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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

The Simpsons’ Obsession With Films

March 23, 2020
The Simpsons - A Clockwork Orange

This is a film website but this is not an article about The Simpsons Movie, rather an article about how The Simpsons is the ultimate television show for a lover of film. The legendary animation is arguably the greatest television show ever made and is completely and utterly obsessed with film, with hundreds, if not thousands, of references crammed into the show.

Watching That Hollywood Hogwash

The Simpsons is not the only show to reference films a lot. British sitcom Spaced was equally obsessed and perhaps even more subtle but not as prolific or as famous. Then there is Family Guy, which I would argue is very clumsy with their references, forcing them into any situation, whereas The Simpsons seamlessly weave them into the show, to give just one example in “Dog of Death” The family dog runs away and is taken in by Mr Burns and trained to be an attack dog, part of his training is being restrained and forced to watch violence against dogs, the scene referencing A Clockwork Orange but makes sense on its own. You don’t need to have seen the film but it’s adds something to it. This is a show with layers and I still watch episodes from twenty years and find new jokes and hidden references in it.

Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children!

The Simpsons - A Clockwork Orange reference
indiewire.com

I watched The Simpsons from an early age and so the references I got as a child were mainly around Star Wars or Indiana Jones but, thankfully, I never watched Stanley Kubrick films as a young child. The Simpsons is littered with references to Kubrick and some are frankly unsuitable for what was, in the beginning, a children’s television show. So we have Homer riding a vibrating chair that goes into the trippy ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Homer imitating Major Kong, riding an A-Bomb as in Dr. Strangelove, and after decorating Todd Flanders talking about the “red room, red room, over there” an impression of Danny from The Shining. At least six Simpsons characters have been portrayed as droogs, the vicious gang from A Clockwork Orange. Homer has been seen as both as a monkey from the beginning of 2001 and the galactic space baby from the end of 2001. There have been two Treehouse of Terror instalments solely focused on Kubrick, first the stupendously good “The Shinning” and then a replay of most of Kubrick’s career in “A Clockwork Yellow”.

You May Remember Me From…

Troy McClure in The Planet Of The Apes Musical (youtube.com)

The Simpsons isn’t just obsessed with watching films, they very like the world behind films. Springfield has at least two film stars – Rainier Wolfcastle, an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type action hero and Troy McClure, one of the greatest characters in television comedy. McClure is usually portrayed as a washed-up actor, with a bizarre personal life, who has appeared in a long list of ridiculous films with such brilliant titles as The Greatest Story Ever Hulu’d, Dial M for Murderousness and The President’s Neck Is Missing. Whilst incredibly funny in his own right, McClure is a way poking fun at Hollywood and the movie-making industry, such as his unscrupulous agent MacArthur Parker who suggests getting fake married to make him seem less weird.

Thank God We’re Back In Hollywood Where People Treat Each Other Right

The episodes “A Star Is Burns” and “Radioactive Man” both depict a less than flattering portrayal of the movie business. The first deals with the Springfield Film Festival in which Homer is chosen as a judge over Martin Scorsese and the latter with when the superhero film Radioactive Man is filmed in Springfield, the joke being it is the small-town Springfieldianites who swindle the Hollywood big-shots.

Stop Him! He’s Supposed To Die!

The Simpsons referencing James Bond
The Simpsons referencing James Bond

There are a number of standout episodes that basically steal their plots from films. There is “Rosebud”, the episode about Mr. Burns’ missing childhood teddy bear which is as blatant a Citizen Kane homage as you’re going to get from the title of the episode to the design of the gates of Mr Burns’ mansion. The episode “Cape Feare” is not surprisingly a riff on Cape Fear but also contained references to many other films including Edward Scissorhands and Night of the Hunter. And then there is “You Only Move Twice”, often cited as the best episode of the show, in which Homer goes to work for Hank Scorpio, an amalgamation of numerous James Bond villains.

The Simpsons made these references because Star Wars, James Bond, Spielberg are cultural touchstones. Just about everyone, even those who haven’t seen the film, will get a joke about E.T or Jurassic Park. So it’s very fitting that The Simpsons has become as big a cultural touchstone as any of these films. I would say that in the future it will be The Simpsons that will be referenced but that’s already happened.

Also Read: 7 Great Films About Bad Weather

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Editorials

Making A Coen Brothers Film

March 13, 2020
Coen Brothers

One of the trailers for recent Coen Brothers’ release Hail Caesar! was only around thirty seconds long and most of that was simply listing some of the Coen Brothers’ previous films. You didn’t need to know what Hail Caesar! was about, the fact that it was a Coen Brothers film told you all you needed to know. And really – that’s right, they have a body of work any director would be proud of.

The Typical Coen Brothers Film…

To be blunt there is no typical Coen Brothers film, they move from knockabout comedy to incredibly tense thrillers – genre seems to mean nothing to them and is certainly no predictor of quality – they’re as comfortable making stoner comedies as gangster films. It is genuinely astounding that it is the same people who made O’ Brother Where Art Thou? as No Country For Old Men. Other directors also play with genre – Quentin Tarantino for example – but whether it’s a revenge thriller or western they are still distinctly a Tarantino film. The Coen Brothers go beyond that and I would argue that without any prior knowledge no one would suspect Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing were made by the same people. Looking at their work I split their films into three categories.

The Violent

No Country For Old Men
No Country For Old Men (Empire.com)

These films are tense. No Country For Old Men is a lesson in tension, what should have been an idle bit of chit chat in a petrol station became perhaps the standout scene of this Oscar-winning film. And what was causing the tension? The outcome of a coin toss. No violence, no guns, and only the barest suggestion of threat and you can’t take your eyes off the screen. That said, they are a dab hand with actual violence as well with deftly choreographed scenes of fighting in No Country For Old Men, True Grit and Miller’s Crossing.

The Funny

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski (brandontalksmovies.com)

Not only are the Coen Brothers very funny they can do different types of humour. One of the funniest scenes of recent years is the now legendary back and forth in Hail Caesar! of a director trying to coach an actor into saying a line the right way – so much is put into just the two characters repeating that line at each other. They also create fictional porn films where the Dude goes bowling with a Valkyrie in what might be best the dream sequence ever filmed. It is safe to say they have comedic range.

The Tragic

Inside Lleywn Davis
Inside Lleywn Davis (latimes.com)

When they want to the Coen Brothers can make you sad. A Serious Man is one of the most tragic films I have ever seen as you watch everything good in a man’s life being drained away and how he struggles to still do the right thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to bring myself to watch Inside Llewyn Davis again as you see an extremely talented person just knocked around by life, his fortunes so low he has no winter coat for the freezing cold New York.

The Perfect Coen Brothers Film

They have at least one film that brings these three things together perfectly and that is Fargo. The film that won Frances McDormand her first Oscar, cemented a stereotype of North Dakota and inexorably linked Steve Buscemi to the idea of being ground up in a wood chipper. The film is funny, tragic and violent and does it all in less than 100 minutes. The story of Jerry Lundegaard hiring perhaps not the best criminals to fake kidnap his wife so he get the ransom from her extremely wealthy father is riveting from the first scene.

The tension that the viewer has for Marge Gunderson, the heavily pregnant cop who is drawn into the crime is immense and grows over time, what will happen in the inevitable showdown between cop and criminal? The criminals are perhaps more violent and conspicuous than Jerry hoped for, leaving a trail of bodies behind them, ending of course with one of them killing his partner in a famously gruesome way. As for tragedy – Jerry Lundegaard may be the most pathetic figure in cinema history with failure and idiocy dogging his every move and his inaction and incompetence only growing as his plan spirals out of control. Then there is the bizarre meeting between Marge and an old school acquaintance, of no relevance whatsoever to the plot, but with brilliant performances from both actors.

As for comedy…well it’s certainly very dark comedy, a lot coming from the very pleasant and smalltown people who find themselves as everyday characters surrounded by murder and violence. That said, Marge, who is as pleasant and smalltown as any of them is also shown to be extremely determined and capable so maybe don’t underestimate them.

The Coen Brothers – what’s next?

Of course, their real genius is that usually their films contain all three of things in varying amounts. According to IMDb their next film is Macbeth and really I don’t know what to expect – a bloodsoaked rampage, a comedy of errors or the saddest portrayal of the Scottish Play ever made.

Also Read: The Anatomy of a Christopher Nolan Film

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Editorials

The Unique Style of Wes Anderson

March 3, 2020
Wes Anderson

It would be fair to say that Wes Anderson has a style. He is an auteur and his particular filmmaking choices have been celebrated and mocked in equal measure, for the many that love his work, there are perhaps as many who hate it.

A Fantastic Acting Troupe

The truly astounding cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel
The truly astounding cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel (castittalent.com)

Anderson has established an impressive list of actors who repeatedly appear in his films. Most prominent would be Bill Murray – appeared in all except Bottle Rocket – but frequent collaborators include Jason Schwartzman, Owen and Luke Wilson, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton…I could go on. This collection of brilliant actors aside I put forth that Anderson gets amazing things from his actors. The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson’s third film, contains the best performance of most of the cast – Ben Stiller, Gwenyth Paltrow, Owen and Luke Wilson have never been better in anything else. Paltrow, an actor I do not usually like, is sensational in this film, Stiller brings a sense of sadness to this role I’ve never seen him duplicate. For me, it even ranks highly among screen legend Gene Hackman’s performances. Ralph Fiennes was robbed of an Oscar when he didn’t win for Monsieur Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel (and yes I know he wasn’t even nominated) bringing both tragedy and comedy to the performance.

Rich People

The Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited (offscreen.com)

Most of Anderon’s characters seem to be quite well-off. The Tenenbaums’ “jobs” all seem like things they only do because they enjoy them rather than need the cash, despite complaining about money Steve Zissou has a submarine and an island, in The Darjeeling Limited the family have some unspecified wealth that allows them to enjoy neverending holidays. Even in Rushmore, a film about Max Fischer from a family of reduced means is surrounded by privileged people and attends a school that seems to have it’s own light aircraft.

Beautiful and Distinctive Design

The pleasingly symmetrical world of Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel (thefilmexperience.net)
The pleasingly symmetrical world of Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel (thefilmexperience.net)

I could simply spend all of this article writing about the pleasingly symmetrical world of Anderson’s films but I can’t really justify that, suffice to say, there is a lot of it. Aside from symmetry Anderson films are immaculately designed, costumes are amazing (characters are often like cartoon characters in that they wear the same outfit constantly), indeed the three Tenenbaum children seem very much trapped in their costumes. The Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the greatest example of this, every costume is brilliant, every set stunning, everything down to the smallest detail is carefully chosen. Fantastic Mr. Fox deviates a lot from the book but a lot of Mr. Fox’s den is based on things from Roald Dahl’s house, that is how far Anderson is willing to go.

The Perfect Song

The Royal Tenenbaums (youtube.com)

I honestly don’t think there’s anyone better at using music in films. He has this uncanny knack of perfectly pairing scene and music, for example -Margot getting off a bus to meet Richie while These Days by Nico plays, then there is Richie’s suicide attempt set to Needle In The Hay, the wild montage of Margot’s romantic life set to Judy is a Punk or the truly heart-breaking scene of Margot and Richie listening to The Rolling Stones as they discuss love and suicide. And yes, those examples are all from one film – The Royal Tennenbaums, this does not include the countless musical gems contained in the rest of his work.

A Bit Pretentious

If nothing else that hat is pretentious - Rushmore (dvdbeaver.com)
If nothing else that hat is pretentious – Rushmore (dvdbeaver.com)

A lot of what I’ve written about in Anderson’s films could be said to be style, it looks good, it sounds good, but to me his films are so much more. One thing Anderson and I have in common is that people have said we’re “a bit pretentious”. I think whenever you try to make a meaningful statement about life, art, love, friendship and a million other things you run the risk of being called pretentious and I think it’s a shame that so few directors are willing to risk this. Anderson’s films are emotional and try to make the viewer feel things. Few films have resonated with me as much as The Royal Tenenbaums, the relationship between Monsieur Gustave and Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most endearing in all of cinema and the lengths to which Max in Rushmore is prepared to go for love are astonishing. But all of the things I love in these films could be written off as pretentious. Themes that appear again and again are difficult family situations, unusual friendships, love between misfits, these are things everyone can relate to, even if the world they’re found in is not quite like our own.

What To Watch

Not everyone is going to like Wes Anderson, for me, he has made some of my favourite films, If you’re unfamiliar with his work I’d suggest starting with one of his latest films – The Grand Budapest Hotel, everything from the characters to the furniture is beautiful and it has more of a plot than a lot of his films.

Also Read: The Anatomy of a Christopher Nolan Film

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Editorials

The Difficult Road Of The New Mutants

February 21, 2020

Apparently, it’s really hard to release a film. And I don’t mean all the actual work of filming, acting, costumes etc, I just mean to get it out there. Any number of brilliant scripts fail to make it. Talented directors sit waiting for someone from a studio to like their idea. I have heard of this described as “development hell”. And even then when it’s filmed things don’t always go smoothly as such with the latest instalment in the X-Men series: The New Mutants.

A Sure-fire Hit

The New Mutants
The New Mutants (horrornewsnetwork.net)

The film The New Mutants is based on comic book series of the same name, essentially taking place in the same universe as the X-Men films and comics but with a different sensibility and focusing on teenaged characters. The director is Josh Boone who is probably best known for directing The Fault In Our Stars and the film stars Maisie Williams (Arya Stark from Game of Thrones) and Anya Taylor-Joy (from The Witch and Emma). This is a pretty good formula for success – a hugely successful franchise, a talented director and some popular, likeable and skilled actors. But despite being finished filming years ago the film is currently scheduled for release in April 2020. I remember seeing the trailer for it and being quite excited, it seemed to have a darker tone than the X-Men films, perhaps even something closer to horror than sci-fi.

What exactly is this film about? Well, imagine you’re an unlucky mutant who instead of ending up in Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters – a place of nurturing and education, you found yourself trapped in a very sinister and isolated hospital. The handful of mutants seem to have a very dark past with their powers – of harm and violence and are told they need to get better and they can do that in this hospital. This very sinister hospital.

What Happened?

The comic book version of The New Mutants (source: denofgeek.com)
The comic book version of The New Mutants (source: denofgeek.com)

I watched the trailer quite some time ago, in fact, a suspiciously long time ago. A lot of work goes into deciding when a film is released. Should it be late December/early January for an Oscar push? Or a summer blockbuster? Do you want to counter-programme against blockbuster with something completely different? And timing it badly can be disastrous to the success to the film. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has this planned out for years and every other film has to work out how best not to get crushed by the latest MCU movie. In the case of The New Mutants it was originally scheduled for release April 13 2018, however, after realising this clashed with Deadpool 2 it was pushed back to February 2019, which then clashed with Dark Phoenix so it was pushed back to August 2019. So a summer 2019 release then, well, no, Disney bought 20th Century Fox and rumour is were not impressed by the film and had raised the idea of not having a cinema release and putting it straight onto Disney+. Obviously, being released on a streaming service is no longer the sign of a bad film anymore with Netflix boasting a number of great films that never saw the inside of a cinema, but still, it could be seen as something of a demotion. There seems to have been a lot of reshoots, never a good sign with a film, with the idea to further lean towards the horror genre.

An Addition To The MCU?

Avengers: Endgame
Avengers Endgame (source: forbes.com)

Then comes the inevitable question, the dilemma that stalks every new X-Men film, where will it fit into the MCU? I’ve written on this site before that I don’t think every Marvel film needs to be part of the MCU and with the acquisition of 20th Century Fox and X-Men that the X-Men especially should be kept free from it. My basic feeling is that a world full of mutants doesn’t mix well with a world of superheroes, compared to Wolverine, Captain America is not terribly impressive. Concerning The New Mutants…part of this rests on where The New Mutants fits in with X-Men, will other Professor X or Cyclops show up? Keeping the timeline of the X-Men films clear is already far too complicated, will adding The New Mutants push things too far?

Without any additional problems getting in the way, the film is due for a UK release of 10th April and so we’ll all be able to see whether it has been worth the wait.

The New Mutants (Official Trailer)

Also Read: When Great Video Games Become Lacklustre Movies

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Editorials

Parasite Director Bong Joon-Ho Once Described The Oscars As “Very Local” Does He Have A Point?

February 17, 2020

Bong Joon-ho, the talented director behind Okja, Snowpiercer and more, recently described the Oscars as “very local” when asked if he thought it odd no South Korean film has ever been nominated for an Oscar before. The director’s meaning seems to be that the Oscars are very biased towards American films. As I’m sure everyone is aware Parasite won four Oscars last weekend, including Best Picture but even with this burst of internationality – are the Oscars “local” awards?

The Undisputed Champion of Film Awards

Bong Joon-ho holds the Oscars for best original screenplay, best international feature film, best directing, and best picture for "Parasite" at the Governors Ball after the Oscars,
Credit: Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10552686aw) Bong Joon-ho holds the Oscars for best original screenplay, best international feature film, best directing, and best picture for “Parasite” at the Governors Ball after the Oscars.

I think most people in America and the UK see the Oscars as the film awards. Winning Best Picture at the Oscars is probably the closest we have to declaring what was the best film of that year. After all, there are many film awards that are specific to the host country, indeed, in South Korea they have the Blue Dragon and Grand Bell awards, both specifically for South Korean films. But I don’t think that’s how the Oscars present themselves. For a start films from all over the world can, and do, win awards, they are not limited to American or English-language films. There is an unspoken rule that every film – or at least every film that had a release in LA – is in contention. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book, not only beat every American film but every Dutch, South Korean Mexican and every other country’s film as well.

Awards Around The World

The BAFTA (source: variety.com)

It does seem that a lot of countries have films awards that are specific to their country, and the Oscars (and the BAFTAs in the UK) are somewhat an exception in ostensibly being worldwide. But I’d argue that for many countries it’s not their national awards but their film festival that is the big deal. France’s, and perhaps the world’s, most famous film festival is the Cannes Film Festival, with it’s biggest award being the Palme d’Or. Just glancing over the winners of this award since 2000 – nine of the winners had some French involvement if we eliminate co-productions that goes down to two French films. Using the same criteria, The Golden Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival only has two films where Germany was involved in co-production. Without prior knowledge of the geography of Italy, I don’t think someone could work out any bias in the Venice Film Festival to its host country, since 2000 Iranian, South Korean and Venezuelan films have won the Golden Lion with only one Italian film winning that award in that time.

10 Billion Reasons Why

Hollywood Hills Sign
The Hollywood Sign (credit: Wikipedia)

So why do films from outside America fare so poorly at the Oscars? Well, most Oscar voters are US based so perhaps there is a bias there. But also the American film industry is huge – making over $10 billion in 2017 and it would make sense that the biggest and most successful country would dominate awards. Again, like no other country American films are watched around the world. In Britain and America to even consider watching a film, not in English, is considered a signifier of high-brow intellectual tastes, whereas to like American films in other countries is the norm. However, it can’t simply be that America makes more films if nothing else India actually produces more. Parasite is only the twelfth film that isn’t in English to be nominated for Best Picture – and the first to actually win – and I think it is impossible to argue that such a list represents the best films ever made.

Another very interesting point in all of this is that for all of Parasite’s success at the Oscars it received no acting nominations. The same was true of Roma last year, a film not in English that did well at the Oscars, and Slumdog Millionaire which won eight – including Best Picture – but featured a cast of non-white actors who when compared to typical Oscar nominees weren’t at all famous. To me it seems bizarre that a film that was considered the best of the year would not contain a single-acting performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. Is this bias towards American actors (and admittedly British actors who seem to be at no disadvantage) or is it simply that Kang-ho song and Sun-kyun Lee do not have the name recognition as Brad Pitt and Renee Zellweger? As a case in point, I could rattle off the stars of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood or The Irishman but had to look on IMDb to find the names of Parasite’s stars.

I think it’s clear that the Oscars is not really a competition without bias but despite this a foreign film can still win big. And, of course, even being nominated for an Oscar will raise the profile of a film that lacks the marketing power of something like Joker. If pushed I feel that most people would admit the bias towards America and would see that as perfectly natural.

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Editorials

Why Watchmen Is One Of The Best TV Shows In Recent Times

January 24, 2020
Watchmen TV Series

Let’s start at the beginning. Watchmen was a comic book series written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons and released in 1986. Alan Moore is probably the most respected and critically acclaimed comic book writer of his generation. The comic book is essentially an in-depth look at superheroes with characters in this book as stand-ins for famous superheroes or superhero types. The comic book was so beloved it was listed on Time Magazine’s list of top 100 novels over the lifespan of the magazine. Whilst beloved it was often regarded as unfilmable and certainly Moore had no wish for it to be made into a film. After years of stalled projects and different directors, Zack Snyder released his version in 2009 to mixed reviews. In 2019 we had a Watchmen TV show, brought to us via HBO and Damon Lindelof (best known as the man behind Lost). I’ll say this now – this is one of the greatest television programmes I have ever seen.

The TV Series

Watchmen HBO
Watchmen (source: variety.com)

While some characters from the graphic novel/film reappear like Adrian Veidt and Laurie Blake the central character is newcomer Angela Abar (played in a superb performance by Regina King), a detective in the Tulsa police department. Importantly in this world, all cops wear masks after a coordinated attack on police officers at their homes years before so cops became anonymous and detectives adopted costumes – Angela is Sister Night. The show effectively goes through Angela’s entire life over the course of the season (something it does for other characters in less detail) explaining how she became the person she is. The main plot follows the machinations of The 7th Cavalry, an extreme right-wing racist organisation who seem to want to wage an all-out race-war and were behind the “White Night” when police officers were attacked.

Seemingly completely separately a bizarre story of an old man living a lonely if palatial existence on a grand English estate (that maybe doubles as a prison) is played out, his only companions are maddeningly obedient servants. I don’t think it’s meant to be a secret that this is Adrian Veidt (played by Jeremy Irons in the best performance I’ve seen from him in a long time), one of the characters from the graphic novel whose superhero identity is Ozymandias. As well as being incredibly wealthy and the smartest man in the world Veidt takes credit for saving the world whilst killing three million people – but only a handful of people are aware of this.

Why Is It Great?

Watchmen HBO
Watchmen (source: vox.com)

Characters Are Key

Watchmen is a television show that puts understanding characters first and all the events that transpire are rooted in how these characters would act. It could be said that the whole season is explaining Angela Abar – her childhood, her marriage, her family, her job, her whole life and even events that happened before she was born. All of what happens makes sense, there are no inexplicable character decisions just to make the plot more exciting. And it is not just Angela whose life is analysed, many of the main characters’ lives are examined through flashbacks, such as her costumed cop colleague Wade Tillman/Looking Glass. The single most important thing in any story is you have to care about the characters, love them or hate them, the outcome is important and Watchmen achieved this in spectacular fashion. Rarely have I been as invested in a character as I was with Angela.

Dealing With Loss

Watchmen (source: popsugar.com)

Everyone in this show has lost something – whether it be people or sometimes more intangible concepts. Fitting in with a common superhero trope Angela is an orphan, Looking Glass lost his faith and peace of mind, Laurie Blake lost her superhero identity as well as an actual superhero. Much of the plot revolves around a murder that takes place in the first episode. Adrian Veidt rages against his lost power and influence and when someone as talented as him is going through grief there will be consequences.

Relevance Today

The first scene of the TV show is a portrayal of the Tulsa Massacre, a real event where white people essentially destroyed one of the most prosperous black neighbourhoods in all of America. The significance of this event on the rest of the story is not immediately apparent but slowly comes together across the episodes gradually unfolding, making more sense and not only shedding light on the current TV series but origin stories of characters created in the graphic novel. The 7th Cavalry talk about race traitors, look up to the KKK and occasionally complain about how hard it is to be a white man in America – it is difficult viewing.

A lot of time is spent analysing the never-ending struggle between freedom and security, justice and vengeance. The graphic novel did not like the idea of superheroes a great deal and thought about who actually goes out and beats criminals to a pulp (or worse) and the TV show continues that tradition.

There is also the dive into the worlds of the super-rich, mega-billionaires with resources that eclipse nations and what exactly their motivations are.

The Story

Watchmen HBO
Watchmen (cracked.com)

The intricate story at the heart of the TV show is expertly delivered to the audience, there are plots, secrets, twists, villains and maybe one or two heroes, all of it is fascinating and told in an original and exciting way.

The End

There are many more reasons to watch this show than just what I’ve been able to list in this article and I am sure it will stand up to repeat viewings. And it may well have to as Damon Lindelof has stated he doesn’t want to do a second season and HBO aren’t going to do it without him, So you have just one practically perfect season to enjoy.

Also Read: Why James Cameron’s Avatar Sequel Has Come At The Right Time

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Editorials

A Quiet Place Part II: A Film Too Far?

January 16, 2020

Warning – this article contains major spoilers for A Quiet Place

For me, A Quiet Place came out of nowhere. One day I heard there was a new film coming out where the hook was none of the characters spoke or made noise in the film. This was A Quiet Place and while it wasn’t as silent as the original stories suggested to make a film with so little dialogue was very ambitious. The film could have been a disaster, it could have been a gimmicky movie that just didn’t work and it’s a testament to all involved that it was a great film. With IMDb estimating the budget at $17,000,000 and it making around $50,000,000 in its opening weekend in America it’s not terribly surprising that a sequel is coming out.

What happened in Part I?

A Quiet Place (source: bloody-disgusting.com)

A Quiet Place showed a post-apocalyptic world where society had completely collapsed, the cause was terrifying monsters who hunted by sound but essentially couldn’t see anything. The film followed the Abbott family as they tried to survive in this world, going to extraordinary lengths to not make any noise. Viewers immediately picked up on one potential problem which was Evelyn Abbot was pregnant. The film was a masterpiece in tension with the audience constantly on the lookout for potential causes of noise – at one point a loose nail sticking out of a floorboard was shown and everyone knew it was a matter of time before someone stood on it. At the end of the film, Evelyn managed to give birth but they lost the dad, Lee Abbot (played by Josh Krasinski), who sacrificed himself to save his family.

The Trailer

A Quiet Place Part II (source: themarysue.com)

The trailer shows us some glimpses of the moment these monsters arrived and the chaos they caused but mainly focuses on the life of the Abbot family, forced to leave their home and find somewhere safe. The sight of them trudging out is not at all hopeful and not long after reaching a deserted city they set off a trap. Fleeing this trap leads them to Cillian Murphy’s character who seemingly saves them. They join a community of survivors of which Murphy is a part, but whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is not quite clear.

Potential Pitfalls

The monsters – in the first film the monsters were barely glimpsed, sometimes you saw a flash of movement, sometimes not even that. Yet in the new trailer, it is clear you see more of the monsters. It’s long been a cliche of horror films that you shouldn’t show too much of the monster as it will always be disappointing (Alien perhaps being the classic example of getting this right with only glimpses seen until the very end of the film). Secondly, while many monsters are terrifying it’s often hard to imagine how they would seemingly overwhelm modern armies. Yes, they’re good at killing, but are they better than helicopter gunships?

Stretching Credulity – the first film had a very contained environment, most of it revolving around the family’s home consisting just a few buildings in a secluded area. The family went to extraordinary lengths to limit the sound they made and that was how they survived. It’s hard to imagine the family simply taking off and managing to keep the requisite level of silence – and, of course, they also have a newborn baby. And as the trailer shows – they are going to find a lot of people, how will their survival be explained?

Losing The Mystery – People always want to know how a situation came to be, in this case, how did these monsters destroy society but it’s not always a good idea to give them what they want. Sometimes the mystery is better.

Lightning Never Strikes TwiceA Quiet Place is ninety minutes long, which is about as short a film you can get away with these days, the director, also Krasinski, knew that after a while an audience would get sick of the confined world of virtually no dialogue. It’s a very clever idea but it could very easily have been a bad film and it is very risky thinking that idea will stretch to a second film. It’s a good sign that Krasinski is back to direct but I’m not sure it’ll be enough.

Should There Even Be A Part II?

A Quiet Place Part II (source: www.metro.news)

I’m sure we all have examples of films where you wish the sequel hadn’t been made; where an interesting and original film was left as a complete story. Will A Quiet Place II be one of those films? I’m not sure as I am intrigued by the trailer but I certainly think the first film did not need a sequel. There was no need to continue the story, especially as the first film ended on a note of tragedy the sequel cannot possibly match. Still, whatever happens A Quiet Place will remain a great film.

Also Read: The Best Horror Films of the Decade

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Reviews

Review: Jojo Rabbit

January 8, 2020

What’s Going On?

Jojo Rabbit is a film about 10-year-old Jojo living in the last months of Hitler’s Germany. Jojo is a very devoted member of the Hitler Youth and believes so passionately in the Nazi party his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Jojo lives with his unconventional mother and to his surprise a Jewish girl who his mother is hiding – the patriotic Jojo is torn between his devotion to the Nazi Party and not wanting to get his mother into serious trouble. It is described by its director as an anti-hate satire and is largely a comedy but obviously touches on many issues full of tragedy and horror.

Behind The Scenes

Jojo Rabbit (variety.com)

Jojo Rabbit is the latest film by Taiki Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnorak, What We Do In The Shadows and many more, It is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. I have not seen all of Waititi’s films but every one that I have seen is very, very good, even doing the impossible and making me care about Thor.

In Front Of The Camera

Jojo Rabbit (source: bristol247.com)

Jojo is played by newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, Elsa, the Jewish girl in hiding, by Thomasin McKenzie, probably best known for her role of Tom in Leave No Trace. There is a large ensemble cast including Scarlett Johansson as Rosie, Jojo’s mother, Sam Rockwell as world, and possibly war, weary Captain Klenzendorf, Stephen Merchant as the local Gestapo officer and Rebel Wilson as an extremely enthusiastic Nazi. And of course, Taiki Waititi played Hitler (Jojo’s imaginary-friend Hitler anyway).

Does It Work?

Jojo Rabbit (source: refinery29.com)

I had very high expectations for this film, mainly because of my love of Taiki Waititi’s work but also the trailer had me hooked immediately. I shall say straight away that I loved it. Many films have shown up fascism, the Nazi Party and Hitler as evil, ridiculous, cruel and worthy of mockery, Jojo Rabbit does this but also makes a strong case for love, freedom, kindness and dancing. The film is moving, capturing the many different ways fascism hurt people, as well as being very funny. The scenes with Jojo and Hitler are particularly funny, with Hitler trying to find parallels with his world of global domination with Jojo’s struggles as a young boy. Much fun is had with Captain Klenzendorf who often takes a sideways glance at Nazi propaganda and this works even better when coupled to Rebel Wilson’s character, who wholeheartedly believes all of it.

The crucial part of the film is that Jojo is not really a Nazi, he’s too young to understand what that means and whenever he is given the opportunity to really be a Nazi he doesn’t take it. Early in the film older members of the Hitler Youth want him to kill a rabbit, to show his strength, and he won’t do it (hence his nickname Jojo Rabbit). Jojo is basically a good person, the same is true for his friend Yorki, a similarly enthusiastic member of Hitler Youth whose message of hatred and cruelty crumbles before his basic good naturedness.

It’s always dangerous mixing comedy with topics so infused with horror, hatred and outright evil but I think Waititi succeeds admirably. At no point does it feel like the film being funny comes before showing Nazi Germany for what it was. For all, it’s a comedy it has two of the most moving scenes I have seen in recent years, one of which I am still trying to come to terms with.

There were times it reminded me of Death of Stalin, another film mixing comedy and the darkest of events. When we saw the daily madness of living under such a regime, the bizarre lies you would have to tell yourself, the complete abandonment of common sense and logic, as well as the horror that you could get caught up in these horrors so easily.

Jojo Rabbit (deseret.com)

The film revolves around Jojo and Elsa, and both actors are great, Roman Griffin Davis never strays so close to Nazism that the audience turns against him. Thomasin McKenzie runs through a gamut of emotions of righteous anger to hopelessness perfectly and believably. The ensemble cast is very good, with Scarlett Johansson giving a tremendous and at times heartbreaking performance. Sam Rockwell’s performance is an odd one, in many ways we are supposed to like Captain Klenzendorf, the eccentric frequently drunk soldier who never seems entirely convinced by fascism and does good where he can, while at the same time he wears the uniform and fought in the army and I’m still unsure what Waititi was going for with this character. Stephen Merchant is very funny as the local Gestapo officer, an embodiment of all the nonsense and stupidity of fascism. And there is Waititi playing the imaginary friend Hitler, a mix of charismatic tyrant and idiotic, petulant child, at times trying to buoy Jojo’s spirits or placing insane demands on him.

Jojo is a film at times is funny and even manages to be joyous about life as well as being deeply moving and thoughtful and it is a rare director who can this in one film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

JoJo Rabbit (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Parasite (Review)

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Editorials

The Anatomy of a Christopher Nolan Film

December 27, 2019
Christopher Nolan Movie Collage

Christopher Nolan is perhaps the quintessential director of the twenty-first century. Nolan’s first film, Following, came out in 1998 but his name was really made with 2000’s Memento. Since then he has made everything from reality-bending thrillers to intense and epic war films where the enemy aren’t even seen.

Warning – spoilers ahead for Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk

Ambition

Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception
Inception (source: csmonitor.com)

I don’t mean this as a theme in the storytelling or characters, it’s part of Nolan’s work. Few directors have the scope and vision that he has. Even with Memento, one of his earliest films, he was pushing the boundaries of storytelling with a disjointed non-linear masterpiece that demands to be watched more than once. He took the burgeoning superhero blockbuster genre and not only made the films that in my opinion are the high watermark of the genre in terms of action but also storytelling – and breaking open the elusive worlds of the Oscars. When we come to something like Inception it’s hard to even begin describing it and it’s hard to imagine another director who could pull it off. The resources poured into making a film that could accurately portray the landscape of dreams – the whole world exploding or streets bending back on themselves.

Time

Dunkirk (source: youtube.com)

What is the beginning? What is the end? Many of Nolan’s films play with time. The narrative of Memento is confused from the start of the film, in Inception dream time moves so much faster than real life offering the wonderful/terrifying prospect of spending a lifetime in a dream and Interstellar dealt with the mind-blowing ramifications of time with space travel. Dunkirk has a brilliant structure – three stories set around the Dunkirk evacuation. One from the perspective of soldiers on a beach, one from a RAF pilot providing cover and one from someone sailing their little ship to help. The soldiers are on the beach are there for a week yet the pilot’s story is over in one hour and all the stories mix together.

Obsession

The Prestige (cinemablend.com)

Nolan’s first big success came with Memento, a film about a character suffering from anterograde amnesia – a condition that means you can access old memories but you can’t make new ones. Leonard is obsessed with his final memory – the murder of his wife. This obsession leads Leonard to take huge risks with his safety – and that of others – in that he is someone who really needs round the clock care but instead embarks on a mission of revenge. The Dark Knight trilogy has a number of characters driven by obsession, most notably Wayne with the murder of his parents, but often the villains as well – none of whom are driven simply by desire for money or power. The Prestige features two characters obsessed with each other, obsessed with defeating their opponent and quite simply obsessed with being better. Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale’s characters go to extreme – even insane – lengths to simply be the better stage magician.

Lying And The Truth

Memento Film
Memento ( source: theverge.com)

A lot of lying goes on in Christopher Nolan’s films. The plot of Memento hinges on several big lies and how in Leonard’s condition he is very vulnerable to dishonesty. Indeed Leonard lies to himself. At the heart of the Dark Knight trilogy, there are several important lies, the first being the obvious deception that Bruce Wayne is Batman but more importantly the lie told by Batman and Gordon regarding the truth about Harvey Dent, with both believing it was better for society to be lied to. Likewise, The Prestige is a film about magicians who “trick” their audiences but just about every relationship and important event in the film is a lie upon lie upon lie, you are never sure of a person’s loyalty, the accuracy of memory, about exactly who is who and how far do you let a lie dominate your life. The Prestige even lies to the audience. Interstellar shows a society that lies to itself in the hope of moving forward as it is judged necessary to rewrite history so the Apollo moon landings were faked by the American government. Cobb’s life in Inception is destroyed by a lie he tells his wife. You could say that Nolan has been telling us for a long time – don’t trust anyone, not even yourself.

Tenet

John David Washington - Tenet
Tenet (source: scifimoviepage.com)

Christopher Nolan has a new film coming out for 2020 – Tenet. A trailer was just recently released but it’s still hard to say exactly what the film is about; spying and time travel seem to be the big plot points. The film stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington and star of BlackKKlansman), Robert Pattinson (of Twilight fame) and Elizabeth Debicki (probably best known for Widows). The trailer is typical for a Nolan film, with it not giving much away, looking very impressive and having tense and booming music. But does the trailer really matter? For me, Nolan is a director who I would see without a trailer or any prior knowledge of a film – not all of his films have been classics but they’re always worth watching.

Director, Christopher Nolan (credit: Warner Bros)

More: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Editorials

The Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 23, 2019
Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade

‘Dredd’, dir. Pete Travis (2012)

Dredd (hollywoodreporter.com)

As with some of the other films on this list, Dredd deserved to be a massive hit. It is a brilliant, intense and brutal film that dealt with one of the most unappealing comic book “heroes” there ever was – Judge Dredd. I think part of the reason of Dredd’s lack of success is it came out around the same time as The Raid and both films had a similar plot, that being you’re the police trapped in a building and surrounded by enemies. Karl Urban is sensational as Dredd especially as he never removes his helmet and many actors might understandably not want to do this. As brutal as Dredd is he also comes across as very fair, which is important to broadly staying on his side. This has to be one of the films of this decade that I have rewatched the most.


‘Arrival’, dir. Denis Villeneuve (2016)

Arrival (credit: Paramount Pictures)

Denis Villeneuve is on something of a roll and there’s no sign of it stopping any time soon. This film starts off with the premise of Independence Day, big alien spaceships arrive hanging over Earth but that’s where all similarity ends. Whereas Roland Emmerich just wanted to blow stuff up Arrival is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and emotional science-fiction films ever made. Most of the drama is around learning how to communicate with the aliens who not only have a very different life and understanding of the universe but perceive it in a completely different way. Amy Adams stars as an expert linguist in what is the performance of her career in my opinion, where she deals with the entire gamut of human emotion and experience.


‘Rogue One’, dir. Gareth Edwards (2016)

The cast of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (source: www.beckett.com)

This is the only Star Wars film to make the list and I feel this is easily the strongest of the new films. Rogue One neatly dealt with the biggest plot hole in Star Wars, namely, why did the Death Star have such a weakness. It had a great cast with Ben Mendelsohn on superb villain form and even bringing in actors of such calibre as Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker for what are quite small roles. As we get into the final quarter of the film it becomes pretty apparent what is going to happen to virtually every character in the film and yet it is not a downer ending. The end of the film directly matching up with the beginning of A New Hope was a brilliant idea.


‘Ex Machina’, dir. Alex Garland (2014)

Ex Machina (mashable.com)

Amazingly despite a long Hollywood career, this is Alex Garland’s directorial debut. A film about the creation of artificial intelligence which leads to the viewer asking themselves all sorts of questions about what it means to be alive. A very small cast of Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Domnhail Gleeson and Sonoyo Mizuno, all of whom are superb but especially Vikander and Mizuno. The film is essentially an example of the Turing Test, Alan Turing’s thought experiment about how you could judge if a computer had become intelligent. The scene of Isaac and Mizuno dancing was at once entertaining and deeply unsettling and is one of the most memorable scenes of the decade. There is a lot of mystery in this film with questions being asked about exactly what, and who, is being tested. The 2010s have been a very good decade for Oscar Isaac, starting with a small part in Drive to starring in the Star Wars trilogy.


‘Blade Runner 2049’, dir. Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (credit: Warner Bros.)

This is what Denis Villeneuve did after Arrival, creating a sequel to possibly the most influential sci-fi film ever, and in my opinion, he pulled it off. Blade Runner 2049 is a great film in its own right as well as a suitable continuation of The Blade Runner story. Whereas the original had Harrison Ford playing someone who hunts replicants, Gosling is a replicant who hunts replicants. Not surprisingly this brings up mixed feelings in Gosling’s character over the course of the film. The film brings in it’s own original ideas like Gosling’s holographic girlfriend Joi and the prospect of an evolution in replicant, and human, life.


‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, dir. James Gunn (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (credit: Disney)

I had a long think about what, if any, superhero films should be on the list. I normally consider most superhero films a sub-genre of sci-fi but I decided to exclude most of them, one of the two exceptions being Guardians of the Galaxy, as this felt far more like a space-adventure Sci-Fi film than a superhero one. This film was a wonderful surprise, it was not a comic I was at all familiar with and when I saw a trailer with a talking raccoon and walking tree I admit to not being terribly enthusiastic. My reservations were blown away from Peter Quill’s scene dancing across an alien landscape. All of the other “guardians” made their mark from the literal-minded Drax to even verbally challenged Groot. As well as being action-filled there was a surprising amount of emotion.


‘The World’s End’, dir. Edgar Wright (2013)

The World’s End (source: rogersmovienation.com)

The partnership between Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg must surely be one of the greatest between director and writer. The World’s End is the last of the so-called Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and while this is the weakest of the three it is still an amazing movie. In a film about robots duplicating people and trying to take over the world it could be argued the film is more about friendship and trying to deal with life. Pegg plays the often very unsympathetic character of Gary King who has never really gotten over his life as a teenager, still chasing that feeling. King reunites his old school friends for a pub crawl which includes emotional moments about bullying, alcoholism and the meaning of life with pulling the heads off robots.


‘Edge of Tomorrow’ dir. Doug Liman (2014)

Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live. Die. Repeat) (credit: Warner Bros.)

This is a truly sensational film and in any sensible universe would have been one of the biggest hits of the decade. Based around the very clever idea of time resetting itself whenever the protagonist died everything in the film is practically perfect – Tom Cruise’s smarmy advertising executive who slowly becomes the hero, Emily Blunt as outright badass and the wonderful playing around with time, death and causality. The “jacket” – the slightly over the top metal exoskeleton leads to some of the best action scenes of the decade with Cruise and Blunt having enormous fun exploring just what these jackets can do. Like I said, it’s a practically perfect film, if this passed you by watch it.


‘Inception’, dir. Christopher Nolan (2010)

Christopher Nolan - Inception
The cast of Inception (credit: Warner Bros.)

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan who I think is one of the most important and talented filmmakers of the 21st century, equally adept at intricate and unusual films like Memento and The Prestige to huge blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Dunkirk. Inception was made coming off the high of The Dark Knight and it was a worthy followup. A film about entering dreams to steal knowledge or even implant ideas – inception – it handles dealing with numerous different levels of reality deftly while creating stunning and groundbreaking special effects. The gravity distorting fight scene between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and various bad guys is truly exceptional. And then we start thinking about the clever games Nolan played with the soundtrack and trying to distinguish what is reality just elevates it to an even higher level. It’s hard to imagine another director taking on this project and being commercially and critically successful.


‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, dir George Miller (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road ( source: nytimes.com)

To me, this is not only the best sci-fi film of the decade but the best film. A film that had dazzling non-CGI special effects, spectacular action scenes and unforgettable cinematography that also had an unbelievable amount of heart and great characterisation. The instant the film finished I knew I had to see it again as soon as possible and that it was already one of my favourite ever films. Charlize Theron and George Martin deserved Oscars for this film and credit is due to Tom Hardy in being able to accept being the supporting player in a film with his character’s name in the title. If there is any doubt about the fact that it is Theron’s Furiosa who is the central character those are blown apart when Furiosa literally uses Max as a gun rest. Often when asked the question of what is my favourite film ever/of the year/of the decade I go down a long road to weighing up many different great films but not for this list- Mad Max; Fury Road was always going to be first.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade.

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Editorials

How To Revive A Franchise After Many Years

December 5, 2019

Usually, sequels come out a couple of years later, as you want the original still fresh in the audience’s mind. It has to be said that sequels are often disappointing with a lot said about notable exceptions that might actually be better than the original, such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Godfather Part II or Aliens. But what do you do when it is decades later?

The Shining and Doctor Sleep

The Shining (bloody-disgusting.com)

Original: The Shining, released 1980, Director: Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd.

Sequel: Doctor Sleep, released 2019, Director: Mike Flanagan, starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran.

Years between films: 39

To me, The Shining is one of the greatest films ever made and is made by one of the greatest directors ever, based on a book by the most successful horror writer in the history of the world. It’s hard to imagine the trepidation of director Mike Flanagan when he got the job. The sequel to the book of The Shining was only released a few years ago so providing filmmakers wanted to wait for an “official” sequel they had to wait for Stephen King.

Blade Runner & Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 (forbes.com)

Original: Blade Runner, released 1982, Director – Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young.

Sequel: Blade Runner: 2049, released 2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.

Years between films: 35

Blade Runner must surely rank as one of the most influential Sci-Fi films in existence. People still quote Rutger Hauer’s final speech as an ode to life and death. It’s depiction of cities, replicants, and even something like advertising is iconic.

Mad Max Trilogy & Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road (theverge.com)

Original: Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, released between 1979 and 1985, Director George Miller, starring Mel Gibson

Sequel: Mad Max: Fury Road, released 2015, Director George Miller, starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Hugh Keays-Byrne

Years between films: 30

The cult classic trilogy of what started out as an Ozploitation film has a warm place in the hearts of many, the latest chapter is probably my favourite film of the decade.

All three of the original films left room for the continuation of the story. Danny may have escaped but what about the rest of his life with these powers? Blade Runner ended with Deckard fleeing with Rachael with huge questions remaining about his own identity. And Max Max never seems to have a definitive ending, just more of Max wondering the world.

While I think all three are good films it’s fair to say one was a runaway success both critically and commercially – Mad Max: Fury Road. I think there are a number of reasons for this:

  • George Miller – the director of the original trilogy made the new sequel. It seems throughout the intervening years a fourth film has never been far from Miller’s thoughts. Keeping the same director not only means continuity of ideas, themes and aesthetics but it will satisfy a certain section of fandom who are easily ostracised.
  • Mad Max has a mixed reputation – While the Mad Max trilogy are cult favourites and certainly have their charms, they were never up there with The Shining and Blade Runner in cinematic reputation. The odds of making a film that would live up to The Shining or Blade Runner were slim, almost inevitably you were going to disappoint people. I don’t think the same is true for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
  • You don’t always wants answers – it is true there was potential for more stories within the world of The Shining and Blade Runner maybe you don’t want them. Would learning more about Danny and his powers make for a good film? Would learning the absolute truth about Deckard’s identity be a good thing? Already this question causes controversy with different cuts of the original film suggesting different answers. Sometimes part of what makes a film so special is that you’re left wondering, perhaps for decades, about what it was all about? Each Mad Max film has been different but never really explained what happened to the world and Fury Road didn’t try to answer that question, just added another chapter to the story.

That’s not to say Doctor Sleep and Blade Runner 2049 did everything wrong. Blade Runner 2049 assembled a great cast including Harrison Ford and got one of the best directors working – Denis Villeneuve – to make the film. Doctor Sleep was always aware of the legacy of The Shining and played this perfectly, it contains lots of references but ultimately is its own film.

More Films Coming Back…

These three aren’t the only films that had a lot to overcome. The Rise of Skywalker is getting released in a couple of weeks and this has the monumental weight of the Star Wars franchise on it, but next year we have a variety of sequels and reboots of classic films -a new Ghostbusters with the original cast, a live-action Mulan and Bill & Ted Face The Music. And they’re making a new Top Gun as well which I’m told some people are excited about.

I often complain about the lack of new ideas in Hollywood, and we live in an era when any “franchise” is resurrected to make some more money but I wouldn’t complain quite so much if they met the high standards of these three films.

Also Read: Five New Categories That Should Be Included In The Oscars

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Reviews

Review: The Irishman

November 28, 2019

Perhaps the most anticipated movie of the year featuring a cast list covered in Oscars, a director rightly hailed as one of the best there ever was and a writer who’s written everything from Schindler’s List to Moneyball. And it’s on Netflix.

What’s Going On?

The Irishman (source: buffalonews.com)

The Irishman follows the life of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) from meat-delivery driver to well… not in the Mafia, but certainly doing a lot of work for them, after all, he’s Irish, not Sicilian. Frank is effectively brought into this life by Russel Buffalino (Joe Pesci) a high up person in the Mafia. Frank does a lot of work for him up to and including killing people. After a few years, Russel sends Frank to watch over Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), head of the Teamsters union and very much in business with the Mafia. The film follows the course of this relationship and especially how Frank is pulled in opposite directions because of his friendships with Russel and Hoffa.

Behind The Scenes

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to anyone – the director is Martin Scorsese, certainly one of the best directors alive if not one of the best directors ever. And this is a crime movie with an incredible cast, hardly unfamiliar territory for Scorsese. He’s already directed what in my opinion is the best Mafia movie ever – Goodfellas and expectations are high.

In Front Of The Camera

The Irishman (source: denofgeek.com)

First, there is the key trio of De Niro, Pesci and Pacino, and already that’s amazing. De Niro is the narrator and gives an excellent performance especially as things become strained as the film goes on. Pesci, normally known for his wild, unpredictable and maybe a little crazy criminal characters plays against type as a very calm and, for the mafia, reasonable man. However, it’s Pacino who I think gives the best performance. Hoffa is a man surrounded by criminals, murderers even, and never bats an eyelid. He will argue with them, he will insult them, he’ll get in fistfights with them. He’s a larger than life character and you can see how he ended up union president.

Outside of those three roles, the cast is still full of diamonds. Actors like Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel and Ray Romano taking on small roles. I was convinced that Plemons was going to go through the movie and not actually have a line. Paquin, and indeed the child actors who play her characters, are excellent and act almost like the conscience of the film, judging the bad people around her, including her father Frank Sheeran. At one point Paquin says a single word that seems to break Sheeran.

Historical Note – Jimmy Hoffa & The Teamsters Union

Jimmy Hoffa was a very famous person in America, and in many ways still is, and I don’t think there will be a person in America who doesn’t already know where the story is heading and Scorsese made this film knowing that. I only knew of Hoffa from references to him in American film and TV but didn’t really understand who he was or what happened to him. After all, union bosses don’t tend to be that famous. Again, I’ve heard of “teamsters” but didn’t really know what that was but it’s enough to say this was the largest union in America at the time, giving Hoffa an incredible amount of power and influence, and in looking after their pension fund, access to literally billions of dollars. My perhaps controversial opinion is you look Hoffa up on Wikipedia before you watch the film.

He Looks Good For His Age

The film shows these characters at various stages of their life Scorsese employed some clever de-ageing special effects which I thought were flawless.

Does It Work?

The Irishman (source: slate.com)

My expectations for The Irishman were very high, not only is Scorsese one of my favourite directors many of the early reviews were saying that was his best film in a long time. Personally I would put this in the second-tier of Scorsese films, with Gangs of New York and The Departed, it’s great but not quite up there with his best. Let’s be clear, it’s a great film, it’s three and a half hours long and keeps you engaged throughout, the acting is all first-rate and is full of brilliant little flourishes – one scene of a person having to psych themselves up to start their car as they were worried it might explode was one such moment. But I was a little disappointed and perhaps thought it was a mistake for Scorsese to return to territory he has already thoroughly explored. I am a big fan of Wolf of Wall Street and see it as a kind of Goodfellas for a different sort of crime and was a good move for him and I think maybe another gangster film wasn’t the best use of Scorsese’s time and talent.

That said if this was a film by virtually any other director I would only be singing it’s praises and really the only problem is it’s Martin Scorsese so you’re hoping for a masterpiece.

Even before this film, the debate about are Netflix films proper films was surely settled and this just adds to the argument that they are. They’ve made everything from Oscar-winning drama like Roma to fantasy special effects-laden frippery like Bright, not everything is gold but the same is true for every studio.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The Irishman (Official Trailer)

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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