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Category Archives: Film & TV

Why are Netflix’s Defenders called ‘The Defenders’?

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and to a lesser extent, super-hero movies in general), I make it my mission to watch as much as possible. In the MCU, the only thing I’ve started and not finished so far is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (I think I’m near the end of season two, but I don’t care enough to figure it out).

Marvel’s films and television (with S.H.I.E.L.D. being the exception), have high production values and for the most part, some quality storytelling. Of course, some of the films can feel a bit same old, same old at times, but they’re definitely, as a whole, progressing. Marvel is doing the best they can with the IP’s they have left, and as such, it’s (almost) always something I want to see.

The Netflix shows, if you haven’t been watching them, are especially good. The most recently, Luke Cage, premiered on the 30th. I spent my day watching it, and by 2am on the 1st, I had my review written up. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, the next Netflix series due to be released is Iron Fist, which, as of today, we know will premiere on the 17th March next year.

After that, at some point we’ll be getting the Avengers-style team-up, The Defenders, along with another series of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher and probably Luke Cage.

As I said, I’m very much looking forward to all of this. Not only am I a MCU fan, my favourite television recently has been the Netflix productions (not just Marvel, but House of Cards, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, etc.).

But there is something that bothers me, being the fussy nerd that I am, and that’s the title.

Now, this isn’t just because traditionally in the comic books, these characters aren’t the Defenders* (if anything, they’re the New Avengers, minus a couple of members, but whatever). In the comic books, the original Defenders line-up looked something like this:

The Defenders.gif

Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and the Sub-Mariner. They would often be joined by various other assorted characters across the years.

It was a powerful and pretty bad-ass line-up, who, when they stopped fighting among themselves were perhaps one of the most powerful teams in the Marvel Universe (if not THE most powerful).

Of course, the problem here is that the Silver Surfer and (probably) Namor the Submariner were part of the many film distribution rights deals that Marvel made in the nineties to get some dollar. The Silver Surfer and Namor (again, probably; I can’t think off the top of my head but it may be Universeal) are, in movie-form, owned by Fox, and thus are untouchable for Marvel unless they buy back The Fantastic Four property.

So the name’s available. Why not use it? Right?

Because there is a much better name for Netflix’s ‘Defenders’ already on the table, and it actually makes sense in the context of the shows.

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In the comics, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have long been best friends. Mike Colter (who plays Luke Cage) even acknowledged the fact in a recent interview on BBC Radio 2. They have also long operated the business ‘Heroes for Hire’. The name is fairly self-explanatory. As heroes, they would hire themselves out to people who needed their help.

This isn’t really a spoiler, but in the Luke Cage series, the character even has references to his comic-book businesses. It’s even in Method Man’s rap towards the end of the series.

Now the reason it frustrates me that they’re using The Defenders rather than The Heroes For Hire, is that even if Daredevil and Jessica Jones were never members of the Heroes for Hire in the comic books, BOTH OF THEM ARE LITERALLY HEROES FOR HIRE!

So far, out of the three Netflix shows, Luke Cage is the only lead character who hasn’t undergone heroics after being hired for his services! The original hero for hire, thus far, is the only hero who hasn’t been up for hire. What’s that about?

Across the series, Luke is continually told that if he were to start a business, people would definitely pay for his services. Now, were we to assume that at the start of the crossover series he and Iron Fist were to meet and start up that business, you’ve got your show right there, with a name that actually fits the characters.

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But what about Jessica Jones and Daredevil?

Well, as I said, those two are the only characters who, so far, have actually been heroes for hire in the MCU/Netflix universe. Jessica Jones is a private investigator with super-powers. Tying her into Cage and Iron Fist’s business would be a piece of cake. They get hired for a case; either they need a P.I. and Luke calls on Jessica, or she’s ALSO been hired and they cross paths. It’s so simple to play this hero for hire angle that it’s annoying that it’s not what’s going down (I mean it might be, but I am of course speculating from the title).

Daredevil could come on in much the same way. Much of his own show see’s him donning his crimson costume AFTER he’s been hired to represent someone in court. Whatever it is that draws these heroes together could at some point hire Matt Murdock, and boom, you’ve hired another hero, Daredevil.

Four heroes, who have come together, after being hired. Heroes For Hire.

The only real reason they could be called the Defenders at this point is some weak-ass promotional material Marvel put out saying these guys and gal are the ‘Defenders of New York’. If people haven’t seen that; they might wonder why these characters are called The Defenders.

Call them Heroes For Hire, and people will get it. Know why? Because being ‘Heroes for Hire’ is what all these character fucking do.


I’ll leave you with that to mull over, and then just drop this trailer for a REAL Defender, Doctor Strange, right here, because how awesome is that jazzy Tron-esque soundtrack:

* Before anyone rants at me, I do acknowledge that some of these characters have been Defenders in the comics as well, but not as a team, all four of them together, and not in a way that makes as much sense as them being ‘Heroes for Hire’.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Film Review – Ghostbusters

I’ve been slacking a bit with this blog, which is a bit stupid really, especially considering the last post made it look like I was committed to film reviews and stuff. So, here’s a new film review, two months on. I nearly saw Now You See Me 2 instead, but I’m glad I didn’t.

A Sony Pictures Film, Directed by Paul Feig

Released: 15th July 2016

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey

Review: People have hated the reboot of Ghostbusters since it was announced. They’ve claimed that Paul Feig has ruined their childhoods and are horrified by the fact that they would make the new Ghostbusters… women?!

In fact, these people are so aghast at this, that if you looked at the rating for Ghostbusters on IMDb on Thursday, before the film had even come out in the USA, it was ranking about 4/10. At the time of writing this, it’s at a 5.1.

Ghostbusters3But that rating, like the opinion of all those internet trolls who are having a hissy fit because they can’t stand the thought of women starring in a remake of a classic film, is ridiculous.

Because this film is pretty damn good.

Ghostbusters see’s Professor Erin Gilbert (Wiig) forced to reunite with her estranged friend Abby Yates (McCarthy) when someone confronts her about a book they once wrote on the paranormal. Enlisted as a pair of ‘ghost experts’, they, along with Jillian Holtzman (McKinnon) and subway-worker Patty Tolan (Jones) begin confronting paranormal break-outs across New York City as the Ghostbusters.

Basically, it is another Ghostbusters origin story, but with enough changed to warrant it being it’s own film. The characters are all new creations brought to life by a fantastic cast. Because that is the true gem of this movie; it’s cast.

Ghostbuster2The beautifully varied Wiig brings a more straight-laced performance than usual as she comes head-to-head with McCarthy’s hopeful Yates. Kate McKinnon meanwhile, is basically playing herself, but that’s not a problem, because she’s pretty darn funny. So much so, that her Holtzman and Jones’ Patty Tolan are perhaps the most enjoyable Ghostbusters to watch, something I think Feig realised when he was deciding which Ghostbuster he’d give a ‘badass takes on loads of villains at once’ sequence. You know the sorts of thing I’m talking about. They’re in like, every ensemble action movie.

Which, I suppose brings us onto a fault of the movie. Although it is an original cast of characters and it does it’s own thing, the basic premise isn’t wholly new; there’s conflict between our heroes, they’re united against a common threat, they save the day and are celebrated by the City. We’ve seen it before.

Ghostbusters1Another issue is with the villain. From the moment he was on screen, I enjoyed actor Neil Casey, but it gets to a point where he gets sidetracked in favour of Chris Hemsworth, who is doing his best to try out his comedy chops in this film.

But it does eventually come round full-circle, culminating in a final-confrontation that I wasn’t expecting and thought was quite a clever riff on the finale of the original film.

Furthermore, the reason those issues aren’t really that big’a deal are because the humour and spirit enthused in the film throughout by it’s cast and crew mean that you don’t really care that the story isn’t all that original, because it’s the characters that are giving you that much craved originality.

(The film also ranks highly in my estimations for having enjoyable credits; not like ‘I have to stay because there’s a little extra at the end; the actual credits are enjoyable)

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Film & TV

 

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Can you still make money from film critiquing?

Time was, when people wanted to know if a film was good, they’d look to the experts.

But nowadays, everyone and their aunt can watch a film, type out a review, and lay claim to the title of ‘film critic’. Furthermore, some moviegoers even argue that the word of the professionals means nothing. Using Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an example; following a horde of negative reviews, claims came out that the film ‘wasn’t made for the critics’ and that the critics were following ‘an agenda’.

I’ve always been interested in this as a possible career path; but in a world where everyone has the tools at their disposal to write their own reviews and disavow anything career critics say, is that even possible anymore?

So when we started our ‘Research and Development’ module in class, and were told that we had to research a section of the industry, I instantly knew what I’d look into.

At first, I questioned how one would become a major film critic, but it was eventually whittled down to ‘Is film critiquing a viable means of making money?’

After agreeing that that was a feasible topic to research, my lecturer quickly interjected that the answer was ‘no’, unknowingly crushing my future prospects. My hopes and dreams were further beaten to a bloody pulp after a meeting with my supervisor, who told me to stay away from a portfolio of film reviews for my MA project. And a career in it.

I’m sure it’s not just me whose been told all of this. But I was determined to set the record straight. Obviously it must be possible to get paid for reviewing films, otherwise, who would write publications like Empire and Total Film?

The boundaries for our research were clear; the lecturers wanted us to talk to people in the industry and find work experience.

So, I started e-mailing around. If I could think of a blog, publication or prominent YouTubers who may be able to help me out or offer me experience, I messaged them.

Meanwhile, I began scouring indeed to see what sort of jobs were on the market. The first related results I came across were these:

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I applied to VultureHound and No Salt Popcorn, mostly out of curiosity.

I heard nothing from the latter. Likewise, I heard nothing from most of the other people I tried to contact.

But what I did get was a job offer from the former. As you can see from the advert, it was unpaid, but I took it anyway, painfully aware of the fact my lecturer and supervisor were still in the right, and that I was perhaps destined to work at Subway until the end of time.

Fortunately, as anyone who reads my blog on the regular will know, that was not to be the case.

Unfortunately, I still had to get by that whole ‘not getting paid’ thing. I searched on.

Still regarding Empire as the pinnacle of British film publications, I applied for a work experience placement. Empire don’t accept these placements directly, and so I was forced to do it through a company called GoThinkBig.
GoThinkBig were nice enough to let me know just the other day that I didn’t have a place on the program. Y’know, almost two months after I applied and after several of the allotted times for the placements had been and gone. Gee, thanks for that. I obviously wouldn’t have figured that out myself…

That was sarcasm.

I did figure it out by myself.

It was starting to seem like getting to a point where you could be paid to review films was an impossibility for anyone not already inside the review world. In fact, this was compounded by a little anecdote I heard when I attended a guest lecture by Mark Fisher, who revealed that he happened upon his career in journalism while he was renting a room from the former publisher of The List. With his job as a box-office assistant about to come to an end, Mark was offered a a job at that same aforementioned magazine as a production assistant, and soon began taking on editorial work.

He’s now a theatre critic who writes for The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. He also gets the award for ‘fastest reply in regards to this assignment’, after I e-mailed him to confirm the details of that story. Ten minutes. Winner.

So y’know, he’s kind of a big deal.

Fortunately, the rest of the lecture was amusing and informative; perhaps one of the most interesting and enjoyable that I’ve been to in my time here in Falmouth.

Unfortunately (yes, I’m doing the whole ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ thing twice in the space of 300 words. What of it? It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want) it, unintentionally, suggested that if you really want to be paid to write reviews, you had to have connections and a lot’a luck.

Downer.

And that’s when I realised for the first time, despite having been collecting Empire for more than half a year, that they actually have their phone numbers on the intro page. No more faffing about in the hopes that someone would respond.

In other words: stalker time.

So I called the reviews editor at Empire, Nick de Semlyan. Initially, he sounded skeptical hearing an unknown voice on the other end of the phone, but he’s a stand-up guy, so he agreed to help me out.

His words provided some much needed positivity, as he explained how enjoyable it is to be a film critic; to get paid to do something that you love. In regards to becoming a prominent film critic, he stressed that practice was what it took. That one would need to be constantly reading (/watching) and writing to perfect their craft.

True words, and ones that reminded me of a speech we had been given by our lecturers at the start of the course. Words that they gave to all of us, whether we wanted to write novels, non-fiction, copy or script. We needed to keep reading (/watching) and keep writing.

He recounted his own journey; revealing his origins as a writer for Sheffield’s university paper, before eventually moving on to bigger publications like Rolling StoneFHMStuff and Time Out.

So Nick essentially confirmed for me that it was possible to get paid to review films, but
that it took a lot of practice and preparation.

However it was clear Nick was quite like Mark; he was already embedded in the system. But how would one get to their level?

It was following these encounters that I managed to get hold of a freelance critic by the name of Chris Edwards. Being a freelancer, Chris was able to look at this from a different point of view.

Chris explained being a film critic, for him, is fulfilling and claimed that being treated like the rest of the press was an odd privilege. But it wasn’t always that way, as Chris spent three years writing for a blog site for free. He described that part of the process as frustrating, saying he doesn’t think editors should use a writers words purely for exposure, as it’s a skill that deserves payment. He then went on to give the most decisive answer I’ve had. He said that he didn’t think it could be viewed as a viable means of making money. But when he said that, he wasn’t talking about film critics as a whole; so much as people just starting out, a.k.a. me; the guy whose blog you’re reading.

He went on to reveal that he’d built his entire career around Twitter; promoting himself and his work; and from a combination of experience and his social media profile, he was able to get to the stage where job offers come ‘thick and fast’.

So surely that’s the key then? Mark, Nick and Chris stressed how important a wealth of experience and practice is, and how social media is perhaps the most useful tool of a critic in this day and age.

Except, I guess… their words.

But it seems it takes time for those words to make an impact. As I stated at the start of this post, anyone can write a review if they feel like it. And a lot of them don’t ask for pay. I spoke to my own editor at VultureHound, Michael Dickinson, who confirmed that VultureHound doesn’t need to advertise paid positions because they know they can hire writers who are simply looking for exposure; a chance to make a name for themselves and write about things that they love.

Taking the other writers I’ve spoken to’s words into consideration; this is a necessary step. VultureHound itself is still growing; and so perhaps looking for big-time, well-paid writers might be slightly unrealistic. But by allowing people to write for free, as long as they can write to a good standard, it helps elevate VultureHound‘s status and give aspiring writers a much needed platform for their work before they get the chance to seek employment at bigger name publications.

The importance of this was further highlighted when a friend from my previous degree forwarded a job advertisement on Twitter to me the other day. The site, Polygon, asks for writers to submit previous examples of their writing, but highlights these pieces must not be from one’s own personal blog. Hence the need for magazines like VultureHound.

So at the end of the day you, obviously, can get paid to watch and review films. But firstly, it may well take a while. And secondly when you see these jobs advertised, you might notice that they’re not just looking for ‘film critics’, they’re generally looking for ‘film journalists’ or ‘writers’ or ‘article contributors’ as well (/instead).

Still, it’s good to know that I’m on the right track.

Also, I feel like the longer this post gets, the more frequently I say VultureHound.

So, speaking of VultureHound, keep an eye out this Saturday for my next feature and a review of The Tunnel: season two at some point next week [read: whenever I actually write it].

Thanks for reading, and good luck to any prospective film critics out there! We can do this!

And yes, the first film I chose to review for something other than my own blog was 50 Shades of Grey. Please don’t judge me.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Film & TV, Life

 

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Film Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A Warner Bros. Film, Directed by Zach Snyder

Released: 25th March 2016

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter and Laurence Fishburne.

Review: What if Batman was real?

A figure so traumatised by a childhood event that he dresses up as a devilish creature and administers his own brand of ‘justice’ to those he feels deserves it. He would be brutal, unrelenting and focused; he would have a complete disregard for the lives of those he pursues.

This is definitely the case in this milestone superhero movie epic. Batman takes down criminals with a brutality akin to his fighting style in the Arkham Knight game and its predecessors.  His fight choreography is both beautiful and harsh. It works well, until the film gets to its titular battle, at which point all that brutality is focused on Superman. At which point you’re once again reminded just what you’re watching: Something unpleasant.

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At no point was this fight fun to watch

Batman v Superman was a film that held a lot of promise. It was meant to be, as Lex Luthor states “The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world”.

But in DC’s desire to match Marvel’s cinematic universe, it went too far; failing to focus on what the film actually should have been about. On paper, the idea that Superman, a godlike figure who could destroy the world if he wanted, would attract scrutiny from men like Batman and Lex Luthor, makes for a good film. But Zach Snyder ham-handedly throws in Justice League cameos and irrelevant dream sequences (one of which is somehow orchestrated by the Flash?) which add nothing to the plot and are more confusing than helpful.

Not only is it plagued with unnecessary storytelling, but the direction itself is something rather tragic. The film jumps about from Clark in Metropolis, to Bruce in Gotham, to Clark in the Africa, to Lex in Metropolis, to Bruce having another unnecessary dream, to Wonder Woman wandering around, to etc. etc. with no real time spent to trying to justify what’s going on. And if Snyder’s jumpy film-cutting hadn’t already put you off, all the laser-beams and explosions that completely blot out everything that’s going on will.

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Guest starring a troll from Lord of the Rings

The writing is also a mess. Whilst characters like Jeremy Iron’s Alfred and Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White offer humorous little breaks from the rather maddening plot-line and begin to bring the film back to reality, other characters like Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor stop that in its tracks, speaking in unnecessary and unbelievable grandiose styles that really don’t fit the piece.

And then there’s Wonder Woman, who doesn’t really say much. She’s suggested to be a mysterious bad-ass, but then barely features and has all her appearances drummed out by horrific rock theme-music.

wondy

Keep an eye out for W.W. rocking the 1910s garb with Chris Pine

The messiness of the film is at its most apparent right at the end, where they orchestrate the ‘Dawn of Justice’. Throughout the film, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are seen ever so briefly, and at its conclusion, Bruce states that they must find the ‘others’ as he knows there is a greater threat coming than Superman or Doomsday.

Why is it Bruce deciding this? Because obviously he’s pretty much the main character. His Batman is efficient, his motivations drive the narrative and his quest is told in full. Meanwhile, poor Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent is naught but a side piece; a ragdoll for Batman to fling around after exposing him to Kryptonite.

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He’s had a pretty bad day

If you’re a fan of Superman, I’d warn you to stay away from this film. People thought Man of Steel was bad (although I for one quite liked it), but this film basically should have been advertised (if you’ll excuse my use of expletives) as ‘FUCK SUPERMAN’.


 

This review comes from my website in progress, newtocomics.com.

It’ll be filled with comic book suggestions, news, reviews and character bios to get you up to date. If that strikes your fancy, then follow me on Twitter for progress on when it goes live. And if it doesn’t strike your fancy, please do it anyway because it’s for my MA project and I’d love you forever.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Film Review – Deadpool

I’m still working on my other site; newtocomics.com, but before it’s up, I thought I’d showcase some of the stuff that’s going on over there. First off, my ‘NewToComics’ review of Deadpool.

Release Date: 12th February, 2016

A 20th Century Fox Film, Directed by Tim Miller

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarino, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapičić

deadpool taxi

Review: If you scan the internet following the release of Deadpool, you’ll be faced with countless articles about how it has changed the comic-book film industry by successfully releasing a R-Rated film which toys with continuity as much as it wants whilst still adhering to the much coveted cinematic universes that everyone is chasing after.

Whilst this is untrue, as it ignores the earlier releases of films like Kick-Ass and Super, it tells you one thing you should know; Deadpool is a hugely popular and very enjoyable movie.

Currently ranking in the top ten of a lot of comic-movie ranking lists, Deadpool tells the story of Wade Wilson; a former soldier who is confronted by the fact he has terminal cancer. Approached by a shady government type, Wilson undergoes a procedure that awakens his mutant gene; granting him a healing factor to rival Wolverine’s and a face that, in his own words, is completely “unfuckable”. But when his ‘creator’, the sinister typical British villain, Ajax, kidnaps his girlfriend, Wilson must don a superhero suit, and slice his way through Ajax’s grunts so that he can get revenge.

deadpool drawing

If we’re honest, in terms of storytelling, the plot doesn’t really break any boundaries. If you reorganise the non-linear film, you’ll see that it is your basic ‘guy gets powers, fights bad-guys, saves girl’ story. This is highlighted particularly by the villains; neither of whom ooze personality, but this film isn’t about them.

No, the beauty of Deadpool comes from the title character himself. For those of you unfamiliar with Deadpool, he is known as the ‘Merc with a mouth’ due to his capacity for non-stop witty banter and crude jokes. It is probably one of the funniest comic films to date, with near every line the character utters having some sort of joke or hidden meaning in it. Does it always work? Of course not. But that’s true of most comedies. But with his ability to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience directly, Deadpool gives us something a bit different; whether that be commenting on his own film’s lacking budget or the smoothness of Hugh Jackman’s testicles; it which makes for interesting confrontations with established X-Man Colossus, and his protege Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the latter of whom was chosen entirely because of her name).

deadpool colossus negasonic2

It’s hard to believe that this is Director Tim Miller’s first big-screen outing, because on top of the hilarity brought on by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script, the film also has beautiful choreography, a great sound track, and is beautifully well-paced. He’s been given great tools to work with, and he’s utilized all of them well.

Ryan Reynolds has spent around a decade campaigning to make this film made; whether to see Deadpool in a film or to correct his previous failings in the previous films X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern (both of which also get little in-jokes) and the result is one of the most enjoyable, comic-accurate and nonsensical characters ever to hit the big screen.

deadpool load

(Although, that probably depends on your sense of humor, my hairdresser, for one, wasn’t a fan of all the swearing, so be prepared for that).

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2016 in Comic Books, Film & TV

 

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Film Review – The Big Short

A Paramount Pictures Film, Directed by Adam McKay

Released: 23rd December 2015

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall and Jeremy Strong

Review: I don’t know much about economics; I never have and I probably never will. But that still didn’t stop me from enjoying The Big Short.

Out of the recent ‘big’ movies I’ve seen; The Force Awakens, The Revenant, Deadpool; The Big Short offers something different and, in my opinion, far more entertaining.

Adam McKay has crafted a masterful picture with witty dialogue and an intriguing structure.

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His assembled class shines, with each of the main actors; Carrell, Bale, Pitt and Gosling all giving stellar performances which are further enhanced by their lesser-known co-stars’ also thoroughly enjoyable performances. Before seeing the film, I was in the mindset that Bale and Gosling were to be the stars of the piece, but that is not so. Bale plays the interesting yet awkward Dr Michael Burry who, although appearance throughout the film, acts as a bookend of sorts of the film. Gosling, meanwhile, is the enabler, mixing his portrayal of smarmy businessman Jared Vennett (based on Greg Lippmann) with hilarity and cunning; summed up near the film’s conclusion where he asks the audience ‘did you think I was the good guy?’.

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That’s because the real hero of the story is Steve Carell. Carell is lumped with one of the sorts of roles he is known for as witty angry manager Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman). His messy looks and messier temperament drive the main narrative forward, and his confrontations with the various other characters are golden. Pitt is also one of the ‘good guys’, but to a lesser extent, stepping out of the spotlight to serve in an ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ type capacity.

McKay also brings a wealth of other famous names into the film, as The Big Short continuously breaks the fourth wall in a clever manner, whether that be Ryan Gosling running us through proceedings and telling us which parts of the film are more accurate than others, or bringing in celebrities like Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie to help explain the economy of the mid-2000s to us in terms we’ll understand. He cleverly introduces Robbie as the first guest selection; for anyone not entirely focused on the movie, he sets her up sipping champagne in a bubble-bath as she talks us through what’s going on.

margot robbie2

It’s this clever inter-cutting of comedic film and serious documentary style info-drops that make The Big Short such a great watch. Adam McKay knows what he’s doing, and cleverly tackles the fact that economic collapse isn’t a laughing matter. As we reach the final act of the film, Carell’s character asks the audience (both his in-film and the viewers of the real world) “Still got a sense of humour? Well, you shouldn’t”, before the film is transformed with wholly serious and emotional scenes that bring us into the present day and remind us that we’re far from safe.

McKay ends with a statement that the main problem his characters have faced throughout the film, has just reemerged in 2015; as if history were repeating itself. Definitely a film to get you thinking.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Film & TV

 

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How The Force Awakens Could Have Been Better

So I’ve been working over my other blog; previously known as BLacknERD Reviews into a little site called newtocomics.com (don’t bother clicking the link, it’s not online yet).

There’s some stuff on there that’s no longer relevant. No point wasting writing though, so I’ll be posting some of it here. Starting with my thoughts on how The Force Awakens could have been better. I wrote it some months ago now (January 8th, to be precise), but even so, enjoy:


 

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I’ve been pretty vocal about my issues with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and even now, three weeks, one day, eighteen hours and fifty-five minutes after sitting down to watch it upon its release, it’s still on my mind.

Yesterday, I was looking at the IMDb page for the movie, and having a look at some of the reviews. I found them somewhat comforting, as the [categorized: best] user-reviews you come across assured me that I’m not alone in my opinions, despite the overwhelmingly positive response the film garnered (it’s now the highest grossing US movie of all time).

One review, in particular, summed up my sentiments pretty dead on, explaining that the main problem is that the film lacks progress from the original trilogy, and instead is basically just a soft reboot of the franchise.

This, coupled with my appreciation of YouTuber Michael from Belated Media‘s videos, wherein he edits the stories of the Prequel trilogy (minor edits of The Phantom Menace and then pretty much complete rewrites of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith to follow this new story-line he has created) inspired me to do the same for The Force Awakens.

I figured it could be a bit of fun, and perhaps an interesting read for you all. A What if? Because I’m not being obsessive. Honestly.

Seriously, stop judging and listen to me on this.

Anyway, some rules and restraints, because without restraints we’re no better than Tusken Raiders, are we?

I’m not going to out-and-out rewrite the film. That would be silly. Or sillier than what I’m doing, anyway. Instead, I’m just going to change some things, which in my opinion would rework the film into something more complete, whilst still leaving room for the next to films to build from. In italics are my reasoning and background information on the film.

I’ll be using the basic plot outline from the film’s Wikipedia page, and going from there. I’m also assuming you’ve all seen The Force Awakens by now. But if not, obviously SPOILERS!


 

Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker has disappeared after one of his students turned against him and tried to destroy his new Jedi. In response, Luke has taken a batch of new students and retreated to an unknown destination.

Meanwhile, the First Order has risen from the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate both Luke and the New Republic.

Learning that the First Order have learnt of the map to Luke’s location, and are planning to make a move, New Republic pilot Poe Dameron meets Lor San Tekka, Luke’s eldest student, on the planet Jakku.

Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren destroy the village and capture Poe, whilst Lor San Tekka is killed in the ensuing firefight. Poe‘s droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and locates scavenger Rey Solo, at a junkyard settlement under the protection of Chewbacca.

Rey has been left on Jakku to avoid the gaze of the First Order, who are aware that the map to Skywalker requires a force-adept, and to protect her from the same fate as her brother, Kylo Ren.

Having Chewbacca stay with her for however long also demonstrates his loyalty to Han Solo, and would make sense for them to be living within proximity to the only person who knows where Luke actually is.

Also, considering the title is THE FORCE AWAKENS, having a jedi show up early on shows that Luke has actually had some success in the past thirty years. 

Ren tortures Poe and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, unable to kill for the First Order, frees Poe and they escape in a stolen TIE fighter and Poe dubs FN-2187 “Finn”. They crash on Jakku, and Finn appears to be the only survivor. He searches for Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike. The four flee the planet in the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Chewbacca.

The Falcon breaks down, but is saved from the First Order by a much larger ship, piloted by Han Solo who reclaims his former vessel and is reunited with his daughter and best friend. Han explains that Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order but went into exile after a student turned to the dark side and destroyed all that Luke had built.

With Han having an emotional connection to Rey and Chewie, it makes more sense for him to arrive to pick the Falcon up as quickly as he does. It gives us a reason for the Falcon to be on Jakku specifically, and also removes the nonsense of him having it stolen from him and returning to the smuggling game, throwing all his development and relationship with Leia to the Sarlacc Pit.

I’ve decided to skip the whole part with Maz Khanata; as frankly, it annoyed me, and ‘finding answers in a den of criminals’ has already been done four times in the saga already (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi).

Likewise, the Starkiller base, if it makes it into my trilogy, has not yet been built. Like the den of criminals, we don’t need a third death star straight away. To make it a greater threat, it should be built up over the trilogy (as Lucas intended in his original films, might I add) and not just destroyed straight away.

Plus, destroying the New Republic in the first film ruins all the progress made after Return of the Jedi. We need progress, not a reboot.

And so, this is where my film deviates from Abrams’ version for a bit.

Having saved Chewbacca, Rey, Finn and BB-8, Han returns the group to Coruscant, where Leia and C-3PO are waiting for them. The family share a reunion, and Rey is shown what she is heir to. As she gets reacquainted with her mother, Han does some bonding with Chewbacca, and reveals that although he is glad the war is over, he does somewhat miss his more rebellious life. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with being on the main planet of the New Republic, a place he has spent his whole life being trained to hate; he feels guilty and awkward around them, but his choice to leave the First Order has now truly begun to seem right.

Having these scenes allows for more character development. This  isn’t to say I didn’t think J.J. Abrams’ version had it, but what with some of the ‘creative missteps’, shall we say, they weren’t the developments that the characters deserved.

Han, for instance, still longs for a life of adventure, but due to his commitment to Leia and her efforts in building the New Republic, he has put that part of his life to rest and not just run away. He is still the same character, but he has grown. It also gets rid of that nonsense with the CGI tentacle monsters.

Having settled in, Leia explains the reason that the First Order are hunting them, and begins revealing Rey’s heritage that is the Force. As Leia exposits what has happened since the fall of the Empire, Imperial Loyalists learn of Rey’s identity and contact the First Order. As Leia reveals that she has been collecting links to Luke (such as his old lightsaber, a gift from Lando), the loyalists stage an attack on the Solo/Organa homestead and kidnap Rey. They also attempt to take BB-8, but the heroes manage to keep him safe.

Up until now, Leia has been trying to respect Luke’s wishes by not seeking him out. This is the turning point where she realizes there is a clear and present danger, and that the Jedi are needed. 

On the First Order base, Rey is confronted by Kylo Ren, who reveals himself to be her brother. He in turn presents her to his Master, Supreme Leader Snoke via hologram, who is actually the old Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, in disguise. Plagueis reveals that by rights, the two siblings belong to him, as he has orchestrated the whole Star Wars saga, manipulating the midichlorians in Shimi Skywalker to create Anakin Skywalker. Plagueis orders Kylo Ren to return to Korriban with his sister, before… ending the call? I dunno.

Although I’m not entirely sure of the whole Plagueis/Snoke theory, which has apparently been denied by Andy Serkis, this, I feel, is a way to unite the whole nine films, once they’re complete. Because although people didn’t like the prequels, they did happen, and it’s time to face that fact.

This also gives the chance for more Force Ghosts when Plagueis is seen in person. Palpatine could be watching as a ghost from his side, arguing about how things should be done, and also providing exposition on how Plagueis survived in Episode XIII. Is this too much for new fans to take in? Perhaps, but it is entry number seven in the franchise, so really, its not that big a deal.

Alternatively, Snoke could just be a Plagueis fanatic or something. The motivations remain the same. 

Back on Coruscant, the group come to terms with the fact that the First Order is more powerful than they realized, and that if they take Rey, she too could fall to the Dark Side of the Force. Leia begs for the full backing of the New Republic’s forces to retrieve her daughter, but they argue that they have already wasted enough resources endeavoring the retrieve the map she originally stressed they needed, which still remains in their possession. Furious, Leia begs Han to save their daughter, and urges him to return their son, Kylo Ren alive.

Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, Poe and Finn infiltrate the base with a small group of soldiers loyal to Poe. They find Rey whilst setting explosives around the base (like in the film, she uses the force to escape captivity, allowing us to still see Kylo Ren go beserk), before being confronted by Ren.

The two factions engage in a gunfight, as the base is put on high alert. Hoping to give his friends a chance to escape, Han confronts Ren, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. The pair find themselves conflicted, and Han starts to ponder if Ren is in fact still the son he once loved. Determined to prove himself to Plagueis, Ren kills Han. Enraged, Chewbacca shoots Ren in the side and sets off the explosives.

Now that Kylo Ren and Rey are brother and sister, the upcoming battle between them is more emotionally fueled than in the actual film, where Rey’s logic is more ‘this guys a jerk and he killed that other guy I barely knew but offered me a job’.

The group begins their escape, and an injured Ren pursues them outside. Finn retrieves the lightsaber Leia gave him to pass on to Rey and engages Ren with Poe’s help, hoping to spare Rey the pain of fighting her sibling, but is overpowered and badly wounded. Rey takes the lightsaber and fights Ren, overpowering him with the Force and again, Poe’s help.

Having Poe here makes the fact that a Stormtrooper and someone who has just learnt of the Force beating Kylo Ren by themselves more believable and gives viewers more chance to see what has become a fan-favorite character.

However, before she can strike the killing blow, Rey halts, stopping Poe from doing the same, and restrains her brother, taking him aboard the Millennium Falcon, which Chewbacca has recovered. Desperate to kill Ren, Chewbacca is forced to stand down out of respect for Rey, whom he has spent the past nineteen years with.

Back on Coruscant, Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han‘s death.

There’s also a funeral/memorial scene or something, because if Qui-Gon, Padme and Darth Vader got one, so should fucking Han Solo, body or no!

With Kylo Ren under watch, Leia asks Rey, Chewbacca and Finn to take C-3PO and find her brother. The group fly off to an uncharted system, where they find Luke surrounded by his new pupils, with R2-D2 at his side.

The End.

I think the actual ending for The Force Awakens frankly looks a bit stupid/awkward.

I think by showing the progress Luke has made instead of him just being a whiny bitch, the film gets a more fulfilling ending: Luke has clearly succeeded in some form, furthering his journey from Return of the Jedi and Ren HAS been brought home alive, like Leia requested, but at a cost. When the gang is reunited, with Ren in the picture, there will be more conflict to start within the next film, as although he is their relative, they all resent him for killing Han.

This way, the film has obvious ties to the rest of its trilogy, but works even better as a standalone, because it ties off the majority of loose ends, and unites the whole Saga, keeping it focused, like Lucas intended, as a family drama.

Furthermore, you could get a whole side-plot going about how, in spite of Luke’s efforts to defeat Vader, if him and Leia are reunited, they do essentially rule the Galaxy like Vader wanted all along… Something to think about. 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in Film & TV

 

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