Trailer Tuesdays – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Despite having proclaimed my love of trailers a million times before, both here and elsewhere, it still amazes me that we have reached a stage where trailers get trailers of their own, sneak peaks, world premieres, sequels and what have you. I’m not complaining, I just thought I was the only one crazy enough to enjoy trailers that much.

And so we have been presented with trailer #2 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, after a teaser trailer was released a few days previously.

I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of sitting through a Zack Snyder movie isn’t really something that excites me. I followed the steady stream of news about the production of the movie with a mix of disinterest and pity: “Aw, look at those folks trying to simultaneously outdo Marvel AND recapture the greatness that was Nolan’s Batman, cute!” Although it was refreshing to hear of the inclusion of Wonder Woman, I had little hope for her story getting the treatment it deserves.

All that being said…..Holy sh*t Batman, this trailer looks amazing!

Firstly, we have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne having a little verbal sparring match, which I found delightfully bitchy. The short clips of their heroic acts also sets the scene nicely for their differences so there’s an instant understanding of how these two could end up disliking each other so much.

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Is it me or are Super’s nostrils flaring?

Then we meet Lex Luthor and start to see how he plays a part in orchestrating the animosity between Superman and Batman. He seems nervous, bordering on unhinged, but you have moments of him talking  that suggests he has a plan and he’s in control. There’s a lot of scowling from our superheroes, explosions, chases and general epicness.

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Okay, guess Superman’s in da house!

Essentially, what has given me hope for this movie is that it seems like it might be funny; witty even. It’s refreshing as Man of Steel left little room for laughs. Yes, Marvel has done the funny super hero thing for ages now, so it probably won’t be long before that’s as unpopular as the ubiquitous origin story. But I can only take so much action before I need a good chuckle, so I say keep it coming. I look forward to seeing two big, strong men squabbling, it reminds me of some of the most enjoyable scenes from that other recent Henry Cavill movie, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And then, of course, when the two enemies find themselves in a spot of bother, and it looks like they are both about to be obliterated, BOOM:

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Wonder Woman saves the day! I love this part of the trailer and the little exchange Batman and Superman have afterwards to try to make sense of what has just happened. I don’t for one minute think this means Wonder Woman will be a truly awesome female superhero, but I will at least refrain from writing her, and the movie, off as I had already started to do.

I don’t know yet if this will be a masterpiece, but I will watch it and that is all the work a trailer needs to do right?

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Review – The Walk 3D

There are a lot of movies out at the moment I want to watch. But when you are a busy person like me with a job – that sadly doesn’t entail watching movies for a living – and a family and a multitude of other interests and responsibilities, it quickly becomes difficult to find time to get to the cinema. In those times, I find myself having to prioritise, and it often comes down to asking myself: “Will this movie be significantly less enjoyable if viewed on the small screen at home in a few months?” If the answer is yes, then I try my darnedest to make time for that one before others. I’ll often do this even if I feel the other movies I’m considering will likely be better movies. Am I the only one with a method for choosing from a cornucopia of films?

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First world problems

So this is how I found myself in the cinema last week, watching “The Walk” in 3D, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I had already watched the 2008 documentary, “Man on Wire”, of the same story. For those of you who do not know already, both movies deal with the story of Philippe Petit and his highly dangerous – and highly illegal – wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974, just as these iconic buildings were being completed. Petit, and his accomplices, managed to infiltrate the buildings and rig the wire in the dead of night, before pulling off the hair-raising stunt which saw Petit virtually dance between the towers for an hour. To say that it’s a compelling story is a bit like saying that the new Star Wars trailer has received quite a few views on Youtube.

Original footage of Philippe Petit doing his wire walk.

Original footage of Philippe Petit doing his wire walk.

To be frank, when I first heard of “The Walk”, I had no desire to watch it. I’ll watch Josep Gordon-Levitt peel an orange, but I just didn’t see what this movie could do that the documentary hadn’t already done. Man on Wire was a multi-award winning documentary, why now go and taint the story with some cheap CGI tricks? And then hiring an American actor like Gordon-Levitt to play a Frenchman? Nuh-uh.

However, as “The Walk” was released, I started hearing the stories of people clutching their seats and feeling faint during the wire walking scenes and an urge to go watch it started seeping into my veins. A huge part of why I am a cinephile is because of the opportunities for intellectual and emotional exploration that movies offer. I feel strongly that film is a subject worthy of all the academic scrutiny it comes under and that movies can help you view the world more clearly and experience life more deeply. On the other hand, I also feel that there isn’t necessarily something wrong with movies that are purely visceral in nature; they can be a highly enjoyable palate cleanser in the buffet of cinema. As mentioned previously, I am a fan of horror, and not just the critically approved stuff, I like whatever scares the crap out of me, so I am no stranger to watching something just for the sheer thrill of it.

So I was lured into the cinema with the promise of vertigo and nail biting. And did the movie deliver?

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Well, let me get some of the bad things out of the way. Firstly, no amount of affection I have for Gordon-Levitt can make up for the fact that his accent is bad. I’m sorry JGL, don’t be mad! Call me! As a French man speaking English he flounders, and, although his French is excellent, there is no denying when you hear him speaking French that he is not French. It doesn’t work and it’s jarring because you are constantly reminded “THIS IS NOT REAL, WE ARE PRETENDING”. In a similar vein, his narration of the story, from the top of the Statue of Liberty, seems incredibly cheesy. It reminded me of Jacquimo from Don Bluth’s “Thumbelina” (I actually love that movie but hot damn that swallow is annoying!).

Just another tiresome French cliché

Just another tiresome French cliché

“The Walk” doesn’t come close to touching on a deeper understanding of Petit, and this is something that is particularly evident when you’ve seen the documentary. In “The Walk”, he never quite seems to move beyond the rascally juggler cliché, however much Zemeckis tries to add moments of depth, and the movies shies away from some of Petit’s less likeable traits.

But – and there is a big but – I came away feeling “The Walk” is a unmissable companion piece to “Man on Wire”. The thing is, “Man on Wire” had no video footage of the wire walk. You understand and appreciate Petite’s feat on a sort of detached, intellectual level. “The Walk”, however, is the closest you will really get to understanding what it meant to walk out on a wire 412 metres in the air. The wire walking scenes and, indeed, the scenes showing the frantic preparations to secure the wire between the towers, had me crumbling together in my seat, uttering a steady stream of profanities. It really was not unlike going on a rollercoaster ride that you immediately start to regret the moment you start climbing that first massive hill. The technical skill involved in achieving this, considering there is nothing there, it’s all green screen, is beyond me. But I applaud it.

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There is also a certain additional emotional punch added with the knowledge that these towers no longer stand. As you watch, you can’t help but think about how the World Trade Center became the vehicle for this one man’s dream, yet decades later became the site of the destruction of thousands of others’ dreams. At the time of construction, these buildings were just that, buildings, but Petit somehow christened them in such a way that they came to mean more to New Yorkers. They would stand for only 28 years.

Will I remember this movie for years to come? I’m not sure. But I will remember the walk it celebrates till I am very, very old.

Ho, ho, horror

Hey, it’s October now and that means Halloween is around the corner, so I’m in the mood to talk about horror. Until this weekend, it had been entirely too long since I had watched a good horror movie. I saw, and enjoyed, “It Follows” a few months ago and it was without a doubt the best horror of 2015 for me.  But how long does one have to wait for a decent horror to come along?

There might be light at the end of the tunnel though.  “Crimson Peak” is out next week, and as it has A) Guillermo del Toro as a director and B) Tom Hiddleston starring, my hopes are sky-high. Don’t fail me now del Toro!

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the trailer for the new Christmas themed horror-comedy “Krampus” was released. I watched the trailer desperately hoping to feel some level of excitement. And, I’m sorry to say, I’m not really feeling it. I love comedy, I love horror, I love Adam Scott and Toni Colette but this one left me feeling little more than “meh”.

The mythical figure of Krampus has the potential to be seriously frightening and unsettling, but I would prefer to see something closer to the wiry, black goat creature seen on many old postcards instead of this massive, hulking beast in a robe. In fact, Beast from Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” is who I first thought of when I saw the trailer.

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Seriously, I’d just go with him hoping he would show me his amazing library.

However, I wanted to find out more about who was behind “Krampus” and started reading about the director Michael Dougherty. And that’s how I came across “Trick ‘r Treat”, Dougherty’s 2007 movie. If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Halloween or just feel like watching a really solid horror, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a compilation of a few different stories taking place in the same town on Halloween. The movie manages to be both funny and scary and also cleverly handles various horror tropes. I felt genuinely delighted after watching the movie, which is a fairly strange thing to say when you’ve watched whole chunks of it through your fingers.

“Sam” from Trick ‘r Treat. If this kid came to my door for Halloween, all he would get is a whole lot of nope.

So, if nothing else, I now have a Halloween classic I can return to year after year when I need to get my fright fix. I’d love to hear your horror recommendations in the comments section.

Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Listen, I’m hardly writing a huge scoop here. Half the world has seen Mad Max: Fury Road by now and I’m well aware that I’m the dopey late comer to the party; busting out the champagne long after all the other guests have passed out drunk and oblivious on the couches.

The story of Mad Max: Fury Road  is this: Max Rockatansky is struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape where water and fuel is in short supply.  He finds himself captured and held captive by the heinous cult leader Immortan Joe and his army of war boys who use him as a “blood bag”.  Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s high-ranking warriors, has plans to smuggle Joe’s five wives in a war rig to the “Green Place” in the hopes of freeing them from a life as breeding machines. Max is taken along on the multi-vehicle hunt for Furiosa but ends up joining forces with her and thus begins a high-octane chase across the desert . The plot is simple, but the end result is pretty spectacular, for a variety of reasons.

At this point, is Tom Hardy contractually obliged to wear something over his mouth in every movie?

At this point, is Tom Hardy contractually obligated to wear something over his mouth in every movie?

Mad Max: Fury Road was released in May of this year, 36 years after the original Mad Max came out. I just want to touch on this for a moment. George Miller directed Mad Max in 1979, from wholly original material that he co-wrote with Byron Kennedy and James McCausland. In 1979, there were roughly 4.3 billion people in the world, Jimmy Carter was POTUS and Margaret Thatcher was the UK Prime Minister. Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia and Rod Stewart was topping the charts. In short, it was a very different world than the one we know now.

The movie cost about $400,000 and ended up earning $100million. Two other movies followed, in 1981 and 1985, both of which were critical successes. That leaves 20 years between the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome and Mad Max: Fury Road, so George Miller had some time to kill. What did he do with that time? Why, the only natural progression after three hugely successful action movies depicting a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland populated by morally corrupt and hyper violent people. He directed Babe and Happy Feet (and their sequels):

Let's face it, Immortan Joe would make bacon out of this guy before you could say "That'll do pig, that'll do"

Let’s face it, Immortan Joe would make bacon out of this guy before you could say “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”

Not a sandstorm in sight here

Not a sandstorm in sight here

These were excellent movies in their own right but it does leave you doing a bit of a double take when you read George Miller’s IMDB page.  After making those cuddly wuddly films  you might expect Miller would have released Mad Max: Furry Road; about a roaming band of fluffy kittens who try their darndest to catch a ball of yarn without tripping over their teeny tiny paws in the process. No shame in that, I would have been first in line.

Instead, George Miller created a masterpiece which blew all other action movies from this year  the 21st century out of the water. Using mainly real effects, he has crafted a world which feels real, yet boggles the mind in its surrealness. I have absolutely nothing against CGI and am grateful for what it has added to cinema, but there is no denying that the effects  in Mad Max: Fury Road get under your skin in a different way and make contemporary blockbusters look like early 90s cartoons by comparison.

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I am going to be this guy for Halloween, for sure.

This feels like the action movie I have been waiting for all my life, one where I do not have to switch off my brain to be able to enjoy the stunts. Much has been discussed about the movie’s feminist themes, and while some may disagree, I believe this movie has done a huge service to promote feminist viewpoints in mainstream movies. It does this in  both the glaringly obvious ways – hey, it’s a movie about freeing a group of women who have been kept as property by a man – and in much more subtle ways.

The real protagonist is the awe-inspiring Furiosa, who is allowed to be both kick-ass and vunerable, victim and victor, violent and caring. I am so tired of seeing “tough chicks” who cartwheels around in hyper-sexualised outfits and look at the camera with a “come-hither” look. Furiosa is a real person, with her own motivations and desires that are in no way related to her male companion. And she’s an amputee, but that’s no biggie either in this movie. It’s such a beautiful thing to behold and left me practically jumping on the couch and wanting to shout “See Hollywood, this is how you do it! It’s not that hard!!”

And don’t even get me started on the Vuvalini tribe of hardened old women warriors.  Women with wrinkles and grey hair allowed screen time, and doing something other than sitting in a corner on a rocking chair and mumbling? Come one now George Miller, Christmas is still months away. Rather than being the typical older, white, male director and telling the kids to get off his lawn, Miller has kept in tune with the times and breathed fresh air into his franchise.

Photo from the brilliant feministmadmax tumblr

Photo from the brilliant feministmadmax tumblr

Aside from all the gender politics stuff, which bore a lot of people to death, Mad Max: Fury Road is just damn good fun. Engrossing, fast paced, scored perfectly; this is how you do entertainment, guys.

I also recommend anyone to go and do a bit of reading about what it took to get the movie made. You may have heard about the term development hell, and the process of making this movie ticks all the boxes for that definition and then some. The idea for the film actually started in 1998 and then went through countless setbacks. Miller even considered making it as an animated feature at one point. I have huge admiration for a film maker like Miller who has gone through so much over his career to make his vision come to life so that we, the lucky audience, can share in it. Is Mad Max: Fury Road perfect? No, but it’s close, and that’s good enough for me. Now excuse me while I go look for a flame throwing guitar.

Surprise Me

If trailer viewing counted as a hobby, I would list in on my CV. I am addicted to trailers and always keep up with the latest. For me, it’s like getting a peek at a Christmas present. If what I see looks good, I keep having to peek over and over again. Sometimes, what I see is a disappointment and I end up never opening the damn thing.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven't seen yet.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven’t seen yet.

A trailer is something a bit like the cover and blurb of a book. It’s meant to whet your appetite and set the tone for the movie viewing experience. But the trailer you’re watching can end up being nothing like the movie you watch months later. It’s all too easy to make an exciting trailer even if you don’t have enough material to make a decent movie. We all know those trailers for comedies where all the actual jokes worth even the shortest of chortles are in the trailer. The movie itself is left scraping the barrel of laughs, so to speak.

More often than not, I have been excited by a trailer only to be let down by the actual movie. I’m not going to lie, when it comes to trailers I am probably easily amused. I seem to remember watching the Troy trailer on repeat back in 2004. And the movie, well, we all know how that went.

Sometimes, though, a trailer can leave you going “meh” when the the movie is actually wonderful. I find this a really puzzling phenomenon. I have been thinking about it lately after the release of  The Gift. I watched the trailer when it came out a few months ago and just found the trailer so underwhelming. I felt like I knew the whole story already and there was no need to see the movie.

But  the reviews are out and are overwhelmingly positive. What I have heard so far is that the trailer almost deliberately misleads you so that you can be surprised by what you see in the movie. This is hard to pull off and an intriguing strategy, so now I am of course desperate to see the movie. And it’s made me wonder how many other movies I have missed out on, because the trailer didn’t catch my attention.

Do you have any examples of a rubbish trailer coming before an amazing movie? And what does make a bad trailer and a good trailer anyway? I hope to explore trailers often on this blog and I’d love your feedback.

More Than Meets The Eye

For a great many people, a trip to the cinema is nothing more than a few hours of entertainment. A brief interlude to while away the hours until you get back to the business of “real life”. These people most often forget what they have watched long before the stale, overly salted concession stand popcorn has passed through their gut. That is fine. Horses for courses etc.

However, for some of us a trip to the cinema is a moment of pure anticipation from the moment we book our ticket. We know that, in the darkness that will engulf us for a few hours, we will encounter a multitude of emotions; disgust, boredom, anger,  joy, sorrow and the kind of awe that leaves goosebumps all over your flesh. We know that there is the possibility we will stumble out of that darkness with a new view of the world; feeling enriched, enlightened and, yes, entertained too. But what exactly we will come away with we can never know for sure and therein lies the excitement.

And, so, movies have become for me a red thread that weaves through my life from some of my earliest memories and up until now. The thread is not linear but rather spins and twists in elaborate patterns and spreads to far-flung places, to times long gone and to futures as yet unknown. Some movies have even felt like building blocks that contributed to who I am today and how I see the world.

No doubt, you have to wade through a lot of rubbish to get to the gems that leave a lasting impression. But, when you find them, it is so worth it. In this blog I will do a lot of wading as well as re-visiting some old favourites. I hope this space will be a place of solace for those of you who think there is more to movies than discussing how hot Megan Fox looked in the latest Michael Bay screen explosion thingy.