fbpx

Category: Editorials

Read the latest editorials and opinion pieces from Big Picture Film Club.

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

Superhero Standoff: Superheros vs Art

May 17, 2019

Superhero movies are everywhere, and likely will be everywhere for the foreseeable future. With everyone and their mum seeing “Avengers: Endgame” it seems like superheroes have something to offer every viewer, but that doesn’t mean they’re always loved.

J Jonah Jameson isn’t the only one trying put Spider-Man down, as despite the genre’s overwhelming success (Endgame earned over $1 Billion in its opening weekend) it is often neglected upon awards season. With powerful enemies like James Cameron against them, can our heroes ever get the respect they deserve?

“For your consideration..”

Black Panther
“Black Panther” won several Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture (Disney/Marvel, 2018)

To be clear, superhero films have been nominated and won in some cases. Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his Joker in “The Dark Knight”. “Black Panther” won in three categories as well as being nominated for best picture. Even Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects. But many big names in Hollywood still seem to dismiss them.

Comic book movies are regularly nominated in several technical categories, with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” winning “Best Animation” at the 2019 Oscars, for its unique animation style. But it is rare they win any of the “big awards” such as best actor/picture. There are several calls for Robert Downey Jr to earn an Oscar, for his portrayal of Iron Man.

And regardless of whether he does or not, it’s hard to argue that the character is ingrained in pop culture, with Downey Jr a massive part of that. It’s no secret that the character was a B-Lister before 2008, but now everyone knows Iron Man. Joe Russo (co-director of Avengers: Endgame) thinks he deserves it for the way he’s motivated pop culture, and that “there’s a prejudice against popular cinema”.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes don’t just deal with super villains (Marvel Comics, 2019)

This superhero snobbery doesn’t just apply to movies, comic books are often considered childish, and, true, Batman punching someone with a large “Kapow” bubble might not be the most complex thing to follow. But some of them delve into real-world issues. Iron Man famously had a storyline where he dealt with alcoholism. While the films didn’t follow this, “Iron Man 3” features him dealing with PTSD.

This isn’t the only time the MCU deals with mental health. Captain America shows several symptoms of depression. A big part of Thor’s arc in “Avengers: Endgame” deals with coming to terms with his failure and if he is still worthy. The Avengers might be superheroes, but they’re still flawed, like the rest of us.

But they also tackle social issues, the “Captain America” films deal with him adapting to the modern world after living in WW2. “The Winter Soldier” deals with the idea of a surveillance state. While in “Civil War” he battles against Iron Man about whether the Avengers should be ruled by politicians.

This isn’t just Marvel either. “Man of Steel” is rammed with political themes, from, climate change on Krypton to Superman being an immigrant. Films allow us to explore different themes, and superheroes are no different

Origin Stories

Swap out the Stark suit for wings, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is basically the story of Icarus (Sony 2017)

Superhero stories are the Greek myths of our time. With each generation of filmmakers wanting to retell the story with a more modern perspective. “Shazam” for instance, features a young Billy who has grown up with Superman and co, so he and his friend are aware of all the tropes, as people today are. A huge part of the “Deadpool” films’ appeal is its fourth wall breaking antics and how it pokes fun at superhero cliches (like the “superhero landing“)

This self-awareness could be a sign the genre is becoming stale, with the dreaded “superhero fatigue” setting in and Spielberg himself saying they will “go the way of the western”. While that may be true, it is far more likely the genre will simply evolve, as it always has done. Superhero films are arguably an evolution of 80’s action classic’s like “Rambo” and “Robocop”. While they may not have powers, they still perform superhuman feats, like surviving explosions, big dramatic leaps, stopping villains taking over the world.

And Superhero films have evolved, with the release of “The Avengers” it seems like every studio has been trying to launch its own franchise. From DC to the failed “Dark Universe”, it seems like every studio has been trying to follow in their footsteps, with mixed results. The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” now encompasses 22 films, as well as several TV shows (and counting). It’s hard to think that what started as a huge gamble for a company on the verge of bankruptcy, is now the behemoth it is.

In the 1970’s “Jaws” created the summer blockbuster. In 2012, “The Avengers” created the “cinematic universe” and superhero films will likely continue to push new boundaries with special effects, like the latest de-aging, storytelling (“Endgame” is the end of a 22 film long storyline), and more. Films like “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel are helping to prove that girls are just as good as boys, inspiring young girls as well as bringing in huge bank.

Superhero stories might seem silly on the surface, but whether in comic book or movie form, should not be dismissed as “just for kids” because they are so much more than that.

Editorials

How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror

May 13, 2019

Certain horror films define their era, because of their impact on the genre or on general popular culture. And many horror milestones have been low budget surprises. Night of the Living Dead spawned the zombie apocalypse film on a $100,000 budget. Halloween took $325,000 and popularised the slasher film. And today we’re going to look back at one of the last horror milestones of the 20th Century, and ask, what made it so impactful? The film that took a $60,000 budget and helped birth the found footage genre, The Blair Witch Project.

Summary

The Blair Witch Project follows student filmmakers, Heather, Mike and Josh who set out to make a documentary on the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, the creepy legends about the surrounding black hills; their supposed connection the Blair Witch. But when the team venture into the hills they get lost and begin witnessing strange things, like cairn’s and stick effigies appearing around them. Eventually, Josh goes missing. Upon investigating Mike and Heather are attacked by unseen forces and are never seen again.

How The Blair Witch Project Stood Out?

It’s hard to believe now, as found footage is a staple of the horror landscape, but the style was once both new and credible. The Blair Witch Project was among the first movies to use an unprofessional style to create an air of authenticity. Audiences were used to slickly produced horror films. But the low-grade film stock, shaky camera, realistic audio, with no score, and no monster made this movie seem like someone’s home movie, not a professional film. And the film furthered its connection to reality by employing a different kind of filming process to get its performances.

To push the film’s realism, the directors cast unknown actors and wanted them to improvise all their dialogue. To do this, the actors were sent into the woods to film with the filming equipment and a GPS tracker. According to co-director Daniel Myrick, “Using GPS, we directed them to locations…where they’d leave their footage and pick up food and our directing notes”. Which often encouraged the actors to bicker amongst one another. And the crew would pull gags on the actors at night such as shaking their tent. Meaning that much of the acting feels close to reality because, for most of the production, the cast really were living like their characters.

The Blair Witch Project wasn’t the first found footage film of course. Cannibal Holocaust and The Last Broadcast used many of the same tropes to appear real. But Blair Witch reached a wider audience and cemented its authenticity in the public’s eyes through its promotional material.

The filmmakers made a website before the film’s release to play up the legend behind the film. The website showed pictures of police investigations, interviews with Heather’s mother and “uncovered” audio clips from their expedition. The filmmakers also put up missing posters at film festivals and directed a short mockumentary, disguised as a traditional documentary which aired on the sci-fi channel called The Curse of Blair Witch. All this material combined, made many audiences believe that the film was real and that the actors really were missing, presumed dead. IMDb even listed the actors as missing.

Missing Poster for The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Which eventually resulted in a film with a $60,000 budget, making back $248,639,099 – Over 4000 times its budget. Making it one of the most profitable movies ever made.

The Blair Witch Follow-Ups

Inevitably for a film that successful, franchise appeal came calling. The film spawned a sequel in 2000, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and a soft-reboot/sequel in 2016’s Blair Witch. Which despite their financial success, never received the same recognition as the original. And it isn’t hard to see why.

Book of Shadows traded in the found footage conceit and was shot like a conventional horror movie. It also attempted to satirise and explore the impact of the first movie and the power of media to influence people. But many didn’t appreciate the typical presentation after the ground-breaking feeling of the original.

And while Blair Witch went back to the found footage conceit, even following the originals lead with a viral marketing campaign capitalizing on the secrecy of the production, the film didn’t garner much praise upon release. Because despite its nods to the original the film, this film focused more on jump scares and was more slickly produced. Using professional actors and multiple high-quality cameras. Making it ironically seem again like a conventional movie. And because of the prevalence of found footage films released since the original, Blair Witch 2016 ultimately seemed like pointless brand reinforcement.

Blair Witch (2016) Poster

The Influence and State of The Blair Witch

Because everyone is now fully aware that found footage films aren’t real. And with the atmosphere of the marketing campaign forgotten, many feel that the original Blair Witch Project doesn’t hold up today. But it is important viewing from a historical standpoint.

Of course, all modern found footage movies owe their existence to Blair Witch. With Paranormal Activity, Unfriended and The Visit all becoming box office success using small budgets and found footage tropes to tell their stories. But there are also movies like 28 Days Later, which took stylistic influence from Blair Witch by using low-quality footage to make the film more gritty and real and made back over 10 times its budget. And it was, of course, the forerunner of viral internet marketing, which has since become so prevalent. With every movie and TV show using their online presence to get viewers interested.

However, even with everything that came afterwards, the original Blair Witch Project remains a testament to ingenuity. It proved you don’t need a big budget or a monster to frighten an entire generation. Just an idea, an internet connection, a camera and a committed cast.

Also Read: The Human Centipede: A Love / Hate Story

Editorials

The Music Behind Great Films

May 12, 2019
JAWS

There is something magical about the music that accompanies a film. A film’s score can lift it to new heights, distinguish its villains from its heroes, give you goosebumps during otherwise forgettable moments. It’s impossible to imagine Darth Vader without the Imperial March song or to picture the opening sequence to The Lion King without its powerful opening number. Here are a list of six other films and the scores that made them.

Jaws: The opening scene – John Williams

A name that holds weight in the film scoring world, there are plenty of pieces by John Williams that could have been chosen. However, with a risk of this list simply becoming ‘Seven Great John Williams Scores’ it had to be narrowed down to one. One definitive score. It’s different for everyone. For me, that one is the opening scene of Jaws.

Tasked with making an invisible monster terrifying, this could have easily gone wrong for John. But with two notes, Williams created the ultimate scare. It’s simple, subtle and for lack of a better word, iconic. Those two notes created nightmares and sent shivers down the audience’s spine as if they were in the freezing cold ocean with poor Chrissie. Though the reveal of the shark might have been terrifying to audiences at the time, no one looks at that rubbery machine now and feels fear. That scene remains in minds for two reasons: the unknown killer and the music that accompanies it.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – The Bridge of Khazad-dûm- Howard Shore

For anyone that knows me well enough, they know I have a love, passion, affinity (some may call it an obsession) for the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have adored it from a young age and one scene that always sticks out in my head is in the first film, where Gandalf battles the Balrog.

It’s the scene where you feel the Fellowship is truly in peril. Trapped in the Mines of Moria, surrounded by orcs, trolls and Balrog alike, there seems to be no way out for the nine companions. Howard Shore’s accompanying score reflects the fight the group puts up, the panic as they try to flee and of course, Gandalf the Greys sacrifice. The painful grief the Hobbits feel as they lie in the snowy mountains, mourning their friend, is made all the more powerful with the final minute of Shore’s score. It’s a piece that pushes you through the same emotional roller-coaster the characters are going through themselves.

Batman 1989: Batman Theme – Danny Elfman

DC hasn’t always had the best run with their films. For every Wonder Woman, there’s a Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice waiting to happen. However, before the threatening shadow of the formidable MCU loomed over them, DC had started to reboot their legendary heroes. In 1989, from the camp ashes of Adam West’s Batman rose Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight – following him, Danny Elfman’s theme.

It was probably a hard image to shake when Tim Burton’s reboot was first announced. Though the comics had started to portray a ruthless, complicated hero, the on-screen version was the antitheses of this (although a lot more fun). In order for the new Batman to shake its predecessors’ goofy image, it needed a few things – a revamped theme being one of them. Elfman’s song understands the weight on Batman’s shoulders and creates a triumphant, heroic song with it. A score that has defined Batman now for at least thirty years, Elfman’s dark, brooding theme set the tone for the many reincarnations that followed (except George Clooney).

Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman Theme – Junkie XL & Hans Zimmer

Speaking of Wonder Woman, the hero reboot was amazing for many reasons, but none more so than the theme that came with her. That electrifying energy that flowed through it almost rippled through the audience, creating a feeling of power even in the ordinary man. The moment that created that emotion, was when she first arrived in the DCEU.

Superman and Batman are struggling in their fight against Doomsday. At one point, Doomsday has Batman cornered. Who should come to save him? The Amazonian herself. As Diana lands in front of the Dark Knight, defending him from the stream of fire Doomsday is spewing at him, her absolutely incredible theme plays, and you almost feel as powerful as the warrior. Listening to it can make you feel invincible like you can finish that ten-minute run or that book you’ve been putting off. Maybe even defeat the God of War. An epic entrance with an epic theme.

Up: Married Life – Michael Giacchio

The beginning of Disney Pixar’s Up is a joyous sequence purely because of how it was played out. Rather than delve into the lives of Carl and Ellie, we were given a glimpse into their marriage. Ellie, an extroverted explorer and Carl, the introvert with the inquisitive spirit, build a house and a life together. We see it all, from the beginning as kids to the very end of Ellie’s. It’s an emotional sequence and the score is no different.

There are no words in this montage, all we have to understand what’s happening on the screen is the body language and actions of the characters as well as the music. The challenge to get the audience to feel connected to the lives of the married couple enough that we also mourn the loss of Ellie was no doubt a difficult one. However, with such gorgeous visuals to guide him, Giacchio created a beautiful score that summed up their unique relationship in the four minutes we have to see it.

Psycho: The Shower Scene – Bernard Hermann

If there is a film that defines Alfred Hitchcock’s career, it would be hard not to argue in favour of Psycho. The 1960 thriller lifted the auteur to new heights – it was, for a time, one of the most frightening movies on the big screen. So what made it so for terrifying for that audience and what makes it so memorable for us? The iconic shower scene, of course, paired with the impeccable score supplied by Bernard Hermann.

The silence in the scene, to begin with, is deafening. Marion Crane is getting ready to shower, after meeting the sweet but undoubtedly creepy, Norman Bates. As soon as the mysterious figure that enters the bathroom opens the shower curtain on poor, vulnerable Crane, you know it’s already too late, due to the fantastic music provided by Hermann that slices through you as easily as the knife. Wild and savage, the string instruments grab hold of that moment in such a way that is unforgettable. That whole scene could have been easily glanced over if it wasn’t for that fantastic piece by Hermann that captured the death of Marion Crane in the violent, desperate act it was.

Also Read: Women In Horror: An Ode To Laurie Strode

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

Don’t Make That: Films That Don’t Need A Sequel/Reboot

May 8, 2019
Goonies Cast

A common complaint is that Hollywood lacks ideas, with everything being either a sequel, prequel, reboot or remake. This doesn’t seem to be stopping with Disney releasing a remake of “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” this year. But there are some films that many people regard as untouchable, that don’t need a remake or even a sequel.

Back To The Future

Doc Brown & Marty (Universal Pictures)

Back to the Future already has two sequels, and the world is forever grateful that the cast and crew remained largely the same throughout the trilogy. Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox’s chemistry in the series is one of the many, many highlights, and would be an almost impossible task for a new pair of actors to replicate. Doing something different wouldn’t feel like “Back to the Future”. If the reboot also travelled 30 years into the past, we’d have Marty Mcfly meeting his parent’s in the ’90s, which has the potential to be funny but wouldn’t really highlight the generational differences between him and his parents as well as the original.

In terms of a sequel, Fox suffers from Parkinson’s disease, so isn’t as active as he used to be, Lloyd is still working regularly and has reprised his role as Emmet Brown, for several tie in and parodies, including the video game. Director, Robert Zemeckis has no plans for a fourth instalment and says part 4 won’t be made until he’s dead.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Lead actors Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara & Alan Ruck (Credit: Craig Duffy)
Lead actors Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara & Alan Ruck (Craig Duffy)

Most of John Hughe’s filmography could fill this list, but the hardest one to imagine a version of in present day is this one. Ferris’ plan to help his best friend Cameron would be much more difficult in the age of mobile phones and the internet, all it would take is one tweet and he would be caught out. While it could be argued that Ferris dodging internet fame would still be interesting, the overall tone and themes of the film, enjoying life, as well as the idea of “having a day off” would be lost if he was constantly dodging cameras.

Interestingly, a sequel has been written, sort of. It reportedly follows a middle-aged Ferris, who is now a life coach, and, yep you guessed it, has another day off. While exploring a 40 something Ferris’ life could be interesting and offer some funny insights into dealing with a mid-life crisis, it’s unlikely it would have the same heart without Hughes, who died in 2009, and would probably just ride the nostalgia of the original.

The Goonies

Goonies Cast
“It’s our time now, down here, in 2023” (Warner Bros)

The Goonies is likewise another example of a film that would never work with today’s technology, mobile phones would ruin dozens of films, as well as the internet. The Goonies putting a doubloon and map on eBay doesn’t make a thrilling adventure film. Even if the film was set in the 80’s everyone would need to be recast, and recreating those iconic kids would be daunting for any young actor, not to mention that it would probably be a franchise with modern action editing. Not to mention the franchise it would spawn

Speaking of franchising, there was talk of a sequel in 2014, but there has been little concrete news about it since. Most of the actors have moved on, either playing much bigger roles (the gang would include Samwise Gamgee and Thanos if they were to reunite) or moved away from acting all together. It could still happen though, after all “Goonies never say die”

Inception

Inception Screenshot - Leonardo DiCaprio
But was he in a dream or not? (Warner Bros)

Christopher Nolan’s 2010 thriller has a cliffhanger ending ripe with for sequel set up- Cobb turns away from his spinning top to be with his children, unsure if he is in a dream. Nolan has never returned to this world, despite the critical and commercial acclaim, but has explained the ending.

Aside from The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan doesn’t do sequels, and Inception is clearly his baby. Despite the world-building, there isn’t really any need for a follow-up, with most questions being answered and character arcs completed.

A reboot could happen, but without Nolan, it likely wouldn’t have the same creativity or brains to it, and would likely be a franchise starter, with each sequel being a different dream heist. It sounds cool, but a lot of what makes “Inception” special is that it’s unique.

Leon: The Professional

Leon : The Professional
American actress Natalie Portman and French actor Jean Reno on the set of the film “Leon”, directed by Luc Besson. (Photo by Patrick CAMBOULIVE/Sygma via Getty Images)

Luc Besson has been responsible for several films that could easily have started a franchise, and tried to. But one that definitely shouldn’t get a sequel is Leon, the story about the unlikely friendship formed between a hitman and an orphaned child. The sequel set up is obvious, with Mathilda wanting to follow in Leon’s footsteps from the beginning, despite his objections.

But his objections are exactly why it doesn’t need a sequel. Although there is little doubt about Natalie Portman’s acting ability, two out of three of the original main characters perished in the final act. Without that central relationship, the film would be a generic action film, which is what a sequel would risk becoming. The alternative is just a rehash of the original, which also doesn’t sound appealing.

Also Read: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

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

The Many Faces Of Andy Serkis

April 30, 2019

Andy Serkis is a man who, oddly for a prolific actor, you may not recognise straight away. But even if you’ve never seen a film of his (and you definitely have) it’s likely you’ve felt the pioneering influence he’s had on Motion Capture (or MoCap) Technology.

Serkis began his career with a series of small roles in series like “The New Statesman” before taking the lead role in “Streetwise”, a drama about bicycle couriers in London. Several other roles followed, including a role as Bill Sykes in a mini-series adaptation of “Oliver Twist”. However, a call from his agent during this time would lead him perhaps his most iconic role- Gollum in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy.

Andy Serkis performing in a motion capture suit, along with a rendering of Gollum

Gollum was always intended to be a digital character, but it’s hard to argue the character would become as iconic as it has without Serkis behind the mo-cap. Inspired by his cat coughing up a furball, he not only created a distinctive voice that people are still doing impressions of over 10 years later but also pioneered motion capture as one of the first fully CGI characters in film. Although not the first (Ahmed Best as the infamous Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” has that honour) Serkis played Gollum as much less humanoid and more like an animal, something that would become a trademark for his career as it progressed.

Origin of Mocap

While Motion Capture is often associated with the likes of Gollum, it’s origins can actually be traced all the way back to 1915. When animator Max Fleischer, who worked on “Betty Boop” and “Popeye”, invented rotoscoping. Rotoscoping involves having an actor perform and then tracing their movements, frame by frame. This makes characters move more fluidly. In the ’60s this progressed, with simple computers able to track movements.

As technology advanced, and computers got faster, this process took less time. More and more industries started using the technology, with it being very useful in medical and sports sciences. With also the gaming industry making huge advances, able to capture and render movements in real time.

Rise of the Motion Captured Apes

After wrapping up his role of Gollum, Serkis had a few other roles, including a Simpson’s cameo. He teamed up with Peter Jackson again in 2005 to play the title role in his King Kong adaptation. Serkis had originally planned for his mo cap performance to be a one-off, but changed his mind when offered the part of Kong.

Serkis as Caeser

Of course, Kong wouldn’t be the only ape Serkis would play, after some more human roles including Nikola Tesla’s assistant in “The Prestige” and voicing a rat. In 2011 he began his role as Caeser, in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” a role he would return to in two sequels, leading an army of mo-cap actors turned apes and even earning talk of an Oscar nomination.

Imaginarium

Serkis continued his mo-cap roles, reprising Gollum for the first instalment of “The Hobbit” trilogy and serving as second unit director for the series. He also starred as Captain Haddock in “The Adventures of Tintin”, which was fully motion captured and animated. And went on to play the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. He’s even added the Marvel franchise to his increasing list of film credits, having had a small role in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, which was expanded in “Black Panther”.

In 2011, he opened “The Imaginarium” a production company with a base in London, equipped with a motion capture studio. Through this, he has helped work on the motion capture for several of his films, as well as working on several video games. His directorial debut “Breathe” was also produced by the studio.

Following on from “Breathe”, Serkis decided to use his knowledge of motion capture to direct “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” a different interpretation of “The Jungle Book” featuring more “artistic license” on the animals who were all created using performance capture. The goal was less realism but have more expression and character to the creatures

As well as directing, Serkis also plays Baloo

Following on from this Serkis is planning to adapt George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in a similar style to “Mowgli” as well as set to reprise his role as Captain Haddock in the rumoured “Tintin” sequels. His work with Imaginarium will also continue and motion capture performances will only improve, as technology gets better and the process becomes more streamlined. It’s only a matter of time before the next big innovation.

And maybe, Andy Serkis will finally earn that Oscar he deserves…

Editorials

Top 5 Stephen King Movies Adaptations

April 28, 2019

Stephen King – a name synonymous with frightening fiction. Though primarily known for writing horror, he’s had an incredible impact on popular culture since he released his first novel in 1974. He is a regular fixture of the New York Times Best Seller list and has influenced generations of creatives in many different mediums. And one medium that certainly has a fascination with King is film.

Stephen King movie adaptations are currently experiencing a resurgence. With IT parts 1 and 2, Pet Sematary (2019), The Dark Tower, Geralds Game and 1922 proving that King’s name can still attract new talent and audiences. But this is no new thing. Film adaptations of King’s work have been a fixture of release schedules ever since the late 1970s.

So today I am going to look at what I consider to be the five best film adaptations of King’s work. But because there’s over four decades worth of material to choose from, to make things more interesting I will be picking only one film per decade. So let’s see which Stephen King adaptations manage to float above the rest.

1970s – Carrie (1976)

Although there aren’t many 70s Stephen King movies to choose from, Brian De Palma’s adaptation of King’s first novel is still a true classic. And deserves mention on any best adaptations list.

Carrie tells the tragic story of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). A shy, introverted girl who is bullied at school and lives under the control of her religiously fanatic mother (Piper Laurie). One day, however, Carrie learns that she has telekinetic abilities. As she begins to discover more about herself her sympathetic classmate (Amy Irving) gets her a date for the school prom. But some of the girls want revenge on her for putting them in detention. Leading to a prom that no one will ever forget.

Carrie is iconic. The prom scene is permanently etched into our culture. But many often forget how good the rest of the movie is. All the performances are incredible. Sissy Spacek is, of course, the standout. She is incredibly sympathetic and easy to relate to as Carrie. But there are so many subtleties to the rest of the performances that make everyone feel real and not like caricatures, which many lesser quality King works often fail to do. Then there’s De Palma’s direction that wrings incredible suspense from every situation and makes everything flow so naturally. Topped off with beautiful visuals and a mesmeric score, you have a movie that set the bar high for all king adaptations to come.

Carrie surrounded by fire in Carrie (1976)

1980s – The Shining (1980)

The 80s is where selecting a single film becomes difficult. Many 80s King adaptations including Stand By Me, Christine and Pet Sematary are remembered fondly. So some may disagree with this selection. Especially given King’s open dislike of this particular adaptation. But for the best 80s Stephen King movie, the honour has to go to The Shining.

The Torrance family are looking after the Overlook hotel for the winter. They have all the food they can eat, space for young Danny (Danny Lloyd) to play and a lot of time for Jack (Jack Nicholson) to work on writing his novel. But as isolation sets in ghostly apparitions start appearing, affecting Jack’s sanity. Eventually, Jack breaks down and decides to “correct” his family, chasing them through the hotel with an axe. With the winter snows closing the place off, can Danny and his mother Wendy (Shelley Duvall) escape?

Like Carrie, I can say nothing about the Shining that hasn’t already been said. King purists will protest its deviations from the source material but for me, it does what good adaptations are supposed to do. Take what works about the source material and add a new distinct voice to it. And you can’t get more distinct than Stanley Kubrick. The film is a marvel of atmosphere. The lingering camera, some of the most disturbing images ever captured on film, the unnerving score, the cold lonely location and performances that feel just a little too real. It all goes together to create a haunting portrait of madness and generational guilt that lingers in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

Jack Nicholoson’s iconic turn as Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980)

1990s – The Shawshank Redemption

Again the 90s had several films that could have filled this spot. Including Green Mile, Misery or the IT mini-series. But I would be lying if I didn’t put The Shawshank Redemption in this spot on the list.

Red (Morgan Freeman) is a prisoner at Shawshank penitentiary. He’s spent a long time inside. But despite his placid nature, he’s never made parole. He seems to be ready to just run out the clock in Shawshank. But when he meets Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), he begins to rediscover what it means to feel human again. Only Andy doesn’t intend to stay inside. With the corrupt system poised against them will the two men ever be able to find a way to escape the harsh reality of Shawshank?

The Shawshank Redemption is not only a testament to King’s adeptness at writing in genres other than horror, but it’s also one of the most beloved movies of all time. It has held the number 1 position on IMDb’s top 250 films since 2008 and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a film that takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride. The story of escaping the prisons we make for ourselves is one that we can all relate to. All the actors are also fantastic. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman give career-best performances and manage to make you empathize with criminals of dubious moral fibre, Which is no small task. And when combined with Frank Darabont’s confident direction and incredible character interplay, the result is a genuine classic, that will enchant many generations to come.  

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins giving the best performances of their careers in The Shawshank Redemption

2000s – The Mist

This is both Frank Darabont’s second appearance on this list and yet another no brainer for the time period. After Darabont’s success adapting Green Mile and Shawshank he proved himself yet again as possibly the best director to put King on the screen with The Mist.

The Mist concerns a family in a small Maine town. One day the town is engulfed by thic fog. Which wouldn’t normally be a problem but inside the fog are otherworldly creatures intent on killing all in their path. The family hold up in a supermarket with most of the town and what follows is a two-hour meditation on the nature of humanity in crisis.

The main reason why the Mist is so effective is because it keeps it simple. For most of the movie, we are trapped inside the supermarket with our main characters. And as the film progresses we slowly learn more about them and the situation. This intrigue coupled with the tension brought by the agendas of the other captives and the monsters outside helps keep the audience on the edge of their seat as the movie heads towards an ending that will play on your mind for a long time.

Poster for The Mist

2010s – IT (2017)

As the 2000’s went on King film adaptations began to decrease. His stories became more the domain of TV shows. But in 2017 King came back in a big way with two Netflix original movies (Geralds Game & 1922) and two theatrical releases (IT & The Dark Tower). And of those releases, IT was definitely the most significant.

It concerns a group of friends called the losers club. Over the course of one summer, we follow Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, Stan, Mike and Bev as they form lasting friendships with one another and battle the dark forces that hide in their home town of Derry. All of which are linked to a child-snatching spectre. Which mostly manifests in the form of Pennywise the dancing clown (Bill Skarsgard).

IT accomplished a lot. Not only did it prove that a remake can in many ways improve on its predecessor. But it also proved to be a very fun movie in its own right. With fantastic performances from the child cast, inventive ideas and cinematography and an incredibly creepy turn from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise who managed to equal the iconic nature of Tim Curry’s performance from the 1990 mini-series. IT also managed to tap into the nostalgic magic that made properties like Stranger Things popular. And acted as both an affectionate tribute to and critique of people’s nostalgic memories for the 1980s; because of IT we can look forward to many more adaptations of King’s work on the big screen.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in IT (2017)

Conclusion

So ends our list of the top 5 Stephen King movie adaptations. As I said many times throughout this list, it was incredibly hard to narrow down my choices when there are so many good movies based on Stephen King’s books. So please let me know your opinions.

Do you agree with my choices? What are some of your favorite King films that I missed? Sometimes, other opinions are better.

Editorials

The Movie Villains Who Nailed It (And Those Who Didn’t) – Part Four [Star Wars]

April 21, 2019
Supreme Leader Snoke

Back by popular demand but better than the fourth Indiana Jones film is the next instalment in our ‘Villains’ series, where I share my thoughts on which movie bad guys have been worth the wait, and which have been a big ol’ let down.

So far, I’ve put villains from the Harry Potter, James Bond and Marvel series under the microscope – this time around, I’ll turn my attention to the glorious and often polarising space opera saga that is Star Wars (and I’ll do my level best not to geek out too much in the process).

Before I get into it, though, here’s an important disclaimer: there are a TON of heroes and villains in the Star Wars universe and while it would be fun to compare a baddie from the prequel trilogy with someone in Rogue One, it may not be entirely fair, especially if their character spans more than one trilogy and we have more time to love or hate them. So I’m going to stick with the new trilogy on this occasion. 

Also, the new trailer for The Rise of Skywalker dropped as I was writing this and almost made me go in a completely different direction on this one (that laugh…!), but I decided to stick with my original choice in the end.

Part four: Star Wars Villains (Sequel Trilogy)

Kylo Ren – heir apparent to Lord Vader indeed

Kylo Ren

I love Kylo Ren. I love Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. I love J.J. Abrams for making Kylo Ren such a badass in The Force Awakens, and Rian Johnson for developing his character in the right way in The Last Jedi. He was probably the best thing about both movies.

Remember the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens? Andy Serkis snarling “There has been an awakening…have you felt it? The Dark Side, and the Light.”

There’s a shot in that teaser that hit the cutting room floor of Kylo Ren igniting his crossguard lightsabre in the snowy woods on Starkiller Base. That was the beginning of the Kylo Ren hype that never really let up at all, even after he took off his mask to reveal the wavy dark locks of Adam Driver (I know a few people who hated that). Here was a villain deliberately modelled on Darth Vader, complete with his own distorted voice and hidden visage.

What I love about Kylo is the fact that we never really know just how good or bad he actually is, or whether or not he’s truly as powerful as other characters in the films keep telling us. At the end of The Force Awakens, he screams “TRAITOR!” at John Boyega’s Finn (something akin to Anakin’s “I HATE YOU!” shriek at Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith), reminding us that he’s still quite young and lacking in self-control – he’s also just murdered his own father at this point, so the capacity for evil is definitely there. And yet in The Last Jedi, he often seems just as conflicted as Rey, even veering tantalisingly towards the Light at times.

Ultimately, it’s all a mirroring of Vader, making Kylo Ren the first truly worthy successor to the heavy-breathing Dark Lord of the Sith. And like Vader, as The Rise of Skywalker approaches, we still have no real idea which way this particular Force-wielding villain is going to go in the end. As it should be.

Supreme Leader Snoke – just a red herring?

Supreme Leader Snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke

I thought Rian Johnson did a fantastic job with Snoke. Abrams hadn’t given us much to go on other than a gloomy-looking hologram with a booming voice, but Johnson wasted no time in revealing the First Order’s Big Bad shortly after the opening scene of The Last Jedi. Snoke’s fairly hideous appearance, given life by the brilliant Andy Serkis, was pretty much what I’d been hoping for. I also loved the fact that his throne room was mostly bright and red, and Snoke himself wore gold-coloured clothing instead of the usual black ensemble.

And I genuinely loved the moment when Kylo Ren sliced his master in two – it was totally unexpected and completely threw the audience at the time.

However, I was gutted that we never discovered who the heck the Supreme Leader actually was. Like many fans, I’d spent months trying to work out who he was: Palpatine? Darth Plagueis? Mace Windu (yes, someone actually suggested that!).

So when the credits finally rolled and we were no closer to finding out who he was or why he wanted to take over the galaxy, I felt a little cheated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the positive end of Star Wars fans regarding The Last Jedi, but I’d wanted some answers and hadn’t gotten anyway. Maybe we’ll find out in the final instalment who Snoke was, but I fear that ship has sailed.

The bottom line

I don’t think many Star Wars fans would argue that Kylo Ren isn’t a great villain. He has all the makings of a classic cinematic figure on the cusp of a satisfying character arc completion (I hope!), and the trailer shots of his mask being repaired got me even more excited for The Rise of Skywalker than I already had been (he’s cooler with the mask on, right?). On Snoke, I wanted some answers and Rian Johnson didn’t throw any my way, so I can never really feel at peace with that one.

Here’s to a satisfying end to the greatest movie saga of all time!

Read the rest of “The Movie Villains Who Nailed It” series:

Part 1: Harry Potter

Part 2: James Bond

Part 3: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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.