Guardians of the Galaxy

August 2, 2014

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

The announcement that Marvel was truly cashing in its credibility chips – even moreso than they did with Thor, for despite that character being well known, introducing a whole intergalactic mythos is a far cry from following the origin of an earth bound superhero – with Guardians of the Galaxy, a little known (and unknown completely to me) property into the Cinematic Universe that has become the Hollywood juggernaut of the last 8 or so years, was a huge surprise to many. Giving a huge budget to little known character that were based in worlds entirely unknown and populating it with B list stars was a ballsy move, especially considering there’s little earth-based grounding to ease the transition. This significant departure from the normal formula is probably why this has been the most anticipated of the Marvel films in a while, if only because there was a huge question mark around how it would be received. Handing over co-writing and directing duties to James Gunn, who cut his teeth at micro-budget schlock studio Troma and whose directorial efforts have thus far been intriguing, if not always successful, idiosyncratic genre exercises. The fact that we get a pretty traditional space opera drenched in the kind of Whedonesque post-modern humour that’s been one of the keys to the success of the Marvel enterprise is almost disappointing in its obviousness. Not to say it isn’t enjoyable – it is actually very much so – but for those of us looking to see what this multi-film franchise could really do, it gives us a clearer idea of just what the limits are, even as it expands beyond what’s come before. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Avengers

May 5, 2012

Despite being a ready-made blockbuster success, The Avengers had a pretty significant hurdle to clear if it wanted to be any good – a notion that is hardly necessary when the quality of a film like this is rarely important when it comes to being a “success”.  Ensemble films are tricky enough, but when four of the central characters have each had movies of their own, attempting to corral them all into something sensible without giving short-shrift to anyone is doubly (or, quadruply?) so.  This is all to say that anyone who says that writer/director Joss Whedon, who was given the task of putting this all together, merely has to “not screw it up,” they’re doing an extreme disservice to the sheer difficulty of the task at hand.  A surfeit of good, existing elements is probably harder to make into something even basically functional as a movie than starting from the ground up.  It’s a small wonder, then, that The Avengers is not only good, it is better than it probably needs to be and is certainly the best of this slate of Marvel films.

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For what could have been a Tom Cruise vanity project, the Mission: Impossible series has been remarkably solid.  The idea to have a different director for each entry has been reasonably fruitful, though the extremely distinct styles of its first two entries – reflecting the status of their directors, perhaps – has given way to a less conspicuous visual mode.  Brian DePalma’s first entry was kind of brilliant in its use of wide angles and clear lines, playing up the director’s fascination with paranoia and subterfuge.  John Woo’s insipid M:I-2 was about as horrendous a film as I can remember, but it wasn’t lacking in those trademark slow-motion gun balletics or, indeed, doves.  The third in the series, directed by then-first-timer J.J. Abrams, came some years after the previous and in a way was a rejuvenation in terms of style, even as it reigned in the auteurist flourishes.  It was slick, to be sure, but it’s fun came from the zippy writing and plot movement instead of any sort of extravagant visual distinctness.  Now we have Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which sees Abrams return as a producer and Brad Bird, of The Incredibles and The Iron Giant fame, make his live-action directorial debut. Read the rest of this entry »

Junkfish: Piranha 3D

August 23, 2010

After all the hype, the derision, the debate, the increasing sales, the pitiful cash-ins, and the recent fall-off in interest (if box office is anything to go by, anyway), 3D finally comes into its own with Piranha 3D.  James Cameron and other somewhat credible directors might see it as the future of film-making, and there is every chance that someone will come along and do something interesting with it, but at this moment, through the blood-soaked vessel that is Piranha 3D, it reveals its strength to be in pure, unmitigated schlock.  It’s a gimmick, nothing more, and should only be used (if, indeed, at all) in the service of puerile, tongue-in-cheek affairs.  And this film is so tongue-in-cheek it explodes violently through the skin, not unlike the titular aquatic beasts. Read the rest of this entry »