Posts Tagged With: films

Lord of the Apes

I have posted numerous times on the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His knack for fantastic adventures set the stage for books and film for decades right up to this day. Funny, though, I have never read his best known series.

Tarzan.

Twenty-six books in the series were penned by Burroughs. Some 200 films have the name Tarzan in the title, but most stray considerably from the source material. First written in 1912, Tarzan finally gets the big budget Hollywood treatment it deserves:

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Disney failed to launch Burroughs’ epic Barsoom tales into a franchise (though take a look at how much Burroughs’ Mars books inspired Star Wars), but maybe Warner Brothers can bring Tarzan into the 21st Century.

And quite frankly, we need a hero who isn’t a mutant or alien.

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Indie Film Fest 2: The End

It’s been awhile since my last Indie Film Fest, but the indie film industry continues to flourish. Whether limited release or the direct-to-home market, the industry has benefited from digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon. This is not unlike how publishing and music has been revolutionized by technology, though the expense of filmmaking makes a bit more of a challenge. Nevertheless, these films often attract established stars and provide a refreshing counter to big budget spectacles (not that many of those aren’t great as well). Here are three post-apocalyptic choices that, like the best in the genre, explore the good and evil that simmers all around us:

In The Last Survivors, we find 17-year old Kendal trying to survive in the parched-out valley where her family once lived. Of course, there is a self-proclaimed “baron” who is trying to claim all land (and remaining water) so his group can survive. A very visual and well-thought out film which allows you to overlook some minor script or direction issues. A small-scale version of Mad Max or The Book of Eli with the classic post-apocalyptic story of the best and worst of people.

Snowpiercer finds the world’s survivors locked in a new ice age. Ironically, it was caused by the world’s governments trying to “fix” the climate – a little warning missed by most reviewers. If you can overlook a few plot issues – such as if they can keep this train running, can’t they figure out a stationary location? Who’s out there maintaining the tracks? – there are some great themes in here. Some see it as depicting class warfare, but it can seen as a warning over oppression and government meddling.

Z for Zachariah is a more subtle film. Not driven by typical action, but driven forward by the interactions and decisions of three survivors of the end of the world. Ann has survived the fallout in a shielded valley, alone for some time until two others stumble through. I think many reviewers failed to put themselves into the mind of the characters and what they would be thinking and decisions they would make, much like in The Road. It is also, at one level, a modern spin on Adam and Eve in a Garden of Eden.

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Why Fantasy Films are Awesome

And books, too, of course:

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007 Doesn’t Hate Women

A few days ago, I wrote on people finding sexism everywhere they look in books. A common target of theirs is James Bond (both the original books and films). Taking it further, article after article has labeled Bond as misogynistic. It appears many people just like pretending to sound intelligent by repeating a big word they never looked up, nor have they thought too deeply about Bond.

First, misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women. Bond does neither (more on that in a moment). What people have done here is equate objectification with dislike or hatred. This is a stretch and a misuse of words. Why, would most people, objectify something they hate? Even Bond actor Daniel Craig misused the word, but his costar, Monica Bellucci disagreed that Bond was a misogynist.

Bond never abuses women, only hates the ones trying to kill him, and his conquests are always willing participants. Professor Thomas A. Shippey, in his course on influential characters in literature, Heroes and Legends, reveals that Ian Fleming’s original 007 books reveal a Bond who is:

…gallant, even protective [of women] in an old-fashioned way. Nearly all the women in Bond’s life have been badly treated [by others]…Tracy and Vesper, the two women Bond marries or means to marry, both have hidden sorrows or secrets…He doesn’t physically abuse women, and he’s capable of falling in love. He shows concern for some of his partners, and although they sometimes dump him, he doesn’t dump them.

The films, especially the recent series, do reflect what the novels established. So why, historically, does every woman he meets “disappears or is disposed of before the start” of the next book or film? This where the sexist-misogyny-slinging experts have refused to think to deeply: Why is Bond so scarred? What has made him the way he is? The books, and the Daniel Craig films, have explored these reasons. Being a spy, the past is slowly revealed, and perhaps never fully, but losses like Vesper’s betrayal and death certainly have an obvious impact.

Bond is an easy target: Giant blockbuster films, full of barely believable escapades, a spy who always gets the girl. On even a cursory inspection, however, that man is flawed, has a history and a feeling or two.

In other words, a human after all.

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Buckle Up

We love to disappear into our books, but this year the big screen is overloaded with epics tailor-made for the old fashioned, larger-than-life format. Not surprisingly, the most anticipated ones are all existing franchises.

The original apocalyptic series returns after a decades-long absence in Mad Max: Fury Road, which takes place between the second and third films of the original series. One word: Wow.

Ethan Hunt is back in Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation. Why is every film about renegade agents and/or the IMF being disbanded? Don’t know, but it works.

That other secret agent, James Bond, faces his worst nemesis in Spectre. Bringing back this old villain solidifies the new series as being among the best of 007.

As he did with Star Trek, it looks like director J.J. Abrams is bringing us back to old-school Star Wars in Episode 7, The Force Awakens.

We may be getting close to super hero burnout, but the reboot of Fantastic Four looks to be a smart move. It has the look and feel of X-Men, so are the filmmakers who missed launching the “shared-universe” boat years ago up to something?

Buckle up and choose your adventure.

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A Mercifully Short 2013 ‘Best of’ List

I’m tired of all the Best of 2013 lists, but here is one more. Maybe it was just me, but there seemed to be yet another overload of films released this year. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by most of them. Sure, a lot of okay films for a few hours of amusement, but nothing I’ll watch again. So my list of favorites is rather short:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Star Trek Into Darkness
Man of Steel
Oblivion

I’m not going to go into drawn out reviews of these. Maybe I’ll do a Hobbit review, which I had intended to write. It would be positive look at the film, so given its success, it probably doesn’t need my comments anyway.
Why no “artsy” films? Because most of them try too hard and are not really that good. If people have to spend countless hours and words convincing you it’s great, chances are it isn’t. Reminds me how Star Wars (not artsy in the traditional artsy sense, but it is art) fans have spent three decades telling everyone how The Empire Strikes Back is the best of those films. Well, maybe it isn’t the best if you have to try that hard. Doesn’t mean it’s bad either.

In any case, how many films (or the books they come from) will you remember a couple months later? People have been reading The Hobbit since 1937. So maybe there is something a little deeper in all that orc-killing? If you really want something a little different than big budget spectacle, don’t miss my Indie Film Fest.

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Noah’s Ark Lands in Hollywood

Expensive biblical epics haven’t been a staple of Hollywood for decades, but this week saw the release of the first trailer of Noah which will hit theaters in early 2014.

Enter controversy.

Some like J.W. Wartick have written on concerns over possible “divergence from the Biblical story.” Fair enough, but I don’t have a problem with divergence, if it is in the sense Brian Godawa describes:

…there is nothing wrong with engaging in creative license, whether it is magical seeds or six-armed Watchers, or even Noah as a warrior. I don’t even think there is a problem in using non-biblical sources like the Book of Enoch or the Sumerian version of the Flood story, where unlike in the Bible, Noah receives dreams about the coming Deluge. The question is, does it support the spirit or meaning of the original story, or the original author’s intent. Bible believing Christians do not necessarily own this category of Biblical interpretation. The Bible doesn’t say what vocation Noah had before the Flood, only what he was afterward (a tiller of the soil). So if a Christian attacks the notion of Noah as a warrior shaman, he may really be illustrating his own cultural prejudice of the notion of a white bearded old farmer which is not in the Bible either…[bold mine]

However, Godawa does discuss quite a few concerns he had with an earlier draft of the script. Having only seen a brief clip of the movie, and not knowing how the script evolved or was edited, I’m not going to add or subtract from his analysis other than this: I do like how the film trailer does not depict Noah as a pastoral old man leading cute, Narnia-like animals into an ark. This Sunday School-fantasy version ignores the terror — and ultimately the point — of the account: Horrible evil is occurring in the world and mankind will be wiped out because of it. The actual story — an adult one — has been co-opted by preschoolers. Perhaps the film will spark debate on how shallow our take on Noah has become.

Hopefully, the filmmakers chose not to put modern agendas into an iconic account from the ancient world. There’s enough historical contextual sources to draw from, as Godawa does in his own novel on Noah. In a film of this budget, studios try not to be too offensive to anyone. It is a business after all. Then again, many big budget films failed in 2013.

Time will tell if Noah emerges under a rainbow or washes out.

Update [3/2/14, 3/17/14]: After continuing controversy over a film not released, Jerry A. Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discusses Five Positive Facts and Five Negative Facts about the film. Johnson and the NRB were behind the recent press release from Paramount Pictures which states, “the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story.”

Apparently the NRB thinks the Christian world is not intelligent enough to figure that out on their own. On the other hand, the “Sunday School-fantasy version” of Noah I discussed above that many envision in their minds is not “a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story” either.

And here, Dr. Hugh Ross looks at the biblical Noah account here and here. Or check out his new book that explores this and other issues of Genesis.

Update [4/3/14]: Here’s an interesting debate: Is Noah a Gnostic interpretation or not.

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Indie Film Fest

I usually don’t talk much about films here, but they are written by someone. I like the big budget spectacles as much as anyone. They utilize the big screen format for all it’s worth. Yet, there are plenty of smaller-scale, limited release films that deserve viewing. Many are lower budget, but don’t look that way (thanks to technology being in the reach of just about anyone). So here’s my first selection of interesting films you may not have heard about. I’m not saying these are all Oscar winners or something that will change your life. They all, however, have managed to do one thing or another just a little different, or better, than what you may be used to.

In Another Earth, a second Earth appears in the sky. A complete duplicate, it’s implications for those on the first Earth are life-changing. Upside Down is in a similar vein, but here is a classic tale of forbidden love between two separated by class, but now also worlds, in what is a visual feast.

An Invisible Sign and Robot & Frank are both stories of families with histories and problems and how it shapes the children that come from them. See how they grow and overcome. Just a bit off-center, but are we any different?

The Debt is not based on history, but you’ll think this perfectly created Cold War story was ripped from headlines. Machine Gun Preacher is a true story, and an important one about the terrible world of Sudan, so often forgotten. Where are the world’s governments in stopping this genocide?

Trollhunter comes from Norway, and while some things are lost in translation, and it starts slow, there’s a lot going for this picture. A strong entry in the “found footage” genre and impressive effects for a small film. In a similar pic, Apollo 18, answers the question, “Why did we stop going to the Moon?” Playing into conspiracy theories, this found-footage film managed strong production values they make it seem like the “lost” sequel to Apollo 13.

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