Stephen King never really goes out of style in the film industry, he waxes and wanes like the moon, his work is prolific, and readily adapted for film, although it can be a little variable in quality. Certainly with IT Chapter 2 forefront in everyone’s mind, now is definitely the time to adapt some of his lesser known work, and here we have In The Tall Grass popping up on Netflix, and while I’m watching, I can’t help but be reminded of another film with a concurrent theme. And then I think, hey, haven’t done a film-versus in a while. (more…)
Ben Edlund’s big blue hero has returned for a third outing onto the small screen, this time through Amazon Prime! You may have seen the pilot last year with Peter Serafinowicz donning the cerulean onesie and antennae, and now we have as far as episode six, certainly enough to start drawing comparisons between both the ’90s cartoon, but more importantly the 2001 short series with Patrick Warburton.
Let me say that I have loved the Tick in every iteration thus far, and to this day I haven’t worked out if he’s a parody of superheroes or just plain funny. For someone so dim he is shockingly verbose and oddly philosophical, despite espousing philosophies that simply don’t work in the real world, especially if you’re not bulletproof or unfeasibly strong like long-suffering and unwilling sidekick Arthur. So with my heart on my sleeve instead of in my chest where it should be, let’s start by looking at our live-action adaptions of that jovial giant of justice.
Critics! You face The Tick! (more…)
There is an ever growing light being shone upon the lesser acknowledged sides of geeky culture. We see more and more anime on main stream channels; computer games are growing in recognition as a competing field against film, television, books and music; and comic books have taken the film industry by storm.
Live action role play – the once maligned form of active gaming mocked even by the tabletop players – is seeing something of a facelift in public perception, due in no small part to the number of celebrities who have come out as proud nerds and gamers, and geeks are becoming celebrities in their own right.
Two such films plunged normal people who’s normal lives are driving them slowly mad into the abnormal and far more exciting lives of fictional characters in a fantasy world.
Role Models (2008)
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star as representatives of an energy drink company touring schools as part of an anti-drug/promotional tour, when Rudd’s character starts to lose his enthusiasm and mounts a monster truck over a horse statue. They are mandated by the court to join a mentoring program for young kids, one a foul mouthed tearaway out to cause trouble, the other a quiet nerd who only comes alive on the field of fake battle. It’s a classic odd couple redemption story, as their connection to their charges leads Rudd’s uptight suit gone wrong and Scott’s “totally not Stifler” character on to better themselves and each other.
The game LAIRE features initially as a background detail to the life of Christopher Mintz-Plasse “Augie”, but as his involvement in the game becomes one of the major breaking points for the story, it also becomes the means by which all four of them finally connect, and heal, an escape and a violent outlet for their frustrations with life. Though Rudd and Scott both begin by mocking and belittling the hobby, they come around, throw themselves into it, and come out the other side the better.
Role Models takes a few unfair stabs at LARP, but doesn’t treat it unfairly. The criticisms clearly come from places of ignorance, and when those “mundane” folk such as the parents and the mentors come around when they see how impactful it can be on someone’s life they gladly put aside their preconceptions. Oh, and even better, turns out LAIRE is real! The group have been running for twenty five years, and it’s cool that real geekery backed a damn good film.
Knights of Badassdom (2013)
A similarly high-geek content film, Ryan Kwanten plays a dropout of life who’s finally lost his deadend job and uptight girlfriend. His friends, Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn decide the only way to pull him out of his funk is to drag him to a LARP, against his will if needs be. During the game, Zahn inadvertently summons an actual demon from hell with a book he bought from eBay that begins to wreak some serious havoc. Understandably it’s all a little too easy for a demon to find victims in a forest full of people fully immersed in a fantasy world, and it’s killing spree takes the grand-melee at the finale into a bloodbath.
Notoriously geeky actors Summer Glau, Danny Puddi, Brain Posehn and Jimmi Simpson lend their considerable talent to this film, but the name that surprised me the most was one not appearing on camera. Bear McCreary is a name you’ll recognise if you pay attention to your opening credits, as he also composed the music for Battlestar Gallactica, the Walking Dead and Black Sails, this is a seriously talented composer putting time and effort into a film that broadly flew straight under the radar for most people.
Here is a film clearly made as a labour of love for the game and a desire to showcase something awesome, despite ending on the moral that LARP is dangerous and you should just play Doom Metal instead because it saves lives. Nevertheless, this is a fairly mediocre film made by people who were clearly loving every moment and it shows in every moment that Knights of Badassdom was a project made by fans for fans, budget be damned, let’s have some fun.
There is a very clear line to draw between these two films. Knights of Badassdom was clearly written with the express intent of making a LARP film that would appeal to LARPers but could be watched by anyone, where Role Models seems to approach it from the non-LARPers perspective. Does it make either film bad? Not in the slightest, although it’s very clear who used their budget more effectively. Badassdom had plenty of special effects to waste money on, and the quality is inconsistent; we start looking stunningly professional, and end a few steps north of student film. Role Models has virtually no special effects, leaving us with a film that is well executed from start to finish.
It’s an obvious thing when a cast and crew enjoy making a film, and these are two films that show for how much everyone wanted to be there. Neither is a sizzling blockbuster or a work of heartbreaking beauty but they are must-watch films for anyone who wants to know what geeks do for fun and have professional production quality and acting talent to play with. More LARP in cinema please!
The inmates are running the asylum, and an outsider has come knocking.
These are films of doubt, pretence, perception of reality, questions of the mind, and where exactly one draws the line between the sane and the insane. It’s harder to draw comparisons between these two films than it is with others I’ve pitched against one another, as they address two very different perspectives on the insane – one archaic, one a little more modern – and there’s one that very clearly succeeded in impressing the public where the other faded almost instantly vanished into obscurity. (more…)
Another versus piece, but this one’s really a non-contest. Two horror films centred around mirrors that toy with themes of perception and reality, but one does the job far better than the other and by no small degree. You know what, I’m just going to launch straight into this one: (more…)
In 1998 we watched a story about a neurotic ant whose efforts to win the heart of the colony land him in deep trouble, but in the end he not only wins the heart of the princess, but saves the whole colony during a dramatic and very watery grand finale!
And then we watched it again.
This may very well be the best showdown between Disney Pixar and Dreamworks. A Bugs Life followed Toy Story as their second step on their way to dominance in the CGI market, but for Dreamworks Antz was only the start of a road that saw mild success until Shrek really threw down the gauntlet. Now, so far as the box office goes there was one very clear winner, but so far as the better film goes, things get a little more interesting. (more…)
In which we compare the two biggest comic book showdowns as they duke it out on the silver screen. This is the second part of a two part review because it got too long to confine to a single article. Read part 1 here. There are a lot more spoilers to be found in this section so a warning is in effect across the board.
Marvel – This is the first time I’ve seen a Marvel film to which I have read the actual comic! Oh I’m a fan of comics, sure, but my knowledge is broadly based on cartoons, games and research, I only pick up the odd comic here and there, but Civil War felt like a must have.
Well, the Nigeria replaced the Stamford Incident, a disastrous mission by a young band of heroes facing off against a far more experienced villain. The Superhero Registration Act was the original name for the Sokovia Accords but by and large they represent the same thing, except that in the comics the concern was more over identifying rather than regulating supers, and Spider-Man revealing his identity becomes a pivotal moment with major ramifications. I like that Parker and Stark are already bonding though. (more…)
This is no small matter. Welcome to part 1.
The comic book genre has held the cinema by the throat for many years now, and not to everyone’s enjoyment but there’s no question that the results have been incredible. Records have been broken, legends have been made, and culture has been revolutionised. There have been almighty successes, and there have been tragic failures, most of which have been Marvel, but the pinnacle has always been the Universe, the combination of heroes into a single coherent force, and it has been a sincere delight to watch Marvel and Disney built that cinematic empire, and something of an ordeal watching DC and Warner Brothers attempt to rush the same thing.
This year has been a pivotal moment, a test of strength of the two giants of industry. Marvel brought us the Civil War, an unforgettable moment in comic book history where a major event forces legal action to be taken by the world’s governments to be taken against every enhanced human and super-being. DC gave us the grudge match of all grudge matches, two heroes functioning at opposite ends of the spectrum, the beacon of hope in a dark world, and a dark knight who hunts evil where it hides.
There is a clear winner, and there is a clear loser, but it’s not the whitewash victory that I expected, despite my bias. Let’s start breaking this down. (more…)
We all know the basics of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island, a lonesome kid with an absentee father and who craves adventure gets his opportunity when a stranger blows through town and hands him a map. There begins a treasure hunt destined to go down in history, hampered by the betrayal of a father figure driven by greed, all coming to a climactic moment when the treasure is eventually found and the traitorous father figure shows he’s not all that bad in the end.
I still don’t know what to call this series about films. I’m carrying on with it anyway. Here’s a sore point for me…
Why did Sin City get a sequel?
Actually I suppose my bigger question here is: what was Sin City‘s appeal? A decent cast of characters, a very slick but not entirely original cinematography style, and the direction wasn’t so bad all told, but all together it’s a very medium film. It did very well at the box office for 18 rated film, and has enjoyed success enough since 2005 to warrant a sequel nine years later.* (more…)