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Having no insight into the financial reasons behind studios deciding what pictures to make and when, it is from a place of pure conjecture that I posit that X-Men: Days of Future Past was greenlit as a last ditch effort to save a once-beloved and now decently performing property.  Though I believe X-Men: First Class and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Wolverine were financial successes, they also didn’t quite make the splash desired.  If the re-boot/pre-boot/door-to-a-new trilogy didn’t work, then abandon those plans and just fold it into the “classic” line-up and everyone will be pleased.  The cinematic X-Men­ world isn’t as planned or cohesive as its Marvel Studios cousin, but given the number of characters involved it certainly could be something equivalent.  DOFP is an interesting creature because of this, and the fact that it’s not an overwhelming mess is praiseworthy.  Unfortunately it’s got the strange feeling of too-little-too-late, and it’s greatest virtues are it’s pleasurable but pointless fan service.  It sometimes comes across as a belated victory lap to the franchise that started the most profitable trend in Hollywood of the new century. Read the rest of this entry »

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Godzilla

May 16, 2014

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“I don’t want to disappoint our Japanese public, especially Godzilla.  Haha! I’m just kidding, I know he doesn’t care what humans do.”

-Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock

 

The Godzilla property is a difficult one, to say the least.  It’s greatest effort is largely considered to be it’s first, back in 1954, because it so effectively harnessed what was great about romping science fiction in the nuclear era.  Less than a decade after the national trauma wrought by nuclear weapons in Japan, not to mention the vast destruction of Tokyo experienced by so many, it directly confronted national fears about the nuclear age while still firmly rooted in B-movie territory.  That kind of smuggling genre picture gave way fairly quickly to high camp, especially as Toho studios saw the merchandising potential and box office receipts that kids fare brought to their coffers, and Godzilla became a leathery fun guy hero.  Neither would be particularly easy to pull off in 2014, certainly not for American audiences not pre-geared to the campy aspects of the legendary character, oft considered an affectionate cult curio that’s most famous Stateside these days for a resurgence in the 90s that saw a terrible American version that not only couldn’t avoid the pitfalls inherent to the picture, but decided to create a whole slew of new ones, as well as a Nike ad campaign that saw the man in suit version going head to head with Charles Barkley in one-on-one basketball.  Read the rest of this entry »

Locke

May 15, 2014

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The secret weapon of Steven Knight’s Locke is that the physical journey to London that its protagonist, Ivan Locke, is embarking on is not a metaphor.  It’s easy to imagine a writer gleefully penning an emotional journey that can mirror the literal one, but Knight wisely sidesteps the hacky temptation in favour of something far more interesting: this is a film about dealing with the arrival.  Before the film begins, Locke’s decision has been made, and we avoid a lengthy morality play on “what should be done” in favour of the probably far more interesting “how do we deal with what’s been done” scenario.  Read the rest of this entry »

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It begins with memories. Two different kinds, actually: the cinematic shorthand of stock footage and home movies of Oslo and the verbal recollection of actual people and their first experiences with the city playing over top. People recall the excitement of moving to the big city and the parties and joys of bohemian life that followed. It’s possible to consign these statements as the prologue or the original sin of the main character of the film. He came to the city and was seduced by its exciting iniquity. The key themes, however, are glimpsed in other recollections: “I remember thinking, ‘I’ll remember this.’” “…How he insisted ‘melancholy’ was cooler than ‘nostalgia’.” The film is about an addict grappling with reintroducing himself into society after 10 months clean in rehab, but it’s more about the burden of memory and how it overwhelms the present than it is about addiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Jodorowsky’s Dune

May 3, 2014

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It’s fitting that Frank Pavich’s documentary, Jodoworksy’s Dune, opens with a series of panning close-ups of drawings, models, books, and other esoterica from the titular director’s office, for that is what this film is almost entirely composed of outside of its talking heads.  The film recounts, through interviews and access to original artwork, the two plus years of work Alejandro Jodoworsky and his team of “warriors” put into a cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune that would ultimately be halted before production began when the studios didn’t feel confident enough to pony up the $15 million budget.  What is left is a large, hardcover book of the entire film storyboarded as well as concept art and character design and notations, initially printed and presented to the studios to assure them they knew how to achieve the strange and extravagant vision Jodoworsky was intent on creating.  By the end of the documentary, it seems clear that the book should be reprinted for collectors – I, for once, would jump on the chance to own a copy to thumb through – but it also seems clear that the documentary itself should be included as a bonus for said book rather than a standalone feature.

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