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Non-Review Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy hits a few bumps along the way, but it works very well.

The key to this would seem to be James Gunn. Like the best of the Marvel comic adaptations, Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that manages to find its own unique authorial voice amid the cross-pollination of Marvel’s vast cinematic universe. Like Shane Black on Iron Man 3, Kenneth Branagh on Thor or Jon Favreau on Iron Man, James Gunn manages to put his own unique stamp on Guardians of the Galaxy – a film that remains compellingly personal amid the apocalyptic 9/11 imagery.

Lighting the way...

Lighting the way…

While the film suffers from some of the structural weaknesses that are typical of Marvel’s blockbusters, its strengths come from the director and co-writer. Although set in a vast universe with epic stakes and impossible odds, Guardians of the Galaxy works best when it focuses on its characters, whether the human Peter Quill (with his “outlaw name” Star Lord), the killing machine Drax, the sentient and sensitive tree Groot, the racoon named Rocket or the prodigal daughter named Gamora.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that introduces itself to the image of Peter Quill dancing beneath the logo, to the tune of Fooled Around and Fell In Love by Elvin Bishop, playing from a cassette labelled “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1.” That is all you need to know.

Gotta dance...

Gotta dance…

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Star Trek – A Taste of Armageddon (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s amazing to think that A Taste of Armageddon and The Return of the Archons were produced on consecutive weeks by the same television show. Both are politically-charged pieces of pop culture, heavily influenced by the realities of the Cold War, but they adopt two completely different philosophies towards the conflict. The Return of the Archons is a story about the need for freedom and individuality, and how the struggle for those inalienable rights is a battle that must be fought. While it’s debatable whether Landru is a representation of the forces of communism, the episode is unquestionably about the triumph of Western liberal values.

In contrast, A Taste of Armageddon can’t help but feel a little cynical about the whole damn thing.

A shooting war...

A shooting war…

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Star Trek – Charlie X (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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Monkey Business: Could Andy Serkis Win An Oscar?

Okay, I think we all know the answer is “no.” I thought better than to try to pretend there was the slightest hint of even a nomination. However, considering some of the chatter around Serkis’ performance in the superb Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I can’t help but wonder if the Academy will everrecognise motion-capture performances with acting nominations. After all, where does the line end between the performance of the actor, and the special effects work put in by the technical team?

Serkis folk...

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Non-Review Review: Death at a Funeral

I think the charm of Death at a Funeralis the fact that it feels very much like a classic comedy of errors. Sure, there are some scatological moments thrown in, but it really feels like an old-fashioned slapstick comedy of manners, based around putting its characters through a variety of hilariously awkward little subplots, playing out against the backdrop of what should be a classy and respectful family occasion. If nothing else, the movie is a charming and affectionate homage to that style of comedy I had feared might be dearly departed.

A grave matter...

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Hollywood & The Race Lift

I had to represent. Cause they had one good role for a black man, and they gave it to Crocodile Dundee!

-Alpa Chino, Tropic Thunder

Earlier in the week, Cinematical ran an article on M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, Avatar: The Last Airbender. For those unaware, the movie is an adaptation of a hit anime, long due a trip to the screen – I hope it ends up either significantly better than, or significantly trippier than, Speed Racer, the most recent such attempt (seriously, it’s what I imagine really hard drugs are like). Of course, this being Hollywood, Shyamalan has secured a predominantly white cast for his film. Well, except for one of the major roles, which will go to Dev Patel. The fact that that role is the role of the villain probably doesn’t help none, nor does the fact Patel was only the second choice. So why does Hollywood insist on the race lift?

Is the cast ethnicity a sticking point?

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