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February Film Round Up

February 28, 2018 — Leave a comment

Here’s a round up of everything I’ve written in February.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018, Dir: David Wain)‘There’s always the nagging feeling that it could be trying harder.’

A Haunted House 2 (2014, Dir: Michael Tiddes)‘Racist, sexist and homophobic.

American Satan (2017, Dir: Ash Avildsen)‘Heil Satan! Heil yourselves!’

Batman: Year One (2011, Dir: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery) – Moody.’

Black Panther (2018, Dir: Ryan Coogler)‘If only every Marvel film could be like this.’ 

Curse of Chucky (2013, Dir: Don Mancini)‘It does reinvent the franchise.’ 

Grabbers (2012, Dir: Jon Wright)‘A booze and blood soaked comedy.’

Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987, Dir: Phillipe Mora) – ‘No one is laughing and there’s a deep concern for all involved.’ 

I, Tonya (2018, Dir: Craig Gillespie)‘Stick to a tone.’

Marina Abramović In Brazil: The Space In Between (2018, Dir: Marco Del Fiol)‘A fascinating journey in lifestyles we likely don’t see too much, regardless of how well travelled we see ourselves.’ 

Menashe (2017, Dir: Joshua Z Weinstein)‘A sweet-natured film.’ 

Padman (2018, Dir: R. Balki)‘if it can make at least one person change their habits, that’s got to be a good thing.’ 

Playground [Plac Zabaw] (2016, Dir: Bartosz M Kowalski) ‘Shock tactics for the sake of shock tactics.’ 

Primal Rage (2018, Dir: Patrick Magee)‘Primal Rage is… a helluva ride.’ 

Sherlock: Case of Evil (2002, Dir: Graham Theakston)‘Move along, nothing to see.’ 

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985, Dir: Joel Schumacer)‘Teenagers or sociopaths?’ 

That’s Not My Dog (2018, Dir: Dean Murphy) – ‘…this kind of venture is probably best reserved for television than the cinema.’ 

The End of the F***ing World (2017, Dir: Jonathan Entwistle, Lucy Tcherniak)‘Strangely uplifting.’ 

The People Vs George Lucas (2011, Dir: Alexandre O. Philippe) – ‘A monument to the kind of overgrown children who ruin any kind of fandom.’ 

The Rizen (2017, Dir: Matt Mitchell) – ‘The film’s pacing is completely off.’ 

The Workshop (2017, Dir: Laurent Cantet) – ‘Naturalistic performances, gorgeous provincial scenery and healthy debates are reason enough to be engaged by The Workshop.’

Werewolves of the Third Reich (2017, Dir: Andrew Jones) – ‘Werewolves of the Third Reich is amusing, but severely lacking.’ 

White Collar Hooligan 2 (2013, Dir: Paul Tanter) – ‘Rough and ready charm.’ 

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Batman: Year One (2011)

February 10, 2018 — Leave a comment

The rather moody Batman: Year one is based on the comic series by Frank Millar of the same name, which in turn was the basis for Christopher Nolan’s equally moody Batman Begins. The key word, if you haven’t already guessed, is moody.  If you’re a comic aficionado or have happened to have seen Sin City or 300, you’ll know what to expect from Millar’s take on the Caped Crusader’s first steps into crime fighting.

Inner monologues that sound like the same person no matter who is talking? Check. Honestly, you could swap the voices and it wouldn’t matter jot.

Laughable attempts to make everything seem grown up? Check. Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman is a prostitute, Batman says ‘fuck’ and 90% of the fight scenes seem to happen within Gotham’s red-light district.

That sneaky feeling this is all a bit misogynistic? Check. As well as Catwoman being a lady of the night who looks after a 12-year-old prostitute, the only other strong female character is merely used as a plot device for the soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon to have his end away with. Sigh.

The plot hangs around a series of snapshots taken during the first 12 months of Bruce Wayne’s tentative steps as Batman. Whilst this makes for interesting viewing, some sub-plots are picked up and dropped quicker than would be liked. Depending on how you look at this, this can be a bit frustrating.

As this is a serious film about serious grown up things – did I mention Batman says ‘fuck’? –  there is clearly a huge effort to ground all this in reality. A commendable effort that is somewhat skewed by the fact that everyone appears to have unbelievable superhuman strength. If it’s not Gordon kick boxing like Sagat from Street Fighter II, it’s Selina Kyle leaping out of a four-storey building before landing safely on concrete and Bruce Wayne punching a pile of bricks to dust before kicking a tree in half. Seriously, in half.

Yes, this is a cartoon world, films have to earn your suspension of disbelief. A man dressing as a bat is going to be difficult to take seriously as it is without him having to ability to take out oak trees in a single swipe.

It’s not all bad. The minimalist animation is effective, and the denouement is surprisingly low key for a superhero film. If you count babies falling from a bridge low-key, that is. All of which goes some way to show that Batman: Year One can do subtlety when it can be bothered.

Overall, considering this is based on a well thought of comic book series, Batman: Year One is kind of a missed opportunity. It has a criminally short running time (just over 60 minutes) and there is just not enough of an attempt made to get inside the head of Bruce Wayne. Did I mention it’s incredibly moody? I’m not saying Batman needs to break wind and giggle, but the darkness would contrast better if it was up against some lighter moments.

In what feels like seven decades in the making, two of DC’s mightiest heroes go toe to toe in an all-out no holds barred smack down. This, we’re assured by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor several times, will be the gladiatorial fight of the century. Is it though?

Don’t let the action figures and pint sized pyjamas on sale in Kmart fool you. Batman v Supermanis not a kid’s film. Nor is it even a family film. This cinematic interpretation is aimed squarely at the adults who want, nay demand, that their childhood obsessions grow up with them. This is translated into a cinematic universe where Batman tackles paedophiles and sex traffickers by branding them with a hot bat symbol, where Superman’s deeds in Man of Steel resulted in the deaths of thousands and Lex Luthor waxes lyrical about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and sends jars of urine to his enemies before blowing them up. This is a DC comic filtered through the lens of a bad fan fiction. This not a universe I want to live in.

It may be an old fashioned way of thinking, but superhero movies need to show their heroes being, well, super. In Batman v Superman – a title bout that doesn’t happen till around the two-hour mark – both of our heroes are rarely seen doing anything remotely so.

As Bruce Wayne/Batman, Ben Affleck is in danger of tripping over his brow due to how furrowed it is. He lives in a modern condo down river from a desolate Wayne Manor. He spends his nights with literally faceless women and having violent visions about Henry Cavill’s Superman. Having seen the blue tighted one effectively turn Metropolis to dust two years previously, the playboy millionaire is concerned for the welfare of America at the hands of aliens. In a sense, he’s the Donald Trump of superheroes.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) struggles with his work life balance as the media slowly becomes obsessed with Superman and the untold damage his heroics have caused over the years. Would it have hurt the film to have a simple scene of Clark enjoying being a superhero? Evidently so. If you enjoyed moody space Jesus in Man of Steel, you’re going to get a kick out of watching him crying in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Perhaps the brightest spot in the whole murky affair – and director Zack Snyder has really gone out of his way to drain this comic book movie of most hues – is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Though even then, it’s hard not to feel her appearance would have had more effect had it not been spread thinly across every trailer in the last six months.

Later this year, Marvel will throw their own one on one into the cinema with Captain America: Civil War. It’s important to mention this, because with ten films down, Marvel has earned the right to have Captain America and Iron Man square off. This only the second film of the DC Cinematic Universe, and quite frankly everyone needs to be given time to breathe and think about what they really want to do. Sony’s aborted Amazing Spider-Man trilogy shows that trying to capture the same lightening as Marvel is going to be hard. DC can pull it off if they stop trying to rush everything and overstuff the film; spending close to three hours throwing everything at the screen in the hopes that something sticks.

There are several cameos, and (so. many.) dream sequences, that obviously hint at future adventures, which is fine. However, when a certain Justice League member turns up from the future to warn Batman about the past, and who is never referred to again for the rest of the film, its evident that DC comics doesn’t care for the casual viewer. They want the fans. They want the fan’s money. It’s marketing at it’s most cynical.

Overlong, dull and pretentious, Batman v Superman is the superhero movie that dyes its hair black, plays Lana Del Rey songs repeatedly and refuses to call Mum’s new lover Dad no matter how much Steve insists.

 

This review originally appeared at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com