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77. Avengers: Infinity War – This Just In (#10)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this time with Tony Black, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War.

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Non-Review Review: Terminator Genisys

“I am inevitable,” the villain boasts towards the climax of Terminator Genisys, just as things look their darkest for our heroes. He is a fully 3D digital image sourced from wall-mounted projectors, reflecting the way that the film itself has been marketed.

He might as well be talking on behalf of the film itself. The Terminator franchise has evolved into an unlikely juggernaut, spanning over three decades and evolving from a low-budget science-fiction film into a blockbuster series. Critical (and popular) reception to Terminator III: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation has been somewhat muted, but the film franchise just keeps coming. In a way, it feels like Skynet making itself manifest. Or, more appropriately, the eponymous robot killing machine.

Fresh off the factory line...

Fresh off the factory line…

There are points where Terminator Genisys seems incredibly self-aware, posing the sort of existential and philosophical questions that are confronting the audience. In The Terminator and Terminator II: Judgement Day, James Cameron positioned time travel as a metaphor for the strings of fate and destiny that seemed to bind free will. In Terminator Genisys, time travel becomes a powerful metaphor for the process of film- (or franchise-) making itself.

Both a sequel and a prequel, a reboot and a remake, the time travel plot element of Terminator Genisys turns the franchise into a gigantic mix tape. Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier collaborate to turn Terminator Genisys into a live-action version of a Jive Bunny and the Mix Masters track, a sample filled with familiar beats played at the wrong tempo. There are moments when the wrongness seems the point, when Terminator Genisys wanders into the uncanny valley. There are points where it almost achieves consciousness.

Prick me, do I not leak?

Prick me, do I not leak?

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Non-Review Review: Birdman (or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman is a staggeringly cynical piece of work.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s showbusiness satire has its knives out from the opening sequence, and never puts them away. It is a movie that is relentlessly snarky and bitter about just about any facet of the artistic process. The movie seldom pulls its punches, lawing into its targets with a vengeance. There are points where it almost seems too much, where it feels like Iñárritu might be better served to pull back or ease off for a moment as the film becomes just a little bit too much.

Showtime!

Showtime!

Then again, Iñárritu turns the film’s relentlessness into a visual motif, structuring Birdman as one long unbroken take. This structure is only slightly disingenuous. While there are any number of “cheats” that allow Birdman to stitch together multiple takes, the end result is still a hugely ambitious and impressive piece of work. Even viewers as cynical as the film itself may find themselves marvelling at some of the incredibly fluid transitions and extended sequences. Birdman‘s anger might occasionally come close to suffocating, but its energy is infectious.

That is to say nothing of the performance at the centre of the film, with Michael Keaton playing a washed-up has-been celebrity desperately (and pathetically) fighting for artistic credibility after a career spent in blockbuster cinema. One of the more interesting aspects of Birdman is that it seems just as dismissive of the attempts at artistic rehabilitation as it does of the original “sell out” work. Birdman is a wry, clever and vicious piece of work. It is also a phenomenal accomplishment.

You wouldn't like him when he's angry...

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…

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The X-Files – Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose is a masterpiece.

It is one of the best episodes that The X-Files ever produced. It is the only episode of The X-Files to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. It was the first episode to take home an Emmy for a performance on the show, with Peter Boyle winning the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. It was Boyle’s only Emmy win of ten nominations. It was the only episode of The X-Files to air on the 13th October, a symbolically important date for Carter (“1013”). It was also Friday the 13th.

No bones about it...

No bones about it…

As part of the recent resurgence in interest in The X-Files, the story has enjoyed even more focus. It was one of three episodes voted by fans to air as part of the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex Film Festival in 2013 as part of the series’ twentieth anniversary celebrations. Chris Carter himself chose it to represent The X-Files at the Austin Film Festival in 2012. It is very frequently ranked among the best the show ever produced.

And all of that praise is very well earned.

Crystal clear...

Crystal clear…

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Non-Review Review: Oculus

Oculus is torn between two extremes. On the one hand, it’s an ambitious horror film that engages with questions of perception and subtext, while throwing all manner of horror tropes together to form something of a horror movie stew. On the other hand, it rather quickly devolves into a fairly generic horror film that coasts on gore to unsettle the audience and always takes the easiest possible scare. Oculus is at its best during its muddled and exposition-filled opening acts.

While certainly flawed, these segments have an endearing substance to them. In contrast, Oculus is at its worst in the obligatory third act run-around.

All work and no play makes Rory Cochrane a dull boy...

All work and no play makes Rory Cochrane a dull boy…

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Thinking Outside the Box: When Does Reality Subtext Overwrite Fiction?

It happens every so often, to the extent that I’m actually quite used to it. I’ll be either listening to Michael Jackson on my headphones, or mention in passing a bit of trivia, or name the musician as one of the most impressive of all time. And, undoubtedly, there will always be someone who will retort with, “Yeah, but he was a pedophile.” And that will be that – pretty much everything that Jackson has accomplished will be a moot point. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing one way or a nother, I just feel a little bit curious as to where the line between what happened in real life can prevent or undermine an artist’s work.

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers – New Avengers Vol. 1-2 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

This is the first in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Alright. I figure I sound a bit hypocritical complaining about the impact of big events on Marvel’s storytelling continuity without reading said big events. Well, actually, I don’t think I’m a hypocrite – I think it’s perfectly reasonably that a reader should be able to pick up Ed Brubaker’s Captain America without having to worry about Mark Millar’s massive Civil War crossover which they either don’t know enough to care about or know enough not to care about. However, I feel like maybe – just maybe – I should try to ride this “cross-continuity” thing out just once and see if the story somehow justifies the damage it causes to the cohesion of individual runs.  Yes, I’m going to jump head-first into the event-populated minefield of continuity which is recent Marvel history, and I will be using New Avengers as a checklist to that. I’m going down the rabbit hole, following the arc from Civil War through to Siege.

Sentry is responsible for the Carnage in this run...

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