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Gentlemen Hecklers present Hackers

Comedy, Events, film

June 14, 2017

Throughout the dark decade we know call the nineties, Hollywood seemed mystified by this weird piece of technology called computers. They weren’t sure what computers could do, but they were sure old people were scared of them and young people seemed to love them. The result was a mixed bag of movies that tried to capture the essence of those fears: thrillers like the Net, Antitrust, and Enemy of the State showed conservatives their fears of big government and crime, making those conservatives push an agenda that resulted in big government and crime.

At the same time, Hollywood also festered titles like Harry Met Sally on the general public because America Online was a thing once upon a time and had a studio that could afford to make a movie that was basically a giant commercial. Hey, it worked for Nintendo, and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are infinitely better than Fred Savage.

Never content to rest on their laurels, though, Hollywood also wanted to appeal to the kids who liked the whole computer thing. This resulted in the single most accurate piece of media regarding computers and the capabilities of the internet ever made, a little movie called Hackers.

Forget the thought-provoking questions asked by media like Person of Interest or the dedication to craft evidenced by Mr. Robot – Hackers embodied that sense of wonder we all had about what computers and internet meant. Computers and internet were going to save us from the forces of old and evil. We would Hack The Planet. We would rollerblade to victory to an awesome soundtrack and have confusing dreams about Angelina Jolie.

We would do everything in our power to end the evil that is Wall Street.

More interestingly, we knew that the forces of old would join the forces of evil in blaming us for trying to save them, so… culturally, this movie got it. It captures the essence of what being a kid in the nineties was, that neon sense of black-lit adventure and hope that would later be crushed and ground into nothing by a decaying world.

No wonder, then, that the Gentlemen Hecklers have decided to turn their attention to this film.

Fresh off their stint of writing for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 relaunch, Eric Fell, Shaun Stuart, and Patrick Mahlia return to the Rio Theater to crack down on one of the best worst movies ever made. For one night only, June 14th in the year 2017, the three of them will heckle greatness and we will all love them for it.

Doors open at eight, show starts at nine. You can buy tickets by clicking here, or pay $14 at the door. The choice is yours, but if you live in Vancouver? This is what you should be doing tonight.

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576

Wonder Woman Critical Analysis Part 2 of 2

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews

June 12, 2017

So… Wonder Woman. It came out. It hit theaters. People discovered it was there and went to see it and it’s going to dominate the month of June and there’s little chance of anything toppling it.

And with good reason. It’s awesome stuff – easily the strongest of the DC movies, as good or better than most of what Marvel has on tap. Better than any of the Hulk movies, for example. Better than the second Avengers movie. Definitely better than anything Fox or Sony has put out using Marvel’s properties.

But why? Why is it working so well?

The reason is subtlety in both what happens in the movie and around it, and in an understanding of what the character is about and her evolution. We are told and shown a creation epic that is sort of at odds with what we know about the Greek Pantheon (spoiler: all of them are dicks except Hades, who is just really good at his job) in that they created humans (no), were happy about it (definitely not happy so much as amused), and were all eventually killed by Ares (what? No. Kratos did that).

But, whatever. We’re playing with building on a mythology and they can do whatever they want provided it’s internally consistent with itself – and it is. According to the movie, the Amazons are created by the gods to shepherd men away from being terrible people.

They’re thinkers and philosophers who get good at fighting because they have to go into where the fighting is worst and calm things down so that everyone can talk, and they fight like it: the Amazons are graceful and do impossible things in order to stop the fighting quickly, but they’re also cut off from the rest of the world. They have an academic understanding of war and of men and have drawn their own conclusions on both for thousands of years without seeing the reality of either.

When war comes to their island because Diana exposed her godhood they show that the techniques they’ve developed are good but also flawed; they adapt quickly and win the day, but they are horrified by the loss of Robin Wright – and who wouldn’t be? She’s Princess Buttercup and the President of the United States and a General. She’s awesome. None are more devastated by her death than Diana – she’s never dealt with loss or violence before and she knows Ares is responsible because, unlike the other Amazons, she’s never met a human before and she’s made some pretty naive decisions about both humanity and war.

See, Child Diana is excited by the possibility of war, like some children are. She wants to be a warrior and she wants to fight and she wants to save the world from Ares: there is a singular bad person that she can punch and if she wins then humanity will be saved. Good and simple, clean and easy.

Diana imagines herself to be the champion of humanity but she’s never seen violence and that shows in her eagerness in learning how to fight and even to get to the fight – remember, she thinks if she beats Ares that the fighting ends. We can juxtapose this with her world-weariness in modern times, in the bookends to this film and to Gal Gadot’s performance in Batman v Superman. There’s a clear line of growth through the movies that retroactively makes Batman v Superman better (but still not good). She gets a sword and a shield and everything.

The thing is, the villain of the film isn’t the Germans or even Ares but war itself. There were no good people in World War 1 and the movie goes out of its way to show the serious flaws of both sides, and even of Diana’s belief structure. The sword is a lie and is dismissed out of hand by Ares when we meet him, laughed off and melted as if it never was. The power to defeating war comes not from violence but from understanding, from talking, from within – it comes from a divinity that may or may not exist but one we all believe in, that place where angel meets ape.

It doesn’t stop there, though: the western powers are not shown to be any better than the Germans they’re fighting. Both sides use gas (there’s a reason that the Germans are wearing masks), both sides target civilians and dismiss those casualties, both are just as bad as the other. The leadership on both sides are also trying to negotiate peace but are meeting resistance by the war-obsessed members of their own people and peers, making this a four-way conflict between the people fighting and themselves, the ones who are fighting and ones who want peace.

We see how war and society has broken people – a sniper who can’t fire a gun, an actor who couldn’t get work before the war because of his skin color, a man who left his home because his home was destroyed. Those are people who were harmed by the so-called good guys and are still part of those good guys, losers who are also lost but are still struggling to find a way to help.

On the bad side we have a man so obsessed with winning that he’ll kill his own men out of hand, a broken woman who understands the science of death but has forgotten the humanity that was scoured from her, and a god who encourages the worst parts of humanity but doesn’t actually make anyone do anything. The evil is us and our need for control and dominance, the toxic aspects of our culture that is so set on competition and zero-sum games, and that’s a harder story to tell than a giant beam in the sky that makes clouds look weird and does… something.

I’m looking at you, pretty much every other movie that has superheroes in it.

Diana calls all of them out on all of their shit: she storms into an all-male war room and demands attention because she’s knowledgeable about war and has actionable intelligence and she has no time for the seedy posturing bullshit of that era. The fact that she’s dismissed out of hand for reasons of gender mystifies her, and the chicanery needed to get her to the front lines makes her just as angry as not being allowed to go in the first place. She despises the men who are willing to let others die for no reason other than to assuage their own egos. She blames a man for being Ares, not understanding that he is only a man and needing to learn otherwise. No one is honest and that dishonesty is infuriating and damages everyone and she will force the truth from us all if that’s what it takes to make us our best selves.

Wonder Woman calling that room of men out on their shit is just as important as stepping into No Man’s Land. It’s a thing I think 51% of the audience understands implicitly, but something that the other 49% might need attention drawn to. So, here it is guys: attention on a thing you might have missed.

But let’s go back to something that’s sticking in a lot of craws: comic Wonder Woman fought in World War II, not World War I – so why the change? The answer is complex: the Nazis were dyed-in-the-wool evil in a way that people seem to have forgotten. The Holocaust wasn’t evil because Nazis did it – Nazis were evil because they did the Holocaust. Despite what Marvel comics might want you to believe there’s no gray area: the systematic destruction of an entire group of people is evil and needs to be fought sat every turn. The idea of genocide and virtue of extreme selfishness doesn’t get a seat at the table and doesn’t get listened to, it gets punched in the face and sent running.

The point of this movie is that war itself is wrong, yes, but by making this story about the first World War we know the second follows, and we know that happens without Ares and despite Wonder Woman.

World War II is therefore not the fault of some external thing; it is the fault of humanity, itself, and the responsibility for the Holocaust lies at the feet of all humanity.

And so does World War I. Ares was right and telling the truth – he made things worse, certainly, but he only played on the ambitions and selfishness of his victims, allowing them their ability to kill as they saw fit. He’s an afterthought and his death doesn’t end the war so much as allow Diana to see the depth of her true enemy.

That’s why this movie is great. That’s why it’s going to speak to 51% of the audience specifically and everyone in general, why the character of Wonder Woman earns her spot as one of DC Comics’ holy trinity alongside Batman and Superman. This is how and why a DC Comics movie is going to rule over the month of June, and if this is a sign of things to come from Geoff Johns taking the helm, well, we have much more hope for everything to come.

Now, here’s the thing: I’m a male presenting asexual agender person, so there’s definitely going to be things I missed and I’m eager to learn and listen. So… what’d I miss?

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540

Wonder Woman Critical Analysis Part 1 of 2

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews

June 9, 2017

 

So… Wonder Woman happened. The first movie of the Geoff Johns era of DC filmmaking and you can tell, but let’s back up a bit because nothing happens in a vacuum and we need to talk about where this film came from.

A little more than a decade ago, Time Warner approached DC Comics and said they wanted to do a new superhero movie. I like to imagine – and this is important guys, this is my imagination and probably has nothing to do with reality, so do not sue us because this is a fictitious retelling – that the conversation went like this:

Cool, guys,” DC Comics said, then sane and not yet driven bad by nineties nostalgia. “Who do you have in mind?”

Green Lantern,” Time Warner grinned.

Cool, cool,” DC Comics said, excited by the possibilities. “Storied character, a lot of lore to draw on… are you thinking classic Hal Jordan, new Kyle Rayner, or drawing from our award-winning animated series and doing Jon Stewart? Do you have a leading man in mind?”

Jack Black.”

This is a real thing. A real thing that really almost happened, except DC Comics said…

No.”

Excuse me?” said Time Warner.

No.”

C’mon, Big Fat Guy with a power ring,” Time Warner said, wiping the cocaine from their upper lip. “It’s comedy gold.”

An argument ensued. Hair was pulled and punch was thrown and at the end, clothes were straightened and everyone tried to have a little bit of dignity. Time Warner was convinced that their camp-fest comedy would make a lot of money, but DC Comics wouldn’t sign over the character.

You don’t understand how to make movies,” Time Warner argued. “You make comics, and who reads those anymore?”

Fuck you,” DC Comics replied. “Bet you we can make a superhero movie better than anything you’ve ever seen.”

Really? You think so?” Time Warner asked, an evil glint in their eye. “Fine. Here’s forty million dollars. I know, that’s like your annual budget, but you make your little shit show and when that fails you’re going to sign the contract and we’re going to make our Green Lantern movie, okay?”

DC Comics agreed to terms.

The movie they made was a little thing called Batman Begins and it won awards and made all the money. It launched a trilogy and is generally considered the best superhero movie made up to that point (Christian Bale’s bat-voice aside) because it was a good movie that just happened to have a superhero in it.

Marvel learned all the right lessons from this, and a few years later we got Iron Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Time Warner learned all the wrong lessons from this success and decided that what people wanted was grim and gritty, and by this point management at DC Comics was riding high on the nineties and decided to launch the nu52, so there was no dissenting voice.

The first result of this was Man of Steel, which was okay. This was followed with Batman v Superman, which was not, and Suicide Squad, which was a very stupid movie, and both of those lost a lot of money. All of them had series flaws, and their inability to succeed on a Marvel-like level woke Time Warner from their cocaine-stupor, fearing a lack of cocaine in their immediate future.

Meanwhile, on the comics end of things, DC Comics managed to lose forty percent of their readership over five years of the nu52, and only started gaining it back because of titles like Harley Quinn, Gotham Academy, and a revamped Batgirl. All of those comics had an underlying theme of hope that had been missing from DC Comics as a whole for the entirety of the nu52, and DC Comics officially relaunched with Rebirth and has been pretty great ever since.

A big part of that is a man named Geoff Johns, who is basically the biggest fan of DC Comics and its characters to ever live. The man is also an acclaimed comic book writer, so Time Warner took note and said “You! You seem to know what you’re doing! Make our movies good so we can compete with Marvel (and get more cocaine)!”

Geoff came on board to handle the movies a couple months before Suicide Squad launched, so the first movie he’s had any real input on is this one: Wonder Woman. And this is where things get interesting.

Warner Brothers wanted this movie to fail.

They did little in the way of advertising for it, nothing along the lines of Man of Steel or Batman v Superman or even Suicide Squad. I know many people that were dying to see this movie that had no idea when it was coming out, or if it was out, and even the person I went to see the movie with had no idea it was out before I suggested it.

Really?” she said. “Wonder Woman is out?”

Yep,” said me. “Wanna go see it?”

Hell fuck yes.”

She didn’t really say that. It’s profanity being used to underline a point.

Wonder Woman is a female led action movie being directed by a woman, and the first woman they hired to direct it walked because of studio interference – a thing that also happened with Ben Affleck and Batman and has happened with a number of other DC Movie projects prior to Geoff coming on board. This movie is Geoff’s proof of concept, one that says that, yes, women read comics, women like superheroes, and women can tell good stories and be part of good stories and isn’t this goddamn great?

And it is.

Without studio advice and/or interference, with Geoff hiring someone to tell the story and trusting her to get it right, we ended up with the best of the DC Comics movies and one of the best superhero movies, but there’s some subtlety here that I’m thinking 49% of moviegoers might be missing, so let’s talk about that in part two.

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539

Alien: Covenant

Culture, film, Reviews

May 19, 2017

The Alien series shifts genre in a strange parallel to the xenomorph upon which it was based and as commentary on the era in which it was made. The first movie was about horror and suspense as took us from the seventies to the eighties, where the suspense we felt moving from one decade to the next gave way to the horrors of corruption and disease that we’re still feeling to this day. The second movie was all about action and consequence and how the greed of a few might kill the rest of us, about how our society will blindly follow the people that are profiting off our work into war and not heed the warnings of those with the most experience. Sounds like Iran-Contra, the AIDS epidemic, the Iraqi War… all those messes that we barely survived.

Alien3 was a thing that happened; we had settled in nihilism by that point, and David Fincher captured the entropy that had taken root in the human soul, the disappointment of his movie caused by forces far beyond his control but still being forged into something better than it had any business being. The fourth movie was a music video written by Joss Whedon, a high action disaster that started strong and ended weak… and that was okay. We weren’t expecting anything more than a close to the series and that was it.

It should be noted that Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie is apparently dead, but it was supposed to be the Alien3 movie we had been promised thirty years ago. Instead of that, we got Prometheus, a wildly ambitious high-concept sci-fi adventure movie that would have been stronger without a connection to this franchise. Honestly, most of the problems people have with that movie is that it ties into the others, acting as a direct prequel to the very first movie. This movie acts as a direct sequel to that movie, which makes it the second chronological movie in the six-movie-long series, with a third part to begin shooting in fourteen months, which will make this a seven-movie long franchise if you don’t count the two AvP movies.

Confused yet? Don’t be. One of our staffers didn’t see Prometheus and went with me when I saw this, and he seemed to have a good time. I had a good time, and you will, too. Just try to relax your brain a little because this is, like Prometheus, not what you’re expecting from an Alien movie.

“We’re all still going to die. Morituri nolumus mori.”

Whatever that may be. C’mon, guys, given how loose the continuity is and how much these movies change from one installment to the next, you just kinda sit back and accept the movie for what it is. Have some popcorn.

Covenant very much aims to equal the ambition of Prometheus while also taking into account fan backlash – there’s a lot of concessions made that directly address problems that fans had with Prometheus, and some of those are for the better. To illustrate those points, though, we need to talk spoilers. You have been warned. The whole movie is summarized below, so highlight at your own discretion or skip past it to where we talk about the movie without spoiling it:

We cold open in a white room where Peter Weyland is waking up David, an android played by Michael Fassbender and one of the big reasons so many things went wrong in the story of Prometheus – that movie is basically about David being creepy and touching things and here we get to know the beginnings of his dissatisfaction with humanity, as his creator is kind of a tool. Thankfully, they both got ripped apart in Prometheus, so we cut to

A crew of colonists in deep stasis, heading towards a planet that has been researched for them. They are being cared for by a robot named Walter who doesn’t do creepy things but is still played by Michael Fassbender. They’re doing a recharge of the electrical systems when there’s a solar flare that causes that system to be damaged and wakes up some of the crew while also burning one of them to death in his pod as his girlfriend looks on.

The person that died was supposed to be the captain, which puts Oram in charge. He’s not good with people and thinks people don’t like him because he’s religious, which he brings up a few times and doesn’t play into his character arc at all but does play into the themes of the movie, so we’ll let that one go. The crew is full of couples (including a gay couple, which is a nice touch), and dead captain’s surviving partner is Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. She leads a funeral that Oram isn’t onboard with, but he lets it go without comment because he’s not an asshole.

As they’re fixing things they pick up a distant distress signal from… somewhere. They use long-range scanners and find a planet that is much closer than the one they’re supposed to go to that is suitable for human habitation – they could get to this one in a week, and the one they’re supposed to go to is decades away and requires more sleeping in cryo-pods like the one the captain burned to death in, so off they go explore the new world. Daniels objects, but not loudly given that her lover was just turned into BBQ.

Oram and Daniels lead an away team down to the planet and find it full of plants and, strangely, wheat, but no animals. They test for toxins in the atmosphere and find none, so they head out and discover the crashed ship that Shaw and David stole in Prometheus, along with Shaw’s dog tags. There’s no sign of Shaw or David, though. Everything is okay until two people are infected by microscopic spores and hatch white not-xenomorphs that blow up the ship they came down on and nearly kill them all until they are rescued by David.

David leads them to a necropolis that is clearly an alien city (actually one built by and for the Engineers) and David tells them a story about how the Engineers and Shaw both died and it was sad and he is sad. David and Walter have some conversations that are the core and most interesting part of the film that infers questions about the act of creation and what is owed between creator and creation. It’s some interesting stuff that hints at the horrors to come.

David watches as a human gets killed by one of the white not-xenomorphs and tries to communicate with it, but then Oram blows it up and tells David that he is the devil. So David offers to show him something and Oram, instead of shooting him, follows him down into a pit where there are xenomorph eggs and David reveals that he created them. Oram gets face-huggered and out bursts a mini-xenomorph. Oram is dead, a xenomorph is on the loose, and Danny McBride is in charge of the mothership and brings it down for a rescue.

We get Daniels fighting the Xenomorph on a flying ship while David and Walter have a conversation and one of them dies and the winner goes on the ship. Daniels beats the xenomorph but there is another and that one ends up on the ship and kills the whole crew except for Daniels and Danny, who jettison it from an airlock in a tense battle because that is how the first, second, and fourth movies ended and it worked for them.

Daniels and Danny go into their pods and go to sleep, the android on board is revealed to be David, and that’s where the movie ends.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the movie.

First off, this movie is gorgeous. Ridley Scott has some flaws as a director but set design and cinematography have never been among them, and this movie lives up to the high expectations he sets for himself. The ship looks good and practical, the necropolis is fascinating, the ruined Engineer ship is as haunting as you might remember if you saw Prometheus. The score is gorgeous and perfectly sets the mood and compliments the visuals and the direction is spot on.

The writing is also stronger here than it was in Prometheus. Aside from a couple of character moments that are never followed up on – like the replacement captain being a man of faith and that being why he wasn’t fit to be the actual captain – we get the sense that these are people that know and trust one another and that they are professionals. Their deaths are the result of circumstance and panic rather than idiocy, and they feel like experts who have hit a situation they’re not prepared for. It makes the movie more enjoyable when we want the characters to live, and we do here; even Danny McBride brings surprising nuance to his performance, and it makes the movie stronger.

Fassbender is transcendent, playing two understated characters with very different experiences and goals. There are subtleties to each of them that set them apart from one another, small tics in body language that speak about the intelligences that they are. His David is heartbreaking and terrifying, his Walter aloof but sympathetic. The dichotomy of these two characters are what makes this film as good as it is, and their conversations are what allows us to see two very different ways of accepting the role of created and the drive to create.

Likewise, Katherine Waterson is also incredible. Fassbender’s characterization wouldn’t work without her, and if he is the backbone of the movie than she is the movie’s heart. This is entire tale is very much hers to tell, and her sense of loss is palpable throughout, her acceptance of Walter as a surrogate for her lost love heartbreaking in its conclusion. She is smart, agile, and courageous in the way we demand that protagonists in this franchise be. She is a worthy successor to Shaw, but perhaps not to Ripley and it’s painful to type that – this movie, like Prometheus before it, would be a much stronger film without being attached to the Alien franchise.

She is great.

The central question of the film is a good one and justifies the religious subtext and populates the undertones of the movie: where Prometheus was about stealing answers, Covenant is about building relationships with what is created. This trilogy is about David but is told through the eyes of heroines who do not live through their meeting with him; they are the main characters of the chapters they are in with David as the clear antagonist of their story, while he remains the protagonist of the trilogy as a whole. It’s an interesting means of framing a tale about an immortal creation plaguing his creators, all while creating something as monstrous as he perceives his creators to be.

Make no mistake: David’s reliance on human poetry and art to express himself is as defining as his sociopathic outlook on the human race as a whole, and it makes him both pitiable and more monstrous. He is alien in his mindset and outlook simply because he was alienated, and it remains to be seen what final revelation awaits him.

Which is not to say that the movie is perfect: it isn’t.

Like Prometheus before it, Covenant is a highly ambitious but flawed masterpiece.

The promise of the last film was that Shaw was going to find and confront the Engineers that we might learn more about them. David has killed them all sometime between the end of Prometheus and the beginning of this movie, so we learn nothing more about them. The humans that discover this have no time to seek answers to any questions they might have because they are trying to survive the white not-xenomorphs, the actual xenomorphs, and David (two out of three ain’t bad~!). It’s frustrating but understandable – the Engineers were a framing device in the first movie but are of no importance here – but that lack of resolution is irritating.

And, again, David’s creation of the xenomorphs adds nothing to the franchise as a whole and detracts from the mystery of the creatures somewhat. The xenomorphs aren’t scary anymore – we know all about them, what they do and what they’re about, and it’s hard to be afraid of them when we know so much about them. Because of this, the xenomorphs are denigrated from terrifying presence to a simple obstacle to be overcome.

Worse, we know them but the characters don’t, and that drives a wedge between us and the people we should be rooting for. If the characters were informed – if they had a chance to even glance at David’s notes – they might have been able to put up an informed fight and that would make the monsters scary again by showing their intelligence and versatility. The monster that shows an ability to learn is much more terrifying than the one that doesn’t, but they are not the antagonist here: David is. David does learn, David does show his intelligence, and David is terrifying.

Terrifying.

The xenomorphs are nothing more than a tool being used by the true villain in a movie that they are named for.

Aliens: Covenant is not a scary film. It has a couple of jump scares and it flirts with horror, but much less so than even Prometheus did. It will not give you nightmares and I don’t think it was designed to. This is a movie that is about the journey and the questions more than the destination or the answers, a complex exploration of a god’s responsibility disguised as a science fiction film.

It’s likely to be as divisive among Aliens fans as Prometheus was. It adheres to some tropes from the franchise it’s nominally a part of to its detriment, clearly a response to the backlash the first suffered, but that reining in of that ambition gains the film nothing and hobbles the scope of the potential trilogy as a whole. If this had been a new property I get that sense that people – including fans of the franchise – would love it, but as an Aliens movie, it confuses itself as it stumbles along.

All that said? It’s a fun movie and a good way to spend a couple of hours, and the conversations it inspires will be worth the price of admission. Fassbender and Waterson turn in incredible performances and the artbook is going to be a must-have for people that go in for that sort of thing (I am very much one of those people). Definitely worth seeing.

All photo credits are Mark Rogers.

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463

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Friendship is Magic

film, Reviews

May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy has been a franchise that is steeped in love, nostalgia and a message that is so very important for us to remember. Family isn’t who you are related to, it is who you love and who loves you back, and that love comes in many different forms. Tim Gunn loves his Guardians. He carefully crafted a story of friendship, love and sacrifice with humour and passion.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

From this point onward… SPOILERS! Again.. Spoilers.

I have to applaud the digital effects department for making Kurt Russel look like he did in the 70’s and the establishing scene of Ego (Kurt Russell) and Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) driving down the road listening to Brandy – You’re A Fine Girl  by Looking Glass showed the love and delight that Ego and Meredith had in each other and how Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) started out in this world as an expression of those feelings. 

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Kurt Russel as Ego

But then we cut to 34 years later and Peter and his family of choice Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and a now Kid Groot (Vin Diesel) are getting ready to do the job they were hired by The Sovereign, a race of genetically engineered perfect beings who do not want to endanger their own perfect kind, to do, defending  super spiffy space batteries from a monster who wants to eat them. Rocket is setting up a makeshift PA system for them to listen to music while they work. We get from this setup Kid Groot busting a move to Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra while his teammates take on the monster. It is a thoroughly entertaining scene and has some moments of absolute charm. My favourite was while Gamora was flung back by the monster and landed next to Kid Groot he waved Hi to her and she waved back. He also had a great moment when Drax was collapsed next to him for a moment where he stopped dancing as a call back to the end credits of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Priestess Ayesha

Elizabeth Debicki was regal and arrogant in her performance as the Sovereign’s High Priestess Ayesha. Who pursuit of our heroes after Rocket stole the batteries that The Guardian’s were protecting made up most of the circumstances for our heroes to meet the main antagonist Ego, who is Peter’s father but also a living planet that has set out to destroy all of the universes only to remake it in his image. The scenes between Ego and Peter are filled with romanticised father-son bonding tropes and a sense of dread. Since all good things must come to an end, the main tipping point where Ego reveals that even though he was deeply in love with Meredith that he had to give her cancer so he wouldn’t feel the urge to see her again and Peter’s immediate rage and desire for revenge was the stuff of Shakespearean lore. 

The rest of the story unfolds with the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) tracking our heroes throughout the galaxy to find the batteries and in the end revealing his true intentions on never delivering Peter to his father. We also witness the heartache that Yondu suffered growing up as a Cree war slave and in his relating to Rocket as being a “thing no one loves” the character becomes an endearing father figure. 

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Ego as a Planet

Other stories in this epic masterpiece include the sibling rivalry between Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora coming to a climax and the sisters making piece with the cruelty they were raised in and the healing friendship/romance budding between Ego’s pet humanoid Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who he has trained to help him sleep and Drax who is starting to wonder what it would be like to go on to the next step of grief, acceptance. All of which is culminated in the redemption of Yondu and acceptance back into the good graces of his fellow Ravagers who disowned him for breaking the code of not dealing in human life. In the end the whole Ravager fleet along with the main captains of the ships who comprised the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the 31st Century. (Stakar Ogord – Sylvester Stallone, Charlie 27 – Ving Rhames, Aleta Ogord – Michelle Yeoh, Martinex – Michael Rosenbaum, Krugarr and Mainframe – Miley Cyrus)

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Drax and Mantis with Nebula in the background

Other great things about this movie:

You will want to stay to the very end, because they delivered with a great end credit scene filled with easter eggs galore

Howard The Duck makes another appearance

Stan Lee’s cameo is top notch, he is explaining how cameos work to The Watchers

Sullen Teenage Groot makes an appearance

More of Cosmo The Space Dog

David Hasselhoff does the end credits music and appears in a key moment of the movie

Also, Adam Warlock sighting kiddos!

 

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4783

Amy Jo Johnson Wants to Watch a Movie With You

Culture, film, Showcase, Videos

March 15, 2017

You remember Amy Jo Johnson, yes? With all the attention being paid to the new Power Rangers movie, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at what one of the originals is doing – and, in short, she is continuing her quest to be awesome.

Amy’s gone on to act in other projects (Felecity and Flashpoint), flirted with music (The Trans-American Treatment and Imperfect),  and done a number of short films (Bent, Lines, and others). She was kind enough to take a moment from her incredibly busy schedule to speak with us before, and you can read that interview by clicking here. She’s not the sort to rest on her laurels, though, and has just completed writing, directing, and producing her first-ever feature film, The Space Between Us.

Here’s the trailer:

That looks both cute and poignant, which is interesting given the potential seriousness of the subject material.

According to press materials, “The Space Between is a heartfelt comedy about Mitch, a 35-year-old new father, whose world is turned upside down when he finds out his adored baby isn’t his. Leaving his wife, he sets out on a mission to find the man who ruined his life. As his wife Jackie is desperate to win him back, she enlists the help of her best friend and family as they embark on a journey to find Mitch.” It’s was the 2014 IndieWire Project of the Year, part of the 2015 Tribeca All Access Program, the 2015 Telefilm Micro Budget program, and developed in the producers’ lab at the Canadian Film Center. It premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival before moving on to the Whistler Film Festival, the Savannah Film Festival, and is about to be shown at Gina Davis’ Bettonville Film Festival.

It stars Michael Ironside (Top Gun), Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black), Jayne Eastwood (Chicago), Julia Sarah Stone (Wet Bum), and Amy herself.

All of that is kind of great, but it is not the coolest part of this whole endeavour: rather, Amy Jo Johnson has started The Space Between Super Host Theatrical Tour, wherein eight lucky winners of a contest will be chosen to host a special one-night screening of the film with Amy Jo Johnson herself in their hometown. The contest opens March 15th and goes through to April 1st, 2017, with the eight winners being announced at the end of April and the film going on tour in the summer of this year.

The Space Between team will handle all of the logistics of booking the theater and the eight winners will get to take home 5% of the Producer’s Box Office earnings for their screening, and get to spend the evening with Amy Jo Johnson as the host of the event.

Giveaways are also part of the contest, with Amy awarding prizes that include t-shirts, Skype dates, and a one-time grand prize private dinner with Amy Jo Johnson and her producer, Jessica Adams. You can, should, and must click here to learn more and fill out an application, or click here if you want to learn more.  In short, applicants will submit a pitch video describing why they want to host the film and Amy in their hometown and how they plan to bring their friends, family, and community out for the screening that night.

The Space Between team can be found on Twitter and FaceBook simply be clicking the place you’d like to communicate with them. Amy Jo Johnson is also on Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, and has her very own website, and you can find any of those spots by clicking on them. All of them are pretty great.

Good luck, peoples. The clock it is ticking.

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955

The D-Cast Episode 54 – The Force Awakens

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

December 21, 2015

Andy and Dale return to the D-Cast to talk a little movie that really came out of nowhere to dominate everything forever. You may have heard of it… Star Wars, the Force Awakens? You can and should check out the movie in theaters now, and then check out the spoiler-laden latest episode of their podcast right here, right now. The video version is sure to follow.

podcastcover1

The D-Cast can be found by clicking their name, and you can chat with them on twitter, too.

And you can check them out on itunes. Awesome.

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898

Terminator Genisys Review

film, Reviews

July 3, 2015

There’s something to be said for expectations. You can go into a good movie with too high of expectations and find yourself not enjoying a movie that was otherwise perfectly enjoyable. You can also go in with real low expectations and find that you enjoyed something WAY more than other viewers because you weren’t expecting much.

I know as a journalist/writer/critic we’re not supposed to have any kind of baggage follow us into the theater, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t have bets placed on how a movie is going to do based on its trailer. As a writer, it’s hard to admit that I fall into the old pit fall of “judging a book by its cover” or in this example, a movie by its trailer.

For what it’s worth, I always try and use those two pieces to my advantage though. So in a situation where I’m going into a mindless action film, like Terminator: Genisys’ trailer had set me up for, the bar is pretty damn low.

I mention all this because Genisys, in spite of having a super low bar to get over, fails miserably on virtually every front. I wasn’t expecting an Oscar contender, or even the spiritual successor to T2 that we’ve all been waiting for… just a campy action flick where Arnie punches Arnie.

To its credit, the movie does provide that, along with a healthy amount of comedy. I’m just not sure that the laughs that the film gets were at all intentional.

Some definitely are. Arnold seems to be enjoying his time in the movie and there’s a few hammed moments that were obviously intended as funny. But I highly doubt it was the ridiculous pseudo-science and the gaping plot holes that the writing staff was attempting as some kind of meta-humor.

Coming into the review, I knew what the crux of my “argument against Terminator” would be wasted potential; this movie has a lot of great ideas, some of which have been ruined already by the film’s trailers (which was potential wasted, exhibit A).

What I couldn’t have known, going in, was that wasted potential was going to be a constant theme throughout the film. Considering the trailer has already spoiled the twist, I feel no qualms about announcing it was a massive mistake to let us all know that John Conner is working for the machines in Genisys. That COULD have been a really cool plot twist, something that brings it back to the things I loved about the original franchise; a Terminator suddenly fights for good, the realization you can’t stop Judgement Day, etc. etc.

Several times throughout the movie the writing staff plays with the concepts of time travel and multiple universes, teeing up plot devices that could have been amazing… but instead go nowhere. Set-up, abandonment. Set-up, abandonment. Over and over and over until you get to the end of the film and it ties it all up with an unnecessary bow about time travel that was never needed, not to mention a post-credits scene that feels so forced you can almost feel the gun pressed to the director’s left temple.

There are many, many other examples of the movie setting up potentially interesting plot points for the film, then heading in the other direction, like a child who has lost interest in a toy that’s now an hour too old for their ADD sensibilities. Sarah, in this iteration of the Terminator time-line, has been raised since she was 9 years old to be the machine-destroying beast she evolves to later in the franchise. This could have been a great setup for a storyline where Sarah doesn’t have to deal with the weakness the first film established and then cured her of… instead, it works backwards as the bloated storyline of Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner “needing” to fall in love is pushed to the forefront, effectively making the character de-evolve into the old-Hollywood vision of the female lead: damsel in distress.

For my money, the worst offenses were the rewrites to the Terminator lore that are made seemingly without explanation. Without giving away “pivotal plot information” there are a number of scenes throughout the film that operate in complete contradiction to the rules of time travel and the Terminators set forth by the franchise previous installations. It even goes so far to contradict the multi-verse theory established its own movie as well!

Again, I don’t worry that anyone is going to head into Genisys looking for Terminator 2 again. The trailer, for better or worse, sets the expectations low. It’s unfortunate that the film in its entirety is an extension of that metaphor, ruined promise and potential, but at least it is accurate.

There are plenty of opportunities out there to watch mindless action movies, or action thrillers, or action comedies that will be worth your price of admission. Terminator doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be though, and therefore strikes out (multiple times) on a journey to find itself… and never quite gets there.

The only positive that I can offer it is that if you are a fan of 3D spectacle Genisys does well to showcase the technology of film today. Even the 3D modeled Arnie from 1984 isn’t terrible (though it more than dips its toe in the uncanny valley).

If you are dead set on seeing Genisys in the theaters this weekend, a word of caution or at least context: Head in expecting to either not care at all for things like continuity, science, or even just story structure. The best that you’re going to get out of this one is 2 hours of 3D explosions leaping from the screen in your general direction in a moment that made me think back to “The Box” of Batman Forever infamy.

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1220

Go See Mad Max: Fury Road

film

May 17, 2015

First of all, I should come clear. I’m not a Mad Max aficionado. I haven’t actually seen the originals (*gasp! horror!*). Well, I’ve seen bits and pieces of them over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever sat and watched them through from start to finish. Or if I did, it was so long ago that I have no recollection of it. So basically, I went in to this movie knowing the basic pop culture aspects of Mad Max, but with no attachment to the character, and no list of things that “must” be in a Mad Max movie.

So,where do I begin? How about…

OMGTHATWASSOAWESOME, GOSEE ITNOW and MOSTEPICMOVIEEVAR!!!!1!!!!1! over and over again.

I don’t think that would be a particularly helpful approach, but I do have to start thinking about how many different words I can come up with for “fabulous”.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the straight up gold standard for action movies. Most “action” movies usually involve a whole lotta plot and exposition, interspersed with bits of action sequences here and there. Mad Max however, is pretty much one giant action sequence – two hours of high speed, explosive car chases. I bet the dialogue itself could probably fit on a dozen pages – aside from one scene, I think the most Tom Hardy had to remember was “my name is Max”.  And yet, for a movie that is in-your-face-action and almost nothing else, it doesn’t get tiring. The two hours actually passes fairly quickly. It is all handled so beautifully, and the way George Miller cuts things together, you can actually *watch* the action scenes. I find that with so many movies these days, the cuts are so fast that you never truly get the scope of that is going on. Although, admittedly, after two hours of watching vehicles speed through the desert and crash into one another, I had to catch my lead foot a few times on the drive home.

The one thing that is making the news these days (mainly because of the response from the MRA douchebags) is that Mad Max is a feminist movie. And if it hadn’t been brought to my attention, I would not have walked out of that movie thinking “man, that was a brilliant piece of feminist filmmaking”. Maybe I like to live in my world where a woman is able to kick ass and take names without it being a big deal. Maybe I just refuse to think that our society has sunk so low that a movie where women are allowed to be something other than eye candy is something to be remarked upon.  But now that I think about it, almost any of the characters in the movie could have been gender swapped, and it the story would have played out in the same way. And I think that is awesome.

I sincerely hope that this movie does well enough at the box office to justify a sequel, but on something like a $150 million budget, it has a ways to go. So this is my way of saying GET OUT THERE AND SEE IT NOW! And be prepared to have your mind blown for two hours straight.

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1295

Movie Review – Avengers 2 Age of Ultron

film, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

May 1, 2015

The original Avengers was an amazing movie.

It took characters established in three other successful franchises and one other franchise that wasn’t so great and expounded upon their stories while moving everyone forward. There’d never been anything like it, despite the rather simplistic “there’s a bad guy, go fight him” plot. The previous movies leading up to it gave the Avengers weight, a sense of gravitas. It was a climax that had been earned through meticulous and careful storytelling.

The sequel takes everything that made the original good and expands upon it.

Our main six heroes – Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye – are all given their moments to shine and show a casual familiarity with one another. They feel like old friends and comrades, and seeing them work together in the opening few moments is a thrill beaten only by watching those relationships expand throughout the film. They are torn apart from within, their fears laid bear, the monsters they could be thrown in their faces until it nearly destroys all of them. In the end, they discover they have only one another to rely upon.

And they accept this. They have to. There’s a surprising degree of gray morality in this movie. The villain comes about from the best of intentions, and the side villains become who they are to defend their country and avenge their parents. There’s a lot going on in this movie, with details that appear to be thrown in as simple amusements instead have massive character-defining payoffs in the third act.

That’s nine major characters, each with a complete story arc that offers each a satisfying conclusion based on who we know them to be.

If that were all that was being offered, this movie would be well and good and that would be enough. It isn’t all we’re given, though – we get a full world that is dealing with the presence of the Avengers, a world that is still reeling from the crimes of Hyrda and Obadiah Staine, a world still haunted by Loki’s scepter.

We get a world that isn’t sure what’s going on or who to trust, a world without SHIELD, but even that fabled group manages to redeem itself by the end of the story.

The first Avengers moved the story of the Marvel cinematic universe forward, and this does the same thing – it just manages to be a much more complex and satisfying story while doing it, and hints at the legacy to come. You were probably planning on seeing it anyway, but, really – go see this movie.

In short...

The Good – the acting, direction, performances, sound design, and pacing. The way everyone moves and evolves in a movie that is, principally, about evolution. The way this ends, victory tinged with sadness, and hope for the future.

The Bad – No scene after the end credits. No Black Widow movie. Waiting a year for Civil War. What the hell, Marvel?

The Verdict – see this movie and take note. This is what superhero movies can be, the bar set to something that Dawn of Justice is not going to be able to match without a lot of work.

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