Saturday, 3 August 2013

Pacific Rim - Newt and Han: Super Drift [Spoiler level: Low, but cautious)

I know a lot of my audience probably already have seen Pacific Rim (you lucky bastards), but it just premiered in Norway yesterday so here are my thoughts.

Pacific Rim was one of those films that debuted in the USA long before any other part of the world, personally I had to endure three weeks of tweets telling me how awesome the film was, and how important it was. Because of this, I actually started to have low expectations, having been hyped up for so long it's pretty hard expect those hypes to be met, but boy, was I wrong.

First of all, Pacific Rim, yes, it was hyped out beyond compare, at least for me. Few of the tweets I've seen have reflected the same enthusiasm I had for the film, and that's kind of sad. It's sad that when a huge film market gets a film before the rest of the world and all the rest of the world hears is how amazing it was. We live in the information age, it's all but impossible to not hear news about this kind of tentpole if you're in the scene, or at least vaguely paying attention to it. On the positive side, however, it might have brought a bigger international market to the film. All those film buffs in the US who watched the film spread the word to film buffs in other countries, and they spread the word to their friends. We knew people had watched it and liked it, not like in the US were people was just hoping it would be good. It's amazing how much better and more convincing a "I heard this guy really liked it" is than a "from what I've heard of what's leaked it could be pretty good". All I know is that all the theatres at my local cinema that screened Pacific Rim were full. I've attended my share of screenings at that cinema, and I did not at all expect that kind of a turn out for this type of film on a Friday night with thirty degrees in the air (that's a lot where I'm from, I mean, a lot).

For the first few minutes of the film, I have to admit, I wasn't very impressed. It seemed to be just another run-of-the-mill, cliché action film. All of the praise I had heard, I just couldn't see where it came from. But the more the film went on, the more I got it. I think maybe what made it so ordinary in the beginning is that they begin with an origin story, and I am really starting to get sick of origin stories. Personally I think this film would've been better off with just bypassing that entirely and feed the needed information to the public gradually when they need it. The main character, Raleigh, starts off the film with his brother. They fight a kaiju (the monsters) and the brother winds up dead. This is what's going to work as Raleigh's trouble and misunderstandings for the rest of the film, and it really didn't have to be shown. In fact, I think it would've worked better if we didn't know about it at all. Make Raleigh a bit more mysterious and interesting, because as he is right now he's one of the most forgettable and unlovable main-characters I've ever seen in a film.

Throughout the film Raleigh proves again and again that he's just another action hero, he's not a real character with any significant depth. He spends his time either fighting, loving or saving. To be frank, there were points in the film were I actually forgot he existed. And that brings me to another point. In the set-up of the film, the period that's supposed to tell you what to expect from the rest of the story and how the film works, is more or less completely centred around Raleigh. Making it seem like the film is supposed to centre around him, he's the main character and we're supposed to root for him. However, fairly quickly after the set-up we start to drift away from him. We start exploring other characters and actions unrelated to Raleigh's. This isn't in itself a bad thing, but because they've set it up for me to expect to follow Raleigh every step of the way it's kind of confusing. It makes Raleigh even less of a likable protagonist, because honestly, most of the other characters we explore are tenfolds more interesting and lovable than he himself is. 

And that brings me to the parts that I really loved about the film. The monster fighting is great and all, but what's really interesting (to me at least) was the way society outside of the jaegar program worked. Newton and Hannibal are perhaps the two most well done characters of their class I've ever seen. Every second of them on-screen were pure bliss to me, and I can already imagine a potential sequel revolving around either or both of them (Hannibal in particular). Newton seems at first to be a really standard, geeky scientist, the must-have of any sci-fi blockbuster these days. But the way he evolves throughout the film is just amazing, all the things he is willing to do - not just because he wants to save the world, but because he just loves doing them - is inspiring. He seems much more real than most of the other characters. The jaegar guys are too shallow, they are all about defending the Earth at what ever cost, and we know little to nothing about any of them. And what we do know, just reinforces how badass and military they are. They don't feel like real people to me, and that's a shame. Hannibal is an example of how they should have done badass and military. Even though he is a bad guy he is more likable and relateable than any of the robot jocks. He dares to show his real self, he isn't just about selling black market items, he cares for himself and have real-world worries. 

I think it speaks mountains when I can tell you, right now, that even though I can barely remember a single main-character, the two characters of Newton and Hannibal - on their own - make me love this film. If I could have talked to Travis or Guillermo before they made this I would tell them this: "Please, let Newton and Hannibal be the main focus. You can have the jockeys there still, but make them less important, let them be the tools of Newton and Hannibal, not the other way around." But I fear, if they did that, the film would have been too awesome for anyone to have ever survived a screening. 

So yeah, after all of that bashing on shallow characters, and that the monster fighting wasn't really my main love - it was just filled with weird choices (seriously, if the swords were that effective, why the hell didn't they use them all the time before?) - I sit here and I dare to tell you to go watch this film. It is amazing. I don't think it's stretching it too far to say that this is this generation's Jurassic Park. It is without a doubt the most fun I've had at a cinema this entire year, and I can't wait to go watch it again.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Wolverine - Watcher of Man

People keep saying that Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, but no actor is a character like Hugh Jackman absolutely is James Howlett.

Hugh Jackman has portrayed the Wolverine in six films (seven as of next year's release of Days of Future Past) since the year 2000. I read somewhere that that's a record for a superhero character, but even if it isn't that's a pretty decent run. The original X-Men film was what got me into live-action superhero films to begin with so long ago, and the Wolverine has followed me ever since. It's funny, because I can't say that the Wolverine has been one of my favourite superheroes for that long. In the beginning he was more like a watcher, he was always there, always watching over man and the films. I knew of him, but he never really stood out. I can't pinpoint a moment where that changed, but somewhere over the last thirteen years it did, and the Wolverine began to be one of my highlights in superhero films.

Many people despised X-Men Origins: The Wolverine, the film that was set to launch an entire new series of X-Men films for Fox. So much they despised it, that four years later no other film in the series has dared emerged, and instead a new series was started to wash away the foul taste that was Origins. I, on the other hand, never had much trouble with the film. I thought it was good fun, and I kept waiting for other films to follow. Back in late 2009 or 2010 I heard about an entirely new film, simply called The Wolverine. Its title alone suggested that it wanted to erase the previous Wolverine centric film, which most referred to as just The Wolverine. I was wary at first, in the early days it sounded like they wanted to reboot the character to an extent. Erasing past events and putting in new as they saw fit, and the wariness never completely faded.

I was never really looking forward to The Wolverine as I've been with many other superhero films, it was more of a piece of knowledge in the back of my head that knew it was coming and that I wanted to see it when the time was here. Then all of a sudden I received an e-mail from my local cinema that tickets now were available for purchase. I was quick to jump online and reserve my seat, quicker than I had thought I would be. Finally there was but only a week till I could watch the film. The knowledge in the back of my head spurt forward and my eagerness grew each day. It was like all the desire to watch it came out at once, it had hidden for so many years but could not wait a second longer. And it was a week of torture as I waited for the screening.

Today finally came, and little over four hours ago I got in my car and headed for the cinema. On my way I kept going over all of the X-Men films in my head. Both the ones I had loved, and the ones... I had loved less. I couldn't make up my mind of what exactly I thought this film would be, or even what I wanted it to be, I just wanted to see it for myself. And I have to say, whatever my expectations were, they were not disappointed.

I left the cinema with a feeling of relief. They had managed to make a really good Wolverine centric film, sure Origins was fun, but this was a genuinely good film. I'm sure there are people out there right now screaming at me, saying that it wasn't good, but I don't care. In my eyes this was good.

Almost every film featuring the Wolverine to this point has been centred around his origins, figuring out where he came from and why he is like he is. And that's why this film is so refreshing, it's about Logan as he is now. It's his present and he's trying to figure out what he wants to be, not what he used to be. Before you shout your eyes out, yes, there were flashbacks, and Logan did reminisce over old times. But it wasn't the same as before. It used to be that the whole idea of Logan was his past, he's old, he's lived through a lot of things, and he remembered little of it. But now he knows who he was, he doesn't care about the past, it's the future that worries him now.

The film has everything you'd want and expect from a Wolverine film. We have Logan running around being badass, kicking people's asses using both his claws and wits. We have the occasional burst of anger, revealing the real beast that is beneath him everyday. And we have the ongoing signs of compassion and love, showing that even though he is more animal than most, he still loves and cares for others. There is one point in the film that shows this that I particularly liked, it's not really a spoiler, so you should be fine. We have Logan out on a balcony, and a vision of Jean appears. Logan has just been running from the yakuza, saving a woman who's being chased. Jean says: "I thought you were done being a hero." Logan simply replies with: "She was in trouble."
That one line is probably my favourite line out of all of the X-Men films, the very sentiment that lays beneath it. Even though he didn't want any part of heroics, he saw someone in trouble and didn't think other thoughts than to help them.

I think The Wolverine is the best superhero film of the year so far, and in my opinion one of the better ones ever made, period. But don't let my words and thoughts mean everything to you, just go out and watch it. You might hate it, you might love it. All I know, is that I loved it.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Back-up: White Pig - Mmmm, Bacon

I've gotten more and more into Kickstarter and Indiegogo lately, probably mostly thanks to Iron Sky and its crowdfunding endeavors. There's something about seeing projects you like and give them your personal green light, and I know I'm far from the only one. Veronica Mars's campaign for a film tore Kickstarter's roof off, and Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here did tremendously well right after. It seems that right now we are at a state where everyone knows about crowdfunding, and a lot of us are actively contributing.

Right now projects for films are basically just pre-sales for DVDs and posters, you put in X amount of money and receive items that will later sell at X-1 amount of money. At the campaign they have to up the price, because the DVDs and posters are just perk. You're supposed to pay for the film to be made at all, and that's where the main problem lays. The project runners have to really think through their campaigns or everything can be ruined, it's more or less a full-time job just making sure the campaign runs smoothly and everyone gets what they need. The smaller guys who are doing it all on their own can end up burnt out before even starting to produce what the campaign promised. Even the bigger guys run into this, just look at the recent Double Fine Kickstarter, they got two and a half million dollars more than what they asked for, and they just didn't know what to do with the money. Now they're having to release half the game, sell that to the general public and use the profits off of that to deliver on the promises they made to their backers. It's no easy task.

This will be a new irregular series of blog posts to give you a break from my film reactions, where I show you various film projects in need of funding that to me look interesting and worthy of you contribution. I will put a disclaimer here right away, I may not personally back all of these projects financially (I'd end up broke quicker than the Flash can run to Sweden) but they will be projects that I do believe should be made. The first film on my list is a Danish project on Indiegogo called White Pig.

White Pig is coming from director David Noel Bourke who's previously directed No Right Turn which got critical acclaim both in its homeland Denmark and internationally. With White Pig he wants to tell the story of a racist murderer and the police woman who is trying to track him down. On the surface it seems like a really standard story, one that we've seen many times before, and that was my initial thought as well. But upon further inspection it seems like he's trying to do something different with this.

I've always believed that every story has been told, it's up to storytellers to tell them more interestingly and in a different way, and that really seems to be the case here. It seems like they are really trying to convey what racism really is. What it means and how it feels. It's not the generic "racism is bad, m'kay", they're taking a real racist, putting him through trials and want us to understand him. Remember now, understand and agree are two completely different things, I do not believe they're trying to promote racism as a good thing. They're trying to make us think about it again. I feel that in many places, at least here in Scandinavia, racism isn't much of a discussion topic anymore. Even though it happens all the time. Everyone wants to believe that everything is fine and that if you do not poke at your scab nothing bad will happen. Unlike a scab, however, racism isn't a thing that's just going to fall off when it's good and ready. We have to actively poke it, stir it and think about it. Action is a result of thinking, we cannot do anything about anything before we think about it.

The reason this film is on Indiegogo and didn't just go through "the normal channels" is more or less the reason everyone else is doing it, they want more creative control. They have already gone to studios with the films, and there has been interest, it's just that they want to cut out a lot of violence and language that will hurt the message it's trying to tell, it'd probably just end up like any other cop-murderer-chase film.

White Pig Movie MOOD TEASER from david noel bourke on Vimeo
Even in the mood teaser seen above they start throwing around offensive words, words that I myself am uncomfortable saying, and really violent imagery. It just reinforces my thoughts that they're wanting to share what goes through such an extreme racist's mind.

Now here comes the part that's really great, and something I've seen rarely mentioned even in the aftermaths of big-time campaigns, White Pig has gotten an international distributor ready to sign on. Angel Scandinavia has agreed to distribute the film on what seems to be just one condition (at least what's made public) and that is that the Indiegogo campaign gets 60 backers. They are currently at 47 so that's just 13 more and there is a guaranteed international distribution. There will also be a local cinema release which's extent I'm uncertain of, probably contained to some cinemas in Copenhagen, Denmark. With this information the project managers are promising to complete the film no matter what, even if they do not hit their funding goal (on Indiegogo you don't have to hit the goal to receive funds).

So come one, come all, for just ten euros (roughly thirteen US dollars) you can get your own digital download of the film estimated to be distributed by April of 2014. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go throw some money at my screen and see what happens.

Indiegogo page
Facebook page
Director's twitter

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Lone Ranger - An Epic Tale of Lawyers and Rail Road Owners

I've never been a big fan of western films, the very idea of it just never appealed to me. I think the only western film I ever liked was Wild Wild West (shut up, baby, I know it) and that's mostly just because I was a massive Will Smith fan when I was younger. Because of this I never really looked into anything about The Lone Ranger, I had vague knowledge of it being an old serial originally, and that Johnny Depp was in it. That was it. I never had any real plans to go watch it, but my dad is a big western fan having grown up in the genre's golden age so it was a fun father-son trip to the cinema. And I have to say, I was surprised.

The film starts off a bit weirdly in that we are in San Francisco in 1933, aka not the wild west in either time or place, and we're following a kid who I've seen enough posters to understand is supposed to be dressed up as the Lone Ranger. He's at a carnival and enters an exhibit about the old west. It's perhaps the most interesting exhibit I've ever seen in my life. Featuring stuffed buffalo, stuffed bears and a "noble savage in its natural habitat" (aka Indian, aka Native American, aka human who lived in America before Europeans). The kid is really impressed, and then the stuffed man starts to move and talk. No one else notices it, so either the kid is crazy, or talking exhibits was all the rage back in Frisco' '33. The man quickly turns out to be Tonto, the sidekick of the Lone Ranger and he starts telling this poor kid all about his life with kemosabe.

I really don't see the point of starting the story like this, having Tonto retell it (especially seeing how there are several scenes where Tonto isn't even present, he clearly isn't the main character). It could serve as a way of mystifying the audience on whether this is a true fictional event, or if he just made it all up and is coo-coo for kemosabe. It has more negative sides than positive ones: For starter it means that Tonto isn't going to die, it sort of cheapens the intense moments when you know that his life isn't at stake. Most of the time stuff like that doesn't bother me, but I can definitely see why others would be bothered, and it's a problem they didn't even have to have. They could've just told the story as it happens, the flashback really isn't necessary.
I'd say it's so that Johnny Depp is guaranteed to live on and not die, and hence be part of future money-making endeavors, but he's one of the few main cast members who hasn't already signed a multi-picture contract, so he can't be that interested in it.

Pfew, wow, that was a lot more ranting than I thought I had in me on the matter. Onward towards the actual story.

There is a lot of very stereotypical western things going on in the beginning, we have a bank robbery, a train chase, a prisoner on a train on his way to be hung, and a lot of men and women in either very fancy garments or pathetically filthy cloth. The beginning really is rather slow and down right boring at times, you know what is going to happen, and even I who've seen very few western start to pick up on tropes I've experienced through parodies and spoofs. I want to believe it is because the film itself actually is a parody or spoof and when I'm looking back at it it feels that way, but when I was in the theatre watching it I just couldn't enjoy it on that level. It didn't go far enough to become a real spoof, if it had just pushed its limits a bit further it would've been much more enjoyable at first viewing.
It builds up tension a bit here and there, but then it suddenly drops, I can't get a real grip on the dramaturgy, and while I was sitting there I wondered why it lasted over two and a half hours. They could've easily shed close to an hour off and still have a film, but maybe that is just because films these days -at least blockbusters- are expected to be two and a half hours and not the one and a half as I grew up accustomed to.

I never felt really concerned about either John Reid (the Lone Ranger) or Tonto, the only real emotional connection I had to them was linked more to the actors they were portrayed by. I think both Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp are excellent actors and this film would've been completely different without them. In fact, most of the characters seem more like shadows, they are there to serve a purpose and can't really act on their own. One of the antagonists is at first "portrayed" as a protagonist, but you just know that he's actually an antagonist. You've seen enough films to at a glance recognise every character's trope, and it leaves you never surprised at anything. Nothing is ever truly out of character. Now, don't get me started on the female characters, they are either scared and fragile and just need a man's love or they are hookers.There's no real middle ground. Yes, the hookers, at least the main one, is a strong character who fights for herself and doesn't need a man in her life. But did they really have to be hookers? I know there were a big demand back then, and it's accurate, but you could've made the non-hooker females a bit more deep and self-supportive.

This film's genre is supposed to be western comedy, but they only really got the western part right. I mean, there are moments you know are supposed to be funny, and I did hear people in the theatre laughing, but most of time it was just silence and muffled giggles. When and if I laughed I laughed more because others laughed, because I "had" to laugh, than because it was actually amusing. Yes, there are some lines and events that are genuinely funny, but I don't think any film in this day and age doesn't have those. Perhaps some of those super artsy school films, I don't know, I'm still catching up on those.

The worst part of the film, however, is just how amazing the last twenty-thirty minutes are. The ending to this film is phenomenal, and I won't go too much into detail -I want you to watch it on your own- but this is where the film really shows what it could've been. Almost everything I've complained about above is magically fixed. It's funny, it's exciting, I care for the characters! I don't know how it happened it just did.
This final sequence is enough for me to want a sequel, if they can make a sequel that is like that, it will be great. I could tell the audience with me was much more into that part as well, lots of gasps and laughs.

It's funny, no matter how many bad things I can think of regarding this film it still stands out as a positive film experience in my head. Looking back at it all as more of a parody than the serious film it sometimes tried too hard to be really improves it. It's just too bad that you actually have to watch it once and think about it to really appreciate it. But hey! Maybe I'm just really stupid and you see it as a parody right away, if you do, let me know what you think. Because I think it would be really good.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I Feel the Need to Purge Too [Spoiler level: Moderate]

The Purge became a massive hit in the US upon release, earning its budget back a tenfold in the opening weekend alone. Add that to the immense potential for a sequel/prequel discussed in my previous blog post it was all but certain that a sequel would come about, and indeed Blumhouse (the production house behind The Purge) announced today that "The Purge 2 is in development".

Blumhouse's other hits include Paranormal Activity and Sinister, they specialise in low-budget horrors. I haven't seen too many of their previous films, but from glancing at their filmography they surly have created a recognisable bunch of titles. Whether the titles are good or not is a completely different issue, but I can't really say my hopes are up for a decent Purge follow-up. Blumhouse's brand is cheap, profitable horror flicks that appeal to a wide audience, that that most likely means that The Purge 2 will be more or less the same as its predecessor just dealing with different victims and different attackers. After all, this premise is what made all that money in the first place, it's unlikely that anyone would change a winning formula too much.

Slashfilm has a slightly different approach to what they want, but maybe a more feasible and possible one. They note that the original doesn't really use its premise for all it's worth, and now that the world is set (at least to a degree) they can explore a lot more in-depth the craziness of it all. After all, it seems kind of weird that on a night where everything is allowed that a mere murder is the most exciting event. I've seen it pointed out several places that more long-term financial gain crimes are likely to be very interesting this night. Imagine a heist film, but with the fact that everyone you see around you is out to kill hanging over you. It'd put a whole different level on it all. Now, I should say that the original film did talk about some exceptions to the "everything is allowed" night. For example only weapons up to a certain class were allowed - probably stopping people from nuking each other - and certain government officials were immune, meaning they couldn't be the victim of attacks. Still, within all of that loose room there is a lot of interesting scenarios waiting to happen, scenarios similar enough to the first film to draw the same crowd, but different enough to draw a new one. 

I still think a more political prequel would be the most interesting. Showing the landscape of both the USA as a nation and its place in the global community. At the very least, show us more about the New Founding Fathers. How they get elected, how they proposed the idea of the purge successfully. It can't have been that easy, I refuse to believe that everyone were on-board with this idea. I'm normally not big on origin stories, but this one would be too good to let go. If it can't happen in the second film, I hope the franchise is successful enough to that after it's killed itself with a few repetitive sequels it takes one last chance and tells us this story.

I hope Blumhouse doesn't play it too safe with this follow-up, I really think they can make a mighty interesting film if they just try hard enough. Don't fall into the traps that so many do and pump out the same film over and over again. You have a really cool and original enough concept here, don't let it go stale.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Purge and the Land of the Free [Spoiler warning: High]

When I first saw the trailer for The Purge I was terrified, it was the first film trailer that ever scared me, but it was no events depicted that disturbed me. It was the very notion that in some weird alternate reality this actually happened.

As much as the man in the man in the spooky mask above is meant to scare me, it just doesn't work. It's just man in a weird-looking mask, but the symbol that is the man scares me. Because I know what "the purge" is, and that man represents the horrifying event it is. For those of you not aware, "the purge" is the name of the one night a year where everything is allowed. The police hang up their badges and go home, the people are left to fend for themselves against the people who very much want to take part of "the purge". In the film's universe the purge is meant to allow people to let out steam, after all we're a very violent species, just look at war and general street violence. If people were allowed to just do what ever they wanted for twelve hours every year then that will help them contain themselves.

Now, to be clear, I do not think that this is something that could ever possible happen, but the fact that it has happened in this film's world is enough to terrify me. That a nation could really get behind this crazy idea of death and mayhem is beyond me. In the film itself they lay some doubt around the purge, mainly that it isn't meant to quench people's lust for blood at all, but rather to exterminate the lower classes who can't afford the defences that the rich can. This is shrugged off simply as "oh well, people have different opinions, that's what makes this country so great". That line right there is probably the best line of the film. The way it's delivered (on radio, so we never even get to see the guy) is so casual and by-the-way that it sounds like they're discussing whether Batman or Iron Man is the better superhero. They're talking about, what sounds to be, hundred and thousands of people's lives. We never get estimates on how many are killed each year, but we're told that thousands of people in single cities alone are out "purging themselves". Everyone from the crazy homeless man down the street to the respectable business owner next door are involved, and you can never really trust anyone. Imagine that a world where you can't trust anyone, right now we live in a world where trust is a scarce resource, how much would be lost if you knew anyone around you could kill you without facing any sort of communal consequence.

People in this film are really behind the idea of the purge, they fully support it and believes it lowers crime rates and unemployment as well as it boosts the economy. There really hasn't been anything to prove it a bad thing (part from the murdering of thousand of innocent people, but that apparently doesn't count). In this film we follow the Sandin family, an ordinary upper-class family who's made a living selling purge security systems to the wealthy. The parents James and Mary couldn't be more behind the idea of the purge, they talk about how horrible it was before the new founding fathers instituted the purge. Given their apparent age they were born in the early eighties (the film is set in 2022), meaning that either they think that what we have right now is much more horrible than what the purge brings or things are about to get much worse. The fact that people of -basically- my generation can get these thoughts horrify me, how much government manipulation do you need to brainwash such a huge chunk of the population as to get through with it?

The Sandins aren't expecting anything special on the night of the purge, they have their own high-tech security system (i.e. some heavy blinds that come down on the outside of their windows and doors), but when their guilt-ridden son (Charlie) sees a wounded man running around their neighbourhood screaming for help he disarms the house and lets him in. Naturally the rest of the family freaks out when the blinds open and run to close them yet again, but not before the wounded man (aptly credited as "bloody stranger" (whether that's to mean a stranger covered in blood or just a damn stranger is still under debate)). The family now has a man they know nothing about in their house and they fear the worst. Not long after a team of teenagers walk around the neighbourhood, shooting into the air and knocking on doors. They shortly arrive at the Sandin's house where they demand they let the bloody stranger out so they can purge themselves.

The family have no clue where the man is, he sort of just ran in and went into hiding straight away, so a small manhunt around the house is put into action as the nice teenagers outside promise to kill everyone in the house if the damn stranger isn't released before their back-up arrive.

This is more or less the remainder of the film, people running around in a house looking for a man they don't know so they can throw him out to the wolves to be murdered. Or it would've been, if the writers hadn't decided to let the characters actually be sensible. The family realises what their son knew all along, what is life worth living if you're going to let countless others die for you? They decide to fight and defend their home. Unfortunately it doesn't transform into Home Alone 17 at this point, but we do get to see teenagers being killed with pinball machines and fire axes. The family manages pretty well, until the father is stabbed and killed, and the mother gets captured without almost any sort of fighting back (even the ten-year old son managed to shoot off a few rounds (yes, a ten-year old with a gun) when he first got captured, for crying out loud!) and they all crawl to the middle of their house where they all gather together. Apparently there aren't anymore teenagers left, but they forgot to tell us, because they're taking things with an awful amount of calm. Then, of course, the classing moment where one last teenagers shows up only to be shot to death by the daughter. It's a real cop-out ending, but don't worry, the writers have decided to "surprise us". Having the weird neighbours pop up wanting to kill the family might sound like an actual twist ending, but when you watch the film it makes a lot more sense than it should, somehow. Anyhow, the father is now dead so they decide to just kill the mother and two children. And now they cop-out of the ending again with having the mysterious blood-covered man show up and hold the weird neighbours at gunpoint. Making them release the family and go away.

The neighbours then of course want to be killed, after all the family needs to purge themselves, but they're the good guys so they just don't. Because it's actually not a good thing to kill people, even though they've just killed a bunch of teenagers and thousands more are being killed as they speak. They wait out the night, and the neighbours leave. Yup. Uhm. It sort of just ends there. Before any kind of climax occurs. Three really weird ending right after each other.

Good news, though, the film gets slightly interesting again when the credits starts rolling. We get to hear people talk about this year's purge and how well-attended it was. Two hundred people ran around the town square in Denver killing people, apparently. And one person said: "I lost my two sons tonight. I used to be proud to be American, but not anymore. America took everything I had." And with that bombshell, the film is over. It's bad to kill people, blah blah blah.

It's a shame that a film with such a terrifying premise does so little with it. It was spooky and creepy before anything happened, but the second the family was actually attacked it just turned into a subpar action film with unusual killers. I would actually like a sequel of sorts to this film, but not just another film about a family in a safehouse, I'd like a film pursuing how the international community answers to the USA's new weird ways. It's a rather radical change from what the USA is today, and I doubt many other countries would follow suit. Imagine a film where the USA does this, but at the consequence of losing nearly all of their current allies. Maybe they make some new oddly paired allies who actually approve of this way, some country that at the moment has little to no interaction with the western world. All I can see in my head right now is a televised debate between world leaders where the British, French, German or maybe even Norwegian political leader straight out asks "what the hell is wrong with you?" in the USA's direction. Yes, I want a sequel. And its title shall be "The Purge and the Land of the Free".

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Leaf Men - An Epic Reaction

Animated films gets a bad rep in the film world. They're generally considered for children alone and thus uninteresting to older viewers and "film buffs". Myself I have been studying the art of making animated short films for the last three years, and I get a lot of humourous comments and questions in regards to its legitimacy. Often is the phrase "it's just a cartoon" uttered, and under that term they umbrella everything from feature-length animated films about barbarians trying to get laid to short animated GIFs featuring dancing babies. People believe that animation is something to just be silly and mindlessly entertaining, and won't give them the the benefit of the doubt. They won't let animated films captivate them in the same way as "proper films". This has lead to the big dogs of animation giving in, they start creating what the audiences want.

The biggest thing  you can notice for yourself is the way that most films these days feature several different age themes, at different times of the films they're aimed at different ages and people. Pixar's UP is the best example of this. If you ask any adult about the film they'll immediately start talking about how great the montage between Carl and Ellie is, they'll talk to length about how that film really is for adults as well as the children they went with. But if you listen closely, they won't tell you much about what's happening after that. At the point when dogs start talking and flying planes the adults are lost and the children starts enjoying themselves. You could argue that UP on its own didn't get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but the montage did.

This sort of deal is happening in most of the animated films being made today, with some exceptions amongst the smaller studios trying to break through. And as a person who tries to watch as many animated films as he can I'm starting to get a bit sick of it. The films starts dividing in my head, and I start thinking I've seen a multiple of the films I actually have seen.

Today I watched the film inappropriately titled "Epic".

Walking into this I did have certain expectations, the marketing of the film was pretty clear on what they wanted me to think of this film. They wanted me to think that it's an animated tale about a war of epic proportion, a love story between people who could never be together, a fantasy story about a fantastic world in the midst of our own. Then for some reason a snail showed up and delivered some kind of joke about being a snail.

The film didn't deliver on any of these promises, except for the part of the snail jokes. The film is more of a buddy road-trip film set on a background of an epic war and a fantastical secret world. Now, this is actually a good thing, because for me it meant that everything I had seen in the trailers were wrong and I got to be surprised a lot more than I normally do during films. It could of course have gone horribly wrong, they could've had a much worse film than the trailers lead to believe, but I always found the trailers to be rather mediocre. They were pretty to look at, but didn't seem like anything beyond that. The fact is that this film was pretty marvellous, I don't I'd be stretching reality too far if I said it's the most I've ever laughed out loud during a film.

That's the thing, though, the film is much more of a comedy than an epic romance-fantasy. Those snail/slug jokes are actually some of the best parts of the film.

In a standard, more general, animated film characters like Mub and Grub would just be the comical relief. The characters that keeps the children entertained during darker hours of the film, but in Epic they are merely the more funny characters. Most every character crack a joke at some point, and most of them are pretty darn good.

Aside from the above-average comedic part of the film, there are some pretty good dramatic moments as well. The villian, Mandrake, is one of the better animated villains I've seen in a long time. He's funny, he's scary, and he doesn't seem to mind killing people. You really get the vibe that if he had the option, he would kill you straight away. The few times he doesn't go all out and attack characters is if there's a genuine need for them. Other films might overplay this and have him need every character, but Mandrake is pretty clear on who he needs for what. Another thing that's perhaps a bit unusual for an animated villain these days is that he's motivation isn't purely "I have to take over the world because I need to rule it", he's a bit like that at the start, but the film does evolve his reasons and without spoiling the film I can say that his son is killed by the good guys. This both make you look at the good guys as actual killers, murderers even, and gives the bad guy a good reason to fight back even harder.

When it comes to the problems I addressed at the beginning of this post, of how animated films often are divided into sections for different age groups, this managed to do so very slightly. There was few parts were I thought "oh, this is for children" or "this is for adults", they all blended nicely and turned into one pretty fun film. There are some out of place moments, especially in the beginning, where the overall feeling is in question and it doesn't quite know what it wants to be. That's mostly due to exposition, there are some parts where they just seem to push a bit too much all at once onto the audience.

(There is however one piece of exposition that is beautifully done, click the show button to read my thoughts on that. It is however a bit more spoilerific than the average piece of information in this post, so only click if you're sure)

Nod, the main male character of the film, is a young Leaf-man, who's not yet ready for the adult responsibilities of his world. It's not something you notice at first, but he doesn't have any family in the film, we don't get to meet anyone he cares about, unlike most of the other main characters. Ronin is the closest he's got, he wants to help him get ready for the world, but comes of a bit tough as the army man he is. Their whole relationship is a tad generic, but the evolution is wonderful. As the film goes on and we learn more about Nod we learn that he did have a father. We don't really learn too much, other than he's apparently not around any more. The film goes on, and then it's mentioned almost in passing that he was dead and that Nod greatly misses him. He had fond memories of him. The entire scene is actually more pointed towards getting the main character Mary Katherine (MK) to reveal her feelings for her father who she'd previously brushed off and left behind.

Then, when our heroes are about to embark into the ultimate bad guy lair, Ronin mentions that himself and Nod's father had been there once before. When Nod comments that his father never told him, Ronin simply states that he never got the chance to. This is absolutely brilliant, we learn to easily and unintrusively that Nod's father was killed in action, trying to save his world. It's a last push to Nod to get him to live up to his father's name, and it gives Ronin even more reason to go to the lair. He wants to get revenge for what happened last time he was there.

There's nothing really special about the story about Ronin, Nod and Nod's father, but the way it's told is something I don't see often anymore. It doesn't feel like we're being told something, we're experiencing it along the characters. If all exposition in the film was done this way, it would've been an even better film.

Overall the film is everything from boring and unnecessary to magnificent and magical. I almost didn't go watch this film, and I'm really glad I did choose to go. If you do have the chance, do go watch it when it's out. But do not expect an epic film, except a wonderful one.


Oh, and there was a really neat little detail in the end credits. MK's father has collected a lot of stuff, and it's revealed that he has pictures and notes of all of them in the film. In the credits the very first picture is dated May 24th 2013. This is obviously the release date of the film in the USA, but they apparently didn't think of changing it for the UK where it premièred the May 22nd.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Name of the Doctor is...

Hey, you. Go away, this post is riddled with, in the words of River Song, spoilers. If you have not yet seen The Name of the Doctor, I need you to stop reading. I normally don't mind spoilers, but this is a biggin, you don't want it, trust me.

Now that the rest is gone, let us talk about The Name of the Doctor.

So I just watched the latest episode of The Name of the Doctor. I went into it with little expectations, I didn't really know much about it part from what I'd seen in the trailers, I thought they were pretty revealing, they were not. I never really thought we'd get to know the name of the Doctor, why would they reveal it now after fifty years, and just before the fiftieth anniversary. But what they did reveal was in my mind greater than I would've ever dared imagine. I cannot believe how they manage to keep all of this a secret. The big reveal, the big stakes, the big changes. If for some bizarre reason you are still here, and have not watched the episode, this is your last chance. I cannot believe that they've managed to disguise and hide the death of a Doctor this well. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.

I wasn't sure how I felt about the pre-title sequence at first, I felt it was a bit lame, and that the way of including past Doctors seemed weird and weak due to the difference in film quality and grain. Clara running around seeing all the Doctors, talking about how she's always saved him. How she's always been there, but he's never seen her. Never noticed her. Mostly. The pre-title sequence's role in film and TV is to set the tone for what you're about to watch, some sets of terminology call it the "teaser". It is best recognised in crime procedurals where the first few minutes of every episode is showing the crime, setting the stake for the episode and often actually setting it a bit too high. But it's more important that it teases the audience enough to sit through the episode than not. The Name of the Doctor's teaser really did tease the episode, but in no way will you understand how and in what way till you've seen the entirety of the episode. That's what makes it so great, unfortunately it can mean that some more casual viewers will tune out and not bother watching the rest and get the greatness that is The Name of the Doctor, but I am so glad that they went for it.

There's then a small post-title teaser setting up a bit more, it starts with Vastra speaking to a prisoner, he warns of the Doctor's secret. He must go to Trenzalore.
The real episode starts Clara making a soufflé (wink, wink; hint, hint; nudge, nudge) when she gets a letter which seems to be very old. This immediately reminded me of that moment in Blink (you know the one), it's from Vastra and is inviting her to a conference call. Vastra, Jenny, Strax and (yay!) River Song all meet in a inter-timular psychic meeting. Vastra is warning them all about the news from the prisoner, and they are all worried (well, Strax isn't strictly worried, but what ever goes for worriedness on Sontar he is portraying it). 
Now one of my favourite parts of this episode happens, and it is great. Jenny starts talking about how she forgot to lock the door and that she thinks someone is there. 

"Sorry, ma'am, sorry, so sorry. So sorry, so sorry. I think I've been murdered."

The fact that's she's "actually" sitting there reporting that she's been murdered before quietly fading away is very disturbing and emotional. This was the first time in the episode I was close to tears. I don't even have a close relationship to this character, she's been cool, but she's sort of just been the sidekick of Vastra with a few surprises up her sleeve. This moment, however, is one of the most captivating I have had in any Doctor Who episode I've watched. The only thing that weakens this moment is the fact that they copped out and gave her back her life with the wave of a wand ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."). It ruined the moment for me, I wish they could've just let her die.
At this point River demands everybody wake up so they can face their attackers, but before she manages to wake Clara up (or even trying to be honest (it's complicated)) she is awakened by the sound of the Doctor's voice.

It's been a long time since I've seen the Doctor as grave as he was when Clara told him about Trenzalore and the meeting. But I were not prepared for what I would see only two cuts later.

He looked devastated, defeated, he was balling his eyes out, he looked scared out of his mind. Seeing the Doctor like this was a much a shock to Clara as it was to the audience, the Doctor is normally so held together, so courageous and brave. The fact that something could put him this far out, beat him this far down is evidence of something truly horrific and painful. He quickly pulls himself together and starts, scarcely telling Clara just what Trenzalore is, what he thinks. That it is where he is buried. 

"[We all have a grave] somewhere out there, in the future, waiting for us. The problem with time travel you can actually actually end up visiting."

The fact that he is so upset over visiting his own grave (he claims it is because it's so dangerous, having travelled so much through time - probably more than any other - it is the ultimate point of time line crossings in the universe) is heartbreaking. The Doctor has lived for so long, he's been through so much, so many worlds are alive because of him, but he is still afraid of death. That it will catch up with him. This isn't specifically mentioned in the episode, but I'd like to believe that that is what's going through the Doctor's mind. He isn't worried about the universe being at risk, it's been countless times and he's saved it every time, he's worried that he will die. Maybe because he won't be around to save the universe anymore, maybe because he'll leave someone behind, but I think, that in all the years he has been running, all the running he's done, he's been doing it because he is afraid of what will happen if he stops. 

OFF TO TRENZALORE! Regardless of how afraid he is of his own death, his friends have been attacked and taken. If he does not go to Trenzalore to face his attacker they will be lost, and that is even worse than losing himself. The TARIDS is less willing to let the Doctor die, she can live without the friends he brings along, but she cannot bear life without the Doctor. So she sabotages their attempt to get to Trenzalore, but not so much that the Doctor won't manage to push her that final mile. The TARIDS even gets a tear falling down her cheek as she realises what will happen now that they are, indeed, on Trenzalore.

I know I'm being very freely analytical and poetic about this imagery, but I do believe it is meant to mean something to that affect. At any rate, I'd like to believe so.

The entire planet is a grave yard, the grave yard of a battlefield. 
"They're soldiers; bigger the gravestone, higher the rank."
The Doctor seems to know a lot about it despite having supposedly  never been there, you might say this is just because he's seen so much that he instinctively knows things, he recognises them from past days, from repeated history. But there is something to his voice, he knows exactly where they are and what has happened there, just like he knows exactly what he is going to find.  And what does he find? The biggest gravestone of them all.

Yup, the Doctor's TARDIS from the future.

It's not actually a gravestone, it's the real TARDIS. In the words of the Doctor, it had somewhat of a size leak. And in the future it serves its purpose as the Doctor's final resting place, his tomb. 

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but seeing as you've already seen the episode you will know, the Great Intelligence is the one who summoned the Doctor to Trenzalore. He's the one who attacked the Doctor's friends, he's the one behind it all.

On their way to the tomb Clara starts remembering memories she shouldn't have, she knows that the Doctor has met her before. That she has died many times. That the Doctor is as puzzled by her as she is by him. Along with this I assume she also remembers the Doctor's name, as she learnt it right before the Doctor saw fit to erase history and let her live without the knowledge of past and future deaths she has never experienced. This leads up to a moment outside of the tomb, the Great Intelligence demands that the Doctor speaks his name as that is the key to the tomb. The only word in the universe known to no one (well, as good as seeing how many sentient souls there are out there). The Doctor does not in fact speak his name, but the doors do open. River Song who's still lurking around through a mental link with Clara from the conference call speaks it. No one except Clara can see her, and the fact that the door opened bewilders the Doctor. A clever way of avoiding the reveal of his name, but still open the door. Especially seeing as for a few moments the audience is left to believe that "Please" is the name of the Doctor. 

Inside the tomb a light is found.
"What were you expecting? A body? Bodies are boring, I've had plenty of them."
The light is a time tunnel, it consists of every second of the Doctor's life. Every place he has ever been, every person he's ever met, every second he has ever lived. The Great Intelligence is going through. He means to kill the Doctor at every single second at once. The Doctor is dying all at once, all times, all places, all regenerations, they're all dying at once and the Doctor suffers as he has never suffered before. He is screaming, he is wrenching, and it is revealed now through some miracle past-alteration-telling-machine that Vastra has that the Doctor has died in the Dalek Asylum, and then in London with Vastra and Jenny. The very places that Clara has saved him before. This is where the teaser kicks in, Clara is realising. At the same time as Vastra is witnessing the disappearance of hundred of star systems, Jenny and even Strax, Clara knows what she must do. She has to enter the tunnel herself.

The Doctor has already seen her do it, it has already been done. Clara is the impossible girl, born to save the Doctor at every time all at once. Millions of versions of Clara living only to save the Doctor. Clara herself, the real her, will die. But it is the only way to to save him. The Doctor pleads her not to go, but she has to.
"Run. Run you cleaver boy. And remember me."
The teaser runs again, slightly altered. She tells of what she has always done and will always do. She is born, she lives, she saves the Doctor, and she dies. She's been there since Gallifrey and will be there till Trenzalore.  Immediately on her entrance the universe is restored, Clara saved him, every single time. And now, just for once, just for fun, the Doctor has to save Clara. River Song, through the mental link of Clara yells at the Doctor, he cannot go through the tunnel, it will destroy him. She is about to slap the Doctor, that's when he reaches out his hand and stops her. He has always seen her. Always. He's always heard her, always listened. But he was afraid how much it would hurt to talk to her that he has ignored her. He doesn't like good byes, but River won't leave until he does, she has to hear it. Hear it as if he is to come back. 

"See you around, professor River Song."

Oh, and remember how she was there due to the mental link to Clara? How can she still be there if she's dead? River fades away, and the Doctor is left with only one option. He steps into the tunnel and finds Clara lying in a wasteland of time and space. A place where all of the Doctor's time is spread, where his ghosts roam freely and the universe comes to die. This is when Clara hears the Doctor's voice one more time. He contacts her through every day he's ever had all at once, the Doctor is reaching out to her, he wants to save her just once. She embraces him, weak through all of the lives she has just lived through all of time and space.

This is when it gets really interesting. The Doctor sees something that truly shocks him, that leaves him speechless. A man. 

Clara: "Who is that?"

The Doctor: "That is me, everything here is, that's the point."

Clara: "But how can he be? I saw all your faces and he wasn't one of them.
The Doctor: "I said he was me, I didn't say he was the Doctor. The name you choose is like a promise you've made, he's the one who broke the promise. He is my secret."
The Secret: "What I did I did without choice. In the name of peace and sanity." 
The Doctor: "But not in the name of the Doctor."

He turns around, and John Hurt is introduced as the Doctor.

This was just incredible to me. That through all of what's happened since the idea came up, through the BD leak and till today, I didn't get a single whiff of anything hinting at the 11th Doctor's adventure on television coming to an end and an old Secret stepping in to take us with. We all knew, of course, that John Hurt would be in the 50th special, there were apparently rumours that he would play a forgotten regeneration of the Doctor, that he had been involved in the Time War and therefore exiled from memory. That sort of died down when Hurt himself said his part in the special would be in a "kind of trinity".

He would play a part of the Doctor along with David Tennant and Matt Smith. I, along with others, figured it would be a kind of ghost of Christmas past, present and future thing going on. With Tennant being the past, Smith the present and Hurt the future. It seems however that some twisted version of that is what's happening. Hurt is Christmas past, how else would the Eleventh even know of him? People can scream that he was found in the time tunnel stretching all the way from beginning to end all they want, but the Eleventh knew who he was. And that means he's been him. He's not proud at all of that fact, he can't respect him, what he's done is horrible. 

If the rumours are to be believed, that has something to do with the Time War, and I wouldn't look past it. I believe that what will happen now is not the Eleventh dying, not an actual on-screen death at least, but instead of keeping up with the Eleventh and Clara we will start following the Secret. The fact that the episode introduces Hurt as the Doctor means that it isn't just a one-of thing for the anniversary or a mini-arc, at least not how I see it. I think that the entire series is being revamp again like it was when Smith took over. The entire feel and build of the show will become different. I doubt the Secret will bring many companions with him, it just doesn't seem like his style right now. And if we're going to see a man dealing with the concious of something so horrible on his back, I think we'll spend more time in gritty neighbourhoods feeling pain alone than jumping around bright star systems feeling wonder with friends. 

Many will probably dislike this, as they did when Smith came around, but I think it will certainly freshen up the show. A lot of people has started to dislike the episodes coming out, though no one will really say the show has changed or the quality sunk measurably. People have just grown to accustomed to a level of excellence and expect more. Maybe this new approach won't bring more, but it will certainly bring new. An entire new show is going to return after the 50th anniversary special. I don't know how the change will happen, and I'm having a hard time imagining it happening very smoothly. But I do believe and hope it will happen.


There was just released an interview with Smith and Tennant on playing the Doctor, and they mention "another character" that they can't talk about. They say that he's bemused by how the Tenth and Eleventh act and behave. I hope it's done well, that they don't make the Secret seem too sad and unlikeable. I'm starting to get worried that they won't get something unconfirmed just right, that's how invested I am in this show.

No, I have faith in Moffat. I believe he can do this, that he can pull it off. We are really going towards a great new era of Doctor Who, and I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Timo Vuorensola is Captured by North Koreans!

It's been known for some time now that the makers of my favourite film of 2012, Iron Sky, wants to make a sequel. Just under a week ago signs started appearing on Iron Sky's Facebook page and on various Twitter accounts.

There weren't much information following this image, part from a few odd phrases and quotes. It didn't get really interesting till Jarmo Puskala, the man who sparked Iron Sky, sent out a short and sweet tweet.

The link in his tweet went to an article posted at It declared the Nordic Genre Invasion at Cannes. A new lounge at Cannes would be hosted by a group of, well, Nordic genre films, among which "Iron Sky II: The Coming Race" sparked the most interest.

Little else was known at the time, this was all we had been given, but fans were eating it up. I know that personally I was just waiting for the big go from somewhere, something that definitely said "yes, this is happening, we have the money now". And that, came today.

I was out and about at an exhibition this afternoon, thinking nothing at all special would happen today, but then, on the bus ride home I read something amazing. A tweet from Iron Sky's director, Timo Vuorensola, the very tweet every Iron Sky fan had been waiting for since 04.04.12, a confirmation.

An indiegogo campaign has been started for Iron Sky: The Coming Race and they're asking for surprisingly little. 150.000 USD. And this is were you have to start listening, this campaign isn't for the film itself. It is solely to finish the script, make a production plan and work out a budget, and film a four-five minute promo to help get funding for the actual film. It is important that you know this, because it doesn't come very clearly out form the campaign video, you'll have to actually read it (yes, read).

In a very exciting and entertaining campaign video director Timo Vuorensola appears to be held prisoner by NOT NORTH KOREA. NORTH KOREA HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING. TIMO IS MAKING THIS VIDEO OUT OF HIS OWN FREE WILL. DO NOT WORRY. Kah! Wow, sorry about that. He appears to be taken captive by North Korean forces, not pleased with his previous film Iron Sky. Timo swears on his life that there is no such thing as the Fourth Reich and that his portrayal of North Korea in the film was horribly wrong and totally untrue, totally. 
This all hints that North Korea will be given a larger role in Iron Sky's sequel, the including of Nazi Moon soldiers implies a Nazi-North Korean coalition of sorts will be in order. Personally I hope North Korea turns out to have a base on Mars, in a nice nod to the end of the end credits of Iron Sky.

Last time around, with Iron Sky, they tried many different crowdfunding sites and methods. The film was as much an experiment on crowdfunding as it was an actual film. Their choice of indiegogo for the sequel would imply a lot of faith in the website from the film makers, but I'm still not totally convinced by the entire thing. 
First of all, the perks aren't the greatest. Let's be honest, most projects has lame perks, especially films. The best that can be done is for the most part an expensive pre-ordered film ticket, but more often it's just an expensive DVD box set with "never before seen behind-the-scenes material". And seeing how this is just a pre-production campaign things are even scarcer among the good pickings.

The first tier is $10, this will get  you a final draft of the film's script. Meaning you'll get to read the film before it's even filmed. 

The second tier of $25 ensures that you (in addition to the script) get a 24-hour head start to watch and spread the finished promo before anyone else. This basically means that you get to promote the film, as there is no way to keep the promo itself hidden from the masses once one soul has access. If you don't pay attention to your mailbox you might even end up seeing a tweet about it before you've even received your 24-hour sneak peek.

You'll have to pay $50 for the third tier, it will gain you access to the first draft of the script. You'll get to comment on it and have your opinion heard if valid. This is probably my favourite perk, as it's cooler to get a first draft and comment on it, than just the final draft or a promo. With this, you'll also get the final draft and the promo anyways, so win all the way.

$100 for the fourth tier, director Timo Vuorensola will upload a special and personal thank-you video to YouTube for you. This tier is popular with many campaigns, and I can never say it's particularly interesting. Still, for those who likes that sort of thing, this is perfect. As always, you'll get everything below this tier as well.

$500, now we're talking big money. This will get you an invitation to Finland to watch, comment and discuss the first edit of the film (I'm assuming this is for the actual film and not just the promo) with the director and producer. You're promised a nice evening "with the most awesome filmmakers in the Northern hemisphere". You'll have to pay for travel and stay, so unless you live close to Tampere or Helsinki I'd gather you wouldn't be very interested. That's more of a consumer problem than creator problem, though. Imagine the havoc of a leaked first cut of the film before it's even made it to cinemas. (also the below tiers)

For a thousand bucks you'll be invited to a script meeting to hear everything going on in the genius room. Again, travel is your worry, so this is getting awfully expensive for you if you're not even from Europe. All below tiers included as per usual.

TEN THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS! Think about that for a minute. Wow. That's a lot of money. For this huge amount of money you'll get a speaking part in the Iron Sky 2 promo. Meaning you'll be showcased around Cannes and many other places while the team tries to sell the film to secure further funding. You'll play the security officer of the POTUS, fingers crossed it's still Sarah Fakin! You'll also get your name in the end credits of the film as "Supporter" and all the below tiers.

You thought ten thousand bucks was a lot? Take a deep breath. *breath* For nothing less than $25.000 your name (personal or company) will be in the promo under the credits "Presented by", which is a pretty damn big deal. They're claiming it's a really good place to be, as the original Iron Sky trailer has been seen over twelve million times, which means one hell of an advertisement. You'll as well get all the other tiers except for the speaking part (can only be one security officer of POTUS). Wow. There's three available slots on this one, I doubt they'll all sell out, but I wouldn't put it past some rich fan putting in that money for some ad place.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm really looking forward to this film. Maybe not as much as I was to its predecessor or other future films, but once this project starts rolling and Director's Diaries and tweets starts flowing I'm sure I'll hype myself up to the extreme.
The campaign is currently at $1.592 with 55 funders averaging at 29 dollars per funder.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Into Darkness We Go

Warnings as always, this film reaction does have spoilers in it, some pretty big ones to, so if that's not your thing steer clear. It's the 10th of May, twenty thirteen, it's half past one at night, and I've just watched Star Trek Into Darkness.

I can't really say I've ever been a Trekker or Trekkie, although I did once participate in a Twitter based "WARS vs TREK" challenge on Trek's side, but I've always liked the idea of it. A few years back, in fact the year leading up to the Stark Trek reboot, I decided to plough through Star Trek before the reboot could potentially ruin the series for me. I was surprised at how much I actually liked it, the original series was well-thought out, entertaining, and brought important issues of its time (and ours!) into light. I fell in love with the characters and consumed everything I could of the original crew. I believe this is the reason why I'm one of the few who really, really like Star Trek: The Animated Series, the extra stuff possible by having the original crew animated was really great.
I went on to The Next Generation after having watched all of the original films, but I couldn't make it pass the second season (something many have claimed I really should try, as the series apparently really takes off in season three). Instead of continuing on with my plan of watching all Star Trek, I just went ahead and tried to find everything Original Crew related. I read a bunch of comics and short stories. For me Star Trek is Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, Chapel, Rand, everyone aboard good old NCC-1701 (and NCC-1701-A).

After having discovered all of this amazingness I was really looking forward to J.J. Abrams' 2009 "Star Trek", though of course cautious. I ended up really not caring much for the 2009 "Star Trek" at all, I've not even seen it again since that premier all those years ago. I just couldn't get past how young everyone was, how they acted, and how the film treated the original original crew. I didn't think much of it, I wasn't really annoyed, it just wasn't anything for me. If anything, the film had inspired me to seek out Star Trek, and I was, and am, grateful.

Fast forward a few years, and Star Trek Into Darkness is really ramping up on its advertising, people are discussing everything about it, what might happen, and who might be in it. I kept half an eye on the whole ordeal, seeing if anything interesting popped up, but part from the major discussion of who Benedict Cumberbatch was going to portray nothing really triggered my interest.

Fast forward yet again, and it's now, and I've just watched Into Darkness, I just had to. I hadn't planned on it, but I was invited, and it's not really like me to reject an invitation to a science fiction film. What followed was 133 minutes of trying to get really excited, but never being it. I just had a lot of problems with it over all, things I normally wouldn't have problems with. For example, the film starts with the Enterprise being submerged at the bottom of an ocean. It was pretty well established in the original series that the Enterprise can't even enter a planet's atmosphere, it's not built for that. In fact, if I remember correctly, a ship like that wasn't built for quite some time. But alright, I'll buy that it can fly in a planet's atmosphere, though it seems to lack any aerodynamic traits required, but that it can stay under water like that? Don't tell me that they thought of that as a possible use while building the ship. First time I've openly questioned a tech decision in a film in a long while.

But let's not get into problems I might have with technology that some writer thought might exist several decades into the future, my main problem is that the characters are supposed to be the original crew. They aren't another up-and-coming team of young rascals, I might have been fine with them, but I just can't wrap my head around that the people I'm watching are supposed to be Kirk and his gang. To me it all just registers as some stupid sketch show parody of the real deal. I don't see Kirk and Spock, I see Pine and Quinto.
They seem to try to emulate Shatner and Nimoy into the uncanny valley, I can see what they're trying to do, but they're not pulling it off. I end up seeing a film about no one, and that's kind of sad.

NOW! Let's get to some big spoilery bits, if you don't like spoilers but you've read up to this point, now's the time to jump off.
So Cumberbatch was Khan, yeah? Yup, that's who I thought he'd be, and for a while hoped he'd be, but still I'm disappointed. I wanted it to be a new person, a new villain for the new crew to deal with. Instead I'm left with a rehash of a really great character that not even Cumberbatch can do justice. I have to admit, for a while I was actually shaking in my seat of excitement and audibly giggling when I realised that they were indeed going to announce that John Harrison was in fact Khan, but that was more of a masturbatory reference reflex. I was being told to recall feelings I had of Khan from before, and those are great, but the Khan in this film just wasn't Khan at all, now was he? No. Ricardo Montalban was Khan, from the highest hair, to the lowest toe. Cumberbatch is nothing but a cheap copy meant to instil feelings of yesteryear.

It's all just masturbatory references through out the film. It borders on a remake of Wrath of Khan, a remake that doesn't dare be a remake, but it is. For example, in the very beginning Spock is ready to sacrifice his life and he says his famous Wrath of Khan line "the good of the many, outweigh the good of the few", hinting at what is going to happen later. Then, at the end, Kirk has to go into a radiation filled room, fix the warp core drive majigger and essentially kill himself. Spock then comes up to the glass door, looks at Kirk, and puts his hand besides Kirk's on the door, just like the scene in Wrath of Khan except with the roles reversed. Now, what followed was to me the stupidest moment of the film. Spock yelled out "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" in truest Kirk style. It was horrible, it didn't fit the film, it didn't fit Spock. It was all just so damn wrong, I cringed in my seat. I get annoyed just thinking back on it. Bah, perhaps I'm overreacting. Perhaps if I rewatch this film in a few years, I'll feel differently. In fact, reading what I've written, I am overreacting. It's not as bad as I want it to be, it's just that the film made me wish I'd stayed at home and watched Wrath of Khan instead.

I kind of wish I could watch the film over again without having all the knowledge of the original crew series, many I've talked to who have not seen Star Trek before quite enjoyed the film, and seemed to not find the same things bad that I did, and I suppose that's a good thing. After all, this rebooted series is supposed to be aimed at a new audience, make a new generation swoon over space exploration, and humanoid aliens galore. And for that purpose, it seems to be working.
I did not like Into Darkness, but maybe you did or will.

One last thing, can we talk about how absolutely ridiculously lazy writing it was to have young Spock contact old Spock about how to defeat Khan? I smiled when I first saw Nimoy on the screen, but that scene was so stupid, and wasn't even needed for the final takedown of Khan!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Iron Man Three - Or How Markus Got His Mojo Back

It's April twenty-fifth, twenty thirteen, twenty-two past five in the morning and I just got back from watching the UK midnight premier of Iron Man Three.

Before we start this whole thing, keep in mind that there might be things described and discussed in this post that you will consider spoilerific, if you are worried about those sort of matters I'd advice you to stop reading and maybe come back after you've actually watched the film.

I've always been a fan of comic books, but I've rarely had the patience to sit down and read a long series of them, so if you're looking for a fellow comic book aficionado's opinion you will not find it here. The love of the stories in comic books have however lead me to watch many of the animated series and films which as a kid I ate up in as huge chunks as I could find. You could imagine my glee when the X-Men film first came out in 2000, I couldn't wait to see all my favourite characters from X-Men: The Animated series and X-Men: Evolution come to life on the big screen. I watched in awe at the characters, what they did and tried to figure out why they did what they did, little did I know that I was witnessing the birth of a new wave of films.
Few years later my favourite character from my favourite cartoon showed up in the form of Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, I couldn't stop watching it. I thought about him all the time, how special he was, what he stood for, and how I wanted to be like him. Not just have the powers, but be good like him. To be a hero. Few films have shaped my as much as Spider-Man did in its day, and it still holds a place in my heart as one of my favourite films.

I was always excited to see superhero films, but for a while I weren't the fanboy that I used to be. I started my cinematic discovery phase, akin to how some more free spirits may travel the world to find themselves, I watched films. All films I could watch I would watch, I wasn't discriminative. I went from watching maybe a few films a month at best to watching at least a film a day, or at the very least every other day. I thought myself somewhat higher on the rank of film watchers than those around me, that my opinion was better because I had based it on a wider spectrum of films, I had seen what ranked between amazingly beautiful to horrendously hideous. It was towards the end of this period that the company that stood behind several of my favourite childhood superheroes started making their own films.

In 2008 Marvel Studios released the film simply titled Iron Man. Up to this point I had actually heard surprisingly little about this superhero considering how much time I had spent watching men and women in tights fight bad guys, but I tried it out. I didn't like it. All around me people were hailing it as the saviour of the superhero film genre, that finally someone had got it right and hit the jackpot. I couldn't really care less about the film, I found it to be alright, perfectly acceptable for what it was, but not for me. It was just another film to add to my spectrum.

Disregarding my criticisms Marvel went ahead and released more films, The Incredible Hulk was released the same year as Iron Man, in fact a mere month later. I enjoyed it more than Iron Man, but I didn't really understand why they'd had to go back and change so much about how Ang Lee's Hulk worked. I liked how it was set up, its goofiness, its comic book style, it reminded me of X-Men and Spider-Man. The new Hulk film was too different for my taste, it was gritty, it was dark, it had some humour in there of course, but the overall tone put me off, it wasn't to my liking.
My experiences with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk lead me to never watching Iron Man 2, I just skipped it, I figured I wouldn't like it, I figured I would save myself the trouble, there were plenty of other films to add to my spectrum.

Then one tiny, insignificant, inconsequential thing happened, I joined Twitter. I joined Twitter originally to keep up with updates on the then-in-pre-production series Stargate Universe, but I discovered that I could also use the networking site to keep up to date with other projects, news, and even make a few friends. One thing lead to another and I ended up following Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, two science-fiction screenwriters who at the time had just finished writing a film called THOR. They shared a lot of how they had written it, what they thought of, and Zack in particular shared many an amusing tale from Norse lore that I absolutely adored. I had long been a keen watcher of Norse mythology, but never studied it much beyond what was required for me in school, but Zack got me really interested. The fact that him and Ashley were going to have a superhero film out about a superhero based upon the most famous of Norse gods really sprung my interest. I bought a ticket for the premier and went in with high expectations to a studio which had twice previously let me down. Nearly two hours later I left the cinema, and I was amazed, it was the most spectacular and fantastic superhero film I had seen. I fell in love.

I didn't just fall in love with Thor and his story, I fell in love with superheroes all over again, I fell in love with Marvel. The following few weeks I spent most of my free time on iTunes renting and buying everything that Marvel had released, and what I couldn't find there I got at my local video store. There was so much to take in, so many films that had been made, so many series that had been created, and I wanted to watch it all. I ploughed through all of Marvel Animation's films and TV series, the Spider-Man films, X-Men films, Daredevil, Elektra, everything that had been released since my birth in little more than a week. And I was hungry for more. I turned my head back towards what had lead me off of superhero films for so long, Iron Man. I typed Iron Man into the little search bar on the iTunes film store, clicked the rent for 3.99 button that at the time was extremely dear to me, I waited a few seconds for the film to buffer, and I hit play.

Two hours later all of my previous notions were shattered, I did no longer find Iron Man to be a mess of a film, I didn't think it was far beneath the likes of Spider-Man and X-Men, I did not think it was a disgrace to what I had hoped it would be; I discovered that it was greater than I had ever even considered it could be. It was what a superhero film should be like, at least in this day and age, it had a few rough edges, but what I saw it had meant to superhero films ever since was tremendous. Without Jon Favreau's Iron Man from 2008 the superhero scene would be far, far from what it is today. And not just Marvel's library of films, all films, be they the nemesis DC or other third-party competitors. It's the biggest change of heart I have ever had about a film, I went from loathing a film to loving it. Iron Man was in a class of its own, it was the truest I had seen of any comic book film adaptation, it was glorious. I quickly put on Iron Man 2 to see what I had missed out on there, but I fear that perhaps my over-excitement over Iron Man tainted my experience and has ever since. Iron Man 2 is a decent superhero film, but there are many that are better, it felt very standard and mediocre, it had managed to stale a new type of superhero films just a few years after its birth, but luckily THOR changed it up again.

Two months after having first watched THOR I was sat at the cinema again, waiting for the premier of Captain America: The First Avenger, which in my opinion is the best film Marvel Studios has made that isn't a team-up film, when it got its home release I watched it several times in a few days, I just loved it, and it had been months since my initial love spurt, it proved to me that what Marvel was doing was indeed something special, at least to me.

Fast forward to April of last year, just over a year ago, I was sat at Bergen cinema watching one of the very first screenings of Avengers in the world. I had had very high hopes for Avengers, it was supposed to be everything I had learned to love over the past year merged together by the man who had made several of my favourite television series, it sounded too good to be true. I was in the middle of the final months of a production at the time, but I had told my entire team to take half a day of and join me at the cinema for the Avengers world premier. I made up some speech about how it would boost team morale and that they all needed a break, but I just really wanted to see that film, and I didn't want to wait any longer. The lights dimmed, the Marvel logo spun, the tesseract showed its glory, the alien scene played and I was enthralled beyond my wildest expectations. Every scene tested my attention, how much I could actually pay it, I hung on every word dropped from every breath, I watched every movement made from every thought, I didn't study it, I was engulfed by it. I wanted to know everything, I wanted to see everything, everything was so great, even though a row of unwieldy teenager behind me made every attempt to draw my attention to them, I couldn't. The experience was beyond anything I had ever had before and I doubt it'll ever happen again. Seeing the likes of Iron Man and Thor side by side, was more than I could've ever dared dream of. I wept tears of sorrow and I wept tears of happiness, I let out laughs of relief and I let out laughs of resent. It was and is the best hundred and forty three minutes I've ever spent at a cinema, and it saddens me just a little bit that I'm likely to never experience that again. On my way out of the cinema I was so dazzled that I actually tripped and fell flat on my face, bruising both my arms and numbing my upper lip for the better part of a day, but it was still an amazing event. I ended up watching Avengers six times total at the cinema, I learned to love every line and every eye twitch, it was amazing.

It has been with a slight pain that I have now had to over a year for the continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all I've had in between are a few mediocre episodes of television series to keep my appetite whet, but finally Iron Man Three tickets appeared available for purchase at my local cinema, and I went straight ahead and got myself a ticket for the UK midnight premier.
I had pretty high expectations to Iron Man Three, not as high as to The Avengers, I never thought it could hold that throne warm, but I expected it to kick of the next phase of Marvel films for a good start. A great start.

The lights dimmed all the way down and a voice started speaking over the blackened screen ahead of me, Tony Stark spoke with a voice not of confidence as he normally would, but with a voice of concern, a voice of self-understanding, a voice of wisdom. The Marvel logo spun on, and the film officially began. From the very first time I saw Tony, till the very last I was stuck in a stare at the screen. It was magical, all I had to do was sit there and watch as the screen played the most wonderful image sequences to me. The film was great, perhaps even spectacular. There wasn't a moment in the picture where I thought to myself that something could've been done better, I was just sat watching, taking it all in. The first fresh smell of Marvel in a year, it was beyond my expectations of the film. It was not as great as Avengers, neither did I think it'd be; and it was not better than the first Iron Man, however much I would want it to be. But that's no disgrace, the fact that two such great films are better does not make a bad film.

One of the better things about Iron Man Three is that it isn't as much about Iron Man as it is about Tony Stark, more so than it's two predecessors. The main antagonist of the film is, I would say, Tony's struggles with the aftermath of what happened in New York. Of what happened when the Avengers had to save the Earth from a mighty alien invasion all on their own. Tony is exhausted, he can't sleep without dreaming of New York, he spends every moment working on his Iron Man suits, making one for just about every occasion he can think of. All he really wants is safety, safety from villains, safety from the media, and most importantly safety for Pepper. Pepper is all he truly cares about in the world, and the reasons he saves it is her. She is his world, but he can't always be there for her when she needs him most, and that kills him. The fact that with all the power he has in the world, every child in our world knows his name and his suit, he has more money than money can buy, but when it comes right down to it, not even his personal army of Iron Man suits can stop the bad men of the world taking Pepper from him. Tony is helpless, he is far from home, and he needs to save Pepper. That is what this film is about, it's a step down in scale from the intergalactic war that is Avengers, but it's a step up in scale in terms of its emotional score. There are things you can do with characters in these individual films that you just can't do in the big team films where half a dozen characters are fighting for the main light. There is just Tony. And that is more than enough.

Now, of course, it wouldn't be Iron Man without a huge fight between Tony and the main human antagonist towards the end, and Iron Man Three does not disappoint. Not one, not two, but closer to forty five Iron Man suits end up surrounding Tony, the main bad guy Killian and his army. All the suits are working together at Tony's will and JARVIS' power, it's a spectacular sight, and seeing all those different suits is a treat for anyone who's read a few Iron Man comics. You will definitely recognise a few of the designs, I'll guarantee that. It's all very fun, but not as sweet as the actual ending. Tony is finally feeling better, he's got Pepper safe now, he's got himself safe now, and he's knows that Pepper can take care of her own safety now should Tony not be able to. It's a sweet ending, and it would be kind of fitting for the end of a trilogy. But even though I am usually a strong believer of not making more films than necessary surrounding the same characters, I'll make an expectation here and really hope that there will be an Iron Man 4 some time in Phase Three. It would not be the Marvel Cinematic Universe if Tony didn't have his adventures represented throughout.

It's April twenty-fifth, twenty thirteen, twenty-two past five in the morning and I just got back from watching the UK midnight premier of Iron Man Three. I thought it was great, and I highly recommend that you go watch it (in cinemas) as soon as you possibly can. It is a must-see this year. Tony is safe.