Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Social Media And Its Influence On Television

Connecting Viewers To The Writers' Room

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando and Brandon Harig 

A little over two weeks ago, A.O. Scott, film critic at The New York Times, and David Carr, media and culture columnist at The New York Times, created a web series entitled, “The Sweet Spot.” The show is devoted to in-depth discussions about media and its impact on the world around us. In the premiere episode, which focused on the influence of digital media, Scott stated, “The power of digital culture is certainly enough to destroy books, newspapers and celluloid – every kind of physical object that culture lives on. But I don’t think it threatens [them]. I think it finds new ways of encouraging; that desire to get together, to communicate.” This point drives to the notion that, in this day and age, we live in a digital world where something like the television is now more of a monitor with web-enabled features than a vehicle for watching pre-slotted television programming. The interactive element is less about collectively watching as a widespread audience and, instead, utilizing channels like social media to bridge the gap between the writers and producers of television shows and the fans.

The benchmark, moving forward, for audience and writer interaction is Lost. The showrunners of the multi-season show, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, often addressed common concerns aired on social platforms like Twitter by using one of the show’s characters, Hurley, as a vehicle to speak these communal perceptions. Hurley would often voice the questions of the captive audience within the show and bring them to the other characters’ attention, inherently embedding audience reaction as a plot line. While Lindelof was promoting his latest venture, Prometheus, he discussed in a web interview how audience interaction affected Lost. Lindelof stated, “The two things that sort of came up all the time during Lost were, question No. 1: ‘Are you making it up as you go along?’ and, question No. 2: ‘How much input does the audience have?’” Lindelof goes on to say that the answer people want for No. 1 is something to the effect of, “Yes, there is a definite plan. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands,” and that the answer to No. 2 is something like, “A lot! We listen to you guys all the time!” He acknowledges that while those are the answers people want to hear, those answers completely contradict one another.

After every episode of this hit show there would be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of questions hurtled toward Lindelof and Cuse on Twitter, fan sites and forums. This unique adoption of a new (at that time) social platform to pursue resolution from those producing content, demonstrated how social media, especially Twitter, had the potential to influence shows on a creative basis. Because of its real-time outlet of personal issues or concerns, social media creates and helps promote that interactive conversation mentioned by Scott.

TV Guide published an article a few weeks back entitled “Is Social Media Hurting TV?” wherein many writers, including Castle creator Andrew W. Marlowe, weighed in with their opinions. In the article, Marlowe mentioned that the feedback from the various social media sites “can help us calibrate where we are. If people are making noise about a story line that they feel we’ve neglected, it’s easy to drop a line in and acknowledge it, so that they don’t feel we dropped the thread.” The article also points out that last season’s finale of the hit show The Killing left many fans quite angry over a promised resolution left dangling until the following season; these fans used social media to retaliate by warning other people not to waste their time watching the show and, thus, created a feedback cycle that showrunners could not ignore.

There’s no denying that social media is having a profound impact on television even beyond the items already mentioned. Even something as innocent as the Twitter hashtag for that night’s episode on the bottom right corner of the screen is a clear demonstration of the industry recognizing the impact social media carriers. Whether or not social media is a good thing for television is something that will be debated for many years to come. Many would argue that it is good thing because it provides a forum for interesting discussion while others may think it could push television away from artistic autonomy and into satisfying, perhaps, the lowest denominator airing grievances online. Yet, still, would the latter be all-together bad? If social media truly exists to start conversations with people (if that was its original intent), how is it possibly a bad thing to go the source itself (writers) and ask them questions you may have?

Scott is correct in saying that digital media, social or otherwise could very much destroy physical objects but that it does open up and add to that push for communication between product and consumer. Television just happens to be one example of how social media furthers that interaction; no longer should people look at social media as open for businesses looking for feedback on their electronic products, etc. Instead, the versatility upon which feedback cycles can be created demonstrates the indefinite permanence of social media in business models and the unclear, and perhaps exciting, future this entails.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Men In Black 3 ★★★

It Captures The Charm of the First Film

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

Like nearly everyone else who has seen Men In Black 3, I asked myself if anyone out there was really championing a third chapter to this seemingly dead franchise. The first film had that lightning-in-the-bottle quality to it by having an interesting take on the buddy-cop genre with its two leads, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith; two people whom you would never think would work well together. Men In Black 2, on the other hand, proved that the magic of the first film could not sustain a sequel and left us all with a sour taste in our mouth. That being said, I entered this third film with great apprehension and left the theatre (surprisingly) feeling relieved and also quite glad that I had decided to see it. Men In Black 3 manages to capture that same charm that the first film did by having a time travel story in which Will Smith's Agent J must travel back to 1969 to rescue a younger K (played brilliantly by Josh Brolin) and stop an alien invasion.

It was the odd-couple pairing of these two men that worked so well in Men In Black, which this film achieves by having J and K meet each other for the first time - again. Let me explain: It's established in the present that in their fourteen years of being partners, K has never opened up to J emotionally. J tries to get little nuggets of information out of him but is lucky to get one sentence. K is both distraught and distracted when he learns that an alien that he imprisoned in 1969, Boris (Jemaine Clement), has escaped and wants him dead. Boris travels back to 1969 and kills the younger K, thereby changing the future to allow for yet another alien invasion. This leaves J with one mission: Go back to the day before Boris arrives in 1969, kill Boris before he can kill K, and put the timeline back on its natural course. When J goes back in time and finally explains the situation to the younger K, he's shocked to see a side of his partner he's never known: K is friendlier and more open, offering to tell J anything he wants to know about him. Like I said, they meet for the first time - again.

Even though it's not Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith together again (except for maybe ten minutes of screen time for Jones in the beginning and then briefly again at the end of the film) we get that feeling of nostalgia for what the first film did so successfully as well as an entirely new story that re-introduces us to these characters. Christy Lemire's review of the film claims that Will Smith comes across as bored in his role but I disagree with that wholeheartedly. I think he's aged J quite well, adding something new to the character while still reminding us why we love seeing Smith in a role like this. He's still J, just a little bit older. Jones on the other hand does come across as bored and a little out of place, which make the present-day scenes the weakest parts of an otherwise solid film. This surprised me, as I entered the film thinking I would hate it because Jones was in it so little considering he was the best part of the previous two installments.

Josh Brolin delivers the best performance of Men In Black 3. He brings his own take to the role of K, but somehow captures every bit of Jones making the audience completely buy that he is the younger incarnation of this beloved character. It's his fresh take on the role that reminds us of why Jones was so great in Men In Black. The running gag is that Brolin, currently in his forties, is playing the twenty-nine year-old K, which prompts the hilarious line from J that K has some "city miles" on him.

The supporting characters in this film enhance the world that the characters inhabit. Michael Stuhlbarg is a lot of fun in the role of Griffin, an alien who sees many timelines at once; Bill Hader is a riot as Andy Warhol; and Clement is unrecognizably evil as Boris, the best villain in the series since Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar the Bug. If there are any complaints about the supporting cast, it's that I missed seeing Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs (and for those of you out there who say there's no place for him in this film, I argue that he could have easily taken the place of Michael Chernus as Jeffery Price, the time-travel expert) and longed for David Cross to make a cameo as Newton. Yes, my own bias is always a desire to see favorite characters return, so long as their serviced, but I just felt that despite the time-travel story, there was a place for all of them to show up in some capacity.

It's no secret that Men In Black 3 had a troubled production. They began shooting with an unfinished script to take advantage of the soon-to-expire New York City tax credit, took about a four-month break to finish the script, then recommenced shooting. From the start it sounded like this film was destined to fail, but somehow, in addition to the great performances of Smith and Brolin, the film has a fun story to tell.

Time travel is always tricky and this film may be guilty of a few paradoxes, however, every question I had, both before entering the film and during it, was answered. (I wondered how if K is killed in the past and no one remembers the original timeline, J is the only one to remember K.) The film comes across as one that had a story it wanted to tell and without much effort knew where it was going and how it would end. While that doesn't seem to be the case, the film certainly could have fooled me.

These are minor complaints of a film that is a lot of fun in the summer blockbuster season. While virtually no one was championing another Men In Black sequel, I'm glad that they made this film. If this is the end of the series (and I really hope it is), I'm grateful that it leaves me with a fond memory of the franchise, redeeming it from the horror that was Men In Black 2.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sound Of My Voice ★½

Never Confuse Laziness With Being Clever

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

There is a fine line between open endings in movies and plain laziness in the writing. Sound of My Voice is a film that unfortunately falls into the latter by leaving too many plot lines unresolved.

The film focuses on a couple, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), who decide to make a documentary about a cult in Los Angeles led by a mysterious woman named Maggie (Brit Marling, co-writer of the film) who claims to be from the future. Her mission is to rescue a select few before a supposed big event occurs, and bring them back with her.

It's an eerie premise for sure, but there is no real payoff to any of the storylines in the film. At one point, Maggie says she needs Peter to prove himself by bringing her a young girl, Abigail (Avery Kristen Pohl) from the school Peter substitute teaches at. This little girl exemplifies autistic-like tendencies: she's withdrawn, does not really speak, and focuses on building extremely detailed lego structures. In one quite disturbing scene, her father tells her that it is time to go to bed. He then lays her down on the bed and injects something in between her toes. That's all we see, and there are no other clues (as far as I could tell) in the film as to what was going on. Why Maggie wants this young girl I won't spoil in this review except to say that it's a major twist. In addition to that loose end, there's a completely separate storyline about a detective (Davenia McFadden) in search of Maggie who claims that Maggie is some sort of a con artist wanted by the government for some time. She tells Lorna that the reason Maggie wants Abigail for a much more sinister reason than what Maggie tells Peter, but we're never told what that reason is.

This review would have been entirely different if these stories had some sort of resolution because there would be enough substance within those stories to warrant the ending that this film provides. Instead, the ending just comes across as one more plot point that the filmmakers did not feel like resolving. It's as if they (Brit Marling and co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij) had a good idea for a film but had no idea where they were going with it when they started writing and then decided to try and come across as clever and mysterious by leaving the audience to decide for themselves what they have just seen. If this was their original intent then I'm sorry. Bad writing is bad writing, plain and simple.

The writing is bad not only in story, but in character as well. There was not much to like about Peter and Lorna. Early on in the film, we find out that Peter's mother was part of a cult when he was just a boy and because of her beliefs, she refused treatment for her cancer and subsequently died, leaving Peter an angry and lost child. His curiosity surpasses his ability to see things for they way they are and leads him to ignore warnings from Lorna that they may be in over their head, which of course, they are. Lorna is a bit more of a sympathetic character (she's a recovering drug addict and the only voice of reason in the whole movie) but she comes across as a kind of bored character throughout, and Peter is just plain irritating. Watching he and Lorna together you begin to wonder what ever attracted these two to one another, except the fact that neither of them seem to be going anywhere in life. That sounds harsh, but at one point the two fight and verbally attack one another, revealing that they've both never done what they truly want to do. Peter's motivation for infiltrating the cult is clear from his past, but Lorna is only in it to say that she did something worthwhile, or so it seems. But these characters are our way into this world; they're the audience, but their unpleasantness made me not want to follow them.

The one solid performance in Sound of My Voice that is worth mentioning is Brit Marling as Maggie. She plays her in such a way that she seems calm, cool and collected on the outside, but behind her eyes you see a sort of evil presence that made me feel like she was about to do something horrible in every scene she was in. She gives the feeling that you're in a horror film; you're waiting for the monster to pop out from the dark when you look into her eyes. It works quite effectively because you're never sure what to expect from her, not unlike John Hawkes performance in last year's, Martha Marcy May Marlene, (a far superior film about what it's like to be in a cult). Marling's performance is a glimmer of hope in a film that fails because of its own laziness.

Like the two leads in the film, I entered into this world hoping to find something truly memorable and shocking. Instead, I walked out feeling like all the money in my wallet was stolen from a cult that seemed too good to be true.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar ★★½

A Film That Misses The Mark On The Teacher/Student Relationship

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

Teaching is perhaps the most underrated profession in the world. The greatest teachers inspire us to do even more than our very best and they leave a lasting impression on us; They make a difference in our lives. This idea is at the center of Monsieur Lazhar, a film that tries, unsuccessfully, to show what it means to be a teacher in our present time.

The film opens in Montreal with a troubled boy, Simon (Émilien Néron), seeing his teacher Martine (Héléna Laliberté) hanging lifelessly from the ceiling of her classroom. The rest of the film shows how the students deal with their teacher's death. In addition to Simon, Alice (Sophie Nélisse) managed to get a glimpse of Martine as well and becomes the central voice for what all of the students are feeling. Desperate for a replacement teacher, the school principle, Madame Vaillancourt (Danielle Proulx) hires Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Saïd Fellag), an Algerian immigrant desperate for a teaching position. He, of course, is not Martine and the students have a tough time getting used to his teaching methods. He rearranges their desks from a semicircle to straight rows, makes them do dictations on stories they find boring, and slaps a student in the back of the head for throwing something at another student. Lazhar quickly learns from Madame Vaillancourt that the relationship between teacher and student forbids physical contact of any kind, including a hug or encouraging tap on the back, and especially hitting a student for misbehaving.

The film is trying to show how hard it is to be a good teacher with the rules and restrictions that we currently have, but it's almost afraid to really delve into those issues and bring them to the surface. For instance, Lazhar tries unsuccessfully throughout the film to get Madame Vaillancourt to let the students talk about death openly in the school. While she wants them to discuss their feelings with the school's designated child psychiatrist (Nicole-Sylvie Lagarde), she does not wish for Martine's suicide to be open and continued conversation within the school. In very much the same manner, the film is almost afraid to let issues like the subject of death or hugging a student be open for discussion. They're mentioned, but not dealt with, which takes away from the film's impact.

In addition, I never fully believed that Lazhar was making that big of an impact in his students' lives. He tries to inspire them to do more, but because their former teacher's suicide is still fresh in their minds, he never quite reaches them. Alice is the only student of his that seems to be taken with him and he later admits that she is in fact his favorite. He learns through his students how he can be a better teacher, but we don't get that scene that I feel the film needed. Yes, by this point it may seem cliché, but if ever a film needed the famous teacher and students finally understanding each other and learning to work together scene, it's Monsieur Lazhar.

To be clear, I'm not saying this is a bad film. It's a good movie that could have been great if the filmmakers had just explored the issues with teachers and students a little better. I hoped this film would bring something new to the teacher and student films like Dead Poets Society, which isn't to say that it had to be that film. It felt like an okay addition to this genre of films instead of something fresh and original.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Keyhole ★★★

Gangsters And Ghosts In A House From Director Guy Maddin. 'Nuff Said.

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

The more films I see, the more I realize that what attracts me the most is something that is so inventive and original that, while it might not make sense at first, I'm always thinking about it. Keyhole meets that criteria in its opening scene alone with the rest of the film adding to my excitement and bewilderment. In a video interview at The Toronto International Film Festival, Guy Maddin himself said, "What I really wanted to make was an autobiography of a house.", which is probably the best way to describe exactly what Keyhole is about.

The house is truly the central character of the film, which stars Jason Patrick as Ulysses Pick, a gangster who leads his men to said house to hide out while on the run from the police. Ulysses, it turns out, has come back to his former home to search for his wife, Hyacinth, played by Isabella Rossellini, one of many ghosts still occupying the residence.

Nothing is quite as it seems in Keyhole; Ulysses is suffering from some sort of memory loss, but seems unconcerned with the fact that there are ghosts all around him; In the beginning of the film one of the gangsters asks their dead hostages to face the wall and the live ones to face him; characters show up randomly in the house such as a doctor played by Udo Kier; and a woman, Denny (Brooke Palsson), has supposedly drowned or is currently drowning yet is helping Ulysses by seemingly channeling Hyacinth, allowing him to speak with her. If what I'm saying does not make any sense, don't worry - that's because it doesn't. And yet in some strange way it does...

This is a house that has seen some pretty extraordinary things, and if we look at the film as the story of a house populated by the ghosts of its past, it all somehow comes together. In other words, Ulysses is not struggling with memory loss, the house is remembering certain moments from his life in it. Depending on the room he's in, different memories resurface.

If you watch the trailer for the film you'll see what you're in for should you decide to watch Keyhole. It's a wild ride full of disturbing images with fragmented dialogue and bizarre characters - and it is one of the most stimulating movies I have had the privilege of watching. It's fun if you just watch how the movie unfolds without worrying about the plot. It's Maddin's vision of a house with gangsters and ghosts thrown into the mix.

Keyhole certainly won't be for everyone. Maddin has often been called the Canadian David Lynch, a point that I completely agree with. Both Lynch and Maddin make movies that redefine the medium; they show us what movies are capable of. So if I had to describe what it's like watching a movie by either of these men, I feel it's best to end with a quote from Lynch's show, Twin Peaks: "I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dark Shadows ★½

Johnny Depp As A Vampire; How Is That Not Interesting?

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

It's hard to believe that in the twenty-plus years of Mr. Depp's career he has never played a vampire. With Dark Shadows, we get a taste of not only what Depp can bring to the role of a brooding, blood-thirsty monster, but also how much more he could have done with the part had the film been entrusted to a more capable director.

It has been argued that Tim Burton is more of a production designer than a director, a point which these days is hard to prove otherwise. His films always look amazing. Even if you did not know who the director of a particular film was going into it, the first image onscreen would most assuredly tell you it's Burton. As a result of his ability to bring true atmosphere to his films, I feel as though sometimes our immediate reaction is to grade his films solely on their look, instead of their plot. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times notes in her very positive review of the film"...Traditional storytelling has never been Mr. Burton’s specialty or perhaps interest. What counts in his work is the telling, not the tale. He isn’t big on narrative logic, coherence and thrust focusing instead on his imagery..". Typically it's the more formalistic directors like David Lynch or Guy Maddin that are graded on this curve because they're films are all about the visuals, not necessarily a cohesive story. Burton on the other hand has openly stated that he would not know a good script from a bad one, thus interesting visuals in place of good storytelling does not put him in the same category as Lynch or Maddin.

The case can be made that the films of Burton's that we love (we all have our favorites) were the result of pure luck. He managed to pick scripts that were the perfect match for his style of directing and for many years we looked forward to what he would do next. It's unfortunate now, however, that my approach to Tim Burton has shifted from excitement to apprehension. Dark Shadows sadly reinforces that.

The story is less of a vampire movie and more of a misunderstood monster movie; yet another point that reminds us of Tim Burton's better films like Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an 18th Century vampire who awakens in 1972 after being locked up and buried in a coffin by the local townspeople of Collinsport. As a young man Barnabas breaks the heart of one of his servants, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who also happens to be a witch. She curses his family, the result of which leads to the untimely deaths of his parents and the woman he loves, Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote). She then condemns Barnabas to be a vampire, destined to live forever in agony.

It is at this point that the film never decides what it wants to be. It starts off as a tragedy, then becomes a fish-out-of-water tale with doses of physical comedy, and in its final act becomes a cluttered mess of chaos. You never know if the film is trying to be funny or if it wants to be taken seriously; once again the result of a director who after almost thirty years in the business still does not know what he is doing.

The supporting characters are underserved. Michelle Pfieffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard does not serve much of a purpose as the family matriarch; Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman shows up sporadically throughout the film as the family's live-in psychiatrist; Chloë Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard is actually quite unlikeable and has a deus ex machina quality moment at the end of the movie that does not work; Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, the caretaker of the Collins estate, does nothing effective. In addition, Bella Heathcote, who plays both Victoria Winters in the present and Josette in the past, at first comes across as the film's primary protagonist after the prologue and ends up having maybe ten minutes of screen-time by the end of the movie. There's too much going on in Dark Shadows and not enough talent behind the camera.

The directors that continue to make us scratch our head with every new film they make know what they're doing. They know the film they want to make and the story they want to tell, however confusing it may be - they're artists. Tim Burton, while talented in his own respect, needs to perfect the craft of directing or continue to suffer bad movie after bad movie. Dark Shadows is just another reminder that Burton's gift for visual stimuli is no substitute for his lack of focus on story and character.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers ★★★½

A Successful Film Largely Due To Its Director

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, the setup for The Avengers has been building exponentially. Marvel was attempting to do something that hadn't been done before: bring together the super-heroes from all of their separate films to fight a common enemy. It was either going to be a complete failure or complete success. I'm happy to report that it most certainly is the latter.

The Avengers manages to pull of this complicated feat in huge part because of its writer/director, Joss Whedon. Whedon is a man who has worked in film and television since the mid-nineties with a reputation for great writing and character development. Who better suited for the job than he? Every character (with the exception of Cobie Smulders' Agent Maria Hill who, sadly, feels out of place and serves no purpose in the film) is given an equal amount of respect, screen-time and backstory. There's a lot of exposition to endure with these characters, but Whedon's script is so organic and rich that this two-and-a-half-hour film flies by before we've even had a chance to breathe. Marvel definitely made the right call in hiring Whedon. This is a man who deserves all the praise he's been given and then some.

Whedon's story focuses on the Tesseract, an item last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger that holds unspeakable power, thus catching the eye of exiled God and brother to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Loki has come to rule Earth as a King, forcing S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to re-open The Avengers Initiative, bringing together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Thor. These characters, all very different and all having extremely large egos, have to learn to work as a team in order to save the world. This, of course, is something easier said than done, but it works in every right way that it should.

This movie is everything I could want in a summer blockbuster: it's entertaining AND good. It's a fun time at the movies with a final climatic battle that makes up for all the mediocre confrontations at the end of almost all of the previous Marvel movies in the last four years. It's success is marked not only by its director and remarkable action sequences, but the actors as well.

Everyone in the film shines. Most notably, Robert Downey Jr. is wittier and more charming than his previous Iron Man appearances; Mark Ruffalo brings perhaps the most depth and gravity to Bruce Banner/Hulk; and Tom Hiddleston is much more of a menacing and evil Loki than he was in Thor, and it never feels over-the-top. In addition, Scarlett Johansson is given a lot more to do than she was in Iron Man 2, putting her in the spotlight (out of all of the super-heroes) of people not to piss off. This again affirms Whedon's ability to service his characters and actors in a way that the previous films didn't focus on.

This is the Marvel film I've been waiting for; the big break I've been hoping Joss Whedon would get. It makes me eager to find out where the characters will go in the next Avengers movie, assuming, of course, Whedon returns. He has proven that for a film like this to work, you need a man with immense writing talent. You've outdone yourself with this one, Mr. Whedon, and I couldn't be more excited for you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Goon ★

Celebrating Everything That's Wrong In Sports

Written by Matt Giles
Edited By Erin Accomando and Jason Umpleby

"You're not here to play hockey. You're here to fight."

These words are the central focus of the bloody, violent, and poorly written Goon; a film that tells the story of a good-hearted bouncer-turned-hockey enforcer, Doug Glatt (Sean William Scott).

Goon is not really a sports drama, nor is it an underdog story. It's too unsure of itself to leave its audience with anything memorable other than blood. There's not an established tone in the film; it can't decide whether it's going for comedy, drama, action or even excitement.

Doug, for example, is a guy who has never excelled at anything in his life other than fighting. His parents (played by Eugene Levy and Ellen David) are disappointed that he's not a doctor like his brother, Ira (David Paetkau), and he does not have much support from his best friend, Pat (Jay Baruchel, who also co-wrote the film). He comes across as a lovable oaf but when he fights we're exposed to a different, meaner side of him that takes away from his goodness. By a stroke of good luck he's recruited by a local hockey team to hurt anyone by any means necessary - a task which makes Doug feel important. This dichotomy of simpleton and brutality shown in Doug is never handled properly, making the film a mess.

Adding to this confusion of tones, Goon also tries to be a romantic comedy of sorts. Doug falls for Eva (Allison Pill), a woman who confesses to loving hockey, sex, and a combination of the two. I assume this storyline was added to play up Doug's likability, but it sadly (like everything else in the film) feels out of place and clumsily constructed. Nothing in the story hinges on these two getting together; it's not a will they/won't they scenario. It's not even a matter of Doug giving up coming home bruised and broken for the woman he claims to love. It's just thrown into the mix in a very, "Why not?!" fashion.

The filmmakers clearly wanted to showcase the violent nature of sports, and it's this aggrandizement of carnage that adds to Goon's failure. It builds and builds to the final fight between Doug and Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), the enforcer of the opposing team, known for years as "The Boss" because of his knack for seriously injuring other players. When the final fight does happen, it's so glorified that it's as if the two players are ancient gladiators going head to head in a battle to the death. The staging of the fight comes across as false, adding another tonal shift at the end of the movie that just does not make any sense.

Maybe the film would have been better in the hands of more capable writers. It could have taken the stance that violence in sports is a problem and something that needs to be addressed, not celebrated, but it doesn't. Just a month ago, the TV series House explored the psychological effects that being a bruiser has on a hockey player. It had a point to make about sports; something Goon should have done. Instead I felt like Doug sucker-punched me in the face.