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Archive for March, 2019

Captain Marvel has some great 90’s songs on the soundtrack:

  • Crazy on You – Heart
  • Kiss Me Deadly – Lita Ford
  • Whatta Man – Salt-N-Pepa ft. En Vogue
  • Connection – Elastica
  • Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage
  • Crush With Eyeliner – R.E.M.
  • Waterfalls – TLC
  • You Gotta Be – Des’ree
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana
  • Just A Girl – No Doubt
  • Man on the Moon – R.E.M.
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole

But as pointed out by The Empire Podcast, Carol Danvers wouldn’t know them if she heard them.  In his second outing, The Winter Soldier, Captain America kept a notebook where he made note of things he had missed in the near 60 years he was frozen.  At the time I ran a Blogathon where participants recommended movies made between 1943 and 2011.  I don’t have time to run a Blogathon, so am just making my own recommendations this time, my favourite albums from 1989 to 1995:

1989199019911992199319941995

I chose six for each year simply because they fitted in the grid better than five.  Most years I could have come up with ten!  If I was struggling to choose, I favoured albums I loved at the time over ones I discovered later.  Here are a few bonus picks that didn’t make the top six but I didn’t want to omit:Bonus Picks

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I’m sure you all know about The Bechdel Test.  In its simplest form there are three criteria:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man

I have never stopped to consider how the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fares under this criteria, probably not that well simply for its lack of significant female characters.  As phase three comes to an end, the two most significant women in the MCU are about to meet. thor-captain-marvel-endgame-1200x676

It’s taken the MCU ten years and twenty movies to give a female character a leading role.  Even the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) managed it more quickly with Wonder Woman (2017) being the fourth, and best (some may say the only good) of their movies.  Fortunately this will all be forgotten as Captain Marvel is very good and performing well at the box-office.  However, this puts the sexual politics of the MCU in a precarious place.  They have introduced a character that billed as the most powerful Avenger, a character anyone could be jealous of.  If you have seen the mid credit sequence in Captain Marvel, or the trailer for Avengers Endgame, you will know that Carol Danvers and Natasha Romanoff are about to meet.  How they react to each other is more significant than anyone has given it credit for.  star lord thor

Peter Quill’s jealousy of Thor when they meet is classic Hollywood, except the protagonists are usually two rival women.  As a scenario it is funny, partly for how it is played, but mainly because it is unusual  to see two men react in such a way.  Any amusement or progressive about this would be undone should Danvers and Romanoff react to each other in a similar way.  Let’s hope the writers, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and directors Anthony and Joe Russo have considered this and the charters hit it off immediately.     

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Warning Contains Spoilers

This is not a review of Captain Marvel, but will contain opinions on the film and plot details (for Captain Marvel and other movies).  My greatest fear for the character is that she will turn into Superman.  Not that she will turn into a man (the original comic book Captain Marvel aka Mar-Vell was a man), although that would also be a disaster, there are proportionally far too many men in superhero movies!  The issue is that Superman’s power and ability are too great, and any real peril he faces is by definition contrived.  Captain-Marvel-international-poster-1724182

Captain Marvel is the trickiest of things in a comic book movie, an origin story.  On this level it works well, concentrating on one small time period, by the end of the movie we realise these few days are not the exactly the origin of the character but Carol Danvers rebirth as Captain Marvel.  The film is at its best when it is a mismatched buddy movie with Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson as Danvers and Nick Fury (brilliantly, digitally de-aged).  It has fun with its 90’s setting rather than revel in it, and has some great music cues.  The plot doesn’t always go where you expect, and is largely satisfying.  The cgi heavy final act isn’t as strong as the rest of the movie, but does at least depart from the overused rehash that so many comic book movies use as a fallback.  Larson is perfect casting playing the part with just enough cynicism and cockiness with a constant wry grin.  All in all, it is a fun introduction to the character.Captain Marvel nick fury

But anyone who has seen the film will know, by the end Carol Danvers looks like she could kick Superman’s ass!  This type of power is an ongoing problem in making Superman movies interesting.  Around five years after the introduction of Superman in comic books, creator Jerry Siegel came up with an “Achilles’ heel” that would weaken him, Kryptonite.  In Superman II (1981), Superman III (1983) and Superman Returns (2006), the character is all powerful and indestructible until the use of Kryptonite levels the playing field for a while.  Superman II (1981) is possibly the best movie to feature the character as it pits him against adversaries of similar ability to Superman.  the other contender for the best Superman movie was the 1978 Richard Donner origin story.  This has the same advantage as Captain Marvel; as an origin story it spends a lot of time in Smallville not needing to de-power Superman.

Both the power Captain Marvel exhibits and the events of the film result in a situation with only one possible outcome, she had to leave earth and stay away from the MCU until the events of the first twenty movies had played out.  If you are reading this you have most likely seen the film and stayed for the scene during the closing credits.  It comes as no great surprise that Danvers returns following Nick Fury’s pager message.  This sets the scene for her involvement in Avengers: Endgame, which is sure to be significant.  More than that, has probably been planned for some time.  When all else has failed, she is the obvious choice to take on Thanos.  But where does her cinematic future lie?

One of my favourite MCU movies is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The film is very much like a 70’s conspiracy thriller, it does have a plot problem.  The final act is a typical MCU (or DCEU for that matter) movie, with a large object above a major city threatening the safety of said city, or even the world.  As part of the inevitable heroics to save the day by The Avengers, Sam Wilson aks Falcon has to perform tasks that are near impossible, but that would have been easy for Iron Man (even easier for Captain Marvel).  This isn’t much of an issue when you are watching the film excitement of the movie, but the more you think about it the more glaring the contrivances are. Captain-America-Winter-Soldier-captain-america-38170916-2880-1800

So does this limit Carol Danver/Captain Marvel’s involvement in the MCU to intergalactic adventures (we have the Guardians of the Galaxy for that), and stepping in when all else is lost?  Given the tendency  to give the main characters three of their own movies, they will need to find at least two more stories to tell.  The MCU’s record with sequels isn’t great, Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World are poor movies.  All the other second movies in a series are inferior to the first, all except one, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the best of the Captain America movies and  possibly the best MCU movie.  Given the usual pattern of releases the next instalment should be two or three years away. 

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Following its release on Netflix I held off watching Roma for several weeks in the hope it would find its way to a cinema near me.  I live in a city covered by most major cinema chains as well as lots of great independents (including “The UK’s Oldest Working Cinema”), I therefore thought I had a pretty good chance.  Sadly it didn’t appear, so in the dark days between Christmas and New Year, I bit the bullet and watched Alfonso Cuarón’s latest on TV at home.Roma

Following an online search I soon discovered why it hadn’t appeared at a cinema.  It appears Netflix set the bar pretty high for any cinema wishing to show the movie.  It suggested they needed the capability to project 70mm film or 4k digital, and have Dolby Atmos sound.  This excluded most independent cinemas across the country; many will have one of these capabilities few have both.Roma

After watching the film my first reaction was that I could understand the restrictions as the films sound design was nothing short of spectacular.  I have a reasonable home setup with 7.1 sound, this was by far the best sounding film I have watched at home, I’m sure a full Dolby Atmos would have sounded even better.  My impression was further galvanised by a friend who had watched the film the same night as me who commented that he hadn’t noticed the great sound.  The irony of this, the person in question was partly responsible for convincing me to upgrade my system, but doesn’t himself have surround sound having recently moved house, and not set up his surround speakers yet.ROMA

However, it suddenly hit me; there was a chink in the Netflix criteria.  A cinema with a really good, but not Dolby Atmos setup could not show the film, but anyone with a Netflix account could watch it on a mobile phone with a 2 inch screen and a single speaker.  Accepted, it is unlikely that anyone who would have paid to watch the film in the cinema, when they could have watched it at home at no extra cost (if they have Netflix) is unlikely to then watch it on a mobile phone! Nevertheless, even the best home set-up is going to be inferior to most cinema’s even if they are not Atmos.  Therefore there must be more to it than simply showing the film in the best way.roma 3

Whether you think it is the death of cinema or an exciting time, we are certainly at a tipping point in not just how we view films, but how they are funded and made.  Steven Spielberg has joined the debate suggesting that films should not be eligible for the Oscars if they are predominantly streamed and receive just a token release.  Film critic Mark Kermode has long been an advocate of simultaneous release across multiple platforms, I tend to agree with him.  But the Roma model (and many other Netflix releases in 2018) goes a long way past the idea of a simultaneous release and into what Spielberg calls a “token” release, where films are shown in a very small number of cinema’s for a very short time.  Netflix have responded on Twitter “We love cinema. Here are some things we also love: Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters – Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time.” While a measured response, they don’t seem to have taken account of people who don’t have the capability to stream movies, for example if they live in a rural area with low bandwidth.  Also from a cost point of view, many people may not be able to afford the cost of high-speed internet, and Netflix subscriptions, but can afford the odd treat of a trip to the cinema.  For at least the last half century the cheapest way of watching movies has been free to air TV, at this time, it isn’t clear if Netflix movies ever find their way to TV.roma4

There are more questions than answers, and they are sure to be asked again later this year with the release of Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated return to the gangster genre The Irishman.  I will be watching with interest. 

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Just six screenings this month, but which will be movie of the month?

The Mule – Clint Eastwood returns to acting with only his second appearance in a decade.  Inspired by true events, the film is a little lightweight and whimsical but is enjoyable none the less. The Mule

Alita: Battle Angel – James Cameron’s long promised Manga project finally makes it to the screen in the hands of director Robert Rodriguez.  Rosa Salazar shines through the CG to give a fantastic performance at the heart of the movie.  Flawed, but tremendous fun.Alita Battle Angel 5

Happy Death Day 2U – Two years ago Happy Death Day combined the ideas of Groundhog Day with a slasher movie.  A large part of the success was the charisma of Jessica Rothe in the lead role.  She is back for a sequel that is more comedy than horror.  The filmmakers have the sense to come up with a new idea rather than rehashing the first film, it isn’t as good as the first film but still a fun watch. Happy Death Day 2U

A Private War – The true story of war correspondent Marie Colvin.  Powerful and often harrowing. Rosamund Pike is sensational in the lead and was criminally overlooked at the Oscars. a-private-war-PW_03736a_rgb.JPG

Wild at Heart – David Lynch’s bonkers take on a the American Road Movie hasn’t lost any of its power  in the nearly thirty years since its original release. Wild at Heart

Burning – Wonderfully ambiguous that keeps you guessing until the end and ultimately asks a lot more questions than it answers.  Burning

As always I have only included new releases in completion for movie of the month making Wild At Heart ineligible.  That leaves two contenders; Alita: Battle Angel was so much fun it came really close, but my movie of the month, is the one I can’t stop thinking about: Burning.Burning Poster

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