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 »

Lucy

July 30, 2014

Lucy-Scarlett-Johansson

After a decade of becoming one of the top producers of mid-budget B-movie actioners and directing a couple of poorly received and even less seen “personal” films, Luc Besson has made Lucy, a film that combines his best quality (women learning to kick ass) and his worst (“ideas”). To say it’s his best film since The Fifth Element is damning with faint praise, but it is, and it’s just as dumb. What it lacks in smarts, however, it makes up for in briefness of running time. Read the rest of this entry »

hunger-games-catching-fire-trailer-1

As surprise box office juggernauts go, you can do a lot worse than The Hunger Games franchise.  Though the first film was flimsy and mostly tacky, there was at least an interesting concept – brutal state repression to protect the wealthiest individuals and the moral backflips one has to do when forced to kill others, and the grotesquerie of Reality Television bloodsport.  None of this is particularly new, and as I wrote in my review of the first entry, it’s too hard to ignore the similarities to Battle Royale, a film which is in every far superior.  Still, a popular film about income inequality that is intent on sowing the seeds of revolution is timely and, for someone with my politics, nothing to be sniffed at.  That said, even though the broad strokes are good, there’s a trouble with the sequel Catching Fire, and though this may just be a symptom of “the middle book” syndrome, it’s hard to get too excited because of it.  Despite Jennifer Lawrence being more than capable in the role, and the fact that this film is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way, the biggest sore spot is Katniss Everdeen herself.   Read the rest of this entry »

Ender’s Game

October 30, 2013

enders-game

The long-awaited adaptation of the much beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game by the much reviled author Orson Scott Card has finally arrived, and though it strikes me as odd that anyone would be particularly interested in seeing this book brought to the screen (maybe a mini-series on TV, perhaps, but as a film, it never made much sense) it has been.  Years of development hell for the various attempts to do so have led us to an era of Young Adult adaptation mania, spurred on by the monstrous successes of Harry Potter and Twilight and, as a result, The Hunger Games.  As a result, we have a bland franchise hopeful written and directed by Gavin Hood.  These sorts of things don’t really rely on a strong authorial identity behind the camera – arguably, they’re antithetical to the business purposes of the pursuit – and so the adaptation runs straight down the middle all the way through, and unsurprisingly leaves us with a quick-paced, nuance-less YA film that mostly serves to highlight why it shouldn’t have been adapted in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

Prometheus

June 20, 2012

All the anticipation, all clever viral marketing, and that stunningly awesome trailer have all led to this:  2012’s “yeah, but” movie.  Prometheus is one of those movies designed to flood the internet with endless debates amongst nerds and/or film critics – it’s a not-quite-prequel to one of the greatest science fiction and horror films of all time, co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, and directed by the ever dubious Ridley Scott, the director of two beloved masterpieces early in his career and a whole slew of middling-to-fascinating-to-downright-awful films ever since.  Big budget, an R rating, gloopy sci-fi horror and spaceships and a great cast and you have to wonder, is it any good?  Well, yeah, but… Read the rest of this entry »

I have recently finished reading Simon Reynolds’ latest tome, Retromania, which largely deals with pop culture –and specifically, music’s – cyclical nature; it constantly looks back to repeat itself and revel in past glories.  The book deals mostly in music, though fashion is thrown in as a comparison, and films are very rarely mentioned at all.  The only major instance I can recall is in regards to the early 70s boom in 50s nostalgia, when American Graffiti became a massive hit, capturing the cultural zeitgeist along with Sha Na Na and eventually the TV series Happy Days.  He attributes that particular revival to the fallout of the 60s that so deeply split America that everyone wanted to think back upon the simpler times of their collective youth, when they listened to rock n’ roll and everyone gathered at school dances.  This was largely an imagined past, of course, as socio-economic variations meant a lot of different experiences for a lot of different people, and times were just as rough for some then as they were at their present.  Still, nostalgia has a powerful effect, and though it is generally an instinct of conservativism and all of the negative connatations with ignoring both the present and the future that entails, it has produced some great art.  American Graffiti, for instance, is a brilliant example of inter-weaving narrative strands that also captures some universal truths in a specific moment.

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Oh District 9, what hath ye wrought?  To nobody’s surprise, that relatively small-budgeted sci-fi romp’s success spurred on the Hollywood braintrust into making not one but two similarly themed invasion yarns.  The first of these was Skyline, directed by visual effects team The Brothers Strause (ugh), eager to cheaply follow up their not-smash success Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.  Some legal troubles came about because The Brothers Strause (ugh) were also doing visual effects work on Battle: Los Angeles, or something along those lines.  This is utterly ridiculous, of course, because there are scores of directors and writers that could sue both parties for shameless intellectual property theft.  Read the rest of this entry »