Brian Beise

Freelance writer, new dad, that guy opining to the entire room after a movie.

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Superheroes and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Test of First-Rate Intelligence

While reviewing Kick-Ass 2 for ebert.com—the place I used to go for the late great’s wonderful writing—Mr. Ali Arikan made some sweeping statements about superhero films that not only insulted the genre and its fans, but also undermined the whole fabric of pop culture and criticism. So let’s try and put the pieces back together.

It’s important to note that I don’t care a thing about Kick-Ass 2. If Arikan found it “reprehensible,” it’s his duty as a critic to shout that warning from the rooftops of the interweb. The big missteps start in his second paragraph, where he digresses to bemoan the perils of reviewing this kind of movie.

If a critic takes a superhero movie seriously and chastises it for its shortcomings, fans pounce with the age-old mantra: ‘It’s only a comic book film!’ But if the critic dismisses a superhero...

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Why They Cast Ben Affleck as Batman

Batman’s been cast for the Man of Steel sequel, and it feels like armageddon (get it?) for the caped crusader’s cinematic streak. It’s not that I can’t see Ben Affleck as the dark knight; I can see it with jaw-clenching, sideways-smiling, Gigli clarity. But I’m not writing to complain; I’m writing to figure out why.

It’s true lots of people doubted Michael Keaton when he was cast as Batman, but no one had seen him really do dramatic work before. All they really had to go on was stuff like Beetlejuice. We’ve seen Ben Affleck as a hero, a romantic lead, and even as a spy, and none of it reveals that spark of crazy you need to get this role right.

There is a theoretical Batman movie I think Affleck could do well in: the 1930s pulp. If the film were set in pre-WWII Gotham, and Batman wore spandex instead of armor, and Bruce Wayne lunted...

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Don’t Boycott Trash; Champion Quality

Movie buffs love to berate others for paying to see—and therefore perpetuating—bad Hollywood movies. “Stop going to see Transformer movies,” they prophesy, “and they will disappear.” But even if that were true, it’s not the way to improve our cinematic landscape. Don’t boycott bad movies; champion good ones.

Nevermind for now the fact that no one should feel guilty for going to see bad pop. If it entertains you, no apologies necessary. The Twilight series doesn’t bother me, so long as Let the Right One In sees the light of day. It’s okay to front the cash for the junk-food flick of your choice, but we must also pay to support quality work, so that those artists can keep producing.

Standing outside Fast and Furious 12 with a sign saying “no more garbage” won’t hurt that franchise, and it certainly won’t help...

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Remember Avatar? Me Neither.

Last week @aliarikan tweeted this:

Great question (Thanks to Daniel Zarick for sending me the tweet.). Why don’t we quote Avatar the way we quote The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars? Why didn’t it leave a lasting impression on pop culture? Nevermind the half-baked environmentalist sermon, the simplistic depiction of tribal civilizations, and the love interest stuck deep in the uncanny valley. I think we forget Avatar because it lacks the basic optimism that’s at the core of all lasting adventure stories.

The adventure flics that last allow us to believe in the resilience and potential greatness of mankind. In Indiana Jones, a normal man becomes a highly-educated globe trotter who defends...

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When Gamers Get Old

Video games and I grew up together. We blew up spaceships, head-butted bricks full of coins, and jump-kicked multicolored ninjas who disappeared when they were defeated. Now I wonder if games will grow old with me.

My first video game was Super Mario Bros. of course. Others that stand out from my childhood include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Goldeneye, and then Halo. In all of these games the goal was some variation on kill the villain and save the girl. That’s still the carrot and stick of lots of games, but recently I’ve noticed a new dynamic emerging. More and more, the motivation for video game heroes is not romantic, but paternal.

Dishonored, The Walking Dead: Season 1, The Last of Us, and Bioshock Infinite all came out within the last year, and the protagonist of each game is chiefly concerned with the safety of a child. In some cases...

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Inception and Narnia

Cobb’s revelation at the end of Inception reminds me of Puddleglum’s victory over the Emerald Witch in “The Silver Chair,” book four of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I think each scene might shed light on the other.

At the climax of “The Silver Chair,” deep in an underground country, the evil queen has bewitched our heroes into believing the surface world does not exist. She pretends to have never heard of the sun, and when Prince Rilian describes it as like a lamp but larger, the witch tells thm they are dreaming things up from what they see in the room. A lion is just a dream inspired by cats, the sun by a lamp.

It is Puddleglum, Lewis’ most pessimistic character, who saves them from the witch. Maybe there is no Narnia, he says, but then our pretend world is a lot better than this real world of yours (entirely underground and occupied by monsters). He...

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