Dan O'Brien

Movie: The Hangover Part II

The Hangover 2 is the Transformers 3 of comedies. If Transformers 3 is all giant robot spectacle and butts, Hangover 2 is all man-boy shrieking and dicks. The formula is the same: semi-likable characters + a series of unrelated set pieces - any semblance of heart = movie!

And I expect that from Transformers 3. I want that movie to be robots and butts fighting each other for screen time, because that's what I paid for, but I never look for that in a comedy. The Hangover Part II was a shameless, heartless parade of jokes we've already seen partnered with shock-inducing spectacle. Never before has a comedy tried to rival a big-budget action movie for mindlessness and insulting stupidity. At least most comedies try to do something new. Hangover 2 just said, "Oh, you liked when Ed Helms woke up with weird shit on his face and then Zach Galifianakis said something silly the first time? We'll just do that again, but louder."


And the reason I'm calling it "Most Appropriate Movie of the Year?" It made over $500 million worldwide. It worked. They were successful, so the lesson in Hollywood will be "Do it again! Do that again with EVERY movie!" I hope you liked the first Hangover, because it's the only movie Hollywood is going to make for the next five years.

TV Show: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is the only show in America that all of my friends watch despite the fact that we all mostly hate it. I've seen that phenomenon with reality TV shows (the audience of Jersey Shore is made exclusively of people who only watch on the off chance that one of the characters might choke to death in the middle of an episode -- but I'll let Dave talk about that), but never with a serious, scripted television show on a network known mostly for its quality.

This isn't the place for me to talk about why this show is bad (the pacing, unlikable characters, not enough zombies, a lack of fresh ideas, child actors, what's-her-name, Rick's terrible accent), and I know that taste is subjective. Just because all of my friends watch the show begrudgingly doesn't mean the rest of the world does. That said, we have a Forum where people can talk about movies, TV shows, music, life and whatever else they're interested in. Everyone's usually pretty articulate and thoughtful, it's nice in there. Here are some quotes from various folks in the thread dedicated to The Walking Dead:

"Why are the writers doing their best to make us hate the main characters?"

"Man, this show is getting more and more soap opera-y every week. They really need to get back on the road because it's starting to stagnate."

"I was trying not to dislike Dale and Andrea, I've failed."

"I think at this point, the words that come to mind when I think of Lori are 'useless' and 'no redeeming qualities.' That's probably not good for your leading lady."

"Yes, I do hate the shit out of most everybody."

It's not like we have a special section of our forums for people to hate a TV show. Those are people in a thread reserved for fans of The Walking Dead! And the weird thing is that they are fans. The people who don't like the show don't watch it, but the people who love this show hate it. Go to the comments section over at the AV Club whenever they recap a new episode, and you'll find that most of those commenters are similarly pissed off at the show. The show that they keep watching. Every. Single. Week.

And why do they do that? One word: Hope. And now for some more words: Everyone who watches The Walking Dead isn't watching it because it's good; they're watching it because it can be good (and because Daryl rules). When I heard about this show, I was on board because I thought, "This could be either a show about people fighting zombies OR a show about interesting, diverse strangers trying to set up a new life at the end of the world, and also there are zombies in the background." It is, unfortunately, neither of those shows (it's a show where 12 unlikable people get into tense whisper-fights inches from each other's faces and between two and four zombies get killed every episode to remind people that HEY ZOMBIES). But I keep watching because, one day, it might be one of those better shows I envisioned when the show was first announced.

Some people watch because the graphic novel on which the show is based is awesome, and they're holding out hope that, one day, the show might be as good as the comics. Some people keep watching because it has all of the ingredients of a good show (money, the creative freedom a network like AMC allows, great source material, lots of characters, a liberal amount of side-boob, zombies), and even though it hasn't embraced those ingredients yet, it still might some day.

The Walking Dead is successful because people are tuning in but watching a different, better show in their imaginations, every single week. We, as a television-viewing audience, have never been this optimistic.

Song: One of Those Adele Songs You Love


Boy, I can't tell you how many times I was feeling a little down and cheered myself up by throwing on that great Adele song about feelings and the future and how everything's going to be OK. Or a buddy of mine will be feeling blue because he just broke up with his girlfriend and I say, "Hey, fella, don't worry about it, just remember what Adele said in her song," and then I'll recite some inspirational lyric about moving on that Adele delivered in her song, (you know the one). Or, like, at a party, someone will say "What does everyone want to hear?" and we'll all be like "Adele, obviously." Obviously.


Full disclosure, I have not been good at keeping up with music this year. Every day of my life, I listen to either my old band or the score of the Sonic the Hedgehog games.


The only exception? Rain. If it's raining outside, my computer turns on by itself, switches over to YouTube and pulls out some Adele song and, before you know it, I'm standing at my window looking at the rain and nodding along to some Adele song that I don't technically know. It's weird, but I feel like the rest of the world is doing it, too. It doesn't matter which one. All of Adele's songs are perfect for standing at your window and looking at the rain. And that's remarkable to me. There hasn't been a single artist that I know of who somehow made music exclusively for a single activity (apart from Marvin Gaye and sex).

But Adele did. She made an entire album of "Stand at Your Window, Look at the Rain and Reflect on Past Relationships" music. It's like she's hypnotized me/us. I don't care if you don't like Adele. I'm not sure if I even like Adele. I just know that, when it rains, I need her rough, powerful voice to come belting out of my speakers and tell me ... something. Whatever it is that Adele sings about in her songs, I need her to shout that when it rains.


Video Game: Arkham City

Via vg247.com

My status as a lapsed gamer/non-gamer has been documented on this site before, so I admit that I'm not the best candidate to talk about video games. The only gaming system I have is a Wii, and I only use it to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii because it reminds me of a time when I understood gaming. Things were simpler then.

That said, my friends are much better at keeping up with the world than I am, and my buddy bought the new Batman: Arkham City game and was kind enough to let me come over and watch him play it. I had one reaction: We're not making video games anymore.

The critically and commercially successful Arkham City is not a video game; it's a series of badass Batman-related scenes that require a limited amount of effort on the part of the guy holding the controller. The game is cinematically beautiful and has a fine story, but I wouldn't describe what you do with the game as "playing." You're pressing the buttons that move the game's plot along. The entire game is like the fatalities in Mortal Kombat: You type in a series of buttons and then the character on your screen does a complex move that you could never come up with.

In Mario, you press "jump" to jump on a guy, and when you jump on the guy he gets smashed. In Arkham City, you'll press a single button and instead of, say, jumping, you'll do a totally badass uppercut and leg sweep combination in slow motion! Every single button is "Batman does a cool Batman thing and you sit back and watch." They don't want you to play the game and fight bad guys, they want you to watch their video game movie and occasionally press buttons that make Batman do really cool, well-choreographed moves. That game is based around the idea that people don't want to play as Batman, they want to watch him elegantly mow down a bunch of thugs, over and over again.

And that's what the game delivers. I mean, just watch a few minutes of game play. The instructions aren't "Press 'X' to jump [or] punch," they're "Press 'A' to CRACK SAFE [or] JUMP OFF THIS BUILDING AND FLY AROUND." You press a button and suddenly you're jumping on someone's back, wrapping your legs around his neck and flipping him into a wall. That's what "B" does!

This is the future of gaming. We're not making games anymore. We're making interactive movies.

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