What I thought of Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Marvel Cinematic Universe must be like living in an ongoing hellscape rather than a world of wonders. Mad gods can wipe half the universe out of existence, while enhanced people and super-powered individuals stomp round the planet caring nothing of borders and international treaties, and you don’t know if giant alien craft are going to come crashing upon you. You would literally be living in terror, yet here people live in a mix of normality or an unsettled refugee.

Then there’s the entire character of Sam Wilson who we first see acting on behalf of the US armed forces, and I assume the US government, in doing slightly dodgy things in the Middle East, but by the end of the series he’s rewriting what it means to be Captain America while being a tool of that nation’s colonialism. He’s no more a hero than John Walker who for much of the series is painted as a villain but in reality, this is a normal human being asked to fight people with superhuman abilities, and his unpreparedness costs the life of his partner who is Fridged as soon as the show can.

On top of this there’s the shonky pacing and plotting of the series. This series feels like a film expanded to nearly six hours so there’s so much padding with characters literally just standing there spouting exposition in flatly shot scenes which reminded me of how soap operas look To be fair some of this horrible disjointed feel can be put down to the break in production because of Covid 19. That said, it could have lost a couple of episodes and been better for it.

It is enjoyable junk fun if you don’t think about the horrible contradictions it throws up, or how the writers struggle to see the world without an American lens on, but like WandaVision before it this was a way to get Sam into being Captain America while pushing the MCU plot along a bit. Unlike WandaVision it was not as good and less cohesive as a work in its own right. Next up is the Loki series which does at least promise a break from the norm of the MCU.

One last thing, vast chunks of this series, including dialogue, was lifted from the works of people like Mark Guenwald and Ed Brubaker, but beyond a small credit hidden away these people, or their surviving families, get nothing even though Disney/Marvel make millions from these things. I’d assumed Disney were paying creators but it appears not to be the case. I wish MCU fans were as passionate about creator rights as they are about how cool Sam’s new costume is…

I want to fly into Godzilla’s mouth

Anyone who’s followed this blog for all the years I’d done this will know I am a massive fan of Godzilla in all his big scaly goodness and the recent Godzilla Vs Kong was a cinematic wet dream even if the script sucked harder than a Dyson. So when I found out a Godzilla theme park existed where one could zipline into the mouth of a life-size Godzilla based upon the Shin Godzilla version which is this version.

https://static.rogerebert.com/uploads/review/primary_image/reviews/shin-godzilla-2016/Shin-Godzilla-2016-2.jpg

Which is a great, and scary version. The idea of zipping into its mouth and coming out the back, though not the arse of Godzilla, sent me off to YouTube to find videos of this so here you go.

The chances of me doing now I’m disabled, and in current pandemic conditions means a trip to Japan is ruled out, but looking at this makes me wish it’d been built even just a decade ago because I’d be in and out his maw all bloody day! Thankfully these videos give me a jist of that experience but I do wish someone would build one of these things in Europe.

What I thought of Godzilla Vs Kong

There is no way one can review or talk about this film as you would any normal film. This is a film called Godzilla versus Kong where two giant monsters twat the hell out of each other for our entertainment. Yes, there is a ‘plot’ but it is complete and utter nonsense, while the script is complete garbage as some very good actors say some appallingly written lines but it does not matter a jot as this film features Godzilla and Kong headbutting each other. The acting is just above ‘Michael Caine turning up for the paycheque’ level, and in some cases people try to do more than what’s needed with a thin bowl of gruel but this film features Kong hitting Godzilla with an enormous glowing axe. The direction by Adam Wingard is sometimes clunky, but it is ok as when he’s directing scenes which feature Godzilla trying to beat the shit out of Kong by throwing him through skyscrapers then he’s done his job well.

This is a film for 9-year old me. I would have killed to see this film then. I would have done it decades later if the pandemic had put off its release much longer. This is fun, junk entertainment well made that looks fantastic at times, and yes, the script sucks but the final half hour of fighting in Hong Kong (a city here with an endless supply of skyscrapers to trash) looks fantastic, but this is a big budget peice of entertainment that will never, ever enter the lists of best films ever made but does take up a place in my favourite films because this is Godzilla versus Kong and I can’t ask for more than that.

Life is better with new KLF material

Since the KLF returned at the start of the year there’s been a steady drip of remastered videos but the goldust is the rare stuff like the few live performances that were filmed, and of course the films they made of their various stunts and antics.

One of the long lost gems is The Rites of Mu where they got a load of music journalists and fans onto Jura to well, indulge in being a cult. Narrated by Martin Sheen the entire thing is glorious pompous nonsense and worth half and hour of your time now it’s been remastered and ready to be seen in all its glory for the first time like this.

What I thought of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

The whole reason this film exists isn’t just down to a fan campaign like no other since they cancelled Star Trek in the 60’s, but the launch of HBO Max and the cinema closedown thanks to Covid meant that Warner Brothers were looking for a quick hit, and this with a readymade fanbase would be just that hopefully. The 2017 version completed by Joss Whedon is an odd beast that doesn’t work but does have some good scenes, but as a whole it was a mess. Snyder’s departure from the film is part tragedy because of the death of his daughter, and partly business as WB realised a 4 hour epic would not work in most cinemas with a film that came off the poor Batman V Superman.

Which brings us to the 4 hour epic streaming on HBO Max in the US, and Sky/Now TV over here in the UK. It’s a film I’ll probably never watch again, at least in the full version but this is probably the best of Snyder’s three DC films but it is a mess. There is literally no way this would work in cinemas to bring in the numbers Warners want as few casual cinema goers would sit through a film of this length unless it was coming off a massive success which it wasn’t.

Snyder’s JL starts at the end of Batman V Superman with Superman’s death cry ringing out around the world which is a bold opening sequence, however the 4:3 ratio takes some getting used to (after all, this is 2021 and we’re not used to films in this ratio) but it sets a grim, grey funeral tone for the film which I can understand with Snyder’s tragedy being exorcised onscreen. For much of the running time this tone doesn’t relent and with the film having very little intential humour (more on this in a minute) much of the first two hours is set-up and exposition which makes it often a chore to get through. It does give all the League a good backstory or introduction but scenes go on far too long or the construction is so poor that the scene becomes bloated and pompous. In the case of The Flash, it goes over old ground the TV show has done, and done better than this.

There’s two scenes in particular which highlight the problem. One is Aquaman’s walk along the pier during a storm, which just goes on and on and on. It also brought to mind this bit of classic comedy from The Comic Strip Presents.

Then there’s the Wonder Woman scene in London where she saves a class of schoolkids from terrorists which was a short, to the point scene in 2017 and is now a bloated mess with bad CGI terrorists being smeared across walls before Wonder Woman spouts the most inane form of feminism (‘you can be anything’) to one of the survivors. It’s a scene supposedly weighty but it’s a nonsense. It’s the sort of scene a teenaged boy who spends too much time online would find ‘badass’ but it just makes one of the few female characters just another violent killer. And here’s the issue with superheroes. You can make them ‘real’ but you can’t ever make them authentic because the nature of what a superhero is reduces characters to 2D models of what a real person should be.

As for the second half this is when all the set-up pays off, and with Snyder being a fan of Chekov’s gun, there’s a lot of things paying off from Cyborg’s relationship with his father and acceptance of who he is, through to The Flash accepting who he is, or Aquaman accepting who he is and so on. The villian Steppenwolf is a badly designed generic baddie who is fighting for the main baddie Darkseid, who is also poorly designed with poor CG. Both had good and great Jack Kirby designs respectively but this film was born out of DC’s disastrous New 52 reboot, and suffers because it takes so much from that mess. Ben Affleck’s Batman is probably the highlight of the film, though Henry Cavill’s Superman is essentially an extended cameo which is a pity as the best thing which came out of the 2017 version was giving Cavill a chance to actualy play Superman instead of some Emo version of the character via Kid Marvelman.

Anyhow, eventually the Justice League come together after a pointless McGuffin chase, fight the baddie, defeat him in a way which sets up a sequel which won’t happen and then we get a load of epilogues that would make Peter Jackson call time. These scenes set up films which have happened, will happen but not as intended here or just won’t happen like Affleck’s Batman solo film.

Is it the ‘masterpiece’ fans are saying it is? Fuck, no. There is no need for this film to be four hours long. A good producer would trim at least an hour, then there’s the 4:3 ratio which is the Imax ratio which is fine, but why not save that for when cinemas reopen and it can be seen in that ratio? Also the script is awful at times as Snyder is trying to create this great mythic thing (which at times he nearly does) but wooden, empty cliched dialogue does not an epic make then Snyder has never been anything but a visual filmaker. Visually at times Justice League looks extraordinary which makes me wish I could see it on a big screen with great sound as the action scenes are great. I especially like the scenes of Darkseid’s first attempted invasion of Earth which is so over the top that the film, finally becomes fun before it crawls back into brooding exposition. Snyder’s overall vision is to be applauded though, even if much of it is ponderous nonsense. There’s nothing like this directorial vision out there in regards to superheroes, and he takes the fascistic nature of superheroes head on, even if it comes over as ripped from Ayn Rand’s notebook. Marvel try to deal with some of the themes Synder engages but either runs away from the consequences of it or just tries to ignore the logical inconsistancies of superheroes. Snyder doesn’t care so we get the full vision.

As a film Justice League is a real director’s cut. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s appalling sometimes it has an overinflated view of itself but as an experiment it’s an oddity while being one those things that may well end up changing how films are made in a post-Covid world and its vocal, and sometimes aggresively so group of fans did the near impossible in getting a film studio to cough up the millions to make this film happen in a perfect storm. Whether it could happen again is debatable though the film’s early success may not last the week, I’m glad such a thing exists only to push others to do better.

Basically watch this if you’re a superhero fan, or maybe a student of cinema but otherwise this sometimes entertaining, often infuriating, sometimes dreadful film will be four hours you’ll never get back. Be aware of that going into this and commiting to the full experience.

What I thought of WandaVision

Marvel’s first Disney+ series had a lot of heavy lifting to do with there not being anything released from Marvel in over a year thanks to Covid, plus it had to prove Marvel’s TV output could match the film output. WandaVison succeeds when it tries to venture off from the Marvel formula and fails when it slides back into the Marvel formula.

The story is essentially about Wanda’s grief after having to kill her lover, The Vision, in Infinity War in order to save the universe from Thanos. In the small ton of Westfield she’s formed her own reality based round old American sitcoms in which she’s recreated The Vision, as well as forming her two children. The hundreds of people living there are being controlled by Wanda as characters in her sitcom. At the same time the US government are trying to find out what’s going on so we get a mix of old and new characters with a gron up Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel being the most notable.

As a set up it’s interesting, and the first half of the series is superb. Using the sitcom format renders an odd surrealism into the series as the viewer tries to work out what’s going on with what are entertaining pastiches of each era of sitcom featured from the 1960s to the 2010s. In terms of storytelling it is brave as the Marvel formula is by now a well oiled machine, and the films don’t verge too far into anything too different to that which they’ve set out so far. WandaVision deliberately challenges the viewer and in doing so allows Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to flex their acting chops. The first half of this series is wonderful and bold. Then they play their cards too early and the series falls into traditional storytelling techniques which is a shame. Part of the problem is that WandaVision is there to push along the unstoppable plot which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe so this has to set up half a dozen things which follow it which makes for a less than satisfying end where we kick a Big Fight Scene or two masked in some good lines to give the idea this is something more than what it is which is well done superheroics.

I do hope though that Marvel decide to become more adventurous off the back of this rather than just sitting in their formula and endlessly repeating itself.Also sacrificing chunks of storytelling to cram in the relentless MCU plot is tiresome when it leaves so many dangling ends which may well take years to complete.

WandaVision though is overall a triumph of the superhero genre. It tries to break free of Marvel’s sometimes static direction by using less green screen unless needed, which makes it feel more organic.Having characters developed for longer was good to see, even if it still is firminly lodged in two dimensions. True it does swerve some of the bigger questions, like for example Wanda basically mind-raped the people of Westfield, while Monica’s glib dismissal of the population’s fear and hatred of Wanda continues my belief that the MCU isn’t a universe full of wonders but a cold, dark dystopia where literal gods walk the Earth without challenge. Civil War touched on this, but they pulled back on how awful it’d be to be there.

Marvel are in a good place as people have been so starved for their films that any possible exhaustion has been postponed thanks to Covid, but if it tries more like WandaVision while working hard to avoid the obvious, then it’ll have a strong future creatively. Though in future I wish they’d credit comics creators higher up the credits as this series quite literally took chunks of dialogue from various comics creators with the most minimal amount of credit they couold give.

Superhero film fans get annoyed by Martin Scorsese, again.

Martin Scorsese is along with Steven Spielberg, the greatest living American film director of his, not to mention, subsequent generations. He’s made some of the best films ever made. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, The King of Comedy, Wolf of Wall Street; all films which are the very best of cinema so when he talks its because he knows what he’s talking about and he loves cinema. His recent comments about reducing all film to ‘content’ is so spot on it hurts.

Scorsese wrote, in his opinion, that content is now a “business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode.”

To Netflix or any other streaming service, Avengers: Endgame and Raging Bull are equals. They’re content to be consumed depending on how the algorithm works for you so potentially, depending on what you ‘consume’, your entire view of what makes up film can include only say, superhero and SF films, sorry, ‘content’. Now I enjoy much of Marvel’s films, while DC have made the odd decent one, but Marvel’s odd, sexless world of simplified human emotions or Zack Snyder’s weird neo-facism via Ayn Rand are not telling great stories about humanity, though to be fair Snyder is a talented visual director as opposed to Marvel’s functional by the numbers direction.

But they ain’t art or great cinema.

And here’s Scorsese’s point. Flattening everything out to be the same reduces all filmakers into content producers, so the idea of art and artistic craft is eradicated for this mush which tastes fine but eat to much of it ends up killing the taste buds. Mixing in a bit of smoked salmon, or a fine wine in with your mush leads to a balanced diet but if you don’t have the choice you won’t know that you’re being cheated of expanding your love and enjoyment of what is a wonderful medium, so you end up taking it personally because you’ve made this ‘content’ part of your identity instead of calmly listening to the point that we can’t just throw everything in a pot and expect it to be consumed the same way.

Instead fans become sensitive and overreact, close ranks and in doing so prove the point. It’s a depressing circle which eats itself but this is 2021…

The world of Super 8 home films

Today if you want to see a film all you need to do is turn your TV on, go to any streaming site and pretty much anything you want is there. If it isn’t then there’s plenty of ways to find it. IT never used to be like this of course. Once we all had to get up off our arses to go to the video shop like a Blockbuster, or if we really liked a film you can buy it on VHS, then DVD and now Blu-Ray. Now imagine a time when you couldn’t just watch your favourite film but instead had to do with a Super 8 version of the film which was heavily edited down to normally around half an hour, if you were lucky. These versions of films did not mess around as they had to effectively act as highlights while staying true to the full version.

Here’s Alien as an example.

The chestburster happens around seven minutes into its 17 minute running time, leaving 10 minutes to cram everything else in. As for Star Wars, you dare not blink or you’ll miss something.

Same goes for The Empire Strikes Back.

Go to YouTube and there’s hundreds of them there in a handy playlist, and be warned some of these condensed films are literally less than highlights. Jaws for example runs just over ten minutes!

Yet there’s a charm to all these films. For years they were the only ways to see a film unless it was rereleased or it happened to pop up on TV, which for new films at the time would be years. An actual print of the full film would be out of the price range of most people, assuming they had the equipment and space to show them in. Super 8 versions could be shown on your wall.

These films are now massively collectable odddites from a pre-digital age where you had to improvise to see a film you liked, and these highlight reels were great pre-video solutions to a demand. I had a few of them but sadly sold them some years ago because they were gathering dust, but these clunky gems of memorbillia are things I wish I’d kept. Especially considering the current value of many of them…

Zack Snyder’s Justice League and fan service

After a massive fan campaign, Zack Snyder has finished his version of the Justice League film which was released in 2017 to resounding shrugged shoulders and now there is this ridiculously overblown trailer released.

In one sense I’m glad Snyder has made it perfectly clear about the inhert fascism of the superhero, but at the same time these are still children’s power fantasies so there’s this bizarre ever-so-serious tone which imparts these characters with a supposed mythology which gives them a gravitas they don’t deserve. It is basically, pompous.

But this is Zack Snyder we’re talking about. Now he’s clearly a talented filmmaker, plus his version of Dawn of the Dead is actually really good, while his adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 is very good especially with Snyder’s obsession with the neo-fascist elements of Miller’s work. However Sucker Punch was offensive, patronising bollocks which I’m astonished got made at all, and his DC work is relentlessly humourless, bleak and endlessly dark. From Pa Kent’s needless self-sacrifice to the ‘Martha’ scene in Batman V Superman, Snyder has managed to get away with some dreadful stuff because his work appeals to a hardcore of fans.Those fans are incredibly vocal online and you have to applaud how they’ve convinced Warners there’s money in getting Snyder’s version made,though for a more general audience they’re perhaps tired of the enforced grimness of Snyder’s work.

However if at all successful this could effectively change how films are made. The pandemic means studios have to reconsider new ways to get to audiences, and if there’s a large enough one out there shouting for something then give it to them. I await it’s arrival next month in the same way I awaited my last set of medical tests, but whatever happens it will cement a place as a cinematic oddity. Just how much we’ll see in March.

Wonder Woman 1984 brings out the misogynists

I enjoyed the first Wonder Woman film a lot, mainly as it was a welcome relief from Zack Snyder’s grim narccism in his handling of DC’s superheroes, but also because it was well made fun. I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, and as I live in the UK it means the film has been out now for a fortnight but there’s the little issue of virtually no cinemas open so I’ll have to wait til the VOD release in a few weeks.

The film came out on Christmas Day in the U.S, as well as being streamed on HBO Max to generally average reviews and some vicious online reaction, mainly from males who seem to always get angry when women headline these sort of films. In fact the reaction is so angry and aggressive that you’d think WW84 starts with her killing puppies Mondo style and going on from there, but it’s a superhero film so that mean Incels and sexists (including some women) unite not to say they didn’t like the film (which is fine) but to question whether women can handle these types of films which is enormously sexist shite.

Every single female focused superhero film gets this. Every female focused film normally the preserve of men gets this, and we end up with the stream of bile regardless of the quality of the film. Thankfully now it seems studios are starting to ignore this but the fact is there’s a lot of people out there who utterly hate women and the anonymous nature of social media means they can pour that hate out in real time often against the stars of these films.

I’ve not seen WW84 yet, so I’m not able to make a judgement on the film itself, but I do wonder how these people spitting out hate function on a daily basis, but worse, I wonder how on the verge of 2021 we’ve got to this state where men can do this and they think nothing of it.