April in Review

The nice thing about these month-in-review posts, which are something new to me this year (primarily just to keep track of my target of 100 new films/tv seasons) is the sense of perspective they bring. Looking back I can notice patterns of what I watch or a reminder of release dates but there can be an odd synchronicity evident too. Take April for instance, pretty much bookended by two huge superhero films that share a common theme albeit an opposite approach- Batman vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War. Two absolutely huge films; between them they must have accounted for over $500 million in their budgets. Half a billion dollars spent on two superhero films. If I’d been looking at that from the perspective of Superman: The Movie in 1978 (or the Spiderman tv series shot not long after) it would have seemed utterly impossible/insane. Half a billion dollars on two films you’ll each be able to buy for fifteen quid in a few months time. We live in a crazy time. So anyway, here’s the fun bit, that list of blog entries for this month-

  1. 2016.27: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
  2. 2016.28: The Last Stand
  3. 2016.29: Childhood’s End
  4. 2016.30: Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
  5. 2016.31:The Purge
  6. Silver Linings Playbook
  7. 2016.32:Bride of Re-Animator
  8. The Problem With Superman
  9. Remembering Batdance
  10. 2016.33:Ender’s Game
  11. 2016.34:Mr Robot:Season One
  12. 2016.35:Captain America: Civil War
  13. 2016.36:Mr Holmes

There was definitely a comic-book/superhero vibe for the month, perhaps inevitable as it was bookended by those particular blockbusters (will we have another month like that again this year, I wonder?). Of course the huge impact and critical fallout over Batman vs Superman was the biggest thing about the month. I enjoyed writing my follow-up piece The Problem With Superman- I rather prefer writing those stream-of-consciousness/ranting at the keyboard commentary pieces to writing reviews. The comic-book theme was furthered by having the opportunity to watch the Future Shock! documentary, which was a particular thrill seeing those writers/artists I loved so long ago. All in all, it doesn’t seem too bad a month, there’s some interesting and varied titles in there, albeit not anything from the to-watch shelf.

Another opportunity to break the review-format, albeit for rather unwelcome reasons, was the Remembering Batdance piece marking the death of Prince. Still can’t believe he’s gone.

Looking at the list, I’ve seen ten ‘new’ films/tv shows to keep my 100 target pretty healthy. Best film was Captain America: Civil War and the worst Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game has its supporters though, as its comments section will attest. A reminder that every film has its fans/grudging admirers/defenders/apologists. Maybe I was in the wrong mood when I watched it- I’ll certainly admit that it likely turned out exactly how it was intended to; it wasn’t a film that turned out bad- it was exactly what it was meant to be, a film targeting the young adult/teen-hero fiction audience popularised by The Hunger Games/Harry Potter films and so many others. Cynical as that seems to me, every film is targeted at someone and in Ender’s Games case, that audience clearly wasn’t me in anycase.

A cautionary reminder of this- at work two colleagues saw Batman vs Superman nine times between them. One saw it four times, the other five times. So even if I didn’t really ‘get’ Batman vs Superman (one viewing was more than enough for me), at least some part of the films target audience clearly did, so the film did something right. I still enjoyed it more than I expected to, and look forward to the extended edition answering a few problems I had with it, but it’s also clear that it pales before Captain America: Civil War. Where the DC film stumbled, the Marvel film soared. And thats the story of April 2016.

(Come on, back on March 29th, that wouldn’t have surprised anyone really, would it?)

Ender’s Game (2013)

end12016.33: Enders Game (Network Airing, HD)

Youngsters playing videogames save humanity from Alien menace.

Well, thats essentially it. The youngsters think they are playing a videogame simulating an attack on alien planet, when its actually really happening. They win the game, annihilating the aliens, only to find out -gosh!- that gigantic space armada in the game was the real thing obeying their instructions. Yes, whenever they lost ships hundreds of real people got killed but, hey, they won the game! Earth is saved!

This film really is that stupid. I mean, you have the fate of humanity at stake. You have a vast armada of huge battleships and attack fighters, thousands of military personnel. And you have an orbiting school for ‘gifted’ teens to find a kid to put in charge of the bloody lot. I don’t mean ‘gifted’ as per special powers such as the mutants of X-Men or super-intellects. I mean a bunch of teens who maybe passed their GCSEs a bit early. It’s utterly insane.

Incredulous, I watched this film convinced there would be a twist (other than that final painful one- literally game over, kid, you won the war-that left a huge WTF expression on my face that lingered for hours) but there isn’t one. Unless, well, I guess I could mention the painful coda/twist that suggests that, even though they attacked Earth fifty years ago, the aliens might not have been quite so evil after all so our teen hero has to fly off to make amends. I mean, what?

When the best thing about a film is its excessive CGI and green screen there is something rather wrong. It starts a little like The Hunger Games, reluctant teen becomes hero (in this case, it’s a male rather than a female) but it is a pale shadow of that series. I’ve read that the film is based on a series of books written by Orson Scott Card but I can only hope that most of the best material was lost in the screenplay, because the film does the book/s no favours at all. They ploughed $100 million into this turkey- I can in no way fathom what they saw in the screenplay that merited that kind of attention and outlay. Sure, teen-angst adventures were all the rage post-Harry Potter and Hunger Games but really, this tedious film is really poor and wide of the mark.

And anyone surprised/impressed that Harrison Ford thought the script for Blade Runner 2 was one of the very best he’d read and so good he subsequently signed up to star in it, well, its time to be rather worried. If Ford thought Ender’s Game was worthy of him, then really we need to be very cautious about BR2. I swear he looks half-asleep in much of this. What was he thinking (i.e. how much was his pay packet)? Whatever it was, he returns the favour with one of his worst performances that I have ever seen. I’ve seen better performances by trees, he’s that wooden.

It’s a harrowing film. Avoid.