Greetings, programs, and welcome to a very special episode of the podcast. This week instead of our usual two things, we are reviewing one or eight, depending on your perception of the universe. Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is an 8-episode horror anthology that is now out on Netflix, and we are looking at all eight episodes. We both have strong feelings about them; listen in to find out what they are!Continue reading “Podcast: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I am at a crossroads. On the one hand, it has been six months since I have been to the movies. Six months and one week. One hundred ninety-two days, but who’s counting?
Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, a film that I have been greatly anticipating, is being released in theatres this coming weekend. With every other major blockbuster delayed into this fall or next year, it is one of the first times in that one hundred and ninety-two days that a film almost certainly best experienced in a cinema on a giant screen is actually being released to cinemas.
I love the movie-going experience. Sure, people can be jerks sometimes (*cough* turn your phone off *cough*), a man was even arrested for assaulting another moviegoer at my screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (seriously, that happened). But there’s nothing quite like seeing an exciting blockbuster film with a large crowd when that crowd is into it. It’s electrifying, and I miss it.
On the other hand, there is a worldwide pandemic happening right now. Two hundred thousand people a day are catching COVID-19 worldwide, and anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 people are dying from it.Continue reading “Don’t Go to The Movies Right Now”
I must admit that when I first started hearing about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters I had some moderately high hopes. You see, there’s a type of movie that I would rather enjoy: the popcorn flick. You know the type; it’s a bit ridiculous, with lots of one-liners and actors having fun. We’re not talking about high art here; we’re talking about fun. Fun at the movies.
We’re talking about the type of movie where you sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. I was disappointed by a couple of films that promised to be this last year. So, how are we doing with the first big effort this year? Actually, pretty good!
Director Tommy Wirkola’s resume isn’t that long, but he’s best known for the horror comedy Dead Snow, a horror-comedy film released a few years back about a group of kids being terrorized by Nazi zombies. Thinking about that movie now, it feels like a dry run leading up to this. Where that movie faltered mixing up the horror and comedy, this movie has a pretty good mix of action and comedy plus a healthy dose of blood and guts and gore to round things out.
The story is fairly basic. Hansel and Gretel survive the childhood ordeal slightly differently than you remember it from the fairy tale and end up orphan witch hunters who come to a town with a bunch of kids gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Much anachronistic badassery ensues.
There’s not anything here you haven’t seen before, though and at just over 90 minutes long, there isn’t really time for anything you haven’t seen before, either. This movie is short and to the point; what little back story we need is given in a brief prologue and then the beautifully animated credits, and then we jump right into the story.
This is actually one of the film’s major strengths. Previous fairy tale re-imaginings I’ve seen that try to make sure you know they’re serious films end up boring. This movie doesn’t want you to be anything other than entertained, so the plot is kept to a minimum and the action to a maximum, and despite its predictability, it works. When things are revealed, you’re not going to be surprised, but you’ll probably be too busy enjoying a well-staged fight, some well-executed gore, or a zingy one-liner to care.
Speaking of action and gore, there’s a nice blend of practical and digital effects at play, too. Some things are obviously CG, but there’s one big practical effect that I loved. The film is rife with anachronism as well; seemingly set in the early 1800s, but the weapons in Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal appear to be from anywhere from the 1860s to the 1920s, and everyone speaks in a thoroughly modern mode of speech.
I’m sure a lot of these elements are going to wear thin pretty quickly for some. Chalk it up to the film’s short running time that they did not for me.
The film stars do pretty well with what they’re given. Jeremy Renner might be phoning it in, but Jeremy Renner phoning it in is still pretty good. Gemma Arterton plays the whole thing as an over-the-top ass-kicker and gets some great one-liners in, and while Famke Janssen isn’t amazing, her character is such a one-dimensional bad guy that it doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that it seems like everyone involved is in on the joke, and as such it feels like everyone involved is having a blast making the movie.
Despite being a little repetitive, and a little derivative, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a solid B-movie, delivering action and effects and, where it needs to, performances. It’s not high art, but it is a good time at the movies.
It is now 2013. Another year is over, so here’s a brief look at what I thought of 2012.
Favourite Film – The Avengers
There’s so much I can say here but what it comes down to is that I’ve been waiting for this film for basically my entire life. Having been reading Marvel comics since I was a kid seeing all these characters brought to the big screen in a way that doesn’t suck on their own was good, seeing them all on-screen together in a way that doesn’t suck is fucking amazing. Because let’s face it: a lot of superhero movies suck.
You see it’s not just that this is a good film that makes it my favourite of the year, hell I’ll even admit that there are a bunch of objectively better films that came out this year, but The Avengers is the geek dream realized: comic book continuity brought to the movies. Proof that you can create an entire universe in film and the masses won’t reject it. Proof to the studios —finally— that their audience is full of intelligent people who are looking for an interconnected film series with characters that stand both on their own and as a team in a single universe. Yes, I realize I just said the same thing three times. If you think The Avengers isn’t a milestone in filmmaking consider this: Fox just hired Mark Millar to oversee X-Men continuity. DC had the ending of Man of Steel retooled to leave it open for a Justice League style team-up movie down the road.
And aside from all that, it’s just a damn good movie. It’s near-perfectly cast, they’re all clearly having fun, Joss Whedon’s script is lively and full of humour, and it features one of the best action set pieces of the year. Who knew basically destroying New York could be so fun? More than that though, Joss Whedon understands that what makes a large cast work isn’t the action or the bad guy’s plans, it’s the relationships between the characters and he completely nails this aspect of the film.
At the moment when The Avengers finally assemble for the third act of the film, I was one of the people standing and cheering, and I fully expect that the next time they assemble, I will be again.
“I don’t want to talk about time travel, we’ll be here all day.” is my favourite line from Looper. This is the scene in which writer/director told us “stop worrying and enjoy this story because the story is what matters.” All of this is completely true. Looper is a film that tells you that it’s about time travel, but it’s really about love. That message, coupled with fantastic performances from the cast, a brilliant script make this a must-see.
Skyfall is the best James Bond story in years. It’s also the third act in a larger story that sees the latest Bond become fully realized and ready to move the franchise forward. Combine that with some of the best action direction of the year from Sam Mendes, and you’ve got a recipe for a great movie, which this is.
If you’d told me last year that one weekend in the summer all the guys I knew would be in a theatre watching a movie about a teddy bear (and all the girls were watching a movie about a stripper), I’d probably have given you a funny look, but that’s pretty much exactly what happened when Ted came out. It takes the ageing buddy movie schtick and manages to make it fresh again, it’s hilarious from start to finish, and it gives Mila Kunis a character to play. What more could you want?
Favourite Game – Punch Quest
I actually struggled with this category because, in all honesty, I don’t really have that many memorable gaming experiences from the year. There were a few flash-in-the-pans like Borderlands 2, but it ended up not holding my attention for more than a couple of weeks. Punch Quest, however, I can’t seem to get enough of.
There’s not really that much new stuff here; it’s an infinite runner that features punching. Strange at it may seem, that simple addition makes it completely addictive. Like all good single-player games, it engages me to keep playing by asking me to compete with myself and also by offering upgrades that make the punching cooler, routes that lead to boss battles or treasure troves, and a host of other “I can’t wait to see what comes next” moments in the gameplay.
Biggest Disappointment – The Dark Knight Rises
You know I could go on and on and on about The Dark Knight Rises, but I am not going to go into specifics because I already did on the podcast but also because the specifics don’t really matter.
Sure, there are plot holes that you could drive a bus through, and there’s a lot of them, but you know what? Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both have some pretty big holes in them too. The difference is that where Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are both compelling stories, and The Dark Knight Rises is not.
Batman Begins had Bruce Wayne training and learning to become Batman. The Dark Knight pitted Batman against The Joker, his philosophical opposite. The Dark Knight Rises had Batman face off against his equal after learning to become Batman again, twice. This is not compelling; it’s repetition. Bane, despite Tom Hardy wearing the mask, isn’t interesting and a last-minute twist robs all his characters weight.
I feel like Christopher Nolan might have been going for fan service with this one (and let’s face it if the story were a comic book few people would complain because comics are strange), tried to work too much into the story and the end is a non-compelling mess.
And how did Bruce Wayne get halfway around the world with no money or ID in just a few days and then enter Gotham while it was on a total lockdown, anyway?
Halo 4 may have made all the money, but I personally didn’t connect with it in the same way that I did the previous 5 entries in the franchise. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but every time I got stuck I got frustrated rather than spurred to push harder as I did in Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach.
Prometheus was meant to be Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to SciFi and the Alien franchise. It’s pretty safe to say that this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so when it turned out to be a convoluted mess, you could say that I was disappointed. Listen to the podcast episode in which we talk about Prometheus to get a better idea of how I felt.
Top Three I haven’t Seen/Played
I’ve tried to see Django Unchained twice now and both times I’ve gone down to the theatre every show has been sold out. Love it or hate it, people are certainly seeing it. I have mixed feelings about Tarantino as a whole, but I loved Inglorious Basterds, and this one looks to be right up the same alley of bloody American history.
I’ve heard very mixed things about Les Miserables but I very much want to see it for myself. I love the idea of live singing in a movie, but I can see where that might detract from the show as well. Plus it’s full of people that I like, including Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
The C.I.A. says that Zero Dark Thirty isn’t realistic but I’m not sure I care. I’ve yet to hear a bad review, and it has one of the more interesting production histories of the year. Plus, Jessica Chastain. Just sayin’.
That’s about all I have for 2012. All in all, it was a pretty good year for film for me, but not so much for games. Hopefully, that changes in 2013!
Be sure to check out Simon’s Best of 2012 before you go, and have yourself a great 2013!