Sunday, 31 August 2014

Planes: Fire & Rescue - DisneyToon Outdoes Pixar

Cars might be the most profitable franchise Pixar has when it comes to merchandising, but it's also the one least liked by its more adult audiences, holding primarily the attention of the younger viewers who would love a Lightning McQueen bedspread or Tow Mater toothbrush. Last year Disney decided to expand it even further, giving DisneyToon Studios the go-ahead to produce a direct-to-video film set in the same universe. It would end up being called "Planes".

It was a kind of laughingstock from early on. Especially the title "Planes" became a joke, leading some to wonder whether the next film would be "Boats", "Trains", or "Submarines". Disney, however, had faith. "Planes" was always meant to get a theatrical release in Europe, but some of the first completed sequences from the film impressed them enough to push for it to be released in theatres in North America as well. It went on to gross nearly $220 million on a budget of "just" $50 million, needless to say a sequel was soon announced, released not even a year after the first film.

"Planes" was in my opinion a completely okay film. In some aspects I liked it better than both "Cars" and "Cars 2", and in other parts it was less good. Overall I enjoyed it more, I felt they had learned what Pixar had done right and what they had done wrong with their own films, and DisneyToon managed to cherry pick to the best of their ability while still making the film not feel completely the same. The film was about racing as "Cars" and most of "Cars 2" were about, but it wasn't the tale of a superstar car who'd already won his fair share of prices, this was a just a simple crop duster who dreamed bigger. Not a revolutionary concept, but still a tad more interesting and exciting than watching McQueen learn about the simple life in "Cars".

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" takes the concept even further, even further than Pixar managed with their installments of the franchise. "Planes 2" starts of kind of like the first "Cars" did. You have the superstar hotshot who's participated in several races, but he's still the same plane as he was before. He never abandoned his friends, or moved away. Instead what he does is try to help them even more. He finds out that he can no longer race because of a faulty gearbox that there haven't been produced in years. He then decides to help out the town the only way he thinks he can, he goes to get a fire fighting certificate so that he can join the town's local fire station, keeping the town open and safe for the upcoming corn festival. Again, this isn't something revolutionary, but it's not bad either. The execution is great. You like the characters, you believe what they're going through, they're funny, they're emotional, it's a much more solid sequel than "Cars 2" was to "Cars". "Cars 2" tried too hard, but yet too little, to be completely different from "Cars". Changing the main character and the main concept of the film. "Planes 2" just elevates and brings forth better quality to "Planes". It's the same basic theme, a struggling plane wants to be something he's not, but it works.

It helps that the supporting characters are fun and interesting as well. I was worried we'd get too much of the "look at how outrageously hilarious this character is" like we get with many lower-budget animated films. Hell, with all animated films. But they managed to keep it just right throughout the picture. "Planes 2" might not deserve any awards, but it just might deserve a watch. At least if you've found yourself only somewhat entertained by the previous installments of the "Cars" franchise.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

DW: Into the Dalek - The Doctor Is In!

I wasn't quite sold on the new tone set by the new Doctor in last week's premiere episode, but Into the Dalek goes a long way in getting me interested in buying.

This episode really doesn't mess about when it comes to the story and plot. There's nearly no mention to this being a "new" Doctor, or how he's now almost completely different from before. They've done the wise decision of jumping ahead a bit in time in order to establish the feeling that this Doctor and Clara has been on their own fair deal of adventures. That they've gotten to know each other, that they have developed their own rapports and there's no need for dilly-daddling around the non-issue. Leaving the question about what kind of person he is now available to more fun ways of addressing it than just having two characters sit down and talk about it every episode.

There was however some, I felt, developmental problems. There's a new character introduced, Danny Pink, who works alongside Clara at Coal Hill School. They're adding him because there will be no romance or flirting between this Doctor and Clara, so Danny gets to now act as the romantic aspect of the show. This is completely fair, it's been done before in the show, many times. Most recently with Amy and her would-become husband Rory. But they didn't successfully sell Danny Pink as an actual person. He seems a bit too constructed and flat. First of all, they didn't give him much screen time. He was basically there only for the first and last segments of the episode, acting as a kind of grounding element in Clara's life. The little alone time we do get with him is really odd, it feels like they tried to cram far too much backstory into the character right off the bat. Within just a couple of minutes we know that he was a solider in the war, and that he's killed someone who wasn't an enemy soldier. They way they chose to show this was to first have him tell his class that he was a soldier, and when prompted if he'd ever killed someone who wasn't a soldier they did a sudden close-up of his face to reveal a single tear rolling down his face. It was just too much.

The Doctor, though, was just the right amount. From the moment we first see him he's right on key. He feels like he's already been through a couple of years as a character, he acts like he's always had the exact personality he has now. Peter Capaldi just generally sells his incarnation of the Doctor as a real person. The part I still haven't entirely bought into yet is how silly his adventures seem in terms of the apparent seriousness of the character. Don't get me wrong, it's not like he's portrayed even half as serious and moody as the teasers and trailers lead us to believe, but there's still somewhat of an offbeat gap between him and his situations. Into the Dalek is basically a retooling of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage where people shrunk down in order to be sent into another living being's body, in the case of Into the Dalek a Dalek. It's a silly, b-film concept which I normally love, but I don't quite like it in the context of Capaldi's Doctor. It feels much more like something Smith's Doctor would've happened onto. I can practically hear his Doctor oohing and aahing at the marvelous technology, and how fantastic even the evil Daleks are. Instead we got Capaldi's Doctor walking briskly around lecturing everyone on what everything is.

There are some nice themes in the episode, we get to know the new Doctor a lot more than we got to during the last episode. We get to see him react to an entirely different environment and see how he interacts with new characters and threats. They also help spring what seems to be the overall theme for this new series: "Who is the Doctor?" Not necessarily who he is as in what his name and nationality is, but as in what kind of man he is. Why is he the person he is? Where does his faces come from? What makes him him? It's a common and oftused theme in the Doctor Who franchise, but it's for a good reason. It's always exciting to get to know the Doctor, to peel back even more layers from him. See what's underneath, what has lead him up to this point in time. I think we're in for a treat.

But who is Missy?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Kevin Bacon Interested In Tremors Reboot/Sequel For Cinema?

It's been a while now since we last heard anything about the alleged Tremors reboot/sequel, last we heard Don Michael Paul was on his way to South Africa, where the film was rumoured to film. But now there's word, from the horse's mouth, that Kevin Bacon might be interested in a follow-up as well.

It was brought to my attention by the author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors, Jonathan Melville, that Kevin Bacon talked about wanting to revisit the Tremors universe in an interview with the Huffington Post. He goes on to say:

I have a real dream right now, which is to reboot [Tremors] and see the character twenty five years down the line, and see what that guy may have become.

He also talks about how he at the point of filming Tremors felt it was the lowpoint of his career, but that after recently watching the film again found it to be quite fun and entertaining. But what's perhaps most interesting is that what Kevin Bacon is talking about in his quote is a sequel, yet using the term reboot. Which was also done by Don Michael Paul in his now-deleted blog post where he first talked about doing Tremors. The concept Bacon comes up with here is quite different from what Stampede has talked about before, though, which is a film just about Burt Gummer in Australia, with no one else from previous installments present. But perhaps this is what the alleged rewrites were about? Making room for Valentine McKee to return in some capacity. Perhaps he lives in Australia?

Could Kevin Bacon have been in talks with Universal about a Tremors sequel/reboot? Unlikely, at least for this currently rumoured production, but it does seem awfully coincidental that Bacon is talking about it just around the same time. It might also further explain a certain part of Don Michael Paul's tweet about going to South Africa.

I initially thought that "illusive silver nitrate dream" was just a reference to that silver nitrate is used in photography, but I also played with the thought that it could be a reference to "the silver screen" which the cinema is often called. Why would Don Michael Paul be in the search of the "illusive silver nitrate dream" if he just means directing a film, he's already directed quite a few home releases. I also doubt that Kevin Bacon would come back for a film that goes straight to home release, or rather that Universal would waste him on such a release. Is Tremors coming back to the big screen? Probably not, but it's fun to speculate.

You can watch the interview below:

Monday, 25 August 2014

BoJack Horseman Season One - Netflix Goes Animated

It took a while before I first heard about BoJack Horseman, and after I did it took a while for me to hear about it again. The trailer never really got to me, it seemed like just another wacky and absurd cartoon centred around adult themes. But when Netflix first tweeted they had released it, I gave it a go. And I'm glad I did.

It took a couple of episodes before it really took off, but when it did it was kind of amazing. The absurdity of the universe in which the series takes place gets more and more normal as you go on, like a good series would make you feel. You don't get surprised at the uncommon situations that takes place anymore, it just feels like they belong in the world. The show is actually funny, on the surface it doesn't seem like the kind of show I'd normally like, but the dry and matter-of-fact humour mixed in with the obscurity and an everyday life makes it a little bit special.

Though, to be fair, this isn't some unique snowflake of a show. It still follows a lot of the basic tropes of its genres, and some of the plot lines gets kind of annoying and repetitive. Not because they've done them before in the show, but because they've been done so often in other shows similar to it. There's the classic deadline episode, where the characters have to finish a task in far too little time, resulting in "hilarious" consequences. Don't get me wrong, the show doesn't do the tropes badly, they do them just fine, but you've seen it before and it end up taking away from the experience as a whole.

The thing that's perhaps the most interesting and fun about the show is how serial it is. There's a a central theme and plot to the entire season as a whole, but they still manage to make a lot of the episodes somewhat episodic. I think it's become more required these days to set up shows like this, but that's generally reserved for live action television. Animated shows are usually a bit more careful, and tend to stay with their episodic episodes that rather reference past events than set up future ones. But BoJack Horseman does a great job at keeping you interested throughout the season without letting you forget what it's all supposed to lead to.

I'm not a huge fan of the animation style, however. But that's more because of the large trend to have a "lazier" style than before than to do with BoJack Horseman in particular. You can see the different mouth shapes without any real morphing going on, and characters often just glide around on the screen rather than actually move. It's simpler and cheaper to generate that kind of animation, but it's also not as exciting to watch as more vivid frame-to-frame animation that for example early The Simpsons had a lot of. The style doesn't necessarily distract from what's happening, and I like the design/look of the characters. How they dress, how they behave, and how they generally appear, but I think utilising a different animation style would've benefited it more.

Overall it's a rather fun and good show. The characters and fun to watch, the situations are interesting to see unfold, the voices are good, and you actually care about a lot of what's going on. Sure, it might seem like a lot of other current animated shows, but it's still fun and entertaining. If you like shows like Bob's Burgers, Archer, The Simpsons, Futurama, or South Park, you will probably like this. It's worth it to give it a try at the very least, you won't regret it.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Boyhood - Mediocrity 12 Years in the Making

Boyhood is the film I've heard the most talk about this year, at least of films that weren't big Hollywood blockbusters. It was certainly the most well-talked about film. People raving about how good it was, and how groundbreaking it was. This past Friday it finally premiered in Norway, and I got to watch it earlier today.

The most interesting thing about Boyhood was that it was filmed on and off again over a period of eleven and a half years, with the same actors throughout the production. It is chronicling the Mason's life from the age of eight and up until he moves off to college on his own. It is supposed to show the audience the boyhood of a more or less normal kid, how he changes and evolves as he grows up, and how different living situations affect him at different ages. It's undoubtedly an interesting idea, but that's pretty much where it stops.

The first few years were basically just an introduction to Mason and his family, how everything worked and who everyone was. They crammed a lot of stuff into those years, including a lot of pop-cultural references that felt forced the longer they went on. I get that the writer-director wanted to remind us what time period we were in, and that it wasn't the current one, but it mostly just seemed odd on-screen. It got to the point where rather than me going "oh, I remember that" I went "it's interesting that they managed to pick so many things that would still be somewhat relevant today". It got me, personally, to think more about the production behind the film than the story on the film, but that could very well be a problem entirely with me.

It's fun to see the character grow up in a real way on-screen instead of having a bunch of different actors portraying the same character at different ages, but when it was all put together I still felt like it was more or less a slightly above mediocre film. The acting was done well by the parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, but the kids were more difficult to deal with. I thought the girl who played Mason's sister Sam, Lorelei Linklater, was okay, but she had less to do than Ellar Coltrane who played Mason. You can often forgive children's performances in film. I don't know exactly why we do it, but it's natural to us as an audience that children aren't typically good actors. We manage to suspend our disbelief even further than usual in order to still enjoy the film. But you see Ellar so much, and he grows up before you, it gets difficult to not see that he isn't getting better at acting. Look him up at his IMDb page and you'll find only four other films beside Boyhood. Spaced evenly between 2002 and 2009. If he hasn't been involved in a lot of other acting work, there hasn't been much practice in between shooting sessions on Boyhood. It's hard to blame the film for this, as you have no idea how a kid will develop in that way, but it still hurts the film experience.

There were also a lot of repetitive situations in the film. The characters kept finding themselves in the same bad scenarios with the same bad people, over and over again. I, again, understand that this is something that happens a lot in real life. People don't really recognise what went wrong before, and ends up seeking it out again, but when it happens in the compressed narrative of a film it gets old quick. Especially when we spend so much time in the scenarios each time. They start to seem pointless because you know where they're going. You end up just waiting for it to come to the end you know is coming, and starts noticing the other minor annoyances that might have gone unnoticed had you been fully involved with the plot. I know that this isn't the kind of film where the plot is really a plot-plot, like you'd find in Trans4mers or Avengers. It's a slice of life, an experience picture. You're living alongside the characters just watching life unfold. But their lives just aren't interesting enough for me to really care or get entertained in any heightened fashion. It's just a thing that's happening.

Overall, the film isn't really bad. No matter how much I might have just bashed it. But it's far from as good as the critics want you to believe. It's a completely decent film, that manages to at least keep you entertained enough that the almost three-hour run time doesn't feel too long. If you're into more artsy and experimental films you might like this one, but I don't think you'd lose too much of the experience by just waiting for it to get a home release. It doesn't use its screenspace particularly well, and will most likely work just as good on a monitor you have at home.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Doctor Who Series 8 Premiere: Deep Breath - He Still Carries On

Just shy of a year ago the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special screened on cinemas all across the world at the same time. Bringing the entire world together in a collected moment. It was such a huge success that this year they decided to do it again, in the episode properly introducing the latest incarnation of the Doctor. The one played by Peter Capaldi.

I haven't been a fan of Doctor Who for very long, I'm afraid. I didn't get on the hype train until just three years ago. August 25th, 2011 I first really watched an episode of Doctor Who. I had promised myself I would watch it from the beginning, watching all of the classic episodes before embarking on the post-relaunch, but I just couldn't help starting off at Eccleston's first episode "Rose". I was hooked from the beginning, plowing through the post-relaunch series in a month, despite pulling double-digit hours at college most days. Ever since then I've watched every episode the moment I was able. Be it on iTunes the following day, or in later cases on iPlayer Live just as it was airing on television. I almost feel like it all lead up to this, the first time I had to see a Doctor really go. I had seen Eccleston and Tennant go, but just in the flash of a month. Matt Smith will always be my Doctor. He's the one who was on when I started watching. He's the one I watched for three more years. He's the one I met! He's the one I loved. And now he's gone.

I didn't really know what to expect going into this new series of Doctor Who with a brand new Doctor. I knew that this new Doctor was allegedly going to be far more serious than Smith and Tennant, but that was more or less it. But I still got my ticket the moment they were made available, and got in my seat even earlier than I used to. I wasn't going to give up on the show I loved so much just because there had been a change in cast. I still wanted to be blown away. I wanted Peter Capaldi to show me that he's just as good as my Doctor. I wanted the show to live on. But I'm not entirely convinced he managed to show me that.

Don't get me wrong, the episode wasn't bad. But it was very different, more different than I had expected. Why I hadn't expected more of a difference I don't know, but I hadn't. It took a while to get into it. An entirely new Doctor amongst all these familiar characters. A Doctor who isn't sure who he is, or what anything or anyone else is or are. When he first walked into the scene it was weird. He acted somewhat like Smith did as his Doctor. He flailed a bit around. He made funny remarks, funny faces. But every other character seemed to have the same kind of dumbfoundedness as I had. Something just didn't feel right. It walked like the Doctor, it quacked like the Doctor, but was it the Doctor?

The episode's main plot is the Doctor figuring out who he is, and generally how to deal with his new face and the people closest to him not recognising him, but it's set around a series of murders in Victorian London. And I have to say, I'm not overtly found of Doctor Who episode sets in Victorian London. It seems like such a waste to me. Put a man of his genius and advancement in the middle of a backwards backwater. I like having the occasional period piece in Doctor Who, seeing him walk around through history, but Victorian London has been done to death for me. Luckily this just didn't feel the same. Maybe it's because there was a spanking new Doctor, but it felt fresher and different from the other times. It was more enjoyable. There was less of a focus on the fact that it was set in Victorian London, it just happened to be.

I am going to get a bit deeper, not into the plot exactly, but into what results from the plot. So if you for some reason is reading this without having watched the episode yet, you might want to close this tab now. 

The apparent plot to start with is the appearance of a giant dinosaur in the Thames in the middle of London. Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax immediately appear at the scene to investigate what exactly is going on. They soon find the Doctor's TARDIS being coughed out of the dinosaur's throat. The entire plot of the dinosaur stranded, lost and alone in London is just a way of dealing with the Doctor being stranded, lost and for all intents and purposes alone, in the universe. I found it to be at times a bit too on the nose, having the Doctor actually say what the dinosaur is feeling in a way that makes it obvious that it applies to himself as well. It just came off as a bit too obvious, especially considering how short-lived the dinosaur plot was.

Turns out it wasn't just a front for the Doctor's emotions, it was also a way of setting up the main plot. A rogue cyborg on a killing spree. I liked this part of the episode a lot better. It wasn't as in your face about what it was, and most of the time it actually ended up on the backburner. Serving as purely a way of getting everyone together to figure out who the cyborg was, and what he wanted. During it we learn a lot about the new Doctor. What he's capable of doing, what he thinks of himself, what he thinks of others, and just overall development of this new sub-character. We start to really see who Capaldi's Doctor is. The mannerisms left over from Smith slowly fade away, and he starts picking up his own, and before you even realise it there's a brand new Doctor in front of you.

I liked that they also mentioned the Doctor having seen his new face before. For those of you might not know, Peter Capaldi has previously acted in the Doctor Who universe. Both as a multi-episode villain in Torchwood, and as a single-episode character in Doctor Who (different characters, just to be clear). Showrunner Steven Moffat has said before that this will be addressed, that the Doctor will at least try to learn where his faces come from. Why they look the way they do when they come. How he can renew himself but end up with an old face from seemingly nowhere. But it wasn't too obvious. It was a bit obvious for those who might follow the surroundings of production, but generally it was just enough to implant the idea that there was something important about him having seen his face before. It neatly sets us up for a new long-arc that might not even be resolved in just one series.

At this point I rather liked the episode, but I wasn't entirely sold on the new tone quite yet. I was still getting over my Doctor being gone. I was still kind of expecting Matt Smith to show up. Which is why I was completely caught off guard when we all of a sudden hear his voice over the telephone. There he was again. Telling us, telling me, not to worry. That the seemingly new man is still him. It's the same Doctor, he just looks and acts a bit different. I almost teared up at it. The idea that the Doctor had the foresight to call Clara, to make sure that she was okay after he was "gone", it cemented how nice and caring he really can be. Especially after an episode where that is really brought into question. It warmed my heart.
Still not entirely sold though. It might have been a good ending, but the preceding episode still left me feeling odd and uncertain. I am still not entirely sold on it. I don't know how long it will take. I don't know if I will ever get over it. My Doctor is gone, but he still carries on.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Jarhead 2: Field of Fire (Unrated) - Tremors 5 Director's Latest Is Not Bad

The only reason I decided to watch Jarhead 2: Field of Fire was because its director, Don Michael Paul, is going to direct the fifth film of the Tremors franchise. I made sure to watch the first film first, but I have to say, its sequel is not half as bad as I expected.

Going through Don Michael Paul's IMDb credits for directing is a sobering experience for a Tremors fan. Sure, all the Tremors sequels were directed by people who hadn't directed anything at that point either (the writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock directed 2 and 4, and 3 respectively), but they were involved with the characters already. They knew very well the universe they were setting up as they had written all of it. Don Michael Paul is more of a wild card. Universal wants to see if they can get any life back into the franchise, so they got a director well-versed in straight-to-home release films, and he even has a monster film under his belt (Lake Placid: The Final Chapter). Jarhead 2: Field of Fire convinced me he might direct a decent Tremors 5.

Let's get one thing straight first, although this shares a franchise with the 2005 Sam Mendes film, they have little to nothing in common. They might have just called it Field of Fire and just gotten a few remarks on how it was ripping off Jarhead, but they elected not to. The film does look like it's set in the same universe, however. It is filmed similarly, it uses some of the same tropes as the first film, and the central theme is shared. But beyond that they're two different films about two different sets of people.

The visuals were easily the best part of the film. I'm not certain how big of a budget this production had, but I doubt very much it came even close to the first film's 72 million dollars. Considering what they had, they managed to make a film that looked, most of the time, just as good as the first one. The only major differences were in the equipment, if I had to take a guess, the picture wasn't always as striking and interesting as in the first film. But they made up for it with its cinematography and costume designs. Sure, the costume designs are pretty standard, and military films aren't exactly uncommon, but it worked.

The worst part of the film is divided between the writing and the acting. I can't quite decide which is to blame the most for some of the lines that are sprinkled throughout the film. Lines that just feel out of place, and spoken oddly and completely out of character. At some points they even throw in "random" exposition segments which feels like they didn't even try to make it more organic and natural. They just threw the exposition into the film, and hoped it would stick. Because of some of these the film just feels longer than it should. 103 minutes isn't that long for a film these days, but when I got to the 90-minute mark I had already checked the remaining time twice. I just lost interest in it. The characters didn't hold up for the duration of the film, and I started wishing they would just get to the end. Not a good sign.

Overall the film is just above "okay". I don't know if I would say it is a good film, but it certainly isn't a bad one. There are times in there when I felt like I was watching a genuine big-budget Hollywood film, in a good way, but there are also times that makes me feel like I'm watching a high school play. I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone asking for something to watch, but I would neither recommend against watching it. If you're the type of person who don't need every film to be amazing, you'll probably enjoy this one. It's fun, it's interesting, and it's visually pleasing. All in all an alright ride.

This film made me think Don Michael Paul might not be so bad at Tremors 5. He's not going to have anything to do with the script, that I've heard of at least, and I would call Jarhead 2 badly written before I called it badly directed. Of course this is a very small sample size to make any educated guesses, but considering this is one of the last of his films that's going to be released before Tremors 5, it's promising.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Raid 2: Berandal - I'm Afraid Too, Randal

The Raid 2 was released in its home country of Indonesia way back on March 28th, but it wasn't until last Friday it made it to cinemas in Norway. I was lucky enough to get to watch it on Thursday, at the last screening in my home town.

It didn't have the best of luck when it comes to the Norwegian film market. It was released the same week as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, just a week after Guardians of the Galaxy and Hercules (which is a big hit in Norway because of the Norwegian actors), and a mere five days before the Norwegian drive-away hit Børning. In its premiere weekend it got 440 visitors, two hundred less visitors than Rio 2 which was enjoying its 18th week at cinemas. Monday through Thursday this week 857 people went to watch it, over a thousand less than who watched Rio 2. Unfortunately it just didn't get enough traction, so my local cinema announced its last screening to be not even a week after the premiere. It's hard to say exactly what it was. Børning opened on a Wednesday and managed to get away with sixty thousand viewers by closing on Thursday. It generated long lines and full theatres all across Norway, but people just weren't interested in The Raid 2. Maybe they hadn't even heard about it. I barely ever saw a trailer for the film, because most mainstream films in Norway don't really fit into the same category as The Raid 2, so the trailer doesn't get to run in front of them, but they still bet on it. Stavanger cinema played it every night from Friday to Thursday in one of its newest and best equipped theatres that can hold 108 people, but on the last screening only six people showed up. There just weren't any interest.

Luckily most people who watched it did enjoy. Getting an 8.5 out of 10 from audience votes on Filmweb, and a 7.5 from critics. And I have to say I agree. It's easy to look at a foreign film and outright dismiss it because it's from a culture you know very little about, and you'd have to "read it". But this is really good, and you won't find yourself lost in the cultural differences because of its Welsh director. He manages to make the film feel exotic and foreign, but still close to home. We can relate to the character's troubles and situations, we're all people.

As the title suggests this is a sequel, to The Raid: Redemption from 2011, and it's not the kind of sequel you can just sit down and watch and understand everything. At least not in the same way you would having watched the first film. It starts right off the bat with the story, almost as if nothing at all happened between the first and second film. We're thrown right into it, and even I who watched the first film just earlier this year was at some points thrown off by events and characters I didn't completely remember. Luckily the director/writer sneaks in hints and nudges throughout, making you remember exactly what you need to remember, and soon enough you'll be up to speed and there's no problem following the story.

The story is a lot more complex and interesting than last time. We get to follow a whole cast of different people doing different things, all with different agendas and paths to reach them. I'll admit, to begin with it was a bit poorly structured. You would follow the main-main character Rama for a while, making you think it was all about him, and then they suddenly started throwing in more characters. You started following the kingpin Bangun for a little while, and then you thought maybe him and Rama were the main characters. But then they threw in more, and more, and then some more. After the first two throw-ins you start to get the picture. You see how they're all connected and you get interested in their stories. But I wish it had been done from the beginning. It can be hard to fully care or at least pretend to care about character when he/she only gets introduced three quarters through the film. Because in the end it is glorious, we get to see every story arc play out amongst themselves, we get to see how they connect and intertwine, and it gives us a bit more perspective on the whole story than just following Rama would. But it does feel like they wanted a TV series more than a film, it can be a lot to take in in a 150-minute film. Even though the film is as long as it is, it rarely stays quiet, there's almost always something happening. Almost always.

The moments between the almost always can be cruel. You've followed the story development for quite some time, and suddenly it just ends, instead you get fight scenes that lasts between five and fifteen minutes. The fight scenes are amazingly well done, they're cool to look at, and generally more creative than what you get from other films, but they still make the film almost stop. It's the same problem Børning had. You have the story, and then you just push that out of the way because you want to focus on the niche of your genre for a little while. There should've been a better way of handling it, and presenting it. But hopefully you will still find some enjoyment in those segments, I did, I just felt they were out of place. Luckily they were all shot beautifully.

The film as a whole looks stunningly. It's filmed with such grace and thoughtfulness that it makes you almost feel like you're watching an entirely different type of picture. The film did not have any studio logos at the beginning, so when the film suddenly started I thought I was looking at an Interstellar teaser for a minute. It looked like something straight out of a Christopher Nolan film. The film always portrays things the way it feels like they should be portrayed. There's no shot that I can recall that felt really out of place and disruptive, they all blended together and formed a visually fantastic piece of film.

Overall this is a film I think you should watch. You might not be able to watch it at the cinema, which is a shame because seeing it on a big screen was marvelous, you should be able to get your hands on a home release. It should be on iTunes in most of the bigger markets, and probably on DVD and or BD in even more markets. If you like films, just in general or fighting films in particular, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. Don't let the foreign language discourage you, don't let the violence discourage you, just watch it. If I manage to convince you to watch it, I doubt you will be disappointed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Børning - Norwegian Drift

I feel like it's time to throw you guys a curve ball. Despite my nationality I seldom watch and/or review Norwegian films. I wish to ratify that, so today I'm going to talk about the new Norwegian car film Børning. Where a bunch of street racers arrange an impromptu race from the Norwegian capital to the northernmost tip of the Norwegian mainland. A race around 2100 kilometres in length, or 1300 miles.

Børning, pronounced 'burning', is marketed as "Norway's first car film". Whether that's true or not I can't tell you, but by just looking at the film you'd think they'd made quite a few more before. I'm normally not a big fan of car films, I'm not really a fan of cars at all, but the concept has always interested me. It seems like such an odd thing to make a film about to me, even though I know the cultures surrounding cars are quite diverse and expansive. Earlier this year I watched "Need for Speed", mostly because it was the only half-interesting new film out that week, but also because I wanted to see what exactly the genre was all about. I found it to be surprisingly good. Not an amazing film by any means, but quite fun and entertaining enough to keep me invested. Invested enough that I remembered the trailer attached to it for several months, that was the first time I watched the trailer for Børning.

I never really thought it would take off as much as it did. But Børning has been one of the films I've heard people talk about the most these past couple of months, even more so than Guardians of the Galaxy. Don't get me wrong, it's not all been good talk. Most of what I've heard has actually been rather negative. People saying it looks stupid and unfunny, mostly from people who don't watch a lot of films that aren't either American or British. And then there's the odd person who says it just looks fun, and might be good for a laugh. It therefore came as a big surprise to me when I ran into the theatre a few minutes late, in the middle of a trailer, and found the theatre was completely full. There was maybe two or three seats available at the front row on the outermost edges, but all the other seats were taken. I've never seen that before. The closest I've been was maybe at the midnight premiere of Catching Fire last year, but even that had a few empty seats here and there.

The audience sounded like they enjoyed the film as well. Laughing at the right times, and staying quiet when needed. Apart from an outbreak of laughter in response to a little girl commenting "Dad, this film is pretty boring" there was little to be heard. And too be fair, the little girl was right. At that particular moment the film was pretty boring. There were long stretches throughout the film where all we got to watch was footage of the cars driving up and down roads. Many of the clips didn't even have music, just the sounds of the engines. Which made for some pretty awkward pauses. Suddenly you could hear the people in the theatre coughing, you could see some people leaning closer together to comment on something, it just put a hold on the whole experience. Luckily when they managed to get out of the stretches of boredom it was quite entertaining. The characters were genuinely funny, the situations they got into were believable enough for it not to turn into a complete slapstick film, and it looked beautiful. The imagery was one of the best parts of the film. Not just getting to watch all the nature they're driving through, but how it's framed, how it was staged, how the colours interacted with each other. It was just nice to look at. Unfortunately due to some budgetary constraints they managed to ruin some of the aesthetics at times by swapping cars for CG models. It wasn't particularly well done, and really took me out of the scene. But luckily it was just in a handful of scenes, so it didn't bring the entire experience down.

The soundscape was a bit all over the place. Like I mentioned above, sometimes all we had were the sounds of engines and tires. Good sounding engines and tires, but they became awkward within the whole picture. But at other times again the sounds were just amazing. The music fit neatly together with the action, the cars sounded wonderful, and it sounded like a lot was going on even if it was a relatively quiet segment. There were some problems with the dialogue at times, though. Where the sound of the characters' voices got overdone by the other sounds, which was made even weirder when there's an exact scene where that sort of thing is supposed to happen, but they actually managed to mix it in such a way that it just sounded like the voices where drowned out, even though you could actually hear them through everything. It was a bit like they had a team of people working on it who were all on very different steps of their creative ladders, some where just a lot further along than others.

Overall I liked this film. It wasn't the best I've ever seen, but it was far from the worst. I'm already looking forward to watching it again when the home release drops, see if there's anything I missed, or just if it's even half as entertaining at home as it is in a theatre filled with people. If you manage to somehow get your hands on it, I'd recommend it. Don't expect a masterpiece, but it's at least a fun ride.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Tremors 5: Gummer Down Under! - What Do We Know?

It's been a bit over a week since we learned that Tremors 5 is more or less a go from Universal's side. But what exactly do we know about it? Besides the fact that it seems like director Don Michael Paul is heading down to Johannesburg in preparation for the film today.

Stampede Entertainment has always done well at answering their fans' questions. Writer/director S.S. Wilson himself keep a page filled with frequently asked questions up to date on their website. On it they've had a separate section for Tremors 5 for as long as I've visited it. Let's do a quick rundown of the most important sounding answers:

- Firsts first, it will be as stand-alone as it can be without being a complete reboot. Burt Gummer will be back as a main character, which will most likely yet again be played by Michael Gross, but no one else from Perfection is meant to appear. That was at least not the intention at the most recent point.

- The subtitle as seen on the finished script is "Gummer Down Under!" Referring to the fact that the film will take place in Australia. However, "somewhere along the line", they started to refer to it as "Thunder Down Under" at Stampede. "Thunder Down Under" is the title I've most often seen referred, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was the one that made the cut. If the film is supposed to be as stand-alone as they say, it could prove wise to not title it after one of the pre-existing characters. I also, personally, think that title tings better.

- Assblasters (the third life stage of the films' monster (Graboid->Shrieker->Assblaster)) will make some kind of appearance. In Tremors 5 we'll learn that "[Assblasters] congregate in special geological areas, each laying a single egg". Sounds like a part of the film will be Gummer figuring out why exactly Graboids and the like only show up in the climates they do. We've previously seen them in Nevada, Mexico, Argentina, New Mexico, and Arizona, and we can add Australia onto that list after Tremors 5. Not exactly a subtle connection.

The fact that it is set in Australia is probably a carry-over from Tremors 2: Aftershocks when we learned the Graboids are amongst the oldest living species in the world, predating several super-continents. We've previously only seen them in the Americas, but when we get to see them in such a biologically isolated country as Australia, we will get closer to proving how old they are. I would think this film could be a lot about learning how the creatures live, and how they came to be. A more in-depth look than previous installments. Sure, it will be packed into a fun and entertaining and action-packed story ("Burt finally got the mini-gun I always wanted him to have"), but they've always managed to sneak in some new information about the primarily mysterious creatures.

Interesting side-note, unless they decided to really mix things up in this film, it will most likely be the first feature-length film without an introduction of a new creature/life stage. Tremors introduced the Graboids, Tremors 2: Aftershocks introduced the Shriekers, and Tremors 3: Back to Perfection introduced the Assblasters. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins could be said to not introduce anything new, but they did show Graboid eggs hatch and followed the babies until they grew to full size, something that hadn't been shown previously. The "dirt dragons" as they were called in the film has since obtained an honourary life-stage title by some of the fans.

That's it. That's some of the more important stuff that we know about Tremors 5: Gummer Down Under! If You want to know more about the series that you might not already know, head over to the official FAQ. It's still updated fairly frequently, the latest update being made this month about the buzz around Tremors 5.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Heroes in a Half-Fail

Let me prefix this post by saying that I did not get to grow up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was right before my time, so the only real memories I have of it is of my older brother watching it. I never tried to get into it and therefore just never "got it". Until today there was only one thing TMNT I had watched, and that was the CG animated film from 2007.

It doesn't feel that long ago that everyone on the Internet was going crazy with the news that Michael Bay had gotten his hands on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT for short, franchise. Most of them were dreading what that would entail, they dreamt up various scenarios filled with explosions and half-naked women throughout, most of them cringing at the very idea. When it was rumoured that Bay was trying to make the Turtles aliens people got even more upset, they felt it was too far from the source material and was too bizarre. Personally I might've seen it was too far from the source material, but I found it slightly less bizarre than mutated turtles in the sewer growing up while being trained in the art of ninjutsu by a rat, but that's a thought for another time. Bing, bang, boom, suddenly it's today and the film is released.

I didn't quite know what to expect going in. I had picked up various memes and tropes from the show via other shows and films, and I have heard people talk about it, but as I said above, I never got into it. The fact that Michael Bay was involved was probably my major indication of what I could be walking into. I've never been a big fan of Michael Bay, but I've mostly not hated what he's made (except for maybe Age of Extinction). I have a soft-spot for his in-your-face blockbusters. They don't pretend to be anything they're not, they're just fun and entertaining.

TMNT started off with a kind of weird montage segment, seemingly mimicking old-school opening credits, but with a lot of exposition as well. We're told about the Turtles and the villains, and there's a lot of slow-motion shots of swords cutting apples, bananas, and video tapes. All of this is essentially pointless as we're introduced to all of this again at other points in the film. Unfortunately it turned out that that was definitely a trend in this picture. The film is filled with pure exposition segments. It feels like we're in a story told through bulletin points rather than a fleshed out text, but at the same time each bulletin point includes far too much information. There are segments that only last a minute or two that sets up entire plot lines for the film. We never get any chance to let things settle in, or for us to ponder up the implications of what we've learned. We go straight onto the next item on the bulletin list. Well, as straight at they will allow us.

Because one of the more off-putting features of the film is how many unnecessary segments there are. Smacked between the expositions are transitional segments that do nothing but tell us what's going to happen in the next one. One of the earlier examples of this is when April O'Neil, Megan Fox' character, is going to go back to an earlier location to interview someone.
In Segment A she tells a friend that she's going to do that, then in Segment B we see her call the guy she's going to interview to set up the meeting, then in Segment C we get to the actual location.
I see now that Segment B may sound more important here in writing than it appeared in the film, but it felt as if someone tried to fill in a "plot hole". Not a real plot hole, but the kind people often think is one. The kind when someone gets in a car and then instead of showing us the entire car ride we just cut to where they ended up. It seemed like someone thought "but how does she get from there to there?" even though that was explained in Segment A by the character saying she was going there and getting on her bike. And it gets more and more obvious as more kinds of these segments appear.

The Turtles themselves are fortunately quite fun. They're funny, interesting, and at the very least a parallel to what I was expecting them to be like. The biggest issue with them is that we don't get to see them nearly enough. April O'Neil acts as the main character of the film for the first twenty minutes, researching various crimes and eventually stumbling onto the Turtles in the dark of night. Then we enter a strange limbo were both the Turtles and O'Neil are main characters, despite them often being separate. This could've been handled well, I've seen it done before, but the way they chose to do it here was to stay only with O'Neil for the first part of the film, and then immediately start following the Turtles when they're introduced. It seems off and unnatural, it's not common to just switch main characters like that. Especially not when they keep going back and forth between the sets of characters like they've all always been the main ones. The film could definitely benefit from more of the Turtles, from the get go.

Overall I thought the film was completely okay. It was entertaining enough, I didn't start wondering how much longer the film was going to go on, but it wasn't especially good. The dramatic bits felt misplaces, and most of the time it just got too dramatic all together. It didn't come off as a cute mix between comedy and drama as other blockbusters, it just came off as stark contrasts from different tones of films blended together. I say you watch it if you want a decent CG blockbuster, it's alright enough, and it's not three hours long like certain other blockbusters this year. *cough*
I doubt I will remember it for long, however.

There was one slightly meta thing that amused me slightly throughout the film. Remember a little while back when some on-location pictures of Megan Fox went around the Internet?
Megan Fox in tight clothes jumping on a trampoline. People went all over this about how sexualised the film was going to be, when funnily enough, this entire segment is about how silly those kind of things are. O'Neil has to do that for her job, and immediately after she switches into more comfortable clothes and rants about having to do fluff pieces like that. Her camera man (played by Will Arnett) says that people like that sometimes. Just having fun things to look, and that everything doesn't have to be so serious all the time (somewhat channeling Michael Bay perhaps). But throughout the film otherwise she is hardly sexualised at all. She wears normal clothes that cover her up more than some people you'll find in a normal street, and despite being the "love interest" of one of the Turtles there's not a lot of "she's so hot" stuff going on. Which was refreshing as it seems that's almost always Megan Fox' function in films like this. Too bad she acted rather poorly in it.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

DC's Big Crazy Push

For a while now people have been waiting for either Marvel or DC to step down from May 6th 2016, when Marvel's Captain America 3 and DC's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were both scheduled to premiere. Marvel had planted the date first, but DC obviously seemed confident in a film starring both of their biggest characters, so they stuck to their guns. Until now.

If I were a guessing man, I would guess that seeing Marvel dominate the box office with a film based on the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy got them a bit nervous. Captain America has been well-established within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and has become a crowd favourite, with many holding his second installment as one of Marvel's best films. If Marvel manages to do so well with the Guardians, then maybe the famous Captain could even take out Batty and Supes. DC decided that the potential risk of losing wasn't worth it, and instead moved their film forward two months, to March 25th.

This isn't really all that surprising, except for maybe such a big superhero blockbuster debuting in March, but what is more surprising is the news immediately following this. DC and Warner Brothers planted flags for nine "Untitled DC Films" from 2016 to 2020, and two "Untitled WB Event Films" in 2018 and 2020. If we can assume Dawn of Justice is a "WB Event Film" it seems that they're planning on doing a giant picture every second year, opposed to Marvel's Avengers series which is every three years. That's nice and good, but there's also the nine other films. An untitled DC film in 2016, two in 2017, two in 2018 (in addition to the event film), two in 2019, and then another two in 2020 (again, in addition to the event film). Marvel has eight dates planted from 2016 to 2019, where DC has nine. But DC goes even further as Marvel has yet to announce anything for 2020.

No matter how you look at it it just sounds crazy. DC can have the best plan in the world for all I know, but they are going out there and announcing all these dates after just one installment of their multi-franchise franchise. Sure Man of Steel did alright enough at the box office, but it was hardly well received or well remembered. Not to mention that they just two years before that again tried to boot a franchise with Green Lantern. Which was a complete failure, making DC reconsider their plans all together. That just makes this seem like a desperate hand grabbing at all the dates they can get, but maybe that is just the way things are going?

People have been complaining about Marvel's flag planting for a while. We get to know the dates of films long before there are titles, and they swoop in to grab exciting dates when other films back out. This could all just be a push from DC to secure dates before Marvel, regardless of any plans of actually releasing films on those dates. If this does indeed predict a more intense future trend, I hope it dies between Marvel and DC warring out. Marvel has dates planted five years into the future, and DC six years into the future. I wouldn't be all too surprised if that ended up in studios claiming tempting dates close to a decade into the future just because it's a good one. Which could change the entire game. Instead of actually having to get people to come see your film because it looks good, you could make people come see your film because the premiere date is already full, and it's a date where historically a lot of people watch films. It could be easy to turn me around though, to get me to like this. Just release the titles. If you have so detailed plans that you can announce dates six years into the future, you must have some idea of what films to put there. It might be difficult for studios making non-franchise films to announce titles for generic romcoms and action comedies six years into the future, but when you have such famous characters as Marvel and DC does it shouldn't be hard. "Untitled J'onn J'onzz Film" and "Untitled Captain Marvel Film" sounds much better than "Untitled DC Film" and "Untitled Marvel Film".

Here are DC's planted dates:

  • Untitled DC Film - August 5th, 2016
  • Untitled DC Film - June 23rd, 2017
  • Untitled DC Film - November 17th, 2017
  • Untitled DC Film - March 3rd, 2018
  • Untitled DC Film - July 27th, 2018
  • Untitled WB Event Film - November 16th, 2018
  • Untitled DC Film - April 5th, 2019
  • Untitled DC Film - June 14th, 2019
  • Untitled DC Film - April 3rd, 2020
  • Untitled WB Event Film - November 20th, 2020

It has been brought to my attention that the WB Event Films could certainly be unrelated to DC. For example being dates for the new films set in the Harry Potter universe.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Tremors 5 - Not a Reboot?

As you may remember from early last week there's been some talk about a Tremors reboot. Don Michael Paul wrote on his blog that he's looking forward to doing a Tremors reboot for Universal. Back then I sent an e-mail over to Stampede Entertainment asking for a comment, today I got an answer. And it's funner than I had expected.

When I first broke the news on the official Stampede Entertainment fan forum last week someone linked me over to a Q&A Michael Gross did at a screening of Tremors. Someone asked if he was open to doing a Tremors 5 and Michael quite openly replied that there was a script for Tremors 5 by the original writes, like we've known for a while, and that there's been increased interest in it at Universal recently. Even going as far as saying that it could be filmed this September for an early 2015 release. This was a bit contradictory to the statement from Don Michael Paul, as a reboot most likely wouldn't use the script for a sequel, and probably wouldn't include the leading actor of the franchise.

But like I said, today I got a reply from Stampede Entertainment, and they do confirm that there has been "some discussion about Tremors 5 at Universal". They goes on to say that they can't comment any further until they know more, but will post to their site "if/when things become definite". What I find the most interesting here is that despite me asking about a Tremors reboot, they distinctly say that it is a "Tremors 5" that is being talked about. What makes it even more interesting is that the blog post at Don Michael Paul's site describing his plans to reboot the Tremors franchise has been taken down. His blog is still there, but the specific post has been removed, probably due to Universal not yet having green lit the project.

All I have to say is that I am much more excited now. It seems that if this does indeed happen, we might get a Tremors 5, a legit sequel, some time next year rather than a reboot. And it does seem that indeed Stampede Entertainment is involved in at least some capacity, as it seems it is their script that is going to be used. Let's face it, it's going to most likely be all CG and corny one-liners, but at least it will have Burt Gummer and the original writers behind it. And that's a lot better than what we were facing last week.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Hell Yeah!

I knew little about Marvel outside of X-Men and Spider-Man when the Marvel Cinematic Universe started up. I had never heard about Iron Man, and Captain America and Thor I'd only heard about in passing. But after I watched Thor, and then Captain America, and started to get really into the MCU I looked for all the information I could find. I watched all the cartoons, read the wiki articles, watched the live-action films of course, I even read some of the comic books (although, to this day, I just can't get into them for some reason). Whenever a new film was going to come out I knew almost everything about it beforehand. That all changed with Guardians of the Galaxy.

To my credit, this really was Marvel Studios throwing everyone for a spin. A film about a raccoon, a walking tree, a human kidnapped from the '80s, and all set in outer space with no other humans? It was as different as it got for the MCU. Every film in the franchise so far was grounded in humanity. Stark struggled with the burden of saving people while still being only a human, Banner tried his best to hold onto his humanity, Rogers is the most man man you can find, and Thor was all about him learning humility through humans. Then comes the space flick where the most talked-about character is a raccoon in space.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like Guardians of the Galaxy is about how stupid humans are, and how awesome being baddies is. It just doesn't have that same groundedness the prior films did. Everything is awesome from the get-go, everything is magical and amazing. There's no struggle in being only human, they're all "just people". That's what makes this film so different, and therefore so great. I never knew what to expect around the corner. Even though I hadn't actively steered away from new info and trailers, more so I tried to get all the information I could up front, I was still surprised. Still I was left in wonder at what was happening. It was all just so crazy.

That's maybe what frightens me most about this film, as well. That it's so crazy and different. I'm not suggesting that people don't like different and crazy things, but people have come to expect a certain standard from Marvel and superhero films in general. And this is very different from that. I find it hard to even call it a superhero film. It's a film about heroes, and most of them are physically superior to ordinary humans, but it's no more a superhero film than Star Wars, Avatar, or the Matrix. It's an adventure film at its heart, it's easier to compare it to Indiana Jones than to Iron Man, and maybe the audience isn't expecting that. I am however glad that Marvel is willing to take that risk. Its Thursday night opening was the biggest of 2014 so far in the USA, so the fans are at least turning up in the beginning. And if this goes out and makes the same kind of money as the other MCU films, that is going to spark a new type of film, both from Marvel and others. This will be just the beginning of Marvel playing around in the so-called "cosmic Marvel" and "magical Marvel" worlds. People will see that once and for all that "superhero" films aren't just about people in tights and capes flying around saving damsels in distress, they can be nearly anything. They can be political spy thrillers, comedic heist pictures, magical fantasies, or crazy space operas. The only limit is on what people actually are willing to watch.

Guardians of the Galaxy rekindled my love for Marvel Studios. It brought me nothing but joy from the second it started to the second it finished. I'm just hoping people are willing to take that leap again and again for Marvel. Next year's Ant-Man might be even more different, at least in terms of superhero films. It's going to stretch our definition of on-screen superheros to the limits. And if Doctor Strange comes after that, then it will be stretched again. Even farther. Marvel isn't slowing down the least, they've only just begun. They've given us the "standard" superhero films. They've given us the brutes and brainiacs who fight for the good of mankind. Now they're giving us the oddballs who aren't necessarily as guided and centred. They're going to keep on expanding and expanding their universe until it encompasses all of it, all at once. And I can't wait until they've done so.


Do you want proof of how crazy Marvel is willing to get? Do you really want to know? You can either watch the best MCU film there is, Guardians of the Galaxy, or you can click below to read a sentence that might just change the course of your life.

Click the button ->:
Howard the Duck is now an MCU canonical character.