This far into the Transformer series of films by Michael Bay you know exactly what you’re going to get, so you’re either going to see Transformers: Age of Extinction and enjoy it, see it and hate watch it, or just ignore its passing and seeing something more engaging to your personal taste at the multiplex. If I could describe Age of Extinction in two words, they would be “too much,” too much exposition, too much action, too much plot, too much Bay-hem… And although it’s not as noticeable, too much silliness mixed in with all the hardcore action. In other words, it’s everything you like, or hate, already about Transformers films, just more of it. (more…)
Welcome back to our “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our seventh entry is John Woo’s operatic Hollywood bullet ballet, Face/Off (1997)…
When John Woo was five years old, his family fled from the civil war occurring in Guangzhou, opting to put down roots in a rough Hong Kong neighborhood. As he grew, Woo was recruited by the local gangs, his refusal of their invitations to join earning him numerous beat downs in the alleys of the Shek Kimp Mei slums. Hoping for escape, Woo often found refuge from the violence in two different arenas: the Christian church and the local movie houses. Both helped him develop an unshakable moral code, as the director is quick to cite the unflinching spirit of brotherhood found in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid as easily as any passage in the Bible.
Throughout his career, spiritual and secular imagery amalgamated as he crafted numerous staples of Hong Kong action cinema (A Better Tomorrow I & II, The Killer, Hard Boiled), in which he often pitted two brothers-in-arms against the world, guns drawn and blazing (just like Butch & Sundance). All the while, he set his stories in the underworld he rejected as a boy, often seemingly attempting to understand the souls of the bad men who endeavored to corrupt his ethical fabric. But it wouldn’t be until he reached American soil and helmed his third Hollywood feature that he’d perfectly combine his fully ingrained interests with his search for identification in a childhood enemy. In many ways, Face/Off not only acts as the perfect culmination of Woo’s career up until that point, but also as the final masterwork in a long, celebrated filmography. (more…)
“Happy fucking Father’s Day.” — The Season Four Finale of Game of Thrones
The TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords has now come to a close and, at the end of it all, what is the overall lesson this tale has taught us? Really, it’s the same overarching message that the climax of nearly every slasher film ever made has attempted to hand down: don’t count your opponent as being out of the fight until you are setting fire to his breathless corpse. Though Joffrey may have fallen, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage, whose work this year has been damn near transcendent) found himself at the mercy of the cruelest members of his family. For a moment, Tyrion believed he may have discovered a sliver of hope in his trial-by-combat “champion”, until Prince Oberyn of Dorne wasted one too many seconds taunting his downed foe before he found himself on his back, Ser Gregor Clegane’s thumbs deep in his eye sockets. But tonight, Tyrion got to dole out a few teachings of his own to his tyrannical father, as the imp was once again underestimated by those who look down their nose at him. The resulting patricide is one of the most heart-wrenchingly sad moments in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga, and show-runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have translated it into the perfect capper for what may be the series’ strongest season. (more…)
If I learned anything from G.I. Joe, it’s that heroes and villains should almost always be named in direct correlation to their stereotype (let’s call the karate guy “Quick Kick” and the sailor dude “Ship Wreck”) and that - say it with me now - “knowing is half the battle” (Yo Joe!).
Head on down past the break, as we have a few laughs and experience this (curiouser than expected) figure together. Big Joe/Cobra fan or not, you’ll come to want him. Badly. His shiny head is so irresistible. (more…)
Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our sixth entry is Antonia Bird’s underrated cannibal Western, Ravenous (1999)…
Ravenous is an extremely potent horror picture.
Yet to only view the film through the narrow prism of a single genre ignores what truly makes it special. Like Alex Cox before her, Antonia Bird has cobbled together a singular Western whose deepest roots reach back to its “spaghetti” precursors from Spain and Italy in the 1960s and 70s. It’s an amalgamation of particular influence; pulling from deep cut directors like Joaquin Romero Marchent while also tipping its Calvary cap toward Sergio Corbucci. So while the viscera may remain in the cave of the viewer’s mind much more vividly than the vistas, Bird has undoubtedly crafted an examination of manifest destiny that ranks with Major Dundee and Heaven’s Gate as a touchstone of widescreen Western filmmaking. (more…)
The recent string of live-action fairy tales – usually twists on classic stories in an attempt to provide extra depth – hasn’t been all that critically successful. Films like Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful earned Disney piles of cash, but neither surpassed or even equaled the quality of their source material or the more well-known adaptations. In theatres this weekend is Maleficent, Disney’s twist on Sleeping Beauty in where focus is put on the tale’s dark villainess instead of the young, cursed princess. (more…)
Since its unveiling at E3 2012, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs has been one of the most anticipated games for any console, particularly this new generation of systems. The spawn of what seems to be a three-way between Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Infamous, Watch Dogs puts you in control of Aiden Pearce, a hacker-cum-vigilante in search of bloody retribution for the death of his niece. Delayed several times, this once launch title has finally graced American shelves. Did the delay produce a better game or simply postpone the inevitable disappointment which often accompanies a hype-beast such as this? It’s 696 miles to Chicago, we’ve got $60, a quarter tank of gas, a six pack of Red Bull, it’s night, and we’re wearing sunglasses…let’s punch it. (more…)
As a whole, Arrowhas grown by leaps and bounds since its first season. The series has come to rely less on annoying “villain of the week” devices in favor of a stronger season-long arc and has surrounded its hero with a diverse and interesting cast of friends and foes. Last night’s season finale, “Unthinkable“, needed to send Season 2 out on a bang. Which it did, thanks to a solid season’s worth of build up. (more…)
Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our fifth entry acts as a brief refresher on one of the pivotal moments in Japanese cinema, Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla (1954)…
Picture Godzilla in your head. What do you see?
For most, the image is simple — men in rubbery monster suits battling one-another amidst a chintzily built model, stepping on toy cars willy-nilly in an effort to put forth the feeling of destruction on an apocalyptic scale. To the average cinema-goer Gojira – excuse me, Godzilla — is an icon of pugilistic campiness; a towering figure akin to a scaly Macho Man Randy Savage, wrestling other goofy kaiju for ninety minutes while tiny Asian people point and scream “the monster is attacking the city!”
Like most successful franchise frontmen, the weight of Godzilla’s initial appearance has been watered down by subsequent sequels (twenty-seven, to be exact), to the point that many have forgotten the iconic monster’s original metaphorical meaning: a walking mushroom cloud, the fantastical representation of holocaust. Ishirō Honda’s monumental piece of Japanese filmmaking still stands as one of the greatest cinematic responses to the psychic trauma caused by war, ranking with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove as a defining piece of pop art derived from the utter devastation of the nuclear bomb.
“When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.”
This short excerpt from Longfellow’s equally brief “There Was a Little Girl” can be re-jiggered and re-appropriated to describe a lot of different things. In the current media landscape, no work feels more deserving of the description than HBO’s Game of Thrones. Season Four has seen its fair share of highs (the death of one sniveling Boy King) while also delivering some truly dismal lows (the rape of Cersei by her otherwise redemption-bound brother, not to mention the general mistreatment/prop-relegation of many of the show’s female characters). But this season’s sixth episode, “The Laws of Gods and Men”, is a healthy reminder of why we shouldn’t just throw out the proverbial “baby with the bathwater”. Yes, some moments might be extremely “problematic” for most viewers (a word I’m learning to despise due to its overuse by seemingly joyless cultural watchdogs), yet to discount the series as a whole because of a few (admittedly major) missteps would be doing many viewers a rather large disservice. Because the final twenty minutes of “The Laws of Gods and Men” represent televised drama at its finest.