Here Comes the Boom: Oscars anyone?

“Let’s do this.  Let’s lose” – Scott Voss

Voss, as played by Kevin James, fights his way through the MMA world in the role of a lifetime

When one considers the all time filmic greats, Scorsese, Kubrick and Spielberg have all solidified themselves as legends in their artistic medium.  Each respective filmmaker has his opus, be it Taxi Driver, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  Having recently sat down to watch a little-known, 2012 sports comedy, I believe veteran director Frank Coraci has developed his own opus.  Here Comes the Boom transcends its own medium, an accomplishment even the previously mentioned films fail to do, and establishes itself as one of–nay, the greatest artistic work of all time.

Coraci’s film opens with a sweeping pan of Scott Voss’s life achievements, including wrestling trophies and the 2002 Teacher of the Year award.  While the sequence undoubtedly forecasts the numerous Oscars, People’s Choice, and Nobel Peace Prizes  Here Comes the Boom will demand in the near future, Coraci’s focus completely rests on advancing his story and familiarizing his audience with the film’s protagonist.  Voss, as played by the uproariously funny Kevin James, is a former NCAA wrestler, whose successes have translated into the academic field.  As the camera moves from accolades to its currently disheveled, lazy recipient, Coraci makes a statement on the effects of time and lays the foundation for his critique of american academia.  The “late for work” cliche inches into the frame upon Voss’s reaction to his alarm clock, but Coraci dispels and even attacks this story-telling tradition through Wolfmother’s Joker and the Thief.  The song’s title establishes the director’s position in relation to every other hollywood director; while every schlub with a camera continues to steal his or her audience’s time and money, Coraci (through the guise of Scott Voss) satirically jokes about filmic tradition.  The statement is subtle, but nonetheless effective.

But let’s not restrict ourselves to HCtB’s opening sequences.  It would be fallacious to solely examine the opening moments without any recognition of the story’s full arc.  For those who have yet to see Coraci film, the plot revolves around biology teacher Scott Voss and his attempts to save Wilkinson High School’s beloved music program.  Voss, who has lost enthusiasm for education over his years at Wilkinson, realizes this would result in the loss of his colleague Marty, as played by Henry Winkler, and immediately pursues alternatives for saving the music program.  Voss’s first course of action is teaching a night class for American citizenship (a natural step for a high school biology teacher), and when that fails to produce the $48,000 needed, he resorts to mixed martial arts and, eventually, the UFC.  Part of Coraci’s charm as a storyteller is the organic unfolding of his story.  Of course Voss would enter into mixed martial arts to save the music program of a school for which he’s lost all enthusiasm.  Of course it falls upon a biology teacher to raise money for a music program.  Coraci recognizes the trials associated with the current American academic system, and highlights the paths nearly all teachers have been pushed down.  Voss’s progression from teaching to MMA is obvious, yet such  blatancy raises larger questions: why has this time-tested tale yet to be told on the big screen? The answer, surprisingly, is it has been portrayed in Gavin O’Connor’s 2011 film Warrior.

With two films holding such similar premises, it becomes impossible not to connect Coraci’s and O’Connor’s respective efforts.  Unfortunately for the latter, Warrior fails in nearly every category where HCtB succeeds.  Beginning with acting, Coraci assembles a stellar cast of Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, and former mixed Martial artist Bas Rutten.  Though not a newcomer to film, Rutten displays a form of cinematic intelligence and grasp over character unseen in Warrior.  The likes of Tom Hardy, whose fame needlessly skyrocketed from some 2012 costume movie, and Joel Edgerton (who?) do nothing to help this atrocity stay afloat.  Character motivation also tends to divide the films; Coraci seamlessly connects education, financial difficulties, american citizenship, parental approval, and the declining emphasis of the arts.  Warrior, in contrast, does little to connect very similar themes.  Would a house foreclosure really inspire a former teacher to get back in the octagon? Gimme a break! It is much more believable that a deadbeat biology teacher would want to save his school’s music program.  When comparing the two films, it becomes clear Hardy has a tendency to pick films with gaping plot holes.  While we cannot fault the actor entirely, it might suit Hardy to associate himself with Kevin James and the rest of the Sandler crew.

Returning to HCtB, the sheer attention to details is what separates a Coraci film from the lesser known directors such as Nolan or Tarantino.  When tackling a complicated subject such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships, it is important to know the company’s structure from the inside out, and the director does a marvelous job of research.  Most people might not know this, but Joe Rogan is actually the mastermind behind the entire UFC.  Though a colour commentator to the casual viewer, Rogan helps to set up matches, organize entrance music, and (though buried in the film’s deleted scenes) assemble the octagon.  Coraci highlights Rogan’s involvement through the setting up of Voss’s UFC appearance, and assembling the school band for Voss’s entrance music.  Even avid viewers of UFC have much to learn from the film.  Coraci’s film pleases both veterans of the octagon and newcomers to the sport, further solidifying its position as the greatest piece of art in the history of human existence.

In summary, whether you’re looking to witness the pinnacle of storytelling, or just searching for a reason to continue this banal existence, director Frank Coraci has developed something even the most suicidal of people would step off their ledges to watch.  As Scott Voss asserts in the film’s initial sequences “Let’s do this.  Let’s Lose”, Coraci, perhaps mistakenly, breaks the fourth wall and hails his audience to laugh with such assertions; in a film where its protagonist sets out to lose, its larger artistic implications do nothing but win.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Review

Caesar saying "Hold up! How are we going to connect this film to the original?"

Caesar saying “Hold up! How are we going to connect this film to the original?”

Let me preface my review with a little background: I love the Planet of the Apes franchise.  I saw all of Rise of the Planet, as well as most of the 2001 remake and the 1968 original.  You could say I’m kind of an Ape expert.

Which is why it pains me to say that I did not enjoy Dawn.  As a standalone movie, it was great. The Action, emotion, and visual effects were outstanding.  The problem? How are they going to connect the current series with the rest of the franchise?

The Franco and Oldman pics were meant to be origin stories.  And so far they’ve provided solid answers to the origins of the Heston and Wahlberg films.  Solid, but not complete.

If this is meant to be a trilogy, and most experts suggest it is, when are they going to leave the earth and head over to the actual PLANET of the apes? In Dawn, the apes are evolving at a fairly slow rate.  How are they going to suddenly gain the knowledge of intergalactic space travel and colonize on a different planet? Director Matt Reeves has not so much hinted at any NASA-like knowledge within Caesar or Koba.  He’ll have a tough task cramming that all into the third instalment.

***/*****

 

 

Edge of Tomorrow: Review

There’s something that feels repetitive about this movie, but it’s not the content.

Tom Cruise stars as “Cage”, a soldier who has the power to return from the dead to repeat the past day.  He gets this power from magical alien blood, and off we go!  Starting to sound familiar? It should.

This “original” concept was actually ripped from a 2002 classic.  Instead of Cruise, we had Wow.  Instead of Blunt, we had Song.  I’m talking, of course, about John Schultz’s masterpiece Like Mike.

Don’t believe me? You’re an idiot.  They’re basically the same movie.  In Edge of Tomorrow, Cage gets a miraculous ability early on and becomes a phenomenon for the army.  Like Mike‘s Calvin uses a pair of lightning-struck Jordans and lights up the NBA.  Starting to see the connection?

Let’s look at the characters a bit more.  Cage is a down-on-his-luck soldier, who just can’t catch a break when it comes to armying.  Calvin Cambridge is a 13-year-old orphan who couldn’t sink a jumper if it meant his parents coming back.  Then their powers swoop in and save the day.

And if that wasn’t enough, there comes the climax. For Edge of Tomorrow, it’s Cage’s last attempt at saving humanity.  In Like Mike, it’s Calvin trying to get the Los Angeles Knights into a playoff spot.  I know what you’re thinking…was notable plagiarist Shia Lebouef writing this flick? It only gets better.

Shortly before the climax, each protagonist loses their respective power.  Cage and Calvin are back to their old, schlubby selves.  But *spoiler alert* somehow they’re able to cope.  Cage kills off the alien race, saving the world.  Calvin dribbles in between Vince Carter’s legs and the Knights win the game, making the playoffs.

Even though they’ve lost their powers, both guys get the “girl”.  Cruise’s character meets back up with Blunt’s character, and we’re only left to assume they hook up later (probably while wearing a pair of Jordans).  Lil Bow Wow gets adopted because he used to be sick at basketball and was able to catch the eye of his adoptee.

Aside from the seven “Mikes” working on-set as underwater lighting technicians, photo technicians etc., there’s clear allusions to the 2002 Oscar snub.  Here’s a few:

  • NBA Productions had a hand in both films
  • Both movies are clearly set up for a sequel (If you have a chance, please check out Like Mike 2: Street Ball.  LM:LM2=Godfather:Godfather 2)
  • Cruise’s character wears a Knights jersey during most of the battle scenes

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The evidence is damning.  I’ve reached out to Schultz’s camp, but have yet to hear back.  Still, Like Mike was a movie ahead of its time, truly on the edge of tomorrow.