Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Strange Actions of the Marvel U Before a Holiday Weekend

Putting quality aside it's undeniable that Marvel has created a growing universe that consistently delivers blockbuster after blockbuster. They have done the impossible by playing the long game and it has payed off immensely. Currently every other studio with comic properties are now trying to emulate Marvel's success by creating their own interlocking universe. They have never backed down from taking risks along the way, banking on quality and character to help deliver the types of films they need. Thor is a great example, by hiring Shakespearean actor Branagh to direct the most fantasy infused of all the stories, they showed the world that they are willing to make the unexpected choices in hopes of a better film. Recently with Winter Soldier, they hired two TV writers from Community to deliver a spy drama heavily influence by the slow burn of the 70s. These choices seem to laugh in the face of your stereotypical Hollywood machine in which safety is best and appealing to the lowest common denominator will result in at least satisfactory box office. So what the fuck happened at the end of last week then?

For those of you that don't know, just before the weekend, Marvel announced that Edgar Wright would leaving the Ant-Man film set to open up Phase 3. Then just a short while later, it was announced that Drew Goddard would be leaving the Daredevil project set to premiere on Netflix as the first in a series leading up to the Defenders. Two fan favorite creators, with two high profile projects, both "leaving" suddenly. Let's take a look at what little we know about both of these situations.

Goddard seems simple enough, since we already knew that Sony was courting him to direct the upcoming Sinister Six film. Reports would suggest that he departed the Marvel U property in order to focus his efforts on the film. One could assume that Goddard was more interested in having a likely blockbuster film to his name than a Netflix series. I have a few concerns about this. One being that the Spider-man franchise is not inspiring confidence in longevity, let alone being to able to achieve the same complex web of films that Marvel has achieved. Webb made a great character piece with 500 days of Summer, yet all of that skill seems to have gone out the window with his Spider-man franchise. With this last film being mediocre at best. I hope the same thing doesn't happen with Goddard. The guy is a Whedon protege so you know his old boss would've made sure that Goddard's vision would be protected. Now that he's over at Sony, I worry for his upcoming film. Lastly, the timing of this announcement, being so soon after Wright's departure, gives me pause for the future of Marvel. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Wright off Ant-man? The movie that he's been developing for the better part of a decade? The movie that he made a promo reel for so that Marvel would FINALLY give him the job? Citing the typical "creative differences" many are reporting that it was not as amicable as it may sound. James Gunn, director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, chimed in comparing the split to a divorce " But little by little you realize, at heart, they aren’t meant to be together – not because there’s anything wrong with either of them, but they just don’t have personalities that mesh in a comfortable way. They don’t make each other happy. " This one confuses me. With their history of letting their directors have relative free reign with the property(of course many would point to Iron Man 2 as an exception), I wonder just how different their views could have been about the film. James Gunn is an insane director who's previous films have such a dark edge to them, yet somehow he's allowed to make what looks to be an enjoyable dose of weird in space. I can't imagine Wright's vision being any less crazy than what Gunn is doing with Guardians. If they really going to launch Dr. Strange in Phase 3, then Wright seems jut the right guy to begin ushering in the quirkier side of the Marvel U. Ultimately we will never know what really happened.

So what the fuck happened? Is the age of Marvel starting to show kinks in it's armor? There's some big gambles coming up and I'm sure Feige has an intense amount of pressure on him to maintain the success they have had so far. I just hope that they realize the only reason they are successful is because they picked the right people for the job, people who treat the properties with respect and have a unique take on an old story. With Goddard gone, Marvel was quick to put another Whedon protege on the project almost immediately. But with Wright out of the picture I have no idea who they could bring in that could prevent me from thinking how much better it would be with Wright at the helm. Lord and Miller are pretty trendy right now and I feel like they could do the project justice, but to really bring the same level of excitement as I had with Wright they need someone with just as clear a voice, that could still deliver the same charm. My vote would be for Richard Kelly, he's already proven that he can handle a complex plot in Donnie Darko, as well as bring the weird as in Southland Tales. Or for the longshot, give the property to Nacho Vigalondo, who has made two great films that have character based dramas with a sci fi current running through them all. Don't drop the ball Marvel


One last thought - my choice for Daredevil...bring Vaughn back to television and have him work with Bryan Fuller, who is making the incredible and extremely dark Hannibal right now.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Movie Night: In Defense of... Dust Devil

Shape shifting demons trapped on earth? Gorgeous South African landscapes with an ethereal dream like quality? Damaged souls struggling for hope? Dust Devil, from Richard Stanley, is an artifact of the early 90's lost in a sea of legal dramas and the rise of quirky independent rogue filmmakers and years before Scream would doom horror pictures to post modern slashers for years to come. This is a film that seemed to have been made with the words "cult favorite" in the back of the filmmakers heads the whole time. While plenty complain about the quality of the film at large, there is enough going here that I strongly suggest this to anyone even slightly interested in finding those hidden gems of cinema.

First and foremost people complain of the incoherence or flimsy nature of the plot. This I find utterly ridiculous, for while the plot does play out rather loosely, the film from the beginning has a surreal nature to everything. This film takes us into a sunbathed world that becomes darker and cloudier as we go. Literal dust devils begin to pepper the corners of scenes as we reach the climax of the film. It forces you to engage in what on the surface is a hitch hiking serial killer film. There's enough information given here that you can piece together the back stories of many I the characters and begin to understand the stakes involved. So again, on the surface this is a film in which a hitchhiking demon searches for lost souls to absorb and the broken down detective with his own dark past that is searching for him. Beneath all of that we are given a mythology of our demon and we see the spiritual journey each character takes as we travel deeper into this nightmare.

The cinematography is gorgeous with a color palette that evolves in accordance with the Hopi medicine wheel, moving from light to dark as the film progresses. There's some simple flourishes such as disappearing into a mirror as the screen fades to black, and a lot of walking through fog an dust. But by far, my favorite aspect is how often Stanley shows just how vast and isolated these characters are in this large desert. There are multiple scenes where it's just one character on a road with nothing around but a small freeway and the dust. It's a simple technique used in plenty of films, but combined with the warm palette it gives everything a fever dream feel as we dive into the surreal. You begin to feel like your mind could play tricks on you, so when the drifter teleports out of a car you wonder of he was ever there in the first place. Even locations are isolated from everything else, each location exists alone and then there are large stretches of land until next inn or house or train station. Showing the existential journey that everyone must go through as they travel through life.

This isn't a film for everyone, some will be turned off by the acting. Although if you're a fan of 80s horror or most cult classics this won't bother you. Some will not want to do the work necessary to fill in the plot that the movie doesn't give you. I never saw this as a downside and after hearing Stanley speak about the project it's apparent that every single decision was intentional, down to some pretty minute details. If you happen to find this on DVD, there's a great release by Subversive, I strongly suggest listening to the commentary, but for the rest of you this was on Netflix recently. Let me know what you think. And as always, never pick up hitchhikers, you never know when one might be a demon collecting damaged souls so he can get back to his demon realm.


One last thought - ah bro...you're gonna be stuck there for a long time.

Movie Night: X-men - Days of Future Past

This is a cinematic dream come true. The sins of the past have been eliminated and the most emo super hero team around has been given a new lease on life. A second chance to do things right. Singer, like he's taking back what's rightfully his, has crafted a film that quite literally erases much of the mistakes that have been made since his departure. He announces quite immediately, I am back motherfucker so strap in and get ready.

Like you didn't know already, but just in case, the film loosely adapts the seminal Days of Future Past story line from the wonderful Claremont days of X- Men brilliance. The skeleton of the story is still there, someone is sent back in time in order to stop a murder that will ultimately lead to near annihilation of all mutants. I'm not going to get into specifics here since you can find all that out on any other website. What I will say, is that Singer tells a dense story, full of Sentinels designed by a very straight laced Tyrion, a mischievous Pietro Maximoff who is easily the breakout character, and balancing two timelines. There's a lot at play here, and he makes a few missteps here and there, but ultimately nails the landing and delivers us the X-men movie we've always wanted.

You've seen how many mutants are in this? Obviously not all of them are going to get a great story, but unlike Ratner, each character here is still treated with respect. In fact, Singer's passion for the source material seeps off the screen in every frame. The film is handled like a doting parent giving their child a hearty embrace. So while some characters might not have the depth of Wolvie, they all have their moments and we see just how important each member is to the team. Oh yah...they are actually a TEAM in this movie. They work together effortlessly, each mutants ability complimenting the other giving us visual combos that are devastatingly badass. And yes, Iceman finally gets to show off just how awesome he can be. And Blink's powers are exciting everytime she throws open a portal. You get the sense from the future X-men that they've been together for a long time, the way they interact they know each other better than they know themselves. This is a film about relationships and he starts the film by showing us that in dire situations, those you love the most will always stand by you.

In the past, Logan is trying his hardest to mend the shattered remains of the relationship between Charles, Erik, and Raven. He knows that he has to get these people become the people they are meant to be and stop this murder or else his future is doomed. While in the past we are constantly guessing as to how they will secure their future. Fassbender gives an amazing performance and we the audience are never sure what his next plan will be. McAvoy is brilliant as a drug addled shell of Professor Xavier. Seeing Logan struggle with the emotional toll of bringing the Professor back to his old self is a testament to just how perfect Jackman is as Wolvie.

I know I'm heaping a lot of love on this film, but I've dreamt of this moment for years. When you can feel the passion someone has for a project, AND the project is actually amazing, those are special films. I mentioned before, the film is not without it's flaws, but for me this is easily the best X-men film ever made. It warms my heart to see these characters I loved, rendered so beautifully on screen. When people start dying right off the bat, and we see just how high these stakes are, you worry for your favorite characters. And when those characters die it crushes your heart. I loved this film. I love that Singer was able to do this, that he brought back old friends and new friends and gave us something worthy of it's namesake. DOFP carries a lot of baggage, and while this isn't necessarily a loyal adaptation, Singer does the impossible, and shows us hope for this franchise. He shows us that just like these characters these films stumble and fall, but that doesn't mean they're done yet. I can't wait for what's next.


One last thought - Please treat this guy right.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Interstellar Has a New Trailer: Nolan's Oscar Year?

This looks amazing. I loved Gravity last year, and the few glimpses we get of space here seem to share the same reverence and awe that Cuaron had for the great beyond. It's hard to tell just how much time will actually be in space and how much on Earth, but either way Nolan looks to have made an epic movie about humanity and space travel. The guy makes films that pushes the medium forward, while still being grounded in the technique of his predecessors. You can't look at this and not feel the hands of Ford or Lean. Extremely personal films made with an epic scope. Enjoy


One last thought - Damn, McConaughey is on a crazy streak.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Am The Terror That Flaps In The Night, I Am Batman

I was never angry about the casting of Affleck, and I actually think Cavill does a good job as Supes despite that film being extremely flawed. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to be there opening day. It's just, I struggle to get genuinely excited for this new iteration of Bats.

As promised, Snyder released the first image of the batmobile after yesterday's tease, and as a bonus we get our first look at the Dark Knight himself. First impressions? I like the texture on the suit, I like the smaller bat ears which definitely fall in line with the inspiration coming from TDKR. The look of skin rather than armor definitely gives you an idea of an older hardened batman. Not the hugest fan of the bat logo but that's minor. As for the car? Well I like the fact that it looks like it was welded together in a garage. Again giving credence to the idea of an older superhero coming out of the woodwork. Still not doing anything to get me really excited. Like I said yesterday I wasn't that excited about the tumbler either.

Ultimately I always had faith in Nolan even though he wasn't my first choice. As much as I like Watchmen, Snyder hasn't shown me that he's the man for this material. I hope he proves me wrong, but the apparent bloatedness of the production doesn't do much to inspire trust.


One last thought - did you hear this happened today too? Can't be worse than Kitsch.

Welcome to Kingdom Come: The Age of Heroes

At the turn of the century, TV began what is widely considered to be a new golden age in quality television. With shows like Lost and Alias ruling network TV, HBO began it's climb to the top with The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood. Now as more and more filmmakers invest in television side projects, we are seeing more and more relation between the silver screen and what we see beamed to our sets. The landscape is much different now. Network TV is a laughing stock, while
cable reigns supreme over everything. But dear readers, there is a storm coming. One that has been brewing for quite some time. As Breaking Bad and Mad Men end their runs, True Blood is on it's last legs and many more of the stalwart juggernauts from recent years are finding their final resting spots in the annals of TV history we are left wondering what will be the next trend on the airwaves. Well if next season is any indication, much like the silver screen, TV is all about Heroes and comics.

Nearly every major network is either launching, or adding to their existing brand of comic properties. And why not? Comic Book films continue to break box office records year after year. Let's take a short look at some of series that have recently been confirmed are actually going to see life on air.

First off let's talk the big guns. Marvel has had an amazing run with the MCU, and just this year they launched Agents of SHIELD. The show has received mediocre success, but being a built in advertisement for any number of big budget projects, I doubt the show will see it's finale any time soon. In addition to SHIELD, ABC has announced they are indeed making Agent Carter, a period espionage drama following Hayley Atwell's character from the first Cap. Hardly a surprise given the success of Cap, huge opportunity for something unique here.

Next up is The CW, which I reluctantly admit has a decent show on their hands with Arrow. It's at least better than SHIELD, and arguably better than Man of Steel. The CW hopes they can continue their success with The Flash which brings our Scarlet Speedster to the masses. Not entirely sure what route they will take the character, but my guess is a spin on the procedural given the history of Mr. Allen. In addition to that they have the obscure iZombie coming from Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars fame. This is the story of a young zombie who can pass for normal so long as she eats brains from time to time. I read the comic for awhile and it has a great sense of humor and an awesome cast of supporting characters including a myriad of supernatural creatures. Word is Thomas has diverted quite a bit from the source material, but it's Thomas and I'll give everything a chance.

Fox has the Batman prequel we've always wanted with Gotham. You can read my thoughts on an earlier post.

NBC has the cynical demon fighter Constantine. Honestly, so far this looks the most promising. With a recently released trailer, NBC teases the tone and feel of the show and if the payoff is there we'll forget all about Keanu. With some decent production value, and a true(apparently) affection for the character, NBC could have the best of the pack here.

Even Showtime has Penny Dreadful which takes us into a world where literary characters of old like Dorian Gray and Dr. Frankenstein reside. The premiere has been on Hulu for some time and it's great. Netflix has the Defenders miniseries in 2015 which will bring us Daredevil(again), Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. AMC desperate to fill the void left by Mad Men and Breaking Bad, has tapped Seth Rogen to bring Preacher alive and yet being stuck in development hell for so long.

Are we approaching Super Hero fatigue? Is it already here? Or are we actually excited that we have content providers dedicated to bringing us hopefully amazing genre work in the next few years


One last thought - if there's still any doubt that super heroes are invading the small screen, check out who's back

Monday, May 12, 2014

Excited yet?

Sorry Zack, not doing anything for me. Maybe the full reveal tomorrow will be better. To be fair, I wasn't excited about the Tumbler either.


One last thought - trusted Nolan though.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gotham: Whatever Happened To The Dark Knight?

You might not remember but a decade ago there was a little show called Smallville. What people usually don't talk about is that Smallville began development as "Bruce Wayne." Whether it would've been as successful we thought we would never know. Well the crazy machine that is Hollywood seems intent on milking every comic property of all of it's life until it's a shell of what it used to be strutting down NYC with an emo haircut making finger guns. What am I talking about? Ladies and gentleman Fox TV is going to be bringing us Gotham, the tale a young Commisioner Gordon learning the hard truths of a decaying city. Throughout his adventures he will come across a young orphaned billionaire, a future kingpin, a brilliant trickster, catgirl, and a hippie. Also Donal Logue as who else...Bullock.

The first trailer was recently released and we were blessed with our first glimpse at the tone and feel of this new extrapolation of the Batman mythos. While I will ultimately reserve judgement for the fall premiere, because cmon, no way I would miss this, I do have a few hopes and worries.

First off Ben McKenzie, and Donal Logue seem to fall into their roles quite nicely. True fans will remember McKenzie as Batman in the incredible DC animated universe movie, Batman: Year One. Here he seems to bring the type of controlled intensity and unflinching moral code of the Gordon we know and love. Logue gives us less a view of what version of Bullock this will be, but a taste of the smarmy charm, yet ultimately good natured attributes that Bullock has been long known for. These two give me hope, they show an attempt at treating the material with respect.

The rest of the trailer, not so much. There is an inconsistency with the depiction of Gotham, ultimately showing us a Gotham that is far too clean and bright for the type of "war" the characters keep referring to. Any dialogue not spoken by the two leads seems out of reach for the actors delivering it. "I love this city, and I see it going to hell" it's pulpy and straight out of a comic book, and unless you can sell it, it sounds incredibly awkward and forced. The trailer is full of this type of speech. Couple that with some questionable characterizations and I approach this show with reluctant hope. I fear that along with Bats V Supes, this show will treat the greatest comic story ever told with the care of Michael Bay on a trip through arms and ammo section of the Met. Seriously wtf is Ivy doing?


One last thought - like I said, you know I'll be locked in day one hoping this is badass. But if not I'll always have this, thanks boss.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Movie Night: Summer Preview Extraordinaire

We have just passed our fourth year and while 2013 was a bit slow for us(we've already posted more content than the entirety of 2013) we are revitalized and continue to dedicate ourselves to bringing you the same cultural commentary that you've grown to love. In short, thanks for reading, we all appreciate it and hope you continue to do so. Now tomorrow begins the official Summer Movie Season, and I felt it was time I brushed off an old favorite. So without further ado I present to you my Summer Movie Preview Extraordinaire. Quick note, I recently posted a piece on some of the films I'm most looking forward to that are a bit under the radar, some of them are coming out soon but I will not relist them here.

10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Matt Reeves
I wasn't that excited about the first film, and when I finally saw it, I realized my mistake. Now even though we have a change in director, I'm not going to let this one slip by. Reeves can direct the supernatural and with Serkis still on board I'm eager to see the further adventures of Caesar.

9. They Came Together - David Wain
The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten. After these projects I will see anything David Wain does especially when it involves Paul Rudd and I'm sure we'll we a number of their cmon collaborators. This time around Wain is parodying the romantic comedy. His absurdist point of view have us the amazing WHAS, excited to see what he does with this one.

8. Wish I Was Here - Zach Braff
I get a lot I shit around here for liking Garden State. It was a confident if a bit self aware statement on what it means to be in your twenties in the modern era. It explored modern thoughts on love and what it means to escape or embrace your past. As well as give not so subtle jabs at the myriad of people who travel to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a star. This new film now has Braff in his late thirties telling a story about a struggling actor who now has a family and a life to take care of. This one could go either way, I'm hoping this is season 1-4 of scrubs ...not those fucked up college years

7. Lucy - Luc Besson
Besson has given us some of the best most stylish action films of the past few decades. Now he has taken my girlfriend and given her super powers? This will probably be my number one film of the year.

6. Snowpiercer - Bong Joon Ho
A post-apocalyptic world where the entire world is frozen save for a few people on board this train? Directed by Korean auteur Bong Joon - Ho? I'm in.

5. Begin Again - John Carney
Know the least about this one, other than it's Carney's next film after the beautiful and concise "Once" Again music seems to bleed through each frame. Excited to see if Carney can capture that same magic as before.

4. Godzilla - Gareth Edwards
If you haven't seen Monsters, go watch it right now. That alone should get you excited for this. The trailer shows you just how badass this film can be, but his first film shows you that this film will also contain substance. We all know this has been tried before, but now we have a chance to honor the original with something smart as well as insanely cool.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy - James Gunn
Marvel is on a crazy streak of awesome. And surprisingly rather than sitting on their laurels they continue to take risks. Iron Man out of his suit for half the movie? SHIELD being dissolved? And now a film about a psychotic raccoon, a con artist, and a giant vin diesel tree. Being directed by the guy who brought us Super and Slither? Easily the riskiest move Marvel has done yet. I personally have read minimal Guardians, but from what I've read I'm extremely excited to see these characters realize on screen. It looks like the film embraces all the weirdness that comes with the property which could serve to even broaden the scope of the MCU

2. Boyhood - Richard Linklater
I posted an article about this film earlier this week, so I'll keep this short. This looks like it could be Linklater's best film. If not, it still looks amazing, dying to see this one. 12 years in the making.

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past - Bryan Singer
Ok. Quite simply...I've dreamt of the idea of Singer returning to right all the wrongs that have been done to my beloved X-men. Too high of expectations? Trying not to. Singer has shown his mastery of this subject matter before, really hoping for something special.


One last thought - hoping the tardis is in the corner of the frame somewhere.