“Turn off your brain and enjoy it.”

This is advice that I quite regularly find amazingly irritating. Watching a movie is already a passive entertainment… being told “stop thinking during the movie” is, effectively, telling me that the movie is going to insult me BUT! if I make myself passive *ENOUGH*, it won’t occur to me. “Don’t notice things. Not even to notice that you’re not noticing things.”

All too often, this doesn’t result in making a movie more pleasant for me. Now, of course, the first movie that comes to mind is something like, oh, Transformers. A chunk of the special effects budget was devoted to the scene where Optimus Prime was playing hide and seek with the kid’s parents. There is a lot more ranting that is possible to be done about the Transformers movie, of course… but that’s the one that pretty much sums up my entire experience of the movie. (Also see: Pretty much anything with Jason Statham. Sober, anyway. The Cranks are pretty good if you’re throwing some glasses back.)

To be sure, there are movies that come out, pretty much, and *ask* you nicely to “run with me here”. The first to come to mind was one that came out around the same time as Transformers, if I recall correctly: Live Free or Die Hard.

This movie was nuts. If you worked in IT, you noticed problems from the first minute. “Why is he pressing ‘delete’ all by itself? If his computer was having a problem, he might press control/alt/delete… and unix doesn’t do anything with the delete key all by itself… and it’s not a Mac (well, *HE* is a Mac… never mind)… So… what?” The problems don’t even stop there, particularly. When they’re hacking into each other’s computers, I got the distinct “It’s a unix system, I know this” sensation… but, you know what? That was just fine. I’d compare to the current/modern origin of Spider-Man. It’s not a radioactive spider that bit him but a genetically engineered spider.

“Look, a wizard did it. You want to run with me on this or what?”

Okay, fine. Let’s run with it. You know what? Live Free or Die Hard did do everything it possibly could to be a movie that could, theoretically, have been ruined by thinking too much about it but even as you’re thinking “Bruce Willis is having his butt kicked in an SUV that is dangling precariously in an elevator shaft and the butt kicker is a female ninja who can move around the outside of the SUV at will”, you realize that, yeah, you know what? That’s actually kinda cool. (Not to get into too many details but the recent A-Team movie did a magnificent job of making you feel okay about not thinking as well.)

Which brings us to this: Maribou took me to go see The Avengers.

This was a movie that made you feel okay about turning your brain off. If you really started thinking about things like the physics of Thor’s Hammer or Hawkeye’s change of heart, you’d find yourself distracted by the fact that, hey, they’re trying to tell a story here. We can run with it or not run with it. Even if you found yourself saying “I’m not going to run with it”, you’d quickly find yourself watching The Hulk get hit with the hammer (awesome) or a theological discussion between Loki and The Hulk (awesome) or Bruce Banner explain the secret to his success controlling The Hulk (REAAAAALY awesome) and then picked up and you’re running with the movie despite yourself (note to self: get Joss Whedon to remake first two Hulk movies with that Mark Ruffalo guy).

Sadly, it wasn’t the best kind of action flick… one where you’re actually rewarded for paying attention and thinking about things (see, for example, Memento). That said, those seem to be fewer and farther between anymore… but, and here’s the point, we can certainly start suggesting them in the comments.

(Note: there are a few jokes in the comments from when the placeholder for this post got prematurely posted to the page. The post’s original content was only: “Maribou took me to go see The Avengers.”)


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to


  1. What a good wife.
    More importantly, did you think?!

  2. More importantly, did you think?!

    Or isn’t it the sort of film where that helps?

      • Eh heh heh. I *made* him go see the Avengers. Just now, as he came upstairs to see if I would like another gin and tonic, I said ‘that’s all you’re going to post?” and he said, “what? I’m still working on it!” and I said, “you have 3 comments on this first sentence already,” and he said, “OH NO!!!!! I thought I was working in draft mode!!!!” and trundled down the stairs.

        All that to say, his actual post should be up shortly.

        • This is why you should always check to see if your wife wants another gin and tonic.

          • Nah. I had to run downstairs and finish my essay.

            (She did sort of indicate that she didn’t want one prior to that, though.)

          • Jaybird doesn’t really understand spirits, being a wine man himself. So his mixed drinks tend to be triples, if not pentuples. All that to say, I was plenty good with the first one.

    • AUGH! I saved this as a bit of a checkpoint to remind me what I wanted to write about when I got back. The *REAL* post is in the other browser right now!

      • The amazing part is that the real post was exactly Mr. Schilling’s question.

  3. A couple of weeks ago, Mad Men did this great bit of misdirection. One of SCDP’s clients wanted a jingle “that sounds like the Beatles” and was told over and over “We can’t afford the Beatles”. And it’s true that while Mad Men has referred to them over and over (as you’d expect from a series set in the 60s), it’s never played even a snippet of a Beatles song, because AMC can’t afford it either. So it came as a complete shock when Don Draper takes the advice of his much younger wife and puts Revolver on the record player, and we hear almost the complete track (the rights to which reportedly cost $250K). Which song was it? The one that starts:

    Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream

    • I’ve never wanted to watch “Mad Men” and this makes it more so. The Beatles’ catalog wasn’t for sale until well after Lennon was dead. So, it wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it, it was that it wasn’t available.

      A small amount of research would have helped MM here.

      • You’re assuming that an advertising executive who knows little about the Fab Four beyond “they’re wildly popular” would know that, unlike most pop stars, the Beatles controlled their own publishing.

  4. Action movies that make you think – The Limey immediately jumps to mind. I have other stuff to say but it’s too late. Tomorrow.

    • The first one I thought of was actually “Taken”.

      It could be little more than a function of monologues. How many monologues did Taken have? A dozen?

  5. a theological discussion between Loki and The Hulk (awesome)

    This is the best description of that scene that I’ve seen yet.

    Avengers is probably the best blockbuster-with-no-deeper-messages that I’ve seen. My evaluation is that it’s the perfect example of how to do that right, just as Transformers and Wrath/Clash of the Titans are the iconic examples of how to do it wrong. You want depth in a comic book movie, go to X-Men (the better ones) or Nolan’s Batman. You want a movie that tries simply to be an awesome action movie with good characters and enjoyable rather than cringeworthy dialogue, you go to The Avengers.

    It comes across as a really good movie to me when I compare it to a lot of the other acclaimed or profitable movies out there. Take Avatar: the movie basically says “the plot’s generic and predictable, all the characters are archetypes rather than people, character development is minimal if existent at all, the moral message is blatant….but look at the awesome special effects! (And by the way, we put all of our thought into what would look coolest rather than into serious, original world building.)” An action movie that actually has characterization and wit to go with the top-level SFX and fight scenes is a relief, and it’s a first time a big-budget comic book movie has achieved that (contrasted with failures like, most prominently, X3). The only time it veers into being purely stereotypical/generic is the last bit with Stark (you know the one, I don’t know how to use spoiler tags here so won’t describe it).

    As for action flicks that are improved by thinking – I’d suggest Inception (I couldn’t even keep track of everything that was going on until the second viewing) and District 9 off the top of my head.

    • My very first major essay on the site discussed Inception!

      While I agree absolutely that it was a movie that made you think, what I didn’t like about it was that it was a movie that, similarly to Arnold’s Total Recall, was about making the audience argue about what movie they just watched (instead of arguing about what scenes they just watched).

      • Have not seen Total Recall. Would you recommend watching the remake that seems to be coming out soon?

        Watched Avengers for the second time today. Still love it. Just great fun. It’s definitely in my top five superhero movies, though behind X-Men: First Class.

        • As far as I can tell, the two stories are going to only have the most superficial of similarities… related to (spoiler).

          Now, the 1990 version is a spectacular example of the culmination of the excess of the 80’s action film. At the time, it seemed like it was a hard R movie. Looking back? It’s cartoony graphic violence and cartoony nudity and cartoony everything.

          The version coming out soon? It stars Colin Ferrell. I mean, the version coming out soon appears to be dark and gritty and looks like it may even have a (sigh) Message. But, hey. Colin Ferrell.

          How much “fun” are you looking for in your argument over whether there was a lady or a tiger behind the door?

        • Instead of seeing Total Recall, read the original story (“We Can Remember it for You Wholesale”, by Phillip K. Dick.) It is roughly a bazillion times better.

    • I thought that X-Men tried too hard for depth. Or maybe it didn’t try hard enough. I don’t know. It seemed like it tried to be deep, but still ended up being a movie about stopping a madman with a deathray emanating from the Statue of Liberty. Insufficiently comfortable in its own skin.

      Avengers knew what it was, and good on it for that.

      • The thing is though, X-Men movies having a deeper message makes sense. Mutants as prosecuted minority has been a plot line in X-Men comics since basically the beginning of the original series and definitely since Claremont took over the books.

      • I don’t think that it was “depth” as much as them saying “you know what? We’re just going to play this straight.”

        They got real actors (for the most part) and put effort into making the costumes not entirely silly and showed us Magneto stroking the tattooed numbers on his forearm as he listened to Senators discussing mutant registration.

        There will always be something vaguely silly about heroes ripped from the funnybooks… but that’s what allows them to talk about things that, otherwise, people rip each other to shreds over.

  6. I saw The Avengers the other day! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It got off to a slow start, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. I do not like Chris Evans as Captain America, but I can look past that, I suppose – not sure what it is about him, maybe just the continuity issue with him having played The Human Torch in The Fantastic Four. Maybe we need another Captain America movie . . .

    I liked Hawkeye (Renner is one of my favorite actors), and even another movie with him, Black Widow and some other characters from The Avengers or Shield would be nice. But I won’t hold my breath.

    I think Ruffalo pulled off Banner pretty well, and I would also like to see another Hulk movie done with him.

    Thor vs Iron Man: Classic. Thor held back.

    Thor vs Hulk: Classic. I was smiling the entire time. It was so damn cool to see those two fighting on the big screen.

    Hulk vs Loki: Freaking awesome.

    I will admit that my jaw dropped when I saw the last character on the screen , the big baddie behind the scenes. I knew who it was the moment I saw him.

    I want a sequel. Whedon must write it.

    • I will admit that my jaw dropped when I saw the last character on the screen , the big baddie behind the scenes. I knew who it was the moment I saw him.

      Whereas I reacted with “Is that Red Skull? He looks kind of reddish,” and spent the next two weeks listening to every geek on the internet explain to the uninitiated who Thanos is.

      • Heh. I understand. My wife just rolled her eyes at me when I started blabbering excitedly about it.

  7. By the way: good job on Maribou getting you there.

    • She and Fish conspired. “We’ll all go!”

      Then Fish dropped out.

      It became a date.

      • Well, I was glad to see you. More props to Maribou.

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