Annihilation

March 1, 2018

annihilation-plant-evolution-elementsWell trodden territory in some ways, and yet also utterly unique in it’s derivations for a (US, at least) theatrical release, Alex Garland’s Annihilation is the kind of messy, intriguing, and at times utterly enthralling science fiction that drives me to consider it beyond the walls of the multiplex even as I’m sure much of it doesn’t hold up.  A (very loose, from what I’ve been told) adaptation of the first of the Southern Reach trilogy of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, the film sees Natalie Portman as an ex-army biologist thrust into a top secret base in Florida after her presumed dead special forces husband returns home after a year absence before promptly spewing blood all over the back of an ambulance.  The base is observing a phenomenon called “The Shimmer”, based on the fact that it, well, shimmers the color spectrum.  She volunteers to join a team that’s potentially on a suicide mission to venture into The Shimmer to better understand it’s peculiar affect on everything around it, especially as the “everything around it” is expanding rapidly.  Things go Stalker pretty quickly, with ample time for brief bouts of the sci-fi horror Garland has ventured in previously in his screenplays for Sunshine and 28 Days Later Read the rest of this entry »

Thor: The Dark World

November 18, 2013

Thor-The-Dark-World

I have long approached the Marvel Cinematic Universe project with fascination and a minor degree of excitement about the possibilities of such a venture without being overly impressed with the end products, The Avengers excepted.  Of all the individual character films, I felt the first Thor was the most successful.  It expanded the universe – quite literally – with a deftness and humour that can so often sink a big-budget spectacle when it comes to introducing vast worlds and new mythologies (Green Lantern, anyone?).  Comic book superheroes are arguably most accessible when they’re weighted in the real world, so for instance Spider-man is easily relatable because he’s just a kid in New York City with some amazing powers and the wider audience doesn’t have to stretch too much to go along with it.  Of course we live in a different world than we did 15 years ago, where the nerdy intergalactic aspects of these types of things were shunned by the mainstream as being “ridiculous” and “nerdy” since nowadays all of the old comic book geek stigma is gone.  Still, introducing the 9 realms to a wider audience wasn’t an easy task, but by contrasting the busy, Roger Dean-esque world of Asgard with the bright, clean lines of the New Mexico desert, and by extension the operatic family drama of Odin and his ilk with the fish-out-of-water silliness of a demi-god wandering through small town America with a bunch of scientists, the pill was easy to swallow.  Thor: The Dark World operates on the basis that the heavily lifting has already been done (many people loathe the origin stories and wait for the characters to properly act already established in the sequels), but it turns out the character introduction wasn’t the only reason the fantastical/grounded dichotomy worked.  The new Thor spends most of its time not understanding the careful balance of the first entry, and suffers for a long period for it.   Read the rest of this entry »

Black Swan

December 8, 2010

Ballet is a peculiar art form in today’s society.  Now, I’m not just saying that because I don’t understand it, though that is certainly part of it.  I mean that it feels like such an anachronism and yet it surely one of the toughest and most competitive performance arts around.  For something that has become a cultural byword for “boring crap your girlfriend always wants to do”, the physical turmoil for the performers is disproportionately brutal.  Or so it seems to me, for I do not run in circles in which the ballet is a regularly attended event on the social calendar.  All of this is to say that it is something of a niche art form, and one gets the impression only the obsessively dedicated, passionate, and in some ways masochistic ever really make it.  There is a scene in Black Swan in which Nina (Natalie Portman) and her fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) are in a bar talking to some guys they just met.  They know nothing of the ballet aside from having heard of Swan Lake, and Nina begins to excitedly tell them about it and offer them tickets.  Lily changes the subject, knowing full well that these guys and, well, most people don’t care.  Nina doesn’t understand that.  Her life has been the ballet, and the film is about an obsessive artist who knows nothing else and cannot come to terms with anything beyond it. Read the rest of this entry »