They’re pretty much all the same at this point: Scream 3 and 4

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I didn’t want to have to come up with two separate introductions for Scream 3 and Scream 4 because I watched them both close together and really all the Scream movies have the same premise. Where they long to be different is in their exposition of the horror genre, with each addition we learn film theory regarding the films location in the series. With Scream 3 we get to hear quips on trilogies, while Scream 4, which was released 10 years after Scream 3 relates to the re-boot of a franchise. They’re intriguing little films, and it’s almost like watching a set of serials as opposed to movies in that we have the same core cast of characters surviving a string of horrendous murders in which they’re the primary target. While I may be the minority in thinking that the second film was better than the first, it’s almost universally recognized that 4 is better than 3.

Scream 3 has Sidney Prescott in a protective environment where she’s haunted by the memories of the past few years. On the set of the latest Stab movie, a fake film based on the events of the previous Scream movies, characters start getting killed off in the order that was intended on the script. Sidney comes out of hiding to aid in the investigation, and we’re treated to duplicates of each character running around getting killed (thanks to the actors portraying the Scream characters.) As fun as it sounds, Scream 3 suffers from an uninspired and tired script, giving up on most of the film commentary that made the first two so enjoyable and succumbing to the tropes and tirades of a traditional slasher film. It’s not without its moments, but essentially we’re dealing with a fairly generic slasher/mystery movie.

However, Scream 4 attempts to get back into the swing of the Scream roots by revamping the rules for a newer generation. At this point in film history, Scream isn’t the only spoof of the horror genre, and it certainly isn’t the only one to lampoon the slasher genre. Taking into account this quasi-enlightened period in film history, we’re treated to the most bloody and confusing opening in the franchise. The opening sets up the tone for the rest of the movie. Yes, we’ve seen most of this before, but returning to the series so much later adds a breath of fresh air. We’ve had three films to get to know our primary players, and it’s fun to see where they’re all at in life. Returning to the town where it all started, Sidney soon realizes that another ghost face killer is out to get her. She, however, has been through this enough times to know how to stand her own. Sidney, along with Gale and Dewey (who are now married) attempt to apprehend and protect their friends and family, especially Sidney’s cousin and their group of friends who seem to be targeted this time around as well. Feeling perhaps a alittle too much like a holiday special than a full blown feature film, it still manages to hit the right notes to let us know that maybe this whole “reboot” thing is a good idea.

And I certainly hope the studios think so too. Scream, despite it’s weak moments, is one of the most solid horror franchises to date, each with a surprising level of depth and creative writing, they’ve tended to be both scary, funny and, to some extent, thought provoking. They’re created in such a way that it’s easy to see the thin mask of source material overlaying the sharp critique. Given that Scream 4 was absolutely meant to be a re-boot, I can only hope that Scream 5 gets it’s chance on the big screen; or even the little screen, at this point it’s like Scooby Doo with a decent production value.

 

*Edit* according to wikipedia that whole TV show thing is actually happening next year, so, yay.

A Small Review for a Short Film: The Snowman

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I’ve had a tremendous tendency to focus on animated films from America or Japan. While that could be credited simply to the sheer volume both countries produce, I can’t help but feel like I’m slighting the rest of the world by ignoring their offerings to the world of film. I was recently reminded of the value in watching a verity of films from a verity of geographical locations by watching The Snowman, a 1982 animated short film that was nominated for an academy award. The 26 minute short is based on the wordless picture book by Ramon Briggs.

The story centers on a small boy who, after a tremendous amount of snow has fallen, spends his day building a snowman. As the boy admires his work throughout the day, and even into the evening, glancing out the window every chance he gets, he can’t help but be amazed by the wonder filled snow land that suddenly surrounds his house. At night, the snowman comes to life, and the boy introduces him to the human world, giving him a thorough tour of his home and yard. In return, the snowman takes the young boy on a magical journey to the North Pole where he meets other snowmen and even Santa Claus himself.

The Snowman is nothing short of beautiful. The animation used makes the entire thing look vividly like the picture book it is based on, but the real triumph comes from the sound. The movie is, with the exception of a particularly powerful musical number, entirely wordless. Not only is it wordless, but the sound effects in the movie are generated only from the orchestra whose score resounds throughout the duration of the short. We’re not subjected to background music haphazardly thrown into the mix to loosely convey emotion, the background music IS the emotion. When the Snowman sneezes or starts up a motorcycle, we rely entirely on the talent of the score to convey the sounds and emotional weight of the actions involved.

Short, sweet and somber. The Snowman blends childrens book animation with a near perfect musical score to present a story that is ripe with analogies ranging from the bliss of childhood to the loss of those closest to us. It’s a visually rich and emotionally valuable little title that taps into basic human emotions, without having to use an exclusive language.

Attending “Monsters University”

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It is a strongly held belief of mine that Pixar needs to stop making sequels. At least for a little while. While I loved every instillation in the Toy Story series, I was less than impressed with Cars 2 (or Cars for that matter). The iconic animation company is renown for creating some of the most innovative and beautiful computer animated films of all time. Yet, lately they have been piggy-backing on the success of their previous endeavors. Financially speaking this makes perfect sense. Whats even worse than piggy backing is falling back on the generic. While I certainly enjoyed Brave I did think it was one of their lesser films. So, when I heard that Monsters Inc. was getting a sequel, after my initial excitement I became skeptical, especially after finding out we were dealing with a prequel. So, this was a sequel that was going to be piggy backing on the success of it’s beloved original AND it wasn’t going to have much to do with the monsters interacting with the human world; my favorite aspect of the first movie. Coming away from my delayed screening, I was pleasantly surprised at both how much I enjoyed the film, as well as how much I missed the Monsters universe.

As the title suggests, University follows Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley’s (John Goodman) scholastic career before they make it to the big times. Primarily focusing on Mike as he strives to overcome his small size and lack of naturally scary traits. Mike and Sulley, in order to stay in the scaring program, must lead their fellow brothers in Ooza Kappa, to victory in the annual “Scare Games”. The games feature a series of events to test their knowledge and technique. Along the way everyone learns about being yourself, being kind to others and using the skills you have etc. etc.

Essentially, Monsters University is a college frat comedy for kids, but also with monsters. It’s an odd combination that the minds at Pixar handled extremely well. Obviously the drinking and partying was switched with partying and eating in a much more G rated sense, but it was done in a way that never took focus away from the story or the characters. As much as I wanted to be disappointed at the lack of interaction with the human world, I couldn’t help but appreciate the glimpse into the world of the monsters. The verity of the monsters was able to be used to produce large amounts of physical humor, and the challenges of the Scare Games were a blast to watch. The movie also did a lot for advancing our knowledge of Mike and Sulley in a way that seemed far more natural than I had anticipated. Adding a history of this kind made the original film all that much richer.

As usual with a Pixar film, the film was beautiful. Visually speaking, the Monsters universe is probably my favorite. The distorted lines, the vastly different architecture and the incredibly varied monster types. The idea that a parallel universe is connected to ours through the use of closet doors may not be new to fiction, but it’s certainly used to great effect here. The necessity of the screams to power one world never gets old. You realize truly how sadistic the movie is when witnessing one monster enter a child’s room and see in the background a crude crayon drawing of the beast. It’s the same monster scaring the same child over and over again! And no one believes him! It’s an incredibly dark presumption about an incredibly loveable franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed this prequel, I’m glad I caught it in theaters, but I still hold firm in my opinion that Pixar needs to take some bolder steps. I’m excited about The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out as they both sound like daring and challenging films to make, especially for a cartoon.

Laughing at “Scream 2”

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It’s no secret that I love horror comedies. Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Cabin in the woods, Army of Darkness are fantastic examples of a genre being able to simultaneously deliver on what is expected of it while offering up some serous lampooning at the cliché tropes that dredge some of it’s other offerings down. There are unspoken guidelines of the horror genre, and what is credited as one of the first real meta-horror films in the way that it critically looked at slasher movies by looking at itself was Scream. Scream is interesting because it not only was funny and well written, but it introduced us to a new icon of the horror genre, the easily recognizable “Ghost Face” has become a Halloween staple. Perhaps the best scene that describes the vibe of the movie is when a character, while watching a horror movie, yells at the woman on the screen to look behind her. Unbeknownst to him, the killer is sneaking up behind him, while his warnings to the woman on the screen go unheard. Scream was perhaps the first of its kind in the way it directly commented on it’s own actions. And then they made Scream 2.

Scream 2 picks up with Sidney Prescott is now in college, attempting to forget the horrific events that took place 2 years prior. Her attempt to leave the past behind her becomes increasingly difficult when a pair of students are killed in a screening of the movie “Stab” a fictional film depicting the events surrounding the first massacre… essentially, Stab is Scream 1. It soon becomes apparent that the ghost face killer is back to finish the job. The fun thing about this series is that it’s just as much a mystery as it is a horror flick. We’re introduced to a plethora of characters and we know, from experience, that the killer is mingled in somewhere. The movie progresses with blood and genuine scares and of course, some quality criticism of the very movie we’re watching.

Scream 2 really amps up the meta feel of the series. For example (and this could potentially be a spoiler, but you know it’s going to happen almost as soon as the movie starts) the opening scene is of an African American couple attending the screening of Stab. Their conversation is, as is most of the conversations in this film, about movies. Specifically the role of black characters in the horror genre. An often mocked trope is that the black person always dies first. The couple walk into the movie theater, where almost everyone in the theater, thanks to a promotion being run by the studio, almost everyone is has donned the costume that the killer wears in the movie. As the pair watches, we realize that what they’re watching is almost an exact replica of the opening scene in Scream just with a different actress. The scene ends the way anyone watching the movie knows it will, and as the woman screams the title flashes on the screen and we know exactly what to expect and it already feels like a better movie than the first one.

This movie has one huge advantage over it’s predecessor, and it’s an advantage that is normally a detriment to a series; it’s a sequel. The series takes the self awareness we enjoyed in the first movie and eases it into a more comfortable, natural setting. With the characters in college, a number of them indulge in classes such as Film Theory and Theater, the absolute perfect outlets to talk about what the audience is watching. This movie sounds like a thesis paper on the horror genre, and the effects it has on society. The wit is sharper, the jokes hardly fall flat and the killer has an even harder time getting their kill, but ultimately gets plenty as they get closer to their primary target; Sydney Prescott. Those that survived the original movie have pivotal rolls in this film as well and they all do a fantastic job adding to both the comedy and the creepiness of the film. Neve Campbell, as Prescott, attempts to perfect her signature look of half terror half sadness, something that she only improves on in later movies. David Arquette returns as Dewey the incredibly loyal but kind of dim cop. And Courtney Cox returns as reprises her role as Gale weathers.

With more material to work with and a richer back story and characters we’re already acquainted with, Scream 2 surpasses the original in both suspense and humor. Where Scream was a pretty good movie, Scream 2 I absolutely loved. It was the perfect setting for this series.

witnessing “The World’s End”

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It’s done. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have completed their violently hilarious “blood and ice cream” trilogy with the aptly named, The World’s End. I was able to catch it this weekend with Ryan Partlow. We’ve seen the trio tackle that Zombie Genre with Shaun of the Dead, a hilariously British homage to the American Zombie flick craze that’s been steadily gaining in popularity for the last few decades and is now a full blown epidemic in and of itself. Then we saw them present one of the funniest and bloodiest takes on a buddy cop drama in Hot Fuzz. And despite there being an enormous amount of laughs and over the top sight gags, each of those films had a surprising amount of depth, creating dramatic moments shortly before someone got torn to shreds or had their head blown off… in a funny way, of course. Point being, Wright, Pegg and Frost know their craft, and rather than having the dramatic elements interfere with the humor, it mixes quite nicely, like hot fudge over an ice cream sundae. I was surprised to find that The World’s End explored themes of selfishness, friendship, depression and immense loyalty in such strong fashion, since the premise of the movie is about a group of friends attempting to drink 12 pints of beer at 12 different pubs throughout the course of one night.

    Gary King (Simon Pegg) opens the film by recounting the events of one night he and his friends spent attempting “the golden mile” a 12 stop pub-crawl in which they attempt to consume on pint at each stop. We watch the flashback happen in quick succession, ending with their failure. flash forward 20 years and Gary King has changed very, very little and wants to get “the gang” back together to give it another shot. Gary, who has stayed in his 17 year old state in every way except physically, coaxes his four friends into giving it another go using lies and cheap tricks to convince his successful friends to have another go at the debauchery that fueled their evening 20 years prior. As the title of the film and the trailers suggested, the five encounter more than just alcohol. Robots (but not really robots, because robot means slave, and they’re definitely not slaves) fights and blue blood abound in plenty.

First off, the cast embodies their roles perfectly. After we’re introduced to the young versions of the five friends, we’re caught up to speed with where their lives ended up 20 years later. Frost in particular plays an entirely different type of role than he has in the last two films. While he’s normally the dumb funny one, he plays a man that has been deeply hurt by Gary King, who was formerly his best friend. The film often alludes to an accident of some kind, but that isn’t revealed until later in the film. The lengths of which Pegg’s character goes to preserve the past is one of the funniest bits about the film, he embodies irresponsibility and spontaneity perhaps better than anyone I’ve seen on screen. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg penned the script together, and it’s quite simply comprehensive proof of their ability to write and portray something different and multi-layered. Honestly, I don’t know how many genres this film would have to be categorized by.

As with the previous Wright, Pegg, Frost films the pacing took a little getting used to. While the advertising toted it as an all out action flick it does take some time to get to that point. I should have expected this, as it was the same with Shaun and Hot Fuzz. I’m in the minority, in that I liked Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead, but I don’t know where to place World’s End. As I think about it, I like it more and more. There is such a subtlety to these films, regardless of the body count. Each film in this semi-series is so different from each other that I feel like I need to sit down and watch the three of them one after the other. With a few Cornetto ice cream cones, of course.

Movie News Tidbits! 9/13/13

New Harry Potter Movie…Kind of.

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All you Pottheads out there should be squealing in delight with the announcement that the big-screen will no longer be devoid of the Wizarding world of J.K Rowling. I love the idea that it’s going to be in the same universe, but a different storyline and set of characters entirely. I think a major problem with some franchises is the unnecessary need to cling to the same set of characters. For instance, Amazon Video ran a pilot episode for a Zombieland show. The potential for the show was astronomical, but it was ruined by the creator’s desire to keep it focused on the same set of characters from the movie, with none of the returning cast. If you’ve got a setting as rich as the “Potterverse” you’ve got an infinite amount of stories, all of which can be stand alone. The thought of having a this thing set in 1920s New York sounds blows my mind!…which is hyperbole, because I actually just think it’s pretty cool.

 Star Wars: Episode VI

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The latest Star Wars trilogy has been a number of rumors floating around, some toting Abrams as the savior of the franchise, others not quite so optimistic in that they think he’ll ruin everything, which is silly because we all know that’s been done (all Lucas bashing aside Episode I was the best of the prequel bunch regardless of what you say to me). Still, what concerns me the most is the opposite of why I was so excited about the Harry Potter news. Star Wars has a massive extended universe, yet the rumors are that we’re going to have much of the original cast involved. This wouldn’t be detrimental in and of itself, but it could become a slippery slope of Star Wars nostalgia saturated crap, taking it from a potentially fun and exciting reboot, to something, still fun, but a little over the top on the winks and nudges (I’m looking at you Into Darkness (disclaimer: I liked Into Darkness, but come on!)).

*EDIT* We’re getting more prequels.

The Little Mermaid

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First they said they were, then they said they weren’t and now Disney is saying they will again! The Little Mermaid, my favorite of the Disney Princess movies is coming to theaters. Nothing new really to report except that they’re encouraging kids to download an app and bring their ipads into the theaters. I’m going to have to brush up on my half annoyed half out-of-my-mind-furious-that-someone-is-using-a-mobile-device-in-the-theaters look. Seriously, last time I went to a movie a kid was snapchatting pictures of himself wearing funny sunglasses to some jerk, if I hadn’t been so worried that the little punk would have had a better comeback than me, I would have confronted him! Honestly, my biggest fear is that I muster up the courage to confront a cell-phone-using patron only to find out their child was just in a horrible accident. I don’t know…maybe I’m just miffed there isn’t an android app for it.

 Jurassic World

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I’m optimistic about a lot of things. But seriously, Jurassic World? That’s the title of the fourth installment in the Jurassic park cannon. We can expect our favorite dinosaurs to (once again) get off the islands and into the wild blue yonder, aka highly populated areas. With each film we move further and further from Michael Crichton’s novels. If this movie looks anything like it sounds, we’re going to have the small world version of Pacific Rim, not that that’s a bad thing.

 Dredd 2

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No word….yet. Bleeding Cool has the scoop on the latest gimmick to get the studios attention. *Spoiler, buy the Blu-Ray on September 18* Also, Shmee is calling you to action.

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Season 2 of Avatar The Legend of Korra starts tonight!

Primer

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Movies like Primer are a rare commodity in the world of film. With a budget of $7000, Shane Carruth wrote, directed and starred in a unique piece of Sci-fi that garnished respect from viewers and critics alike. Found in the “Thriller” section of Netflix, it boasts an incredibly complex story that caused me to pause the film multiple times in an attempt to grasp what on earth was going on. It’s not that the movie didn’t make sense, it’s simply that it was pretty complex, which was half of the fun. Trust and fate tend to be fairly common themes in film, especially science fiction, however this made-at-home approach to them forgoes the grandeur of the space operas and action packed counterparts for something that felt much closer to home.

We’re introduced in the opening scene to a group of four friends who have started a business they run on nights and weekends making error-checking devices. As they discuss the future of their business and what project they should tackle next, it becomes apparent that not everyone is optimistic with the direction their taking. Two of the friends decide to work separately and secretly on another project that reduces the weight of object. Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Shane Carruth) continue discover strange anomalies associated with this new device. The more they learn about the possibilities, the deeper the pool of possibilities becomes. What starts out as a solid friendship soon devolves into a competitive struggle for power, with consequences more dire than either could have imagined at the start of their venture.

     Primer is a hard movie to follow. I don’t want to give anything away, because the revelation of what’s going on is half the fun. The audience is put in the same shoes as Abe and Aaron on their path to discovery, the wonder of a groundbreaking scientific discovery is shared between the characters on the screen and the audience in their seats. The movie is fascinating, but it’s not without its faults. First is the fact of the budget. With only $7000, we don’t get the polished mega blockbuster with the Hollywood sheen. Rather this movie feels like a home movie, something that could have been whipped up by a couple buddies over weekends…which essentially it was. The sound has issues in some parts, and the lighting faces similar challenges. Some of the acting is unconvincing, but not to the point where it becomes unbearable. The other obstacle is the complexity of the movie. I’ve seen this movie twice in my life, and have read various articles and seen graphs explaining what happened to me. This will be a huge turn off to some people.

While it’s shortcomings are substantial, the story and dialogue more than make up for them. The film is absolutely fascinating to watch, and honestly, if a movie is smart and capable of holding your attention and causes you to think while entertaining you, I think it was a success. Primer fore-goes fancy looking effects for a smart premise with well constructed scenes and dialogue to fuel it’s momentum. This is done out of sheer necessity, and it’s what has caused this movie to stand out against the odds.

Battle Royale vs The Hunger Games

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     Since the premise of the first book in the Hunger Games series was first read, comparisons to the popular Japanese manga and film, Battle Royale have been made. Essentially, both premises can be summed up the exact same way: The government is upset at their people, so they force randomly selected children to compete to the death in a widely publicized spectacle. The details concerning the two separate works begin to show the differences in approach, but essentially that premise is what gets people interested in either franchise. Literally, I had no intention of reading The Hunger Games until someone said “It’s just like Battle Royale”, then my interest was piqued. In the human thirst for competition, something dark lurks. No one really wants to see children compete to the death, but it gets them curious as to how and why someone would describe it. A couple thousand years ago, this was basically a widely accepted practice, righ? But I’m not going to get into the mess of a discussion surrounding the morality of such literature, instead I’m going to explain the differences that these two films (we’re going off of the films, not the manga or novel) have.

     The Hunger Games is certainly a more popular franchise, at least in North America. The story paints a bleak dystopian feel where most of the land’s inhabitants live in poverty, the remnants of a failed rebellion are now forcefully suppressed by the evil President Snow. To remind the nation of their rebellion, every year one child from each of the 12 districts is chosen to compete in “The Hunger Games” a televised event in which, after much pomp and circumstance, the kids go at it until there is only one left. While the premise of the movie “kids fighting to the death” may be what got the attention of many, we don’t actually get to the fighting until the latter part of the film. Instead we’re given an inside look at the residents of District 12, where Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, is from. We see the suffering of the poor, we see the injustice and the social commentary runs wild before we get to the “juicy stuff”. It’s a smart move. I’ve expressed this in regards to horror movies, but it stands here; we need to know our characters before we kill them in order to have an attachment. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a great performance as Katniss, allowing us to get to care about her before her potential death. Once inside the arena, we become extremely conflicted knowing that the majority of the characters are going to die. Some we’re ok with, others leaves the audience with a gut-wrenching realization that this isn’t going to have a happy ending, regardless of if Katniss wins.

     Then we have Battle Royale. Requiem Mass Dies Irae will forever be engraved in my mind as the opening music for this film. The intensity immediately sets the tone for the film, which is essentially “You’re going to get what we promised you.” The kids wear necklaces that explode if they’re in the wrong zone, for crying out loud! The movie wastes no time in delivering one of the most chilling openings I’ve seen to date. Not in that it’s scary, but the morbid contrast of showing the winner of the previous battle being surrounded  by the press. As the crowd parts we see the winner as she’s being whisked away to get cleaned up. It’s a young, maybe eight year old girl. She’s sitting down with her head down looking at the teddy bear in her arms. She’s drenched in blood, probably not her own. As the cameras get closer, she lifts her head revealing a huge grin. Battle Royale wastes no time getting to the point. A randomly selected school class is selected for Battle Royale each year with no prior notice. Our class in this film is on their way home from a field trip on a big bus, when they’re all knocked out with sleeping gas only to awake at orientation. They’re told they have three days to kill each other off or they all die. Supplies are handed out and they’re sent on their way. This movie crams an odd mixture of high school drama, horror and comedy together. It doesn’t carry as weighty as a social message behind it, opting to show how each of the children involved handles their situation. The fact that these kids all go to school together means you get to see some real clique rivalry go down.

     It’s odd that two pieces of film with almost the exact same premise can be so vastly different in their presentation. You’re going to get a movie tamed down in the violence department, but amped up in the drama department with The Hunger Games. Whereas Battle Royale is going to throw about 500 dramatic situations stemming from school crushes, bad home life and academic aspirations. It’s comical at times and pretty sad at other times. The two are exclusive from each other, I’m not going to say one is better than the other, but I will say they’re both quite entertaining; albeit for entirely different reasons.

Looking at Dark Comedy with Charlie Chaplin and Four Lions

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The most profusely used method of dealing with human tragedy is by laughing at it. Black comedies have a deliciously bittersweet way of dealing with, often times, very tragic circumstances in a way that allows the observer to scoff at the horrific reality that is life. I should specify, the comedies I will refer to in this post are specifically ones that mock the evil associated with the subject matter, rather than mock the victims. Pot-shots taken at innocents are par for the course. As with any comedy, humor is subjective and movies of this genre prove successful at offending as many people as they entertain. Today I will discuss two, very dark, films in the comedy genre. The first film is Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, a film I had the pleasure of discussing earlier this month on another blog that I write for. The second is a lesser known British film entitled Four Lions. Both focus on extremely dark themes.

     The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin’s world famous lampoon of Hitler. The movie was made before America had entered World War II and was at, more or less, peace with Germany. This didn’t stop Chaplin from creating a film that openly mocks the dictator’s of the time, with a character that is almost certainly representative of Adolf Hitler. The audience watches as the silly and self important dictator, Hynkel, oppresses the Jewish people by openly attacking them and putting them in concentration camps. It’s important to note that Chaplin didn’t know the extent that the regime went to to persecute the Jewish people when he made this film. That being said, he addresses one of the greatest tragedies in modern history with slapstick and pratfalls. Not only do we laugh at his barber character, but his depiction of Hynkel is downright hysterical. Chaplin’s portrayal is akin to something you might see on SNL, except perfected to an infinite degree, the man was a master at his art.

     Four Lions focuses on something much closer to us, historically speaking. Jihad terrorism, specifically suicide bombers. The movie follows a group of aspiring suicide bombers as they attempt to perfect their technique and hone their knowledge before choosing a target and carrying out an attack in the name of Islam. The humor in this movie is incredibly deadpan, as is often the norm with British cinema. The characters present their lines with such conviction and believability, that if you’re not listening to their absurd logic, you very well could miss the entire gist of the humor, which is that these men are complete idiots.  It was far more uncomfortable of a movie to watch than The Great Dictator, simply because it deals with something that’s historically closer in proximity to me.

     Both of these films have subject matters that, if taking a survey of 100 people would have a unanimous voice in saying that they are not funny. However, if film history has proven anything, it’s that you can make a comedy on almost any subject matter and it will sell tickets, often times the more offensive, the more it makes. The Great Dictator was well received by audiences, and became Chaplin’s highest grossing film, taking a very serious subject matter and making people laugh with it. Four Lions certainly hasn’t garnished the same attention or success as The Great Dictator, it’s a lesser known release with a relatively unknown cast. It’s violent and crass and as I stated before, very uncomfortable at times, particularly in the scenes where the would-be-terrorists are preparing for their attacks. But it uses the same methods as The Great Dictator to fuel it’s humor. Part of the fear that goes along with terrorism is how we view the culprits that commit the violent acts. Just as we laugh at the Hitler-like Character of Hynkel as he dances with a globe, we laugh at Omar and his band of Jihadist brothers as their stupidity and misguided attempts to reason through what they’re doing cause hilariously dark situations. Darkness is often accompanied by a face or a description. It is often the goal of dark comedies to warp that face or description into something goofy and laughable. Humanity, generally speaking, abhors tragedy, but loves laughter. If one can destroy the other, then we have an excellent understanding of why this genre thrives.

 

 

 

Ben Affleck: The Caped Crusader?

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     Well, that’s it folks. They didn’t choose Karl Urban to play Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel. While he was never really a consideration (as far as I can tell) it would have been a welcomed addition to the film cannon. We’re going to be dealing with a slightly older, wiser Batman in this film, someone that’s been through it all and can really carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, so they chose Daredevil Ben Affleck. This revelation is somewhat unsettling to a lot of people, as they remember Affleck’s previous stint in the superhero business as a bit of a let down. We’ve seen extremes with his career, but lately I’ve been convinced that Affleck is certainly maturing into his career and I’m optimistic for this choice, despite the fact that this is someone I hadn’t even considered as a possibility for the role.

Argo was probably my favorite film to be released last year, and a lot of this is thanks to Affleck’s ability to carry the film. He’s been around the game long enough ,and has been actively involved not only in the acting aspect of movies, but he’s had more than his fair share of time behind the camera as well. I have to believe that someone at his caliber should be able to manage the role of Batman. We’re going to be dealing with a less active, older and more brooding Dark Knight, or so we assume. Affleck seems to have perfected the brooding and somber role, however my concern is the grit involved with the role. While we’ve seen him be serious and deal with weighty dramatic roles, I have yet to see him give a convincingly frightening “batman growl”.

I think it’s going to come down to the role that Batman plays in Superman vs Batman. Bear in mind, this is a sequel to Man of Steel, I have to believe it’s going to be more about Superman than Batman, but that remains to be seen. If that’s the case, the part of Batman could easily be tailored to fit Affleck’s style. And again, it’s going to come down to how the movie plays out. We’ve seen the tone of this Superman universe, and it’s close to The Dark Knight Trilogy of the Nolanverse, but not quite the same. Man of Steel is a much lighter movie, which will allow for, perhaps, a more traditional Batman setting which will allow for a bit more lunacy  with Batman’s style of weaponry and actions, allowing a greater flexibility in the portrayal of the character.

I’ve given my initial thoughts on Batman vs Superman, and I remain optimistic. This is too big of a deal to be screwed up. The danger is that the hype machine is being ramped up to unprecedented and dangerous levels. And now they threw in Ben Affleck into the mix. I honestly have no idea what to expect at this point, but I know I’m excited at the prospect of what this could be. Shmee, however doesn’t seem too excited.