Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #7!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast! Almost live from the Virgin Media International Film Festival!

This week, I join Ronan Doyle and Jay Coyle to discuss the week in film news. Jay and I are just back from the premiere of Papi Chulo, while Ronan has brought along a schedule of planned festival highlights for discerning listeners. Due to time constraints, the podcast moves at a tremendous clip, but there’s room to discuss classics like Point Break, Predator and Jodorowsky’s Dune along the way.

The news is given over to the passing of screen legends Bruno Ganz and Albert Finney, Aamir Khan’s trip to the Belfast Film Festival and TOG Hackerspace’s #OIRscars Party this coming Sunday.

The top ten:

  1. The Kid Who Would Be King
  2. The Mule
  3. A Dog’s Way Home
  4. Happy Death Day 2 U
  5. If Beale Street Could Talk
  6. Alita: Battle Angel
  7. Green Book
  8. How to Train Your Dragon III: The Hidden World
  9. Instant Family
  10. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier feels very much like a J.C. Chandor grab bag. And that’s no bad thing of itself.

The film runs on a variety of different concepts and ideas that run through Chandor’s other films. On a purely plotting level, the idea of a story about five guys trapped alone in the wilderness trying to survive on hostile terrain evokes the survival drama of All is Lost, albeit with more men carrying more weapons. The thematic underpinnings of the story, particularly its preoccupations with the dangers of greed and the consequences of unchecked avarice, resonate with Chandor’s earlier work like Margin Call or A Most Violent Year. There is a sense in which Triple Frontier feels of a piece with the body of work that Chandor is building for himself.

Even more broadly, Triple Frontier feels like the kind of older sort of film that rarely gets made in the current studio system; an ensemble cast dropped into a fairly standard premise, anchored in the recognisability of the actors rather than the familiarity of the intellectual property. Triple Frontier is a film build around the closest thing that modern Hollywood has to star wattage. The film reunites Chandor with Oscar Isaac, who anchored A Most Violent Year and the secondary lead role is given over to Ben Affleck, who is arguably one of the rare remaining movie stars. There is no small irony in the fact that Triple Frontier should end up on Netflix, despite being the sort of mid-budget, actor-driven, basic-concept action thriller that studios used to churn out on a regular basis.

Triple Frontier is perhaps Chandor’s weakest film. It lacks the raw urgency of Margin Call, the desperate intimacy of All is Lost and the claustrophobic anxiety of A Most Violent Year. However, it is still a well-constructed survival parable driven by a likable cast and confident director with a clear affection for an older style of Hollywood film-making.

Continue reading

“Too Emotional”: “Interstellar”, “Star Trek: Discovery”, “Captain Marvel” and the Re-Gendering of Science-Fiction…

Women have very obviously had a huge impact on shaping and defining science-fiction as a genre.

Many of the key figures in the genre’s history have been female, across all forms of media. Ursula Le Guin is one of the defining science-fiction authors. The first showrunner of Doctor Who was a young woman by the name of Verity Lambert. Among many of the key figures overshadowed by Gene Roddenberry in developing Star Trek was Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana, who was responsible for defining and shaping a lot of what fans know about the iconic character of Spock and of Vulcan. Indeed, modern science-fiction fandom owes a lot to early female enthusiasts. Spockanalia was one of the earliest professional-quality fanzines, dedicated to the idea of Spock as a cultural icon and sex symbol. The “Save Star Trek” campaign was organised by Bjo Trimble.

However, this aspect of the genre’s history and development is largely ignored and overlooked. Modern science-fiction is largely defined as a masculine genre. MIT Technology Review’s Top Ten Hard Science Fiction Books of All Time includes one female author, while Forbidden Planet’s 50 Science Fiction Books You Must Read includes only three women. The recent forays of directors like Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins and Claire Denis into big-screen science-fiction only underscored the degree to which the genre has historically been dominated by male directors. Even the public perception of science-fiction fandom is gendered. Despite the formative role that women played in defining fandom, the stereotypical image of a fan is white, middle-class, male, heterosexual.

As with many issues in fandom, this has been pushed to the fore in recent years, a long-simmering culture war over ownership of these conceptual spaces has spilled over into the mainstream. Fandoms traditionally considered as white, heterosexual and masculine have begun lashing out at what they perceive to be invaders who do not conform to their expectations. These attacks are gendered. GamerGate was an organised attack on women within the gaming community, beginning with a smear campaign from a jilted boyfriend. In terms of science-fiction, the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies attempted to game the Hugo nominations to target women and minorities. This is to say nothing of organised vote-brigading of female- and minority-led films.

Against this context, one of the more interesting pushes in contemporary mainstream big-budget science-fiction is a firm attempt to recontextualise and re-gender science-fiction storytelling, to push the genre away from these more reactionary elements and these more conventional definitions of masculine interest. Some of these examples are generated no shortage of attention and blowback, most obviously through the casting of more diverse leads in projects like Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, which led to an online explosion of targeted misogyny and vitriol at the female actors involved.

However, some of this reinvention has been more subtle and nuanced, such as the conscious rejection of hard science-fiction in big-budget mass-audience science-fiction projects as high-profile and diverse as Interstellar, Star Trek: Discovery and Captain Marvel.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Captain Marvel

The biggest problem with Captain Marvel is one of spoiler culture.

“Spoiler culture” is a fascinating cultural phenomenon, and one that is interesting as a facet of cultural consumption that arose parallel with the internet. It is perhaps a logical extension of the manner in which information flows these days. Information travels instantly and in all directions, quickly consumed and quick disseminated. In the nineties, it was easy (or easier) to avoid spoilers to films like The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. After all, there was no Twitter or Facebook to share information. If somebody had already seen the film, they had to be physically talking to somebody else to discuss it, and it was posisble to establish the ground rules for the flows of information before the conversation progressed.

In an era where simply being on the internet exposes a person to torrents of information, the advent of “spoiler culture” seems logical and rational. People want to be surprised. People don’t want to know the finer points of a story before witnessing it first hand. People do not want the easter eggs given out or the finer details dissected. This is an understandable response. Having an experience described is no match for actually having that experience first-hand. So a culture has grown up online about preserving surprise and controlling the flow of information. This is fine. This is healthy. This is good. Mostly “spoiler culture” is just common courtesy and common sense. A reviewer should not reveal anything to a reader that they themselves would not want to know.

As with any philosophy, there is a tendency to take things too far. Sometimes “spoiler culture” descends into self-parody. Reviewers were famously told not to reveal any information about the plot of Blade Runner 2049, which ironically made it very hard to sell the movie to a potential audience. Some more extreme adherents felt betrayed when Sony released a trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home before Avengers: Endgame, as if the fact that Sony was making another Spider-Man movie would give away the resolution to the cliffhanger from Avengers: Infinity War. Naturally, Infinity War came with its own massive spoiler-warning from the studio, with reviewers told that “Thanos demands [their] silence.” This despite the fact the ending was lifted directly from a comic.

Captain Marvel embodies the worst impulses of “spoiler culture” because it confuses a logical and organic narrative development for a big twist. There is a reveal that comes around the half-way mark of the two-hour film which fundamentally changes the nature of the story being told. It plays against the story that had been set up to that point, and is positioned as a game-changer. It is a “twist.” It is a “big” moment. It is the kind of development for which Thanos would demand silence. Except it’s not really. It is not an actual twist. It is a plot point. It is a story beat. It is a part of the story that makes a great deal of sense in the context of the story as it is being told. However, Captain Marvel decides to play this game-changing story beat as a revelation.

There are a couple of big issues here. Most obviously, the actual narrative development is quite literally the only way that Captain Marvel could go without becoming something completely and irredeemably monstrous, so it is entirely predictable. (The twist is only a surprise to audience members who genuinely believe that Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie is likely to play out as extreme white nationalist propaganda.) More than that, though, it creates a larger problem with the flow of the story. The decision to play this story beat as a twist means the film has to conceal its hand for the first hour and fifteen minutes. This means that Captain Marvel is almost half-way over before any member of the cast gets any real character development.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Serenity (2019)

Serenity is the story of a grizzled middle aged man and a tuna fish. A tuna fish named “Justice.”

There are many, many problems with Serenity. Indeed, fixing the most obvious problems with Serenity would just reveal a whole new set of problems. It is all recursive. Serenity does not work in either broad stroke or finer detail. It is flawed from the foundation through to the finishing touches. The basic concept of the movie is spectacularly ill-judged, but this impulse towards poor-decision-making branches out to smaller and more intimate moments of dialogue. It is hard to think of a major cinematic release that has been this obviously and fundamentally broken since Book of Henry. Indeed, like Book of Henry, there is a sense that Serenity might possibly live on as a cult bad movie, the kind of film so committed and thoroughly wrong that it becomes a source of pleasure.

The most obvious thing to criticise about Serenity is the central twist, because that is the hinge upon which the movie turns and central point from which so many bad decisions flow. It is big and glaring, flashing like a beacon. Indeed, one of the characters in the film who identifies himself as “the Rules” might describe it as a lighthouse. However, the central twist often feels like a distraction. There have been successful movies that have pulled off bigger twists than Serenity, and which have worked. There are beloved movies that are built around nominally insane plotting developments, but which have managed to walk that finest of lines; The Sixth Sense, Memento, The Usual Suspects.

The issue with Serenity is not so much its admittedly endearingly insane central revelation. The issue is absolutely everything else, including what it does with that major plot twist.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (“The Man Who Feels No Pain”)

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

The Man Who Feels No Pain is the best film at this year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

Written and directed by Vasan Bala, The Man Who Feels No Pain is a delightfully self-aware Hindu action comedy which focuses on a young man who – as the title suggests – was born without any capacity to feel pain. Surya has lived a sheltered life, raised by an over-protective father and an over-eager grandfather. Surya’s life has been shaped and defined by the steady stream of popular culture that his grandfather has fed him, in lieu of access to the outside world. Surya’s moral compass is shaped and defined by comic books and eighties action movies, instilling in the boy a very firm sense of right and wrong and giving him a moral certainty about how best to respond to injustice.

When Surya is thrown out into the world as a twenty-year-old adult, there is a serious question as to whether Surya or the world is ready for the experience. The Man Who Feels No Pain is many, many things. Most immediately and superficially, from its opening scenes, it is a loving and knowing parody of eighties action movies and the superhero cinema that they spawned. It works incredibly well on these terms, managing to expertly balance the demands of both the action sequences and the comedic beats. However, the most endearing and engaging aspect of The Man Who Feels No Pain is the way in which it blends this celebration of contemporary pop culture into a broader exploration of growing up.

At its core, The Man Who Feels No Pain is an exploration of that old C.S. Lewis adage that growing up means putting away childish things; including the fear of being seen as childish.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Greta

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Greta is a pure and pulpy delight.

In some ways, Greta could be seen as a follow-up to director Neil Jordan’s previous film, the under-appreciated Byzantium. Like Byzantium, Greta is also a tale of monstrous motherhood and of a young woman struggling with a prolonged and extended childhood. Indeed, both Byzantium and Greta are very much genre pieces. This is in keeping with Neil Jordan’s sensibilities as a filmmaker. It is dismissive of these stories to suggest that Jordan “elevates” them, but he has a very strong understanding of the mechanics of how stories like these work. He always has, going back to stories like The Company of Wolves or Interview with a Vampire. (Even other “genre” work, such as crime films like Mona Lisa or The Crying Game.)

Both Greta and Byzantium are monster stories, even if Greta is anchored by a much more modern sort of monster than Byzantium.  Whereas Byzantium explored this mother-daughter push-and-pull through the lens of the classic vampire story, Greta draws inspiration from a different sources. There are obvious classic gothic influences at work in this psychological horror – Edgar Allan Poe looms large over one of the film’s big reveals, to pick one example. However, Jordan is most obviously and most consciously evoking the popular trashy psychological horror genre of the late eighties and nineties, the dozens of the films that were legitimised by the success of Silence of the Lambs; films like The Cell or Kiss the Girls or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Indeed, the easiest and most efficient way to describe Greta might be “Postnatal Attraction” meets “Single Hungarian Female.”

Continue reading