Tag Archives: Brick Mansions

Wednesday Collective — Net Neutrality, There Will Be Clothes, & the Laziest Way to Write Strong Women

Net Neutrality

Corporate Feudalism

Let me preface this by saying I’ve worked as a campaign manager, a PAC fundraiser, a legislative aide, and for a state Democratic party. One phone call to an aide is more effective than 50 signatures on a petition. If you care about any of this, yes – sign petitions. But the biggest difference you can make, the biggest way you can interrupt someone’s day and get stuck in their head and make them bring an issue up to the politician for whom they work – is by calling. Your Senators. Your Representatives. Your Governors.

Petitions take a minute to look at. Form letters can be recognized and filed into a folder you know you’re never going to look at again. A phone call has to be taken by someone, because they never know what the topic’s going to be until they’ve already committed themselves to listen. A petition or form letter may make you feel better, but it has little real effect today. It gives the power to the clicking finger on somebody’s mouse hand. Aides are required to pick up the phone, answer politely, and listen. It puts the power in your voice.

The biggest reason you should be worried about net neutrality is that the Internet isn’t really an owned thing. Anyone can hop on and, with a minimum of trouble and investment, start a website – it’s the ultimate realization of free speech. The net neutrality cases the Supreme Court is sleeping through and legislation Congress is drawing up threaten that.

Essentially, service companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon will be able to double-dip. They’ll charge you for your internet connection, and then turn around and charge websites for their ability to get material to you. What this means to you is that the Internet will start to become prepackaged, like cable TV is. You will be forced into deciding which websites you’d like to pay to access, which plan you’d like to subscribe to, and the open access you have now to every single site on the web will disappear. Small websites and independent ones that can’t pay the service companies will lose their voice.

Service companies will also be able to dictate through bandwidth the political opinions they’d like to support, and will be able to relegate the kinds of independent news sources we most rely upon online to the far corners of accessibility.

I’m not the expert on this. If you haven’t already, learn about net neutrality online. The Washington Post published an infographic that shows how easily Comcast extorted Netflix into paying for a service we (and they) already pay for.

Here’s the ACLU’s rundown of information on net neutrality.

Don’t mistake this with the government’s ill-timed pilot program roll-out of the “Internet Driver’s License,” which would be managed by the government but store your information with subcontracted third parties. I mean, that’s scary, too, the government collecting every log-in and piece of information on you and selling it to third parties, who could then bundle it with other users’ data and sell that to third parties. Nothing like that’s ever gone wrong, has it? But that’s a completely different issue that’s just as scary and threatening, and would only take an extra five seconds to bring up to your Congressperson.

There Will Be Clothes
Maria Bruder

There Will Be Clothes

One reason I push our Bits & Pieces series is to write about the overlooked technical aspects we often gloss over as viewers. Even though we may not select out a piece of set design here or a bit of fight or dance choreography there as conveying a message, these details still burrow into our subconscious.

Clothes on Film is a specialty website that talks about, well, clothes on film. It’s an invaluable resource for costume designers and make-up artists. This There Will Be Blood article is just one of several phenomenal pieces they’ve hosted. Not only can you crash through their archives willy-nilly, you can also peruse their articles by a film’s time period, allowing you to get multiple perspectives on how costume designers find ways to burrow their messages into our subconscious.

The Laziest, Most Offensive Way to Write a Strong Woman
A.E. Larsen

300r Eva Green.tiff

300: 300 Harder is in a tight race with Jack Ryan: Kenneth Branagh Takes a Nap and Brick Mansions (no pun here, I feel bad enough for that movie as is) for worst movie of the year so far. Yes, we’re only four months in, but when the fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity canon can’t even make that list, it means you’ve really had some half-assed films.

300: Shameless Play on Star Wars Titling wasn’t actually a terrible movie. I mean, it was, but it had some neat technical things going for it. Its biggest problem, and its strongest claim to win (lose?) that award at the end of the year, is Artemisia. The Persian general is played by Eva Green, who is the only actor in the whole damn thing who realizes how much camp a movie like 300: Leonidas and Xerxes Escape from Guantanamo Bay really needs. Green (and Lena Headey for all of 2.5 seconds) are the only watchable actors in this.

But the character Green plays is offensive. She’s a strong woman. Well that’s a good start, but why is she strong? Because she was raped as a preteen. Welcome to genre fiction, where men can be strong because they swing Freudian swords around all day, but women can only be strong if they’re sexually taken advantage of. It’s like a trade-off. You can be a weak and virginal female character, but if you want to be strong, you’d better get chained up in the bottom of a Greek ship for years on end while sailors have their way with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Arnold Schwarzenegger being strong in Conan or John McClane being badass in Die Hard because either got raped for years on end as a kid.

A.E. Larsen writes about Artemisia’s historical accuracy, as well as giving his own take on the strong-woman-as-raped-woman issue in a fantastic article that bridges history and social responsibility in filmmaking.

So even though Brick Mansions is the worst-told story of the year, and Jack Ryan: Keira Knightley Can’t Play Every Character in This Scene, Can She? She Can, I Guess is the most boring movie of the year, 300: Screenwriters Please Go F*ck Yourselves is really leading the pack toward the bottom.

The Best Movie You’ll Never See
Sam Adams


At The Dissolve, Sam Adams (he really gets around Wednesday Collective, doesn’t he) interviews director William Friedkin about the best movie you’ve never seen. In fact, catch me in the right mood and I’ll admit that Sorceror, William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Wages of Fear, may be the best movie, period. It has one of the finest endings in cinema. Hell, the whole movie is just one great, big ending. Coming off his success with The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin risked life and limb to shoot an existential, Conradian action movie in the jungle.

Despite being a critical success, it was killed by the release of Star Wars, and Sorceror barely survived. I remember watching a poor VHS copy as a kid, not knowing that most prints had been lost or destroyed over a few short decades. Sorceror was finally remastered and released last month. Watch it, you won’t regret it. And read the interview, though it does contain spoilers.

Adam Sandler as Transgressional Hero
Bilge Ebiri

Adam Sandler test

I don’t know that I agree with this article, but I don’t know that I disagree with it. This is rare. Try it on for size.

The Wily Beast and the Desperate Woman
Hadley Freeman

George Clooney

Freeman tips the double standard in celebrity reporting on its head by comparing media reactions to the engagement of George Clooney to the reactions on the engagement of Jennifer Aniston. He was ‘tamed,’ the wily beast, by one of the world’s most pre-eminent humanitarian lawyers (even though she turned him down twice) while Jennifer Aniston suckered in some poor B-lister I’ve never heard of ‘in the nick of time,’ and he can’t wait to get out of it. You know, all allegedly, because otherwise, writers would get sued. Really, I couldn’t care who’s getting married to whom – I was always rooting for Clooney and Pitt to get it together so they could have an excuse to remake old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn courtroom comedies – but if you’re going to report on people’s private lives, you may as well be equal opportunity about it.

As Freeman says, “In the world of media, women are tragic and desperate and said, and men are caddish and free. Because the media, apparently, believes that people are like characters in a crap romcom you wouldn’t watch on a 14-hour flight.”

Not a Fitting End for Paul Walker — “Brick Mansions”

Brick Mansions lead

If you’ve seen the trailer for Brick Mansions, you should be expecting three things from the film. One, the late, great Paul Walker, who exuded enough casual charm and quiet heart to keep the Fast and Furious franchise going through some pretty rough days. Two, a showcase of Parkour, the French free-running style that allows expert practitioners to leap rooftop-to-rooftop at full sprint, or scale 10-story buildings faster than you or I could climb the stairs. Three, a cogent story involving a gangster who’s hijacked a weapon of mass destruction and threatens to destroy Detroit with it, and the cop and felon who have to team up in order to disarm it.

Well, at least it has Paul Walker, who plays the police officer, Damien. Before his untimely death in a traffic accident, Walker’s claim to fame wasn’t being a terribly dynamic actor, although he did do some nice work in Flags of Our Fathers. Instead, what he offered was perhaps the hardest thing for an actor to convey – earnestness. It’s the same reason we once bought Kevin Costner as Robin Hood – as an audience, we simply trusted him. The same went for Walker – he wasn’t a great actor, but his bright-eyed enthusiasm always made a film better. It’s a shame he won’t get to bring that charm to other films, and it’s a shame that Brick Mansions, the last film he fully completed shooting, doesn’t give us a quiet character moment or two with Damien in which to consider and appreciate that earnestness.

Not many have seen District B13, the French movie on which Brick Mansions is based. Both films involve a ghetto that’s been walled off from the rest of the city. Both involve politicians who excuse creating this lawless, artificial prison as a way to make the rest of the city safer. Both realize that, in historical terms, ghettos are something the politically powerful create only to contain those who most threaten to take away that power.

Brick Mansions 1

They’re both Parkour movies. Parkour’s most famous moment occurred when Daniel Craig took over the Bond franchise in Casino Royale. Where his quarry expertly climbed girders and leaped through tiny windows, Bond famously improvised an elevator and smashed through the door. If you’re still not familiar with Parkour, it’s very worth looking it up on YouTube.

Brick Mansions has some rather good Parkour, featuring co-founder of the art, David Belle. Belle plays the felon, Lino, but over-editing makes his Parkour unrecognizable. A single jump might be edited into three or four different shots. We don’t see the full choreography of any leap, and it’s the full picture – the difficulty, the twisting of anatomy, the physics-bending “how did he do that?” of Parkour that’s utterly butchered here.

As for story, I ought to be fair: the original District B13 didn’t have a very functional story either. Brick Mansions is a beat-for-beat remake, so I wouldn’t expect it to fare much better. How Mansions fails, however, is by removing any sense of real threat. There may be a neutron bomb on a rocket aimed straight at downtown Detroit, but…these gangsters are woeful. Auctioning the bomb back off to the police, gang boss Tremaine (rapper RZA) asks for $30 million. I know it’s Detroit and all, but I still felt like he needed to have the same conversation Dr. Evil had with Scott Evil about monetary inflation in Austin Powers.

Brick Mansions 2

Moreover, the gangsters have countless numbers of henchmen ready to give chase, but they only ever guard their most valuable assets (prisoners, the rocket itself) with a single lackey. Have the rest of the henchmen unionized? Are they on a mandated lunch break? Is Tremaine trying to save costs – is it a Sunday and he doesn’t want to pay them overtime? Why is the rocket halfway across the city anyway; why not just put it on Tremaine’s own roof, where his hundreds of henchmen are?

Is Brick Mansions good? Not really. Is it watchable? Imagine me shrugging noncommittally in response. It does have Paul Walker, though, and that really does count for something. See it if you’re a fan, but otherwise rent a Fast and Furious movie for Walker or District B13 for the Parkour. And if you’re really looking for a martial arts gangster epic, The Raid 2 might still be playing somewhere.

Brick Mansions is the scavenger’s quest of PG-13 qualifications – gunplay, action, violence, language, and some pretty needless and ham-handed sexual menace.

Watch these. They’ll ease the pain. You do any of this at home, you’re an idiot:

Parkour, like any movement style or martial art, is for everyone:

And leave it to the Russians to turn it into a meditation on facing death: