My son was four in 2002 when Insomniac released the first “Ratchet and Clank” game on the PlayStation 2. He wasn’t truly able to play, but he watched me avidly and was upset if he discovered that I’d played without him. With the release of following games, they became our favorite series. We’d play through the games together, sharing our discoveries, and comparing notes. He’s 17 now (and I’m old). Will the modern reimagining of that first game and the companion feature film hold up to our idealized memories?
DC Comics has, sadly, doubled down on their loud, dark reimagining of their flagship heroes. While I truly enjoyed 2013’s “Man of Steel” [My Review], it was the soulful examination of a young Clark Kent that sold me. The brash deluge of destruction porn that ended the movie only worked as a counterpoint to that.
Soulful character development or special effects: guess which one they tossed for sequel?
Let’s get right to it: Deadpool is great fun. It’s earned $500 million worldwide (on its $38 million budget) in its first two weeks of release, so chances are good that you’ve already seen it and decided it was great fun. Sure, there are always curmudgeons, contrarians and those who thought that they were taking their eight year-olds to see “Spiderman”, but the world, as a consensus, is in sweaty-monkey-love with Deadpool.
In the 50’s and 60’s the Irish Catholic Church declared war on unwed mothers; debauched sinners, unfit to raise children. Philomena Lee, pregnant and unwed at 18, was sent by her pious father to a convent where she was forced to sign a contract relinquishing all rights to her child. She, and thousands like her, spent three years caring for their children while working without pay to reimburse the church.
I had the strongest sense of deja vu watching this. Not long ago I watched Seventh Son [My Review], another recent big-budget fantasy film. Both feature a resurgent witch queen and her evil plans, ancient curses and a new guy that needs to be taught the ropes. I talked about how Seventh Son was predictable and clichéd, but also charming, silly and fun. It wasn’t great, but it delivered what it promised.
The overwhelming success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has allowed them a certain leeway; a certain freedom to experiment. While this hasn’t yet resulted in something truly insane, like a film led by a woman, it has allowed them to explore some of the quirkier ideas and characters available in the vast Marvel catalog. Two years ago, this led to the explosive success of Guardians of the Galaxy [IMDB] and now it brings the closest we’ve come to a straight Marvel comedy.
There is a kit, used since the 80’s, to create disaster movies. The parts are all optional, but the kit generally produces something that looks an awful lot like what’s come before. As I’ve said, originality isn’t always a metric of quality, but when your movie’s plot almost completely mirrors Sharknado [IMDB] you might be starting at a disadvantage.
I had a craving for a little 13th century English history (like you do), but wanted it a little cheap; a little, um, dirty. Like when you could get steak, but you want a greasy hamburger. These movies looked like they might fit the bill: they were set at the right time and had about a dozen people from Game of Thrones in them.
Way back in the 13th century, King John of England (Paul Giamatti [IMDB]) was a tool. A royal tool. Such a tool, in fact, that his barons rebelled and, with the help of the Knights Templar, defeated him. They forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which limited the power of the king. He promptly ignored it and brought in an army of Danes (who dressed like Scots, for some reason) to help him reclaim the country (that he hadn’t actually lost).
Getting 1984’s The Terminator [IMDB] made was a struggle for sophomore writer/director James Cameron [IMDB]. It was finally completed on a modest budget after collecting a small herd of backers. It was a massively unexpected success. Cameron followed it in 1991 with Terminator 2: Judgement Day [IMDB]. Enjoying a budget over 15 times higher than its predecessor this was a lavish, complex production that pushed the limits of filmmaking.
I start off my month of A.I. with one of the movies I was most looking forward to. Neill Blomkamp [IMDB] , despite having a name that sounds like an expensive sex act, has brought us some of the best, most thought provoking science fiction of the past decade. That said, he’s not the most subtle, or even the most original, writer. District 9 [IMDB] was an incisive, if blunt, commentary on the inherent disaster of institutionalized inequality. Elysium’s [IMDB] Haves-versus-Have-Nots theme was even less elegant, but effectively timeless regardless.