No seriously, what did I just watch?
Watching The Maze Runner last year as an enjoyably stupid experience, not on the level of Divergent which we saw with a cocktail in hand, but still fun. Although through out the entire movie there is this awareness at the back of you head that no answer will be satisfactory to setting, a nagging voice that is made worse by the fact it's a known trilogy.
Sure enough the visceral excitement of the group of teens trying to escape and survive this maze is met with an ending that... is so stupid. Unbelievably so.
There are only two films I have ever walked out of, one I don't remember apart from it was a war film and there was a scene where someone waited in the rain.
The other was Spirited Away.
A move for which I have felt guilty of for a very long time, I since went back and watched it through many times over. I've also watched Howl's Moving Castle. Meaning my understanding of Studio Ghibli is high fantasy and extraordinary images; fast paced animation with extraordinarily beautiful line work.
When Marnie Was There is missing all those things with the exception of beautiful line work. It's a film of more restrained movement, any supernatural element is subtle and easily explained away. It is still beautiful but of a very different tone to the rest of Studio Ghibli.
The main character Anna is a young girl, outside the circle as she puts it, isolated with abandonment issues. Her guardian doesn't know why she has suddenly shut her off from others and even her own emotions. So she sends Anna off to the coast, to stay with some relatives, the clear air will also help with Anna's athma.
In this beautiful coastal town Anna avoids all other children till she finds an old marsh house, and a young girl who seems to be trapped there. Marnie.
Anna is an interesting character, she isn't just an isolated child who needs to learn to let people in, she's also a little bit of a bitch. She's quick tempered and incredibly rude, although usually only in her thoughts. It's a culmination of things in life that have made her shut everyone out.
Her friendship with Marnie develops quickly and deeply, always stretching the line between reality and dreams. Time seems to be lost when they are together, Marnie never appears when any of Anna's friends are around.
Is she a ghost, a memory, an imaginary friend? As it turns out, perhaps a little of each. The story is a very traditional one, the characters feel archetypal and yet fresh enough to still be interesting.
The animation felt odd however, it is still as beautiful as ever, but the more realistic speed of the characters and less bombastic action mean's it feels a little too constricted and as though it could be doing more.
A beautiful a touching tale, unique in how restrained it is for a Studio Ghibli, however crying out for something with a bit more of the unique creativity the studio is known for.
Once the film has been out for a while I may do a re-cap of the major reveals in more details as well as the obligatory Easter egg hunt. For now lets focus on broad terms; how does this film hold up and compare to the rest of the Marvel line up.
I called Avengers a safe movie, one that hit all the notes it was supposed to, but it was polished to an absolute gleam; and while it was very traditional for an action movie it's attempt to blend in several franchises and genres and have them all feel cohesive was incredibly ambitious. Avengers: The Age of Ultron suffers for not being as refined, the weight of having to keep so many balls in the air, supporting and introducing new characters begins to show.
Avengers 2 is not as good as Avengers 1, it's not as refined, it has too many plot notes it needs to hit and attempting to one up it's previous film. I saw it over a week ago and while I do still remember plot points and character motivations my feelings to the film are fairly, ehhhh.
Perhaps the tipping point of over saturation of comic movies has been reached sooner then most thought, or Avengers 2 simply suffers from middle movie-itis. It's not the treasured first born that was Avengers, nor will it be the chaotic misbehaving twins of Infinity Wars. It has to struggle to continue developing what was already set up, introduce new plot threads and still be a contained movie. It is eons more successful at that then Hobbit: The *missing* desolation of Smaug was, however it probably isn't up to the Two Towers level of skill either.
Let's brush on weak points and strengths; Tony vs Cap is already feeling like a fiddle played too often. We know this song boys, and I for one am not looking forward to another encore during Captain 3: Civil War. There are too many plot points and too many characters, a few clearly just making cameo's to remind the audience they exist so it isn't confusing when they show up at the end.
I'd count the humor as both a strength and weakness, it's still funny but the first movie it felt more natural, here it feels a little more forced. As if they have pauses to wait for the audience to laugh.
When it's on point however it is still genuinely funny. The new characters were also a mixed bag however I can't go into to much detail without spoilers.
The action is still clear however despite being in a smaller city for the climax it feels far more spread around. The opening action seen had some laughably bad CGI at points and was clearly influenced by Captain America's montage from the first movie. It was also deliberately watered down so it didn't compete with the climax. When they are all brought together to protect something in the climax it really feels intense and close. That scene was pretty beautiful, and there were a few great moments.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is worth the price of admission, compared to many blockbusters it is fun and clever. However Ultron may not have any stings on him, but there are plenty all over this movie, it's constrained in parts and stretched in others. This is where we see the cost of Marvel's ambitious plan, service to the continuity over service to making the best product possible. It's still not nearly as embarrassing as Sony's attempt at the exact same thing but it will make me more wary for any studio attempting such a task. (DC I'm looking at you)
Hey everyone! So starting this month I'll be doing something new. Serialised creative stories, a chapter a month (hopefully more once I switch to part time for my paying job). Once the story is then finished I'll be bringing them together into a novel. So be ready for the first Chapter of Bed of Thorns; a sci-fi re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. But speaking of fairy tales, lets look at Cinderella.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of the Disney Princess genre, there are very few films in that genre that I will skip, even the ones that are Disney knock offs rather than actual Disney. So I went into the new live action Cinderella with decently high expectations, I wasn't expecting anything ground breaking but I also wasn't expecting to leave disappointed.
Rather than just going through the movie we are actually going to do a compare and contrast, with the animated Disney Cinderella and the live action Ever After staring Drew Barrymore with the new Cinderella film. Which is a straight remake of the animated one and yet tries to ape the strides that Ever After took and falls woefully short.
Let's look at the environment first; Cinderella of all of them most looks like it takes place in a fairy tale world. It's bright colours and flawless costumes, it has a world that looks remarkably clean. The Animated movie in contrast is very contained, there aren't any scenes of the outside world from her house until she goes to the ball; and Ever After is a fair dirtier movie. Pledging itself to some degree of historical accuracy... some.
The environments: set up clearly the tone each one is going for, the animated movie which focuses more on how Cinderella is contained to help contrast how special it is when she goes to the ball; the live action which is more interested in setting up a world where magic is possible and characters that are archetypes rather than characters. Ever After however is far more focused on character and making the fairy tale more like a possible event than a parable.
Speaking of characters lets really look into the meat of the issues here, the characters.
The Prince: I'm a little torn if I like the Prince in Ever After or the live action Cinderella more; Ever After's prince was a tad more flawed. Vulnerable to pride and making the mistakes that come with it, so his relationship feels more deserved, the both have flaws they need to get over. The live action prince is torn between love and duty but we don't see much more of him beyond that; however Rob Stark (Richard Madden) does play a whole hearted charming prince who any Game of Thrones fan will be happy to see finally wind up happily ever after.
The animated price is the least developed prince of all the Disney princes; and that is saying something.
The Step-Mother: This is one of the closest races there is; each of the portrayals have their own strengths. The animated step-mother is straight up evil, it's an incredibly menacing performance there is no effort made to try and humanise her. The animated step-mother gets points for simply being the most memorably evil. Ever After and the live action both try to show the step-mother as being evil from hurt caused by their new husbands never giving them love and instead showing Cinderella as his only family. However nether really does anything with it and Cate Blanchett turns evil far too quickly for there to really be any chance of understanding. Anjelica Huston on the otherhand, has over a decade to turn Cinderella into a slave and displays occasional moments where it's suggesting her own pain is causing her to inflict this pain on Cinderella.
They try a similar thing with Cate Blanchett, however Blanchett is playing it as evilly as the animated movie and every attempt at humanising her comes off as shallow. There is a moment when things really could have been tied together; Blanchett's character says that she married to give a chance to advance her daughters and there is this implication that she resents Cinderella for being this idea women who could marry a prince while her daughters are too inadequate to get advantageous marriages. But no, they don't tie it in with this sub-text of how society places restrictions on women, she destroys any chance of having her character ever be redeemable by saying she is cruel to Cinderella as Cinderella is good an innocent... And that's it. That is her motivation. Blanchett really is far too good for this role.
The animated movie, like most Disney animated movies of the past, is not interested in humanising the step-mother. She is cruel and evil because some people are just cruel and evil. While this villain could have slipped by, they did such a fantastic job animating her; really the animated movie really is just incredibly powerful in it's small moments. Especially with Cinderella, however we'll get to more in a moment.
A poorly humanised villain is simply more frustrating than painting a villain with the broad brush of saying evil because evil. So even though I do love Anjelica Huston and Cate Blanchett it simply has to go to the animated step mother. Brilliantly drawn, classically cruel and controlled giving a fantastic subdued but constantly threatening performance, Eleanor Audley is the best evil step-mother.
The supporting cast: Wow, I spent a lot of time on the step-mother, let's speed through some of the supporting cast. The step sisters are usually just comic relief, although occasionally effort is made to humanise Anastasia/Jacqueline, although usually it is just done by making her more of a push over by her mother and step-sister. It doesn't excuse what she does, just makes the audience feel bad for her as well. We'll give this to Ever After for having the two sisters actually act differently and not being unbearably annoying.
The fairy god mother, it's surprising that this character is usually the least interesting character, they really are only there as living deus ex fairy. A plot device to get Cinderella to the ball. Da Vinichi from Ever After is our stand in fairy god mother and is the most developed... but that isn't saying much. Have to go with the animated one for some bibbidi-boboidi-boo action.
The animals; no one wins on this one. The animals are either way to prominent in the movies, just there to reference the animated movie or not there are all.
Cinderella: Now Cinderella often gets a lot of flack for being a problematic character; she's one of the most passive Disney Princess's. Tying with Sleeping Beauty as the most passive in fact. So a lot of modern interpretations seek to address that; they give her character and chances to prove himself. Ever After is perhaps the clearest example of this, making Cinderella well learned, and keen to escape the situation she's in but without any means to; she suffers through the movie but when she is given a chance to rescue herself she does. Animated Cinderella is a kind and caring person, still totally good hearted despite the abuse she has suffered.
The new Cinderella attempts to marry these two concepts and ends up being the weakest part of the movie and why the movie ends up failing as a whole. The motto of the live action movie is have courage and be kind. This motto is repeated endlessly and is why the prince falls in love with Cinderella before the ball and why she is able to talk to animals and why the fairy god mother shows up for her. Cinderella is never courageous however, she is a doormat. Cinderella is well learned in the new movie, she has skills and intelligence that would allow her to find a life outside of her step mothers control and became a servant when she was old enough to escape, and is shown to have friends who could assist her living outside of the house. In fact she does try to escape, but decides it is cowardly to run away from the abusive situation she is in.
It was cowardly for her to run, because she says no doubt many people have it worse than she does.
... ... ... oh movie... no.
Contrast this with the animated movie, again in this Cinderella never escapes, however we are given no evidence to suggest that she could. Cinderella has lived like this since she was a child, we don't know that she has ever been outside the house. She also doesn't take the abuse in the same way; again I have to praise the animators who managed to give a lot of quiet dignity. Cinderella carries her head high at all times, its a small little sign that she isn't broken; it isn't until her dress is ripped that she finally breaks down. The dress tearing scene is chaotic and emotional; I've heard some refer to it the closest Disney has ever gotten to depicting a rape scene. And it was, until Maleficent and the scene where she wakes to find her wings removed. In contrast the live action scene has a sleeve ripped, that's it. Just one small rip; the scenes just can't compare in emotional weight. Movies have a simple language, which is 'show don't tell'. The animated movie never needs someone to exclaim the moral as 'have courage and be kind', Cinderella shows it through her actions alone and is rewarded for it.
It is really just hollow in the live action Cinderella movie; Cinderella claims to be endlessly kind and the film ends with her forgiving her family for the abuse. Yep; she forgives her abusers. Not gains some understanding about their motives, or any appreciation for the difficulties the Step Mother might face as a single mother in this time period. Nope, forgiven without question... they still get banished from the kingdom along with the duke who dared to stop the King marrying a peasant girl to protect the Kingdom. So, justice is served?
The live action movie really doesn't bring anything new to the table, although some great character work is done with the Prince and the King, it just adds nothing to the 'canon' of Cinderella. It is inferior to the animated movie it tries to improve upon. Meanwhile I love the hell out of Ever After and the animated Cinderella film; both are different however and each do succeed in what they are attempting.
I'll be updating again on the 20th as I turn the other passive fairy tale princess Sleeping Beauty into a sci-fi heroine.
I was very much on the fence about seeing Citizen Four; I think it shows how badly informed on the topic I was since I kept getting Edward Snowden and Julian Assange confused; I'm also concerned about how uncaring I was about the revelations that were coming out.
However we'll get more into the politics and why it's so important right now in Australia; but for now let's review the documentary itself. I haven't seen the two other documentaries by Laura Poitras, the three together are considered a trilogy on post 9/11 America. I can say that it isn't required for you to have watched the others to really enjoy this documentary.
The atmosphere is designed to feel intense from the beginning as they go over the security measures that Snowden was introducing to try and release the information. Perhaps it is because I didn't know enough about his reveals going into it but from a film point of view the danger felt to sudden and didn't match with the visual and audio tone. Things however pick up very quickly and once we finally meet Snowden the documentary really hits its stride; the footage all feels incredibly natural. Helped by the fact the subject Snowden is fairly charismatic. There is an ongoing sense of tension that makes the documentary seem like another world from the one we live in, but then it keeps grounding itself to remind us that the tension is real and exists in our world. The only real criticism I have is that the soundtrack doesn't really fit, often feeling the only artificial aspect.
So, if you are a fan of the documentaries, then definitely check this one out. And if you aren't, still go see this movie.
We are way to cavalier about how about our privacy and rights in exchange for a little bit of ease; however in Australia, the Labour Government recently said it would fold on the issue of data retention. No I've not been blogging in a while so I'm not going to jump straight into a political rant but I would strongly advise anyone to look up the issue and if you feel as strongly about it as I do. Speak to your local member and let them know.
Next time, just a review without the political rant...well... actually I make no promises!
Whelp, in the spirit of new year resolutions and goals, I guess it's time to dust off my old blog. Keep it active for 6 months and then dust it off again in 2016.
The system works.
So for those of you who were wondering, by which I mean my ten facebook friends I force to visit this blog, the reason I have been so inactive here is I have in fact been writing for other places!
I'm writing for The Australia Times - Games Magazine, and Media Hype101. You should check them both out!
I have however been staying on board with films, having seen over 40 movies this year. Most of which I was in fact glad to see; so let's award some some Good Whine prizes!
The Instragram award, for movie with the best food! - Chef
Simply mesmerizing food that I am still drooling over, combined with a hot soundtrack and some brilliant acting. A great movie if let down by an ending that was a little too happy.
The 1984 award, for inevitable human destruction! -TIE between Hungergames Mockingjay pt 1 and Snowpiercer
I was torn between the two movie as both are dealing with similar issues, namely can we live in a society which depends on the suffering of some. Both are class-ist revolutionary films with strong action. Hunger games probably deals with more additional issues with its display of the media while Snowpiercer is more focused.
The Taylor Swift award, for a movie that was better then it had any right to be! - The Lego Movie
Lego has proven itself incredibly subversive in it's game adaptations, and that anarchic humour combined with reverence for classical story telling led to an amazing move. The Lego movie was the biggest surprise of the year, based of a simply plastic toy it manage to capture what Lego's truley are for most kids. An opportunity to build any story you want.
The Ripley award, best film about fighting aliens! - TIE between Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow
The summer music award, for film I haven't been able to get out of my head! - Her
I've already done a full review of Her so you can check out my feelings there, however it's great to see a hopeful look at the singularity.
And the Good Whine award for my personal favourite film of 2014 goes to Captain America 2 - The Winter Solider.
The Lego Movie want's you to be a kid again, and is the best version of Batman in a while. Spoilers.
These day's it seems like a month doesn't go by where I am not brought to a mouth foaming, red haze level of rage by the news that some old franchise is getting a big budget Hollywood remake, as the Nostalgia dollar seems a far safer bet than trying to float an original thought. However I wasn't brought to this frenzied state by the news of the Lego movie, partially because unlike the old T.V shows or mobile apps that will be coming out in the next few years, Lego doesn't have a story. It has an aesthetic, it is a canvas. As such there were plenty of stories that could be told, plus Lego had built up a lot of good will from me for it's continued success in making great games off of popular franchises.
When the first trailer came out, I became excited. When the first reviews hit the stands from America (due to Australia getting fucked over with release dates... again), I avoided spoilers but my expectations were set even higher. People loved this film.
So when I finally sat down in the theatre did it meet my expectations? Was the incredibly high bar set reached? Yes, pretty much it was. It's always more fun in reviews to disagree with popular opinion than to heap more praise or scorn on a properly already buried under it. However the Lego movie just holds up, it's creative, it's vibrant, it's fun. And oh how I have been missing fun in movies.
We enter spoiler territory now, so really, if you haven't seen it yet. Back out now and come back after the movie.
I said that Lego was a canvas, that it could be used to tell any story. And that's true, what at first appears to be a chosen destined narrative which we've seen a hundred time but subverted with anarchic humour turns out to be the story of Lego. It's the narrative of creating, of not always following instructions and just doing. It's the narrative of anyone who ever played and was told to stick to the rules.
The chosen one narrative we see is that Emmet, the most unremarkable man in the Lego world is in fact destined to defeat the evil Lord Business who has a plan to end the world with his special weapon, the Kragle. A group of Master Builders, those who can build beyond the instructions given, are there to help him. In particular the resident wild girl love interest but has a boyfriend character... aptly named Wyld Style.
This is worked both into the destined narrative and the twist. The whole story we've been watching is a child at play, and certainly hints are dropped throughout the movie, still the reveal was nice and the scenes in the real world worked well. A father has been collecting and building Lego sets, his son sneaks down and puts the Lego worlds together, mixing pieces and creating new works. That the father is taking the toys of youth and rigidly confining them to the 'correct' way of enjoying them is the heart of the movie, and the reason that Batman is so central.
The Lego movie is saying that perhaps...
A gritty, dark, reinterpretation...
Of something as joyous as a child's toy...
Isn't a good thing.
Batman is after all the character most readily portrayed as the gritty face of superheros, the dark brooding loaner, and the one who always seems an inch away from snapping and killing everyone. Despite the fact he has perhaps the largest network of immediate allies, friends, and what is essentially family in the Robins, Alfred, the Batgirls, the Bird's of Prey, and his international network of Batmen. To the point where his gritty-titus has crossed over and affected his best friend Superman...yes you read that right, not enemy, not ideological opposite... Friend... AHHHHDJHSILJD DC STOP IT!!
Sorry... Back to Lego
Another thing the film does is to completely subvert the 'chosen one' narrative, the prophecy... completely made up. Our resident, Morpheus/Dumbledore/Gandalf/Obi-Wan Kenobie (even though some of those are present in the movie) is Vitruvius... played of course.. by Morgan Freeman. In what is clearly a last ditch effort, he has made a prophecy, because it can be the push to cause those needed to believe in themselves, rather than guarantee any one person can do it. While it's fairly obvious this ties more into the idea that everyone has the spark of creativity in them, everyone at times plays. I'd like to believe that is a bit of a dig at how many movies have begun using 'Destiny' as a narrative crutch because it's easier to explain.
I MEAN COME ON... WHY DID YOU NEED TO MAKE HIM MORE LIKE JESUS??!!
Right... Sorry... The Lego Movie...
A thing I've heard a lot from people having seen this move, 'this was my childhood'. Mostly from those who Lego and a parent threatening to glue it was actually present, but it still touches what seems to be a fundamental aspect of childhood. That desire to break the rules and see what can be made in place.
That most kids, will just wing it..
It' s a Bat Pun.
When I had first heard of Noah, I like most of my friends, was immediately thinking of The Passion or the more recently Son of God. Films that pander to extreme demographics in an attempt to draw funds from the hardcore Christians. Suffice to say, I didn't plan on seeing it. However, a review I frequent made a video explaining why he was excited for the film. Saying that Darren Aronofsky was using the Christian myths as a canvas for creating an epic more in the veins of Ten Commandments. MovieBob got me willing to give it a chance, this is the video in question.
I still was cautious, having dispelled the fear of a propagandist film I now began to question if the epic was in fact aiming a bit too high with all the ideas it wanted to explore. On this count the movie does suffer a little, but there was still a lot in this to make me suggest it.
Firstly I should note that I don't personally have anything against a movie which does chose to represent religious stories sincerely, even though I know several of my friends do. I find Prince of Egypt, a Dreamworks film to be incredibly beautiful, moving and heartfelt. It doesn't skirt around including God nor does it spend its time trying to force it upon you. The religion matters to the story because it matters to the characters in it.
That said I found that the increased presence of pandering Christian films in this past decade has left a slight social dissonance within Noah. I kept expecting the worst of the medium and was left confused when it didn't happen. But enough about Christianity and this movie, lets talk about the film itself.
Noah is a very ambitious film, a large scale epic with huge spectacle. If you like seeing films with big moments there is plenty here to get you excited. So much that a few aspects got left by the wayside to my disappointment. Such as Methuselah's fire sword... yes, you read that right. There are also incredibly creative creatures in The Watchers, a group of fallen angels who had decided to help man after they were cast out by the Creator. Ok, sorry, back to religion real quick. This film skirts around a full representation of Christian religion because, it's not what it want's to be, and it appears to not want to offend or alienate audiences. As such there is only mention of a 'Creator' and the description of the creation of earth by the Creator is a montage from Big Bang through evolution.
And now, back to the plot.
The sons of Adam and Eve were three, Cain, Able and Seth. Cain killed Able and his descendants serve as our bad guys. While the descendants of Seth act as shepherds to the world caring for the creatures. The sons of Cain are numerous, greedy and selfish. They are post/pre-apocalypse versions of any Captain Planet villain. Although Noah and his family would suggest to be passive, as the last remaining descendants of Seth, Noah frequently kills in this film, a small hint to what will be the massive turn for this film.
During the building of the ark and the flood the movie has already been good. But once the ark is afloat is where things suddenly become dark. Noah believes that all man must be purged; including himself and his family. So they shall die off as the only women young enough to bare children is barren; however she becomes pregnant and Noah realizes that if it is a girl than mankind has a hope of continuing and all those he sacrificed, all those he killed have died for naught because the world is still not clean of the sin of man.
Noah, seemingly suffering from both sever post-traumatic stress and cabin fever, has said that he will kill the child if it is a girl. And they live in a constant state of fear for months as the baby is carried to term, it is tense to see how far Noah has slipped and to see his family unable to escape him.
What this movie does right it does amazingly well, however it is probably a bit to ambitious and some parts could have been cut as I get the impression that part of some sub-plots was already removed for time. While the remains feel disjointed.
Still, you should see this one. As I bitterly complain about another nostalgic property from the 80's, or a mobile phone game receiving a blockbuster treatment, I will always try to reward ambition when it does emerge.
For those unaware the quote above is from the new Wachowski siblings film Jupiter Ascending and I have a few problems with it.
Firstly I should make clear I was really looking forward to this film when I first heard of it, I like Channing Tatum, I like Mila Kunis and I like Sean Bean but I really like big epic space opera's from talent who can create something as revolutionary as the Matrix was. After the first trailer came out I was pumped for how new everything looked, although I thought the plot sounded a little lack luster but I will still ready to see what they did with it.
And then the second trailer came out. Mila Kunis who appears to be unknowing space queen of Earth quips that they wont believe what she does for a living as it shows she appears to be some sort of maid/cleaning laid cleaning a toilet. This isn't really the problem, poor person didn't know they were actually the most special snowflake stories can be good, they can be done well. Harry Potter is the prime example. But the line Sean Bean says after this annoys me for two reasons, 'It's not what you do, it's what you are.' And no, I'm sorry, but no. I understand they are saying that she isn't defined by her job but a characters actions are what is important to the plot and the more I see the more I realise that she doesn't take any action. At no point in the trailers does she do anything.
On top of that I have no idea who she is, that one little quip is the closest thing we get to any character from her. I can make a reasonable guess as to Channing's character as well as Sean's but other than the fact she seems to have such a problem with gravity I've started calling it Jupiter Descending.
I am still keen to see the film, huge visuals are a guarantee while the Wachowski siblings are often able to raise questions that give a film depth. However thinking back over the Matrix I remember that character, was never their strong suit. A fact made worse to me that the title character, the main female character appears to be a human macguffin or sexy lamp.
But hey, it seems to pass the Bechdel test, so those who consider the test the value of an actual individual movie rather than as a way of examining the entire industry (which is meant to be)... yay.
P.S. Is it just me or does that poster look really similar to the posters from Oz the Great and Powerful... just me? Fine.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.