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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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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 »

Thor: The Dark World

November 18, 2013

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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 »

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Not being a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, I wasn’t terribly keen on seeing the prequel, especially the story is smaller and perhaps less interesting then the huge events that take place in the “main event” series of Tolkien’s work.  Doubly worse was finding out that this relatively tiny children’s book had been somehow bloated beyond all recognition into a three-part, three-hour a piece movie extravaganza that was going to suck up nine hours of my life.  I don’t want to seem cynical, but considering Peter Jackson’s relative failure to reach the heights of success he had with the original trilogy, one might think it a desperate gambit to get back in the A-list game (and get some easy money) to revisit it.  That’s harsh, though, as he clearly loves the source material, which is a problem.  Read the rest of this entry »

We’re almost there.  Just a little further and we’ll be done.  One more movie after this one, due to be released next summer, and that’s it.  The deluxe DVD/Blu-Ray box set in the shape of Hogwarts, that opens and unfolds like moving staircases, will be released around this time next year, perfectly coinciding with the holiday season.  No sympathy for the people who bought the “Years 1-5” or the “Years 1-6” set, because they should have known better.  We all knew it was coming.  The final swing of the wand.  The last catch of the snitch.  The ultimate Ron Weasley gormless face pull.  The end.  Almost. Read the rest of this entry »

In some ways, I appreciate Oliver Stone’s turn from a confrontational rabble-rouser to a softer, more contemplative political director.  Not to say he’s terribly successful at the latter, but there’s something admirable in his ability not to turn his George W. Bush biopic into a polemic, and likewise in his Wall Street sequel to not go after banks and trading companies all-guns-blazing.  It’s as though he’s living out that old cliché of the once-raging lefty who gets worn down by time until he looks at the younger ‘rebels’ and smiles with knowing affection at their gumption and vigor, but knows somewhere inside knows it’s a fools game.  Unfortunately it hasn’t made him a very interesting director, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleep’s problems stem from an unfocused, unsure desire to be a decidedly populist yarn about conventional family issues and doing the ‘right’ (in a very broad, centrist way) thing.  I won’t take issue with the movie that could have been, because that’s not what’s here.  I think a gritty drama about money, greed, corporate desperation, and backroom dealings at The Fed could be interesting, but alas, that film has not been made yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Predators and Killers

July 15, 2010

John McTiernan’s tight, sparse and commendably pure Predator still stands as one of the finer action achievements of the 1980s, and though it has been sullied by a grim sequel borne out of the Jason Takes Manhattan mode and a pair of cinematic abortions that shall not be mentioned by title here, the simple concept still has allure.  For those living under a rock, it is basically a sci-fi Most Dangerous Game, with honour-bound but ruthless dreadlocked aliens hunting humanity’s finest killers.  While the original was happy for our heroes to tangle with a singular beast, Nimrod Antal’s Predators takes a cue from the Alien franchise by pluralizing both the title as well as the number of predators. Read the rest of this entry »