Saturday, November 7, 2015

SPECTRE - Of the Past

It's ironic that a film series as long-running and influential as the adventures of James Bond should be defined by how it reacts, but the Bond movies have always been cultural omnivores. Not only do the films play to the tastes of the time (the series has catapulted from spy fiction, "blaxploitation" cinema, and space opera to violent 80's action, digital warfare, outright farce, and grounded rebooting over the years), but has also been a series of reactions to the previous film of the series.

Used correctly, this can lead to a distillation of the character appropriate for post-USSR espionage (see: Goldeneye) or the 00 version of Batman Begins (Casino Royale). Unfortunately for SPECTRE, the 24th entry, the "wisdom" gained from looking outward and inward seems to have gone something like this:

"Hey, people loved Skyfall - let's do all those themes, beats, and stakes again!"

"Yeah, but audiences really like MARVEL movies - let's also rip off big chunks of that Captain America sequel that had a S.P.E.C.T.R.E.-esque organization hiding in plain sight."


...Yeah. It doesn't work out too well.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


The big news at the box office this weekend is going to be how Fox's newly-opened Fantastic Four (or FANT4STIC, as the posters would have you spell it) is getting its butt kicked by Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - a film in its second weekend. This is the latest in a string of publicity pitfalls for the superhero picture dating back to reports of production troubles and tepid audience response to the initial marketing materials.

But one of the more head-scratching - and red flag-raising - moments in this debacle was before the review embargo lifted and star Miles Teller remarked that, though the cast hadn't seen the film yet, they weren't expecting it to garner overly-positive reviews from critics because "rarely are films of this size critically well received."

Which is not only laughable in the face of MARVEL Studios' legendarily well-reviewed run, but particularly because this comment was made the very same weekend that the fifth entry in the Mission: Impossible series became a critical darling.

Yes, the fifth film in the "watch Tom Cruise throw himself off of stuff" franchise is legitimately great. How did that happen?

Friday, July 17, 2015

ANT-MAN - Nice Things, Small Packages

Sooner or later, the wheels are going to come off the Marvel gravy train. No one can maintain the level of quality and success that the studio has had since 2008 with the first Iron Man, not in an environment where as many things can go wrong as can go wrong in big-budget film-making.

But seeing as even a film this "doomed" by any conventional wisdom can be as good as it is (which is, make no mistake, quite good), I'm not sure what can derail Marvel.

Because Ant-Man is yet another winner.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

JURASSIC WORLD - On the Shoulders of Giants

In 1993, Steven Spielberg's landmark adaptation of. . . you know what? No.

Normally, I'd spend a paragraph or two giving some context to the film, its predecessors, a franchise legacy, or some other nonsense as a lead-in to talk about the cinematic flavor of the week, but no. Not this time. This is Jurassic Park. You know Jurassic Park. EVERYONE knows Jurassic Park. It's one of the most influential films of all time, the definitive 90's blockbuster, a watershed moment in special effects, the modern day grandchild of the legendary King Kong.

And Jurassic World knows you know this. It's embedded this knowledge not just in its callback-happy marketing but in the very DNA (heheheh) of the film's relation to and perception of its audience.

Which is kinda the problem.

. . .Well, one of them.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - We are not things.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a rare gem - part reboot, part sequel (or in-between-quel?), it's another in a long line of Hollywood projects mining 80's nostalgia for box office gold. To date, this trend hasn't turned out to be particularly successful either in making many decent films or getting folks flocking to the theater.

But this one is different. It's almost like director George Miller (Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Babe 2 - yes, really) has apparently been watching Hollywood action movies for the last 30 years and grew so sick of most modern directors being frankly pretty crap at it that he made Fury Road to show everyone how it's done.

This is the real deal.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind after the game-changing, record-shattering, audience-wowing original was "How do you follow THAT up?"

Well, if the original movie was geek icon Joss Whedon finally showing the full oceanic expanse of the potential in bringing everything lovably loopy and dense and fantastic from the pages of comic books to blockbuster cinema, then Age of Ultron is Whedon diving into those waters head-first and seeing just how deep he can go.

And in doing so, he makes it impossible for the next guy(s) to do the same thing.