Prometheus

Alien: Covenant Review: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Posted by Matthew on May 23, 2017
Movies, Review / No Comments

I know what you want to know. “Is it good?”

Turns out the sequel to Prometheus –and it is very much more a sequel to that movie than it is a prequel Alien— is not only good, but retroactively makes Prometheus better. What are the odds of that?

Continue reading…

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Film Crit Hulk on Current Blockbusters

Posted by Matthew on June 12, 2013
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Film Crit Hulk

Film Crit Hulk is one of my favourite writers going. If you’re not familiar with his work, well, you should be because it’s amazing.

In the most recent article he’s taking on how most of the current hollywood blockbusters seem to be needlessly convoluted.

AND SO WHEN WE LOOK AT THE STORIES IN ABRAMS’ WORK WE DON’T FIND MUCH IN THE WAY OF STORY AT ALL. WE FIND PLOTS. IT’S ALL MASTER SECRETIVE PLANS BUILT ON REVEALS UPON REVEALS UPON REVEALS. WE WATCH AS BRILLIANT CHARACTERS PLAY A HIGH-STAKES GAME OF TRYING TO OUTSMART EACH OTHER. WE WATCH THOSE PLANS GET TEASED OUT IN INCOMPREHENSIBLE WAYS. WE WATCH THEM UNRAVEL A STORY WITHOUT A HINT OF ORGANIC DISCOVERY. WE WATCH FILMS WHERE THE MECHANICAL PLOT DICTATES CHARACTER REACTIONS, RATHER THAN CHARACTER’S ACTIONS DICTATING THE STORY. AND WHILE THE MOST OBVIOUS TEMPTATION IS TO JUDGE THE MERITS OF THESE FILMS ON WHETHER OR NOT THESE CONVOLUTED PLOTS HAVE LOGICAL RESOLUTIONS (AND THE INTERNET DID INDEED GO NUTS DISMANTLING THE LOGIC OF STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS), HULK ARGUES THAT THE FUZZY LOGIC ITSELF DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. THE TRUTH IS THAT THE REAL VICTIM OF THIS CONVOLUTED PLOTTING IS TRADITIONAL DRAMA. BY OBFUSCATING CLARITY IN THE NAME OF A GRANDIOSE PUZZLE, WE CAN’T HELP BUT GET IN THE WAY OF THE OPTIMAL EMOTIONAL RESONANCE IN OUR STORIES. WE MAKE THEM FEEL LIKE CONSTRUCTIONS. WE SHOW ALL THE STRINGS. AND IT’S GOTTEN TO SUCH AN OBLIVIOUS STATE THAT THIS IS BAD THAT WE NOT ONLY SHOW THESE STRINGS, BUT THEN TURN TO THE AUDIENCE AND SAY “Hey! Look at all those strings I tied! Don’t they look complicated!?!?! I did that!”

Yeah, it can be tough to read a line or two of all caps let alone 5600 words of it but I promise you it’s totally worth the time. It manages to sum up everything I’ve been feeling about a lot of movies in a much tidier package than I’ve been able to so far.

So go read. I’ll wait here. Tell me what you think when you’re done.

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Dear Hollywood, Please Stop Making Origin Story Prequels, Love Matthew

Posted by Matthew on March 21, 2013
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Escape from New York

Dear Hollywood,

It’s Matthew here. I know that you don’t know me very well, but I felt compelled to reach out. You see, I just heard that Joel Silver and Studio Canal are trying to do an origin story for Snake Plisken and I want to ask you to not let this happen.

It’s been a tough time these last few years. From the outside it certainly seems like everyone down there is having trouble coming up with exciting new ideas. There have been more films based on existing material every year for the past several. That’s sequels, remakes and reboots, and the dreaded origin story.

No, for the record, I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing. There’s lots of reasons why it’s a good thing. Writers and audiences like to revisit characters or stories. Studios like properties they can bet big on. Stories may have more chapters that can be told. Stories can be updated to reflect more current sensibilities. The list goes on.

However, origin story prequels almost always suck. Why you ask? I’ll tell you.

Take Snake Plisken. He’s a fucking badass and that’s all I need to know. He has an eye patch. You know what I don’t really need to know? How he ended up with said eyepatch. Furthermore, when you do a prequel and show me exactly how he ended up with that eyepatch? It’s either going to be not as cool as what I might have imagined, not be shocking because we knew it was coming, or you’ll try to make it so cool that it’ll end up being annoying.

You know what would be cool? Just do another Snake Plisken movie in the series and in the course of that movie have someone ask him how he lost his eye. Or have him face a new bad guy and when Snake meets him and someone asks “wait, do you know him?” Snake can say “he owes me an eye”. That’s a movie I’d watch, even if you recast Snake.

The point being is that there is some value to the mystery of it all. I don’t need to know that Snake lost his eye by using it to stop an arrow that was aimed at an orphan baby or see him fight the wars that made him lose his faith in pretty much everything. He’s already a fully formed character with a boat load of flaws so work on developing that, don’t just show us where all those flaws came from. That’s boring compared to the idea of him growing out of some of those flaws.

So if Joel Silver wants to make a new trilogy of Snake Plisken films? I say go right ahead. Just don’t make them prequels. I’m sure they’ll make money, but there is already so much to explore in that world. Have him go back to New York. Have him fight the oppressive government. Hell, you could even just rip off Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and have him fighting some bad guy in a post apocalyptic wasteland town (he destroyed the world’s technology, remember?) and post apocalyptic movies are big business these days! I’d watch that!

Take Star Wars as an example, George Lucas made a trilogy of prequels and you know what? They are middling at best because we already know everything we needed to know about those characters. Seeing how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader didn’t make him more evil and it didn’t really do a very good job of making him more sympathetic, it just made him seem like an unwitting pawn. A bitch. And you don’t want to make Snake Plisken into a bitch.

To be fair, it’s true you could end up with a great film. X-Men: First Class is one of the best films in the X-Men franchise and it’s an origin story prequel. However you’re more likely to end up with something like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Prometheus, or The Phantom Menace.

Your new movie might be pretty to look at but at the end of the day you’ll have spent so much time trying to shoehorn in references to what’s already been established that the story will suffer and the film will be OK at best. Worse yet, you might end up with something like Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, which was utterly pointless.

And if you insist on doing a prequel please do something for me: just don’t do an outright origin story, just tell a new story with the same character. It worked for Indiana Jones after all.

So that’s me Hollywood, asking you to take a step back and have a think about what you’ve been doing lately. I love you and I want you to succeed and make a brilliant movie and that requires having a new thought about the character not just making a story that fits all the history that we already know.

Love,

Matthew

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Simon’s Best of 2012

Posted by Simon on December 31, 2012
Editorial / 3 Comments

Best film – Looper

There’s so much to like about my film of 2012. Great script, stellar cast, strong direction from a relative newcomer…but Looper‘s best trick was what it didn’t tell you. The trailer would have you believe that you’re going to be watching a time travel action movie, young self hunting old in an indie twist on Terminator. What you actually got was a slow-burner that certainly had these elements in the background, but was really an exploration of family loyalty, the consequence of action, and how love can mutate and save at the same time. It gave us a further element to the age-old nerd dilemma: kill or spare young Hitler? Looper dares to suggest an alternative – change him, before it’s too late? It’s really something special, and the final message that Love Is The Answer resonated deeply over the weeks that followed the closing credits.

Also, it blatantly sidesteps the inevitable discussions on the holes in its time travel: Bruce Willis tells us directly that it just doesn’t matter. Deal with it. Watch the damn movie.

Honourable mentions:

Ghost Rider 2 – Really, one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences I’ve ever had. Take away the need to “act”, let Nic Cage be crazy and mo-cap the shit out of him, use the Crank directors, combine for great success.

Avengers – Awesome superhero ensemble party with Whedon serving fine cocktails. High art? Nope. Amazing, enjoyable, thrilling and genuinely funny? Yep. In spades.

Skyfall – Not just a great Bond film, but a fantastic action thriller that will hopefully act as a blueprint for the future of the franchise.

 

Best Game – Super Hexagon – iPhone

What’s the meaning of life?

Sorry, let me backtrack a little and give you some context. Super Hexagon has a simple premise: don’t die. Walls of death approach and all you can do is rotate your tiny triangle around a central hexagonal spoke. Inch through the space, repeat. Score is time. One touch is death, game over. Press to restart. Over and over and over again. Time slows and seconds become milestones. First twenty, thirty, forty. Sliding forward, each instant restart a chance to improve and slice away at your best score. Last a minute, and the game tells you you’re wonderful. You feel it too, with a sense of elation that is unmatched by many other “deep” games. And that’s just the first level – knowingly labeled “Hard” – before you fling yourself further down the rabbit hole in comparative, superlative and Hyper versions.

How can something so simple – an iPhone version of a Flash game, for God’s sake – leave such a lasting impression on so many gamers? I think it’s the purity. There’s absolutely zero fluff or filler in the design. Story, character, Freemium DLC (spit) – all eschewed in favour of a single beating heart. It reminds me of the hours I spent playing the version of Geometry Wars Waves buried in Project Gotham Racing 4 (if you haven’t tried it, I recommend throwing five bucks on a used copy and heading straight to the arcade cabinet in your garage). It’s almost like it contains the very root of everything I love about gaming, distilled and concentrated in one single action.

But, then, it goes even a little further. It feels like its trying to tell you something about yourself, about life. The desperation to stay alive, the fact that you have to read the situation, make your decision, move and live by the consequences. You can never go back. Indecision is the enemy and leads to failure. Read, move, act with instinct and trust that deep, deep voice inside.

There have been a few times where I’ve looked at the encroaching walls and my brain has given up. You can’t do it, it says. That’s it. Game over. Then I watch passively as my fingers take over and lead me through the gaps with millimetre precision. Maybe that’s why the iPhone version is actually my favourite – the timing windows for the gaps are buried somewhere very deep in my nerve endings. It’s also with me all the time, and is the perfect distraction for the occasional spare two minutes between being an effective teacher and responsible parent. I play it and the world shrinks away for ninety seconds, the music vibrates my fingers, my heart pulses in time with the screen.

What’s the meaning of life? Who knows. But for me, this year, it’s been Super Hexagon; keep moving, trust your instincts, make your decision, and go. You can never go back.

Honourable mentions:

Journey – PS3 – Beautiful, moving and meaningful. So rare to get this from a game these days.

FTL – Mac – Just getting into this, but it’s already worming its way into my thoughts. It’s certainly made me consider doors as a higher priority.

 

Biggest disappointment (game or movie) – The Dark Knight Rises

I’m sure Matt’s chosen the same. You only need to listen again to our podcast to hear the abject disappointment hanging on every groaned syllable. His analysis will no doubt act as a highly-detailed magnifying glass over one of the year’s biggest films, but let me be the blunt hammer to his scalpel. The Dark Knight Rises ultimately does the unforgivable – simply put, it is just A Very Bad Movie.

Not a rarity, not this year or any year, but let me tell you why this badness is especial:

This is a Christopher Nolan movie

Inception has spoiled me. It’s practically ruined anything remotely in a similar genre. The last film that had that effect on me was Fight Club, especially as I was then a student of filmmaking who, right up to that point, arrogantly thought I could improve on anything with my unsurpassed dynamic vision and seemingly limitless talent. Fight Club left me physically shaking in a taxi, wondering how the hell I could ever be that good. Inception did the wondrous thing of telling a story that could only have been told in that medium, by that director. Insomnia, Momento, The Prestige; all additional rock-solid signs that Nolan utterly understands the silken weave between pace, time, story, setting and character. How could all this vision, this experience, result in something as wooden and splintered as Rises?

The Dark Knight exists

Batman Begins sowed the seeds of new Batman, moving away from Schumacher day-glo pyrotechnics to a version more grounded in the real. TDK then took this formula and dared to cast some young actor from A Knight’s Tale to continue Jack Nicholson’s Joker legacy. Do you remember the furore surrounding Health Ledger’s casting? I’m sure I even contributed to it. All the whining stopped immediately when the second film finally released. But was it just Ledger holding it together? No. Nolan’s a director who can bring out the best from all his actors (a reaction by Al Pacino in Insomnia is still the greatest piece of acting I’ve ever seen on film) so Ledger’s star turn is not a singular lynchpin. The script, slow and steady and full of malice. The characters, so well-rounded and interesting. The movie fit together as an intricate Chinese puzzle box. You left the theatre feeling like you’ve been exposed to what happens when the best are allowed to work together.

Conversely, DKR felt like I’d just read the readers’ questions section in Cosmopolitan.

The story is bad

I’m not going to list all the problems with this script and plotline (pro tip: Google them), but suffice to say they have more holes than an infinite golf course.

 

Disappointment is an understatement, then. An altogether dreary and unsatisfying ending to one of the most invigorating superhero reboots in cinema history.

Honourable mentions:

Cabin In The Woods – Great premise, wonderful execution, terrible ending that negated the actions of the previous fifty minutes. Shame.

Promethius – Went in with low expectations, found the end result to be even lower. Very beautiful but ruined by a terrible script with some of the worst space scientists I’ve ever seen.

Halo 4Halo is all about story for me. Note to 343 Industries -“story” does not mean “go here, do this set of three things, repeat”.

 

Top 3 I haven’t seen/played:

Cloud Atlas – I’m reading the book at the moment – and it’s entirely wonderful – so I’ve delayed watching the movie as I don’t want my imagination forced to picture Halle Berry instead of my own Luisa Rey. Really curious to see how on earth anyone could ever think they could make a movie of this book. Adored Run, Lola, Run, so it’ll be a visual feast if nothing else.

Smashed – I’ve been saying for a long time that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the best young actors working at the moment, and this seems to the film that finally supports this claim. It only had a limited run here, so looking forward to catching it before the Oscars so I can throw some support behind it.

Tokyo Jungle – The PSN title that lets you play as a Pomeranian, trying to survive post-human Tokyo amidst hyenas and lions. It sounds like an utterly unique gaming experience that could only have emerged from Japan.

 

 

Happy New Year!

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Episode Twenty Seven: Children of Men, Rock of Ages and Prometheus

Posted by Matthew on June 22, 2012
Podcast / Comments Off on Episode Twenty Seven: Children of Men, Rock of Ages and Prometheus

This week we’re sitting down to talk about all the news that is news and three films: Children of Men, Rock of Ages, and Prometheus.

Note: major spoiler warnings for Prometheus.

We also discuss the shiny new Microsoft Surface and the best new show on Canadian TV, Continuum.

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Like what you hear? Don’t like what you hear? Tell us! email at comments at awesomefriday.ca, leave comments on this episodes page, and you can also follow us on twitter: @ManBitesWonders is Simon and @posterboy81 is Matt

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