Thursday, December 27, 2012

Twenty twelve in song

2012 was the quite the year for music, so here's a few songs that stood out to me.

Cartoon and Cereal by Kendrick Lamar featuring Gunplay

Probably the most emotional song of the year, its just a hard hitting song, i mean damn. i'm honestly disappointed this wasn't on good kid, m.A.A.d city

Vodka & Ayahuasca by Gangrene

Favourite video of the year by far, it's just ridiculous. Also, i never really thought of psychedelic rap as thing, but i really dig it. Dat bass.

Born to Die by Lana Del Rey

Oh how i love Lana Del Rey, Born To Die is most likely my favourite album of the year. It just seems a somber rebuttal of #YOLO, it's less let's do stupid shit because we're young, and more, let's enjoy what time we have. i mean, she does end up dead in the video, that's not on accident, it's showing how dangerous being reckless is, and how unfortunately love isn't always enough. Lana takes on this very Lolita like persona, most obviously in the song Off to the Races, which in not only does she sing in a Betty Boop voice, it directly quotes the book. It's a story of a young troubled girl getting into older, bad men. And how they get her into drugs, money, and sex, and there's this very tragic tone to it all.

Eula by Baroness

i never knew metal could be this pretty. :3

Terrorist Threats by Ab-Soul featuring Danny Brown and Jhene Aiko

This is probably my favourite song of the year, not only was it my introduction to Ab-Soul, but it features everyone's favourite Danny Brown, and he fucking kills it on this track. Just a great political song. "I ain't trying to be nobody's chattel"

God Wants Us to Wait by The Magnetic Fields

This is the first Magnetic Fields album i've really enjoyed since I. But this song just sums up everything that's fantastic about them. Andrew in Drag is pretty fantastic too, and has a beautiful video.

Niggas in Poorest by Yasiin Bey

Just want to say first, there have not been nearly enough songs by Yasiin Bey this year. i love the line "Don't get caught up in no throne" in both what it means politically and a dig at the Jay-Z/Kanye album. Definitely looking forward to more Top 40 Underdogs.

How to be a Heartbreaker by Marina and the Diamonds

Best pop song of the year right here, really catchy and upbeat. i like it because it's all about how to use men, but then it gets serious and reveals it's all a ruse so her heart doesn't get broken, that perhaps using people is bad?! It's that kind of awareness that has always made Marina one of my favourite artists. i also love it because it's honestly the only video by a female artist that sexualizes men more than the artist that i can think of.

Die Young by Ke$ha

Similar in a way to Born to Die, but not as somber, i read somewhere that Ke$ha almost didn't want to record the song, for fear that it'd be misinterpreted. It's just a cute song about finding love and enjoying the night, even if the consequences might not be so great. "Stripping down to dirty socks" is seriously one of my favourite lyrics of all time. It's like when she giggles after saying "I like your beard" in Your Love is My Drug,  adorable.

Smoking like the Barrel of a Gun by Candice Gordon

Awesome voice. She screams like a girl, and it rocks.

Go Hard by Kreayshawn

Oh, Kreayshawn. While i have no comment about the rest of the album, i love this song, it reminds me of weird 90s pop songs, like something that would be in the soundtrack to Tank Girl. Something like that anyway. i want a whole cutesy album of songs like this.

Hit Me by Mystikal

Man, i thought James Brown was dead.

play by iamamiwhoami

i actually did a bit of a write up on this earlier in the year,  but this song and video, this is pop music, this is entertainment. It's a beautiful work of art. kin fits nicely in both my favourite albums and movies of the year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Batmania Rising

This review has been sitting in my queue, only partially written for the past few months, and in all of the time of reflection and thought on this film, the most I can come up with is "Batman pays for his sins, except not really."

This movie cribs a lot from Frank Miller's the Dark Knight Returns, in that it starts out with older versions of Bruce and Gordon, both completely miserable with the world they've created. i suppose the distinction, the Nolan twist, other than there being no crime in this film, is that they realize they're to blame. It's a fun angle.

Now the plot focuses on Talia al Ghul and her goon, her front, Bane, coming to Gotham to finish her father's plan, and to make Bruce pay. And it almost works. Hi-jacking some magical fission device Bruce had developed in his peace-time boredom, the new League of Shadows holds Gotham City hostage and turns it into a beautiful anarchy, or as Žižek had to say:
...the prospect of the OWS movement taking power and establishing people’s democracy on Manhattan is so patently absurd, so utterly non-realist, that one cannot but raise the question: WHY DOES THEN A MAJOR HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER DREAM ABOUT IT, WHY DOES IT EVOKE THIS SPECTER? Why even dream about OWS exploding into a violent takeover? The obvious answer (to smudge OWS with accusations that it harbors a terrorist-totalitarian potential) is not enough to account for the strange attraction exerted by prospect of “people’s power.” No wonder the proper functioning of this power remains blank, absent: no details are given about how this people’s power functions, what the mobilized people are doing (remember that Bane tells the people they can do what they want – he is not imposing on them his own order).
 This is why external critique of the film (“its depiction of the OWS reign is a ridiculous caricature”) is not enough – the critique has to be immanent, it has to locate within the film itself a multitude signs which point towards the authentic Event. (Recall, for example, that Bane is not just a brutal terrorist, but a person of deep love and sacrifice.) In short, pure ideology isn’t possible, Bane’s authenticity HAS to leave trace in the film’s texture. This is why the film deserves a close reading: the Event – the “people’s republic of Gotham City”, dictatorship of the proletariat on Manhattan – is immanent to the film, it is its absent center.
 Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Gotham City by Slavoj Žižek

Despite Bane and his forces having a military presence, they only exist to make the corrupt of the past rule pay. Another influence on the story was Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities, so "death by exile" is as much a guillotine as it is great joke.

Even if you don't agree with such politics, just look at how the characters are portrayed.

Bane is angelic, his voice is other-worldy, but it's light, it's authoritative, it's almost downright Connery at times. He commands a group that would die at his whim, without an objection. He punishes the rich and corrupt, gives the city back to the people, and is powered by love.

Batman is demonic, speaks like a bear, defends the lie of the corrupt police, protects the rich, and is fueled only by his hatred of the poor.

There's also the great bit that Talia is trying to continue in her father's footsteps, while Bruce has done nothing but destroy his father's legacy, literally in the case of the train system.

i also love that the fission device Bruce developed to help the world would be the downfall of Gotham. Honestly though, i feel the film would have been better had the bomb plot not involved a secret countdown, they should have just used the bomb as they said they would, and then only start the countdown once Batman showed his ugly mug. It would just reinforce how terrible Batman is for Gotham.

 This was also by far the funniest of the Nolan Batmen films, jokes and silly stuff abound, Bane was a complete blast to watch and listen to, and the climax of the film was stolen from the 1966 Batman movie:

Literally the last twenty minutes of the film.

As for the end itself... it was odd. It doesn't quite drag on as long as Return of the King did, but close enough. And honestly they could have cut away before it showed what Alfred was looking at, just him smiling. Hell it should have been cut like that, the arguments over whether he saw Bruce or not would be hilarious. When it comes to film endings though, i'm a bit cruel (Beyond the Black Rainbow, Excision, and Prometheus are all great examples from this year of endings i love, not surprisingly they're my favourite films of the year as well)
As mentioned in my revisit of the Dark Knight, this film continues the trends of ending on lies. Batman isn't dead, and now a celebrated hero. Gordon is a hero The rich and corrupt win. But then there's Robin, and Robin was amazing, honestly my favourite part of this film, was when everyone in the audience cheered when they revealed that was his real name. It's just something i never could have anticipated happening. A crowd cheering about the Boy Wonder, fantastic. So maybe there is hope for the future, Robin was sick of both the law and Batman, and now with the resources of an eccentric billionaire, perhaps he can do what Bruce failed to do, any good.

Over all it was a pretty decent, a bit heavy handed even for Nolan, and Catwoman's objectification wasn't quite as bad as the Black Widow's, but still not anything positive. On the plus side, Bruce and Selina's games were amusing, and Bane as already mentioned was a blast. What i loved about him, is that he was a man of myth, only talked about in about in half truths and exaggeration. He's kind of like a god, only strong as the people that believe in him. Once it's revealed that he isn't the mastermind (i do love that Bruce doesn't remember any of his teachings, the figure head of the League is never really the leader) nor was he mythical child that escaped the pit (he straight up tells the singled minded Bruce he didn't see daylight until he a man), he is promptly shot out of the film by Han Solo. Because much like Bane, Darth Vader was just a henchman, and the whole voice/machine head.... The point is, i laughed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spooks spooked, goblins gobbled, UFOs K.O.ed

This is something i've been thinking about all year, but it seems i should bring it up now that Dan Aykroyd insists that the third Ghostbusters will be coming without Bill Murray.

It's time to make the third one. - Aykroyd
 Mostly i want to talk about how wrong he is. (With or without Murray)
Not that i'm against sequels or anything, it's just the movie will be severely out of place if made now.

You see, Ghostbusters was a film built on the zeitgeist of the 80s. Ghost movies were rampant and New Age spirituality was on a rise.

The film came on the heels of the Shining, the Fog, Poltergeist, and countless other films not nearly as interesting. Not to mention everything that came after, culminating at 1990's Ghost. Ghostbusters II, opinions on he quality aside, was still set in the times of the paranormal.

These days however, ghost movies seem few, there aren't as many shows about hauntings either, the big topic today is, well:
The biggest movie series right now is probably Transformers, a series about robotic cars from outerspace, then there's Cowboys & Aliens, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, Battleship, Prometheus.... and that's what, the last three years? Ancient Aliens nearly has its own channel at this point.

So instead of busting ghosts, a movie today should feature a group fighting aliens, and i know what you're thinking

But you'd be wrong. You see, i thought of all this before i had even heard of the Watch, and even if i hadn't, that just looks like some aggressively unfunny comedy that happens to involve aliens. i mean shit, compare that long rambling "I'd fuck an old dude" joke to this:  
Ray: Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here. 
Peck: They caused an explosion! 
Mayor: Is this true? 
Venkman: Yes it's true. This man has no dick. 
i'm guessing all that movie is about is no one takes them seriously, and then they save the day, the end.
 But you see, there's another issue that Ghostbusters plays around with, namely classism.

The design of the Ghostbusters is brilliant, they dress like exterminators, drive in a hearse style ambulance, and work out of a run down firestation. They're the unsung heroes of society, i mean, it's no coincidence all of their clients are wealthy. Walter Peck is the primary antagonist, he's a government man, the enemy of the blue collar workers (which, despite their PhDs the Ghostbusters are presented to be). Just look at the simple scene where he goes to shut down the containment unit, the guy in the hardhat doesn't want to shut it down, and the cop calls Peck a pencil neck. It's Peck's fault the apocalypse starts. Damn the man.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

So, a new movie would have to have a ragtag group against some aliens, and also deal with some socio-poltical issues of today, and when this all clicked in my mind, i realized, this film had already been made:

 Yes, Attack the Block is the modern day Ghostbusters. You've got a group of inner city kids, it examines how they were brought up, how they live, how society views them, and the main antagonist is a drug dealer, oh and there might also be some aliens running about.

Ray. It's looking at me.
i have a feeling this isn't incidental, that Joe Cornish came to the same conclusion as me, that this is what was needed, hell, he even threw in a namedrop to the Ghostbusters. And while i wouldn't say Attack the Block is as great of a comedy as Ghostbusters, it's still a damn fine film, and one of my favourites.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How I learned to embrace anarchy, and love the Bat-man.

i feel i've come a long way since starting this blog, i've matured (somewhat!), i've read, watched, and listened to so much art, and have learned to appreciate it in ways that never would have occurred to me before.

There's a somewhat infamous internet forum poster, that claims Watchmen was the movie that "broke" them, that it got them to see the art of film, recognize and interpret the symbols and subtext, and so on. There is more to a film than what lies on the surface. My best guess to the film that broke me was Enter the Void "This is us, this is now" were my words, well close enough anyway. Since that film, i've written fewer reviews, but i feel, they're hopefully more well thought out than "i didn't like it because plot" or "comics books" and more thinking on what the movies are about, and why they do the things they do.

The first film i reviewed on this blog, would be the Dark Knight, i've reviewed it twice actually, once after first seeing it, and then watching it again months later. i also used it to contrast Batman's death in Final Crisis. And now, i'd like to talk about for the forth time. Because, what can i say, i love Batman.

Mostly, i'm interested in returning to TDK because of how bad my previous reviews were. "Not my Batman" seems to be my only point, and it's not even really a point, and certainly not anything i agree with now.

Let's start with Final Crisis:
pew pew
Previously i talked about how, in this scene, Batman dies by gun, the very act of picking up a gun and killing someone is the end of Batman, he knows this, hence the chuckle before the beam hits him. Now what i failed to realize is that at the end of the Dark Knight, Batman also dies by gun.

Dent has taken Gordon and his family hostage, Batman shows up, trying to save them all, but Dent wants to make the men responsible for all that has happened pay, he flips his coin and shoots Batman who falls down, dead. He then flips his coin again, to choose the fate of Gordon's son, but something comes back from the dead in the guise of Batman and kills Dent before the coin lands. This is shown to be pointless, as the coin lands "good" side up. Batman was gunned down, and whatever was left was let to come back and kill. i like it. Not really sure why i had such an objection to Dent dying anyway, it makes sense for his character, he wanted to share his pain, nothing else matters. Perhaps just some objection to the world feeling smaller, i mean seeing Crane in all three films was a joy, but i failed to realize Dent was more than just a freak of the week. He was a half-dead man, a tarnished symbol,  the other side of Batman.

Now i also complained about Bruce being a whiny baby.
My childhood crush was going to wait for me!
Batman is childish though, and this complaint is weird, because it's kind of what i love about him. You can go on about how fascist and classist Batman is, and you'll probably be right, but the most important thing is that he's a childhood fantasy. "I want to beat up the bad guys" says ten-year-old Billy. Bruce Wayne never stopped being eight years old, that childhood fear, confusion, and rage, it's all he is. This is why Rachel is so important to him, she was part of that childhood, his first love, his only love. This is true of Batman outside of this movie as well, i mean the reason he hangs out with a young boy isn't because he's sexually attracted to Dick, no, he's best friends with a kid because that's all he really is. Not to say Batman has never been portrayed as gay, but for the most part, i don't think Batman has a sexuality, he's too busy playing Cops and Robbers.

i was right about one thing though, that the Joker is the star, and that he is the man who laughs at how ridiculous Batman is.
Ha Ho He Ha
i actually have a reason for posting that meme. Batman is a superhero that can't escape his origin, to the point where "My parents are dead!" is also a meme. He's forever a kid bound to the death of his parents, now the Joker on the other hand, he's a man with no origin. When he offers multiple explanations for his scars, Nolan is quoting Alan Moore's the Killing Joke:
I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me you know. I...I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!
The Dark Knight really is the same deal as the Killing Joke, the Joker trying to prove he can make anyone mad like him, in the comic he goes after Gordon and fails, in the movie he goes after Dent and wins. And it's interesting because i've heard people argue that he loses because the people on the ferries don't blow eachother up, but as the Joker says, it was never going to come down to a fist fight between him and Batman, that was all a fun distraction, Dent was a main event. The Joker succeeds in ruining the holy trinity of Gotham. The White Knight is sullied, Dark Knight is dead, and Gordon, he lost everything he believed in.
Though it is interesting in how low key the movie plays the Joker outsmarting everyone, he flat out lies about the locations of Dent and Rachel, Batman goes to get Rachel, but finds Dent instead, so suddenly, this is the plan, Batman has always been going to rescue Dent, and in my experience, the audience goes along with it, without realizing anyone has been duped. The disappointment on their faces is amazing.

One really fantastic scene is Alfred's "Some men just want to watch the world burn." speech, he's so caught up in his sense of duty, the status quo of colonialism, that he fails to realize that the bandit is eliminating a currency that's being used to enslave his people, and that Alfred himself, was the one that failed to understand what he was up against. The further irony of this speech of course is that Alfred and his men are the ones that burn down the forest.

There's a theme of communication being a weapon in this film, i already talked about the Joker's misinformation, he does something similar when he burns the cash "I'm only burning my half" If you want to understand, let me drink the bottom half of your milkshake. But more than that, Batman and the Joker directly use cellphones as weapons. Batman gets his sonar ears all over the city and Hong Kong, and the Joker blows a dude up with his one phone call.

Of course, Batman's wiretapping brings comparisons to the Patriot Act and the War on Terror, breaking the law for "the greater good." And sure, it exists, that scene of Batman standing on the rubble is very clearly an homage to the aftermath of 9/11. However, the argument against that, is twofold.  Firstly, that has always been Batman's M.O. He's beyond the law, he does things that cops can't (and shouldn't) do. Fox's objection seems to be based less on liberty, and more on spirituality. "This is too much power for one person." This deus ex machina, turns Batman into a god, he's everywhere at once, hearing everything, look as his eyes glow white with his divine judgement. I Am Become Batman Secondly, the Joker has no ideology, he's not fighting for religious, social, or political  beliefs, he has none. As he says, he's a dog chasing cars (though again, he lies when he says he has no plan). And him calling himself a dog is rather important.

Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yay.
Not only is that short car ride my favourite scene in the movie, it's by far the most beautiful.
Batman comes up against dogs a lot in this movie, at the start with the drug dealer's dogs (which leads to the great quip about the armour being good to protect against cats), at the end with the K9 units, and everything in the middle with the Joker.

Two-Face: The Joker's just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash.
 Now the better translation of that, or at least more interesting, is "A stray dog sees only what it chases."
Though i'm not bringing up Kurosawa's Stray Dog to compare to the Joker, but instead Batman and Dent.

Stray Dog is about a rookie cop chasing down a thief that stole his gun, by the end, we find out after returning from war, both men had their belongings stolen from them, both wanted to retain a sense of balance, but one became a cop, the other a thief. Remember, Dent tells Gordon to come to the place where his family died.
The Joker: Why don't we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? Hmm? And then we'll see how loyal a hungry dog really is. It's not about money... it's about sending a message. Everything burns! 
 How wonderful is Burroughs voice? 
Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?
The Joker: I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.
Batman: You're garbage who kills for money.
The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve. 
That right there leads me to believe that Nolan read some Grant Morrison, as there's this in  Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Dr. Adams: The Joker's a special case. Some of us feel he may be beyond treatment. In fact, we're not even sure if he can be properly as insane.
His latest claim is that he's possessed by Baron Ghede, the Voodoo loa.
We're beginning to think it may be a neurological disorder, similar to Tourette's syndrome. It's quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception. More suited to urban life at the end of the twentieth century.

Batman: Tell that to his victims.

Dr. Adams: Unlike you and I, the Joker seems to have no control over the sensory information he's receiving from the outside world. He can only cope with the chaotic barrage of input by going with the flow. That's why some days he's a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day. He sees himself as the Lord of Misrule, and the world as a theatre of the absurd. 

And it is interesting to see Nolan give his version of popular comic stories, i already mentioned the twist on the Killing Joke, but the twists on the Long Halloween are also interesting. In the movie, Dent is the killer of the corrupt, it's Gordon in the SWAT suit, and Dent survives the courtroom scene unscathed by chance.

Puppy love.
i love the contrasts between the Joker and Batman, one hides his face, wears black, and clings to the edges. The other paints his face, is flamboyant, and stands out in the open. Batman is ridiculous in the Nolan films, from his bear voice, to his bulky suit, and tank-cum-motorcycle. And i think that's the point, the very idea of Batman is absurd. Every film ends with a lie, Begins with Batman's cop-out on how it isn't murder, Knight with covering Dent's crimes, and Rises, well, we'll get there. What Batman did in the first film, created the situation in the second, Sons of Batman running around with guns, the gangsters agitated, yet still untouchable, and of course, the Joker. The thing is, what brings down the mob, the corruption, and psychotic vigilantes, is the Joker. He is literally the hero of the story, and it's fantastic and weird.

Not that i'm saying the Joker is a good guy here, he's not, but neither is Batman.

Not sure if i've mentioned this before, but i love comparing this movie to Burton's Batman. In that film, we see the origin of the Joker, his rise, his insanity, his insights, the film follows him.  Batman shows up every now and then, when not brooding in the empty mansion. It made Batman more fantastic in that film, and it makes the Joker amazing in this film. The same idea, used in a different way.

Seems like i'll have to give Batman Begins another chance now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wubstep weapons.

Pomplamoose are an interesting group, they make cutesy covers of songs, and get a lot of flack for it, mostly "because hipsters"
You know, that word i've seen used to describe OFWGKTA fans, graffiti artists, people that wear hats...
If someone doesn't like them, that's fine, but i find it interesting that people spit vile over this band, like somehow being cute is affront to them. It's bizarre. i love that they exist, because, there ain't nothing wrong with being cute.

That said, this cover of Danny Elfman's Batman theme owns. They're literally using dubstep as a weapon to defeat evil agents in suits. I love it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fire from the skies.

Prometheus is a film about a group of people following an alien signal to a mysterious planet full of dead aliens.



 Seriously though, Prometheus is one of the best sci-fiction films i've ever seen! (Well, since District 9 anyway!) i had never been so excited to see a film before, nor have i ever been this excited about a film after seeing it.

Just a quick aside, i love that trailer, it's right up there with this Watchmen trailer. It even sounds like it's sampling the same Pumpkins song. Both of them just give me chills everytime i watch.

Now there's a lot going on in Prometheus, a lot, and i don't mean plot wise, i already covered that part. This film is not only a commentary on Alien, but on the things that created Alien and the things created from Alien. It's a movie about quoting movies.

Well what do i mean by this? Think of David (Michael Fassbender), when we first meet him, alone on the ship, what is he doing? He's watching Lawrence of Arabia, he dyes and brushes his hair so he'll look more like O'Toole's Lawrence. When they arrive on the planet and find a deserted building, he says "There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing." When questioned, he responds "Oh, it's just a quote from a film I like."
Even later, after discovering the black goo, he quotes the film once again, "Big things have small beginnings."

The movie opens like 2001: A Space Odyssey, we see the sun rising over the Earth. In 2001, a black monolith appears, and causes changes in the monkeys, setting them on the course to be man. In Prometheus, we cut to an Engineer, a statuesque god.

Oh Rexy, you're so sexy.
He drinks the black goo, we see it burn through his veins, his DNA breaks down and reforms, creating new life. Again, something alien, setting the course of man. This scene tells us everything we need to know about the goo, it is the fire of the gods. And after that there's a neat shot of Shaw (Noomi Rapace), uncovering the truth, along with us, who witnessed it, in some cave in Ireland. Not sure if that's quoting another film or not. But i like it.

Not all of the film quoting is direct, it's not all like the Weyland hologram being right out of Jurassic Park, or crushing Fifeld's head being right out of Aliens, there are more genre references, things that operate with a film logic. Two teens get lost in the woods, do drugs, and die. Wielding an axe to thwart off some unstoppable killer (and goddamn do i love that space-axe). And just little things like that, though my favourite moment in the film is when David directly quotes Blade Runner, but more on that later. Now do all these elements make it a bit of a patchwork Frankenstein's monster? Well, sure! Why not? Quotes or not, the film still stands on it's own two feet, whether you find them gruesome are not is up to you.

Now, i've read a lot of complaints, and i mean a lot, more than any person should, about this film. But i did notice two common things in all of the complaints, either the people weren't paying attention to what was on the screen, or people were expecting this to be another Alien® film. The second group are judging the film based on their own expectations, rather than just watching the film for what it is. The other group griped of plot holes. There are none in this film, seriously, none. There are unanswered questions sure, but don't look to the sequel for answers, that's not how it works. This isn't a big middle finger to the audience like Matrix: Reloaded was, this is similar to District 9 or Skyline. They end on new beginnings, what happens next isn't relevant to the story we were just told.

We're visually shown what the black goo is, repeatedly, we don't need a scientific understanding of it, it is the stuff of the gods. People question why Fifeld (Sean Harris) the guy making the map got lost, well, same reason the Millburn (Rafe Spall) the biologist got killed by a snake, or the Janek (Idris Elba) the captain, being dies flying, or Vickers (Charlize Theron) the nihilistic unbeliever (she's the Ellen Ripley of this film), gets crushed by a chariot of the gods. There's a theme, of hubris, the inadequacy of human knowledge, there is a reason only the true believer survives.

i'm a bit surprised people were unsure of what to expect from this film:

i made this back in January

Oh hey, he quoted a movie!

Now let's talk about faith and aliens, obviously Daniken's Chariots of the Gods, a painfully racist diatribe about how aliens came down and taught primitive man society and culture, was an influence on in this film, the whole pictographs of giants showing humans the way. Daniken was maybe inspired by the equally racist HP Lovecraft, specifically the story At the Mountains of Madness, which involved horrible and uncaring aliens starting life on Earth. Come to think of it, it also had a geologist who did little geology and got lost in an alien ruin.... And they dissect a god in it! (It's worth noting that Guillermo del Toro scrapped his adaptation of the Lovecraft story after seeing what was going on in this film) So honestly the racism of the influences makes the gods themselves being marble Greek statues hilarious. More white, than white. You see it's a... nevermind.
There's also this Space Jesus story going around, that since they're on this planet on Christmas, and something bad happened on this planet 2000 years ago, and the ship was heading to Earth. A lot of people are assuming this means, they were going to kill us because we killed Jesus. And i can't help but to feel this is more hubris, that because these gods created us it must be all about us, we never see what happened on this planet. It might have nothing to do with us, the ways of gods are not the ways of man. It's odd because people seem to think if Space Jesus was true, than this movie is proving the Christian faith right. i don't remember the part of the bible where God was some alien that killed himself billions of year ago. Or Jesus being freakishly pale, tall, and bald. This movie is about humans being wrong, so wrong.

Now Vickers straight up calls Shaw and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) true believers, that's why they're on this trip for Weyland's immortality. Now Holloway isn't a true believer, he's just an asshole that reminds Shaw of her father, also he's an archeologist that's disappointed in finding a tomb. The father thing is important, her father died of malaria according to what David saw in her dreams, Holloway dies of what looks like an alien disease. But really, fire of the gods. Shaw however, does believe, she's happy and enthused, she's found god, turns out god doesn't really care for us, and likely wants us dead, whoops. But at the end, David is worse for wear, defeated, he wants to go home (It's like that movie again!) But Shaw wants to go on, she still has her faith. And like i've mentioned, what she may find out there isn't important, it's that she goes out looking. It's very existential, hopeful.

Now hope, there's an interesting thing. After Prometheus gave mankind fire, the gods decided to punish mankind, they gave Pandora a box, but really, box is a bad translation. What they gave her was a vase.

Like i said, there's a lot going on in this film. But among the horrors, hope was in that jar, hope is what humanity has, and it's beautiful.

Now i want to talk a bit about my favourite part of this film. Weyland and co. have gone and woken up this slumbering god, he stands confused, watching, waiting. Weyland demands David to ask him for immortality, Shaw pleads to ask him why they don't love us. Both of these questions are stupid, but i'll get into that later. So David obeys his father, he has to, and for the benefit of Weyland he quotes Blade Runner, "Give me more life Father/Fucker." Now this god, reacts by lovingly caressing David face, and it's beautiful. He then rips David head off and bludgeons Weyland with it. It's not an easy thing to meet your maker.
Now, what's going on here is Weyland, a man who has done so much for humanity, has created a new lifeform in David, a son he doesn't consider real, created life in the form of his daughter, whom he loathes, this arrogant old man, goes up to a god, gods whom sacrifice themselves to create new life, and asks them to be immortal. The Engineer literally beats Weyland on the head with his legacy, his immortality. That is why his question was dumb.
As for Shaw's question, well we only have to look to David. David is treated like shit by his creators throughout the entire movie. Weyland tells him he has no soul, Holloway belittles him at every turn, it's repeatedly pointed out that he's not human, just a robot.
Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers, to get answers why they made us in the first place.
David: Why do you think your people made me?
Holloway: We made ya 'cause we could.
David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
Holloway: [laughs] I guess it's a good thing you can't be disappointed.
David: Yes.
The thing is, we see David react to these jabs, he looks hurt, he is hurt, humans are hurt by Egineers, what do they care, we're just humans.

David is a such a wonderful character, he's got this fantastic childlike glee about him. Which could be tied into this meta quality about him in that he almost seems aware he's in a movie. i mean sure he's following his father's orders because he has to, but he wants his father dead, he wants to be free. Our god frees him from his. It's just that in his actions, it's like he's enjoying the hell out of being in a space horror film "Oh look aliens, ghosts, and slime, and joy!"

Look at the conversation with Holloway, how he asks him if he's prepared to do anything to meet his makers, before poisoning him with the black goo. Or how he pulls a Vincent Price impersonation and won't let Shaw see her child in the sonogram machine. Now the child, there's something to talk about. The squidbaby in a sense, is the child of Shaw and David. i can't help but think that's how David might view it anyway, he was fascinated with her, he couldn't understand her, her faith. It's part love, part science experiment. There is a lot leading up to this, we only see him watching only her dreams, he rescues her from the storm, her boyfriend yells at her, David asks her if she's alright, she thanks David. She doesn't treat David as something less. At the end of the movie when he comes out and says he doesn't understand her, she responds it's because he's a robot, it doesn't seem hateful, nor does he seem hurt. He'll never understand her, she'll never understand the Engineers. And yet they go on.

As for squid baby, the abortion scene made me break out into a cold sweat, i don't think anything has bothered me that much in a movie before. Considering the thing looked like it had ovaries when it was fully grown, i'm wondering if it was less her child and more her uterus. The machine was set to only deal with men, she set it up to remove foreign objects. So, she removes her womanhood, but in the end is saved by it.
The climax of the film is hilarious by the way, a giant vagina engulfs the phallic marble god, they wriggle around for a while, and then a new life form is brought screaming into the world sometime later. Oh my. Because at its heart, the horror of this film, is sex and creation. We see a god torn apart to create life, there's the sexual ending and all its goo. But the horror isn't restricted to heterosexual, Millburn and Fifeld have some homoerotic stuff going on. Millburn has a crush on Fifeld, there's the cute little helmet bump when they get in the rover, he leaves when Fifeld wants to, he tires to impress Fifeld by showing no fear in front of the freaky alien cobra. Which was a mix of yonic and phallic, i might add, but what's worth mentioning is that it phallic bit goes down Millburn's throat and acid goo gets all over Fifeld's face. Yep. My favourite "sex is gross" scene though, would have to be when Holloway and Shaw get it on, not only does it fade to black, but the next morning, Shaw is lying naked in bed, with a sheet over her crotch. "Wouldn't want to offend my lover with my vagina!" Which explains why she removes it, then uses her new found powers of creation to defeat god. As Weyland said, we're the gods now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Galaxy defenders my ass.

Nothing about Men in Black 3 is fun. It's a dark, sadistic, racist, and generally depressing film. And it's all just a terrible shame.

The first film is tons of fun, it's loving, it's bright, it's got some dark moments, but mostly in the form of dark humour. It's got a sarcastic old man showing some smart ass rookie the ropes, great buddy cop dynamic, and Vincent D'onofrio is hilarious in every scene he's in. Through fantastic physical comedy, he's able to project that he's too big for his skin, every movement is a laugh. It's a brilliant performance.

The MiB themselves are portrayed in a kind light, they welcome aliens to Earth, treat them kindly, they mostly act to keep them safe and secret. The only time they act with aggression or violence are when the aliens are putting humans in danger.

Now, in MiB3, the agency is shown to be a bunch of racist cops, they shoot first and never ask questions. We're greeted with some Chinese people, dressed in medieval Chinese clothes, but what's this, they turn out be gross slugs, whom the MiB kill on the grounds they're not human. Later we meet a mystic wearing a turban, but surprise, he's not a middle-eastern man, he's got a huge alien head under that turban. Then there's a really odd scene, with J back in the 1960s, he steals a car and gets pulled over by some racist cops because he's a black man driving a nice car. He erases their memory and says shame on them for assuming he stole the car, even though he did, and drives off. Him and K have been, and continue harassing and killing aliens for the sole crime of being alien the entire movie, the movie is condoning this.

This is a huge contrast to the first film. Take for example the beginning, the MiB tell the INS to fuck off, welcomes the Mexican immigrants to America, and then deal with the real dangerous alien, peacefully (well until he tries to kill the INS agent). If that were the K from MiB3, he would have let the INS take the Mexicans, and probably tell a racist joke, after shooting the alien dead of course.

Note also this scene:

Reggie is breaking the law, K stays kind and cool, both agents congratulate him on being a new father and let him go on his way. Also the World Trade Center is in the background.
Now, i can't say that MiB3 is bringing to attention horrible attitudes and racism in the wake of September 11th, but it certainly is built on those things. This movie is condensed xenophobia.

K: All right, kid, here's the deal. At any given time there are approximately 1500 aliens on the planet, most of them right here in Manhattan. And most of them are decent enough, they're just trying to make a living.
J:Cab drivers?
K: Not as many as you'd think.
 i'll let you imagine how that conversation would play out in MiB3.

Now the next issue i have is with Boris the Animal, played by renowned funnyman Jemaine Clement. i bring up the fact that he's known for being funny, to point out how unfunny Boris is, not that they try to make him funny mind you. He's evil, he kills, he growls, he has a bug for a hand that shoots needles. He's also the last of his species and drives around on a ridiculous space motorcycle.

Bring back Sheriff Lobo.
The thing about Lobo, he's a parody, he's not meant to be taken at face value. i've heard rumours that some comic books have taken him seriously, which i don't doubt, but i've been lucky enough to not encounter, until Boris anyway. No offense to Jemaine, but it's not like he gets hired because of his ungodly acting talents, he gets roles because he's awkward and hilarious, why are we casting someone like that for a role that has zero humour? Edgar the Bug, killed people sure, but i already went over what he a joy he was to watch as he did so. Just watch the restaurant scene in the first film, he kills those two guys, while hunched over, a look of evil glee on his face, and then stomps out of the restraunt like Frankenstein's monster. It's a fun thing to watch. Boris on the other hand, blows a hole in space prison, holds on with his ugly claw feet, and let's the woman that freed him get blown out into space, he then bounds around the moon awkwardly, all with zero expression on his face.
And tying back to my main point of this film being racist and fucked up, all the problems are caused because K didn't kill Boris back in the 60s. So guess who gets exploded into a pile of goo at the end of the movie?(Before he even shows his true self i might add!)
It's a big fuck you to everything the first film stood for.

Oh yeah, this film hates art as well, while back in the 60s it's revealed that Andy Warhol isn't real, no he isn't some alien like Elvis, he's an undercover MiB agent, who hates art, and is only doing whacky stuff so he can blend in with the aliens. The undercover agent even tells J he's a moron for liking his work. Yeah, sorry, wrap it up art, you've been had.  Not that it would really matter if somehow, for some reason, art was created as a joke, but it just seems to be this snide "Haha, we fooled those artsy intellectuals, what a bunch schmucks!" And that tied with the xenophobia, just wears me out.

No idea why they thought such a downer of a ending would be touching either.
You sucked all the fun out of my summer MiB3.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

the goods

There are no words to express how happy this has made me
i must resort to cutesy emoticons:

CD, DVDs, vinyls, and undies for days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Darker Still!

Somewhere along the lines Tim Burton has become a dirty word. In certain groups anyway, for the most part his whimsical visuals still make bank at the box office. But our strange friend Tim has gotten a reputation of being associated with mall goths at Hot Topic, and only doing fish out of water stories.
Well, the first one doesn't matter, who cares if teens still love Jack Skellington, the Nightmare Before Christmas is a great movie. And as for the second, well, can you really define any story of an ordinary person achieving the extraordinary in a strange land a fish out of water story? Because you know, that's every story. There are also groans of him always casting his spouse and best friend. However, when those people are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, why wouldn't you cast them in everything you make?

 Now i must admit, i wasn't really a fan of Charlie and Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland, hell, i even found the Corpse Bride dull. But they did all have interesting qualities. Charlie added the issue of parents and Wonka's daddy issues, which is a thing Burton likes to tackle in his movies, what with Big Fish and Edward Scissorhands, hell i could work Batman, Nightmare, and Sweeney Todd in there easily as well. It was Burton leaving his mark on the story. i also enjoyed the updating of the children and their maladies, and the oompa loompas basically being the new Oingo Boingo. But something feels off,  i don't know if it's the plastic look of the factory, or the the fact that they made Wonka a child that needed to grow up. It just leaves one feeling empty.
 Alice on the other hand almost explored some interesting themes, Alice was a teenager now, she's afraid of marriage, afraid of sexuality, of puberty, this is why she's continually growing out of her clothes, and hiding her nakedness, like some teenage nightmare i'm sure we've all shared. But this never really goes anywhere, it's quickly forgotten in order to have Narniesque kill the dragon quest. There is another neat theme of not knowing oneself, no one recognizes Alice, what if she isn't herself? A frightening prospect, and this does have a payoff at the end, she tells everyone off and says she's going to do what she wants. However, i don't feel like it was earned, i mean, if the jabberwocky was the patriarchy, why does she kills it with a vorpal penis? Is Alice no longer a woman, but now a man? i mean, i guess blood did take her into adult hood there, but still. Why the jabberwocky at all? i've also got issues with the terrible 3D (yeah i know it was post, but some things were thrown in to be come out of the screen), the Hatter not being mad, and the whole "Underland" thing.
Corpse Bride is interesting in that it reads like a modern Grimm's fairy tale, but everything not involving the undead is dull, and things like Peter Lorre worm just seemed out of place.

As for Dark Shadows, let me preface with this: It's Burton's best film since Sweeney Todd (or Big Fish, if you're some weirdo that hates musicals)
 Now, i didn't link a trailer because, well, the trailers are terrible, they do make it look like some story about a 16th century vampire trying to adapt to the whacky 1970s. But that isn't the film at all, pretty much every instance of him not getting things is in the trailer. The film is about him bringing his old fashioned values to modern times.

Not to say he disapproves of all things of modern culture, Barnabas is totally down with feminism.

No seriously, this isn't another Beaton joke about strong women, Barnabas thinks women being equal to men is great. Of course there is the sad joke of the film, all the females characters talk about being post feminist, and how women are free to be equal, and here we are forty year later...

Elizabeth is the matriarch, she's giving it all just to keep her family afloat, she's fighting against a curse, a deadbeat brother and his odd son, her own moody teenage daughter and years of declining business. The fact the Collins still have the house, and enough money to keep a doctor and hire a governess speaks to her dedication.
 Dr. Hoffman is a leech, but she's also an intelligent and skilled manipulator, Her downfalls are being vain and a huge drunk. She's draining the Collins of their dwindling money and Barnabas of his immortal blood.
Angelique is  powerful witch, and beloved local business woman, her only problem is being hopelessly in love with Barnabas.

So yeah, the women aren't perfect, but i like that, they're people. The men are no better, deadbeat Roger abandons his son for money, literally. (Hey look, daddy issues!) And Baranbas is a terrible womanizer, and the film doesn't forgive him for this. In fact, all of his problems are caused by this fact, and his future problems are going to be a result of this as well.

Now when i mentioned earlier that this is about Barnabas bringing his old fashioned values to the modern age, i don't mean anything about bootstraps or any other such nonsense, no, our undead friend brings buried treasure, black magic, and balls.
 One of my favourite moments of the film is when Barnabas is learning about how to woo a modern woman by discussing the philosophy of love with some hippies, who admit that in the 70s, they like him are now a relic. And in by far the darkest joke of the film, Barnabas thanks them for their input, but regrets that he now has to kill them. A guys gotta eat you know. But it is also him symbolically killing off the relic of the past in himself, he's not going to be a damn hippy (fascination with lava lamps aside).

Lets talk about some other characters; Victoria is the the 70s girl that Barnabas hopes to woo, she's also oddly enough the reincarnation of his old love, Josette, go figure! She's actually a really cute character, she's totally 70s chic, really sweet and innocent, but also has a dark past. Her secret however, is terribly depressing, and makes you wonder how much of her is an act, but then her existence is erased by the return of Josette anyway, so whatever. That's the only thing that bothers me about this movie, Victoria lived a terrible life, just so Josette could reunite with Barnabas. Maybe she still exists, and just rembers her past life as well now. Or maybe it's symbolic, she continually lies about her name, maybe this is just who she wants to be now. Continues the blank slate her life must be. It's weird either way.
Next we have David, Roger's son who has been troubled since his mother died, of course his troubles are the same as Victoria's in that he can talk to the dead. Barnabas is the only one who encourages him in this, and other matters.
Lastly there is Carolynn, Elizabeth's daughter. She's moody, dealing with her broken family, discovering her sexuality, and being a werewolf. She also seems to find her only joy in music, so you know, she's a pretty typical teenager. It is always kind of nice to see teenagers portrayed in realistic ways, i hate when teenagers are too smart, too clever, and act like they've never had any angst in their life. Real teenagers only think they're like that. Another surprising joke was David blurting out at the dinner table that Caroylnn purrs when she touches herself, and it's just such an awkward and little brother thing for him to do, that it makes really helps them sell that Collins are a real family.

i've heard people say the plot is all over the place, and while there is a lot going on, it's basically: "Supernatural forces conspire to kill the witch and save the Collins family."
That's pretty much it.

Now i've only seen a couple episodes of the old Dark Shadows, and they were all before Barnabas was a character, so i can't say how true it is to the show, not that it greatly matters. i can however attest that the many characters arcs, side stories, and melodrama do ring true to the soap opera roots, but it doesn't forget that it is a movie.
And movie just works, the story flows, the acting is great, the setting is perfect, the colours are vibrant, the soundtrack is superb, seriously. The opening credits to Nights in White Satin, Carolynn playing Season of the Witch (a bit on the nose, but it's a great song) or Alice Cooper performing the Ballad of Dwight Fry at the ball, it's all amazing. Don't write this film off because of some preconceived hate for Burton or because it's based on some goofy soap opera, Dark Shadows is damn entertaining.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

in due time

iamamiwhoami one again has two new videos, but i really only want to talk about play:

Just seems to be a song unabashedly about the entertainment industry, the rabbit out of the hat, playing on your back and knees, hearts being cheap.

Just that look is fantastic, the cane, the fur coat, the airs of glamour, everything being tattered, the weathered make-up. It's quite tragic. Note that a lightning strike got her to perform like this, and a blow to the back of the head got her to realize what she was doing.

i've been feeling disenchanted, even angry with pop music lately, not the music itself (pop music has been fantastic the past few years) but, with the way it's viewed, the way it's consumed, the way it isn't thought about. It bothers me that people don't like Nicki Minaj's Stupid Hoe, it's a crime that people call Lana Del Rey a Barbie Doll, and all hate against Ke$ha is just ignorance. Anyway, this video popping up in my youtube feed cheered me up, i'd never seen the horrorshow of entertainment so clearly defined, iamamiwhoami understands what it is to perform.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nick Fury's ex machina and Scarlett Johansson's tits (Or why the Avengers is going to blow)

i gave up on comic books a few years ago, for the most part. i can't stand cannon, i don't enjoy universes, i want characters that used smartly in intelligent stories, i don't want world building. To me, the X-Men existing in the same world as Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four, takes away all of the importance of the X-men, there's all this prejudice against the mutants, for being different, for being freaks, for being better. The otherness of the X-men is ruined when you live in a world where a malfunctioning x-ray machine can give someone superpowers. Metropolis and Gotham existing on the same continent has never been a thrilling idea to me, if i read a Batman story, i want a Batman story, not the excess baggage of the DC multiverse. i don't want to comic to be an entry in the encyclopedia of a fake world.
The Marvel films have been bringing the comic book concept of shared universes and world building to the silver screen, and the movies have been subpar as a result. Let us take the Iron Man films for example.

Iron Man is very conservative film, both in it's ideology and it's presentation of the world building. Iron Man is a conservative wetdream in the same way, say Death Wish, or Die Hard are, the proper authorities aren't doing their job, so to hell with them, i'll be the judge, jury, and executioner. Tony Stark himself is an ideal politician, he's white, rich, pro-killing terrists, loves fast food, and despite being a total ass, he's completely loveable. The film isn't about him realizing the evil of war or manufacturing weapons, it's him realizing the weapons can fall into the wrong hands, which becomes anyone's but his. Iron Man is the embodiment of American exceptionalism. Iron Man succeeds in his endeavours. He bootsraps himself out of a cave, kills some terrorists, defeats the corrupt bureaucracy, and wins the hearts of Americans everywhere. The movie of course ignores all the sacrifices made for Tony (RIP guy that saved Tony Stark's life, he'll never think about you again) and that Iron Man is actually creating more terrorists, because like I said, it's a conservative film, they don't think about those things either. But it's still a damn entertaining and enjoyable film.
Now the film introduces the character Agent Coulson, who works for SHIELD:

Get it, he's shielding Mr. Jackson!

He's a bit of comic relief, the straight man that keeps getting blown off by Tony. He exists organically, it doesn't matter SHIELD is a thing from the comics, it's just played that he's a government agent that wants to question Stark about his escape. It's later shown he's competent, and is perhaps used to dealing with these super things, having the cover story ready for Tony. And that's the extent of the world building, i mean sure, Nick Fury shows up after the credits, and just reinforces that Tony isn't the only super being out there, but there's a reason the scene isn't actually part of the film. It doesn't belong. Of course after this film, Marvel dropped those pretenses, and well, we ended up with Iron Man 2.

At its heart, Iron Man 2 could have been an interesting film, all about the sins of the father. Tony has daddy issues, and his electronic heart was something his father stole. Vanko is just out to get recognition for his father, while failing to realize his own greatness, even going as far as allowing himself to be used for ideas.
Of course all of this is thrown to the side to make way for the Avengers.
Tony's powersource starts to give him a digital disease that causes him to act like an asshole and burn all the bridges he nearly burned in the first film.  Now the proper wrap-up for this story would be Tony getting the cure from Vanko, and maybe Tony absolving the sins of his father, getting Vanko recognition, and so on. But Iron Man can't be in the wrong, no he's America! So out of nowhere Nick Fury shows up with a cure for Tony, and that's that, no explanation, he's just there, "Here you go, now join the Avengers already." He also brings Scarlett Johansson with him, who only exists to take her clothes off:


Apparently she's supposed to be some awesome Russian spy, but why does she exist, why is she needed for this story? How is this relevant to Vanko at all?
It's just frustrating, it's still sexist if a female character only exists to look hot, even if she does kick a lot of ass.
Iron Man 2 is just a mess of a movie where nothing gets solved, and only exists as an advertisement for a movie that was still two years away.

Joss Whedon is directing this mess, which is a shame, i generally like Whedon, he can be a clever writer (or a godawful one if he's not being careful), though he does have an odd idea of what a feminism is...

At least Ms. Johansson's character will be right at home.

But generally he's good at writing large groups of characters, and giving them all something to do. And like i said, he can be really clever, he knows his quips. As a director though, he suffers from growing up on television, so it seems he just gets the shot that's in the script and moves on, nothing i've seen in any of the trailers has any weight to it, no meaning, it's just shot, next shot, snarky line, and punch. At best the entire movie looks like an episode of Firefly (and really nerds, you need to get over that show.)

Just to show that Whedon is the wrong guy, look at this clip:

That swelling music, the slow motion, it's hard to believe this isn't a joke. One of our heroes takes a gutshot and there's absolutely no sense that they're ever in peril, they just effortlessly fling faceless goons over cars, or cars into goons. i mean, this isn't Spider-Man capturing a bank robber, this is the Avengers™ fighting for the fate of mankind.
It's especially funny, because he seems to be cribbing from Battle: Los Angeles, but hitting all the wrong notes.

Mostly i'm just offended by the prospect that sitting through four completely mediocre and disjointed films will somehow have a "pay-off" in an unrelated film, where mostly the same actors play the same characters. Couldn't we have had four competent films, with maybe just hints of a connected world in the background. (Tony finding a prototype Captain America shield was fine, Nick Fury and Johansson were not.) The trailer i posted showed that at least part of the Avengers is going around, introducing and assembling the team, so why did they waste so much time introducing the idea of the Avengers in the other films? Fucking comicbooks.

Well, at least there's always the Dark Knight Rises to look forward to...

Oh. :(

Monday, March 19, 2012


Two videos from our mystery artist this time:

In this weeks thrilling episodes, our heroine defeats rape and escapes in an automobile. At least, i think that's what happens.
It is interesting that we seem to be getting more of a narrative, rather than just continued themes and symbolism.
i do like that if you're not paying close attention, it seems like she was defeated in the second video, the raggmopp dragging her off somwhere. However, she's wrapped in the fur of one, and the one pulling her looks rather dejected. Then there's the sideways shots of her in the car, wind from the open window playing with her hair. If you miss those, the shot of the car at the end may be a pleasant surprise, i knew it was for me the first time i watched it!
There's a lot of interesting things going on, the raggmopps suggestive pose on the floor that grants her freedom, the sweaty man trying to hold the creatures back, the woman seeing our heroine falling and walking out on a man in bed. Incidental, but the raggmopp's pose on the hood of the car makes me laugh.
From the samurai armour we can extrapolate she gains strength from her fall.
Dark, but hopeful.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Aliens and predators and bears. Oh my!

Having recently watched my way through the very loosely tied Aliens and Predators films (save for the bland Predators) i feel like sharing my thoughts on the unique progression of the series.

Alien (1979)

There's just something about Ash.
Alien is one of my favourite films for a variety of reasons, it's essentially a group of space truckers getting picked off by an unimaginable terror, there's great acting, brilliant creature design, it's also very much about rape. But more importantly it's still frightening as fuck.
Now the sexual imagery of the movie is impossible to deny, the alien's phallic everything, the egg and facehugger's feminine qualities, Ash oozing white goo after sexually assaulting Ripley. Personally i view the alien as a distortion of humanity, similar to this nerve-ending homunculus:

We're  all hands and genitals, facehuggers and aliens. Now the sexless android Ash, resented human beings, he admired the alien because it was pure, it had a purpose, he tries to emulate its raw sexuality by shoving a porno mag down Ripley's throat. It's a fascinating scene. 
Now what i love about our space truckers, is that they're all very real people. There's all the subtleties and nuances of real human interaction, rare for films, especially horror and sci-fi.
Another thing i find interesting is that in an early draft of the script, the writer comes out and says: "The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women." And that really plays to the strength of this film i think, they're characters first. Ripley isn't so much a badass woman, as she is a woman that happens to be badass.
And honestly the threat of the alien isn't restricted to sex, look at the last two kills, it throws Parker against the wall and penetrates him, and then gives Lambert the tail between the legs. Honestly the only time i feel Ripley being a female comes into play, is at the end, when the alien plays Peeping Tom. The male gaze of the alien (and the audience) wouldn't be nearly as affective had it been Tom Skerritt in his skivvies.

Aliens (1986)
Meet mother.
Now this film is the prototype for all the Cameron films to come. Making the female lead strong through motherhood? Check. Evil rich/corporate dude? Check. Space marines? You bet your ass!
Now obviously the showdown between Ripley and the queen is all about motherhood and such. But other than that, this film is about Vietnam, war, soldiers.
In the first film the alien was a dark reflection of the crew, it's slightly transparent dome was akin to their helmet, the biomechanical look, their fancy steam-powered suits.  In this film the alien is a reflection of the soldiers, completely opaque domes and pointier edges, it's the marine's armour, they're also numerous and expendable.
The marines take a literal approach to the space, they set up a command center, barricade doors, secure hallways, and so on. The aliens however, come through walls, come down out of the ceiling, they're literally fighting in a different space than the marines. Newt was able to survive because she lived like they did.
While it is nice Aliens has tremendous influence on everything to come, it's been done better (unlike Alien). The most recent example would be, Battle: Los Angeles, a far superior film about marines fighting a twisted version of themselves.
One thing that's always bothered me about the end of this film is they gave the queen emotions, she protects her eggs as a mother would, she gets angered when Ripley kill them. The aliens otherwise lack emotions, and this was a weird contradiction. If Ripley's motherhood is her strength, why is it the downfall of the queen? Shouldn't her lack of maternal instinct have been her weakness?

Predator (1987)
Most homoerotic scene to grace cinema. It also ended racism.
Predator also takes cues from Vietnam, but it's also about the phallus vs. the yonic, man vs. nature.
Much like Aliens, you've got a group of exaggerated soldiers being lied to by their leaders. The soldiers are phallic, they're big, strong, sexual tyrannosauruses. And i've yet to mention their ridiculous guns! The predator on the other hand, is yonic or as Danny Glover affectionately calls it in the sequel a "Pussyface", it's tribal, it's natural "She says the jungle... it just came alive and took him." This thing isn't so much invisible as it is the jungle. Women are a threat to the manly Sparta fun of war and arm wrestling, the soldiers want to kill the woman as she's a threat to who they are, the Predator never gives her a second thought. Arnie transforms from über phallic "Stick around" to the opposite, he fights like the Predator, hiding in nature, it's why he wins at the end, he's no longer who he once was. "What the hell are you?"

Predator 2 (1990)
Come here and give me a nice, wet, slippery kiss!
This film was oddly ill received. It takes place in a dystopic 1997, where crime has risen 400%. We're transplanted from the green jungle to the concrete one, gang wars rule the streets, and Danny Glover is the baddest motherfucker around. This film is almost a parody, but really it's just taking the exaggerations of the soldiers in Predator, and spreading it to the world at large. Though basically this film does seem to take place in the same universe as Demolition Man and Escape from LA, i mean, everyone packing heat on the subway is dark humour in a very sobering way. Oddly enough one of the reviews i read, complained of racism. That because the Predator is played by a large black man, and has dreadlocks or an "Afro-style braided hairdo" that we're supposed to fear him? Not sure i buy that.
Not to say this isn't a racist film though, the two gangs are minorities, Colombians and Jamacians, a bit safer than just saying they're Americans that happen to be Mexican or black. Glover also ends the film in whiteface, with the predator ship taking off and covering him in ash, it brings to mind an unfortunate parallel to the first film, Arnie won by not being phallic anymore, so Glover won by not being black anymore? Perhaps the film judges him for being a black cop, working for the white man, and if the Predator is representing black stereotypes, then Glover be-heading it... It's interesting.
This film also expands on the rituals of the Predators, not killing an armed woman, because she was pregnant, honouring both the death of a fallen, and the one who respectfully took him down. It also shows that the wrist-bomb is more than an honourable death, more than a final  "Fuck you", it also keeps their technology out of the wrong hands
Mostly it's a decent movie that takes a lot from both Predator and Aliens (including Bill Paxton!) and opened the way for less serious action/sci-fi films. It's definitely a product of its time though.

Alien³ (1993)

I loved you in Repo Man!
i find it funny that Cameron considers it a slap to the face that Newt and Hicks were killed off so a different story could be told. i mean, he injected a motherhood story into Aliens, the Ripley of Alien was no mother, there was no child waiting for her at the end of that long space journey.
It's also said this film just hits the resent button, which is sort of true, a small group against a singular alien, but it explores some nice themes.
Aliens had facing and overcoming trauma, Ripley finally agreed to go because she was tired of living in fear. She realizes along with the audience that the alien is less of an evil rape god, and more of a giant rape bug. She recovers and even flirts with the gruff voiced Hicks a bit. In ³ this is accelerated to the point of Ripley being on the sexual prowl, she engages the doctor. This is a reflection of her being alien, both in the sense that she's the only woman on this planet, and that she's pregnant with the new queen. "I'm part of the family now."
This film is also the mashup of at least three scripts, one involving monks on wooden satellite,  another just being a prison planet. The monk story had them believing the alien was a demon, a punishment from their god. It's interesting angel, and really should have stayed in the story. The prisoner monks we get in the film themselves really do have an interesting left behind aspect to them. They knew they had sinned, and this hostile planet, this smelting plant was their punishment, their hell. And this is why the rape scene has always felt wildly out of place (aside from the rape goggles), ex-criminals or not, they were still devoted to their faith, and it the scene only seemed to exist to make Dillon look like a good guy. The monks should have been terrified of Ripley, she was nearly one in the same as the alien.
Dillon: Yeah, well you don't wanna know me, lady. I'm a murderer and rapist of women.
Ripley: Well, I guess I must make you nervous. 
And did we really need a literal rape scene in an Alien film? (The answer is no)

Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Jim Henson's Alien Babies.
In theory i should love this film, it was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of the most whimsical directors around, the terrifying Chris Cunningham was behind the special effects (and honestly, i do love the look of the newborn alien), and it was penned by Joss Whedon, who can occasionally pull off something clever, but this was definitely one of his many cringe worthy moments. It's also the only film on this list i saw in theaters.
To be fair though, the story does continue theme of the Alien films, Ripley is more alien now than ever, so much a sexual predator she crudely demands "Who do I have to fuck to get off this boat?" and symbolically ripping the pharyngeal jaw out of an alien to present it as a matador would present the bull's tail to his paramour (or was that just an invention of Hemingway?) not to mention the castration implication.  Winona Ryder's character is also interesting, she's a robot built by other robots, so they put emotions in her, and she's by far more human than human. A far cry from Ash. There's also that great scene where Ripley confronts and destroys all the past versions of herself, the imperfect ones. There's a lot of clever things being toyed with in this film, but they never really follow through, and much like Predator 2, it can't quite decide if it wants to be a parody or not. It's nearly interesting!

Alien vs. Predator (2004)
My, what lovely doe eyes you have.
My god this film makes no sense, that said, it's not as bad as i remember. It's not good by any measure, but at least the pretty pictures didn't leave me bored. Of the many problems, it lacks any characters, the aliens are incidental (they could have been anything), and the confrontation between aliens and Predator had the biggest mistake of letting popularity influence the fight:
"They squeezed it dry. He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland?" - Ridley Scott on the alien
In the film we get the this overblown clash of Titans, because it's not two freaky aliens duking it out, it's literally two franchises,  the aliens get some cheap kills in on the Predators because they're more experienced, (four movies vs. two) they're more popular, and there's he derivative nature of Predator 2.
Think of it like Darth Vader, in the original Star Wars, he's just an enforcer, a weapon Tarkin has on a leash, a lot of people don't respect him. Then in the next two films, not only is he suddenly the Emperor's right hand man, he's also Luke's father. The prequels went as far as to make him into Space Jesus. All because he resonated with the audience, he was meaningful to us. So in AvP instead of exciting action between two monsters, we get drawn out slugfests between film icons. They expect us to care because of the reputation.
Onto the nonsense though, why does everyone have guns on a trip to Antarctica? Did they all just watch the Thing before leaving? Why didn't the Predator set off his bomb once he got facehugged? Why couldn't his people tell he was pregnant? Why all the slomo? Actually i kind of liked the bullet time facehuggers, completely pointless, but fun. i also liked that a relationship formed between protagonist and the doomed Predator. Just a nice display of the honour bound hunter, the Predators aren't entirely psycho killers.

Now let's talk about Charles Bishop Weyland.

Really, I'm human, why are you looking at me like that?
In Alien³ we meet someone claiming to be the creator of Bishop. Weyland-Yutani sent him as goodwill, a face Ripley could trust. The thing is, this is total bullshit. No, he may not be an android, but he's not human, he's the personification of W-Y, its lying face. The company has done nothing but work against Ripley since the beginning "Crew expendable" To believe that a robot designer would care enough about an alien to live and and continue to demand Ripley's life with his face sloughing off is, well frankly, inconceivable. Ripley was no fool, she leapt. AvP was clever enough to realize this, and introduced the original Bishop, the head of Weyland, just in case you didn't get it.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) 
Bound by tradition and honour.
Now this movie was quite a surprise, i'd rank it in the top three of the series, right after Alien and Predator.
One of the most bizarre complaints about this movie was that it had shallow characters. My question is how did they miss the soldiers of Predator and Aliens? The cops, the prisoner monks, the space pirates, everyone in Antarctica? i made a point of mentioning how i loved the realistic characters in Alien, well this is the only other film in the series that features real people. An alien horde takes over a small town in Colorado, we get to see it from town people's point of view, and it's fantastic. It's a shame if audiences are finding characters shallow simply because they're not larger than life. Part of the problem might have been that people were failing to realize that the protagonist of this film wasn't any of the town folk, it's the Predator. The film follows him, his trip to Earth to avenge the death of a fellow hunter he cared for, to destroy the unholy Predalien hybrid, and to eliminate the alien threat on Earth. He also kills a few humans, it's his nature. This film really play out as a requiem for the Predators, and brings in the future of the Alien films.
One of my favourite moments is right after the facehuggers get loose, they catch a boy and his father hunting in the woods. You get to see the alien burst out of this ten year old kid's chest, it sets the tone for the rest of the film, no one is safe. And they go on to prove it many times. There are some nice touches, callbacks of sorts, in Predator 2, a woman in is spared because she's pregnant, in this film the Predalien seeks out pregnant women specifically. Just as the original alien was a dark version of us, this is a dark version of Predators.
There's also exciting action, good acting (especially Predator), and it's a lot of fun. i'm already sold on any project the Brothers Strause do in the future. (Also you should check out Skyline, why not?)

Ladies and Jellyspoons
None of these films were ever really meant to be tied together, and trying to connect them into a coherent story, a canon, will just make you insane, or really boring at parties. But overall, the original films are brilliant and interesting, and gave us iconic creatures and great cinematic experiences. The sequels while lesser in quality, at the very least tried to bring new things to the table while continuing themes they noticed in the previous films, to varying degrees of success. However this summer, Ridley Scott is returning, and rewriting history with Prometheus, and i for one am both terrified and excited.