Thursday, June 29, 2017

Spider-man: Homecoming









Today's film is Spider-man: Homecoming.

I'm a long time Marvel-head. This is no big secret. That's not to say that I don't like DC or Image books, or any of the smaller publishers out there either, I definitely do. In fact, I'm currently reading more titles from Image than anything else, but when it comes to good old, traditional capes and punching superhero comics, I'm a Marvel guy.

Always have been.


So, as a result, the films of the MCU have been nothing but gravy for me. I think they're the best you can ask for when it comes to global market, big budget, corporate conglomerate owned IP, mega-franchise, action blockbuster cinema. There's a lot of outside pressure when it comes to making these things, and without a doubt, Marvel has the best track record, and as a result, the best "shared universe" franchise going. The DCCU and new Star Wars films don't even come close.

But like I said, I'm a fan.


All that having been said, out of all the Marvel properties, I've never been that into Spider-man.


I'm aware of the character, of course, I know what's going on with his books, you can't be a fan of comics without having at least a vague awareness of current Spider-man. Outside of Batman and Superman, he might the most famous comic characters in the world. He's certainly Marvel's biggest marquee name. But even so, I don't read his books, at least, not the main books... I did read the Ultimate version religiously (which I loved, in fact, I think it was consistently the best mainstream superhero title month after month for over a decade), and I even wrote a little bit about it on occasion, a long time ago.

That title, Ultimate Spider-man, that was an alternate version of the "real" Spider-man. They both existed at the same time, they're the same character, but they aren't the same person. There were two Peter Parker's in two different universes, and one "counted" more than the other.


(Psst... The Ultimate Line was a group of titles published by Marvel comics that were separate from the main universe of characters. The titles featured alternate versions of all of the well-known characters, but they were a little updated for the modern day. It was very successful for over a decade, then it kind of sputtered out, and now all of those titles are gone. In fact, the entire Ultimate Universe was destroyed when the Multiverse collapsed in the ramp up to the Secret Wars mini-series, which was great. I wrote about it here.)

Whatever... never mind.

It doesn't matter. I'm sorry to have to say such nonsense things to you...


While I loved the Sam Raimi Spider-man films, especially the second one, I thought the reboot Amazing Spider-man films by Marc Webb were terrible. And the second one was even worse than the first. They weren't just bad, they were inept, and shockingly so too. But this didn't really upset me, because I'm not invested in the character at all.

Because he's not my guy, y'see?


So, anyway, while the Marvel films were getting off the ground and starting to have some success and beginning to cross-over with each other, there were always a contingent of people who were upset that Sony held the rights to Spider-Man, and not Marvel (as a result of some bad deals and a bankruptcy a few decades ago). They were upset, because this meant that the character would never appear in an MCU film, because Marvel was its own successful studio pretty quickly, with money and power and leverage, and studios are like small children, they hate to share.

Me? I was okay with this.


Like I said above, Spider-man, along with the Fantastic Four and the X-Men characters, has always been one of the big marquee names. He's always cast a long shadow over characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of Avengers, basically all of the characters the MCU was using to find success, and I thought it was nice to see some of those more lesser known and less obvious characters get a little time in the sun. The MCU was working. It was doing fine.

Honestly, as far as I was concerned, the MCU didn't need Spider-man.


But then some shit happened.

There was some hacking and some bad movies and some even worse corporate decisions. Sony took some big hits. Marvel moved in like a shark smelling blood in the water, and out of nowhere, suddenly a deal was made, and Spider-Man was back in the MCU. They recast him, slipped him into Captain America: Civil War, and he was great. Really great.


Now, he's got a movie all his own coming out, with Marvel and Sony sharing the character. Who saw that coming? I guess money really does conquer all

The Director of this film is Jon Watts, who directed Cop Car in 2015, which I loved. In fact, it almost made my Best of the Year list. So that makes me happy. The writers, on the other hand, I don't recognize any of them--there's eight of them--and I'm not a fan of pretty much any of their credits. That makes me a little nervous. Plus, they give Stan Lee and Steve Ditko a writing credit, which I get, but come on, guys... fucking brown-nosers...

Here's the synopsis: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine -- distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

I'm ready. I'm so ready, I decided to post below a couple of the literal hundreds of different trailers they have put out in the marketing ramp-up for this film's release.

Let's watch...




Charming, right?

I think so. I also think it looks like Spider-man, in all the right ways. That's exciting. Even better, it looks like they're drawing heavily off of Ultimate Spider-man, which is good to see, and not all that surprising, since a lot of the MCU's designs and character decisions were originally pulled from the Ultimate line. So, that's cool. Plus, the buzz is really good. People are liking it. To the surprise of no one, perhaps, I'm looking forward to this film.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING opens on July 7th.

Jon


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baby Driver









Today's film is called Baby Driver.

Right off the bat, let me just say... I agree, it's not a great title. Honestly, it's a big obstacle for me. I hate it. It's not fun to say, and it gives such an incorrect picture as to what the film is about, I bet it even hurts the film a little at the box office. I also hate the fact that the main character is named Baby too as a result. In fact, I hate that even more. It just bugs me. I really hope there's a clever reason for that really stupid name. I assume there is, because this is an Edgar Wright film, and that means clever is the name of the game, but still... just terrible...

I love Edgar Wright. His films are fantastic. Shaun of the Dead? Hot Fuzz? The World's End? The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy are legendary. And then there's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and his old BBC TV show Spaced. I love them. They're right up my alley. Geeky, funny good times. 

I like his writing. It's witty and sharp and insightful. His scripts are tight, self-referential, and often double back on themselves, the first and second half usually mirroring themselves. He's fantastic at weaving strong, relatable themes within outrageous action and comedy. His directing is fast and colorful and exciting too. His films are often not just parodies of certain movies, but also films that are at the same time fantastic examples of that particular genre. Meaning, he doesn't just make fun of zombie movies, he makes a helluva good zombie movie.

In a nutshell, he's good stuff.

And now, he's got a new film out, or, soon, at least... And, unfortunate title aside, I am super excited. Unfortunately, the synopsis is not that great. Much like yesterday's post, there's multiple versions, depending where you go, but they're all kind of crappy...

Here's IMDB's version: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. 

It seems like they're leaving out a big aspect here...

Here's Wikipedia's version: A young and talented getaway driver named Baby relies on the personal beat of his preferred soundtrack, to be the best in the world of crime, as music heightens his focus and reflexes to extreme levels. A car accident as a child killed both his parents, and left him with permanent tinnitus, which he blocks out using music. He is preferred as a driver by Doc, a mastermind organizer of bank robberies and other high-earning heists. 

Ah, Wikipedia, nothing like being written by amateur committee...

Let's just watch the trailer...


One last job...

I love it. I'm a sucker for heist films. I'm also a sucker for fancy driving/car chase movies, and this one appears to not only have both, but it looks like it's set to a lively rhythm as well.

Nice bonus.

Spacey seems a little bombastic, sure, but then, that's Spacey, so that's what you get when you cast him. It's always good to see Jon Bernthal and Jon Hamm in something. Jamie Foxx... I'm not that hot on him, but I don't dislike him either. Eiza Gonzalez is an unknown quantity for me, but I see she's going to be in Robert Rodriguez's Battle Alita next year, otherwise known as "2018's Ghost in the Shell", so at least she'll have this to fall back on afterwards. Lily James? A quick googling shows that I've seen stuff with her in it, but I don't remember her at all. There's probably a reason for that. And finally, the main kid? Ansel Elgort? He's also unknown, and I'm definitely a little iffy on him. I mean, look at him... he looks like an overgrown 8 year old.

But... I trust Edgar Wright. He's made a lot of good stuff, so I trust him. You should too.

BABY DRIVER opens on June 28th.

Don't miss it,
Jon


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Big Sick




Today's film is called THE BIG SICK.

This film is a romantic comedy in the classic vein. Awkward boy meets awkward girl. Awkward love ensues, only to be interrupted by an awkward problem, but at the last moment, the awkward lovers figure out that they're meant to be, so a hurried and awkward last minute public demonstration of said awkward love happens, which finally cements the duo together, and then we get a sweet final awkward bit of hilarity meant to assure us, the audience, of the awkward couples' re-established and continued love, on and on, forever and ever. The End. Everyone sighs happily.

Obviously, it's a winning formula. Okay, sure, if they're not done right, these types of films can be a bit sappy, trite, and cliched, but THE BIG SICK's secret weapon is that it has the added twist of being based off the true life love story of the writers, and lead actor, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. So, even if it is a bit sappy, trite, and cliched, it's real life stuff, so... doesn't count.

I know what you're thinking... Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon? Who?


Emily has worked on shows, produced shows, and generally worked behind the scenes on stuff. You may have seen her occasionally on talk shows and food/home shows. Kumail has been in TV shows and movies. He's an actor, voice actor, stand-up comedian, and writer. Together, the pair had a podcast about Gaming called The Indoor Kids. They're Hollywood people that have lived and worked in the Industry for awhile now, so that's why their first film is directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Actually, it's probably not all that surprising that Judd Apatow produced this, as he seems to produce everything that doesn't have superheroes, explosions, or monsters in it.

The film also stars Holly Hunter, who is awesome, Ray Romano, an actor who I try not to hold their old sitcom against, and Zoe Kazan, who is charming, but was in Ruby Sparks, which is one of the most execrable movies ever made, and it's really hard for me to forget that.

...God damn, I hate that movie...

Anyway, all of that aside, I'm interested. This film looks good. Plus, the word on the street is all pretty positive.

The synopsis, however, are terrible.

Here's IMDB's: A couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows. That's it? Somebody needs to be fired for giving so little of a shit.

Here's Wikipedia's: The Big Sick is based on the real courtship of Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife, Emily Gordon. Kumail's traditional Pakistani Muslim family is unhappy with his relationship with Emily, a White American. When Emily is waylaid by a mysterious illness, Kumail must take charge of the crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry, whom he barely knows. That's a little better, but even a single watch of the trailer shows how incomplete that is.

You know what? Let's just watch the trailer...


See? That's cute, right?

There seems to be a good balance of comedy and drama going on here, as most "based on real life" stories should. I like how it's about a mixed race/mixed culture couple. I like that it's unapologetically sweet, and with more than a little bit of anger just below the surface. I like that it seems sincere. More and more, with Nazis and bigots in the White House, and a Legislature that is actively trying to kill off citizens, a little sweet positivity is just the type pf thing we need.

THE BIG SICK opened this past weekend, so it might be playing for some of you, and it might not be playing for others. It's in Limited Release now, and that means it did pretty well for only being in a few theatres, so if it's not playing near you, hopefully it'll come to your area soon.

Until then... Look for it. Go see it.

Jon


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hello World :)



Today's short film is called Hello World :)

Yep, with the emoji. 

This short film was made in France, by students apparently. Rafael Mathe and Etienne Larraguetta directed it, and Etienne Larraguetta and Arnaud de Cazes wrote it. This is their first short film. Now, the fact that this is both French, and that it was made by students, well... that can go either way, good or bad, in my experience. French short films often have other priorities than a coherent story, and student short films often have a lot in common with student drivers, skittish and wild, and barely in control. Sometimes. Often. Occasionally.

I've also seen a few articles describe this movie as a "Hacker film". In France, Cyberpunk isn't completely dead yet, apparently. The title actually refers to a program of the same name called Hello, World! See? Computer shit. Bleeding Edge. Hack the Planet!


Anyway, here's the synopsis: In a close future, a private company developed a technology aimed at boosting our brain capacity. But it requires from its clients to store their memory data on one single server. In this highly controlled world, a young woman has the power to change things. 

That's a pretty vague synopsis, but I'm going to blame the language barrier.

Let's watch...



Well, that felt very... French. It looked really French too.

Honestly, I'm surprised there was no parkour.

I kid, I kid... that was actually better than I thought. Not great, but not bad either. The surveillance leaping from person to person was a nice effect. Especially when the authorities were hunting for the Mustang. That was clever. The ending was pretty rushed though, because the film was pretty uneven. The pacing, the narrative... they spent a lot of time in the front half moving pieces around and setting things up and talking and posing and talking and posing and smoking cigarettes in that very French way, and as a result, I'm not really sure what happened at the end. How did the catatonic old guy suddenly became not catatonic, and was then able to upload his program? And it's a program that does what exactly? Frees everyone? Why? How were they oppressed? It was nice looking and well put together, but the story was too flawed to be able to blame it on a language/cultural barrier. I guess that's student films... never really fully in control.

After the last couple of films, the flaws in this one are probably more apparent than it would be on it own, but for a first time try, not too bad.

C'est la vie,
Jon

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monsters





Today's short film is called MONSTERS.

The film is Directed by Steve Desmond, who also wrote it with Michael Sherman. According to their IMDBs, they're very active short film scene people, but this is the first time I've heard of either of them. Blame me, not them. So anyway, as a result, I don't have a lot to say about either of them or their work, but the initial information I've found on this short film does seem promising.

Don't believe me, check out the synopsis: Jenn lives in an underground bunker with her family, protected from the monsters that now ravage the world. This is the day that she goes outside…

Underground bunker? Monsters? Venturing outside for the first time? 

Awesome. Let's watch...



Classic. Loved it.

This was just your basic Twilight Zone-like short film. There's a twist, a good twist. There were a couple of good twists, actually. MONSTERS keeps you guessing, but it doesn't try to make itself seem too clever either. I appreciate how they used your expectations to pull you into each new reveal, but for all of the twists the film does contain, it's still a pretty straight-forward horror/sci-fi tale. I liked that.

Sure, if you want to give yourself a trophy, you can probably say that you saw at least some of it coming. Good for you, you spotted some classic twists that have been in a thousand short stories and TV shows. The point is, MONSTERS did a good job of it... even though it kind of looked like a TV episode. Whatever, doesn't matter. The actors did a great job. The script was well-written, I don't know how much rewatch value something like this might have, but that's not really a big issue, because the initial viewing at least was a lot of fun.

I'm a big fan of self-contained short films with tight narratives, and this one was definitely a good example of that. That having been said, this film was one of the few times where I'd definitely watch more of this world. It felt a lot like a PURGE-type world to me. I like that, so I'm interested in seeing more of what's going on, and how it all got that way. I'd like to see something pick the story up from the ending, and tell us what happens next.

What happens to the extra kids?

I may have to write this idea down...
Jon



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aftermath






Today's short film is called AFTERMATH.

Written, directed, and produced by Jeremy Robbins, you'd think, with as many of these genre short films that I watch, that I'd eventually begin to recognize more of these guys and their work, but... nope. Not this time, at least, so I can't really comment on him or his work, except to say that he seems ambitious, driven, and mutli-talented. That's without having seen the film, of course. Who knows, he may turn out to be overly-ambitious, unrealistic, and lacking a realistic view of his abilities.

We shall see...

The point is, this film is Post-Apocalyptic, so I'm in.

Here's the synopsis: In a new, predatory ice age, two brothers search for a place to call home. And if I know anything, it's this... That is a really shitty and vague synopsis, which might be a bad sign. In fact, it probably is a bad sign. I mean, what the fuck is a predatory ice age? Are they being hunted by icebergs? I could see that, actually. They're pretty sneaky, you know that, right? Icebergs hide most of themselves beneath the water line, so you never know how large they really are... until it's too late.

Anyway, let's watch...



Well, now... I liked this one.

Turns out Jeremy was ambitious, driven, and multi-talented after all. That's a nice surprise. Not to imply that this was a happy film, of course. It was actually pretty bleak. It definitely pulled more for the THE ROAD school, then say... the MAD MAX school, but that's fine sometimes. Even if the film was grim, it wasn't overly-serious, or overly inflated by an undeserved sense of self-importance, which is nice. Sometimes that line blurs, y'know? What I'm saying is, yes, this was definitely not a happy film, but it was still a good one.

For once, a really shitty synopsis didn't end up heralding a really shitty film.

This was cheap and easy and not too flashy, but it looked good. It used smart characters and great world beats, not to mention some pretty well-chosen sets, and the weather, in order to tell its story. I really liked how the characters' lives were nothing but a restless and near-constant motion, there was a real feeling of the almost shark-like focus on keeping moving as it was the only real safety. I liked how they showed that through their wariness and how a bed was so appealing. I liked that simplicity. It was all about simple survival. I liked that focus. It kept the film tight. Nothing sends these short films off the rails faster than when they cast too wide of a narrative net.

I was also really impressed with the way they sold the world. Small, but perfect and hard-hitting little details that worked so well. The body left in its underwear... the sudden and random violence... the willingness to shoot... the overwhelming desire to just sleep in a bed... These moments not only lent themselves to the whole "cycle of violence" theme, but they really crystallized the story.

That was good stuff.

AFTERMATH is a good example of what a successful short film should be. It tells a whole story. It has real characters and a real world. It maintains awareness of the production's and the genre's limitations, but it doesn't feel constrained by them. It's a story you would be interested in seeing more of, but they don't leave you dangling. All in all, this was very well done.

Simple, tough, and good. I liked it.

Jon

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rakka - Oats Studio - Volume One







Today's short film is called Rakka.

So, right off the bat, I should probably tell you two things about this particular short film. 1. It's not really that short. And 2. It's part of a new Neill Blomkamp project.

I've talked about Neill Blomkamp on here before, most recently in this post, and what I said then is still true: At this point, I consider him to be a Director of Diminishing Returns. Unreliable. Basically, with each new endeavor, he makes District Nine seem like more and more of a fluke. For me, his stuff can all be summed up the same way: Cool ideas executed poorly.

So, when Blomkamp teamed up with Oats Studio to announce a series of shorts films intended for release on the online gaming platform Steam, mostly as a possible test for future feature film releases, I was interested, but I was also appropriately wary.

Blomkamp has had a lot of failures recently. Chappie is an inhumanly terrible film. His recent BMW short film about The Driver went over like a lead balloon. And most recently, in what just might be proof that God exists, his terrible ALIEN franchise reboot idea was dumped by FOX. Who knows what it is. Maybe he's out of ideas, out of gas, and this is all of the ill-advised left-over crap he hasn't got to use. Maybe it's time for him to hang up his spurs, and this is just him refusing to listen? It's possible.

Or...

Maybe this is his redemption? Maybe he's got some cool new ideas, instead of recycling all of the same old garbage? Maybe a smaller budget and less studio oversight is just what he needed? Maybe it will allow him to work with more clarity and focus? Plus, a series of experimental short films with a generally dark and militaristic sci-fi bend? Yeah, I'm certainly interested. This could be cool. Maybe. Of course, they could be terrible too... But hey, at least this one has Sigourney Weaver in it. She's awesome.

Here's the synopsis: A tale of a dystopian future where an unknown alien group have colonised the earth and humans struggle to fight back. 

Okay, well, that's a bad sign. This is a good microcosm of why I'm a little wary of Blomkamp's stuff: At first glance, it sounds super cool, right? But if you take a second and think about it, you'll see that they misspelled "colonized" on their IMDB page. I mean... come on, dude...

Oh, well... only one way to find out.

Let's watch.


Well, that was about on par with what I expected. It looked good. It was gory and gross. It had some good special effects. The characters were paper thin archetypes. The story was wide and vague, and that's being pretty fair. Being tough, you might say the film leaned too heavily on the "experimental" idea in order to jump over all of the necessary narrative heavy lifting. At 20 minutes long, we got a lot of familiar imagery--and a lot of it was definitely cool--but mostly it felt more like a really long trailer more than anything else. The fact that this project was launched as a test for future possible feature film releases on Steam suddenly looms pretty large.

There wasn't a very good sense of geography either, or character placement, and granted, this was a short film, but the resistance force felt pretty small. Was that scale on purpose? Were they just a local cell of something bigger, or were they it? It was hard to tell, and the film didn't seemed concerned at all. I wasn't a big fan of the design of the aliens' tech either. The spike goo effect just felt unfinished. Also, a nitpick, but if they're changing the atmosphere to be more heavily methane, then I would have liked to seen that reflected in the aliens' body language, and their tech compensating.

In the end, at best, this film felt like an extended trailer for an overly-familiar project, and at worst, like a poorly constructed prequel to an obviously under-funded and underwhelming production.

Blomkamp, man... Diminishing returns...

Out,
Jon