Christopher Nolan’s Best Closers

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Since the black-and-white beginnings of Christopher Nolan’s hefty career, he has taken sadistic pleasure in leaving us with closing scenes that have been specifically designed to drive us mad with speculation long after we’ve staggered out of the cinema.

Of course, not all his endings have been confounding. Some have simply been utterly brilliant. With Dunkirk opening this week (bets, anyone, on how it ends?), let’s revisit some of Nolan’s epic denouements.

5. Memento (2000)

07 July - Nolan Memento

How do you end a movie with no beginning? By giving it no ending. Memento is one big WTF moment, with the past and present carved to shreds and spliced back together with a kind of madness only Nolan (and perhaps Michel Gondry) could subdue.

And what better way to keep a lid on the crazy than to have Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) restart his arduous, but ultimately futile quest for justice by arriving at the scene that kicks the entire plot into gear and firmly questioning “So, where was I?”. Leonard’s memory loss has driven him in circles, caused him to commit murder and steal, and now provides his life with an endless cycle of delirium. It’s a perfectly sharp and maddening close.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

07 July - Nolan Dark Knight
The Dark Knight’s ending upholds the moral integrity of its mysterious hero by confirming once and for all that Batman serves no one else but the entire city of Gotham. Unlike Superman or Marvel’s Iron Man, the Caped Crusader isn’t concerned with fame or recognition, and proves his loyalty to the people by taking the fall for a series of murders he didn’t commit, all in an attempt to salvage the pristine reputation of the victims’ true killer. It’s this kind of self-sacrifice (rare for a superhero of any kind) that prompts Commissioner Gordon’s immortal words “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it”. And take it he does.

3. The Prestige (2006)

07 July - Nolan Prestige
If The Dark Knight’s ending was tragic, the final shot of The Prestige is like the discovery of a mass grave (which it kind of is). Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), two outstanding stage illusionists, have engaged in a deadly cold war, until Alfred unveils an impossible new act that has Robert reeling in the aisles. Robert descends into the murky depths of obsession and devises a solution that’s even better than Alfred’s humble trick, except no one, not even Robert, could’ve predicted the enormity of its consequences. The film closes with a gruesome exhibition of the scale of Robert’s sacrifice: He has to die every night for a few rounds of applause.

2. Inception (2010)

07 July - Nolan Inception
Whether you treasure or despise Inception, you were probably writhing in frustration when it ended. The top wobbled! It did! And yet no one knows for sure, maybe not even Nolan, if Dom Cobb’s climactic redemption and return to his children was all just another dream layer.

Inception’s classic ending works because we buy the rest of the movie and are literally begging for Dom (Leonardo DiCaprio) to succeed. We learn that the top spins eternally in a dream, and so when that final shot lingers painfully on that irritating totem, our eyes are peeled and our senses heightened. It’s masterful manipulation from a truly devilish filmmaker.

1. Batman Begins (2005)

07 July - Nolan Batman Begins
Batman Begins ends in complete perfection, not just as an origin story for the Dark Knight, but as the first chapter of a brilliant trilogy. Set on the rooftop of Gotham’s police department, it introduces the Bat Signal, teases The Joker, establishes the fragile but necessary relationship between James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale), and sublimely encapsulates all that Batman stands for when Gordon confesses “I never said thank you”, to which Batman simply says “And you’ll never have to” before the music swells and he leaps off the ledge into obscurity. Perfection.

Images courtesy of Buena Vista International & Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Roadshow Films & Warner Bros Entertainment Australia 

Films You Probably Didn’t Know Were Based on Shakespeare

Corey Hogan

Great stories are passed down, retold and endlessly given new life from generation to generation, and perhaps none have been so influential throughout history than the masterworks of 16th century poet and playwright William Shakespeare. Eternally considered the greatest writer in the English language, he entertained the world centuries before the invention of film and television, creating acclaimed theatre pieces that remain studied and performed to this day.

Shakespeare’s stories form the basis and inspiration of so much of the media we continue to consume. Though there are hundreds of straight adaptations of his plays, there are a great number of directors and screenwriters who have been inspired to give his old-timey stories their own unique and creative twist, and they’ve proven that the tales of the bard can live in just about any era and situation. Here’s a few films you may not have known were based on or inspired by Shakespeare.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

07 July - Shakespeare 10 Things I Hate About You
Gil Junger’s much-loved 90’s teen romance that launched the careers of Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a modern take on Shakespeare’s second play, The Taming of the Shrew. Transposing the aristocrats of the Middle Ages to a modern American high school, the “shrew” in question is Stiles’ Kat, the antisocial eldest Stratford daughter with little interest in dating. Her younger (and much less prudish) sister Bianca is forbidden by their overprotective father from seeing boys until Kat does, much to the detriment of Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), who has his eye on Bianca. He hires a suitor, Patrick (Ledger), to woo Kat, which of course goes awry when he actually falls in love with her. Save for the traditional marriage of the original switched out for contemporary dating, it’s a largely faithful adaptation. Ironically, for all his praise and historic recognition, Shakespeare was basically paving the way for the genre of teen angst comedy and coming-of-age.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

07 July - Shakespeare My Own Private Idaho
Gus Van Sant’s follow-up to his breakout hit Drugstore Cowboy combines multiple source texts – including several of Shakespeare’s – to create a timeless odyssey of youth, class, sexuality and family ties in contemporary America. We meet street hustlers Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves), who have sex with men for money but wouldn’t consider themselves gay. Taking cues from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2, Van Sant makes Scott’s arc mirror that of Prince Hal’s journey towards kingship – associating with lowlifes until he comes of age to inherit his father’s wealth (as opposed to the crown). Finally, Van Sant’s own original short screenplays form the narcoleptic Mike, who longs to find his estranged mother and a sense of purpose. Paraphrasing Shakespearian dialogue, it’s a masterclass in acting and a haunting experience.

Ran (1985)

07 July - Shakespeare Ran
Hailed by Steven Spielberg as the “pictorial Shakespeare of our time”, the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is no stranger to putting his own spin on the bard’s stories; both Throne of Blood and The Bad Sleep Well transposed Macbeth and Hamlet respectively. His final epic to be considered a masterpiece, Ran, adapts King Lear; the tragedy of an aging monarch dividing his estate between his daughters based on their flattery of him. Ran reimagines this as a Japanese warlord handing off his empire to his three sons, and noticeably parallels the events of Shakespeare’s with a distinctly different gender-specific dynamic that has been the subject of extensive discussion. Most glaring is the replacement of the test King Lear imposes upon his daughters, in using their linguistics to profess their love to him; in Ran, it’s the physical challenge of breaking a bundle of arrows, to prove the boys’ strength and worthiness to Lord Hidetora. It’s hard to know whether modern critics would side with Kurosawa or Shakespeare on this.

The Lion King (1994)

07 July - Shakespeare Lion King

Hakuna Matata? Yes, even a beloved Disney animated classic has its roots in Shakespeare, putting a colourful spin on Hamlet – albiet with much less violence, more musical numbers and a much happier ending. While Shakespeare didn’t quite invent the “evil uncle” trope, and Denmark is altered to the animal kingdom of the African savanna, the parallels are pretty clear. A proud king (Mufasa) is murdered by his brother (Scar), who covers this up and assumes his position ruling the land. After some time away from the kingdom, the prince and rightful heir (Simba) returns to bring truth and restore it to glory. Even the smaller details of the play are recreated – Mufasa appearing to Simba as a ghost as Hamlet’s father did, and the befriending of a pair of fast-talking stooges (Timon and Pumbaa, standing in for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern). Thankfully, Disney scrapped Shakespeare’s ending in favour of a far more uplifting one; it’s unlikely the film would remain a childhood treasure had it contained Nala drowning and Simba accidentally murdering Zazu, then committing suicide.

Images courtesy of:
Buena Vista International Australia & Walt Disney Studios Home

Entertainment Newvision Film Distributors Pty Ltd & Roadshow Entertainment
Universal Pictures Video
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Becoming Bond – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Becoming Bond is a candid behind-the-scenes look at the career of George Lazenby, an Australian model who was suddenly thrust into the limelight as one of the most iconic characters ever.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½ 
Rhys Graeme-Drury 

After five hugely successful and popular entries, Sean Connery passed on the opportunity to star in further Bond films, leaving the studio with the precocious proposition of replacing a man who had come to personify his character. They settled on George Lazenby, a mechanic/car salesman/male model from rural Queensland who just so happened to conflate his resume and blag his way through the audition process.

After scoring the role, Lazenby swiftly announced midway through the shoot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that he wouldn’t be returning to the role a second time, turning down a tabled offer of £1 million and a seven-picture deal – a decision that seemed baffling both at the time and in hindsight.

Becoming Bond is a feature length documentary/biopic from writer/director Josh Greenbaum that intends to untangle this perplexing series of events – just how did Lazenby waltz into the most lucrative role of a lifetime? And why did he choose to walk away when so many other actors would have killed to be in his position?

The film melds talking heads – well, one talking head from Lazenby himself – with archival footage from the era alongside lengthy re-enactments from a cast of actors; Australian writer/director/comedian Josh Lawson plays Lazenby, Home and Away actress Kassandra Clementi plays Belinda, the love of his life, and Jeff Garlin plays Harry Saltzman, amongst others.

It’s an amusing approach that is mainly played for laughs – Lazenby’s narration of events is often lip-synched over the actors and you get the sense that the whole affair is an embellishment of the past, kind of like how stories get exaggerated over time. Again, this is played for laughs, and the film is an effervescent look at show business and how Lazenby’s round peg didn’t fit into the square hole he was offered.

Lawson has charisma to spare, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Jake Johnson is fun and Lazenby’s narration is direct and doesn’t lack clarity. It’s the pacing where this film falls down – quite simply, the entire first half is dedicated to charting Lazenby’s childhood and formative years as a young larrikin. No offence, but is this what we came to see? Clearly there are events here of importance to the man himself, but the most important stuff – the making of his sole Bond film – takes too long to come to the fore. Alas, the film still carries weight, and the message – to stay true to who you are and know yourself – is impactful to say the least.

Raunchy, irreverent and brimming the same irresistible cheekiness that has defined Bond over 50 years of films, Becoming Bond elevates a relative footnote in his history to a starring role, turning Lazenby’s career from a pub trivia question into something quite profound.

Becoming Bond is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

 

Is Star Wars In Trouble?

As much as it pains me to admit it, the Star Wars franchise might be be serious trouble right about now.

Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Let’s not sugarcoat this – the recent news about Phil Lord and Christopher Miller getting the boot from the untitled Han Solo spin-off is shocking in both its nature and timing.

That a talented duo of filmmakers at the forefront of a major tentpole project can be shown the door (or choose to exit, whichever might be true) during shooting is astounding. That the directors, producer Kathleen Kennedy and veteran screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan couldn’t find some kind of workaround to their “creative differences” is very telling of the behind-the-scenes machinations at Lucasfilm, and the hierarchy that oversees most contemporary cinematic universes as well.

Of course, it’s not unheard of for creative differences on a project to lead to an ugly and messy divorce; we’ve seen it in the past with Patty Jenkins on Thor: The Dark World, Michelle McLaren on Wonder Woman and most notably writer/director Edgar Wright on Ant-Man. This collection of examples indicates that mainstream blockbuster cinema, and in particular the realm of franchise filmmaking, isn’t a hugely accommodating space for creative and distinct filmmakers.

This latest instance is particularly significant for a few reasons; firstly, it’s Star Wars. It takes something pretty seismic going on behind-the-scenes for one or both sides of the argument to decide to call it quits over something as important as Star Wars.

Secondly, and probably most importantly, this went down during shooting. Not during pre-production or while the script was being drafted. Lord and Miller reportedly only had a handful of weeks left on the slate – the film has been shooting in London since February after all. Why it took so many months for both parties to call it quits is still a huge question mark that hangs over the story.

Kennedy and Kasdan were reportedly displeased at Lord and Miller’s more freewheeling and improvisational approach to the filmmaking process, which more often than not deviated from the script Kasdan had penned and employed more open invention from the cast – something you might have seen before in their previous work.

This is the duo who brought us the new Jump Street films and The Lego Movie. Anyone who has seen Lord and Miller’s work would be aware that it carries a looser, more happy-go-lucky approach. Again, it begs the question why these specifics weren’t ironed out during the pre-production process when Lucasfilm were originally scouting for a director to helm the Han Solo film.

Stepping in to replace Lord and Miller is industry stalwart Ron Howard (Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, Rush). His approach is guaranteed to be one that is decidedly more traditional and palatable to Kennedy and Kasdan, and is probably the calm figurehead the project needs right now. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that this whole Lord and Miller endeavour didn’t work out. What is the point of approaching young, talented and distinct filmmakers if you’re not going to let them leave behind their thumbprint?

Which moves nicely into my third point which is that this isn’t the first time this has occurred in the revived Star Wars universe. Gareth Edwards Rogue One faced similar production troubles, with the much publicised reshoots and rewrites of the embattled film overseen by writer Tony Gilroy (The Bourne series) instead of Edwards.

How much of Edwards’ original film remains in the final cut has been left unanswered at this stage, and given how protective the Disney PR machine has proven since Star Wars was relaunched, we may not learn the specifics for a long while. However, just a cursory glimpse at the first couple of trailers from Rogue One tells us the film changed rather drastically during both filming and editing.

Josh Trank was also cast aside from the Star Wars conveyor belt back in 2015 before he could begin work on a solo spin-off film of some variety, but a lot of that is probably down to his rather public spat with Fox over the trainwreck that was its most recent Fantastic Four reboot.

And lastly, doubts also continue to hang over Colin Trevorrow, who was handpicked by Kennedy to helm Episode IX, the final film in the new sequel trilogy.

Presently, Trevorrow has three films under his belt; Safety Not Guaranteed, which is a rather unremarkable indie flick; Jurassic World, which killed at the box office but has its fair share of detractors; and The Book of Henry, which opened in the US recently to almost universal critical derision. Is this really the guy we want working on the concluding chapter of Star Wars?

So, does all this mean Star Wars is in trouble? Before the last few weeks, I would have categorically said no. The Last Jedi, which opens this December, looks great and everything else concerning the franchise seems to be ticking along nicely.

With this news, the whole series has seemingly lurched out of hyperspace and started trailing smoke, which doesn’t often appear if there isn’t fire. Fans of the films, such as myself, will no doubt be urging everyone involved in the filmmaking process to grab the extinguishers sooner rather than later, before we all get served a cinematic disaster to rival Attack of the Clones.

Image courtesy of The Last Jedi – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Cinematic Universes and the Folly of Franchises

Cinematic universes are all the rage – but some studios aren’t learning the right lessons from the success of their peers.

Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Just a quick glance at the posters lining cinema walls this month and you’ll see reams of films that no doubt tie-in with or launch an existing franchise, series or cinematic universe – the last of which is the most recent trend every studio is trying to tap into. Essentially, if you’re not funnelling $300 million+ into a cinematic universe every 12 months, y’all ain’t shit in Hollywood.

Everywhere you look nowadays there seems to be another cinematic universe popping into existence; following in the footsteps of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, studios are practically tripping over one another to birth their own version for audiences to lap up.

It’s not hard to see why – since 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has spawned 15 feature films (with another nine in production), several network TV shows, an interconnected quintet of Netflix shows and umpteen other short films, digital series’, comic books and other media.

It’s the ultimate in modern day consumerism – an all-encompassing multimedia offering that taps into an extreme form of brand loyalty and encourages engagement both inside and outside the conventional multiplex.

Star Wars is going in the same direction; in addition to the mainline episodes that follow the Skywalker family, the franchise is branching out into spin-off films, animated TV shows, comic books, novels and, of course, toys.

And yet, despite these hugely successful examples, almost every other studio that isn’t Disney (which owns both Marvel and Star Wars) is struggling. Universal Studios is the latest and most prolific example ­– its Dark Universe, which was unveiled with the arrival of Alex Kurtzmann’s The Mummy, has coughed and spluttered before its even gotten off the ground.

Conceived as a modern revival of the classic black and white monster movies and horror films that shot to success in the 1930s and 1940s, Dark Universe intended to mash the Mummy (played by Sofia Boutella) with a range of other classic characters. Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dracula are all expected to receive their own solo outing in the future. It’s an ambitious framework that has almost immediately been thrown into doubt following the critical mauling The Mummy received a few weeks back.

Essentially, everything about the formation of the Dark Universe reads like a guide on how not to establish a cohesive interconnected universe of films; not only did Universal fork out for big name actors (Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp among others) who are bigger than the characters they themselves are playing, they failed to lay the groundwork by actually delivering one solid film before launching into franchise.

Universal have a whole slate of characters lined up before the first film has even hit, suggesting they’re either oblivious to how this works or overestimated how popular its back catalogue of horror characters is – possibly both.

Even Warner Brothers and DC, with the phenomenal Wonder Woman under their belt, aren’t out of the woods just yet. One admittedly great film does not guarantee the forthcoming adventures – Justice League this November and Aquaman next year – will be equally as great. Their approach to green-lighting projects has been similar to that of Universal – the DCEU currently has a dozen projects in various stages of development, and none of them, save for the two mentioned just now, have release dates.

I wish the list of examples ended there – but it doesn’t. The new Power Rangers film (which opened earlier in the year) was intended as the first chapter in a series spanning six movies. Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur reboot was also the first of five or six planned sequels. Neither of them did well enough to warrant a second innings – which begs the question, why even bother announcing a slate of future films if the first hasn’t proven itself?

Similarly, Warner Brothers has made plans to elongate the life of its Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series by churning that particular crank for a grand total of five films – and all of this was announced before the first hit cinemas.

It should come as no surprise that some of the most successful and critically acclaimed blockbusters from the last two or three years – Wonder Woman, Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road spring to mind ­ – contained a sense of finality to them. They were standalone and didn’t spend excess screen time setting up the next installment. They all have places to go in the future, but the filmmakers chose to focus more on the story they were telling in the present, not the future.

Hollywood needs to move past this mind-set of universe building and focus on just making quality standalone films as soon as possible, before audiences burn out and give up on following their progress entirely.

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

Movie Review – Whitney: Can I Be Me

Whitney: Can I Be Me is a sombre and sharp documentary about the tragic life and times of Whitney Houston.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Whitney: Can I Be Me certainly doesn’t sidestep the uglier truths of its subject. Directors Nick Broomfield (who also serves as writer) and Rudi Dolezal take a surgical scalpel to Houston’s life and career; picking apart a range of factors that ultimately led to her tragic passing in 2012.

From her early years as a church gospel singer through to her rapid rise, this duo of documentarians unpack Houston’s meteoric success and sudden struggles with a refreshing and surprising degree of candidness. Talking heads from family members along with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage of her 1999 world tour make Can I Be Me a deep, tragic and decisive storybook of her life and work for fans, as well as an informative introduction for those with a passing knowledge of her music.

The film shifts gear on a number of occasions to shine a light on particularly influential members of the Houston family – from her controlling mother to the complicated dynamic with her father – as well as her evolving sound, her race, alcoholism, substance abuse, spiritual beliefs, sexuality, marriage, divorce, jealousies, financial problems, rehab and so on. The greatest issue with Can I Be Me is that it revisits a few of these too frequently or reiterates the same point on occasion – certain elements, like the power struggle between her husband, Bobby Brown, and her best friend, Robyn Crawford, are lingered on for too long, allowing the runtime to feel conflated towards the end of the film.

That said, it’s a comprehensive and uncompromising account of Houston’s rise and fall that should play well to audiences bringing all levels of prior knowledge to the table.

Whitney: Can I Be Me is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution

Best Biopics of the Last 10 Years

Josip Knezevic

Hollywood has become more and more reliant on real life material in recent years, with a constant stream of biopics rolling through our cinemas. Recently we’ve had Churchill, A Quiet Passion, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Denial, just to name a few. Here’s three of the greatest biopics to grace our screens in the past decade.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

One of the longest biopics ever made at 3 hours long, The Wolf of Wall Street tells the tale of notorious stock broking tycoon Jordan Belfort. The film follows the rise and fall of the Wall Street giant and all his crazy antics and debauched behaviour in between. Director Martin Scorsese certainly doesn’t hold back when expressing the extravagance of Belfort’s lifestyle and his insatiable greed for wealth. This makes the film all the more entertaining to watch and you never really feel the extended runtime with so much going on. Many may mistake this as a trip down a rabbit hole filled with ridiculous absurdities based on sex, drugs and money, but if you look further, this is an incredible and intricate film.

The Social Network (2010)

Seven years ago, The Social Network once again demonstrated the prowess of director David Fincher in its exploration of those involved in the creation of Facebook. Unlike what the title suggests, the film doesn’t really have a lot to do with social media itself. Instead it examines the issues faced by Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) who succeeded in connecting the entire world, but found himself completely isolated. This contrast is what makes the film so intriguing, as is the timing of its original release, when the Facebook phenomenon was only just beginning. The film features a young Andrew Garfield and Rooney Mara before their impressive careers began to take off, and a pre Lone Ranger Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. A fantastic film and an instant classic.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

How can you even talk about biopics without mentioning 12 Years A Slave? This is the story of a man who was sold into slavery and it is one of the most brutally honest films you will ever see. From another powerful director in Steve McQueen, the film hosts a strong ensemble cast with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the titular slave, Michael Fassbender as his malevolent master and Lupita Nyong’o in her break-out, Academy Award winning performance as a fellow slave. While the title is a fairly accurate summation of the plot, nothing can truly prepare you for the trials and tribulations of slavery as experienced by Ejiofor’s character. It’s no wonder the film took out the Academy Award for Best Film that year. A must-see.

Image courtesy of The Wolf of Wall Street and Roadshow Films

Top 5 Tension Killing Superpowers

Cody Fullbrook 

It’s hard to have high stakes drama when your supervillain’s powers make them virtually unstoppable, or your superhero has abilities that mean he or she can basically never be killed. Here’s five superpowers we’ve all seen in countless films that immediately suck all the dramatic tension out of the air.

5. Shapeshifting 

While very common amongst villains, possibly due to human’s intrinsic distrust of strangers, heroes such as Mr Fantastic and Plastic Man have the ability to morph their body into all sorts of shapes. This often evaporates tension since it can be practically impossible for them to be captured, encumbered or even hurt.

Characters like Mystique from X-Men can only attempt to vanish in a crowd, but Clayface, Sandman and others can do more than just look like other people/a pile of sand.  Their entire body can twist into virtually anything like clubs, swords and even crossbows, making it obvious why Spider-Man 3’s Sandman was portrayed as a tortured villain that was let go after the climax. There was no other choice. How could you defeat him?  Light him on fire and make reading glasses out of him?

4. Teleportation 

How can you stop something that can go anywhere, dodge any threat or effortlessly blink out of a room?  Try to get a grasp on the parameters of a fight in the Dragon Ball series where the fighters jot around the screen like steroidal hummingbirds.

Even considering Nightcrawler’s words in X2; “I have to be able to see where I am going, otherwise I could wind up inside a wall”, teleportation can save anyone from virtually any threat.  Nightcrawler and Azazel can even hold people and teleport with them so even their ability to heroically save others isn’t extremely arguable.

Contrary to Samuel L Jackson’s character in Jumper, these characters aren’t everywhere at once, but can nonetheless escape virtually all dangers. I’ve also never understood why these characters don’t just teleport their fist into an enemy’s head.  Similar to how in The Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore could conjure food out of thin air, but when he’s battling Voldemort, why doesn’t he just pop a turkey leg into his brain.

3. Super healing 

Logan made a smart decision in crippling Wolverine’s healing factor, to a point where the film’s climactic finale had it switch off completely.  But even though we can admit that Wolverine and Deadpool are awesome characters, it’s still tricky to understand the threat they’re in when they can simply heal themselves from any wound.

This isn’t like shape shifting or teleporting where, if you’ve been shot, you’re basically done for.  Any fight scene with super healers becomes a vague battle of physical attrition, as was the case in Deadpool as our wise cracking protagonist only getting mildly perturbed by a severed hand and knife in the head.  At least Wolverine was knocked out with a headshot in X2, even though when the same thing happened in Origins he just kept scowling.  Continuity…

2. Super Speed 

Similar to teleportation, however, super speed not only augments the placement of one’s body but also the force of its movement.  Why do you think The Flash can punch someone really fast, but Nightcrawler can’t?

The problem with Super Speed is that its potency makes its user practically invincible.  They can dodge anything, whether it’s running from an explosion or moving away from a bullet or fist.  It also grants them numerous abilities that many may consider their own separate powers such as flight, running on water or moving through walls.

1. Time travel 

I’m sure we all saw this coming, and just like the ability of clairvoyance, every writer knows to avoid it like Poison Ivy’s lips.

As soon as you have someone who can go anywhere and change any event, the story is over. The hero can simply go back in time and find a helpless version of the villain and kill them effortlessly, Terminator style.

Granted, movies like The Butterfly Effect portray time travel as a useless endeavour, but the conflict there arises due to its futility, not the ability itself.  It seems wisest thing to do with time travel stories is to simply place the power into a device (The Time Machine), a car (Back To The Future) or some kind of hot tub time machine.  I forget what movie that’s from.

Image courtesy of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Twentieth Century Fox

Blockbusters To Watch Out For This Winter

Josip Knezevic 

America has entered blockbuster season, and that means some of the year’s biggest budget films will soon be hitting our cinemas. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s likely you’ve heard something about these upcoming films. There’s some familiar franchises headed our way, as well as some fresh blood that may just upset the established order of things.

When you say “blockbuster” it’s hard not to immediately think of Transformers. Yes, for some reason, Michael Bay is continuing his nonsensical spout of robot violence… well, that reason is probably the $1 billion USD Transformers: Age of Extinction made at the box office, but I digress.

The latest entry, Transformers: The Last Knight, aims to shatter the franchise mythology established by its many predecessors. Humans and Transformers will be pitted against each other, with no Optimus Price around to act as a peacemaker. Fans of the series will no doubt flock to their local cinema to see this latest installment, and even I have to admit that there are some amazing special effects on display in the trailer. Here’s hoping the same can be said for the story… but it’s hard to even suggest that with a straight face.

This week we’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sail into cinemas. Filmed off the coast of Australia, we revisit our favourite “worst pirate”, Captain Jack Sparrow, now under threat from old nemesis (yes, another one) Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Captain Jack’s only hope lies in finding the Trident of Poseidon, which grants its possessor total control of the seas. Could this be the revival the series needs after the questionable On Stranger Tides? Perhaps if Jason Momoa was thrown in as a fill in for Poseidon we might be getting somewhere…

Speaking of Aquaman and comic book films, we have origin films Wonder Woman and Spider-man: Homecoming coming very soon. After getting a taste of these characters in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War respectively, it’s hard to anticipate which film will be more successful. Interest in both films has grown exponentially on the back of each trailer. Personally, I’m less concerned with yet another re-boot of the Spider-Man series, so I hope Wonder Woman takes the win at the box office, but we shall see.

And finally, we’ve got the return of The Mummy, only this time, our beloved Brendan Fraser isn’t here to reprise his role. Instead, we’ve got Tom Cruise. Perhaps I’m blinded by my affection for Fraser, but Cruise seems to be a questionable choice. Nevertheless, The Mummy promises to once again tackle an ancient spirit who has accidentally risen from the dead to wreak havoc.

So, there you have it. If these films don’t get your heart pumping, fear not! As we draw nearer to Christmas time, another influx of blockbusters will be hitting our screens. Films like Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Dark Tower, Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be coming to a screen near you!

 

Image courtesy of Roadshoew Films 

Still Kicking – Aging Actors

With so many incredible talents now hitting their twilight years, it’s no wonder there’s more films offering roles to mature aged actors… but is that the only reason for the rise in films centred around older characters?

Josip Knezevic

Last Vegas, Dirty Grandpa, Grudge Match

These films are a clear reminder that Robert De Niro will happily do any script put in front of him, regardless of how terrible. At this point, it’s safe to say he probably doesn’t even have an agent anymore, because how could someone allow him to make so many questionable choices?

Nevertheless, De Niro isn’t the only veteran actor still churning out films these days. Actors such as Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and the ever-magical Maggie Smith don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon thanks to a rise in films centred around, well… old characters. But why is that? Is it purely to appeal to an older demographic? Or do these actors feel the need to keep continually adding to their already extensive filmographies? The answer is more complicated than you’d think.

Inevitably, it comes down to the film in question. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasts an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, who are all over the age of 60 and are esteemed actors in their own right. The film follows a group of pensioners moving to a retirement hotel in India… and that’s it. No really, that’s it. Clearly this isn’t going to attract your average millennial, but baby boomers can relate to not only the actors, but also the situations they experience.

A more recent addition is the Zach Braff directed remake Going in Style, starring Freeman, Arkin and Caine. The film is centred around this trio of retirees who plan to rob a bank after their pensions are cancelled. Unlike Marigold Hotel, this film has a much wider scope. By playing on the well-known heist format and the action comedy genre, it’s able to appeal to a broader audience. It’s obviously not going to win any Academy Awards, but it’s a crowd-pleasing film that’s a good excuse for these actors to keep working.

Speaking of which, there’s also an increased number of award-winning films, or at least very well-crafted ones, offering up meaty roles for older actors. Nebraska and Blade Runner 2049 immediately spring to mind, featuring Bruce Dern and Harrison Ford respectively. While Blade Runner 2049 is set for release near the end of the year, Dern’s performance in Nebraska earned him an Oscar nomination. Though it’s unlikely Ford will be offered the same honour, this big budget blockbuster still has the potential to reach the heights of the classic prequel.

At the end of the day, the movie making business is only concerned with entertainment and profitability. In many cases, only the latter is considered. It seems veteran actors are less fixated on the box office takings of their films because there’s no need for them to be concerned anymore. When you’ve had an impressive career spanning decades, nothing can erase your legacy, no matter how many horrendous pieces of shit you make (looking at you De Niro…). For these more experienced actors, making films is about working in an industry they’ve loved their entire life and not slowing down while they still have energy in their legs. Sometimes these films work out. Sometimes they don’t.

Image courtesy of Going In Style, Roadshow Films