Saturday Waffling (August 9th, 2014)
So, first of all, I have a bit of nice news – after polling the people who have backed the Patreon to fund reviews of Season Eight, the consensus is that people want the reviews to be open for everyone to read, which means those will be posting right here, replacing the Waffling for Saturdays. I will get reviews together as fast as I reasonably can so that people can have a discussion thread for the episodes as well.
Given that the Patreon backers are being so nice, you might consider joining them, not least because my apartment just ran out of heating oil, which means that half the Patreon is already spoken for, because it’s always bloody something isn’t it.
I want to talk a bit about the reviews at some point, if only to muse about the difference between writing TARDIS Eruditorum and writing episode reviews as the season goes, and on what criticism that’s based in the immediate present ought do differently than criticism that’s historicized, but that may be a next week topic anyway. In fact, I think that’s probably best.
Meanwhile, the Williams book has one and a bit extra essays left, which I’m hoping to take out this weekend.
As for talking, as we’re now exiting the “big summer blockbuster” phase of the year, what was your favorite big film of the summer? What did you actually see? What did you opt to pass up? And is there anything left this year you’re really looking forward to, film-wise?
August 9, 2014 @ 12:21 am
I've seen quite a bit more this summer than I normally do, though that's still not considerably much. IIRC, I saw Godzilla, Captain America: Winter Soldier (not technically a summer film but I saw it then), Edge of Tomorrow, Snowpiercer, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
All of which I liked (though the first two were merely average), and of which Snowpiercer is the clear best- absolutely fantastic in pretty much every way, which makes the Weinstein burial even more galling (especially since this easily could've made a ton of money). For favorite though, I really loved Edge of Tomorrow, though it's a toss-up between that and Guardians (both just had killer endings).
For what I'm looking forward to, hm. Definitely Box Trolls (Paranorman was for my money one of the best animated films in the past couple decades, and I'm hoping Box Trolls will be at least half its level), but other than that I'm not really sure.
I wish (heh) I could be more excited about the Into the Woods film, given how much of a Sondheim fan I am and how half the cast is perfect (Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt as Cinderella and the Baker's Wife? All of my yes), but eh…Into the Woods already isn't my absolute favorite Sondheim*, and the film just looks to be stripping away everything that made the show interesting. Plus I'm not sure if I can handle another movie showcasing how much Rob Marshall doesn't really seem to like film musicals.
*that's not to diminish the show, as it's basically as brilliant as everyone says it is, but when given the rest of his work I'm far likely to pass it over in favor of any of his Prince collabs or Sunday and Assassins. Just never struck a chord with me, I guess.
August 9, 2014 @ 2:29 am
Bypassing the bit where I wryly pretend to be six months in the past/future because of the ambiguity of seasons…
Essentially I opted to pass up everything, but that was more of a reflex than a conscious choice. I've fallen out of the habit of visiting the cinema for the pettiest of reasons – mobile phone screens in my peripheral vision. Not only do they draw me away from the world the film is trying to build, and make me despair for the attention span of modern society, but because of my headache issues it can actually be physically painful (especially since watching a long movie on a big screen in a dark room is already a strain).
…well, truth be told it's mainly because I'm cheap, and would much rather put the cost of a movie ticket towards making sure my favourite blogger stays warm long enough to write 2000 words about Doctor Who Live: The Afterparty. Priorities.
August 9, 2014 @ 3:14 am
I've fallen out of the habit of visiting the cinema for the pettiest of reasons – mobile phone screens in my peripheral vision.
Oh Lordi yes. Funnily enough it's something I can only recall happening during action movies, but it's such an eye-searingly annoying thing that it makes me want to commit physical violence.
August 9, 2014 @ 4:44 am
I'm a very infrequent cinema-goer, so the only things I've seen at the cinema recently have been Godzilla and the I Am Divine documentary.
Godzilla was great – proper old school widescreen seat-rattling fun.
The Divine doc is well worth seeing. I didn't know much about Divine beforehand; I just had a vague memory of seeing her do Walk Like A Man on top of the pops in the 80s, and I've watched Polyester, but that was about it. The film is a touching tribute to an amazing character.
I really want to see Snowpiercer; great cast, great director (loved the Host), but I missed finding out about it until recently so it'll have to be the DVD.
August 9, 2014 @ 5:02 am
Captain America (Pretty good, really wish agents of SHIELD didn't exist due to the way the film ends), Godzilla (A good time at the theatre, made my brother happy), X-men (Left me feeling bored both times I saw it), Edge of Tomorrow (forgot I even saw it), Boyhood (Saw it at BAM, Loved it), Snowpeircer (Saw it at BAM, flawed but ok), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (I enjoyed it at the theaters, not sure how I feel about it now), Guardians of the Galaxy (Had a good time, but I can see the complaints one can have )
Favorite Film of the summer: The one not listed that everyone doesn't like.
Looking forward to: Birdman (video), Box Trolls (video), Horns (video), Tusk (video), Left Behind (Nic Cage in a bad movie, so video?), The Book of Life (video?), Interstellar (theaters), Big Hero 6 (theaters), The Hobbit (see it every year with my mom),
August 9, 2014 @ 5:36 am
Ooh, can I ask:
Meanwhile, the Williams book has one and a bit extra essays left, which I'm hoping to take out this weekend.
Is the next book going to be Just Williams? I.e. are you putting the JNT Baker season in with the Davison book?
yes, I know.
August 9, 2014 @ 5:40 am
Oh, and I'd be remiss if I missed the opportunity to make a shameless plug for my wife's article on Godzilla here.
August 9, 2014 @ 5:49 am
I feel that Captain America contains one of the severest critiques of the superhero and action movie genre I've seen. In that the villain was directly inspired by Nick Fury ignoring the rules to do the right thing. I don't know whether the film's ideology falls apart under the critique, but basically it's trying to argue that you don't want to run a big law enforcement agency as if it's the hero of an action movie, or ignore proper oversight for a higher purpose. Which lets face it is something that needs saying.
August 9, 2014 @ 6:27 am
Back in the southern summer, I saw Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle and Her in consecutive weeks; of the three, I liked Her the best, for its very delicately five-minutes-into-the-future worldbuilding as much as anything. Oh, and I saw Gravity a second time – having caught it first in the US on an old Cinerama screen which would be one of the largest in the States, I thought the only way to level up from that would be to go at Sydney's IMAX, which is the largest cinema screen in the entire world.
In autumn I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, which from the moment he straightens a picture frame to correct the classic Wes Anderson symmetrical framing, I knew I was going to love, and by the time the multiple aspect-ratio gag became apparent, I was mentally kicking my legs in the air in delight. Incredibly slight, but wilfully and rompingly so, and cementing the recent return-to-form upward trend for Anderson. If only Wilson seemed to want to co-write with him again, in the wake of Midnight In Paris… and I also saw The Lego Movie, on the strength of good word of mouth and Lord & Miller. So the voice cast and the fact it was made in Sydney were additional pleasant surprises at the end of a celebratory 90 minutes. (The semi-twist near the end almost doesn't come off, but I imagine it blew the minds of kids around the world, and probably touched some dads, so my reaction isn't really relevant.)
The only thing I've seen this winter, which I guess is the summer Phil's asking about, was the world premiere of Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets. It's a good film-festival movie, about an excuse to profile a regional city, but says very nearly nothing about the band or its members. (Considering they had about a week from pitch to wrap, this is hardly surprising.)
The only new-release things I'm looking forward to coming up at the cinema, that come to mind, are 20000 Days On Earth, the Nick Cave film, and Deep Breath in two weeks.
August 9, 2014 @ 7:22 am
As far as I know it's up to the end of Baker, including JNT, but calling it 'Baker and Williams and Nathan Turner Too' does not seem condusive to readability or extra sales.
Plus, if Phil wants JNT mentioned in the main title on the cover he'll have to write it in Biro, because to hell with that. 😉
Actually, both of those ideas are hilarious, I wish I'd thought of them sooner, but they won't suit the theme of the current idea. I might put him in a sub-sub title though, if Phil is cool with that.
('Tom, Williams and Nathan Turner Too' is just begging to be a parody cover with the three of them side by side in a bed looking bemused in that oh so 70s style. I take my work far too seriously to do such a thing though…)
August 9, 2014 @ 7:24 am
Obvious Child was slight and amusing. Boyhood was entrancing — no big set pieces, no plot, except that the passing of time is one of Linklater's artistic themes and the look and tone of the movie is absolutely seamless.
Life Itself was better than I expected, with the last quarter of the movie focusing on Ebert's end of life, his wife's resistance and then acceptance of the facts, and then the release. After spending almost 90m hearing what a brilliant yet essentially selfish man he'd been up to his marriage, to be witness to the grace he achieves, it just felt like a privilege to have been able to watch that.
Our local indie theater has a Retrofantasma series so we saw "Return to Oz" on 35mm. I'd heard about it, never seen it, and it was quite wonderful, with the scenes in the clinic being absolutely tense and terrifying. Something Wicked This Way Comes was the second feature.
I was working 40h/wk and in school when the Marvel Phase 1 movies came out, so I'm finally checking out all those movies from my local liberry. I'm looking forward to the Vivan Maier and Elaine Stritch docs, and I've heard really good things about The Strange Little Cat.
August 9, 2014 @ 7:39 am
I've fallen out of the habit of visiting the cinema for the pettiest of reasons – mobile phone screens in my peripheral vision.
Oh wow, if someone did that around here it would be even odds whether the theater managed to throw them out before the audience stomped them to death.
August 9, 2014 @ 8:11 am
Is it possible that Snowpiercer might be available on demand with your cable or satellite provider? Could cost as much as a theater ticket, though.
August 9, 2014 @ 8:14 am
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Favorite is hard to pick. Probably Captain America for its combination of a critique of action movie logic with scathing satire of the symbiotic relationship between the global security apparatus and terrorism. However, I also liked how X-Men and Lego Movie critiqued the action movie ethos by forcing the characters to seek a nonviolent resolution to a violent conflict. And like its predecessor, Apes packed more heart into its depiction of CGI chimps than most blockbusters can find in their human actors. Really, the only one that I feel less than enthusiastic about is Guardians. It was empty brainless fun, sure, but everything about the movie cries for Gamora to be the main character and so I was frustrated every time she's pushed out of frame by Quill or we get his backstory and his feelings instead of hers–which also would have meant getting more insight into the villains, another thing the movie badly needed.
I'm looking forward to:
Big Hero 6: Looks like fun, and Chris Williams' last couple of movies were good.
Mockingjay Part 1: While it's the weakest of the books and the decision to split it in two is baffling and annoying, the movies have been better than the books so far, so I'm looking forward to this one.
I'm waiting for reviews on:
Life after Beth: On the one hand, I almost never like romantic comedies, zombies are boring, and the clip they showed on Colbert Report was unfunny and annoying. On the other, Aubrey Plaza and the guy who wrote I <3 Huckabees.
Boxtrolls: On the one hand, greater than 50% chance that any animated comedy for children will suck. On the other, Paranorman was pretty great.
Book of Life: Neat premise, trailer looked like fun, and it's from the guy who made El Tigre. But see aforementioned comment about animated comedy for children.
August 9, 2014 @ 8:15 am
I'm intrigued. Not Mutant Ninja Turtles, right?
August 9, 2014 @ 9:15 am
Sometimes I wish more theatres would take on the policies of the Alamo Drafthouse, where they'll straight up boot you from the theatre and ban you from coming if you have your phone out during the movie (or be enough of a nuisance during the film).
August 9, 2014 @ 10:51 am
I was going to try and see Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend but that didn't work out. However did see 'Frank' last night which, while not a big movie was a movie I really wanted to see. It didn't disappoint (despite no appearance from Little Frank).
Due to work sending me overseas in May, the kids got to see Captain America 2 without me, so I still want to catch up with that on the small screen. I got to see the Lego Movie and they didn't – so I think that evens things out.
August 9, 2014 @ 11:25 am
I haven't been to the movies this year. I had planned on Jupiter Ascending, but it's been pushed to 2015.
August 9, 2014 @ 1:47 pm
Did not see that. My favorite came out before that film.
August 9, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
Winter Soldier was good. GotG I'm planning to see when I'm back from Manchester. And about a week or so after thinking "I should definitely see Days of Future Past", I suddenly remembered about it again and confirmed that it was, indeed, passed.
Big Hero 6, if it's even going to be released in the UK this year. (You never can tell with kids' films; four months I waited to see The Muppets…)
August 9, 2014 @ 3:27 pm
I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty good, but nothing else really, despite a desire to see Winter Soldier and Godzilla. Tough to get to the movies sometimes. Will see those and a couple other summer movies later, renting. Movies that I am looking forward to–Into the Woods for a start, maybe Big Hero 6 if it is as cute/funny as it seems, and, heck, Annie as well if it's any good. Oh, The Hobbit as well, definitely The Hobbit.
August 9, 2014 @ 11:33 pm
I've only seen one film this year – X-Men – so that's my favourite. And least-favourite. Actually, I thought it was one of the better entries in the line, certainly a big step up from the previous two.
Quite apart from the money, I don't go to the cinema much because it's hassle. When I'm not lying down I need to keep moving, so I have to book specific seats where I can stand up and walk about every 15 minutes or so without driving other viewers crazy (usually by the wheelchair space or rear exit). Even so it does mean I won't be able to do much of anything else for the next day. There's less extra pain involved these days, though, which is good. I hope to catch Guardians while it's still in the cinema – we'll see.
For similar (though less extreme) reasons I took an unplanned break from watching TV for well over a month, possibly two. I did see most of a couple of episodes of Supernatural that my daughter was watching when I happened to be in the room, but I've yet to see any trailers for the new series of Doctor Who. In the last week I've felt better, and have watched some DVDs – Vengeance on Varos (which I'd never seen) and episodes 1-3 of The Web of Fear (which I have, but only when I was three years old) plus a couple of episodes of Dad's Army – so I'm getting back into it. I occasionally joke that when I'm fitter I'll be able to become a couch potato!
Today, though, is a gaming day. A big game of Merchant of Venus with a couple of the fan-created expansions, to be precise. Even though I can stand longer than I can sit and I was moving about quite a bit I spent too much of yesterday cutting out stickers and putting them on counters, so I'm starting today sore. Hopefully if I'm careful and go for a proper walk at lunchtime I'll still be able to enjoy it.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
August 10, 2014 @ 7:35 am
Hm… movies I've seen, in increasing order of like:
LEGO Movie: A lot of my friends loved this one, but despite being a LEGO fan since forever, I couldn't really like this one. While the end moral was great, it was delivered with all the subtlety of a two-ton sledgehammer. And that was a problem throughout the film; there were a lot of clever ideas, but they were presented so clumsily that they lost their impact.
Also, for me parody typically has to walk a very fine line between making fun of stupid bits, and following them so faithfully that it becomes stupid itself. The LEGO Movie fell on the wrong side of that line far too often, unfortunately.
I had much the same problem with Muppets Most Wanted… which, sadly, also covers my feelings about all but the first of the original movie series. Most Wanted was an improvement over the first of the new movies because it focused just on the Muppets themselves, but unfortunately in the process it also lost the message in the first one. So, some funny bits, some amusing sequences, but in the end it just didn't gel. It seems to be very hard to do the Muppets right at feature film length; the original Muppet Show is still the best of their work. I wish they'd get the last two seasons out on DVD!
Winter Soldier is the best of the movies I've seen so far this year; it's a generally taut action thriller, and it had a lot of good points to make about terrorism vs surveillance state issues. The real problem is that it felt like they didn't think things through in some key respects, or else chose to ignore them to make the plot work. Was Nick Fury really as gung-ho enthusiastic about the project as he sounded making his presentation to Steve, and did he only change his mind when Steve made his speech? Or if he'd been having doubts beforehand, why did he let the project get that close to activation before raising them? That sort of thing.
Boxtrolls… I absolutely adore the 'making of' trailer, and I'd gladly watch an entire movie based on it. The movie itself, though… just didn't grab me in the other trailers. We'll see.
Glad to hear the Williams book is almost done; I just finished a re-read on the Hinchcliffe book and was disappointed that the extra material stopped there, so can't wait for the new release. 🙂 (OTOH, re-reading the Williams essays on the blog makes me tempted to comment on them…)
August 10, 2014 @ 8:15 am
August 10, 2014 @ 2:08 pm
Stuff I saw at the theaters:
Winter Soldier. I really enjoyed it. The action was excellent, the villains were amusing but also satisfyingly threatening. I can definitely see the 70s political thriller roots, and I'm not just saying that because, y'know, Redford and everything.
What I found most amusing was that between the movie and Agents of SHIELD, it's established that the cold war, the war on terror, homeland security, domestic spying, and crazed survivalists are all literally a nazi plot to destroy freedom and liberty. That's wearing your heart on your sleeve, right there. In fact, I saw a review putting it, and I like this idea, as the joy of a Captain America movie being the wish fulfillment fantasy that it's not shades of gray, it's swirls of black and white, that the world really can be good and evil, that you don't have to sacrifice liberty for safety or vice versa because the entire dichotomy itself is a plot by the evil against the good.
The Winter Soldier himself was interesting as well. He felt like a better execution of Anakin Skywalker, complete with staggeringly similar character design. I just felt there wasn't really enough of him in the movie, I could have used a lot more "ayeee chiki briki stalker" action.
Guardians of the Galaxy. I liked it a lot. I found Ronan to be a more satisfyingly fleshed out villain than Malekith, really just on the back of his introductory scene alone. Maybe part of that is his character archetype is more immediately relevant and obvious, that of the religious fundamentalist more interested in dogmatic terror than in peaceful coexistence. I don't feel like a very good reason was established for his hatred of the Nova Corp, though. It didn't feel like there was a precursor conflict for him to be reacting to, in other words, even though we're told that one happened and ended in a toothless sounding peace treaty.
Gamora feels like she should have had a much larger role, especially since she has such fine delivery. In fact, and this is a "problem" I had with the first Captain America movie, I feel this could have gone on another half hour and had more of every character. I would have been happy to see more Drax, more Gamora, more Ronan, etc.
Speaking of, and BIG SPOILER WARNING, at the end of the movie, given how ridiculous everything had been up to that point, I thought maybe, just for a second, that Ronan was going to take up Quill on his challenge and bust out some sick Kree breakdancing. That would have been absurd, but the movie had earned it.
August 10, 2014 @ 2:08 pm
Age of Extinction. It was alright. Lockdown was an interesting character, and I was amazed at Kelsey Grammer's character and how much more serious he was than the movie generally deserved. Really crass commercialism, but then it's a toy franchise adapted to other media so that's to be expected, and I found myself missing Starscream a few times. Not a lot of military hardware on display.
That said, the action was pretty good, the autobots were a lot more likeable this time around. Bumblebee got to do some radio talking again, which he'd not really done much of in 2 or 3, and Drift was executed in an interesting way. The triple changer angle seemed to come from nowhere, though. Galvatron's transformation totally justified his weird toy, for me. Speaking of, Stinger I liked, just wish he'd get a toy one of these friggin' days…
The boyfriend was basically useless. The daughter was ill conceived and poorly executed. Marky Mark's character vacillated between the meathead and the genius and didn't really nail either, I felt. Going by old reports, I suspect the boyfriend and daughter were supposed to be the main characters in earlier drafts, but then Bay made Pain and Gain, cast Mark as the dad, and things changed as a result. Not necessarily for the better.
That's it, so far anyways. I'll probably end up seeing the Hobbit at home. I'm not exactly flush, so I usually only go to the theater for the big popcorn flicks I want to be able to talk with people about on the internet.
August 11, 2014 @ 5:06 am
NO! Not bay.
August 11, 2014 @ 1:21 pm
I would be surprised to hear that anyone liked it, but then, that's pretty much exactly what we're basing our guesses on…
August 12, 2014 @ 4:57 am
Well, it's not. Also I've heard positive reviews of Transformers.
August 13, 2014 @ 6:11 am
I'm 90% positive that the second Guardians will focus on Gamora and the main villain will be Thanos to set it up for Avengers 3. If it doesn't focus on Gamora and the main villain is Thanos, then I'll be very disappointed indeed.
I did very much like the 1970s feel to the movie, which his backstory really brought. I'm not particularly fond of the idea of an audience identification figure, but when you are asking people to buy into a movie based on comics most people have never heard of, it was probably one way for Marvel to lower its risk.