Friday, 28 June 2013

Man of Steel – This isn't my Superman

I should have seen it coming really.

Man of Steel is not Superman.

Man of Steel is a new hero; a much louder, much more violent, far less caring and far less super hero.

Don’t get me wrong, there are glimpses of the Superman beloved by pretty much everyone for the past 75 years. Zach Snyder (director) supplies us with introspective moral quandaries, thrilling flying sequences, and mind-blowing visuals.

But those glimpses are just fleeting and most of the movie seems happy to occupy the incredibly loud but really rather dull realms of the generic blockbuster.

But whose fault is this?

Some have blamed Zach Snyder for orchestrating the impressively vacuous final act. Instead, I would like to shift the blame onto everyone’s sweetheart, Christopher Nolan, and his Batman writing buddy David S. Goyer. They are credited with coming up with the story and, for me, that’s where the biggest problem lies; with the writing. For every moving father-son talk, there’s a Saturday morning cartoon exclamation from both our hero and our villain, and this imbalance is far too common.

However, there are some interesting aspects to the movie. The structure and pacing are admirably left-field for a summer blockbuster. But by opting for an episodic structure, Goyer and Nolan provide an incredible basis for a trailer, but an incredibly unforgiving feature-length picture whose lack of fluidity makes it a confusing, and rather harsh, watch. There is no time for the film to settle into any kind of rhythm and however much visual splendour Snyder dazzles us with, there’s a serious lack of humanity.

It’s Superman’s powers that people often find too much, and that is one of the main reasons the character has faded into the cultural periphery behind the behemoths of Batman and Iron Man. Superman is basically invincible and, therefore, totally unrelatable. But, the thing is, it’s Superman’s humanity that provides his weakness (a point emphasised by Snyder’s decision to not feature Kryptonite in his Superman universe). Superman can beat anybody whenever the hell he feels like it, but its Superman’s empathy and faith in the human race that stops him, that makes him give people the opportunity to change, that gives people hope.

But I, for one, didn't take much hope from this cold-hearted take on Superman.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Sons of Anarchy – Pilot Review

Hey everyone,

I would just like to take a moment thank you all for reading this and anything else I've ever posted on here.

This blog has been on the up recently. It wasn't long ago that the site underwent a major face-lift; which hopefully now allows easier access to older articles and is a bit more pleasing to the eye. I personally feel it has been a great improvement.

To encourage further growth, I would like to try and roughly double my output, and for that reason I am introducing a little series called 'Ready for take off' . . . or something like that.

TV watching takes time and, at the moment, I have no time to watch weekly episodes of 'Breaking Bad' or 'Game of Thrones' . . . let alone catch up with them. I mean, for the past year, virtually all my TV watching time has been focused on Lost (currently on season 5), Spartacus (finished Gods of the Arena), The Wire (finished the first two seasons), The Walking Dead (near the end of season 2) and Homeland (all caught up).

But, in anticipation of a time when I finish one or more of these shows, I have started to sift through the popular shows to try and decide what to tackle next. So, with the help of both iTunes and Xbox Video, I have gained access to a selection of pilots that I will watch and then give all you lovely people my first impressions.

To start off, I went went with Sons of Anarchy; a show that I tried and failed to join at the start season of season 3. Let's see if I fared any better starting from episode 1 . . .

It’s an interesting start to the now long-running biker gang drama, but not a wholly successful one. 

What I've garnered from this first episode is that there are two sides to this show. On the one hand, we have the biker-stuff – revenge-fuelled feuds, run-ins with the law . . . all that jazz - and that's really entertaining. 

Then on the other side there’s some kind of family drama thing going on which is a far rockier road. Some of it’s interesting; like the whole concept of whether the founding father would frown upon the way the gang has become a bunch of outlaws and the importance of father figures. But some of it’s far more mundane . . . and kind of tedious.

However, any boredom is overcome by the writers deciding to jump right into the action with this opening episode. They do throw a lot of names around, but it never becomes that overwhelming and allows the action to get right into the nitty-gritty.

So, overall, it was an enjoyable pilot, but I just wished there was more ‘anarchy’, and slightly fewer ‘sons’.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Batman Begins – The Film That Started It All

One of the key reasons that 'The Dark Knight' smashed box office records back in 2008, and 'The Dark Knight Rises' did the same last year, was that they were building upon the firm foundations of their 2005 predecessor, 'Batman Begins'. Begins leaves any prior cinematic canon behind; it forgets Adam West’s 60's caped crusader, Tim Burton’s darkly stylised late 80’s Batman and Joel Schumacher’s campy 90’s incarnation. Instead director Christopher Nolan starts from scratch with a slightly altered origin story chronicling the inception of the Dark Knight.

Nolan, and his co-writer, David S. Goyer, craft one of the great cinematic origin stories; skilfully dividing their time between Bruce Wayne learning to become at one with the shadows, the donning of the cowl, protecting the ones he loves and saving his city from destroying itself from the inside out.

This is story telling on an epic scale, dealing with themes of justice, revenge and destruction. Nolan has done what few Hollywood directors manage to do and used a blockbuster budget to create something mature and powerful. Batman is a dark character; he is emotionally cracked, and any film about him should reflect that. Batman Begins does just that.


Saturday, 8 June 2013

Immortals – Style over . . . well anything really

‘Immortals’ tells the story of Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant who is chosen by the Gods to defeat the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and stop him getting his hands on the magical ‘Epirus Bow’, with which he could cause all amount of trouble for both the mortals and the ‘immortals’ (the Gods).

Now the plots is, well . . . stupid, frankly; hopping about all over the place, from boring set-piece to boring set-piece. But worst of all it’s predictable, which is always going to be a problem if your main character has a story arc that we've seen a million times before.

The performances are also seriously lacking, especially from Mickey Rourke who seems to be back to his worst. He’s fallen from the soaring heights of ‘The Wrestler’, and spends his time growling and just generally crushing any redeemable features of the film with his own two gnarled hands.

But hey-ho, what does it matter, the amazing action compensates for the paper-thin plot. Right? Well not really, no; with ridiculous violence and an unnecessary volume of blood-shed, the action lacked any ‘wow’ factor, unlike, say, ‘300’. The films art style, while occasionally interesting, felt far too shiny and clean, and really lacked the edge, or the ‘grittiness’, of Zach Synder's slow-mo drenched epic.

However, through all this doom and gloom there was a faint ray of light, in the form of Henry Cavill. When Zach Snyder (300 again, sorry) announced him as his lead for his Superman reboot, ‘Man of Steel’, my hopes weren't exactly high. At that point, I’d never heard of the man, but he is one of the best things in ‘Immortals’; he has a good screen presence, looked the part, and just generally did the job well.

So what can I say, if you like blood spurting into your face in tacky 3D, and shiny, half-naked Greek men, then, by all means, watch Immortals. However, if you are a bit fed up of mythological ‘epics’, and can see past the surface gloss, then don’t; it takes itself way too seriously and Mickey Rourke’s growling is awful. But hey, Man of Steel might be good.