Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: All that was and all that will be
Age Of Ultron:
The Movie that Broke My Love for Superhero Movies
Age of Ultron is the worst movie to happen to the Superhero franchise genre. Despite its publicity and praises on the script, Age of Ultron was the Transformers release of 2015. It made its bank, but critically it was a bomb.
The AoU announcement came quickly after Marvel Comics finished up their reboot of Age of Ultron story arc, which is arguably the worst Avengers story arc in recent memory. However, Marvel has adopted cross media promotion. Remember the whole, “it’s all connected” thing? So, it wasn’t a surprise when the announcement finally came.
When news was first breaking about the script, it was called dark and cerebral. Early readers praised AoU in its complexity and thought it would be strong enough to stand up next to Winter Soldier’s success. After all, they had a lot of material and foundation to work up from. Also, us Geeks had wondered when the time gem would come into play. Because Ultron story arcs ultimately like to play with time, it made sense that AoU would play into the Infinity Gauntlet mythology. Because the gem grants the user the time traveling power, which Avenger would be worthy or responsible enough to hold on to an Infinity Gem? Often, the comics choose Captain America to hold onto the gems because he is the most altruistic. But, what if they had to go back to 1950’s America to stop Ultron from being developed, as they often do in the comics but Steve Rogers wanted to stay? We even hinted at his longing for his past in previous installment as well as Age of Ultron. Simply put, a moral dilemma would have been a welcomed addition to the franchise. Now, that is just one of many areas they could have gone. However, bestowing the gem to a completely new character creation undermines the Avengers role or purpose regarding the Infinity Gauntlet.
In case those of you who forgot, the Infinity War is something the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up to for over a decade now and it has now become the slowest moving McGuffin to crawl into the cinematic world. Now, most McGuffins are just there to fuel the plot, yet it should have some sort of impending consequence to the characters involved. However, each time we hit play, all tension surrounding the gauntlet has been subdued and white washed. The gems are somewhere but who cares? Do they matter? None of this became more confusing until Marvel decided to blow their own horn and show all of their Marvel releases back to back to those die-hard fans who inevitably became overburdened by the undeniably loose plot threads. For me, the Ultron/Infinity slap in the face didn’t truly hurt until Thanos decided to break the fourth wall and yell at the audience for the incompetence and mishandling of the Infinity Gauntlet story arc.
Then we must address the overall purpose of this franchise. Within the first five minutes of AoU, I am quickly reminded of Super Bowl America. Scenes of American white male fantasy include the gridiron offense overpowering linebackers, tough Ford trucks overcoming boulders on mountains, and now Avengers beating down some Nazi-esque terrorists. As my fist is pumping and these scenes of masculinities are playing in slow motion through my head, Pauline Kale and Alejandro Inarritu’s words are echoing in the back of my mind. Are these superhero franchises nothing more than immature white boyhood fantasies? Are any of these relatable characters? By the time we leave Hawkeye’s farm, the answer is no. First of all, the family and farm undermined the sexual tension that was not only building between Natasha and Hawkeye since the first Avengers but also building from an earlier exchange of dialogue while Hawkeye was in recovery. Who uses a wife and kids plot twist outside of the romance genre? In fact, I can’t quite think of a sequel undermining its characters relationship since Princess Leia kissed Luke Skywalker. Then there’s Mark Ruffalo’s character and romance. By the way, in the same year Mark Ruffalo is the guy who just came off of doing the three-hour Foxcatcher, which relied on body language to fully explain the complicated relationship between Ruffalo and his drug-addicted brother, and also the guy who may win awards for his supporting performance in Spotlight. So, it wasn’t the acting. It was that the scene had no clear direction or purpose. This is the part of the story which serves as the character development phase, yet it was all too awkward.
There are some people who scream about social injustice in regards to Ruffalo and Johanson’s character romance. However, I say the social injustice is directed at the homoerotic tension that’s been building up between Chris Evans and RDJ’s respective characters since the first Avengers movie. Don’t the quips between Evans and Downey sound like that of a recently married couple? Wouldn’t it make more sense why Tony Stark is mad at Steve Rogers when he finds out about his secret lover Bucky; therefore, their breakup is kicking off the Civil War? If we don’t want to admit to Avengers being a conservative male fantasy, then isn’t it time Marvel pony up and show their progression by changing the status quo, at least a little?
That is the reason why the Marvel franchise became pointless. Outside of their respective origin movies, nobody and nothing change. The Age of Ultron is about the Avengers overcoming a robot with daddy issues. At the end of the day everyone high fives each other and white washes anything that might kinda affect future plot lines, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to name drop like a sponsored prize fighter. It isn’t cerebral. It isn’t dark and full of character depth. It’s a timid blockbuster and it’s full of product placement for a bloated franchise. Perhaps, if Joss Whedon stuck to the original script or somehow stopped outside influences, we could have experienced what was promised. However, what we received was a 280 million-dollar commercial for a franchise that has overstayed its welcome.
Overall, what is the relevance of the super hero genre? One issue that sparked debate later in the year was when Spielberg mentioned that the super hero movie will go the way of the western. The western genre back in the day was its era’s blockbuster. That’s where Hollywood threw all the big names in the pot, and they made sure that it was fun for the whole family. However, these days westerns come out much less frequently and aren’t the big dollar maker that they use to be. After Spielberg let these words slip during an interview for Bridge of Spies, which isn’t related to blockbusters or super heros, many reporters asked everybody for a few insightful words. During a press conference for his directorial debut, Before We Go, another movie that has nothing to do with blockbusters or superheroes, the most insightful response came from Mr Captain America, Chris Evans. he mentioned that, “I certainly think that given the fact that technology has finally advanced, they’re always going to be looking for other films to match their technological accomplishments… whether it’s superhero film or fantasy in general”. That argument makes a lot of sense. SuperHero, Fantasy, as well as Sci Fi should be great places to showcase our newest Hollywood technology. However, I can’t think of a single instance in Age of Ultron where the technology particularly stood out, at least Ant Man had the Quantum Realm.
Personally, I now regret ever wanting to see my favorite comic book characters turned into celluloid and keep slapping my eight-year-old self for being slightly interested in the Infinity War and Civil War. Jesus, none of the entries really can come up with an original title or identity.
Many people have been waiting for Johnny Depp to shed his Jack Sparrow persona and return to the world of acting. Although Black Mass delivered his long over due performance, that wasn’t all Scott Cooper delivered. Johnny Depp equally shares the screen with Joel Edgerton, who delivered a performance that was full of range and believability. In particular, Edgerton portrayal of John Connolly is always able to gain great sympathy from the audience, even when the character was the most despicable or self righteous.
The story itself may have been slow or less kinetic than what the movie audience has grown to expect from gangster movies. However, this is not a bad thing. The plot is organic, and although it is all being told through interviews and interrogations, each piece evolves naturally. There’s never a time when one is left scratching their heads over leaps of logic. There is a part of the movie where Johnny Depp’s character, Whitey, explains to his son that, “If nobody saw you do it, then it didn’t happen”. This phrase is part of Cooper’s meticulously crafted movie. Through out the movie, one may notice that Whitey never appears in a scene by himself. Therefore, there isn’t a time where we see Whitey’s express his inner turmoil or hear long voice over monologues. This isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities where we could have been clued in, yet we don’t witness the personal transformation of Whitey. Instead, Cooper puts us in the witness’ chair. Not only does this technique help remind us this is story compiled through interviews and research, but also it forces the audience to only focus on the crimes Whitey committed. After all, that is why we know who Whitey is in the first place. Watching him grieve over the loss of his family would have helped further develop the character, but it would have also distracted us from this movie’s intent. That is why Depp was perfect for this role. Depp has an amazing talent of embodying his character to the point where we don’t need exposition and back story to understand his role.
In a relatively short career, this being Cooper’s third directed movie, he has shown us that he is confident in his actors as well as himself and even the audience. There’s never a moment where we feel he had to dumb things down to hold our attention. Black Mass simply flows with a natural rhythm that feels right for the story he is telling.
At the surface level, friends is a decade long sitcom about a group of friends. However, like many tv shows today, this series cleverly builds itself from a very long series of non-sequitur jokes. Although its plot and characters developed overtime, like Cheers, it still felt light hearted, like a sitcom. However, unlike a sitcom such as Home Improvement, the characters actually grew and progressed over the series. After a few seasons, this became a herculean feat. The entire series was based around the whole concept of how can the writers and cast keep a joke going for as long as humanly possible while concurrently developing and progressing the characters and the plot. Some of the punchlines are so ridiculous that some of the scenes could work just as well as skits on SNL. However, unlike SNL the creators have to commit to every ridiculous skit and make it canon. Consequently, this is why there were many awkward references to incest.
Regardless, that’s not to say that Friends doesn’t take on a serious tone. The infamous Ross and Rachel break-up was so soberingly realistic it plunged us into the Uncanny Valley, and it was so memorable that the show kept reminding the audience that the relationship only occurred during season 2. Yet, to this day the Rachel and Ross relationship is recalled as being one of the most prevalent themes. Some of you may be thinking, “wait a minute didn’t those two have a child together”? Yes, but the two hooking up was a one night stand which occurred off screen.
Now, this brings us to another interesting aspect of the show. It was admirable how the creators would often not show us plot points. Usually, the most important plot points would take from half to one full season to set up, but when we finally arrive at that critical moment it would cut to a commercial break and we would often be treated to the aftermath. It’s like watching a comedian spend a good portion of his time setting up a joke and then to be told we know what’s going to happen and just skipping over the punchline. In hindsight this is very ballsy for a series who built its entire show around non-sequiturs which end with the most improbable or insane outcomes. Yet, the staff wield these characters so incredibly well that the audience always feels their story is developing naturally, albeit sometimes schizophrenically. In fact, the only disagreeable part of the show would stem from the Joey character. LeBlanc’s character had several interesting subplots which could have shifted the status quo of the show. However, by the time we reach the series finale, Joey became a static character who didn’t progress or develop. So, it makes a lot of sense why his character would be chosen to go on to a short lived spinoff series. Also, by season ten, the show became a parody of itself and it was a smart idea to cap it off. It would have been dreadful to carry this show any further.
Thanks to the great ground work Friends has done, brilliant shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, and It’s Always Sunny have adopted and refined the Friends formula for our continued enjoyment. It’s been ten years since the series concluded, and its comedy has held up remarkably well. This is due to the fact that Friends was the prototype for today’s Modern SitCom.
In this episode, we discuss the movie magic behind cult mockumentaries such as Blair Witch and Cannibal Holocaust.
In We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici gave us an atmospheric and terrifying entry in the family horror genre. In the beginning, not only does the rainstorm slowly uncover the Parker’s secret, but also it compliments the film’s washed out colors and bleak and somber tone. Each scene is discomforting quiet because there’s a minimal amount of dialog and sometimes a few haunting piano pieces. Instead, the actors often have to rely on body language to display their increasing anxiety. When the story arrives at the final confrontation between Michael Parks and Bill Sage’s characters, the combination of Jim Mickle’s camera work, and Parks and Sage’s body language and dialog a delicious and menacing scene worth repeat viewings.
Although this film retains several mysteries, overall it isn’t a typical who-done-it. Instead, the story allows us to slowly follow a trail of bread crumbs to uncover the family’s secret. The first few scenes drop enough hints for us to understand we’re on a bloody path; however, we have yet to discover how depraved the family is. Unlike other family horrors such as Devil’s Rejects, Texas Chainsaw, Spider Baby and so on, this story keeps turning on our expectations. Rather than following the same tropes and formulas we’ve watched in the past, each scene is weighted down by the character’s moral dilemmas. Each character has depth and honesty and they aren’t one note psychopaths one would typically expect.
Because of the pacing and style, it’s hard to talk about the story beyond the surface level. Each significant plot reveal only adds that much more to the experience and horror of this film. If one squints hard enough they may view this as a commentary on religiosity. However, like a great record, it’s better to just put this one without preconceived expectations and watch how beautifully the pacing, the acting, and story twist together one of 2013’s finest horror movies.