The Boys

We are no longer in a “superhero movie age” I think. It no longer feels like a trend. People have been predicting the death of the genre for years, without a single dent in any box office to back it up. Maybe, in a post-apocalyptic future, people will tire of shadow puppets with tiny shields and hammers. For now, the premise “superhero” is simply a storytelling device in any filmmaker’s toolbox. It’s a genre of speculative fiction that is so popular it requires a great deal of creativity to make something new and interesting.

The Boys from Amazon tries to say something about our obsession with the superhero. It’s dark, comedic, well-acted and at times insightful. It’s really fun, and I binged hard. But it also does not provide any meaningful comment about my obsession. For let’s be clear, I am part of the problem. Had superheroes existed in our universe as in The Boys,  my apartment would have been decorated in The Seven kitsch.

Spoilers ahead.

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The Crimes of Grindelwald

grimes

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the book, was not a property that I thought could be adapted. It had no plot after all. It sounded like someone was attempting to adapt Encyclopedia Britannica. But with JK Rowling herself writing the scipt and Harry Potter veteran David Yates at the helm, we got a surprisingly interesting romp through the magical streets of 1920s New York. Newt Scamander wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but together with the side characters the film had a good emotional core.

The mouthful of a sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), was in theory the much easier ask. The world is by now incredibly familiar to much of the movie-going population, and the new characters established. Hell, even the story itself was somewhat known. Grindelwald has been lurking in the background for over a decade, ever since we learnt about him in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There is a curiosity about his motivations and methods. That is what frustrates me most about the film. It has everything I could ever want in a Grindelwald story in theory, yet it whizzes about in a weird way, paying fan service not to the series we love, but to the one movie that was ok.

So, let me explain what should have been.

Spoilers below.

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TV: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Nickelodeon’s programming shaped much of my childhood, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch was probably one of my favourites. The new incarnation of Sabrina on Netflix borrows much more from the current trend of gothic teenage dramas like Riverdale, The Vampire Diaries, and countless others by this point. It’s a beautifully produced, creepy/fun show. Some of the characters are delightful.

The Spellman sisters (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davies) and their niece Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) prepare for her dark baptism into the Church of the Night. This is proper New England witch craft, with witches’ marks, familiars, and the goat-headed devil. The witches receive “delicious” gifts from the Dark Lord in return for signing their name in the Book of the Beast. A reference to the fantastic movie The Witch (2015), perhaps?

Spoilers ahead for the first five episodes.

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Solo – A Star Wars Story

solo

Solo, a beverage and a man. A man who was given his iconic name not through simply being Han Solo, but because an Imperial bureaucrat lacked imagination. Solo, the delicious Norwegian soda, was famously the drink that only did one thing: satisfy your thirst. Solo, a Star Wars story, does not satisfy. Solo, the heist/adventure movie, manages a soft “meh.” This angered me more than I expected as I left the cinema. I’m usually not one to care that much. What struck me constantly during the film was how little I cared for anything. Let’s try to find out why, shall we?

Han Solo is the quintessential rogue character. What satisfies me about his character will not be the same thing that does it for you. My main concern is what can his origin story even be when the ending must birth the character we all hold so dear? The task seems impossible.

This review contains all the spoilers

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The Death of Stalin

stalin

What is the difference, if any, between laughing at the absurd death of a dictator who killed around 60 million people, and laughing at one who killed anywhere from 9 to 50 million people? The numbers are impossible to verify, the suffering is impossible to quantify, but yet one is decidedly easier to laugh at than the other. From The Great Dictator (1940), through springtime to Tarantino’s Basterds (2009), I have had little self-reflection about separating laughter and sorrow at the events. In fact countless comedies are set within the horrific events of WW2, one even inside a concentration camp.

There are not as many mainstream comedies set in Stalin’s Russia, despite the fact that many non-Russian film-makers love to interpret Russian life, music and literature for their own audiences. We have countless western versions of War & Peace, to name just one. What makes one dictator more meme-friendly than another? Not a question I can answer here, but it’s an interesting thought that The Death of Stalin (2018) put in my head. There is no Stalinesque equivalent of Hitler reacting to his xbox account getting suspended. There is no Stalin singing “I’m so ronry” in puppet form. Yet, you have to admit he has the numbers too, as Eddie Izzard once noted.

You may feel all of these examples are in poor taste, and shouldn’t be laughed at. But I have, without much thought as to why I felt that’s ok. So this review of The Death of Stalin (2018) is going to be part review and part me figuring out why it’s uncomfortable even as I roll with laughter.

Spoilers below.

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Ready Player One

posterReading the novel by Ernest Cline felt a bit like watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory – not necessarily in a bad way, but more in the way that I wasn’t exactly sure who the book is written for. The book is, at first glance, for young and old geeks who like geeky things and aren’t opposed to a bit of pulp in their fiction. That’s definitely me! But at the end of the book, I didn’t really feel anything, and it had not felt like an adventure. Maybe I’m just not of a “good enough” nerd, you might say. If you do feel inclined to say that, maybe the book’s for you.

The film, on the other hand, does away with a lot of the American Psycho-esque listing of esoteric knowledge and keeps the story grounded much more in reality, both in the reality of the characters and the reality of, well, actual reality.

Some spoilers below.

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