in the whole film. If this is even slightly serious, then it’s a bad joke, and if it’s a joke, then I guess it’s just not my kind of humor (as in: I prefer my comedy to be actually funny).


Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Crazy, Stupid, Love is crazy at times, stupid at times, but overall quite lovely. A good chick flick is a rare occurrence these days, so though I can’t claim to be crazy, stupid, in love with everything about this film, I can easily say it’s one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in a long, long while. It started off a little rocky, with certain scenes feeling a bit forced, and some lines coming off as incredibly inauthentic, but it quickly found its stride and managed to win me over eventually (even as it continued to seem somewhat contrived at various points along the way). I can forgive it its formulaicness (after all it is a romantic comedy and thus must adhere to a certain structure and revel in certain archetypes/stereotypes) because it ultimately succeeds as an entertaining and emotive movie. The great acting by seasoned talent is what really kept me invested. The writing may provide these characters with their jokes, but the reason the jokes land is because of their delivery. It’s oft been noted that a good joke in bad hands will likely fail, and that a bad joke in good hands can sometimes succeed. This film is full of decent jokes in great hands, and while the writing isn’t all it could be, it is certainly better than the usual garbage that passes for witty repartee in the average contemporary rom-com. And underneath all the comedy there is at least a semblance of real romance, real emotion. So often in romantic comedies, the leads barely look like they can stand one another, much less have any chemistry. Here the idea of true love seems somewhat real, seems at moments palpable–even when it is, and perhaps precisely because it is, bubbling over with heartbreak and anger and annoyance and stagnancy. Crazy, Stupid, Love is the potted plant to most other rom-coms’ fake plastic flowers. It may still be controlled and patterned, and thus not really resemble the true wildness of nature, but, hey, at least the potted plant is alive and natural (as opposed to the nonliving flowers which are nothing but useless shitty plastic).

Captain America: The First Avenger is a film directed by Joe Johnson, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on comic book characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. It stars Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving. After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.

Cowboys & Aliens is a film directed by Jon Favreau, written by a slew of screenwriters, and based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. It stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rckwell and Olivia Wilde. A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a film directed Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and written by Dan Fogelman. It stars Steve Carrel, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. A father’s life unravels while he deals with a marital crisis and tries to manage his relationship with his children.


IMDB: Captain America: The First Avenger

IMDB: Cowboys & Aliens

IMDB: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Reel Deal Quick Takes Written by Tyler Malone

Picture Courtesy of Paramount and

Design by Jillian Mercado

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