Thursday, December 21, 2017

Overwatch: "Rise and Shine"









I've mentioned these Overwatch shorts before.

I really like them.

For the click-hesitant, Overwatch is a popular video game. It's play-style is described as a team-based online first-person shooter. That means you and a group of randos and friends run around and shoot at strangers endlessly, all while 12 year boys and lonely libertarian weirdos scream profanity at you. It might be this year's Game of the Year.

I've never played it. I probably won't. Titanfall 2 is much better.

So, it's been awhile since the last one of these came out, long enough that I started to wonder if maybe the whole series was done. I'm glad to see they're back. These shorts are usually pretty fun.  I'm a fan of it's Post-Age of Heroes/Super Hero/Secret War/Spy type setting. Plus, I'm interested to see if there really is a larger narrative at play here. The previous shorts have all kind of gone back and forth on whether or not there was main story going on, a "good guys coming out retirement to counter a new threat" kind of thing, and that's what I really want. I'm a big fan of this type of animation, and I'd like to see a feature in this style. To me, this type of animation is the key to some of Marvel's crazier stories. I was super-excited to see that a Miles Morales/Spider-man animated film is on the way, and I love the style too, but I'm hoping for more of a series of something more along these lines. It certainly fits. DC did a fun Post-Apocalyptic one for its online game, and and of course, the Star Wars Old Republic trailers were pretty great too. So, is my rambling way of saying that my hope is these Overwatch shorts are telling a larger story. We'll see, I guess.

This one is called Rise and Shine.

Besides telling their little stories, the previous short films have all acted as character introductions as well, featuring such playable options as generic action guy, Soldier 76, or lame-gamer power fantasy, The Reaper, or perhaps the weirdly over-designed "hacker" character, Sombra, or maybe the fan favorite manic pixie dream girl, Tracer, or... Winston, the talking gorilla.



This short film is no different. It features Mei, a Chinese climatologist and adventurer equipped with a cold gun and portable climate-manipulation technology of her own design. She also has a little floating robot buddy named Snowball.


Here's the synopsis: In a remote Antartic Research Station, Mei wakes up years after being cryogenically frozen to find that the world is very different than the one she knows, Overwatch has been disbanded, and she is the last surviving scientist at the station, alone, and seemingly trapped. With limited resources and time, Mei must use science to figure out a way to get help.

Let's watch...



That was nice.

It was funny. It was cute. It was definitely different in tone and intent from the usual thing these short films do. Mostly in that this one was generally pretty light on action (and "science" but it seems silly to point that out after the first one featured a talking gorilla on the moon...), but the good news is (at least for me), this short film does circle back to the larger narrative, as we see Mei receive Winston's message from one of the first short films, the one called Recall, and that why she decides to get back to the world and get back in the action. Admittedly, that's not much of a thread, but hey... it's better than nothing.

Also, I'm glad Snowball survived.

The story lives!
Jon

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

AMP






Today's short film is called AMP.

This is the first film Written and Directed by Adam Mariset. Before this, he worked on tons of really well-known films and TV shows in the visual effects department, which I've found to be a surprisingly common path for a lot of genre sort film creators. I'm not sure why, but a lot of them seem to have this background. Either way, this would explain why AMP's effects look so good.

Also, this short was made for only $5000.00.

Let's hope that isn't glaringly apparent...

The synopsis: 10 years after leaving a war his father started, Quinn and Amp live in the slums selling illegal custom-tech just to afford the batteries that keep Amp alive. When an old childhood friend tracks him down, Quinn is confronted with the dilemma of choosing to remain idle in a city run by the corrupt Coreley Corporation or finally finish the war he never wanted to be a part of.

Sounds all right. Let's take a look.



So... there's a lot of issues going on with this one, right?

The now closed (and sadly, sadly underfunded) Indiegogo for a Feature film attempt at AMP mentions that the "one thing they were missing" during the development process was a script... and that's exactly the type of shit doomed-from-the-start projects think of as unimportant. It's also the only Red Flag you ever really need to know that this short film isn't going to amount to much beyond some cool effects.

And it didn't.

I mean, I appreciate that they were aiming for a true short story type of short film, one that is pretty self-contained but comes with an open-ended "To Be Continued...?" kind of feel. Unfortunately, the writing is as paint-by-numbers cliched as you can get, and as a result, everything felt like a plug-and-play template. It was just too generic. That, coupled with the stiff acting really ends up taking this\\e whole short film out at the knees.

The guy played Commander Steel in Legends of Tomorrow, and the woman played one of the island prisoners on Arrow, I think she was the sister of the guy Arrow drowned in one of the flashbacks... just fyi. It's really a testament to the skill of the people behind the various CW/DC shows that these two both had multiple episode roles, and yet didn't seem as stiff and lost there as they do here.

Anyway, judging by some of the Concept art in the credits, AMP's biggest sin is a pretty common among genre short films, so common that it's almost a feature, and not a bug. Looking at the Concept Art, it looks like AMP started from a place that reached beyond its means, narrative-wise, fight choreography-wise, set-wise, budget-wise, on and on and on, which meant compromises, compromises, and more compromises... When you only have $5000, you're not going to be able to pull of a scene like this...


But hey... at least the robot looked pretty great.

In the end, it looks like AMP rushed to production too quickly without filling in the missing pieces. Bottom line: They should've had a script ready. There's no excuse for not doing so. A decent script, some good lighting, and a little bit of fight choreography can make or break a project like this, without any of that, all AMP had was an awesome robot.

It wasn't enough.

Jon

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

97%







Today's short film is called 97%.

It's a largely wordless film, which is good, because I don't speak Dutch (among other languages...). It was written by Thomas van der Ree, who has written a lot of European TV I'm not familiar with, and it was directed by Ben Brand, a name that sounds familiar to me, but I can't place why... One thing I do know, I'm certainly going to track down his first feature film, Find This Dumb Little Bitch And Throw Her Into The River, which was released earlier this year. 

I think it's a Romantic Comedy.

Anyway, here's the synopsis to 97%: Via an app on his phone, Bert discovers that a 97% love match is near. Will he be able to find her before the subway train reaches the final station?

Sounds cute and quirky, let's check it out.



Well, what do you know...? That was cute and quirky.

I liked that. I liked that it was so focused and concise. I liked that there was a little message in there about seeing what's in front of you, instead of endlessly chasing after the unknown, and I really liked how that message wasn't overly-romanticized, and the character wasn't rewarded in the end for shrugging off the silly new ways in favor of making an old-fashioned connection. 

This was smart and funny and cute.

Give it a watch,
Jon


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Infinity War: Thanos and the Black Order






So, yeah... I'm pretty excited.

This is a big deal for me. Ten years in the making. Seventeen different films. And finally, last week, the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War was released and, well... I loved it. I loved it with the burning passion of a thousand undying suns. This should surprise no one, because I love comics. It is known. I write about them. I rank them. I take pictures of them. I even read them on occasion.

I also watch the movies based on them.

There's a lot at the moment.


And when it comes to superhero comic book films--a few outliers aside--for me, the MCU consistently makes the best blockbusters around. By which I mean, they're generally decent adventure films with some fun, some drama, and some explosions, and all with some likable characters and entertaining set pieces. They're not without their flaws, of course, and they're definitely corporate-owned properties specifically built to be an important part of a massive multi-platform, cross-demographic, money-making machine, but honestly, this reality, coupled with the fact that they are as consistently decent as they are, makes them all the more laudable to me. It's one thing to be a cog in a soulless corporate-driven marketing effort, it's quite another to actually succeed at creating something fun and enjoyable while doing it.

So, they have that going for them.

That's not even mentioning the massive framework that is the Marvel Cinematic Shared Universe. The fact that it works at all, with so many moving pieces, is amazing. And it does work. Case in point, we're here today due to the result of a ten year, seventeen film story. Sure, they don't all fit perfectly, but they do fit generally, and that kind of coordination, all while in motion, with that much money on the line, and that many people involved, is really pretty amazing. Because of this, Marvel Studios prints money.

And everybody wants that Golden Goose.

They all want it, but no other studio has pulled it off yet. I love DC comics too, and I love the idea of them making their own version, but the reality is, they tried and they failed big time. Their attempt at a Shared Universe has resulted in a mess of garbage and crap. I'll be surprised if it lasts another couple of films. And then there's The Dark Universe, the attempt to link the famous Universal Monsters of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and on and on. The result? Dead on arrival. Tom Cruise killed it. Technically, the jury is still out on the Giant Monsters Shared Universe, we'll see how King Kong versus Godzilla goes, but... it's iffy. In fact, I bet that crap big screen version of Rampage is what tanks those plans. As for Star Wars, it isn't a Shared Universe at all, it's just a single story line that is being expanded on forever and ever and ever and ever and fucking ever...

Only Marvel has pulled it off, and they did it by accidentally making a movie people really loved. Ten years ago, they took Iron Man, a basically unknown D-tier, perennial team player and also-ran character as a shot-in-the-dark film starring an actor most people thought of as washed-up, and they wound up making RDJ a world-wide mega-superstar, and Iron Man as recognizable as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Maybe more so, depending on the generation...

All of the other Shared Universe attempts have skipped that oh-so important step of making one actually good movie first... then building from there. They don't have the patience, or the love.

And it shows.


Now here we are... Avengers: Infinity War.

Here's the synopsis: The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

Wow. Okay, I mean, I really am all in for this film, but... that is a super shitty synopsis. I get that they don't want to spoil anything, but... "before his blitz of devastation and ruin"? What the fuck is that?

Anyway...

Who is Thanos?


We've talked about this before...

Thanos is basically the big bad guy who has been lurking at the edge of everything since the end of the Avengers. You've seen him in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. He's Gamorra and Nebula's asshole adoptive father, the one that turned them into assassins.

He's the guy in the floating chair.


Thanos is known as the Mad Titan.

He's a genocidal tyrant. He's like Space Stalin. He kills planets. He destroys entire species. He talks during movies. He knocks your ice cream out of your hand when you're not paying attention. He takes his sweet-ass time backing out of his parking spot, even though he knows you're waiting for it. He's evil, people. EVIL. He wants nothing more than to wipe us all out and rule over the ashes. 



Thanos's big thing is he wants these specific objects, things you've probably heard of by now, known as the Infinity Stones. They are things of great, great power, and when all six of them are used to bedazzle this golden gauntlet called--wait for it--the Infinity Gauntlet, then the very pillars of heaven quake, let me assure you. The Infinity Gauntlet, with all of the Infinity Stones, basically gives the wielder total and complete power over everything. Total power. You could wipe out planets with a thought, if you wanted to, so it's pretty much the last thing in the entire universe you would want a crazy-ass, bloody-minded, psychotic Space Tyrant to get ahold of.

 

But why does Thanos want this? What is it that drives him?

That answer is easy, my friends, for it is the same thing that has powered so many other stories. In a word... Amore. Yes, it's true, Thanos has been bitten by the love bug. The big purple space tyrant is in love. He only has eyes for one female personification of a concept, and that female personification of a concept is Death. You heard me. He's in love with Death. Not the idea of death, or with causing death, Thanos is in love with the female personification of the concept of Death. Thanos' girlfriend is Death. And to answer what is obviously your second question: Yes, she does have boobs. She's a skeleton with boobs. It's super embarrassing.

I hate sharing these things with you all.


I don't know if any of this will be in the movie.

Here's the best news of all. Currently in the MCU, Hellcat appears in Netflix's Jessica Jones, and the cube is, of course, the Tesseract, that was seen in the first Captain America movie, and then in the first Avenger's film, and then most recently in the last Thor film... so now the only thing missing from the MCU... is the Thanoscopter.


Y'see, he puts his name on the helicopter so that he knows which one is his after maybe a day-trip to the mall, or maybe a mid-day movie, or perhaps a nice night out at the local Olive Garden.

Anyway...

Who are The Black Order?




These folks are basically Thanos' main captains. They're killer-dillers. They're bad news. Corvus Glaive is the leader. He has the basic super-power package: speed, strength, resistance, blah, blah, blah. He takes his name from his weapon, a type of polearm called a glaive. The blade is unnaturally sharp, and as long as it is whole, Corvus can survive anything. He is married to Proxima Midnight. Like Corvus, she also has your basic super-power set. Her spear was made by Thanos, which is something he does, I guess. The Ebony Maw isn't a fighter at all, instead he is a devious trickster with an irresistible power of persuasion. Finally, the Black Dwarf is Corvus' brother. He's super strong and pretty invulnerable. He's basically their Hulk. I expect the four of them to fan out and each snatch an Infinity Stone for Thanos, because they're pretty bad ass.

But that being said, they're also kind of disposable, so more than anything, I expect them to die. After all, they aren't really all that interesting of characters, they're more like murder machines, so they'll show up, do some damage, and then they'll get put down. It should be fun.

Also, just fyi, a character named Supergiant is the fifth member of the Black Order in the comics, but apparently they were cut from the film. No big loss.

Anyway...

Where are the Infinity Stones?


For now...

Eagle-eyed readers might notice that only five of the six Stones have been located. Vision has the Mind Stone (from Loki's Scepter). Dr. Strange has the Time Stone (The Eye of Agamotto). The Nova Corps have the Power Stone (The Orb). The Collector has the Reality Stone (The Aether). And Loki has the Space Stone (Tesseract), and he was last seen out in deep space with a massive and  really threatening-looking space ship looming over his much smaller space ship...

But where is the Soul Stone, the one that allows the user to steal, control, manipulate, and alter living and dead souls, the one that grants the user control over all life in the universe?

I don't know, but I do have a theory...


Let's watch the trailer.



That is so great. I love it.

I'm so ready.
Jon



Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tragedy Girls







TRAGEDY GIRLS has been on my radar for awhile. I'm really excited about it. Normally, I try to post these before the film's release, but I think I might have missed that window here. I'm not sure. The Internet claims it was released on October 20th, but I don't remember it being out in wide release, and the only reviews I've read were all from Festivals.

It doesn't matter.

I'm still excited to see it, and if we missed it in theatres, then we can watch it in VOD, right? Right. So, Tragedy Girls is directed by Tyler MacIntyre, from the script he and Chris Lee Hill wrote. This duo has worked on stuff together before now, but I haven't seen any of it, so I can't really comment on on any of that, except to say that this film looks awesome Luckily, one thing I can comment on, are the stars Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp, because they're...


This doesn't mean anything really, I just thought it was kind of funny.

Here's the synopsis: A twist on the slasher genre, following two death-obsessed teenage girls who use their online show about real-life tragedies to send their small mid-western town into a frenzy and cement their legacy as modern horror legends.

Huh.

Okay, now, I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've definitely watched the trailer, and I've got to tell you... that synopsis sounds like it's technically right, but it also seems like it's skirting the real meat of the script. I mean, from the trailer, it looks like the girls start killing people too, right?

I guess we'll have to wait to find out...



Weird.... The trailer says 10/20 too. Did I really miss it?

I'm so disappointed.

Anyway, how god damn great is that trailer? I love it. It looks dark and funny and smart, there's a ton of great beats, and the two characters are totally killing people and using it to exploit their own Internet fame, right? Why the hell doesn't the synopsis mention that? It's obviously not a spoiler, if it's in the trailer. Regardless, this looks like a ton of fun. The two stars have so much charisma and such great timing. I'm really looking forward to checking it out.

Keep an eye out,
Jon