Archive | April, 2014

Grunting at the Screen (150)

30 Apr

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Two years after Chronicle, writer Max Landis finally has a new film in production, no wait; this imaginary device in my ear tells me Max Landis’ current production is a remake of Frankenstein with Daniel Radcliffe as Igor. That messes up the drama of my announcement. Anyway, Landis has an original film about to go into production called American Ultra; a regular guy Mike discovered he is in fact a sleeper agent who must call on his hitherto unrealised talents to survive.
Hme, sounds a bit like Chuck… Anyway Jesse Eisenberg stars and Nima (Project X) Nourizadeh directs. I like Landis so I’ll probably check it out.

Back in Grunting (138) we mentioned British Sci-Fi thriller The Anomaly from Noel Clarke, well it is now set to open in the U.K. on July 4th: an ex-soldier wakes up in a van with a kidnapped boy by his side and only moments to figure out how he got there. Is he a victim, is he a villain?

Ooh look, straight to disk DVD, and it’s science fiction. Skyhook from director Drew Hall, no extra’s on the disk.
What is the scenario? A team of scientists build the first space elevator but a mercenary is trying to sabotage it. Hme. In a book this might be good, as a movie it lacks pizzazz
And now for the bad news. There was only one review I could find and,.. well it stunk.

We got another live Patlabor trailer, this one for the second TV episode.
There will be a couple more episodes (well something like eleven) then the Feature film.

Everything is turning into Stargate.
Now I’ve been maxing and relaxing catching reruns of original Stargate. And I got to thinking.
It’s all wormholes. For instance Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is about interstellar wormholes; it’s posh Stargate.
Doug Liman is angling to direct an adaptation of Philip (Larklight) Reeve’s forthcoming novel Railhead. I would not have mentioned it, it’s a Young Adult novel, but it’s about trains that go through space portals: Stargate with trains.
The latest project is a Ridely Scott project with wormh.. no wait! This TV series has no wormholes, no space portals and no trains. It’s called Pharaoh.
As you may have guessed I is based in ancient Egypt, but an Egypt where Aliens have build the Pyramids. It’s Stargate, a very upscale Stargate because Scott is teaming up with HBO to make it and you know they don’t play.
I’m guessing Ridley had a ton or research left over from Prometheus and rather than letting it go to waste he thought he’d put all of that Van Daniken Material with alien gods influencing ancient civilisations to use. David Shulner is the series creator and runner, and check this, Scot will executive produce and direct the pilot.
That’s something.

Len (Underworld) Wiseman has settled on his next project, it’s Black Chapter, a science fiction feature Written by Zak Penn.
Penn used to the go-to guy for Comic Book Movies; he wrote The Incredible Hulk, X-Men: X2, and even a version of the Avengers before Joss Weldon got his hands on it.
With Black Chapter we have an FBI Special Agent who stumbles on an American Intelligence program to train secret Operatives with psychic powers.
It appears to be loosely based on the real MK-ULTRA program from the 1960. This was also the basis of the book and the film The Men Who Stare at Goats. But I suspect Black Chapter will take more creative approach. (That goat is going down!)

Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper the creative powers behind the (naked) Lithuanian science fiction film Vanishing Waves are back with their second feature: Emergence.
As you can see from the title it is about the coming of artificial intelligence, but it takes a different tack, Lemark’s father was a brilliant bio-engineer, Lemark finds himself going to Morocco to take over his father’s last project a huge artificial consciousness called the Organism which is potentially remarkable, if it wasn’t also dying.
It sounds very visual and utterly fascinating.

Back in Grunt (139) we told you about Mark Millar’s Starlight
Well he hasn’t been sitting on his hands. MPH by Millar and artist Duncan Fegredo has just optioned by Lorenzo di Bonaventura,
This one his take on very fast superheroes. It is set in contemporary Detroit where a group of kids start using a street drug called MPH which lets them go very fast for seven days, and what they do with it is not very heroic.
Hme. Sounds interesting, at the best it could be Chronicle meets the Flash..*

I’ve been scanning the supermarket shelves again and this time I have found Scopers, with Nick Stahl. Some remember Stahl. as John Conner on Terminator III, I’d rather thing of him as the titular Yellow Bastard in Sin City.
Apparently Scopers was renamed from “The Speed of Thought”.
Stahl plays a government trained telepath or “Scoper”. Scoping is a blessing and a curse as uncontrolled telepathy can drive the Scoper mad with voices. Stahl is mentoring a young untrained Scoper when he starts to fall in love with her. Problem is this is forbidden by the government so the pair of them have to go on the run.
Sounds like it has potential, I checked out some reviews. The general word is… they kind of like it.
Check this one from Starburst.

Alex Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer was well reviewed but hardly seen, the director is now trying to put together a new trailer and new promotional art for a re-release and he is trying to crowdfund it.
Check it out

By now you will have heard that Warner Bros is planning a Justice League feature to follow the Batman Vs Superman that is currently in the works.
All I can say is… why? After all it seems most of the Justice League will turn up in Batman Vs Superman anyway, as well as the titular characters there will be Wonder Woman, Cyborg

Now this is embarrassing, Sci Fi London was not last month, it started on 24th April.
In addition to the films I previously mention it screened (because it will be too late by the time you read this).
Some actually interesting.
A Hungarian Science Fiction film about four young friends trapped by an invisible force field, their supernatural prison starts changing and producing different environments until strange secrets about the origin of humanity are revealed.

Directed by Axelle Carolyn , produced by Neil Marshall who happens to be husband, this ghost story is about a woman who fails at a suicide attempt then takes a cabin in the woods (actually a remote cottage, but you get where I’m going) to recuperate, the house is haunted and she gets to know the ghost.

Struggled Reagans
(No I don’t get the title either) six sexually traumatised teens are given superpowers and spandex then sent on a mission. Um, no, I’m not commenting further.

A man receives a phone call that his girlfriend has been in a car accident.
He finds her in an experimental facility but she has no signs of injury. Slowly they realise that they have both been part of a strange procedure and they cannot trust that anything is real.
What is interesting is that this one comes from the Dominican Republic.

The Scribbler
I blogged this one back in… wait, I read about it but did not blog it. How did that happen.
This was one of a series of films from New Artist Alliance budgeted at under a million dollars. It is based on a comic by Dan Schafferís.
a young woman in a halfway house for mental patients starts getting a radical new treatment from something called The Siamese Burn machine, but discovers her fellow former inmates are dying at an alarming rate. Is it real, is it delusion?

Upside Down
Sadly enough this is indeed the Canadian feature about star-crossed lovers who live in two different worlds where gravity work in opposite direction and can only interact by climbing very tall buildings. Sounds silly but there are all sorts of possibilities for upside down Spider-man style kissing.
I have been waiting for this film for years… and now it turns up?

Reviews for Transcendence are out and they are,.. universally negative. Hme. Although they all hate it, the each hate different aspects, some hate Wally Pfister’s flat direction, some hate Johnny Depp’s lifeless performance, some hate the story line which goes from challenging ideas to dumb action, there is a lot here, and apparently all to hate.
I’m going anyway, because if we don’t go see original science fiction… then who will?



I set out to see this film with apprehension, I have seen so stinkers of late and dislike paying for the privilege.
Will and Evelyn are computer scientists, he dreams of discovering the deeper truths of artificial intelligence , he dreams of changing the world with groundbreaking technology.
Which is all undermined by RIFT a terrorists group with the skills of black hat hackers and the deadly focus of Jihadists, they shoot will, he survives but the bullet was laced with polonium and he faces an agonising extended death.
Evelyn is unwilling to face this and she uses an experimental to record Will’s mind and upload it to AI cores.

Transcendence, had some very negative reviews followed by disastrous box office. But I went along anyway, determined to put my suckometer on it and take the measure of it’s suckage.

Transcendence is movie of ideas, it asks many questions and wisely answers none of them, but it does layout the major issues of transformative change and what it will do to us: Brain Uploading, nanotechnology, mind downloading…. immortality.

The acting is very fine Johnny Depp is admirably restrained, Paul Bettany is , well the most human I have seen him in years, and Rebecca Hall as Evelyn is fascinating; taking the roll Hugh Jackman had in The Fountain she is the one who will not accept fate and chooses to use science to keep her spouse from death. It’s kind-of refreshing.

From the midsection things pick up, as Will becomes superhumanly intelligent, developing nanotechnology which revolutionises eco- science , manufacturing and medicine.

At first everything looks positive, Will gives jobs to the needy, heals the lame, and the blind, brings the dead back to life.

But of course it is not all sweetness and light, RIFT, is still around, and the US government is not very enthusiastic about this technology out of control and belonging to someone else.

It does not take long until these unlikely allies decide something has to be done (and you know that involves some gratuitous violence and explosions).

This is a different kind of science fiction movie, for the most part it is gently paced and leaves the pyrotechnics largely to the end.

I have a few objections, most of the scenes take place in a solar panel array, making it look like the technology is well.. evil.

If there is anything to object to it’s that the film wants to have its cake and eat it too; it wants to show the wonders of transformative technology and to lay a disapproving eye upon it at the same time. And it does not seem to be passionate enough about either viewpoint.
If networking technology turns us into zombies, then they are the mild, not especially dangerous kind.
And if we are going to rid ourselves of digital technology them we don’t have to display the horrendous loss of life, and real suffering that will inevitably bring.

In the end I suspect the writer Jack Paglen had the last laugh: after all, Will dies, heals the sick cures the earth but for all his pain attracts the opprobrium of the powers that be who seek to drag him down and destroy all his works. It looks like the act of a techno messiah.

By and large however this is a thoughtful movie with real ideas, a rarity for science fiction in recent times.
It was worth a look and I liked it.

*I could not have meant that, I mean “Chronicle meets any very fast superhero….”

And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.
And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video try Starburst’s review section

I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.


Grunting at the Screen (149)

17 Apr

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Sparks is here.
The indie supehero feature has arrived on DVD and you can see it in supermarkets now. There are a number of reviews knocking around.
They generally like it, but I feel their enthusiasm is lukewarm, they appreciate the effort of making a superhero movie for no money and going for an unconventional story, but they don’t think it is the most essential film out there.

Fan Film Maker Makes Good
Dan Trachtenberg, director of video game based short film Portal: No Escape is working on a feature, Valencia; a Post-holocaust story of a girl in a cellar after a nuclear attack.
Dan Casey wrote the script, Bad Robot and Paramount are producing. Since the budget is just 5m this one has a chance of being interesting.

Mars Attracts
I didn’t mention “The Martian” an adaptation of the e-book by “Andy Weir”, maybe because it was a project of Drew Goddard. Well Goddard is out and 20th Century Fox is eager to sign Matt Damon and get it before the cameras.
The scenario of “The Martian” is an astronaut stranded on Mars trying to survive long enough to get back to Earth. Fox emphasises it is very different to Gravity…yeah.
We expect a lot of films will be arriving which will be strangely “different to Gravity.”

March Madness….. what d’you mean it’s April; it opened on April 11. Like I was saying it continues with The Raid 2 (or Berendal, as it should be)

I saw the first one and I would not miss the follow up.

Straight From the Funny Pages
Looks like Jim Starlin’s sprawling comic series Dreadstar has been optioned.
Starlin is more famous for guiding the more cosmic elements in the Marvel Universe especially Thanos’ various quests for the Infinity Gems. Dreadstar however is creator-owned.
Benderspink and Illuminati Entertainment are taking the lead. J.C. Spink and Ford Lytle Gilmore are producing.

Benderspink have been known to develop a lot of comic based projects and in fact they have a comic imprint of their own.

Dreadstar was the story of the eponymous hero’s quest to bring down two evil empires.
The tone is kind of odd because it’s essentially epic fantasy in space. I don’t know how that might be handled on screen. Kind of Lord of the rings meets Star Wars? Who knows?
The Dreadstar comic had a spotted history migrating from publisher to publisher.
Epic Illustrated
Epic Comics
First Comics

Plans are afoot to film Vertigo Comic’s Federal Bureau Of Physics
by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez. It’s about a world where the physics are out of whack and the eponymous agency is in charge of keeping things in line.
Justin Marks, will write the screenplay and David S. Goyer will produce.
I haven’t read the comic but this looks like it is heading for Men in Black territory.

New to US television is ‘The Real History of Science Fiction’; four episodes interviewing authors and stars of science fiction. One of interviewees will be William Gibson. “The Real History of Science Fiction” premieres on April 19 BBC America

Another Indie Time-Travel Movie
How did I miss this one, it’s a Time-loop feature called The Infinite Man from Australian director Hugh Sullivan. Like a lot of low budget genre products it takes the form of a romantic comedy.
Dean wants to recreate the perfect romantic weekend with his girlfriend, so he builds a time machine and works on making it perfect by looping through the time over and over again.
Reviews are very enthusiastic, and although it has been compared to everything from Groundhog day to Inception the impression is that this is fresh and smart, the kind of creativity that comes when you don’t have a hundred million dollar budget.
So far it has shown at South by South West and there is no release schedule for it, but we live in hope.

It Ain’t Irwin Allen
Here is something; Geostorm, written by Dean (Stargate and Independence Day) Devlin with Gerard Butler sought to star.
Looks like a big disaster epic. A climate scientist has to use his knowledge to stop a huge man-made storm, meanwhile someone tries to assassinate the President (yes, I don’t know how they are connected either.) Looks like the Unique Selling Point here is the involvement of Dean Devlin, who wrote some of the biggest movies of the nineties, and is now turning to directing. Devlin was the writing and co-producing partner of Roland Emmerich so I suppose he knows how to organise an epic. However it seems that the whole disaster revival sub-genre is already passé, without ever having risen to pre-eminence.
I’m just saying.

Now I am a big fan of Darren Aronofsky, I saw Pi, his first film at festival, I was impressed then and I still think he is one of the most able and unusual film makers out there.
Inevitably his take of the biblical epic is off kilter. But I never expected it to be this odd.

You know the basic set up. God contacts Noah and tells him the world is going to be destroyed; Noah gets to building the ark and getting the animals on board.
So far, so holy.
The story is the same but the inflection is very different.
Aronofsky structures it as a debate between very different viewpoints; a kind of extreme eco-fundamentalism and a pure philosophy of forgiveness and love.
In the era of Noah, the people of the earth (largely descendants of the murderer Cain) have despoiled the earth with filthy industrial (yes, we are definitely post iron age here) depredation. Noah and his family are vegan (I got to tell you not the best advert for riotous living- they live in a crap-shack) and very devout.

After a series of disturbingly psychedelic visions (in which the Creator is frustratingly vague) Noah gets to work on mammoth crate to save the “innocent”. You see the innocent are not the remaining sinless humans, there are none; only the animals that are as the creator made them are worthy. The human race will be left to die off.

This is the most extreme of ecological viewpoints; if mankind cannot step lightly on the earth then he must walk there no more.

In this he eventually comes into conflict with his wife who sees the future generations of man as hope.

Noah is a humourless prig, a stick in the mud who is deeply unsympathetic, where as his wife’s viewpoint, being almost wholly emotional is hardly articulated at al.

In fact the real hero of the movie is Tubal-cain the king of the sinful cities. He is highly articulate. Impressed with neither creators nor miracles, destiny for him is a matter of will, the future belongs to man who grasps and holds it.

Performances from most of the cast are good, the pace is kind of languid, although it never actually grinds to a halt and as it gets to the end the drama becomes every bit as stirring as the spectacular FX filled disaster sequences. It’s worth a watch.

I have philosophical objections. I don’t care if it is biblically authentic, or theologically problematic (It’s fine so far as I can see). It is in the obnoxious philosophy of Noah, his hated of humanity in favour of an unattainable purity of nature, it’s ethically distasteful and politically toxic.
But what the hey, Aronofsky only puts it out as one of several viewpoints.

Otherwise it’s strangeness is underline by its anachronisms; iron age guns, and combat knives? Though I kind of liked the weird rock-angels.

Well what can I say? It’s no Black Swan but if you don’t go you’ll miss one of the most head-scratching experiences of the year.

Ah, this week’s trailers.
Amazing Spider-man 2 looks busy as ever. Transformers: Age of Extinction looks a whole lot more sober than, say the last three ones. And Transcendence could work out good or trivial, but it has the distinction of being the first major motion picture of the Singularity (not to be confused with the motion picture The Singularity, which is still very much in turn-around…)

The Machine

Caradog James’ unstoppable killer robot movie, The Machine, opens this month.
Well reviewed but I got to thinking, if you know jack you know I am an aficionado of killer robot movies, especially of the “Terminator rip off” variety.
There are classic examples of the genre: The Class of 1999, Nemesis, Robotrix. So I got to thinking; will The Machine meet my exacting standards?
One; will there be at least one moment of utter absurdity? In Robotrix the killer robots were also masters of kung fu, the who movie was absurd, In Nemesis there was that sequence of the cyborg sliding downwards while firing a gun out of his face, his face! which brings up..
Two: will there be moments of delicious robotic body tech. Without these your killer robot film goes limp (Prototype, I am talking about you!) Terminator lead the way with its disgusting robot surgery, The Class of 1999 had those scenes of gloopy metal interiors beneath the rubber skin. You just have to expose the machine beneath the human exterior.
Three: there is no three, it just has to be a good film, good story, good action, goof FX.

DVD Review
This is a rarity, an independent British science fiction film.
Vincent is a computer scientist working for the Ministry of Defence on artificial intelligence, they want him to make a mind to fit into their killer android body, something to give them the edge against China in the new cold war.
Vincent drafts in programmer Eve to help him with the AI, but a Chinese agent kills her.
Not before her brain can be scanned.
The scan gives us a curious android known only as “machine” she has the body of a full grown woman but the mind of a curious child. it is notable that Caity Lotz is much more convincing as an android than a human being…(!)

Vincent’s boss is the usual slime who just wants a weapon. Meanwhile Vincent has his own hidden agenda, his daughter is brain damaged, he hopes his research will eventually cure her.

It all goes pear shaped as Vincent’s daughter deteriorates and Machine starts displaying human characteristics. Vincent, uses the lab equipment to copy his daughter’s brain-state.
Meanwhile the boss ordered all of Machine’s humanity to be cut out – holding the recording of Vincent’s daughter as a bargain chip.

Vincent realises he has been working in an evil enterprise and from there on in it accelerates to the inevitable robot rebellion and extreme violence.

Director Caradog James is a smart cookie, he has done his research on AI and it shows, this is movie full of ideas, it asks good questions.

In style it is more like a classic horror film; leisurely pacing and tension replacing the headlong rush of spectacle and action. And there are some cyborg guards whose interaction is downright disturbing.

It has also been compared to Blade Runner, I see why, although it is not altogether fair.
Visually there is nothing to compare, Caradog James doesn’t have the money and he doesn’t try. However there are conceptual moments that are parallel: the child like android, the way she moves, the way the researchers are always asking about mothers and a particular moment of violence which I will not spoil for you.
On the other hand there are moments reminiscent of other films; the creepy sexual tension between Vincent and Machine is reminiscent of Splice, a moment on the operation table feels very 2001 like. All of these moments are not blatantly caged but gentle homage, I can forgive them.

There is one aspect I am quite disappointed with. Although Machine periodic glows from within exposing her metal skeleton, due to her bullet proof skin there is no sign of that most desirable trait in the Unstoppable Killer Robot sub-genre: battle damage. There is nothing sexier than a cyborg or robot with their delicious innards hanging out after hard bout of violence. (Yes, it is so wrong, but here I just don’t want to be right!)

OK, is the Machine a genre classic? No, but it’s OK and Caradog James knows his way around a camera, give him more money and he may produce a killer film.

The Machine is out on Disk, as advertised it is extras deprived, but you can download a making-of at the movie site (because obviously they could not squeeze a short documentary onto a Digital Versatile Disc, oh no..)
The Machine will hit VOD on April 8 and theatres on April 25th in the United States.

The Raid 2
Ow! Oof, argh, hey stop! Uff!
You want to know what watching The Raid 2 is like? It’s like having the sh*t kicked out of for two hours.
I liked it.
Now you know the deal; Rama from the last Raid movie is a cop who just took down a major crime boss, but he cannot go back to his old life because the corrupt cops in the force will have him and his family killed.
Instead he goes for a plan where he goes undercover, joining a big crime family and working his way to the top and discovering the crooked cops in the force, then they can take care all the bad apples at once.
In feel this is a lot like Donnie Brasco (or the Departed) meets The Godfather.
We have Uco, the don’s son whose ambition threatens to pull the whole gang down, and Rama, the conflicted cop living among criminals every day.
It’s a slow start, Raid 2 takes it’s time establishing the elements of a complex plot, but once it gets going its a freight train, totally f***ing unstoppable.
It’s a log movie, but it needs to be there are all of the fight scenes, I was eventually exhausted, not bored, but physically exhausted, and then there is the plot, yes, there is an actual plot between all of the extreme violence. The plot is elaborate enough that you might need a cheat sheet to keep the players straight.
But don’t worry, every time you get a little confused there is a fight scene to keep things moving.
And what fight scenes they are; the Toilet scene, mud scene, The hammer Girl, The baseball boy, the warehouse scene, the kitchen scene.
Most spectacular is the car scene, a fight, inside a car, while it is in chase, it is insane; I jumped up and down in the cinema and so will you.

But , strangely enough the action scenes are beside the point, seriously. I have heard Garth Evans described as the world’s greatest Action director, that is an insult, it is evident he is not interest in making action films, despite the trail of bloody brutality from beginning to end, not, Raid 2 is actually a thriller in the old mode before the coming of the Cameron’s, Lucas’s and Speilbergs of this world. It is about tension and moral choices and regret, and of course a big pile of bodies at the end. There hasn’t been an action film this violent, well since The Raid 1.
I don’t need to tell you go see it, you are already there.

OK trailer time: Brick Mansions, not another Parkour movie… Oh it’s the remake of Baniliue 13. Looks energetic enough and it stars Paul Walker in one of his last films so I can’t be too sarcastic. Go see it if you are allergic to subtitles.

And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.
And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video try Starburst’s review section

I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.

Grunting at the Screen (148)

4 Apr

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Tall, Dead, with a Whole Lot of Balls
Woah! You may recall I mentioned John Dies at the End back in Grunt 145.
Well it looks like Don Coscarelli is back with Phantasm V: Ravager.
Well not quite.
Following Phantasm IV there was a clamour to follow it up. Years went by while Coscarelli insisted the series was done.
But we are very much back again.
In fact, I gather filming is already done.
Fans will be delighted to know the principle actors are back.
I am hearing strange news that although Coscarelli produced and supervised this one, in fact it has been directed by David Hartman, I have seen the trailer and it looks like authentic Phantasm material. More news as it develops.


I’m hearing reality/Time-travel feature Welcome to Yesterday has got a name-change and a delay.
The latest word is its name is reverting to Project Almanac, and the new release date is January 30th 2015. 2015!
This film has been compared to Chronicle and District 9. But I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that is a pipe of bull-poop because Paramount Pictures would not be jerking the film around if they thought they had something hot on their hands (now if it was the Weinstein Company…)
My guess is we will actually get a quiet release onto disk.

Drugs are bad…Okay?

Details are emerging of Luc Besson’s latest, Lucy. And it sounds insane. Kind of like Limitless on speed and steroids.
A woman is forced to become a drugs mule but when the package bursts in her stomach she takes on superpowers and kicks the asses of the drug lords…to start. Her powers just keep increasing until she is mad-powerful.
I have been a fan of Besson for a while now, so I’m quite eager to see what he’s done with this.


Lionsgate have picked up the spec script Terrestrial from writer Peter Gaffney; a skyscraper sized space ship lands in the Mojave, a team ventures out to investigate and find wonders and dangers beyond their imagination.
no director or cast are attached yet

Teen Wizz

Looks like studios are getting back into their Arthurian kick, Disney are working on a film about young Merlin with their book adaptation, “The Lost Years of Merlin” (from the by T.A. Barron) let’s hope they have better luck than Warner Bros. who fizzled out trying to make the very same thing back in 2011.

So Much Amnesia

Also up for adaptation is “How It Was When the Past Went Away” a novelette by legendary science fiction writer Robert Silverberg. I’ve read a ton of Silverberg but this one rings no bells: it’s a memory holocaust, an attack on the water supply has caused mass amnesia and the population tries to piece itself back together with only the fragments of what it remembers.
The Twilight producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are behind the adaptation; Alex and David Pastor are writing the script


March Madness continues with the release of Darren Aronofsky’s controversial Biblical epic Noah.
I have to admit I have a certain weakness for Darren Aronofsky.
I’ve followed his work since his debut Pi.
Something about him, something I noticed. he works best at a small scale: Pi, The Wrestler, Black Swan. He wins prizes, revives careers, makes stars of his leading actors.
His larger scale movies haven’t done so well. The Fountain was emotionally profound but a financial disappointment.
To be honest I am a little bemused at his choice of subject. I would not have counted him as a biblical epic sort of guy.
But here we are.

He’s made some eccentric choices: an ark not exactly boat shaped, refusal to work with real animals (so we shall see how effective his CGI is). His approach of Noah as an environmental fable.
It has already opened in the US and indications are it has performed according to requirements and bagged about 45m in its first week. It seems Aronofsky as broken his bad luck streak.

Winter is Co… Oops, It’s Already Here

We are not against sequels on principal. If the Los Angeles film industry has one creed it is to take something original and successful… and do it again and again until the audience is sick of it.
Marvel Studios sequels are an exception. Their boss, Kevin Feige has one dictum; Make every film different.
We are hoping for that something different.
Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier story-line was a work of remarkable subtlety, restraint and power.
I of course expect nothing like that from the film of the same name, but given the enthusiastic comment from personnel in and outside of the production I am hoping it will be pretty good.
When describing it the directors, the Russo Bros., keep referring to 1970s political conspiracy and paranoia films like Alan Packula’s The Parallax View, Three Days Of The Condor and All The President’s Men. Films directly from the era when uncertainly enveloped the American Dream,
It also has the feeling a film aware of current political uncertainties; powerful agencies with secret agendas and a very loose relationship to things like democracy and transparency.
Ed Brubaker himself had seen a chunk of the footage and gushed about it.
This could well mean nothing.
But we are hoping for something special.

The latest Teaser for Patlabor is unexpectedly funny

Trash-Talking the Trailers

Let’s do a reversal and talk about the film trailers first. There was Marvel on display. All of the Marvel. And not just from Marvel Studios:
First up was Guardians of the Galaxy. The visuals were different from any Marvel movie yet, it has a kind of Star Wars cantina look to it, looks OK, it is not firing me up, but I’m going to see it anyway.

Amazing Spider Man 2 looked familiar, if someone said the footage was from the old Spider-man 3 I would have believed them.

X-Men Days of Future past looked epic in scale the cast is vast the scope of the FX breathtaking they are going all out. I feel a tweak of interest but only a tweak.

However the most interesting trailer came not from a Marvel Movie. It was Godzilla.
Most of it was natural disaster style footage; we see where he has gone by his trail of destruction.
Then we learn the Nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1950s were not tests.. but attempts to destroy Godzilla.
We see the effects of the monster as earthquake and tidal way, then we hear its familiar cry and finally the monster itself from human height, looming above us like the judgement of god.

Captain America: the Winter Soldier

It Works.
Need more than this?
OK, as you have heard this is Marvel doing a political thriller. It has those classic elements, conspiracies, assassinations, reversals.
The first half is very much a conspiracy thriller; Steve Rogers is becoming disillusioned with the work he is doing for SHIELD, he feels like the ideals he fought for in WWII are being lost.
Meanwhile a new adversary is coming onto the scene, a legendary assassin, who is more ghost than man he strikes and vanishes without a trace.

There is mystery at the heart at of SHIELD and anyone who enquires too closely finds themselves a target, as does Steve Rogers who is forced to go on the run with Natasha Romanoff while he investigates the reality of the agencies new Helicarrier project.

It has a contemporary feel, we have war veterans with PTSD, universal surveillance, drone warfare, pre-emptive strikes. At its heart is the old dilemma: Freedom or security.

This is everything I wanted from a Captain America sequel; one that exchanges the monochrome certainties of WWII for the post-Watergate murkiness of a world where you cannot be sure who to trust.

Steve Rogers remains the same, a man who wants to do right and has been given the wherewithal to. While the rest of the world is willing to bend, compromise and sell its ideals down the river in pursuit of dubious ideas.

This film structured around three or four characters who get most of the attention: Captain America, The Black Widow, The Falcon, and Nick Fury.
Other characters like Maria Hill and Agent 13 have their moments but become peripheral in terms of character development.

The climax is the typical Marvel extended action scene, but surprisingly it does not overstay its welcome or overshadow the story.

There are some huge developments in this films, changes which spin the Marvel Cinematic Universe on its axis, and I am surprised the Russo Brothers were allowed to go so far. In fact this was a pretty grim and gritty product to come out of the Disney fold, I am impressed.
Anyway the changes here will reverberate all the way to the next Avengers film.

Captain America comic writer called this Marvel’s best movie yet. He may have a point, it’s certainly one of its bravest.

And then there are the post-credit scenes. Two of them. No discussion is possible of them without spoiling them for you.
So if you don’t want to know more do not scroll to the bottom.

Dammit you scrolled down! Now you are going to spoil it all.
OK, what is the word? Baron Strucker! This Hydra leader will be the initial adversary in Age of Ultron. And he is almost perfect: he has the bald head, the monocle and the German accent – although there is no sign of his Satan’s claw.
He is seen in a secret Hydra lab, all sorts of reveals and clues ore all about. Loki’s spear from the first Avenger’s movie is being experimented on (If you’ve seen The Winter Soldier you can imagine how it came into his possession). And he is keeping caged the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. He hints at Hydra plot no one may be allowed to glimpse before its execution and darkly hints that this is the age of miracles “there is nothing as terrifying as a miracle.”

In the second post credit scene Bucky (yes, the titular Winter Soldier) returns to the Smithsonian museum and learns about his true past.

Yes, I am stoked.

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I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.