Best Movies Of 2012

In previous year’s “Best Of” movie lists, I’ve given detailed descriptions as to WHY I liked the movies I picked.

Not this year, but for a very good reason: I’m lazy.

Well, not lazy so much as sleepy. The comic lists took a lot out of me this year, and I also have a wife that I like to spend time with, and a job that requires me to show up to it once in a while. And so I present my “Best Movies of 2012” list, with no explanations whatsoever. Enjoy.

25. Arbitrage directed by Nicholas Jarecki

24. Cabin In The Woods directed by Drew Goddard

23. Jiro Dreams of Sushi directed by David Gelb

22. The Avengers directed by Joss Whedon

21. Searching For Sugar Man directed by Malik Bendjelloul

20. Les Miserables directed by Tom Hooper

19. Beasts Of The Southern Wild directed by Benh Zeitlin

18. Dredd directed by Pete Travis

17. Beware Of Mr. Baker directed by Jay Bulger

16. Frankenweenie directed by Tim Burton

15. Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino

14. Kinshasa Kids directed by March-Henry Wajnberg

13. Chronicle directed by Josh Trank

12. Skyfall directed by Sam Mendes

11. The Ambassador directed by Mads Brugger

10. Pina directed by Wim Wenders

9. The Deep Blue Sea directed by Terence Davies

8. Amour directed by Michael Haneke

7. Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow

6. Raid: Redemption directed by Gareth Evans

5. Seven Psychopaths directed by Martin McDonagh

4. Anna Karenina directed by Joe Wright

3. Moonrise Kingdom directed by Wes Anderson

2. The Master directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

1. Looper directed by Rian Johnson

Honourable Mention:

Queen Of Versailles directed by Lauren GreenfieldParamorman directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell, Brave directed by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman, Prometheus directed by Ridley Scott, Argo directed by Ben Afflek, The Imposter directed by Bart Layton, Revelle directed by Kim Nguyen, Safety Not Guaranteed directed by Colin Trevorrow

VIFF Day One: African Diplomacy & The Korean Breaking Bad

The air is getting colder, the espresso is getting warmer, and Granville street is full of middle aged people whom all look like SFU professors of art history. It must be  film fest time in Vancouver again. And so my next two weeks will be full of pretentious art house flicks that no has heard of, no one cares about, and no one will ever watch. And for some reason I expect you to read what I have to say about them. Let’s begin.

The Ambassador directed by Mads Brugger

Satire seems to be a bit of a lost art these days. Western culture seems to be in an overly earnest period culturally speaking, which is ironic considering that I’m not sure we’ve ever been more shallow.

Mads Brugger is trying to change that, one sacred cow at a time. In his newest documentary The Ambassador, Brugger pulls of what might end up being the greatest documentary feat in film history.

Here’s the skinny: The extremely Danish, and extremely white Brugger buys himself a diplomatic passport, travels to the Central African Republic posing as a Liberian diplomat, and attempts to use his new diplomatic immunity to ingratiate himself into the business of blood diamonds.

Let’s try that again, as it bears repeating: He pretends to be a ranking government official, and then uses that “clout” to try to buy and export one of the most valuable, yet illegal substances on the planet. In Africa. With absolutely no one in on the joke. He’s defrauding two unstable, corrupt regimes, in addition to organized criminals and illicit diamond miners. Ballsy doesn’t begin to describe the sheer chutzpah Brugger displays in this film.

We keep expecting a “Brugger’s Body Was Never Found” title card to pop up after almost every scene. It’s obvious that even Brugger doesn’t even know what his end game is going to be, as he tries to keep pushing the lies as far as they will go.

But satire where no one gets the joke can border on sheer meanness, and in Brugger’s case, exploitation. And that’s the beauty of this film, and of Brugger’s work in general. He’s fearless as a filmmaker and provocateur. And so he makes mistakes, and often treats his subjects with a contempt that isn’t always deserved. But like a true documentarian should, he puts it all on film. He inserts himself into every situation in the same way that Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock would. But unlike those partisan hucksters, he remains objective enough to let the camera keep rolling, even when it’s HIS mistakes that are being caught.

Brugger’s mantra seems to be: everyone is bad, all the time. And so those looking for a feel good story about how Africa is on the upswing, or how your KIVA dollars are being put to good work, should probably look elsewhere. What this is, is a long look at the pervasiveness of corruption. And unfortunately, it provides no easy answers. Brugger shines lights under rocks that we barely know exist, but he entertains as well. He’s not just muckracking here, he’s entertaining.

Rating: A-

Nameless Gangster directed by Jong-bin Yun

Although Mob movies seem to be an American invention, they’ve seeped  into the film making idioms of countries all over the world. South Korea is no exception, and so we get Nameless Gangster. If you’ve ever watched Breaking Bad and wondered what it would be like in Korean, without the moral compass and competence, then you’ve got Nameless Gangster. Or at least an hour and a half of it, as that’s really how long this paint-by-numbers flick should have been. It’s a decent crime movie for sure, but not so decent that it deserved the 2 hours and 15 minutes that Yun took to make the damn thing.

Min-Sik Choi (Oldboy, I Saw The Devil) gives an extremely entertaining performance as a somewhat competent dock official who manages to stumble into the world of organized crime.  However, he’s hampered by a script that seems to think it’s far more convoluted than it actually is, and as such takes 45 minutes longer to get to the point than it actually does.

This is moderately entertaining film, with a strong cast, and some strong production values. It’s a solid gangster movie, but it won’t be the best one I see this year. Heck, it probably won’t even be the best Korean gangster movie I see at this festival.

Rating: B-

Movie Review: Looper by Rian Johnson

Looper directed by Rian Johnson

This century is only 12 years old, but we already have several additions to the pantheon of capital G great science fiction films: Children Of Men. District 9. Moon. Eternal Sunshine. And now, we can add Looper.

First of all, this movie is set in the future. Actually, it’s set in two futures: 30 years from now future, and 60 years from now future. 60 years from now future has developed time travel, and criminals there send the guys they don’t like back to 30 years from now future to be killed. The people who do the killing are called Loopers. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is one of them. Jeff Daniels is his boss. Daniels was a criminal in 60 years from now future, but now runs the show in 30 years from now future.

All is well, until Gordon-Leavitt discovers that he grew up to be Bruce Willis. That isn’t quite as awesome as it sounds, as Gordon-Leavitt is expected to kill his older self. This proves to be pretty difficult, because Bruce Willis.

This all sounds quite convoluted, but actually it’s pretty simple; At it’s heart, this is a movie about family. What makes up a family? Is it blood? Luck? Good intentions?

A little bit of all three, it turns out. Though it doesn’t seem to be on pace to doing even a fraction of the box office of something like Inception, the heart & soul that beats at the centre of this film is going to guarantee that this movie keeps going as a cult classic for years to come. There is plenty of time travel trickery, guns, and bang for those of us who like that sort of thing. But for those of us who need a rock solid emotional core in our science fiction, Looper is a revelation. Rarely does an action movie convince us care so much about it’s characters. Bruce Willis in particular rolls out his best work in a decade, with a visceral desperation so tangible that we can almost smell the despair coming off of him.

This is a man who has lost everything: His life, his love, and possibly even his past. And he will do absolutely anything to get them back. Gordon-Leavitt puts in a fine performance

Bruce Willis is holding himself hostage. Not a euphemism for masturbation.

as well, showing a range that proves that his recent foray into leading man roles is justified.  But it might be Emily Blunt who steals the show, continuing her quiet, steady quest to being recognized as one of the most talented actresses of her generation.

Looper a bold film, and Johnson isn’t afraid to try to use bombastic sci-fi trappings to tell a smaller, more personal story. It’s a fantastically well-written script, with as much attention paid to personal resonance as there is to resolving plot holes (though there are a few). Johnson really has crafted a bit of a populist masterpiece here. Arthouse snobs will find enough existential hand wringing to delight even the most douchey of Commercial Drive baristas, and for Ed Hardy models from Surrey, there are boobies and guns.

Rating: A+

Movie Review: My completely spoiler-heavy review of The Dark Knight Rises

“I trust Christopher Nolan”. That’s what I’ve been saying to pretty much everyone who has asked my opinion on what The Dark Knight Rises was going to be like all year. He’s pulled off the impossible time after time, and if the critical and financial success of The Dark Knight Returns and Inception isn’t enough to buy him some fan boy credit, I don’t know what is.

Unfortunately, it’s a statement that might no longer be true.

Here’s how I usually do my movie reviews. I sum up the plot of the film without spoiling too much, then add a few things I like, a few things I don’t like, then sum up the whole thing with a paragraph that I think is funny, but that no one else seems to get.

But summing up the plot of Dark Knight Rises in a paragraph would be like summing up the history of earth in a Tripadvisor comments section, so we’re going to try something different.

We start the movie with Bruce Wayne enjoying his eight year retirement from being Batman (apparently he didn’t watch the end of the last Batman film where Bruce Wayne said that he would never stop being Batman, ever), though instead of  a watch Wayne gets to be crippled, poor, and have beautiful women throw themselves at him for no discernible reason.

Christian Bale looking confused after having read the script to The Dark Knight Rises.

Then Anne Hathaway steals from him but she’s not really stealing from him and instead she’s working for this guy that’s working for another guy that used to work for another guy from the first movie. The first other guy works out a lot and has a mumbling problem, and wants to blow everything up because that’s what the second other guy wanted to do even though the second other guy soundly rejected the first other guy. Despite having almost no evidence that this first other guy even exists whatsoever, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again on the advice of a handsome orphan who somehow figured out that Wayne is Batman because he saw him once. (Alas, I’m not exaggerating that even a bit) Batman gets told by Michael Caine that he’s a terrible person and that he’s going to lose to the first other guy. Despite that rousing pep talk, Batman loses to the first other guy, who then shows his brilliance as a super villain by hiding Batman in a hole in the ground, telling Batman how to get out of the hole, and then acting really surprised when Batman gets out of that hole at the end of the movie and somehow beats him using the exact same strategy he used the first time they fought. But not before the first other guy  kills the first guy, and the second other guy explains the whole thing in a dream sequence/training montage. Oh, and Batman sleeps with a woman that he has no chemistry with, the handsome orphan runs around the city yelling at people angrily, and Anne Hathaway does bad things, then good things, then bad things again for absolutely no reason, but we’re supposed to forgive her because she looks good wearing a pair of heels longer than Tom Cruises leg.

P.S. This movie is a godforsaken mess.

I feel bad for thinking that way. Kind of. Christopher Nolan was THIS close to finishing off the greatest superhero trilogy ever made in style, but he seems to have gotten utterly bogged down with useless plotting minutia that he completely forgot what makes this character so great. A weak cast only compounds the effort, with Christian Bale sleepwalking his way through most of this film, as if he can’t wait to get to his new career of making movies where he doesn’t have to dress up like a giant rodent.  Hathaway does attempt to put forth a solid effort as Selena Kyle. But as usual with Nolan’s films, his female characters are either whores or saints, and it appears as if he didn’t have the time to let her know which one she was supposed to be. The rest of the cast flail about with vigour, all in service to a plodding script that seemed to have made sense to only one man.

Christopher Nolan’s films are known for “the big reveal”, and he works so hard to keep that streak going here that I have to believe he literally wrote this movie backwards. Great scenes are conceived, but then 10 minutes of exposition are shoe-horned afterwards to ensure that the those scenes “make sense”, making for an overly convoluted mess of a script.  When we finally find out who the villain behind the whole affair really is, we’re so numbed by the constant over-explaining that we can barely find the energy to shrug.

Tom Hardy as “Mumbles McGee”.

Though Nolan’s attention to character development has waned as his movies have gotten bigger, DKR has to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nolan somehow manages to strip anything interesting out of a character that has held our interest for almost a century. The Bruce Wayne that starts this movie has lost his mission. But despite having 2 hours and 45 minutes to play with, Nolan forgets to give Batman any real reason to get his mission back. His city is in danger, but no more so than it was when Wayne was despondent and suicidal. His character arc in this film can be best described as: Sad Sad Angry Ouch Angry Yay, which also happens to be the character arc your puppy has when it accidentally bites a porcupine.

And so this is a negative review, of a film that inexplicably seems to have garnered universal praise. But I’m not too sad. Nolan gave us two very good Batman films already, and can hardly be faulted for not being able to close the deal here. In a year, or two, or ten, another film maker will be given the reigns, and will start the whole process again. The character can handle one bad movie. And quite frankly, so can Nolan.

He’s a strong film maker, and although this movie makes about as much sense as Christy Clark’s energy policy of “I’m against the rape of natural resources unless I get a cut”, I think that I still have to say, that “I trust Christopher Nolan.”

Just not with Batman anymore.

Rating: D-

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Mark Webb

At this point, we needed another film adaptation of the Spider-Man story about as much as we needed a movie that showed the secret stripper origin of Channing Tatum. Alas, this summer we somehow ended up with both.

The story is this: Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield, whose seems to think that he was actually rebooting Sleeper, since his entire performance here is a tribute to early 70’s Woody Allen)  is a really good-looking white kid from a middle class family who happens to be the second best science student at a high school that actually has science in its name. And so he gets crowned president of the school, and spends the rest of the film being carryed around on the backs of his fellow pupils. Oh wait, no. He actually gets picked on by the other kids, which is a little like Noam Chomsky being teased at an Occupy Wall Street Rally for being a little too far to the left .

That joke was originally a sports metaphor, but then I realized that no one would believe that I knew anything about LeBron James. Which is true.

But I digress. Parker lives with Martin Sheen and Sally Field, who have been taking care of him ever since his family abandoned him for a plot device to be named later. He happens to find some formulas (forumulae? Forumulets?) left by his dad, which leads him to look up his famous scientist father on Google for the first time ever. Or was it Bing? Or Yelp. Maybe ChristianMingle. One of those. So he tracks down his father’s science buddy, gets bitten by a irradiated spider, and then proceeds to gain spider powers. There’s also a talking lizard, and a love interest that’s actually somewhat believable, and Uncle Ben dies. Or was it Uncle Ben dies ? Damn spoiler buttons.

Anyways, here’s what I liked:

The relationship between Peter Parker & Gwen Stacey.  I put this first, as it’s the best part of the movie, and the strongest case Sony (and Webb) have for convincing me that this project needed to exist. Emma Stone & Andrew Garfield have a sexual charisma that is not only rare for this type of film, but is actually so palpable that one finds himself hoping that Sony realizes these two should have been remaking 9 1/2 Weeks instead. In every scene they’re in, they look like they can’t wait for the camera to turn off so that they can screw like bunnies.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, 5 minutes before making Peter Parker a man in the Midtown High bathrooms.

Secondly…Umm…I just realized that was the only thing I really liked about the movie.

It’s not that there is anything “wrong” about this piece. It’s fine, really. But if you are going to “reboot” a franchise in which the last film only hit theatres 5 years ago, you better have a pretty great reason for doing so. Sony has about 750,000,000 great reasons for doing so, but none of them matter very much to me. And it’s not as if I have fond memories of Sam Raimi’s bombastic trilogy either. There was plenty of fromage in all 3 instalments (though slightly less in the second, to be sure), with the last one being one of the worst superhero films ever made. There’s less that’s “wrong” here, and I think a strong case could be argued that the tighter dialogue, and stronger cast, definitely made this a slightly more accessible offering than Raimi’s films.

But there’s nothing here that screams out “I NEEDED TO BE MADE” here, and nothing that wouldn’t have fit in (with some tweaking, to be sure) as the fourth film in an existing franchise. It’s a slightly fresher take on the origin, but not so fresh as to convince me that Webb’s vision is so different from Raimi’s (As Nolan’s on Batman was from Burton’s, for example) that this film needed to be made.

That really doesn’t matter though. What matters is this: Does this movie stand on its own two legs as a credible adventure movie? The answer is sure. Barely, but sure. As stated, the characters have a depth to them that allows me to forgive the inexcusably bad CG (Seriously. How Sony can justify CG this terrible in 2012 is beyond me. I know Webb is a character guy first, but there’s really no excuse for the poor rendering, and choppy action sequences).

And the nice tweaks to the Uncle Ben sub-plot (The only absolutely indispensable part of any Spider-Man origin), as well as the very strong motivations for Peter post spider-bite, make up for the hackneyed “LET”S DESTROY EVERYONE JUST CAUSE ARGH!!” motivations of the villain. Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, and Martin Sheen are the bedrock of a solid cast, and a decent script and some nice direction from Webb made this a fairly well-rounded summer action movie. It’s just not one you need to see. The action scenes don’t have much action in them, and there’s never any real sense of danger to any of the cast, even for the ones that actually die. In fact, it’s only when this action movie stops pretending to be an action movie, that it works on any level at all.

P.S. Peter Parker should not be cool. Ever.

Rating: B-

Movie Review: The Avengers

The Avengers – Directed by Joss Whedon

Since the  build to this comic mediagasm has been so gradual (it started four years ago with Iron Man, a blockbuster that at the time seemed unlikely, but now seems to have seeped into every part of our summer movie experience), it’s worth taking a second to stop and consider just how unlikely it is that this movie even exists.

Pretty frickin’ unlikely in fact. Marvel went for the long con here, building up interest over four years for a franchise that quite frankly most non-comic fans hadn’t even heard of before a year ago. Even if you’re just judging  this on technical points, the sheer hutzpah that it took to get this culmination of a 5 movie endeavour done is absolutely staggering. I would send Kevin Feige and his team at Marvel a congratulatory note, but I think at this point they would just rather have a new wheelbarrow to cart their huge brass balls around.

Scarlett Johansson. Making my tummy feel funny since 2001.

Our story:  Someone called “Loki” has taken a minute from having snake venom poured into his eyes for all eternity (No, not that Loki? Oh, he is that Loki? Just a little different? And Stan Lee gets a producer credit because of it? Yeah, that’s fair. Screw you Jack Kirby!)  so that he can use a cube that’s somewhat cosmic in origins to bring an extra-dimensional army to earth to take over and force everyone to listen to his stories about how Thor stole his date to the Asgardian prom.

Get these motherfucking norse gods off my motherfucking helicarrier!

Incredible Hulk: Comedy Genius.

Samuel Jackson (he of the influential Jackson v. Snakes decision of 2006)  is offended by Loki’s attempts to weaponize cosmic technology as it somewhat gets in the way of HIS attempts at weaponizing cosmic technology. He puts together a team that features 2 assassins, a jaundiced, juiced up  Mel Gibson, a mechanized Richard Branson, the American version of Captain Canuck, and Jeff Spicoli. They (spoiler alert) fight the bad guys.

So what did I like?

  • The dialogue. For those of you still holding out hope that Firefly is going to get renewed, I can report that the Whedonisms fly fast and often here. If there was a record for quips per minute in an action movie, I daresay that the Avengers would win. There’s plenty of funny moments here; in fact, a case could be argued that the sheer volume of bon mots threaten to derail the gravitas of the situation.
  • Everybody gets a turn. This might sound like common sense, but it’s something that very few people currently writing for superhero  comics remember to do. If you’re going to have 6 people on your team, give each of them a reason to be there.
  • Characterization. Whedon absolutely nails most of his lead characters here. Hawkeye is probably the only exception to this, but it’s hard to say if it’s the script, or simply the cold, dead eyes of Jeremy Renner that are responsible.  Everyone else is given scenes that not only play to their strengths both as characters and actors, but also attempt to develop their onscreen relationships to each other.
  • A strong villain. Though Loki’s motivations are a little simple for my taste, Tom Hiddleston cements his reputation as the best comic book movie villain since Heath Ledger.
  • Marvel finally spent some money. One of my critiques of the Marvel movies is how cheap they look. Thor’s CGI was barely one step up from the photoshop guy on the Rachel Maddow Show, which is a problem if your movies are loaded with special effects. Marvel actually opened up the pockets for this one, and it shows. Great final battle.
  • It’s a FUCKING AVENGERS MOVIE! You have no idea. I have been imagining this movie in my head since I was 12 years old, and I still can’t quite believe I just saw it. Whedon recognizes my fanboy cravings, and goes out of his way to ensure that every single thing that someone who has been waiting for this movie for 25 years could possibly want, is on the screen. And so we get Thor Vs. Iron Man. Cap Vs. Iron Man. Cap Vs. Thor. Thor Vs. Hulk. I REPEAT: THOR VS. HULK. IN A MOVIE. SHUT YOUR EXCELSIOR CAKED PIE HOLE. No Jonah James Vs. Willie Lumpkin, but I’m sure they’re saving that for the sequel.
  • It’s a solid story. It’s not perfect, and we’ll get to that in a bit. But Whedon really tried to give every person in this movie a reason for being there, which is pretty integral to this type of thing.

What didn’t I like?

  • The story. As discussed, it’s serviceable. But Whedon leaves just enough loose ends in his plotting to leave a bitter taste in my eye. Exactly what did Loki need to accomplish on the helicarrier (Wait, did I mention that there’s a GODDAMN HELICARRIER IN A GODDAMN AVENGERS MOVIE! There is.) that he couldn’t have done from outside?  Why exactly would battle-hardened soldiers care so much about the (Spoiler Alert) death of someone they barely knew, and didn’t even seem to like? How exactly is the Hulk an uncontrollable beast in the first half of the film, and taking orders and fighting whomever Captain America points at in the second? These are quibbles, but quibbles worth discussing.
  • Emotional impact. Whedon did try, but the film was missing any sense of feeling of real danger (something that Dark Knight pulled off really  well). Despite the scope of the movie, there isn’t a second where we feel that our heroes are really in trouble, and the one serious moment was a little anti-climactic considering how important that scene should have been.
  • Marvel’s caving to the pro-Shawarma lobby.

Again, these are small things. But they’re big enough for me to downgrade this from being a capital G great film, to “just” an absolutely entertaining spectacle movie. The only real question we should be asking, is “Is this as good an Avengers movie as is possible to make”.  I would say that the answer to that is “Make Mine Marvel.”

Now write Jack Kirby’s family and Gary Friedrich a check, you cheapskates.

Rating: A-

P.S. BEST. CREDITS. SCENE. EVER.

Movie Review – Comic-Con Episode IV, A Fan’s Hope

Comic-Con Episode IV, A Fan’s Hope, directed by Morgan Spurlock.

Comic-Con. Two small words, but to those of us who love comics, movies, or video games, they mean so much. It’s a 150,000 person nerdgasm that happens every year in San Diego, California. There are literally dozens of other cons that happen all over the world, but when you say Comic-Con, you mean San Diego. It’s the largest event in geek culture.

And this, the latest in Morgan Spurlock’s endless stream of “documentaries” that don’t actually document anything, is about that event. Or at least that’s what I thought it was about. Unfortunately, it’s not about the San Diego Comic-Con at all. In fact,  there is almost no mention of the history, or current status, or anything really, about the con at all, other than that it’s a) really big and b) people really like it.

What this film is really about, is a dream.

You know the dream. Everyone has it, really. It’s not specific to comics or movies though. It could be sports. Or chess. Or Nigerian barrel juggling. It’s the dream to be more than what you are, and to succeed at your secret desires. And while those dreams may be admirable, they’re probably more appropriate for a film about an inner-city basketball program, or a spelling bee featuring kids with last names I can’t pronounce. In this context, they just come across as a longbox full of maudlin sentimentality.

Spurlock divides his movie into 6 or 7 major segments, each focussing on a different personal story. And so we are introduced to the young lovers who met at the previous con, the struggling artists wanting nothing more than to work for Marvel one day, and the costume designer wanting to become the next Jim Henson. They are all admirable endevaours, and each are entertaining in their own way. Watching people follow their dreams is always a recipe for success, and Spurlock shows a steady eye for good storytelling here, something that has often been missing in his other films.

But any documentary that starts with such a bold assumption (that is, that the event we’re documenting is inherently a good thing), isn’t really a documentary at all. And this definitely isn’t. What it is, is a 2 hour commercial for a trade show. A trade show where you can have the chance to meet a lot of people that feel the same way that you do about Klingon mating rituals,  sonic screwdrivers, and bikinis worn by Carrie Fisher in 1983…. but a trade show nonetheless. While almost every story covered here is entertaining and worth watching, they are stories that could have been transported into almost any interest: Stamp collecting, sports, 1dancing with failed celebrities, etc. We are told a lot about the people going to the con, and why they’re going there. What we aren’t told, is almost anything to do with the con itself.

It’s mentioned in passing that the con is bigger than it used to be, and that comics are barely even covered there anymore. But what isn’t covered is why. No one reads comics anymore, even though geek culture is bigger than every before. Sci-fi literature sales are dwindling, yet action movies that pretend to be sci-fi are massive. To me, that’s the real story here, but Spurlock chooses to gloss over that and instead showcase a fabricated public marriage proposal that wouldn’t have been out of place on Hockey Night In Canada.  It’s entertaining, but it tells us nothing about what the movie says it’s actually about: Comic-Con.

Comic-Con is important because it showcases everything that is good, and that is bad, about today’s geek culture. What used to be a burgeoning subculture of underground comics, films, and novels, has been bought and paid for by multi-national corporations. And as a result, everyone who likes movies is now part of the club. Let me tell you something folks, liking The Matrix doesn’t make you a geek. Reading Shaolin Cowboy, the comic created by the guy who did production design on The Matrix makes you a geek. But in this new, homogenized world of geek acceptance, everyone is granted access.  Liking shows that everyone else watches, and reading books that everyone else reads, isn’t geeky. It’s mainstream. And if it’s mainstream, then it’s not special anymore. And if it’s not special, then why does this movie go out of it’s way to pretend that they are?

These are important questions to ask as geek culture changes and grows, and the answering of those questions would make an interesting movie. Unfortunately, Morgan Spurlock didn’t choose to make that movie. What he chose to make was perfectly serviceable TV quality puff piece about nice people that like to own things.  That they happen to like to own some of the same things that I do, doesn’t make it any better.

Rating: C+