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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

47 responses to “It’s All About the Mystery Box, Baby”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    I think that I even blushed at your Thor bit. Hilarious!

    This is entertaining, witty and helpful, too. I am officially not going to watch the Green Lantern (Hornet?) flick until it’s on Netflix. Or Cable. I owe you one.


    • Yeah, don’t see either Green films. Did I say Hornet? I’ve been making that flub for weeks off camera, anyway. That must mean the Green Hornet did a better job of marketing. Thanks JD!

  2. Becky Palapala says:

    I am determined to like Green Lantern AND Pirates of the Caribbean no matter how much they suck.

    How different could it be from liking a “good” blockbuster?

    The only limit is my willingness to give over to my own delusion. Must. Surrender.

    I have zero interest in seeing Super 8. I am annoyed by the “Nah nah nah nah nah…we’re not telling if this is an alien movie (PSST…IT’S AN ALIEN MOVIE)” trailers. Also, there are too many children in it. With all those kids hanging around, you know there isn’t going to be a lot of sexiness.

    Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys rehash Cloverfield. It’s all I can think of when I see the trailers.

    • Well, I really can’t tell you *for sure* about the Green Lantern, but I was squirming during Pirates. I really wanted out of there, and I’m fairly crappy-movie tolerant. I love Depp as Captain Jack, as well as Ian McShane as anyone villainous, so I can’t figure out how that wasn’t enough for me here.

      Much more Stand by Me meets Cloverfield, me thinks. Yeah, but not a lot of sexiness. The kids don’t ruin it entirely, however. There’s still drugs, profanity, and violence.

      Also, you know my fan-girl endorsement of Abrams means he’s now doomed. This is exactly how M. Night and I started out.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I can tell you for sure about Ryan Reynolds, though:

        Hubba hubba.

        Is there really anything else to know?

        I don’t want to talk about M. Night. I’m sad now.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You know I love you, Becky, but you’ve gotta be kidding me. You’re going to willfully embrace the ignorant films and reject the one possibly interesting and intelligent one? Just to make a cultural-slash-political statement?

      You’re an artist for Christ’s sake. Act like one! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Becky Palapala says:

        When your options are crap, crap, and slightly less crap, nothing could possibly be more embarrassing than mistaking “slightly less crap” for quality and intelligence. That only means they have worked their turd polishing magic on you. No. Indeed, if you are going to embrace any crap, you must embrace all crap, or the joke is entirely on you.

        Not that this has anything to do with artistry or crap. This has to do with the argument involving how spectacularly, mind-bendingly hot Ryan Reynolds is, and other dudes being either jealous or finding him just attractive enough to be a little concerned about about their own sexuality.

        I mean, Jesus, Richard. Look at this man.


        It’s okay to stare. No one would blame you. No one.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I hate Ryan Reynolds for his 1% body fat and because for a few years he was having sex with Scarlett Johansson. Anyone in or who has been in a relationship with Scarlett is by definition my enemy.

          But aside from that, J.J. Abrams is a talented filmmaker. Don’t deny it any more than you would deny that idiot Reynolds his himbo-ness.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          How does being insanely attractive make him a bimbo? He’s funny, articulate, AND….writerly.

          Just saying.

          Don’t hate.

          Apparently J.J. Abrams made Seven. That is all I know about J.J. Abrams. I just learned that in this blog. I liked Seven okay.

          But what I know about blockbusters–and I will be so brave as to say this is true of ALL blockbusters–is that they can only be considered “intelligent” or “interesting” relative to one another, since compared to real movies, blockbusters, by their very nature, are dumb and kind of crappy. They are sensory carnivals requiring very little thought and are designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience of sunburned, hungover beachgoers, meaning the more hackneyed and comfortable and UNinteresting the story, the better.

          It’s no crime. Just the nature of the beast.

          All I am doing is embracing it. Fully.

        • No, no! Seven was David Fincher. Sorry. Wanted to clarify. The Abrams “mystery box” just reminded me of the box in the end of Seven. Okay. Carry on.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh! Well then I can safely say I have no idea who JJ Abrams is or what he’s done, therefore I have no opinion on his relative talent.

          Wait a minute.

          Armageddon. Mission Impossible THREE. LOST!??

          Richard, by “talented,” you mean compared to other blockbuster directors, right? I see he did some direction on Felicity.

        • Gloria says:

          It’s true, Richard. I don’t mean to, but I accidentally think Ryan Reynolds is a god. At the very least, a demi-god. I mean, he’s not Johnny Depp.

        • Tawni Freeland says:

          Oh my god. Ryan. Look at him.

          Johnny who?

  3. Seth Pollins says:

    I love these video reviews, Cynthia! Green Lantern just looks like a travesty. David Denby’s review of Green Lantern was one of the best bits of comedy I’ve ever read. Bad reviews are so entertaining!

    Did you see Midnight in Paris? I just saw it. I really enjoyed it, but I’ve also enjoyed all of Woody Allen’s recent movies.

    • Ah, thanks Seth. When I wrapped up this one, I thought, that’s the last one — must behave like grown-up professional person from now on.

      I haven’t seen it yet, but usually I do love Allen’s movies. I think he’s one of the best dialogue writers ever. I should point out that there are many non-blockbustery movies I’m anxious to see. The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, for one, which hasn’t opened where I am yet. And Tree of Life. I love that it’s pissing people off with its refusal to be a traditional film. Can’t wait to see it. Also not on where I am.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Cynthia, your princess persona delightfully parses the summer pics.

    • Thanks Irene! But what do mean, “persona”? Kidding! Funnily enough, I still had the very Mad Men dress and hair going when Joe came home from work the day I filmed this, and I was a little horrified by the scenario. But then I realized the house was a mess, the toddler’s watercoloring had moved onto her face, and there was no dinner. Phew! Stereotype averted.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Back a long time ago, there was some advice out there that women could spice up their love life by greeting their hubby at the door wearing nothing but saran wrap. I’m not sure this is appropriate to mention at this time. Maybe I just won’t mention it, then. Sounds like it would be sweaty. Yeah. Forget it.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Saran Wrap?!!!! Quelle chose?! Who the frick wants to unwrap his wife from nanostructure-boosted plastic cling? Who wants that sort of competition? And it’s not as if you can get out the department store shears because she might just, you know, protest.

          Besides, wasn’t it Goldfinger who murdered girls by coating them evenly with a gold compound so their skin couldn’t breathe? Doesn’t sound a great deal different, expense beside.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I tried to find where this fabulously silly idea came from. Scuttlebutt says that it was from Good Housekeeping in 1955, but although there is reference to the idea, it is not in the article that is mentioned repeatedly.
          I suppose it could’ve all been a ruse. It certainly should’ve been a ruse, anyhow.

        • It didn’t work so well for Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. (Yes, sadly, I have a movie reference for everything!) She tries wrapping herself in Saran Wrap after a marriage counseling session. Maybe it’s in some top-secret counseling handbook?

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Oi! I hope she went back and belted that counsellor one, Misery style!

          BTW, killer video. I especially loved the Super 8 kid (geddit?!) cameo.

  5. โ€œ…the letโ€™s-watch-the-grass-grow-under-our-feet camping trip that was part oneโ€ is a perfectly awesome summary.

    I would love it if someone would make a robot On Golden Pond. Or how about a robot Hangover? They could always do a human one too.

    And I heard Johnny Depp refused a fifth Pirates, because he was accosted by a goat during the last filming.

  6. Kimberly says:

    OMG. Hilarious!

    And I must STRONGLY urge you to see Cave, Midnight and Tree. All three were uniquely amazing and will prove a healthy, more “sushi”, balance for all that popcorn you’re eating.

    (Confession: I call indies “sushi” movies. Not because I’m trying to be witty or erudite or anything. I almost always bring sushi to independent movies. And I have NO idea why. 100% weirdly and absolutely true.)

    • Thanks Kimberly! I will, I will, I promise. It’s cheesecake and wine for me at the art-house theater, so seeing indies isn’t necessarily healthier for me … but better over all for sure ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Andrea Rogers-Henry says:

    I thought the Hugh Jackman film was probably originally titled Rock Em Sock Em Robots but that Jackman would charge more to be in a movie with that title.

    • When I was looking for an image for Real Steel I found a photoshopped pic of Jackman as Wolverine playing Rock Em Sock Em Robots. Seriously, I was slamming that film up until I saw the full preview, and then suddenly they had me at the gray hoodie and that big musical score. Damn them!

  8. Stupid China won’t let me watch YouTube… Argh!!!

  9. Art Edwards says:

    Your reviews are the best thing these movies have going for them, Cynthia.

    Hang the blessed studio heads,

    For the movies they constantly make

    Say nothing to me about my life.

  10. I think they enjoy saying nothing to me about my life. I think it’s personal. Hmph.

    Thanks, Art! I’m still digging that bow tie. Don’t ever change.

  11. Gloria says:

    “it’s as if you’re watching them go halfway around the world in real time.”


    Goddamm I love you.

    I can’t wait to see Cowboys and Aliens.

    That is all.

    Oh, no, wait – KENNETH BRANAGH FTW!

  12. Quenby Moone says:

    Sweet fancy brown, this was AWESOME! I want to watch you as Audrey Hepburn rip movies apart ALL. DAY. LONG.

    Are you waving around a Pixy Stick?

  13. Oh, I think you just saved me about $80. Robot Jane Fonda! Robot Dabney Coleman! I watched Barney’s Version last night and basked in the glow of an actual adult movie. It was a real treat. Even if robot Paul Giamatti kept chewing scenery with his titanium incisors.

    • I’m overdue for an actual adult movie. I’ll have to put Barney’s Version in my queue. Have you seen Win Win yet? That’s another Giamatti flick on my radar. I’ve almost reached the point at which I no longer see him as the comic relief ape in Burton’s Planet of the Apes. Two or three more actual adult Giamatti movies should do the trick!

  14. Richard Cox says:

    I love this. TNB is so awesome. Where else can you go and watch a lovely film critic dress up like Audrey Hepburn and rip apart summer blockbusters while she dreamily dreams about Kenneth Branagh’s hammer?

    Mystery box indeed.

    • Ha ha, thanks Richard!

      I have to say, I always feel a little guilty after I post at TNB, as if I’d just snuck in here and scribbled graffiti on a Picasso …. But it does, however, make me really happy that I saved Sean Beaudoin $80.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    You are amazing. And now, if you’ll excuse me. (Getting down on knees, making prayer hands.)

    Please, please, please God. Make a robot On Golden Pond.

  16. Gregory Messina says:

    You’re wonderful! If you haven’t already, you should read the NY Times review of Transformers, I think written by A.O. Scott. It’s hilarious.

  17. Tawni Freeland says:

    I fully agree that we need Robot On Golden Pond. Or maybe Mr. & Mrs. Bridge & Robot?

    I have been dying to see Super 8 since I saw the first preview for it. I don’t even care if it’s Cloverfield with kids – I thought Cloverfield was great. One of my favorite things about Cloverfield is that it’s called Cloverfield. I was kind of expecting Lucky Charms and rainbows, and instead I got raw terror and pit sweat. Always exciting when that happens.

    Mmmmm. Ryan Reynolds. I’m going to watch Green Lantern, no matter how bad the reviews may be. I’ve adored that man since the pizza show.

    This is awesome, Cynthia. You’re awesome.


    • I rewatched Cloverfield recently and liked it even better the second time. I should say, though, that calling Super 8 Cloverfield with kids is an over-simplification on my part. It’s really better than Cloverfield in a lot of ways, grander, more charming. I think you’ll like it! Thanks Tawni! YOU are awesome.

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