Saturday, 29 November 2014

AWAKEN



Star Wars hasn't looked this visually dynamic since Genndy Tartakovsky was quietly shown the door. Stylistically our first look at Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is the complete opposite of the static wides used to tease Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Instead we've got John Boyega stumbling towards us gasping and the camera pushing-in on Daisy Ridley dressed like a Ralph McQuarrie doodle. A trio of tight close-ups reintroduce us to the Empire's bully boys, the clipped, insert inflected energy of the shots stressing something almost hand-held. Everything's moving, from the Falcon's graceful loop de loop to the hammering, lopsided stride of the newest Sith lord.

Judge Dredd by Simon Bisley


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

CLEVER GIRL



Last weekend I trudged around London's Natural History Museum looking at all their monster bones. Despite a lack of Tyrannosaurus rex (the King is only completely present as a twitchy robot replica) the exhibit was fun. They had wrought iron replicas commissioned by Princes, remains of all the big hitter herbivores, and even a G1 Grimlock and some Black Zoids tucked away in a glass display case. This last detail felt especially emblematic of a tour rooted explicitly in a late-80s idea of pre-history, something Jurassic World seems to absolutely revel in.

Based on these glimpses, Trevorrow's terrible lizards are boringly classicist. Drab olives and greys for skin, zero spines or feathers, and, because they don't trust the material, a monstrous gene spliced threat inherited from an 'extreme!' 1990s toyline. Jurassic World was an opportunity to throw around some new information and challenge the preconceived ideas people have about dinosaurs. We could have had a dangerous, omnivore Triceratops gobbling up kids or a Tyrannosaur covered in barbed, downy feathers.

That last one could have been especially great. Introduce the Rex as a bashful thing, almost ashamed of what we've found out about it. Then, as soon as the Park falls apart, sell incredibly hard on the idea that this thing is the most terrifying beast on the planet. Every other scene should be Rex triumphing over some puny contender. Instead of replaying Spielberg beats for nostalgia money, the filmmakers should've sat down and gobbled up some monster-as-protagonist fiction. World's Tyrannosaur should be as visually distinctive as Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles, as Machiavellian as Pat Mills and Mike McMahon's Satanus, and as invincible in a straight fight as Shusuke Kaneko's apex heel Godzilla.

GOJIRA X MACARONI



Steven Sloss makes excellent use of impassive men firing rifles and the soupy injury effects in Jun Fukuda's Godzilla films, crafting a nifty, time travelling conflict between the King of Monsters and two Macaroni megastars. Godzilla as a big game target is a pretty great concept too. It fits in nicely between the moneyed plutocrat who thinks he has a close, personal relationship with a God of Destruction in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah and Godzilla 2000's boring storm chasers.

Scrivello's short also delivers on Toho's habit of abortive, would-be crossovers. Hoping to repeat the success of the studio's King Kong match-up, Shinichi Sekizawa proposed a Batman vs Godzilla project in the mid-60s. Details are scarce regarding Sekizawa's treatment but in my mind's eye Adam West and Burt Ward have been blasted with a growth ray and are high-fiving the Big G over King Ghidorah's cooling corpse.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rumble in the Bronx


















In an attempt to finally crack the American market, Jackie Chan is transplanted to New York for some Crocodile Dundee culture clash. Viewed today Rumble in the Bronx is refreshing on several levels. Firstly, Chan makes very little attempt to modify his policeman persona for his new audience. Chan is portrayed as deeply, remorselessly, uncool. No attempt is made to disguise the fact that Chan is a middle-aged man either. He doesn't have any cool affectations or props and everything he wears is made out of stone washed denim. Neither is Chan particularly aggressive. When cornered by a pack of delinquent bikers Chan doesn't batter his way through. He flees, cowering in an alleyway.

Despite ditching on a convenience store job (and a more age appropriate pairing with Anita Mui) to romance Françoise Yip's lingerie model, Chan is positioned as a stable, responsible adult. His presence immediately straightens out his new squeeze and the petty criminals she runs with. Chan admonishes them for wasting their lives, making a heartfelt plea for peace. Contemporary kids must've rolled their eyes into the fucking ground. In that sense Chan is taking a similar tact to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. Both films juggle action and social responsibility, transforming an action vehicle into a brochure for an after-school fitness programme. Masculinity is likewise equated with the ability to give back to your community.

As ever, Jackie Chan is an absolute joy to watch. His narcy, straight-laced character informs the psychological pace of film's action. Fights are tight and frenzied, with lots of inserts of smashing glass and bloody, alarming, escalation. Chan flings himself around mercilessly, demonstrating that he doesn't need any green screen assistance. He is the special effect. The star scrambles all over urban detritus, hijacking a series of exciting vehicles to crash into his enemies. Director Stanley Tong overcranks the action so that we can always recognise Jackie Chan within the danger. Time stalls so we can gaze at Chan's actual body tumbling towards something solid and indifferent. Flubs aren't concealed either. Deep in the third act a key stunt obviously goes very wrong. Chan's ankle bends and breaks as he lands on a speeding hovercraft. His character doesn't even flinch. He's too busy rolling towards a Mafia goon to even care.

HARDCORE / Biting Elbows - Bad Motherfucker



Ilya Naishuller's proof-of-concept reel for Hardcore, a POV shoot-out film starring Sharlto Copley as a World War II Tommy, and produced by Night Watch's Timur Bekmambetov. Skip to 3:58 if you want to knuckle down to the carnage. Naishuller came to Bekmambetov's attention after completing a first-person short / music video entitled Bad Motherfucker.



Naishuller's work impresses in the same way as the unbroken hospital takes in Hard Boiled do. We're treated to long, gasping gawps at actors charting a course through a building rigged with explosives. They have to remember their lines and hit their marks if they want to keep their fingers. Naishuller is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to get the movie finished. Donate enough scratch and you can nab yourself one of the many Go-Pros the team trashed.

Adventure Time #35 by Jimmy Giegerich


Monday, 3 November 2014

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - GET RAVAGED



TheSandyRavage wrecking straight out the gate, natch, on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Ravage runs with an oversized, drainpipe shotgun that looks straight out of Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd. I think this is the scattergun that fires 'directed energy' rather than something useful like, I don't know, lead?