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Author: Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.
Editorials

Brexit: How Will It Affect The UK Film Industry?

July 14, 2019

Whatever your feelings on Brexit it is bound to have a big impact on many aspects of the UK, but what will the impact be on British film? I’ll be upfront from the beginning and say I voted Remain in the referendum and think leaving the EU will have a negative impact on the country. Will we cease to get any funding from the EU and will that hamper creators? Will a Britain freer to trade with foreign countries provide more opportunity? Is this a golden opportunity or a terrible disaster for British film? The unfortunate answer is it’s complicated. There are numerous different scenarios depending on what deal, if any, the UK government reaches.

The Current State of Affairs

For the time being Britain remains a member of the European Union, the European Economic Area and various other treaties and organisations. These agreements have reciprocal benefits and obligations and while the UK pays a substantial sum of money to be in the EU proponents would argue the benefits to the economy and country make it worthwhile. Some of this money goes into a central pot from which citizens or organisations from that area can make applications, for example, the film Paddington received over £300,000 in funding from the EU.

One of the founding principles of the EU is the free movement of people, goods, money and services across participating countries, this basically means it is as easy as possible for people to work, goods to be bought and sold, access and provide services and invest money. Whilst in the EU a UK citizen could easily work in Spain, Italy or any EU country and their citizens do the same. This is based on the belief that these freedoms will lead to increased trade, a stronger economy, more opportunities and more for those involved and will benefit the member countries and EU as a whole.

After Brexit

To be blunt, we don’t know what the situation will be. We could leave the EU but continue to be in the EEA. We could still be involved in funding cultural programmes. We could still give access to EU citizens to work in the UK and vice versa – although admittedly ending free movement of people seemed to be one of the cornerstones of Brexit. There was no clear definition of what Brexit meant and this has been one of the central difficulties of negotiating with the EU.

Brexit As An Opportunity

The British Film Institute conducted an extensive report on the effect Brexit would have on UK film-making, raising many potential problems but it did highlight three areas of opportunity after Brexit:

  • Depreciation of currency – since the referendum the value of the UK currency has dropped and, in a nutshell, has made it cheaper for places like America to do business in and with the UK. However, there are negative consequences of having a lower value currency that a government may want to avoid.
  • Opening new markets outside the EU – one of the features of the EU was many trade agreements were made with the EU as a whole rather than by individual countries and there were a lot of criteria that had to be met. After Brexit, the UK would be free to negotiate any free trade agreement they wanted with non-EU countries. This could create new markets or mean expanding existing ones.
  • Outside of the EU, the government could offer more tax incentives for film production in the UK.

The report also states that as the UK would not automatically be subject to new EU rules that might make the EU a less attractive place to do business with.

Working

It is hard to imagine a Brexit where it will not be harder for EU citizens to work in UK. Some have suggested that EU citizens will have to meet certain criteria around skills and be sponsored by their employer. A big drop in non-UK citizens being allowed to work could be a significant blow to British film-making, an article in Forbes stated that “In terms of post-production, visual effects and animations sectors, up to 40% of personnel are non-U.K. citizens”. Whilst some of those jobs will be taken by qualified UK citizens I doubt there are enough to make up that shortfall, the Forbes article goes onto say, the UK simply does not have enough people who possess these skills. And that is just looking at one area of filmmaking.

Funding

Films need money and the EU has put a lot of money into the film industry across Europe, for example, there is the Creative Europe programme which, essentially, could give you funding to make a film or help fund a cinema. Now regardless of what deal is reached, or no deal, the UK government has signalled it wants to remain part of some of these programmes. There is also the possibility that any EU funding that is lost could be matched by the British government, which is what has been promised in the case of Creative Europe in the event of no deal.

Co-Productions

Co-productions are when companies from more than one country work together to make a film. Sometimes this could be because the film takes place and is filmed, in two countries or it could be that there is a cultural message of the film the brings together relevant countries. The main reason, especially in recent years, is financial, as it allows more money to be raised from more people. Sometimes minority co-producers may have some creative control and sometimes they don’t. In recent years co-productions have become a smaller part of the UK film industry with the major exception being Ken Loach. Since 1990 Loach has released nineteen films of which fourteen had European co-productions, it is not a stretch to say co-production has been essential to his film-making.

Loach’s relationship with co-productions goes back decades, and creative control of his co-producers have waxed and waned. Sometimes a cultural input from a co-producer is extremely useful, Loach’s film Land and Freedom which was about the Spanish Civil must have benefited enormously from co-producer Tornasol, a Spanish company. Recently Loach has had to sacrifice very little, if any, creative control to co-producers, having many small backers dilutes their potential power.

Looking at the numbers Loach’s more international feel seems to be good for him, 87% of ticket admissions for Loach’s films come from outside the UK, a significant increase on 55% for most British films. What seems the most important factor in Loach’s success with co-production is that this method allows him to raise significant sums of money whilst sacrificing little, if any, creative control.

It is likely after Brexit the UK would not be part of the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production (ECCC) which was specifically designed to encourage European co-productions. To be part of this scheme would be to allow people working on the film to, well, be allowed to work on the film. The ECCC allows co-producers to claim the lucrative tax relief given to British film-makers and so make them keener to invest.

Barriers

There is one definite thing that will be true after Brexit, making films in Europe will be a lot harder and a lot of barriers will go up. Filming in Spain, Poland, France – any EU country will get a lot more complicated. Something as basic as moving filming equipment through countries could become far more difficult.

The Future…

Essentially there is very little we will know for certain, possibly there will be good and bad aspects to it. I think the best thing for British film-makers, and everyone really is to get a clear picture of what will happen and make decisions on solid information.

Also Read: Silence Is Golden: Great Scenes With No Dialogue

Editorials

Conflicted Heros Who Do More Harm Than Good

July 9, 2019

Warning – spoilers for Super, Chronicle, The Incredibles and Watchmen.

Brightburn is the story of an alien child who comes to Earth and is adopted by human parents but as he grows he develops incredible powers. Sound familiar? Well, it should as it’s basically the plot for Superman but the difference in new film Brightburn is that while Clark Kent grows up to be the ultimate hero things go a bit sideways with this child. Not surprisingly giving a teenage boy superpowers quickly leads to him abusing those powers and hurting people. Obviously, this is a far more realistic outcome than the saintly Superman and we must, therefore, consider Martha and Jonathan Kent the greatest parents of all time. If we ask ourselves what would we do if we woke up tomorrow with Superman’s powers I think most honest people would come back with an unpleasant answer – so the question must, therefore, be asked, do we actually want superheroes?

Super

Super (thecrimson.com)

Before James Gunn made the upbeat and joyous Guardians of the Galaxy he made Super – a film in which a character in a badly made costume beats people with a wrench and has the catchphrase “Shut up, crime!” This indie gem features a stellar cast from Rainn Wilson to Ellen Page including the amazing Nathan Fillion as a TV Christian superhero called the Holy Avenger who inspires Wilson’s character to become the Crimson Bolt. Not only does it deal with the problems when a vigilante goes after people committing very serious crimes, but also how the line can get a little blurred from serious crime to a misdemeanour to just being rude, and all of these people being hit very hard on the head with a wrench. The behaviour of Wilson’s character is so questionable that at times you find yourself agreeing with Kevin Bacon’s drug dealer villain, who often seems far more reasonable.

Chronicle

Chronicle (rogerebert.com)

Brightburn focuses on a young teen while found-footage superhero film Chronicle is about teenagers a few years older. This time three teenagers fall into a mysterious cavern and develop incredible powers, at first the three teenagers bond over their powers and largely do no harm aside from minor mischief. But it is not long before the loner of the group starts getting carried away with his powers. This teenager, who had few friends and had a history of being bullied before he got his powers, is easily corrupted by his new capabilities and his chance to be a star and maybe get even with a few people. While Chronicle deals with superhuman abilities and over the top fight scenes the fact that only one of three teenagers became a power-crazed killing machine always struck me as the implausible bit. Certainly my memories of other teenagers – and being one myself – would suggest adding superpowers to an already irrational and emotional group would make a bad situation far worse.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles (nme.com)

Do you know what you get when you use superpowers? Collateral damage. Man of Steel showed Metropolis being levelled by Superman and Zod battling it out but a much better film also addresses this issue – The Incredibles. The film is centred on Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl not only two superpowered crimefighters but also a married couple. The pair and all other superheroes are forced into retirement when the government decides that the collateral damage they do simply outweighs the good. Naturally enough, some of them have trouble adjusting to living a normal life and not using their powers. This is especially true of Mr. Incredible who is looking for any opportunity to escape his boring office job and go back to being a hero. A dark issue in the world of superheroes is explored in The Incredibles – why do they become heroes? Is it for justice and to save people or for attention and fame? Does Mr. Incredible just love being a hero? Ultimately I think the film comes down on that yes, he does miss the attention but deep down he wants to help people and finds it impossible to just sit back while people suffer.

Watchmen

Watchmen (nme.com)

When it comes to the downsides of superheroes the ultimate film is Watchmen. Based on what many consider the best graphic novel of all-time Watchmen is essentially the story of what happens to superheroes when they are forced to retire but is also about far more. It examines why someone would choose to risk their life to fight criminals, why some people would cheer them and others be disgusted? Are people with superpowers fundamentally different from “normal” people? Why does putting on a mask make beating people up okay?

If we look at the lineup of Watchmen we have a wide variety of superheroes:

Rorschach – a man who regularly brutally murder criminals and one of the few superheroes who did not retire, only believing in his personal code and not the law.

The Comedian – Superhero with no powers who fought crime for decades but also an attempted rapist and government assassin (it is suggested that it is the Comedian who killed JFK and, in this world, Woodward & Bernstein, the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal).

Nite-Owl II – restrained and relatively respectable when compared to some of the other Watchmen.

Silk Spectre II – helpful if inappropriately dressed for fighting crime who seemingly only became involved because of pressure from her mother, the original Silk Spectre.

Ozymandias – not only the smartest man in the world but a formidable fighter capable of catching bullets. He might sound like a nice guy but MAJOR SPOILER ALERT Ozymandias kills millions of people in order to save the world.

Dr Manhattan – one-time physicist Jon Osterman became Dr Manhattan, seemingly indestructible and unstoppable and is often said to be a god.

On close inspection, they don’t seem to be a good bunch of people, certainly not heroes. Ozymandias takes the superhero idea of breaking some rules for the greater good to its logical extent while Rorschach is simply appalling. The most interesting case is Dr Manhattan who serves as the film’s Superman, a man so powerful he is no longer human.

So looking through some of the darker superhero films we have a collection of violent, dangerous and sometimes insane individuals who all – at least at some point- thought themselves to be good people. Watchmen takes its title from the expression “What watches the watchmen?”, originally from ancient Roman poetry but applied throughout history to abuses of power by those who are meant to be guardians. Perhaps Lisa Simpson when confronting her own vigilante father put it best “if you’re the police, who will police the police?”

Also Read: Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films in the UK

Editorials

Silence Is Golden: Great Scenes With No Dialogue

June 23, 2019

Warning – Spoilers for Kill Bill Vol 2, Baby Driver, Royal Tennenbaums, No Country For Old Men, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Also note – One of the scenes deals with suicide.

2001: A Space Odyssey famously has nearly fifty minutes with no dialogue at the start, with the monkeys’ evolution and the end, with Dave’s evolution. Few filmmakers are that brave or talented to pull that off but a lot have had a go on a smaller scale, here are some of the best scenes with no dialogue (or nearly no dialogue).

Kill Bill Vol 2 – Coffin Scene

Kill Bill Vol.2 – Buried Alive Scene

This scene starts with the Bride buried in a coffin by one of the men she went to kill, and after watching a scene of her being trained by martial arts master Pei May we see her attempt to escape from this seemingly fatal trap.

The Bride calms herself and slowly sets about her escape. She cuts her ropes and does what should be impossible and punches her way out of a coffin. If it had not been for the previous scene in which she was trained to punch through solid wood at a short distance I would have hated this scene but we know this is possible for her, it obeys the logic of its own world. The Bride’s resilience even as her knuckles bleed and dirt starts pouring into the coffin is amazing.

Music – L’Arena by Ennio Morricone.

Only dialogue -“Come on, you bitch” & “Okay Pai Mei, here I come”

Baby Driver – Opening Chase Scene

Baby Driver – Opening Clip

This is six minutes with arguably no dialogue whatsoever that transfers from a perfect lip-synch sing-along of the music Baby is listening to what for me is the most impressive car chase ever filmed. The best part of the whole scene is not the seemingly impossible stunts but the look on Jon Bernthal’s face when he gets in the car, points forward and the car takes off in reverse. This whole article could be about how Edgar Wright brilliantly uses music in this film with at times it is almost a musical but this one scene sums all of his techniques very well.

Music – Bell Bottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Dialogue – Jon Bernthal repeating “whoa” and you overhear “a red Subaru” on a police radio

Royal Tennenbaums – Attempted Suicide

Royal Tennenbaums – Attempted Suicide Scene

In Luke Wilson’s best role as Ritchie Tennenbaum, he plays a man trapped in the past, stuck in a look he has had for decades and after receiving some news about the woman he loves he has a breakdown. Before actually attempting suicide Ritchie drastically changes how he looks, cutting off his long hair and beard, removing the sports clothing he wore when he was a professional athlete. The scene shows his discovery by Dudley, his arrival at the hospital and his various family members rushing to his side.

Music – Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith – the scene becomes even more tragic when you know that Elliott took his own life just a few years after this film was released.

Dialogue – “I’m going to kill myself tomorrow” & “Dudley, where is he?” “Who?”

The Big Lebowski – Dream Sequence

One of my all-time favourite scenes, an extravagant over the top dream sequence of what would possibly be the most ambitious pornography ever made. The Coen Brothers bring a fantastic eye for perfect costumes, precision movement and stunning cinematography. You can see the love of musicals that they expanded on in Hail Caesar!

Of course, then it turns into an absolutely horrific nightmare version of what the gang of nihilists threatened to do to him.

Music: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) by Kenny Rogers

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – Playing Record Scene

Quite simply A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is the best Persian-language vampire western you’re ever going to see. The story of the music-loving vampire as she deals with life in a wretched ghost-town is brilliantly told and this scene is particularly memorable. Not only is nothing at all said very little actually happens but the scene is mesmerising. It plays with the old idea of a vampire giving in to their desires and you can’t be sure whether the vampire will rip out the man’s throat or kiss him and there is genuine tension.

Music: Death by White Lies

Note: Even though the man is wearing a Dracula-like cape the woman is the vampire.

No Country For Old Men – Hotel Confrontation

This film has a number of scenes of unbelievable tension and one of them is Josh Brolin slowly waiting for his attacker in his hotel room. The attacker, Chigurh, is only glimpsed for most of the scene and at times is almost an invisible attacker.

Music – None – this is the only scene I selected in which there is no music that helps cover up the silence. We hear breathing, footsteps, gunshots, glass shattering and cars braking but that’s about it.

Note – The Coens Brothers second appearance on this list is a good demonstration of the scope of their work, one film a stoner comedy come noir detective story and an incredibly tense thriller. Is there anything they can’t do?

Dialogue – “Don’t worry I ain’t gonna hurt you, I just need you to drive me” right before the guy dies.

Also Read: Movie Marketing: Films That Thought Outside The Box

Reviews

Review: Booksmart

June 6, 2019

Two hyper-successful students decide the night before high school graduation needs to be given over to the fun times they’ve always denied themselves.

What’s Going On?

Molly and Amy are best friends and are also intelligent and studious high school students; probably destined for great things. Their view of the world is rocked upon learning that far less intelligent and studious people have still got into great colleges and they worry that they’ve missed their chance to have fun in high school. They decide to crash the party of one of the “popular” students and get the experiences they have missed out on.

Behind The Scenes

This is the first full-length feature directorial debut of well-known actor Olivia Wilde and to be honest that description would not have inspired much confidence in me but this is a lesson for me in making assumptions about people – as it’s a great film and for their debut, it is absolutely amazing. Wilde is clearly a very talented filmmaker and I’ll be eager to see whatever she makes next.

In Front Of The Camera

The casting of this film is sensational. The film stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as Amy and Molly, the almost-workaholic students who finally want to have some fun. They are both completely believable in these roles as well as utterly charming and instantly likeable. Most of the rest of the student cast were unknown to me, but all were similarly wonderful with the only potential misstep being the casting of Skyler Gisonda as rich-but-unpopular Jared. The problem with him is his role in The Santa Clarita Diet has racked up such goodwill I can’t take against him. The film also has Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte as Amy’s parents (surely one of the most prestigious sets of parents in all of comedy), Daily Show alumnus Jessica Williams as a cool teacher and Jason Sudeikis as a slightly troubling principal.

Does It Work?

I loved this film. First and foremost this is a comedy and I laughed throughout the film – from the nerdy interests of the main duo, their earnest goodness, the trying far too hard Jared who is only one step from actually bribing people to be his friend. But not only is this film funny, but it’s also clever, poignant and emotional. As someone who always tried very hard in school, I could identify with the main characters and probably held some of Molly’s views about the other students. Molly and Amy are also eager to show they are not just one thing – they are not just smart and want other people to realise that.

The friendship between Molly and Amy is incredibly endearing, even if, like with all friendships, there are problems and issues between them. Most of the other teenagers think the pair aren’t fun, they are, but usually just when they’re hanging out with each other. There is a recurring joke about when they get ready in front of each other and the increasingly over-the-top compliments they give each other which always made me smile.

Early on in the film, we learn that Amy is gay and this is not a secret, she is out with everyone. Much has been said recently about how for years if a film featured a young gay character it would be about the ordeal of being bullied, unloved by those who should love you, but we’ve reached a point where there can be stories about young gay people that are essentially your typical rom-com or teen movie stories and this is one of those films. Amy may face unrequited love (or maybe just unrequited crush), rejection, loneliness etc but that is just the standard teenage experience. This is not to say this would be true of every story of a gay teen growing up nowadays but fortunately, it was for Amy.

This is a high school film unlike any I have seen before and it makes some brilliant unusual moves. First of all, there aren’t really any bad guys in this film amongst the main characters and all the people who you think may have been positioned to be bad people actually turn out to be quite nice which is such a refreshing change. The jocks don’t stuff people into lockers. The popular girls don’t constantly undermine girls, not in their clique – in fact, it could be said this is something Molly is more guilty of. When actually given the chance to hang out with these people they all get along with many characters sincerely saying how happy they are to see these two girls having fun.

The more we get to know some of the more peripheral characters their worries, ambitions an insecurities are also unveiled meaning we start to like them more, none of the characters feel like they are slapdash stereotypes. Again the idea of not being put into a box, of not being defined by one aspect of who you are plays out with many of these characters. So many films, and I don’t just mean teen movies, have characters that are little more than two-word descriptions of their most obvious trait and that this film has tried so hard to make well-rounded characters is wonderful.

Overall this is a really enjoyable film that I would highly recommend for anyone to watch – you don’t have to be schoolwork-obsessed nerds like the main characters are (and I was) to appreciate this film. The film uses “booksmart” angle to be a bit different but it’s not just about overachieving and will be relatable for many people.

Verdict: [4 usr]

Also Read: Cinema Therapy: How Movies Can Heal

Editorials

(Some Of) The Best Fights in Film Franchises

June 5, 2019

As an avid fan of film fights here are a selection of some of the best fights from film franchises – everything from gun battles to slugfests to martial arts extravaganzas.

The Matrix – Subway Fight

  • Combatants – Neo Vs Agent Smith
  • Setting: Subway Station
  • Weapons – Briefly guns, then fists

Watching The Matrix again now and you see just how influential it was. So many action films since have similar balletic fight scenes, highly choreographed and done with precision and care but I don’t know if The Matrix has ever been topped. As good as Keanu Reeves is in The Matrix Hugo Weaving is better and in many ways a far more interesting character. Everything about Agent Smith from the way he talks to the way he moves seems like it has been very carefully chosen. Youtube has videos that consist entirely of Agent Smith saying “Mr Anderson”.

Depending on how much you buy into into Neo being The One at this point really effects how likely it is that you think he’ll win. It is specifically said that every person who has tried to fight an agent has died. The fight starts with the infamous bullet-time but quickly becomes a martial arts master class. Agent Smith has a curious conservation of movement and energy and rarely looks like he’s actually trying whereas Neo is battered and bloody and clearly putting his all into it.

The climatic moment of the fight when we think Agent Smith is dead but then steps off the train is genius and also means that in one of the best fights in the history of cinema no one is actually killed.

Body Count – 0

John Wick – Club Fight

  • Combatants: John Wick Vs A Lot Of Russian Gangsters
  • Setting: A Night Club
  • Weapons: Guns and fists

Yes, Keanu Reeves gets two. Obviously, the fight scenes in John Wick are the most important parts of the film and they don’t disappoint – arguably setting the bar for all future action films. There are number I could pick but I often come back to the fight in the night club. This is genuinely a blood bath and I had the body count at around 29 over the space of seven minutes and it showcases all of Wick’s skills – hand-to-hand fighting, shooting, weird kung-fu, all of it. Wick’s prowess at killing people almost seems supernatural but never quite strays over that line. Interestingly despite cutting through so many people Wick doesn’t even win the fight, his target escapes and he ends up being thrown over over a barrier to the floor below. But really with John Wick if he’s not dead you haven’t really won.

Body Count – I counted 29 but I’m not confident in that number.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Elevator Fight

  • Combatants : Captain America Vs Various S.H.I.E.L.D Agents
  • Setting – A lift (AKA an elevator)
  • Weapons – Electric shock weapons, fists.

A brief fight to be sure but perhaps my favourite in all of the Marvel films. I like a fight scene that happens in a place that rather restricts the fighting and makes directors think outside the box and this definitely qualifies. Captain America is set upon by eleven (I think, it’s a little hard to count) men and then for most of the fight has one hand stuck to the wall. So often with fight scenes you feel like you’ve seen it before but I can’t think of another scene quite like this.

Body Count – Nobody dies but I count 11 people on the floor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Church Fight

Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Combatants – Superspy Harry Hart and various fundamentalist Christians.
  • Setting – Church in America.
  • Weapons- Guns, knives, grenades, an axe, whatever you can put your hands on

I would go so far as to say this isn’t a good film. This one scene, however, makes it worth watching. Colin Firth is not your typical action hero but he really pulls this off. As all inside the church are essentially brainwashed into an orgy of violence a massive fight breaks out which leaves only one person standing – Harry Hart. Everyone in the church is fighting everyone else with nearly five minutes of utter mayhem in what becomes the Where’s Wally of fight scenes as you search the screen picking out individual confrontations.

Body Count – I have no idea and didn’t even try to count.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – Plane Fight

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Combatants – Indiana Jones Vs A Big Nazi (with assistance from Marion and assorted Nazis respectively)
  • Setting Air Strip in Egypt
  • Weapons: Fists, machine gun, propeller

Indiana Jones does not like a fair fight. Not when he’s fighting someone bigger, tougher and stronger than he is. And is a Nazi. In this fight Indy tries every underhand trick he can think of and in the end he doesn’t really win as much the other guy loses. While certainly not played for laughs there are a couple of moments of real humour, the first time Indy is punched by the Nazi soldier he doesn’t just get knocked over but his legs just give way leaving him dazed and on the ground.

Much of the fight in Indy actually trying to avoid his opponent quickly realising there was no way he was going to win and the legendary moment when his opponent does meet his end is surely one of the best conclusions to a film fight.

Body Count – One of the main combatants and a number of other German soldiers who showed up and got on the wrong side of a machine gun.

The Dark Knight Returns – Batman Fights Superman

Batman Vs Superman Part 1 (Part 2 at end of article)
  • Combatants – Batman Vs Superman (each with a few helpful assistants)
  • Setting – A deserted section of Gotham.
  • Weapons – Superman’s superpowers & Batman’s gadgets

In writing this article I did some reading around “great” fights and I was surprised to see Batman Vs Superman from Batman Vs Superman, in my view a terrible fight. So instead I have included the Batman Vs Superman fight from The Dark Knight Returns, animation but certainly one of my all time favourite fights and a vastly superior movie. This film handles the idea of why the two are fighting so much better than Zack Synder’s film and you also think that Superman might actually kill Batman, something we all knew wasn’t going to happen in Synder’s film.

Weakened from the detonation of a nuclear missile – just go with it – Superman is not at his best already and Wayne brings everything from sonic weapons to a super-strong batsuit to try and defeat him and in the end, well, he wins. A victory of ingenuity and admittedly billions of dollars over the the near-invincibility of Superman.

Body Count – 0

Also Read: Superhero Standoff: Superheros Vs Art

Reviews

Review: The Silence

May 27, 2019

New Netflix film The Silence tells the story of a family trying to survive in a country ravaged by monsters that hunt by sound and to have any hope of survival you must be silent.

The Elephant In The Cinema (or Netflix in this case)

The plot outline of The Silence sounds very similar to recent horror hit A Quiet Place and the word “mockbuster” has been thrown around describing The Silence. A mockbuster is a film that has a plot and title similar to a very successful film and is not a coincidence but a very cynical attempt to leech off the success of the blockbuster. It should be pointed out The Silence is based on a book that predates A Quiet Place. Personally, I would say the quality of the film and its origins means it isn’t a mockbuster but it’s still impossible not to directly compare it to the other film.

What’s Going On?

The film follows a single family and how they deal with a nationwide catastrophe; strange winged creatures are spreading across the country and killing countless people. After watching news reports it becomes clear that the creatures hunt by what they can hear – meaning if you can be quiet you’re safe. As the family has a deaf daughter they are used to communicating non-verbally. After a tense few hours of deliberation, the family decides to drive out into the quieter and presumably safer countryside. To their horror, they find that the monsters are not far behind and not only that but there are other things dangers to be wary of.

Behind The Scenes

The film is directed by John R. Leonetti a cinematographer and director with a history in horror, his biggest directing credit being for 2014’s Annabelle. The writers are Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke whose involvement in Transmorphers: Fall of Man and The Day The Earth Stopped (films that, surely coincidentally, are reminiscent of Transformers franchise and The Day The Earth Stood Still) has somewhat added to the perception problem as a mockbuster.

In Front Of The Camera

I’ll admit that it was the cast that made me interested in this film – namely Stanley Tucci, who plays Hugh, the Dad, and Kieran Shipka, who plays Ally, the daughter. Stanley Tucci is a great actor, that’s just a fact, his monologue in Margin Call about building a bridge is one of my favourite scenes of all time. Whereas Kieran Shipka is best known for her phenomenal performance as Sally Draper in Mad Men and more recently as the eponymous character in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Unsurprisingly Tucci gives a great performance as an ordinary Dad in extraordinary circumstances, a calm, gentle man, who while retaining his decency shows he is tougher than people might think. Shipka’s performance was good, as was most of the cast to be honest, but not quite what I was hoping for.

Does It Work?

The film is moderately enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of this post-apocalyptic, or in this case during-apocalyptic movie. This is, in fact, the main difference between The Silence and A Quiet Place, the latter is set some time after the problems started and the complete collapse of civilisation, whereas The Silence only gives us the first moments of what is happening. After all, throughout most of the film Ally talks via Skype with a schoolfriend discussing what is happening and surely if Skype is still working things haven’t got that bad yet.

The film is quite predictable and offers little in the way of surprises. The monsters are CGI created and are not always terrible fearsome, the film making the mistake of many monster movie in that they show the monster far too often. The most terrifying monsters are only glimpsed by the viewer. Overall I wasn’t convinced that the monsters posed an existential threat to humans, they did not seem that fearsome or dangerous, yes they could kill a person but they were described in the film as unstoppable nightmare creatures.

The film takes an odd turn away from the danger of the monsters to the danger of other people. Now, this is a fairly common trope of disaster/apocalyptic films that humans can be as bad as the monsters. What is absolutely bizarre in this film is that the normal, civilised people got completely batshit crazy in literally two days. While scavenging Hugh and Ally encounter a creepy man and it turns out he has a bunch of creepy friends who have already started mutilating themselves and talking about women in terms of “fertility”. This has to be the most rapid descent into apocalyptic madness I have ever seen and it is simply too much to accept that people would turn so bad so quickly. I’m not even sure the old adage that a civilised man is only three meals away from barbarity as I don’t think they had missed that many meals.

So, the big question, how does it do compare to A Quiet Place? Not well is the quick answer. A Quiet Place was hugely enjoyable and genuinely tense and The Silence just doesn’t match up in any way. But even without this comparison The Silence barely feels like a film and more like a long episode of a moderately successful tv show. At best it will only appeal to fans of this genre and will not be remembered as a particularly worthy addition but still too good to be a mockbuster.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

The Silence (Official Trailer)

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror

Reviews

Review: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

May 21, 2019

Keanu Reeves’ action franchise returns for its third instalment and this time it has Latin in the title.

What’s Going On?

Super-assassin John Wick has a $14,000,000 bounty placed on his head after breaking one of the cardinal rules of the Continental Hotel – no business is conducted on hotel grounds. As this is a hotel for assassins, “business” means killing people. In the world of this film, assassins lurk around every corner and John is set upon by an endless array of killers. Eager to get out from under this death sentence, John delves deeper into the mysterious world of assassins to find a solution to his problem.

Behind The Scenes

John Wick was directed by Chad Stahelski who, famously, before that film had been a stunt co-ordinator and as such was incredibly focused on the fight scenes. Stahelski stayed on to direct Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 and the fight scenes are still amazing, at times truly dazzling and clearly directed by a world-class expert. I am something of a connoisseur of good fight scenes and I still winced at how real some of the blows felt while marvelling at the technical capabilities of all involved.

In Front Of The Camera

Keanu Reeves obviously dominates the film as he plays John Wick and continues to bring an almost stoic sensibility to non-stop life and death fights. Alongside Reeves’ acting talent is sheer ability to be in this film, I am unaware exactly how much of Reeves’ fighting is done by a double but he certainly seems to be taking on a lot. Ian McShane reprises his role as Winston, manager of the Continental Hotel (the assassin hotel that has placed the bounty on Wick for breaking their rules) and with him also returns Lance Riddick as the ever helpful concierge, Charon. Lawrence Fishburne is also back as the unnamed Bowery King – the ruler of another mysterious group of criminals who pose as homeless New Yorkers. There are newcomers – the primary antagonist is the Adjuciator, a representative of the High Table, the rulers of this world of assassins played by Asia Kate Dillon, who not only wants Wick dead also wants New York shaken up a bit. Perhaps more important is the addition of Mark Dacascos, an assassin and sushi chef billed as someone actually capable of taking on John Wick. Real star power is brought by Oscar winner Halle Berry, who operates a similar hotel as that managed by Winston but in Casablanca. Angelica Houston pops up playing The Director, who doubles as ballet director and crimelord whose help John Wick seeks and provides a little more backstory to the character of John Wick.

Does It Work?

I consider John Wick a great action film, a twist on a simple revenge story, driven by Keanu Reeves’ performance and some of the best fight choreography ever. John Wick 2 was entertaining, and again, had amazing fight scenes, but it wasn’t quite the same and I feel much the same with John Wick 3. It’s certainly an enjoyable film and I was never bored but the more it’s delved into this world the less I get out of it. It somehow lacked the magic of the original and this might be as simple as I knew what to expect, whereas Chapter 1 was a surprise. I do think that there is a problem with John Wick’s motivation, in the first film it was revenge but in the other two there is something more complicated going on – debts owed, rules broken and the schemes of powerful people.

The more that is revealed about the Continental, the High Table, the Bowery and so on the more convoluted and less satisfying it becomes. The sheer number of assassins that exists not just in New York but seemingly any spot on the globe is astounding and stretches credulity. The thing that seems most unbelievable is that surely there aren’t this many assassinations to support such a huge number of assassins.

Whereas the first chapter was based entirely in New York, Chapter 2 took us to Rome and Chapter 3 continues with this international perspective. John Wick [Chapter 1] felt very contained, everything happened in a couple of days in a couple of locations but increasingly the franchise is eager to spread its wings. Doing this does allow for a bit of variety but personally, I would have preferred a more claustrophobic setting.

There was a cool touch in John Wick where after one fight scene early in the movie the police turn up. They know John who is, simply ask if he’s working again and then stay out of his way but you can’t help but think the level of carnage caused in this film would warrant some kind of police response. There are even suggestions of supernatural powers or mystical techniques possessed by some of the assassins, that to me, make John Wick’s phenomenal killing abilities less impressive.

Of course, John Wick was never supposed to be set in the real world, this hyper-violent world of secret assassins and globe-spanning criminal syndicates was supposed to be escapist fun but I think after the first film the balance between reality and fantasy has moved too far to the latter.

But really most of these complaints and minor gripes and is just what separates a good film from being a great film. If you enjoyed the previous John Wick films you will almost certainly love this. The fight scenes continue to offer something new, whether it’s drafting in Boban Marjanovic, a seven foot three inches tall basketball star, to serve as an early opponent or adding horses and dogs to the weapons John Wick utilises. While I feel the story has become a little bogged down with secret organisations the core of the film remains the same- John Wick having to fight a seemingly impossible number of people.

The biggest plus in the film is certainly Mark Dacascos. In the two previous chapters, there was no one who, individually, was thought to be John Wick’s equal when it came to killing people. There wasn’t one bad guy for him to fight there would be a couple of dozen. Of course, John Wick still has to fight through dozens of opponents but it all leads to a showdown with Dacascos.

Overall this is a very enjoyable action film that doesn’t quite capture the magic of the first instalment but compared to other franchises on their second sequel this is amazing stuff.

Verdict 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

John Wick 3 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Ten Movies Turning 20 in 2019!

Editorials

Who Will Be The Next James Bond?

May 19, 2019

Daniel Craig will be stepping down from the iconic role of James Bond after the next film and I think it’s fair to say his run as Bond has been a huge success. The high point to me was Skyfall which while still an amazing spy-thriller also has something to say about Bond as a character, who he is, what his life means. More so than ever a change in the actor playing Bond will mean a change in the character so who are the contenders to play Bond, and what type of Bond would they be?

The Contenders

Idris Elba

Idris Elba (dailytimes.com)

Why Him? As always many names are being thrown around but Idris Elba has been a contender for some time. Elba not only brings a lot of experience for action films he is also a very talented actor lauded for his performances in The Wire and Beast of No Nation. Two other things would work for Elba – he is an exceptionally handsome man and he is very cool.

What Type Of Bond Would He Be? In his mid-forties already Elba could carry on the Daniel Craig persona of an old-hand, someone who hasn’t changed with the world. Skyfall played with the idea that Bond was “past his best”, in Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film, he was described as a Cold War dinosaur, so for some this idea has been a big part of Bond.

Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy (weheartit.com)

Why Him? I think it’s with recent hit Peaky Blinders that Cillian showed he could play this kind of character. In that show, he plays crime boss Thomas Shelby, who while very tough, is most effective when using his mind.

What Type of Bond Would He Be? – Murphy doesn’t exactly look tough, nor does he look his age, seemingly barely ageing since his star-turn in 28 Days Later all those years ago. To me Bond often doesn’t seem very good at espionage. Don’t get me wrong – he’s very good at killing and fighting, but being subtle and discreet? Never. So maybe this could be what Murphy brings – a more intellectual hero who is actually good at being a spy.

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron (flickdirect.com)

Why Her? She might just be the best actress working today. Not only that she starred in the best action film of recent times, Mad Max: Fury Road and showed in Atomic Blonde that she is absolutely capable of all the fighting and action a Bond film would throw at her.

What Type Of Bond Would She Be? Theron was very cold and extremely ruthless in Atomic Blonde so maybe we could get an anti-hero Bond. After all, the world of espionage is not made up of heroes, it’s made up of liars and con artists who are perhaps not terribly likeable.

Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya (latimes.com)

Why Him? This British actor has been on fire the past few years and already has been successful in America, from horror gem Get Out to a supporting role in superhero success Black Panther. He can play law enforcer with a conscience, as he did in Sicario or simply be intimidating as he was in Widows.

What Kind Of Bond Would He Be? Kaluuya is a good deal younger than many contenders which could take the franchise in a new direction. – a young man brought into MI6 with lots of potential. This could perhaps a more idealistic Bond, a man not worn down by years of fighting.

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill (yahoo.com)

Why Him? Cavill is perhaps the most obvious choice to go with. In terms of his previous acting experience, it’s almost like he has been destined for this part- he’s already played spies in The Man From U.N.C.L.E and apprenticed with Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Fallout as well as headlining a major franchise by playing Superman in the recent DC films. He certainly has the right look for a Bond and undoubtedly has the physical presence, who can forget the amazing bathroom fight scene in Mission Impossible: Fallout and the even more amazing moment where Cavill “reloads” his arms?

What Kind Of Bond Would He Be? I expect this Bond would be a more typical hero. Honourable.Decent. Noble. Perhaps a bit boring?

An interesting bit of Bond news was reported not long ago in that they had hired an additional writer for the next Daniel Craig film – Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The woman behind two recent television hits – Fleabag and Killing – is certainly a hugely talented writer but perhaps not the sort of person who would usually be found writing for James Bond. This could be suggesting a change in tone in Bond, and well, if Phoebe Waller-Bridge is writing it we might as well cast….

Jodie Comer

Jodie Comer (latimes)

As Villanelle in Killing Eve Comer gave us a compelling and mesmerising performance as well as being something of a cultural sensation and I would love to see her take on such a well-established character as Bond.

What Type Of Bond Would She Be? This would really feel like a real change, not because Comer is a woman, but she’s most famous for playing a sociopath assassin and is absolutely the bad-guy. But if you really want a change she could be it. When you look at what Bond does and how he behaves, he’s already the villain, just he’s on “our side” so we see him as the good guy. This wouldn’t even be an anti-hero or someone a bit morally grey but an outright villain. Let’s unleash a truly wicked Bond and see what happens.

Also Read: The Movie Villains Who Nailed It (And Those That Didn’t) – Part 2: James Bond.

Editorials

Star Wars: Course Correction

May 10, 2019
Star Wars Episode 9

Spoiler Warning – this article will contain massive spoilers about The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens

The Last Jedi divided opinion while still being a tremendously successful film, but you would assume in an ideal world Disney would want both the money and the fan approval. I had mixed feelings on the film – parts of it were undeniably great with some amazing ideas, first-rate fight scenes and stunning visuals. But I was also annoyed by a lot of it. An article about the criticism of The Last Jedi has to deal with the issue that some (but not all) of the criticism was awfully misogynistic. I liked the addition of Rose, she was a character that to me represented the grass-roots of the organisation, she wasn’t a Jedi, a general or a cool fighter pilot but she believed in the cause. Kelly Marie Tran was subject to such abuse she abandoned social media. This was absolutely appalling but I have never understood anyone’s specific problems with her (of course, no one should have to go through that). The first trailer for the concluding part of this trilogy has just been released so should be different in The Rise of Skywalker?

Rules Exist For A Reason

The controversial light speed collision tactic (medium.com)

The Last Jedi seemingly broke the accepted rules of the Star Wars universe in a couple of ways. First, General Hux announced they were able to track ships once they jumped to light speed. Second, Admiral Holdo light speed jumping into another ship to destroy it. These might seem like minor points but they are potentially hugely important. Regarding the first point, this effectively means no one can ever get away. At the end of The Empire Strikes back the Millenium Falcon jumps to light speed and escapes – if they had had the technology Hux has Darth Vader would have found them easily. Of course, that’s in the past, but it is still true, how could anyone ever escape again?

Using light speed to jump into another ship raises the question that why had no one ever done this before? Why didn’t the Rebels do that to the Death Star? In any good science-fiction or fantasy, there need to be rules to how things work otherwise it’s just nonsense and you can get out of any situation just by saying there is a new bit of technology. It might seem – and probably is – a bit pedantic to dwell on how made up technology works but it suggests it hasn’t been thought through by the writer.

No more “Casinos”

The much maligned Casino Planet (bizjournals.com)

I don’t literally mean casinos, I mean no more weird side-plots that take up a lot of time but don’t really serve much purpose. The side-plot in which Rose and Finn looked for an expert hacker on a casino-planet to help the Resistance fleet escape is universally unloved. The only purpose I can see for in the film is to provide a visually pleasing spectacular of aliens, droids and people in fancy outfits to contrast with most of the rest of the film taking place on spaceships. And look, each and every one of us would, given the opportunity, write in a part for Benicio Del Toro but he could have been used so much better.

No More Rehashing Scenarios From The Original Trilogy

This is a hard one as they get criticised either way – if they try and forge their own path and come up with new ideas people are upset – or absolutely furious in the case of The Phantom Menace. If they rely on setups from the original trilogy they are criticised for bringing nothing new. The Force Awakens had a huge world-destroying superweapon. The Last Jedi saw an assault by the bad-guys on a remote base. We’ve seen this before and I want something new even if it’s just drawing from films other than Star Wars. I thought it was a such a missed opportunity that we ended up with the exact same dynamic of the First Order (which is virtually identical to the Empire) fighting a handful of Resistance/Rebels.

There Better Be Something About Snoke

Supreme Leader Snoke (pinterest.com)

Who was Snoke? Where did he come from? How did he become so powerful? To introduce him as the mastermind behind the First Order but be eliminated so easily seems odd and I really want answers, as it stands he just seems like a lazy Palpatine rip-off.

Stay The Course – Things The Last Jedi Got Right

  • Rey’s parentage – the obvious and easy route would be to tie Rey to someone already mentioned in the saga, make her a Skywalker, or a Kenobi, maybe even a Palpatine. I know for many fans this was the biggest issue but I really liked it and Kylo Ren explicitly stated that she wasn’t part of the story. Well, you know what? The fate of the galaxy shouldn’t just be the concern of the extended Skywalker family.
  • The End of the Jedi – well, maybe not the end, but I loved how it was pointed out by more than one character that the Jedi weren’t all they were cracked up to be. They never saw who Palpatine really was, they let themselves be manipulated into fighting a huge war and were then so easily eliminated. Maybe the Jedi Order as it was had run its course.
  • Luke Isn’t Perfect – Luke was essentially the main character of the original trilogy. He was good, noble and had amazing superhuman powers but The Last Jedi showed he was still a flawed human. He made a terrible mistake with Ben/Kylo Ren and essentially drove him to the Dark Side. I’d also say his confrontation with Kylo Ren at the end of the film was genius – Luke had already confronted Kylo Ren with violence once and made things worse, his solution seemed a very Jedi thing to do.

The Last Jedi wasn’t perfect but it was a very enjoyable film. The problem is when it comes to Star Wars films it seems the fans want something amazing or nothing at all.

Also Read: The Movie Villains Who Nailed It (And Those That Didn’t) – Part 4 [Star Wars]

Editorials

What Makes A Tarantino Film?

May 2, 2019

I was only eleven when Pulp Fiction was released but when I finally saw it a lot of references suddenly made sense. Pulp Fiction had a huge cultural impact and as well as influencing films it was referenced everywhere from Spaced to adverts for Cartoon Network. Quentin Tarantino is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential directors of the last thirty years. With his new film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, coming out later this year I have been watching a lot of his films – so what can you expect from a Tarantino film?

Interesting Dialogue For The Sake Of Interesting Dialogue

Reservoir Dogs (lataco.com)

Tarantino has a very particular style of dialogue. A lot of filmmakers would say dialogue that doesn’t move the plot on is unnecessary but many of Tarantino’s films contain long conversations that are just people talking. They aren’t setting up for something later in the film or giving important exposition, they just talk. The best scene in Reservoir Dogs is the discussion between hardened criminals about whether or not they should tip in restaurants. Inglourious Basterds opens with a harrowing but mesmerising scene of a French farmer being interrogated by an apparently very polite Nazi and while this does set up a lot of the plot I would argue you could do that in ninety seconds. Later in the film characters play a version of the Rizla Game which is equally riveting. Many people have tried to imitate Tarantino’s dialogue and failed and he is probably one of the most quotable writers working in Hollywood today.

The Actors

Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown (Imdb.com)

Like many auteurs Tarantino likes to use the same actors again and again. Samuel L Jackson has featured in seven Tarantino films (eight if we include True Romance) and actors like Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and Uma Thurman pop up again and again. Tarantino also has an odd trait of casting actors who perhaps wouldn’t be on most directors’ wish-lists. Who will get a small role in one of his films – someone like Oscar-nominated Christopher Walken who gave a great performance in Pulp Fiction or someone like Don Johnson, star of Miami Vice, who certainly managed to say his lines in the right order in Django Unchained? These unusual choices are all the more mystifying when Tarantino’s credibility and budget would allow him to hire just about anyone.

Music & Sound

Tarantino soundtracks are usually very, very good. Not only in picking good songs like Misirlou by Dick Dale and Del-Tones or Woo Hoo by The 5.6.7.8’s but just in picking short bursts of music and sound. Songs that get featured in Tarantino films can lose all other context, Stuck In The Middle With You is a very good song and has a very pleasant sound but for millions of people, it will bring back one of the most brutal scenes in Tarantino’s work.

It doesn’t even have to be whole songs, it can just be a snippet of music – in Kill Bill: Vol 1 the character Elle Driver whistling as she calmly walks down a corridor to murder someone and after watching it the sound will be stuck in my head for days.

Tough Women

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (thehypegeek.com)

Tarantino does have a habit of including tough, strong women in his films. Obviously, four of the five Deadly Viper Assassination Squad in Kill Bill are women (as well as one member’s bodyguard, Go-Go). Shoshanna in Inglourious Basterds is an unstoppable force of nature, Daisy Domergue is as dangerous a villain as anyone and, of course, Jackie Brown is a much more toned down and realistic portrayal of a strong woman. The shot of Uma Thurman wearing the yellow and black jumpsuit holding a samurai sword is already an iconic image.

However, Tarantino’s sensitivity is not always what it could be, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 has a very distressing rape scene which I don’t think needs to be in the film at all and I have heard people say they were disgusted at the violence meted out against Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight; as they felt it was being played for laughs. With all that being said I do think Tarantino shows women in roles they often don’t get to play.

Adult Themes

A less violent image from Django Unchained (rte.ie)

Tarantino films are violent and characters swear a lot. There’s lots of sex and drugs. Sections of Kill Bill are blood-drenched massacres. A Youtube edit of Pulp Fiction in which every word apart from the F-bomb is removed is almost four minutes long. If you make films about gangsters, drug dealers, assassins, slave-owners etc then you’re going to have to include unpleasant things. I’m not complaining about this as such, but it’s something to be aware of. Jackie Brown, a film about drug dealers, is probably the tamest, with the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) only giving it a 15 certificate, practically a family-friendly film in Tarantino’s world.

The Problems

Tarantino is by no means a perfect director and there are many problems with his work. Tarantino makes long films and I think even the biggest fan of his work would admit he needs an editor, or more accurately, someone to tell him not all of his ideas are brilliant and you can cut bits out. The Hateful Eight was over three hours long and bear in mind, nearly all of that film takes place in one building.

Then there is his other notorious problem – he keeps casting himself in his own movies when he can’t act. Sometimes it’s tiny, almost unnoticeable roles, like Answering Machine Voice in Jackie Brown but in Reservoir Dogs he was one of the gang and in Pulp Fiction he has the utterly bizarre role of one Jules’s friends. Not only did he cast himself in Django Unchained he made the unwise decision to adopt an Australian accent. Tarantino may well be a filmmaking genius but he’s been told that far too many times.

As I have mentioned Tarantino is a fan of strong language and he is very loose with using certain words – racial epithets – that he should think more about whether he really needs to use them.

So there is a brief overview of Tarantino’s work, how will Once Upon A Time In Hollywood fit in with it?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Trailer)
Editorials

Five Sci-Fi Films To Watch Right Now On Netflix

April 15, 2019

Netflix has hundreds of films from blockbusters to indie gems to cult classics and it has no shortage of great science-fiction.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (comicbook.com)

The Plot – The film follows Jyn Erso a woman who has been on the run from the Empire since her childhood because her father is the man who designed the Death Star. Forced by the Rebel Alliance into a mission to extract her father from the Empire’s clutches and so disrupt their plans, Jyn becomes more and more involved in the civil war that is only just beginning.

Why It’s Great – In my opinion this has been the best of the new crop of Star Wars films. A self-contained story (more or less) that fixed perhaps the biggest plot-hole in all of Star Wars – namely, who builds a priceless weapon of mass destruction with such an easy Achilles’ Heel. The cast is sensational with Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as great leads, Ben Mendelsohn doing his Evil Scumbag routine in space and with great actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker taking on small roles.

Verdict – A wonderful addition to the Star Wars Saga.

Inception (2010)

Inception (hit.com)

The Plot – Leonardo Di Caprio plays Cobb, a very special kind of criminal who enters peoples’ dreams to steal information. Challenged to the seemingly impossible act of “inception” – implanting a new idea in a dream that the dreamer will believe to be their own Cobb puts together a crack team to accomplish his goal.

Why It’s Great – Christopher Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Or at least he hasn’t yet. Inception was the first film Nolan directed after Nolan makes blockbusters like no one else, making them as intelligent and original as they are a spectacle. There is a lot of the “one last job for a criminal” motif going on but that is just a great jumping off point. The special effects are truly stunning with the city landscape being twisted and folded as the high point and even if the writing and acting were terrible – which they aren’t – it would be worth watching for the effects alone. As frustrating as the ambiguous ending might be, I like a film that is brave enough not to give you all the answers.

Verdict – A dazzling and smart sci-fi blockbuster.

The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End (kino&co)

The Plot – Gary King wants to reassemble his school friends to complete the “Golden Mile” a pub crawl along twelve pubs in their home town. Sadly for Gary much has changed since school, the group is estranged and he is no longer – if he ever really was – their leader. As the friends reunite and start their pub crawl things in the town become increasingly odd leading to a sensational fight in a pub toilet that reveals what is going on in the town.

Why It’s Great – All of the Cornetto Trilogy are more than what a simple category can describe – all of them are excellent examples of their genre but excel in being films about people. The World’s End is a film about aliens slowly taking over the planet but it’s also about friendship, betrayal, dealing with disappointment in life, youth (and losing your youth), what is life about and more. I would say this is my least favourite of the trilogy but that still could put it in my top twenty films of all time. It has another feature of the Cornetto Trilogy in combining huge, over the top scenarios, in small unlikely places. Few films pack the emotional punch of The World’s End let alone comparing it to other sci-fi comedies.

Verdict – A triumphant end to the Cornetto Trilogy.

Back To The Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Back To The Future (npr.org)

The Plot – After accidentally travelling backwards in time teenager Marty McFly interrupts the meet-cute between his parents and thus will never be born. Recruiting the younger version of the scientist who sent him back in time, Doc, Marty seeks to set the timeline right and save himself. In Part 2 Marty and Doc travel to the future to avert a disaster for Marty’s son only to make things much worse everyone – well, nearly everyone. And Part 3…well Part 3 is set in the Old West for some reason ( just go with it, it’s fun).

Why It’s Great – I suppose it’s cheating to put a whole trilogy into one slot but it’s surely a crime to break up these wonderful films when they make such a satisfying collection. It’s hard to overstate the impact these films had on science-fiction and pop culture in general. For many these are the films that made time-travel (and all the paradoxes, dangers and opportunities that come with it) vaguely possible to understand, partly through literally drawing it on a blackboard in Part 2.

Verdict – If for any reason you have not seen these films prepare to watch three of the most enjoyable films ever made.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (midwestfilmjournal.com)

The Plot – Lena’s soldier husband returns mysteriously to their home but something is very wrong with him and it isn’t long before the government swoops in and takes control of the situation. It turns out her husband was sent on a secret mission into The Shimmer – a mysterious area of land where normal rules do not apply and her husband is the only person to return from numerous missions. Lena, a scientist and former soldier joins the next team determined to find out what happened.

Why It’s Great – While it does feel somewhat fitting to include a Netflix original film on this list doesn’t mean Annihilation doesn’t got a free pass – it’s a great sci-fi film, and in a way that few sci-fi films are. It has gunfights and monsters and all those things going on it has also has unusual ideas that make you think about the world and the universe. Science-fiction gets a lot of criticism but to me it’s always been the genre of big ideas – whether that’s time travel or space flight or what it means to be human. Written and directed by filmmaking genius Alex Garland and adapted from the successful Southern Reach book trilogy this film comes with exemplary sci-fi credentials.

Verdict – Bizarre mind-bending sci-fi epic.

Editorials

The Newest Additions To The MCU: X-Men & Fantastic Four

April 9, 2019

As the unstoppable Disney juggernaut buys 21st Century Fox the long-awaited consolidation of the Marvel Universe is at hand.

Selling Priceless Treasures

Back in the late 1990s, no one knew how big superhero films were going to be. After all, it wasn’t that long after the trainwreck of Batman and Robin. So it made sense to sell the rights to some properties and let film studios take all the risk while Marvel still got a big pile of cash. Then X-Men was a huge hit and this started a slew of superhero films – some great, some not so great and Marvel came to regret giving up cinematic control to some of their most valuable superheroes.

The 2000s and 2010s saw an explosion of superhero films – a seemingly never-ending parade of CGI fight scenes, origins stories and heroic struggles. A bright spark had had the idea of making all of Marvel’s superhero films exist in one universe, a huge sprawling world full of heroes and villains and it was all connected. Each film would build on the shared success meaning that people would need to watch each one if they wanted to fully appreciate the whole. I have reservations about this idea but undeniably it has been hugely successful and there is definitely a feeling that you need to see them all. It was very cool to see Iron Man making fun of Captain America in Avengers Assemble, or Thor and the Incredible Hulk fighting in Thor: Ragnorak or seeing Spider-Man team up with Wolverine and Reid Richards in…well, that one hasn’t happened yet and that’s because 21st Century Fox used to own the rights to X-Men and The Fantastic Four.

There is, of course, something that has to be pointed out. While the X-Men films have been commercially and sometimes even critically successful launching a nearly twenty year ascendancy none of the three Fantastic Four films has made much of an impact. And I’m not sure how many people, outside of hardened comic books fans, have been calling for Fantastic Four to be incorporated into the MCU. But there is good stuff there to work with and they could be a useful addition and will satisfy completists out there.

X Men OriginsL Wolverine (www.nitwitty.net)

Lessons To Be Learned & Problems To Avoid Rebooting X-Men and Fantastic Four:

  • X-Men – if you have run out of ideas for interesting powers stop making characters. I’d rather characters have similar powers than the barrel-scraping powers that have popped up in the X-Men films.
  • Fantastic Four – Sue Storm has the power of invisibility (as well as being able to create force-fields) and while such a power could lead to dozens of interesting ideas it falls flat on screen and there has to be an interesting way to use that power in a film.
  • X-Men – The role of Wolverine made Hugh Jackman a huge star and is probably the lead character of those films so don’t try and repeat that trick when it’s rebooted, do something different. Wolverine isn’t the be-all and end-all, they’re a team, let some of the other X-Men shine.
  • Fantastic Four – this may be controversial – find a way to make Doctor Doom and Silver Surfer into interesting cinematic characters or let them go – it’s okay to make new stuff up.
  • X-Men – Too powerful – Stop making people all-powerful. Wolverine is practically indestructible and immortal and every so often Jean Grey becomes all-powerful and, Professor X can do everything from mind control to stopping time

But it’s not just going to be problems and things going wrong and it has the potential to do some really interesting stuff.

Infinity War (superherohype.com)

What Fans Want (or at least what this fan wants)

  • Deadpool with the X-Men – Deadpool was a great film and while not exactly an X-Man he’s X-Man adjacent and in the graphic novels he is definitely part of that world. The terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine already had one go at this and completely wasted their opportunity so maybe finally the MCU can give us the insanely over-the-top fight that a Deadpool Vs Wolverine Battle of the Indestructible Mutants deathmatch that we all desperately want.
  • Who’d Win In A Fight Between….every playground’s favourite argument is who’d win in a fight between two people who should have no reason to fight. A popular one is who would win in a fight between The Hulk and The Thing (my money is on The Thing as The Hulk is driven by impulses whereas The Thing very much remains Ben Grimm). Reid Richards is a genius who could perhaps knock some of the smug out of Tony Stark while Magneto is perhaps the best villain in any of the Marvel films to date.
  • Making Up For Past Mistakes – The Fantastic Four films were a disaster from start to finish and the X-Men franchise has not always struck gold so maybe this time they can take two decades of experience and get it right. The MCU has a had a go with the odder and wackier superheroes with Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy and I don’t see why they can’t apply the same skill to a new Fantastic Four film. As for the X-Men, putting Gambit in the regular line-up as I feel his presence has been sorely missed in the films. They could also have another go with Rogue, again making her a regular X-Man from the start, bring in Jubilee, and Cyclops doesn’t just have to be the boring guy going out with Jean Grey.

So there we have it what the MCU rebooted films of X-Men and Fantastic should avoid and what they should do. Getting these films right is trickier than it might appear and it can be a fine line between enjoyable superhero film and ridiculous folly that cost $300,000,000.