First thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War

avFirst of all, kudos to a commenter on a forum who said this film would have been better had the Avengers first jumped into a spaceship, and Thanos proceeded to pursue them throughout the film at a steady speed waiting for them to run out of fuel…

Anyway. Maybe Lucasfilm will sit up and take notice of what Marvel has done here, fashioning a genuine blockbuster with action and spills and relentless drive – and I do mean relentless. I mean, this thing hardly ever pauses to take any breath, it feels like one action sequence after another, and yes, that does get wearying and while many seem to love it I do feel it weakens the movie as a solitary movie. But of course, even discounting its a part one to a part two, this film is really the culmination of several films and series in the Marvel universe so it’s hardly going to function as a single movie proper.

What is fairly breathtaking is the sleight of hand, the brevity and shorthand of both character arcs and the confident performances. There is a confidence and belief in the audience knowing who these characters are and what their drives and arcs are. We know who they are what they are doing and why and it’s all done so casually, offhand remarks or glances, it’s quite remarkable. Rarely is this film clumsy.

The film is, however, nowhere near as perfect as some reviews seem to infer. Maybe its my age, but I’m getting rather weary of endless effects sequences and so much CGI that the film almost feels like an animated movie. Maybe I would have appreciated more pause, less race to the next stunt/explosion/fight sequence. But I suppose at this point -19 films in- that Marvel have earned this assault on the senses. Maybe I’ just getting old.

Maybe, of course, the relentless action and assault on my poor optic nerves will pay off with a second film that is a little more reflective and which takes stock of the apocalyptic action with some emotional impact. Or maybe not. It will be fun finding out, of course.

As for poor DC. Well, they might as well put up the white flag and reboot everything. The gap in quality between the DC films and the Marvel films is just getting silly now. Game over, I think.

 

Advertisements

BR: What Were They Thinking?

brspin.jpgClearly, the marketing/merchandising boys had no idea what kind of film Blade Runner was, and had no idea of the target audience. Spinner Car toys? What were they thinking? That said, original (boxed) examples are probably worth some money now, you’d think they would be pretty rare, after all. But honestly, even back in 1982, I saw the ad above in the official magazine and could not believe my eyes. Didn’t buy one either.

That being said-

deckfigThe more things change, the more they stay the same. And it doesn’t seem to matter how adult your film is, the merchandising boys will always try to flog some toys. And boys do love their toys, whatever their age.

 

 

 

 

Yeah, I admit it. I own this guy.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

cabin1I’m currently playing a sly game with Avengers: Infinity War, in which I’m carefully filtering all media -internet, print, word of mouth- and avoiding any spoilers. At all. Its a tricky game and one can’t always win, but so far I’m winning. it’s a game I’m also playing with Marvel’s Black Panther movie and a few others that I haven’t seen at the cinema or on disc yet. Avoid reviews. Avoid internet articles. Avoid forums. Its the only way to avoid spoilers. I mean, sure if you’re not bothered, relax and the hell with it, but if you think a film deserves being unspoiled, you’ve got to make some effort.

Sometimes it can be a long game. Witness The Cabin in the Woods, which I finally got around to watching last night. I’ve dutifully avoided all spoilers and reviews for all these years. Not so sure the effort was duly warranted, as it turned out, but yeah, I managed to watch the film last night fresh-faced and blindly ignorant of what I was about to watch. I didn’t even know that Chris Hemsworth was in it until his name came up in the credits. In yer face, spoiler-net.

So anyway, it’s a film about a bunch of typical American college teens spending a weekend in an isolated cabin in the woods that is inevitably only going to end one way -loud music! booze! sex! gore!- and the horror tropes are, as you might expect, flashing by in an almost whos-who almanac of horror films, classic and bad. But there is always something weird going on, unseen by our protagonists, the events being orchestrated…  Clearly the whole cabin in the woods setting is a knowing wink towards all those horror tropes and the film has an agenda lifting it beyond the b-movie horror cliches it seems happily content to put onscreen. When the twists/meta-story unfolds the film actually descends into the wildest Joe Dante chaos not-actually-directed-by-Joe-Dante that I have ever seen and is all kind of fun. Gremlins on steroids. Wouldn’t say it was actually scary though. Which raises the question, shouldn’t a horror story be scary rather than clever?

Oh well. It was rather good fun and I enjoyed it, particularly some of the casting choices, such as Amy Acker and Fran Kranz, who set me off reminiscing about Dollhouse.  And it’s always a  pleasure being surprised by Sigourney Weaver turning up.  That’s worth all the effort of staying spoiler-free all by itself.

 

Alien 3 Expanded OST!

a3ostThey said it would never happen. No really, they said it wouldn’t. ‘They’ being the people in the biz who would know. Something about the recording session masters being lost. But they said that about the original Conan The Barbarian masters, and that got released a few years ago. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that some Indiana Jones-type at Fox managed to unearth the masters from a dusty vault forgotten somewhere. In anycase, La La Land records have announced the release next week of a two-disc expanded and remastered edition of Elliot Goldenthal’s absolutely superlative horror score for the much-maligned Alien 3. 

This is big news, certainly to me anyway. One of the last great scores that really needed an expanded release, and one of those supposedly least-likely to ever happen, and here it is. Seriously, this is one of the best scores of the past thirty years, it’s that good. Well, my pre-order is in already (limited to 3,500 copies, it might not last as long as you’d think prior to going OOP). Its a really remarkable score, the kind we certainly don’t get anymore and I can’t wait to hear it. Has me of a mind to get my Blu-ray of the restored workprint version out for a watch…

More Lost in Space (2018)

lost4Well I’ve finished season one of Netflix’s new version of Lost in Space and overall I’d say it was a considerable success. Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised. As I stated in my earlier post about the first half of the season, this show is never going to be high concept/genre-defining material- its light and easygoing but certainly none the worse for that. As it turned out, I honestly believe the second half of the season was stronger than the first and it all came together very well indeed. It told its story, had some great character arcs and teased a continuation with some wit and style. The production design was excellent throughout, and there were a few times that I thought ‘this is how a live-action Star Wars tv show should look like’. 

Whoa. Live-action Star Wars tv-show. Well, everyone knows it’s coming, but how strange to just write something down like that.  I remember when Star Wars films were something special, big event movies on a different level to what everyone else was doing- I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back one afternoon at the cinema, then going home and seeing an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on the telly. I appreciate its an unfair comparison, but it was the Buck Rogers episode where they flew into an asteroid field and the comparison was obvious, the gap between the two was huge. Nowadays the gap between tv and cinema isn’t as large as you’d think, and watching something like Lost in Space is a reminder of that. The sets and costumes were terrific and the effects pretty damn good. On tv. Sure, its Netflix so really it’s in some vague place between tv and cinema really, similar to where stuff like HBO’s Game of Thrones fits. But tv. The gap between tv shows and big cinema genre stuff isn’t that huge at all now (and I suppose Disney making so much Star Wars material lessens that whole Star Wars ‘event’ thing anyway), but still…

If only Babylon 5 could have had budgets and technology like shows have now. I remarked on this to my wife after the last episode of Lost in Space ended. B5 started all these big mult-season arcs and epic sagas on tv -arguably the one biggest advantage tv has over films, is simply running-time and what it affords- but it was hampered by a very limited indie-level production budget and cgi effects that, cutting-edge that they were at the time, are painfully limited now. If only Babylon 5 were made now, on something like Netflix or HBO or Amazon… wow.

I still cannot believe Warners has not opted to redo all the B5 effects in HD and remaster the show completely for a HD release. I’d but that sucker in a heartbeat.

But anyway, I’m rambling. Lost in Space was great fun. Well worth a  watch if you are after something light and easy, and I’m really looking forward to a second season and seeing where it goes from here. Sure, maybe it could have been better had it been more of a n edgier, intense show but it  deliberately wasn’t intended to be that kind of show. Its a great family show and while not perfect, its much better than it possibly has a right to be considering the premise. Quite a refreshing watch, really.

And the robot is great.

Westworld Season Two- Episode 1

west1Just a few observations- firstly, having been enjoying Netflix just over a month now, having to digest a big show in weekly chunks just feels so old-fashioned its almost arcane. I mean, I watch one episode, and then… then I have to wait? WTF? (It occurs to me that I’ve never done a weekly review of a series episode by episode, maybe I should start with this show).

Secondly, when does being intellectually ‘clever’ get in the way of actually telling a story? Don’t get me wrong, I love Westworld and it’s one of my favourite shows of the past few years-  away from the nudity and violence, what I really like is the examinations of what it is to be human, the impact of memory, the possibilities of AI. Its really heady stuff and the idea someone can make such a popular show that is so high concept is just profoundly exciting. BUT…. sometimes a show can risk being too clever for its own good. I enjoyed the ‘twist’ in season one of the separate timelines, and this seems to be carrying on into season two. Fair enough, but I don’t really see what we gain from it at present, with how it’s going. What I’m saying is, it should be there to inform and tell the story, not the story there to support the multiple timelines for their own sake. I fear there may be a danger in that here. Don’t try to confuse me just for the hell of it, tell the story and if the story doesn’t benefit from that confusion, why is it there? Well, time will tell if these multiple timelines serves some purpose.

I’m also a little concerned that Delores is becoming the least interesting character now that she’s slipping into ‘avenging robot angel’ mode. She risks losing her sense of humanity and empathy. Whereas the focus is really shifting towards Bernard, easily now the most interesting character in the show, who on the one hand seems to be dealing with the mindf–k that must be knowing his true robot nature whilst hiding it from his colleagues who are (?) all unaware of it. I always had a soft spot for him in season one and it’s fascinating to imagine where he might take us this season.

Anyway, roll on episode two. Oh yeah, I have to wait….

…and wait….

Return of the (last) Jedi

jedilastBad films can be infuriating, particularly when they are from a beloved franchise or series… but so fascinating too- so how could I resist buying The Last Jedi on disc? 

In all honesty, I felt like writing a long list of issues that I still have with this film, really, but the more I thought and the more I wrote, the worst I felt it was largely pointless. I doubt I’ll ever make peace with this fim. So I scrapped most everything. But I still felt the need to write something. So instead of an opus of pain, here’s this:

Imagine if you will, a (motion) picture:

1979, or the early ‘eighties, it doesn’t really matter, it’s an alternate universe, think of it as a Black Mirror episode for geeks: Paramount are launching a trilogy of Star Trek films, based on the old 1960s tv series and rebooting it for a new saga/crew. Old creator Gene Roddenberry is gone, replaced by a new creative team eager to reboot Star Trek with new values. Bringing the old crew back to placate fans whilst introducing a new crew for later adventures, the first film brings back Mr Spock and Dr McCoy but leaves the appearance of Kirk until the very last scene, used to tease film number two. To the fans consternation, Mr Spock dies during this first film, so fans never see a proper reunion of the three main stars of the old show.

The second film features a rather older and rebooted Kirk. This Kirk has retired from Star Fleet and gone off to some corner of the galaxy. He thinks the original Trek’s five-year mission was a waste and that the Federation of Planets and its human-centric organisation was a mistake and wants nothing more of it, wants it to die.

Imagine how the Trekkies would have reacted. Imagine how the film-makers would have exalted in their ‘out with the old, in with the new’ policy. Imagine William Shatner fundamentally disagreeing with the new direction and this new interpretation of Kirk. Imagine fans pining for the good old days of creator Gene Roddenberry’s oversight.

Imagine if you will, another trilogy:

Its one hundred after Return of the Jedi. The New Republic still stands, but is under threat from a new outside force- a resurgent Empire that has lingered in the remote Outer Rim for the past decades, remnants of the Old Empire gathering and scheming and now further rejuvenated by a new Sith.

The old heroes are gone now. The descendants of our old heroes are separated by fortune and distance. Some are bureaucrats in the Republic, others driven with wanderlust, trying that luck in the trade-routes as entrepreneurs or rogues, and perhaps there is still a Skywalker in the fledgling Jedi Academy. The disaster that befell the Old Republic when the Emperor seized power has left the Jedi Order marginalised  by this New Republic wary of old mistakes. Jedi remain few and far-flung through the galaxy.

A restless grandchild of Solo and Leia, curious about past glories and lessons that could be heeded, searches out the places and events of those old adventures. He finds Vader’s old helmet, and Luke’s old lightsaber. His curiosity leaves him open to manipulation and he is found and seduced by the Sith, clearly a prime asset to their schemes to overthrow this infidel Republic and return to the days of Empire.

But Disney chose a different path….

A VERY different path.

I mean, this thing no longer even functions as a trilogy- if IS still a trilogy, it’s a dysfunctional one, most of the set-up from The Force Awakens being ditched and arcs abandoned. It feels a bit like Justice League following BvS, something is of, something has changed as if there’s a whole new creative team without any oversight.  Look at how well that’s turning out for DC.

Ignoring all that, it still feels ‘off’. For one thing, the tone is all over the place. The opening portion with General Huxx is like a Spaceballs farce.  The film from the start undermines General Huxx and shows him up to be an incompetent moron and makes Huxx throughout the butt of too many jokes (casting Eddie Hitler as his assistant just exacerbated the issue and makes me wonder if that casting was actually deliberate). Imagine 1977’s Star Wars making Tarkin the comedy relief. Exactly.

lastjed2

Characters do contrary actions all the time and there are holes all over the place. In just the same way as teleporting from Earth to Klingon moon, or from Vulcan moon to in-warp Enterprise in the Star Trek reboots contradicts everything established in Star Trek of old and makes Starships obsolete, so too does Star Destroyers tracking Rebels through Hyperspace. I mean, think about it, it’s now out of the bag- they’ll be able to do it all the time in every future Star Wars film because its been done (and if they don’t do it, then why not?). Good luck escaping the bad guys in future, Rebels, they will be tracking you across the galaxy. Straight back to your rebel base, too, I should imagine.

If Rian Johnson had thought it through, he just had to have a plot device about a bug or tracker hidden by a spy on the lead Revel ship. That’s all he had to do (and has been done before in Star Wars with the Death Star tracking the Falcon, and Rey and Leia are doing it all the way through the bloody movie). Instead he has to weave this preposterous plot device of having to travel to a casino planet to get a code-breaker to get onboard the bad guys ship and then disable the tracking machine without anybody noticing a rebel droid hiding in a waste paper basket? As if only the one ship was bothering to track the rebels- wouldn’t all the ships be doing it as a matter of course if they all have the technology now (so if one tracker failed or was disabled, the others would offer redundancy)?

Hell, at least hunting down a spy and tracking device in a race against time would have given Poe something to do.

I get that Rian Johnson was trying to shake up Star Wars and spin it off in some new direction. I admire the intention, but I abhor the execution.