Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Marvel Names All Dates

Way back when Marvel claimed release dates all over the place, as far into the future as 2019. Many people saw them as greedy hogs, making sure to get the best dates before DC, Sony, Fox, or someone else got there before them. Today they've probably redeemed themselves for all of them.

The logo above, although as exciting it is to me, is probably the least exciting thing to come out of Marvel's impromptu event not too long ago. Over the course of half an hour Marvel announced their entire Phase 3 slate, a long with titles, and new performers.

For a while it's seemed like "Captain America 3" was going to be the big game changer of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Steven Rogers (Captain America) end up on opposite sides in an evolving political climate, and have to struggle with what that means for them as friends and co-superheroes. It made people realise why Marvel didn't even budge when DC said their "Batman v Superman" was going to be released on the same day. Even the caped crusader and man of steel can't play with the new big dogs that are Iron Man and Captain America. But today, we learned even more. The film is slated as the first release of Phase 3 (Marvel has for some reason thrown "Ant-Man" in with Phase 2, eliminating the traditional way of ending a phase with an "Avengers" film) on May 6th in 2016. But not only that, the title was announced as being "Captain America: Civil War", and will debut Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Now's the time to back up a bit.

After "Captain America: Civil War" we're getting "Doctor Strange" on November 4th, 2016 (this one was already as good as locked, so it isn't as exciting), then "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" is coming on May 5th, 2017 (a date shift, but we still knew about it) and then we get "Thor: Ragnarok" on July 28th, 2017. Kicking of the realm of the previously unknown part of the MCU. The title certainly suggests that this is the last outing of Thor in a while, at least in solo films. You don't just go through ragnarok and live to tell about it (though Thor has done that several times already, to be fair). Not to mention the fact that this is the last Phase 1-hero film that's planned/announced at all. Yes, that's right, after "Thor: Ragnarok" there are only new characters being released (apart from the Avengers films), It seems Marvel is steaming towards the end of the "original" MCU, and ushering in the era of new heroes. What exactly this can mean for the future beyond 2019 is a bit early to tell, but it's not too farfetched to think that it'll be a whole new slate of characters. After "Thor: Ragnarok" we get "Black Panther" on November 3rd, 2017. Just over a year after his screen debut he's getting his own stand-alone film, and not just that, it's leading into the third Avengers film which is named...

"Avengers: Infinity War Part I". That's right, we're getting a two-parter. Marvel is going all out and doing what many have already suggested by breaking the third "Avengers" story into two halves to round out the infinity stones story arc that's been going in the background for most of the MCU. They showed pictures of Thanos wearing the Infinity Gauntlet alongside the announcement of these films, which will be released only a year apart. You read that right. "Infinity War: Part I" will be released on May 4th, 2018, and "Infinity War: Part II" will be released May 3rd, 2019. Less than a year between them. It's not that long ago that everyone regarded the first "Avengers" film as the biggest film event in recent film history, but Marvel is clearly trying to steal that title from themselves with what I can only assume is the conclusion to the first wave of the MCU.

Again I have to apologize, because I got ahead of myself. Although we're getting two "Avengers" films within a year, Marvel has still crammed two more films in between them. We're getting "Captain Marvel" on July 6th, 2018 and "Inhumans" on November 2nd, 2018. That's right, two new brands being introduced between two Avengers films. They are probably both leading up to parts in the "Infinity War" story, and I wouldn't be surprised if we get a bunch of cameos and crossovers between all of them. It's a really good way of kickstarting new characters, throwing them into the mix of the audience's favourite characters in their biggest challenge yet.

I don't really know what to say any more. This is all too much for me to handle properly. So many titles, so many twists and turns. I really didn't think Marvel would go all out like this, with so many brand new characters being introduced along side this ginormous story being told. I can't wait to see what's coming. I've almost forgotten "Age of Ultron" and "Ant-Man" already.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

DW: Flatline - Keeping It Up

"Doctor Who" does yet another monster-of-the-week style episode, but it's very good.

One of the things I've come to really enjoy about "Doctor Who" is the way they take seemingly unconnected concepts and strings them together to make a sci-fi adventure. This week's episode is about beings from a two-dimensional universe coming into ours wrecking havoc. Are they as evil as their actions suggest? Or are they just being misunderstood by creatures who've never experienced their reality?

There is little to no advancement in any of the series wide arcs this episode, except from a few throwaway lines here and there, but that is totally fine. This is the kind of episode that people will use to introduce their fans to "Doctor Who". It perfectly sums up what it is about, and how the series' universe works. You have the Doctor being stuck in a weird situation, alien monsters hunting down humans, and the various dragged-alongs who have to deal with what is going on. It's perfectly capable of standing on its own.

I still have some trouble with the kind of VFX they are using from time to time. Some simple stuff look very bad, whilst other seemingly more complex shots look above passable. It's not bad enough for me to get thrown out of the story every time it happens, but it's bad enough that I start to wonder why they are prioritising they way that they are. Do they have too small a budget? Are they saving their money for a big episode down the line? I don't think it's anything other than them not being able to present the material the way they want to, but the questions still linger.

Stampede Not Involved with Tremors Refresh

It has just been brought to my attention that the production house Stampede Entertainment who were responsible for the production of all past "Tremors" installments will not be involved in the latest film.

In a freshish press release they state that although they were contacted about the new film currently in production, they have little to nothing to say about it. They were offered Executive Producer positions, but they would have no say in anything that went on in the "even-lower budget project". Because they were offered so limited control, they declined to take part, and will have nothing at all to do with the new film beyond them having created the concept and some characters.

This all sounds not so fun, Stampede has always been the ones ushering for new films and new directions. Without them the franchise would have never become a franchise, certainly not one with now three sequels, a prequel, and a 13-episode season of a television series. In the press release, which you can also read below, Stampede says that as recent as in 2012 they purposed an independent theatrical production, but Universal declined, rather wanting to make another DTV sequel at some point in the future (which we have now reached).

This all makes me feel conflicted, of course I am excited at the prospect of getting yet another dose of Burt Gummer in my life, but I am disappointed that the team who made him who he his won't be back to guide him further. Fortunately, the writer of "Tremors 5" also wrote the third film, "Tremors 3: Back to Perfection" which is so far the only film to have Burt Gummer as the lead character, so the writer isn't totally uninformed about the series or character. Unfortunately, "Tremors 3: Back to Perfection" is often mentioned at the weakest film of the series when talked about in fan circles. Rarely will you hear someone say it was their favourite.

What the final result will be is anybody's guess. For all we know it could be amazing, but the new even lower budget, as mentioned by Stampede, doesn't sound very promising. I have been positive in the past about Universal wanting this to succeed, but it seems they don't want to risk a lot of money making sure it will succeed. Hopefully Stampede will at some point be brought back into the game and get their theatrical film, nothing would be a surer way of creating another cult hit.

The press release follows.

Tremors 5
As we approach the 25th anniversary of Tremors, we have news about Tremors 5.

Most fans are aware that Universal Studios has announced production of a new DVD sequel, being shot in South Africa. For all of us at Stampede, this is a bittersweet development in our long connection with the franchise, since we, the creators, are not involved. 

Stampede has always been interested in reassembling the original Tremors creative team to produce a fresh new theatrical sequel in the Tremors voice. We attempted rights negotations with Universal for an independent theatrical film in 2012. However, the sudio passed on the option, preferring to continue the franchise with DVDs at some future date.

Early in 2014, Universal Home Video indicated that they were budgeting another sequel based on a 2004 script written by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson. While they pointed out that they had "no further contractual obligation" to Stampede, they did offer us Executive Producer positions. But they also made it clear that in this new even-lower budget project, the Stampede' partners' participation would be severely restricted, with little control over cast, director, special effects, locations, or indeed any aspect of production. 

It was always only our full involvement as creators that gave us the means and incentive to reinvigorate and expand the Tremors universe with Tremors 2, 3, 4 and the series -- despite the significant increasing budget limitations. Without meaningful creative control allowing us to continue to gurantee the integrity of our Tremors vision, we sadly declined to be involved. 

The entire Stampede Team extends a big THANK YOU to the loyal fans who have clamored for this movie for so long. For your viewing pleasure, we hope it's good! 

The Stampede Partners: 
S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts. Ron Underwood.

Tremors 5 Wraps Up Shooting

Just days after Universal announcing that they were in fact making a fifth film in the "Tremors" franchise the shooting wraps up a month after Michael Gross headed for South Africa.

Michael Gross posted on Facebook today that the shooting day that begins at 15:00 (local time) today and ends early Sunday morning is the final shooting day in production. In the attached photo (seen above) we also get a first look at some of the supporting actors (and possibly some crew) of "Tremors 5". It really cements that the film will take place in South Africa (as announced in the press release), and that they are really taking creative advantage of that. It's nice to see them go in such a different direction after so many films, all of which has been set in some kind of Latin-/American location.

The pictured truck brings back memories of "Tremors II: Aftershocks" where Earl and Grady uses just an ordinary truck to go graboid hunting in Mexico. It would not surprise me if the beat up and hastily modified truck pictured above will serve a similar purpose in "Tremors 5". Potentially also serving as a means of rescuing the inhabitants of whatever small village is under attack this time.

To me the quick wrap-up after the film's announcement suggests to me that Universal really weren't that sure that the film would ever be finalized. In a day where studios snag up release dates and throw titles at them almost a decade in advanced, Universal waited until the film had shot the majority of its scenes before deciding it was worth them finishing and distributing it. If this is a good thing because Universal wanted to ensure that it was good enough, or if it is a bad thing because Universal had so little faith in it, is another thing entirely. But I am glad that in the end we are going to finally get a fifth installment of the "Tremors" franchise, and potentially a lot more following it.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Tremors 5 Announced for 2016!

That's right, "Tremors 5" was just announced at the official Tremors Facebook fan page, what do we know so far?

We know that it's not going to be out in time for the 25th anniversary of the original "Tremors", in fact it's going to be over a year before we get to see Burt Gummer return to our screens. "Look for Tremors 5 on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD in 2016" is all the post says in regards to a release date. It's kind of refreshing, I was dreading they were going to rush the film, but it's apparent that they'll want to spend at least some time on it as it is currently shooting in South Africa under the direction of Don Michael Paul.

Michael Gross is not the only person to star in this film, yet again he's treated to a new co-lead. The not-unknown Jamie Kennedy ("Ghost Whisperer", "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment") is set to co-star in the refresh of the "Tremors" franchise. If the picture below is anything to go by he is a member of some kind of military or militia, possible hired to hunt the graboids down before the local government brought in Burt Gummer for his expertise. He certainly looks like someone Burt might have trouble trusting.
According to the press release below Jamie Kennedy's character is called Travis, and he is described as being tech-savvy. What his exact part entails is still undetermined, but Burt Gummer hasn't shied from technology in the past, he's rather embraced it to further improve his hunting.

I wouldn't be too surprised if they Universal wants Jamie Kennedy to be the new face of this franchise as Michael Gross slowly is aging out of his part as Burt Gummer. The fact that the film is set to release a year after the 25th anniversary means this is not just to make a quick buck off of the fans' nostalgia, but a play to get the franchise back to life. No matter what happens we should just be glad that Universal is taking an interest in the "Tremors" franchise again.

Here's a better picture of Michael Gross as Burt Gummer in "Tremors 5".

Picture with journalist Martin Parsons


The full press release follows:

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment: Tremors 5
The fifth heart-pounding installment in the action-packed sci-fi comedy-adventure franchise, Tremors 5 began principal photography in South Africa on September 22, 2014. With even more deadly creatures on the loose, Tremors 5 continues the films’ hallmark combination of adrenaline-laced suspense, explosive action and tongue-in-cheek humor. Michael Gross returns for his fifth appearance in the Tremors films alongside new cast member, Scream film series star Jamie Kennedy in this original release from Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production entity of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Tremors 5 will be released on Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def, DVD and Digital HD in 2016.
The theatrical release of the original Tremors in 1990 combined suspense-filled action, sci-fi imagination and witty humor in the tale of a tiny Nevada town terrorized by giant man-eating worms known as Graboids. The Graboids eventually morphed into even more deadly creatures known as Ass Blasters. In this all-new adventure that travels halfway around the world to South Africa, the Graboids and the Ass Blasters are not only bigger and badder but Tremors 5 introduces an additional unexpected surprise that raises the stakes in the battle for survival.
“The Tremors franchise has built a reputation for high intensity fun and suspense and this installment takes it to a whole new level,” said Glenn Ross, General Manager and Executive Vice President, Universal 1440 Entertainment.
Michael Gross (“Anger Management,” “Suits,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Family Ties,” Tremors franchise) returns as weapons enthusiast and expert subterranean creature hunter Burt Gummer with Jamie Kennedy (“The Cleveland Show,” “Ghost Whisperer,” Scream series) as his new right hand man, tech-savvy Travis. The pair are joined by an international cast as they mount a battle against the deadly creatures that turns out to be far more than they bargained for.
The film is directed by Don Michael Paul (Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, Sniper: Legacy) from a script by John Whelpley (Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, TV’s “Dallas”) and produced by Ogden Gavanski (The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Fire, Warm Bodies).

There is no mention of Stampede Entertainment, the production company behind all the other installments of the "Tremors" franchise. And it seems that the new script is different enough from the already existing script by Wilson and Maddock that they are comfortable to say it's written by one John Whelpley. Hopefully we'll get some more news on the details surrounding Stampede Entertainment as time goes on.

If you want to read more posts on "Tremors 5" leading up to today, click here. And if you feel like discussing this news, or the franchise in general, with other like-minded people, try out Tremors Underground. A fan board that is still active to this day. You can also try the official forums of Stampede Entertainment, but it's almost as good as dead these days.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Michael Gross: "Universal Press Release Tomorrow!"

It's been a while since we last heard anything about the fifth Tremors film that is allegedly shooting in South-Africa at the moment, but tomorrow we will learn everything.

Michael Gross writes today on his Facebook that Universal Studios is going to release a press release tomorrow as to why he's been in South-Africa playing with "exotic fauna". Considering how playful he's been in the comments of his Facebook page regarding Tremors, I'd say there's a good 90 % chance that Tremors 5 is going to be announced tomorrow. If not, there will be a lot of annoyed fans that might sour on Michael Gross entirely.

What is perhaps the most interesting about his post is that it contains a picture of a warthog, a species of animal specifically named after Africa, and that isn't present in Australia. Could they have changed the script S.S. Wilson and Maddock wrote ten years ago so much that they needed an entirely new location? It will be interesting to see what kind of details Universal will give up tomorrow, and how they fit in with the story that's been leaking through for the past few months. If it isn't a fifth Tremors film, it has to be something related to the franchise.

Michael Gross has said that the warthog pictured in his post does not feature in the film at hand, but a lion does. More or less confirming the apparent new setting of the film. I am starting to think that this fifth installment of the Tremors franchise might see Burt travel to Africa to go on some kind of safari, be it of the hunting kind or not. It's definitely more up in the character's alley than Australia, which has little big game for the man with the elephant gun.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wish I Was Here - Not Worth the Wait

For months I've been waiting for my chance to watch the result of Zach Braff's Kickstarter campaign. It's been over three months since I was supposed to have watched "Wish I Was Here", but due to a lack of looking into the legality of things and selling rights they had no business selling, it's taken this long for me to get a screener. It premiered at US cinemas almost three months ago and the film isn't even in theatres there any more. So much for getting to watch the film before general release.

There's been a lot of trouble around the production of this film, but I'll try to keep the problems around the film, and the film itself as separate as possible. But some aspects of the production and distribution just is going to cloud my view. That's the way it is. One of the biggest drawbacks was just how bad the streaming service was for me. I've never had any problem streaming anything before, but the service they showed "Wish I Was Here" through kept hiccuping and jumping. I almost watched the film twice because it kept going back several seconds while it loaded the next segment. The worst part about the streaming, however, is the fact that it was the same provider as it was three months ago. That means there were no legal problem on their end, it was purely with Zach Braff and co. They didn't straighten out the legalities so that their backers could actually get their rewards. Kickstarter 101, Zach, don't promise what you haven't even researched. But now, the film itself.

Honestly, I still had some hopes for this film after all that time waiting. I've liked a lot of things Zach Braff has previously acted in, and I enjoyed his directional debut "Garden State". He seemed really passionate about this film, and seeing how he actually got quite a few big names for it I figured 30 USD wasn't too bad for an online screening of the film. Especially considering they weren't giving away any home releases of the film as perks. How wrong I was.

The film tries way too hard to be sentimental and meaningful. Not a word is spoken that sounds genuine and natural. It all feels like it's constructed to be a certain feeling to such a minute detail that every detail is an eyesore. You can see exactly what they tried to achieve with everything, but it fails because you noticed every single thing. None of it works together as a whole, it just ends up being a collection of tropes and instruments, a visual warehouse of Zach Braff's favourite feelings.

There is some decent acting in this film, even through the awful dialog. There are moments when you almost feel for the characters, but they are brief, quickly replaced with yet another moment that just doesn't work. Braff apparently still needs to practise his directing abilities, or at least hone them. I fear that the actors might be doing exactly what Zach wanted, but none of it works, he needs to figure out what exactly it is that makes a film good. What it is that makes a performance special. Either that or he needs to completely reconsider his choice in genre, because he can't handle this right now.

Overall this film just isn't worth your time, at all. There are plenty of films out there that will better suit your needs in this genre, and there aren't any other reasons to watch it either. It isn't technically good, it isn't artistically good, it isn't narratively good, it just isn't good. The one semi-reason to watch this is to see what happens when you give a semi-famous indy director with a dream a ton of money in advanced. You get a man who can do what he wants, and have better control over his creation. The problem is that Zach really need those people who stand over him and tells him what doesn't work. He needs to be guided, he isn't strong enough of a film maker to take on a project like this, however small it might be.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

DW: Mummy on the Orient Express - Monster Madness

We're at the eight episode of the eight series of new Doctor Who (or NuWho as it's sometimes called by its fans). We're over halfway through the first series of a brand new Doctor. In the newest episode, "Mummy on the Orient Express" we move both forwards and backwards in "Doctor Who"'s history, but it eventually lands on being an episode better than the average of its series.

"A Mummy on the Orient Express" is about a mummy on the Orient Express, to make it even more interesting the mummy can only be seen by the people it is about to attack, and the Orient Express is in space. This is the Doctor's and Clara's last hurrah. Clara wants to settle down with Danny, and can't quite handle darting off with the Doctor on adventures all the time any more. She wants a more quiet life, a stable life, one where she can know more certainly that she won't die the next time she steps through a pair of blue doors.

This is definitely a step up from last week's episode, and the one before that, and the one before that. It's the best of the series since "Listen", and there aren't many episodes before that's better than "A Mummy on the Orient Express" either. This episodes has almost everything I look for in an episode of "Doctor Who". A wacky premise, a skewed theme, funny one-time characters, and the continuing of a plot larger than any single episode. One of the best things this episode did was keeping the Doctor and Clara separate throughout most of it, we get to really see the new Doctor on his own. See how he deals with things without having his companion constantly by his side.

The episode also limited itself to almost just one set piece, a train car. We do get to see some other sets, but only briefly, and to show the viewer that there is more to the train than just this one cart. It makes the monster-of-the-week all the more scary and intriguing, the characters cannot just escape it. They're stuck on a train in the middle of space. The monster itself it not as much scary as it is interesting. It has some interesting abilities, but not once when I saw it was I scared. It was too much of a monster-monster, it wasn't like the Silence or the Angels who have traits of normality in them, the mummy was just a mummy. Kind of a setback.

Overall this episode was good and exciting. One of the most entertaining episodes of the series, in terms of just entertainment value it might even out-rank "Listen" (which wins on having a lot more value than just being entertaining). It was also fun to see the Doctor acknowledge so many things that's been happening to him before, and who he was before. He seems to be a Doctor who is much more aware of his past selves than he has normally been since the relaunch. It isn't too much, it doesn't come off as too self-referential, but they are nice nods and certainly gets a giggle from a fan who knows just the right amount of trivia to recognise it when it comes.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Most Wanted Man - A Late Review

"A Most Wanted Man" premiered in Norwegian cinemas this weekend, a way after both the US and UK premieres, but I think it is still worth talking about, and it's still worth your time to watch it.

"A Most Wanted Man" is the second film featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman to premiere after his death on the 2nd of February earlier this year. "God's Pocket" was the first to be released, but "A Most Wanted Man" was the first to that had a wider release (it is worth noting however that both films were screened at Sundance before Hoffman's death). It was odd at first seeing him there, knowing he died so many months earlier. So long ago that it is almost already a distant memory, I've already seen his face on the Academy Awards under the In Memoriam tribute sequence, yet there he is. Up on the screen. As brilliant as always.

And he his brilliant, he is undoubtedly the best thing about this film. I was worried it was going to bad, and that Hoffman was going to give a bad performance but I was foolish to worry. He nails the part to such a degree that some of the supporting cast fades when he's around. Grigoriy Dobrygin who plays Issa Karpov is the best example of this. When left on his own or with Rachel McAdams he gives a perfectly decent performance, but put him in a scene with Hoffman and he disappears. You start to almost feel sorry for him, and get even more respect for Hoffman who is obviously superior. Unfortunately those exact scenes does bring down the overall quality of the film. Not to a noticeable degree, but it's still there.

"A Most Wanted Man" follows a German counter-terrorist team in Hamburg, more specifically aimed against the Muslim community. Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) is in charge of the team who according to the German government does not exist, he is on the tail of one of the major funders of al-Qaeda. A man indirectly responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle-East. This film is at its core very much a spy thriller. The entire film is about gaining intelligence and manipulating others to get even more of it. The film that first comes to mind if I were to compare "A Most Wanted Man" to another is "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy". It's slow-paced, it's patient, it's about the characters. You don't really care about finding out who is funding al-Qaeda, you don't really care about the mysteries the team has to solve, you care about them. About how they do it. It's a character piece perfectly brought to life by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a master of his craft.

Overall this film is very, very good. It's not one of the bests out there, but it's one of the ones you just have to watch. One thing that did annoy me, however, is how they dealt with languages in the film. The film is set in Germany, and the main cast are all mostly Germans. Even so you almost never hear any spoken German. This could be fine had it not been for the fact that some of the actors have decided to put on accents (Hoffman included). It makes the film seem more like a play than a film. When you have the possibility of subtitles, use it, there is no need to fake a language to make it seem more fitting. Either go all English and just pretend it's all run through a translation matrix, or go completely native. But that might just be my two eurocents. Still, watch it, if for nothing else than to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman on the big screen just one more time. It is definitely worth the experience.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Back-Up: White Pig - Teasery Teasers

Just over a year ago I first wrote about the upcoming Danish crime thriller "White Pig", an indie film about a racist murderer and the cops trying to track him down. The film now has a release date, 20th of June 2015, and a couple of more teasers to rally people up in preparation for its release next year.

"White Pig" is going to tackle one of the scariest parts of racism, the fact that you have no idea who might be a racist. Anyone could be one, couple that with the fact that almost no murder case ends with his close ones saying "I totally understand, he seems like that kind of person" and you really have something. As the tagline for second teaser clip says: "He could be your neighbour, your friend, your teacher, your partner..."

In this second clip, which I've chosen to share first because it's the shortest one, we see one of the main characters, Jens, brutally attack and probably kill what we assume is a completely innocent girl of a different ethnicity. The end shot of him serving buns and jam to a blonde, assumingly pure Danish woman, help establish Jens as a normal man. The friendly neighbour who is more than happy to take you into his home and serve you food. You can't know who will be the next horror.

In the longest clip, as seen above, we meet Mia, the police officer who is tasked to find and track down Jens. It seems as if in this clip they're not quite sure what the exact motives of Jens are, though his victim demographic is clear. Women who look foreign, particularly like they might be from the Middle-East or South Asia.

I can't say that I am completely sold on this film yet, even though I did back it on Indiegogo back in its day, but I am hopeful. Crime films are rarely not at least a little intriguing, and the Danes are known to produce some good crime. I think this film might tackle racism in a way many other films don't really dare, by connecting with Jens, making us understand him, feel for him. Not make us agree with him in any way, but make us uncomfortable by reminding us that there are "perfectly" normal people out there with "perfectly" good reasons as to why they hate anyone who is even a little bit different. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what this film brings to the table that other films of its genre doesn't.

If you want to you can still support it over at their website, though it's not the kind of backing you're used to these days. It's just a straight-up donation service through Paypal, though you will get a contributor listing on IMDb, if that's the kind of thing you might dream about.

I have to say though, one last thing, I'm not a fan of them saying that the film is "loosely based on the Anders Breivik massacre". Sure, the people coming up with the idea might have been inspired by the acknowledgment of these kind of people in the Nordic, but it doesn't have anything to do with the actual event. Although I haven't seen this description anywhere else, it does seem like it's meant to stir people up, give them a certain vibe, but to me it ends up just being in poor taste. Though that might be just me. I still think that there shouldn't be as many films about 9/11 as there has been, or any other great human tragedy that's happened recently. We don't need that kind of discussion right now in such a direct manner, the audience actually lived through it. Wait until a big portion of the audience hasn't.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sniper: Legacy - Not Bad

Don Michael Paul, director of the upcoming fifth Tremors film, had "Jarhead 2: Field of Fire" released not even two months ago and he's already ready with another film. This too is a DTV (Direct to Video) sequel to a theatrical film, though this one has already two other sequels ahead of it, making "Sniper: Legacy" the fourth in the series. For "Jarhead 2: Field of Fire" I saw it fit to watch the first film first, to see how they compared, this time I've decided to go in blank, hoping to see if "Sniper: Legacy" holds up on its own.

"Sniper: Legacy" follows sniper Brandon Beckett on a rouge mission to find the killer of his father, Thomas Beckett. A renegade sniper is killing everyone who was a part of an old mission, and it's up to a team of snipers, shadowed by Brandon Beckett, to find and kill whoever it is before the last person on the list is crossed off.

This is a perfectly decent film, especially considering it's a DTV release and the fourth in its series. It doesn't feel old and outplayed, though the concept doesn't reek of originality either, and it fits well into both current affairs and long-term ones. If someone showed me this without any knowledge of it beforehand, I'd walk away completely entertained. It's exciting, it's intriguing, and it doesn't suffer from any major flaws. There's nothing that strikes out as something I'd want to change or see play out differently. It's an all around fun film.

What's perhaps the most impressive is how cinematic it looks. I'm not sure if this is due to the director or his, or the studios', fine choice in cinematographers, but both "Sniper: Legacy" and "Jarhead 2" look like films that could be shown at a cinema. The only real difference that would make them stand out is the colour grading. They don't look like they've been fitted to play in a darkened theatre, and the cameras are more recognisable as something you'd see on a television series than a film, but the framing and editing makes it mostly appear to be of a much higher standard.

Overall this is a nice film to watch on a weekend night, but nothing that should be high on a priority list unless you happen to be into military themed films, and even then there's probably plenty of other films you could or should watch instead. But as someone who watches a lot of films and is constantly on the look-out for something more to watch than the big blockbusters, this is a good choice. It's better than a good portion of the films I've watched so far this year, and it definitely made me interested in checking out the previous installments of the series.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Skumringslandet - Middelaldersk krim

"Skumringslandet" var ein film eg hadde høyrt ingenting om før det ein dag kom ein e-post frå den lokale kinoen om at dei skulle sette opp førpremiere på filmen ei veke før sjølve premiera. Utan å vite kva eg satte meg inn i kjøpte eg like så greitt ein billett og tok turen. Det angrer eg ikkje på.

"Skumringslandet" er satt på Norges vestland i 1348, akkurat rundt dei tider svartedauden tok seg over Europa. Me følgjer Vilhelm som etter fleire år utanlands kjem tilbake for å renske sin brors namn av morderangklagar. Det hjelp ikkje på saka at broren er einaste arving til ei svær gruve som både kyrkja og kongen gjerne skulle hatt sjølve.

Det spesielle med denne filmen, det som eg ikkje hadde forventa, at det rett og slett berre er rein krim. Dette kunne vore Wallander, Poirot, eller Sherlock, det er berre "tilfeldigivis" satt til middelalderen. Det gjer eit veldig spesielt inntrykk etter kvart som filmen går. Det er noko med hovudet som seiar at når noko ser ut som denne filmen ser ut så er det enten om dragar og riddarar, eller kungar og røvarar. I staden får med ein detektiv, eit offer, og eit par mistenkte. Det er veldig stilig å sjå koss filmskaparane har tenkt til seg om koss ein kunne løse kriminalsakar på den tida. Før fingeravtrykk, DNA, eller til og med bilete og generell lesekunne. Fleire gonger går refleksen min av og får meg nesten til å skrike om at detektiven må sjekke blodet, og ikkje ta så mykje på alt, men det er jo så klart ingen nytte av det i filmens setting.

Produksjonen av filmen er for det meste veldig bra. Kostymar, sett, og talent er alt på plass, akkurat som ein storfilm. Det ser ut som dei er i den tida dei er i, og dei fleste skodespelarane er gode i rollane sine. Det er nokon som ikkje klarer seg like bra som andre, men til samen balanserer det seg ut og me får eit bra resultat.

Alt i alt er dette ein vel gjennomført film, med eit utruleg interessant konsept. Det er vanskeleg for filmen å leve opp til konseptet, for min del når det aldri heilt opp, men det er så interessant å oppleve at det alikevel slukast opp. Det her er ingen britisk, tysk, eller amerikansk storproduksjon. Du ser godt at det ikkje har vore nært ubegrensa budsjett på filmen, men dei klarer seg veldig bra med det dei har, så det er absolutt ein film verdt å få med seg.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

DW: Kill the Moon - On the Shoulders of Giants [Spoiler levels: High]

The Doctor boasts about being able to see all of time and space unfold in front of him, but there are certain times he cannot see. Grey blobs when big decisions are being made. "Kill the Moon" is about just such a time.

In "Kill the Moon" we follow the Doctor, Clara, and her student Courtney to the Moon in the year 2049. There is something wrong with the Moon, something big, something that's making the tides of Earth go haywire, and has strengthened the Moon's own gravity to the point it's as good as equal to Earth's. What exactly is it that's happened?

It's hard to discuss this episode without giving away the major reveals of it, so I'm not even going to try. If you haven't watched the episode, and you don't know what's going to happen, stop reading. I'll give you a few sentences worth of fluff so you don't accidentally see the next sentence and end up being spoiled. Are you gone now? You should be. It turns out, the Moon isn't a moon. It's the egg of a giant, celestial being, and it's about to hatch. This brings an important ethical question to the table, do they kill it to ensure life on Earth continues on? Or do they risk it in favour of not instantly killing what might be the most amazing life form in the universe? The initial plan was to blow pieces of the Moon off, decreasing its mass and hopefully causing its effects on Earth to stabilise.

Although there are a lot of fluff and uninteresting bits in this episode leading up to the reveal of the egg (giant germ spiders, the Moon not containing any minerals, and more) this is a really great episode. The Doctor gets his regenerational definition in terms of how he deals with humans, each regeneration deals in their own way, albeit mostly just minor differences between them. This Doctor likes to let the humans decide a lot. He won't let his own interference mess with the decisions that will lay humanity on its path for the next several millennia, he wants us to decide for ourselves, set our own paths. But in doing so he loses Clara. She's all of a sudden slung into making history altering decisions, she's literally hovering her finger above the button that will change it all, and she despises the Doctor for it. He's always been there for her, and when she needs him the most he's gone. It's a nice exploration of what might be to come. The first moment where Clara realises that the Doctor won't always be there, that he won't always be nice to her, or necessarily do what is best for humanity. And she can't handle it.

Overall this is a good episode, but perhaps not an overly rememberable one. The goofy b-film plot of the first half, with a deserted Moon base overrun by alien bugs, doesn't quite set the viewer up for what they're going to get. It seems like it will be just another monster-of-the-week story, when it really isn't. They should've spent more time on the egg, revealed that early and made the rest of the story deal with them dealing with it. It would've been a lot more interesting.

Operasjon Arktis - Isbjørnenes Herre

"Operasjon Arktis" er ein norsk ødeforteljing satt på øygruppa Svalbard. Frå framsida kan det sjå ut som ein episk eventyrsfilm, men det er det ikkje. Heldigvis så er "Operasjon Arktis" veldig god på det den faktisk er. Eit drama om det å bli vaksen.

"Operasjon Arktis" handler om dei tri barna Julia, Sindre, og Ida som akkurat har flyttet frå Stavanger til Bodø på pakkelastet til mamma i forbindelse med hennes nye stasjonering i redningstenesten. Fyrste dag på skulen kjem Sindre i trøbbel og løp vekk for å sleppe konsekvensene, Julia og Ida spring kjapt etter for å få ham til å kome tilbake. Når dei kjem over et redningshelikopter som skal til Stavanger på service ser ungene sin moglegheit til å hoppe på for å besøke faren som enda er i byen. Diverre blir helikopteret sendt til Halvmåneøya på redningsoppdrag i staden, og ungene blir forlatt der heilt åleine.

Filmen er veldig annleis frå kva eg trudde den kom til å bli. Eg trudde det kom til å vera ein magisk og fantastisk reise i Arktis, at me fekk følgje ungane mens dei såg på det flotte landskapet og dei store dyra. Men det eg fekk var ein film om å overleve. Ungana har ingenting med seg, det er så vidt dei har på seg klede som ville haldt dei varme i Bodø, og her står dei på Svalbard på ei øy kor det strengt talt ikkje er lov å vera. Den einaste bustenada er eit gamalt skur som ble bygd nesten hundre år tidlegere. Den einaste personen som hadde skulle ha vore der ligg på ei båre på helikopteret barna kom til øya på, på veg tilbake til fastlandet og sjukehuset, det er så vidt det er mat for nokre dager til. Altså ingen magisk eller fantastisk reise gjennom sne og is.

Skodespelet kan vera ganske så dårleg til tider, spesielt i byrjinga. Det ser ikkje heilt ut til at barna veit kva dei skal gjere, dei slit utan nokon vaksne til å hjelpe med å bære scenene, dei er heilt åleine foran kameraet, og det synes. Det blir dog betre etter kvart som filmen går, eller kanskje du berre blir vant med det. Etter kvart trur du verkeleg på ungane, at dei har det forferdeleg der dei er, at dei ikkje aner kva dei skal gjere. Etter kvart som den eldste, Julia, kjem fram som ein ledarperson blir med eit alt mykje betre. Ho klarer utmerket å helde scenene oppe for seg sjølv, og det er scenane med ho i fokus som klart er dei beste i filmen.

Alt i alt er dette ein meget bra film. Til og med dei elementane som du kanskje irriterer deg over i byrjinga viser seg til å vera veldig mektige og sterke scenar som blir byggja på konstant som filmen spelar vidare. Det kan vera nokon ting som går att litt ofte til tider, slik at du bryjar å lure på kvifor dei går i dei same fellane heile tida, men når ein ser på filmen som ein heilskap gir det med eitt meining, og det blir mykje betre. Det er klart ein film kor du må kome deg gjennom noko dårleg for å kunne sette pris på kor bra det egenleg var, men det er absolutt verdt det.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Dracula Untold - Better Left Untold

Universal Studios were the kings of monster films for most of the first half of the 1900s. Basically everything any monster or horror film does today it has Universal to thank for. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, chances are the monster that pops into your mind when someone says "monster movie" is Universal's interpretation of it.

Universal did with their monster films last century what Marvel is basically doing with their superhero films today. They made a large universe where the different actors would jump from film to film to reprise their role as often as possible. You might say that Universal did it bigger than Marvel, but not quite as unified and elaborate. Universal has taken notice of what Marvel is doing today, that the world still likes the predictable but different enough films within a certain catch-all genre. The world wants to see their favourite characters again and again in different scenarios, and they want to see them meet and interact with their other favourite characters. Therefore Universal has decided to once again go the route of the multi-franchises by reigniting their monster movie madness.

"Dracula Untold" is the story of Dracula becoming the Dracula. It's an origin story, plain and simple. We even get to see examples of the cliché discovering-their-powers scenes that superhero films have all but depleted over the past decade. We see Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula) go from comfortably living as the prince of Transylvania with his beautiful wife and son to having the Turkish empire at his doorstep, demanding either a thousand boy soldiers or for Transylvania to crumble under their army. Vlad having himself been sent to the Turks to serve as a boy soldier by his own father ultimately denies them the demand, leading both to the Turks attacking Transylvania with all their might, and Vlad starting his journey to become Dracula the vampire.

"Dracula Untold" is supposed to be the first film in a long line of monster films. We're supposed to get to see all the classic monsters on the big screen again, they're to be reintroduced to a new generation who's only heard of these monsters through references made on their favourite television shows and by their parents. Not even I have any extensive relationship with the Universal monsters, it was long before my time, and in my lifetime there's for the most part only been mediocre films made depicting them. Unfortunately "Dracula Untold" continues that trend.

The saddest part of this film is that it just falls so incredibly flat. There is not a single thing I can take from this film that I haven't already taken from hundreds of other films. It brings nothing new to the genre, rather it spoils it with unfit tropes from other genres, the narrative is rehashed and heard a million times before by anyone, you never even start to care for any of the characters, and visually it's as bland as fantasy films get these days. I wasn't expecting anything revolutionary in any field, but I did expect a film that could at least hold a candle somewhat near the character of Dracula.
One of the biggest flaws is how Vlad becoming Dracula is handled. There are a lot of ifs and if-nots, but you the viewer know for certain that he is going to become Dracula eventually. This is something that cannot be changed, but it is something that can be handled. Instead they chose to make a substantial part of the plot about whether or not Vlad was going to become Dracula, they tried really hard to convince us that maybe he wouldn't become him, that maybe there would be a twist, but it didn't work. Dracula becomes Dracula, that's how it goes, it's even in the title. Leaving the entire effort pointless and a waste of time.

The acting is not necessarily bad, it's on the same level as most films of its genre. You get what's on the tin, but nothing more. Don't expect to see any glimmers of deep-down character traits, very few have any real depth, and even the ones who do only do because of the viewer's pre-knowledge of them. Some of the characters are downright formulaic and effortless, doing only what the script tells them without any notion that they might have existed a second before the scene first showed them. Even Vlad suffers from this, and he got a montage at the beginning telling his life story up to that point, not even that was enough to convince me that he was anything but a character on a screen.

Overall this film is not very good. It's the kind of film you might want to watch a cold autumn's eve if there's either nothing else to watch, or because you're doing a run-through of various monster films. There are very few reasons you should watch this, but like the titular character himself says: "Sometimes the world doesn't need a hero, it needs a monster." Maybe he was talking about the film.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

MAOS: Heavy Is the Head - A New Show

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (referred to as "Agents of Shield", "MAOS", or just "Shield" from here on out) came back for its second season last week. It managed to carry on the excitement from the ending of last season very well.

"Agents of Shield" had a bumpy start last season. They lost a lot of viewers due to a slow start, valuing establishing their concept and characters instead of starting right off with a bang. I have to admit, I was disappointed as well, it just didn't live up to anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) up to that point. Luckily that all changed when they got their tie-in with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and discovered what their strength truly was. Serialised television.

The show did improve some from just after the winter break, to be fair, but how they dealt with the outcome seen in "The Winter Soldier" was what really proved this show could be great. Many, including me, were worried the show would struggle to bring that feeling over to a new season, one that wouldn't have the possibility for a tie-in until the very end of the season with the second Avengers film "Age of Ultron". 

In this week's episode we get to see Coulson deal with being the new director of what the public view as a terrorist organization. We also get to go further in on the new additions to the roster, and some further exploration into the new state of affair for several characters. It's kind of amazing what the runners of the show dares to do. We're never formally introduced to the new character, not are we ever explicitly told what's happened since we last saw the rest of the characters. There are no exposition scenes, the information we get is for the most time given to us through natural conversation and our own conjecture. One of the new main characters is still very much a stranger, but it feels like he's been part of the team for as long as they say he has. Throw that on top of them mixing up the entire dynamic of what the show was in the first season, and you almost have a brand new series.

Unfortunately there are some VFX shots in this episode that are really poor, dragging down the overall impression of the new season. It's understandable that they can't have as well-crafted effects as the big-budget films set in the same universe, but they still stick out from an otherwise visually pleasing episode. They couldn't haveexcluded the shots as they were important to the general plot, but they should have done something different to make sure the shots didn't stand out in the way they did. There are however, some VFX shots that are very good. The most important shots that were both crucial to the plot and were relatively close to the camera were all very good, especially considering the format. They clearly had some prioritisation going on and knowledge of what they could and couldn't afford, which again excuses the poorer shots to a limited degree. 

Overall I really enjoyed the episode. It was a continuation of the last episode, which hopefully shows that they're wanting to keep the heavily serialised tone of the post "The Winter Soldier" part of the first season. This type of show clearly benefits from a bigger overarching plot, it just gets too repetitive and almost boring under a monster-of-the-week format. When you base your show on the inner working on a multi-national spy organisation the viewer wants something more than what they could get from almost any police procedural show. I'm looking forward to see how this season plays out.