Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Is this the greatest superhero movie ever? The answer is unequivocally yes.

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Zero Dark Thirty

What a startling metaphor

I recently made the mistake of watching Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow. I had actually seen it before and so why I chose to subject myself to all three and a half hours of it a second time is anyone’s guess. I expected to turn it off after ten or fifteen minutes but found myself fascinated by the construction of it and the sheer malice of its intent.

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Fury (2014)

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There are plenty of films that I don’t like. I don’t spend my life watching films and I tend to screen them beforehand so that I’m confident of enjoying most of the films that I watch, but even so, some slip through the net. Some of them bore me, some of them turn out to be worse than I expected, some of them are made well enough but I dislike them for some other reason. It’s very rare that a film comes along which I straightforwardly hate.

Now guess how I felt about David Ayer’s war film Fury. Continue reading

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Doorkickers and Edge of Tomorrow

Comparing films to video games is often intended to be unfavourable, a way of calling out narrative or structural simplicity and, although there is certainly a level of cross-fertilisation between the two types of media this is largely one way traffic. Watch, say, the Omaha Beach level of Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and you could play it almost completely in sync with the opening combat scenes of Saving Private Ryan. The dialogue is essentially identical for the entire ride in. Similarly, key beats in other parts of the game, such as the sniper town or the attack on a isolated radar installation, are direct lifts from that film.

The original Call of Duty steals almost verbatim from the depiction of Stalingrad in Enemy at the Gates. Call of Duty is increasingly criticised for misplaced bombast but it has ever been thus, in the first games you are not fighting WW2, you are fighting Steven Spielberg’s wet dream of WW2. Perhaps we can only see the masturbatory nature of depictions of modern war because they are so fresh in the mind and suffer such sharp scrutiny.

There is obviously a statute of limitations on feeling bad about wars and once one is 100 years old, you can un-ironically reinstate Dulce Et Decorum Est.

Action cinema is beginning to borrow from games, though, and it is here we see the comparison made most often and most damningly. Die Hard 4 jumps from sequence to sequence, segmented by cut scenes in which Bruce Willis is passably rendered by advanced computer graphics. Those individual sequences are defined almost solely by location and atmospherics – this is the apartment level, this is the ice chamber level, this is Quick Time Event on the back of a jet. The boss battle, at the end, is something of a damp squib.

I don’t think there are many games as jumbled as Die Hard 4, which starts with its best and most on brand moment – a tense, claustrophobic fight in a tenement which McClane desperately improvises his out – and then fails to appropriately escalate. It’s a film that doesn’t build to any sort of crescendo, it’s just incident after incident.  Games manufacture this well, they escalate slowly. The player becomes more powerful even as the odds become untenable.

Even so, to the casual observer of both types of media, it makes for an easy comparison. This comparison, I suspect, will be a bit more difficult.

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Halfway through this film, somewhere close to the narrative midpoint if not the overall running time, I was pretty convinced it was good. I was surprised at how it was structured and shot. I was periodically taken aback by the visual flair of it and how certain shots were framed. Make no mistake, it never looks less than spectacular and it seemed to be an interesting, askance take on a monster film – concealing its true nature as much as it concealed the title monster.

It may be that I was just over excited by the regularity with which fighter jets were falling from the sky or helicopters were landing dramatically. I do think that the set piece on the Golden Gate Bridge, which prompted this misbegotten sense that the film was going to deliver, was incredibly well realised and atmospheric. A proper, convincing intertwining of the film’s post 9/11 hard military aesthetic with the god mythology of the well known Japanese monster. These are the strands that make up the film: Humvees and grunts plus looming creatures from some infeasible primordial history and, naturally, it is only after the point where the two things join together in their most satisfying way that they then begin to totally unravel.

As the monsters take more precedence, the relevance of the men in khaki helmets and the amount of time we have spent in their company comes into question. It is as the film concludes, as the dust settles, when we finally get the monster money shot, that the emptiness and pointlessness of the experience finally comes into view.

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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Sympathy for the Dark Lord


Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is the latest game from venerable development studio Monolith, and while I’m not sure how much of the studio remains from their earlier heyday, this particular game is an unexpected triumph. Drawing unashamedly on concepts and mechanics from Assassin’s Creed and the Batman Arkham games (and indeed starting its development life as a Batman game in the first place), it’s a very compelling and enjoyable slice of Lord of the Rings flavoured ultraviolence. And make no mistake, it really is ultraviolent. The game is relentless, splattering blue-black orc blood all over the landscape and sending heads flying all over the place as eternally-reincarnated ranger Talion and his wraith pal go about their quest for vengeance. Continue reading

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Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a few movies since retiring from politics and they’ve all been bad but none of them has been as bad as this. Hell, Schwarzenegger has made plenty of films which are widely acknowledged as bad and they weren’t as bad as this. This is probably one of the worst, certainly the most dour, films he’s ever actually starred in.

I thought I was growing soft writing for this blog, I thought I’d actually started liking films again. The one positive I’ve taken from Sabotage was that it reminded how to hate.

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