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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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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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

jediWe waited until Boxing Day to see The Last Jedi, but long before that I had heard – or rather felt – disturbing rumours. I’ve yet to read other reviews, so I am still not quite sure what people are all up in arms about. This review might not touch on any of the so-called “issues” people had with the film. I can see that some might find a few things hard to swallow, but this review has a lot of stuff to talk about, so I’ll save the in-depth discussion of Luke for another time. Let’s get into it.

SPOILERS DOWN BELOW

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword review

arthurThere are some stories that we will never stop telling. The recent round of these stories, be it fairytales, legends or classic books, seem to lean towards the “darker and grittier” aesthetic. A lot of people complain that this is unnecessary; that it leaves the characters one dimensional, and makes the ridiculous aspects of fantasy worlds all the more obvious and harder to swallow. But there are good things to say about this “genre” of remake. For one, it occacionally looks totally badass. It also, when done right, allows otherwise “silly” aspects of stories to be reworked, which can be a good stepping stone to more nuanced versions of those stories.

The gritty remake of King Arthur was King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen as the legendary king. It did not add much to the Arthurian legend, and only stands out in my mind due to the uproar over Keira Knightly’s photoshopped bosom on the poster. It’s a bit of an odd relic today, full of actors who would become better known later, for better or worse.

Guy Ritchie’s take on the well-known story is full of grittiness – silent screams, washed out colours, deep drumming music. In the hands of any other director it might have come out as “Batman in the 12th century”, but Ritchie has his own aesthetic, one that clashes head first into the dark fantasy version of Camelot. If you don’t like Guy Ritchie, you won’t like this film. It has all his hallmarks: parallell story, hard to follow narrators, hand held running, slow-motion, and cheeky banter. But does it lean too much in either direction? Would the story have been better served if it layed on more dark grit, or more lock stock?

Spoilers ahead.

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Arrival review

arrivalThe Star Trek series Deep Space Nine was recently added to our local Netflix. Having not watched it since it came out on dvd after it aired, I was eager to get lost in it again. During the first episode (which is a great first episode) there were some surprising similarities between the aliens known as “prophets” and certain aliens I experienced just a day prior at the cinema.

Arrival is being hailed as one of the best sci-fi movies of the year, the decade, even of all time. I’ve seen people gush this movie to pieces, so my expectations were very high. The film, however, doesn’t really need hype. It’s not a “hypeable” film for me. Afterwards, as people stood in groups outside the cinema, you didn’t hear a lot of excitement. Instead people were talking about the ideas the film explored. Arrival is that very rare thing: a movie complicated enough to make people want to debate heavy concepts, gracious enough not to talk down to its audience, and yet completely accessible to the average movie-goer.

Spoilers below!

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